Friday, September 21, 2012

Don't Save Libraries! Transform them!

I think I stumbled across this blog by accident while I was searching a graphic novel blog. What piqued my interest here with the blog Virtual Dave...Real Blog by R. David Lankes was the title of the blog posting "Beyond the Bullet Points: It is Time to Stop Saving the Libraries." He's asking us as librarians to not be victims of the almost pervasive notion that libraries are doomed. Keeping a victim mentality may not be the best approach to pushing for the things that benefit libraries and their users. 

My interpretation of this would be to promote the library in such a way that reinforces the idea of libraries as the center of community, the center of learning, the center of discovery, and the center of literacy for the family. For example, by focusing our attention on our Youth Services areas in our public libraries, we can instill the notion that libraries are indispensable to the community through outreach programming like Storytimes, Book Buddies, Teen Reads, research help and trainings, and other services that can connect the library to the family. Although budgets for almost all public services are getting squeezed, pushing for these programs and advocating for them through contact with the community stakeholders and politicians. Mr. Lankes posted a very good quote as an abstract  for “Library as Platform: Unlocking the Potential of Our Communities” SCRLC Leadership Luncheon Webinar explaning this relationship between the library and the community:

"Our buildings matter. Our services matter. But they don’t matter on their own, and we do not determine their value – that is a job for the community. It is only in the advancement of those we serve that we find our impact. It is only in the potential realized that we can measure our contribution. Our buildings, our books, our services, our catalogs must not be channels of assistance we provide, but part of a powerful platform that enables our communities to succeed. This platform is our infrastructure, but it is also the infrastructure of the community – co-owned."

This is compelling and a call to action. Libraries are not doomed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Civic Engagement for Teens

Photo from

So, I just finished writing a response to Mintz's Preface to Huck's Raft and how it relates to Youth Services. In it, Mintz discusses ways to "reconnect children to a broader range of adult mentors and to expand their opportunities to participate in activities that they and society find truly meaningful". Well, as I was looking at YALSA's blog and there I found a post regarding civic engagement for teens, specifically related to events surrounding both political conventions being held over the past 2 weeks. This is a perfect way to expand opportunities for teens to get involved in activities that broaden their experiences and break down some of the "age-appropriate" barriers between what teens should or should not be doing. In this case, civic participation by the young is an important issue that doesn't often get a lot of attention. No matter that they can't vote yet. They will soon be able to, and they should be developing opinions on things that affect their lives.

The blog posting goes to great lengths to discuss how they approached getting teens to be more civicly minded. The main examples included developing reading lists, as well as content creation by teens which can mean anything from a Teen Fashion apprenticeship to developing digital content through videos of their political beliefs. One of the critical ideas here was the partnering with another organization to help in areas where the Library may either not have the resources or the expertise to carry out an activity completely from start to finish. By hosting all or most of the components of these activities, the Library still makes itself indispensible in making the connections young people need to learn new skills, deepen understanding of things they have learned in school, build on emerging abilities like reading and comprehension, and develop many of the social skills needed to succeed in the worlds of politics and work. And I think these activities sound fun too!

This definitely bridges some of those gaps that Mintz mentioned earlier regarding "age-appropriate" activities for teens, but I still can't help but feel there's something we're not talking about. Are there any risks involved in exposing these young people to things they may not have had access to in the past? Should their parents know what they are doing? How do we protect ourselves in the rare chance that something goes wrong, assuming that we are not at fault with a given troublesome situation?