YALSA Institute Part Four – Filling the Library with Teens and Digital Literacy for Teens

Here are notes from the last two programs I attended at the November 2015 YALSA Teen Services Institute

Yes You Can!
Presenter: Jenn Cournoyer

Mission Part One: Fill the Library with Teens!

Their program had a real divide – most teens from the wrong side of the tracks.
They had a quiet place to do homework and changed to a Teen Den.
Attitudes you’re fighting: “Us against them,” “This is how we’ve always done it,” “That doesn’t work here.”

Step One: Start with what you have.
She had an anime club, so got to know some of the teens.
Use fresh eyes to assess the space and how patrons are using it.

Step Two: Make the space teen friendly.
Have available food and drink! After school, they’re hungry! It helps behavior to feed them.
The library will be cleaner when patrons aren’t trying to hide food.
Wifi and computer access for teens.
Comfortable seating
Positive signage (Watch the tone of signs!)
Attractive displays of teen materials

Step Three: Be Accessible
Have a Teen Librarian Desk.
Do your teens know how to contact you? Email, Facebook…
SAY HELLO! Introduce yourself to teens in the library.
Hang out. Be yourself.

Step Four: Give the Teens a Voice
Have a white board/ chalkboard.
What do you Geek? Posters with pictures of the teens
Teen Newsletter – sent electronically to middle school and high school. Let them highlight books.
Showcase their work on Facebook, around the library, local news.
Let teens create a display.

Step Five: Let’s talk programming.
Build off the audience you have, not the audience you wish you had. (They started with an anime club rather than a book club.)
Use your own passions and interests as a springboard. (Writer’s workshop, coding club, Hour of Code…)
Don’t be afraid to try something and fail.
Don’t cancel a program just because no one signed up.
Market, market, market!
Advertise on Parent Facebook pages from the schools.
Have program reviews. If teens write it, give them a piece of candy at the end of the program.
Start listservs for program reminders.
Passive Programs – have at least one every month
Don’t forget your volunteers!

Step Six: Bookstore your collection!
They got rid of spinners and added genre baskets.
Get face-out shelving (like bookstores!)
New books display
They have 2-3 displays at any time (use Pinterest for ideas!)

Step Seven: Outreach
She’s had trouble with schools, but good relationships with Boys & Girls Clubs, Phoenix House, etc.

Mission Part Two: Create Buy-in

Model to other staff how to talk to and interact with teens.
Introduce your teens to other staff and brag about them.
Talk about how you handle issues. It’s not a secret.
Empower staff to use behavior modification they are comfortable with.
Have a staff training with role playing.
Remind staff they don’t have to be you, or use your style.
Acknowledge the power of a name – Get to know and use the names of regulars.
Get your Admin’s blessing – use the YALSA report.

Mission Part Three: Keep Your Sanity

Only you know how much you can do.
Consider your budget and your time.
Ask for what you need. The worst that can happen is “No.”
Find a formula and go with it for as long as it works. (Try a monthly routine for programs.)
Don’t reinvent the wheel! Your colleagues – and Pinterest – are great resources.
Take a vacation! You should want to come to work.
Good is not the enemy of perfect.

Final thoughts:
Never make it you and the teens against the other staff.
Back up your colleagues.
Ask for your colleagues’ input.
Change your story: What’s one thing you can change? (More programs? Contact with PTO?)
It’s ultimately about the teens!!!


Using Digital Literacy with Teens
Darlene Encomio, Martin County Library System, Florida

Vision: Introduce teens to technology and information, opening the gates of creation and communication.

Technology: Makey Makey, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printer, Circuit Scribe.
Most of the technology came through grants and donations.
Used open source software and social media.

First program: Makey Makey – Piano with cups of water.
Their website is great – Watch the 2-minute video with them and have them go to the How-to page.

MIT’s Scratch Lab
Pulled up video. Show them the ideas from Pinterest – let teens decide what to do.

Teens love to see themselves on film. They posted the videos on the library’s YouTube channel – The library’s stats went right up!
Used a MacBook and had the teens write their own booktalks.
Edited in YouTube video editor and sound editor – FREE.

3D Printer
They had a small Mini Makerbot

Arduino and Raspberry Pi
“wonderful for the advanced tech teens” especially those who want to mentor others.
Use instructables. Patron base will be smaller groups for this.
For ideas, show them Hackster.io and Kickstarter. Get them thinking about inventing…
Show them the Arduino TED talk.
It’s a great way to introduce technology and engineering. (Though arguably Lego Mindstorms does it a little better.)
They often start Teen Tech Lab with a video.

Circuit Scribe
Great website and Pinterest pages.


