YALSA Institute, Part Three — Teen Programming

Here are my notes from two afternoon sessions on November 7, 2015, at the YALSA Institute in Portland, Oregon.

If You Build It, They Will Come: Establishing Teen Services in Public Libraries
Presented by Molly Kelly and Kat Tigges

After months of research and proposals, they got a renovated teen space at a branch of Chicago Public Library and established a dynamic Teen Services department.

How They Did It:

Build a Framework: Why?

Theoretical Framework: What informs your practice? Consider the developmental needs of teens.

Structural Framework: Work out how your practice will be organized. Their Teen Services became its own department. Where does Teen Services fit in your library?

These speakers recommended putting Teen Services under Adult Services if they can’t have their own department. It’s more attractive to teens than when part of Children’s Services.

HOMAGO: Hanging out, messing around, geeking out.

These are different levels of engagement:
HO: Spontaneous, Flexible, Natural
MA: Self-directed, interest driven, experimentation
GO: Focused, Instruction, Advancement (Level Up)

Connected Learning:
Learning principles: Interests, peer culture, academically oriented
Design principles: Production-centered, openly networked, shared purpose
Core values: Equity, social connections, full participation
Want to be a link between home, school, and community

After you know why, assess what you’ve got and where you are. This was a huge long process. Start with the big picture and work your way down.

Break it into the component parts.

Know your audience: Administrators like options. Make a timeline of component parts.

Empower the whole staff and community: Get input.

Research: Look on the internet for photos of teen spaces.

Prepare patrons. They will offer valuable input (in their case, providing enough outlets) and will feel valued when you use their ideas.

What You Can Do

Work with what you’ve got.
Capitalize on your resources no matter what they are.
They kept board games out and available without check-out.
Remember Numbers lead to Funding!

Be visible. “Hey! I saw you at my school!” Outreach and marketing don’t have to be perfect. Be out there! Show them what they’re getting in terms of programs and impact.

Get input from teens. Make it easy for them to tell you what they want.
Have a Suggestions Box: It’s your space. What do you want to do with it?
Survey for gift cards
Let Volunteers give you info – rather than shelf-reading
Just Ask!

Then make their wishes come true! Ask what they want, then make it happen.
You gain credibility when you follow their suggestions. They heard one teen say, “I asked for couches, and they got couches!” If one teen believes in you, they’ll tell their friends.

Remember Teen You. Be honest with yourself about who you really were.

Be Real. Teens can smell BS a mile away. Teens really like honesty. They really like being treated like adults. Your interests are valid points of connection. You can get them to respond to you.

It won’t be easy!
Get support. Online if not in person.

Funding is a numbers game. Have proof teens are interested.

It really takes: Two YEARS of constant effort to get regulars.
Keep existing participants engaged. Where are they? (including online) Go there.
Keep track of what you’re doing.

Remember: It’s worth it! You can make a difference in a teen’s life!
You’re playing the long game. Look and listen. Try things, and see what works.
Every failure is the chance for a new beginning.
Done is better than perfect.

The next session:

A Series of Fortunate Events: Library Collaborations that help LGBTQ Young Adults Transition to College Life
Amanda Melilli – Curriculum materials
Ashley Nebe – AP teacher
Rosan Mitola – Outreach librarian
David Levithan – Author of Another Day
Susan Kuklin – Author of Beyond Magenta
Ann Bausum – Author of Stonewall
Mariko Tamaki – Author of Saving Montgomery Sole

First, report from librarians. Their program is in the 5th largest school district in the nation. They built a partnership between a high school and a local university.

Look up the GLSEN Report on LGBTQ teens.

High school victimization means teens are less likely to go to college, more likely to miss school, and more likely to be depressed.

The more supportive staff, the more helpful. Supportive staff can help keep kids in school.

Support student clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliances
Provide training
Increase student access to appropriate and accurate information.
The first day of school can be stressful for trans students.
Student success in college is measured by retention, progression, and completion.
For student engagement, focus on: Active & Collaborative Learning, Student-Librarian Interaction, and Supportive Campus Environment.

The library supported high school and university LGBTQIA organizations.
They began with Banned Books Week. Did a Book Tasting with Banned Books.
An event for all people, highlighting LGBTQ issues in everyday events.
Charger Coffee House event – a Talent showcase
Author events
Partnered with UNLV for the Las Vegas Pride Parade.

The library is a way of connecting people. They brought in many different groups from the community.

UNLV partnered with a high school Gay-Straight Alliance – made kids excited about going to college.

Then there was discussion with the authors present:

Question: Major barriers to LGBTQ teens in education?
MT: The word “appropriate” Comfort level is tricky. In her books, she talks about boundaries and feelings more than sex.
DL: Talking about identity. Kids aren’t seeing people saying, “I’m ___.” They think their identity is invisible. If adults aren’t willing to talk about it, how can they?
AB & SK: Safe places are important?

Question: Why is LGBTQ Literature important?
DL: Interesting and frustrating that we still have to defend it. We are reflecting the population of our students. They need actual stories, getting emotional context from fiction and historical context from nonfiction. This is what books do so well.
AB: Historical events allow you to have a conversation about difficult topics.
MT: LGBTQ literature is important and also amazing.
SK: To provide windows and mirrors.
The four authors write on the same subject, but write so differently.

Question: Talk about “politicizing” of the issues.
SK: It’s about identity, individuals, and human beings. How do we treat the marginalized?
AB: How can a school have integrity if they won’t look at difficult issues?
DL: Volunteer to take out all books dealing with social issues! It’s who you are. It’s the challenging that politicizes it.

Question: What can we do as librarians to improve the lives of LGBTQ teens?
DL: Let LGBTQ teens know you’ve got books for them.
AB: Provide books that put human faces on the community.
SK: Creating very safe space to all come together.
MT: Include LGBTQ books in their broader context.
Moderator: “We’ve all read Harry Potter and none of us are wizards.”

Question: Talk about the transition to college.
MT: It was amazing – She made gay friends. It was an opportunity to put on a new identity.
DL: Freedom is exciting, but also scary. The narrative of their lives has gotten more complicated. Still an exploration.
AB: Trickiest part: A very vulnerable place. They don’t have allies and friends yet. Knowing about resources helps. Safety nets are critical.

Question: What are the needs of young adults after graduation?
MT: Very similar: Community and support. In high school, you’re trying on personalities. Same thing in university.
AB: New generation grows up at a different pace. More vulnerabilities.

Question: What groups can libraries connect with to support LGBTQ teens?
MT: Activist groups in every community.
DL: Trevor Project. Try to get 4 different generations in the room at the same time.
SK: Queer Theater. See the back matter in her books.

Summing up:
DL: Teens don’t make as much of a distinction any more. It’s no longer true that only queer kids are in the queer books.
SK: It’s a natural thing to write characters as a picture of the community.

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