STEAM Break – every day of Spring Break
10-12 Technology. (Got funding to order subs for lunch.)
12-2 Science program (Teachers came in and did experiments)
2-3 Art programs

3D Printing Showcase
Vendor came in and set up 3D printers in the hallway

Summer Camp Visit Expo
When summer camps visited the library (groups of 30), they brought out the technology.

Teen Tech Lab
Once a month, 2 hours on a Saturday.
(Would also bring out Makey Makeys on demand.)

3D Printing Resources
(They’d allow one 3D print-out per day.)
Tinkercad – need to be a little more familiar with this
3DHubs – locate 3D printer vendors. (Do a showcase?)

Don’t tell teens step by step what to do. Show them where to find ideas.
Seek out donors and grants. (They got $80,000 from Jim Moran Foundation for Homework Center.)

VolunTeens – Teens helping teens. Empowerment and resume building.
Quality Programming
Got teens into the library. Allows them to fail in a safe place and try things out.
(If just starting a program, Lego Mindstorms are good value for the money.)


Teen Tech Lab Series
1) Ice breakers and creating YouTube videos. (Bean Boozled challenge was their ice breaker. They filmed the challenge and uploaded onto YouTube.
2) Makey Makey
3) Create a story using Scratch.
4) Arduino and Raspberry Pi
5) Digital Art Portfolio/Online Resume
6) 3D printing
7) Circuit Scribe (This is a little more involved – use Pinterest.)
8) Stop Motion Videos (Programs: Stop Motion Studio app and YouTube. Make a challenge, with prizes.)

Then they took questions.
They had four Makey Makey kits – 4 kids per kit.
Check their Make It Idaho Facebook page.
“Makerspaces and the participatory library.”


And that’s the end of my notes from YALSA Teen Services Institute. You can see why my head was spinning with ideas! Will I be able to carry any of these out at my library? We’ll see….

Then there was the fun part of the Institute. There was a Reception Friday night at the top of the hotel. And it ended up with a Teen Poetry Slam.

Saturday night, there was a big room full of authors signing books, and we got tickets for six free books. I met Anne Jacobus and knew I had been to a conference with her. It took a few tries before I realized that she was at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference I went to in Paris exactly 10 years earlier! And she was one of the organizers.

Ann Jacobus

Here are the free signed books I got at the conference. A very manageable amount this time!

YALSA Signed Books

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.

Jack Gantos Lunch – YALSA Institute, Part Two

Here’s another installment of notes from the YALSA Institute I went to in Portland last month. I want to get the notes posted before I go to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week. If you attend a conference and never go over your notes, did it really happen? There were some good ideas offered, and copying out the notes reminds me of them in a setting where I can take my time thinking about them.

The next event of November 7, after the events of Part One of my notes, was an Author Lunch with Jack Gantos.


I was wonderfully lucky and accidentally found a place at the same table with Jack Gantos!

He’s delightful to talk with in person. I still haven’t read his new book, which is biographical, but we were given a copy and it’s at the top of my pile of books to read next. After we ate, he got up front and gave a presentation to everyone.

He began with appreciation for librarians (knowing his audience).

“I love the library because they have to take you in.”

He has written 20-25 books in the Boston Public Library, but has since switched to the Boston Atheneum, a subscription library. If anyone dares use a cell phone in that library, he comes down!

The library is the place where everyone comes together. In the library, you are anyone you want to be at any age you ever were.

He talked about other authors and books. Kevin Henkes is too nice. When Jack Gantos stands next to him, he feels the blackness in his own soul.

The magic of literacy is that when Frog is sad, Toad is sad, and the reader is sad, too.

We’re reckless junkies for feelings – that’s why we read.

You want the book to move into you like a squatter – for about 3 days.

Writing a picture book takes the same energy as writing young adult or middle grade novels.

He writes from his childhood journals. He went to 10 schools in 12 grades. His friends were the Joey Pigza kids – they’d worn out everyone else, so they were friendly to the new kid.

Here are his notes about where he lived in Florida:


When you’re at the library, watch someone reading a book and see their face change.

We know this simple truth about each other: Inside there’s so much more than on the outside.

There’s something exclusively yours every time you read a book. Yet you want to share.

There’s a time in your life when you’re completely uneven. His new book, The Trouble in Me, is about that unevenness and self-loathing.

His books have been used for Community Reads. Everyone leaves feeling so connected.

There’s a Literary Spiritualism among those of us who read and get involved in the community of readers.

You wouldn’t be the same person if you didn’t read good books and put good books in the hands of other readers.

Let’s be little fires for literacy.

(This is a terrible picture, but it shows his enthusiastic gestures.)

YALSA Institute 2015, Part One

YALSA Institute Notes

Last month, I attended the YALSA Institute in Portland, Oregon. It was amazing, and ideas buzzed around my head afterward. I am typing up my notes here to try to organize my thoughts about it. I thought it would be nice to start before I head to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week!

Opening Session, Friday night November 6.


The speaker for the YALSA Institute Opening Session was Aija Mayrock, author of The Survival Guide to Bullying. She told her story.

The bullying against her started when she was 8 years old and continued for five years. She moved to another state when she was 13 – and then the bullies found her online and cyberbullying started.

She performed a rap poem. I like this line:

Have you ever hid
what made you wonderful,
Just to appear a regular kid?

She decided to write a book when she was 16 and another kid committed suicide. First she self-published, and now the book is commercially published. There has been an international outpouring of support.

Bullying impacts 13 million American kids and more all over the world, including Russia and Japan.

Five Biggest Problems:
1) Kids don’t communicate.
2) Parents don’t know how to hndle this issue.
3) Teachers don’t know how to interfere in the classroom.
4) Bystanders are afraid to stand up.
5) In schools, bullying is not taken seriously.
Cyberbullying: She wants to empower kids to be superheroes online. You can change someone’s life by standing up for them. In her day, one person was kind to her and got her through.

Creativity helps kids get through anything and communicate. The library was that place for her in middle school.

A teacher later told her, “It’s never your fault when you’re bullied.”

Often the problem is that bystanders don’t feel empowered.

Coding Camp

The Saturday of YALSA Institute, the first session I went to was about Coding Camp, but trouble catching the train meant I was quite late. I think I was mainly there for questions at the end, so the things I heard may seem a bit random. Here’s what I did catch:

The sessions of their coding camp lasted an hour and a half to two hours each. You could do it in an hour, but it can often take 45 minutes to get going.

They used Scratch, which has interactive curriculum. Scratch has many resources, and is coming to tablets.

It helps kids be willing to share if they see all is a work in progress.

In doing programs like this, be willing to fail.

You can do different formats. Once a week, 2-day intensive, etc.

If the kids share laptops, they talk more.

Try to get kids into coding through a variety of interests.
Having interns helped!

One library has an event monthly where kids play each other’s games.

Publicity: Emphasize the interest, then the coding. You do need to know what your patrons are into.

Make presentations optional.

Bringing coding in shows how kids can take interests and do something awesome.

Introducing Middle School Students to the YA section

Presenters: Todd Krueger, Alicia Bowers, Carrie Ryan, Beth Saxon

Todd Krueger:

There’s a dearth of material on middle school switch to YA. For recreational reading, middle school students read more personally relevant books than assigned reading. They find most things more fun when done with others.

Always give middle school students a choice what to read. They love to talk about books. Give them a chance.

Girls are more likely to read recreationally. More educated parents mattered, but not social class, race, or grade. They get as little as 17 minutes per day to read in the classroom.

Don’t use the term “reluctant reader.” Use “occasional reader” instead.

Carrie Ryan’s transition book was by Jude Devereaux. She’s written both YA and middle grade. The heart of the difference is not age or length.
The violence level is different – off screen in middle grade.

Sex is still mostly off-page in YA, but there’s plenty of angst on the page. “All angst all the time.” – the angst of figuring out who you are in the context of romantic relationships. Love triangles are about knowing who they are.

You won’t put anything past a kid reader. If they don’t know a word, that’s what a dictionary is for. In middle grade, there’s a little more telling with the showing and more signposts.

There’s still romance in middle grade, but it’s about friends and family.

In middle grade, you’re figuring out who you are in the context of someone else’s rules. In YA, you realize you make your own rules.

In YA you’re looking forward to the life you’re going to lead. It’s about the firsts.

YA readers don’t realize it’s going to be okay. “That’s not allowed; this can’t happen; I don’t know what to do.”

It’s about what the reader needs: In middle grade, they need to know it’s okay to leave some things behind (like Doll Bones, by Holly Black). In YA, they need to know they can transition forward. The characters are captains of their own ship.

In middle grade: Have a safety net. What reassurances does the reader need right now? Sometimes the safety net is the book itself.

Don’t withhold books. Say, “If you have questions, come and talk to me.” It will be okay.

Alicia Bowers:

She’s a book pusher. She helps transition readers to middle school reading.

Have a safe space, comfortable seating, quick picks, puzzles and games. Lure them into reading.

Kids always link on videos for book trailers (on her library web page).

Assigned reading, she uses Book Bingo: Choose the 5-in-a-row that works best for you. No page count minimum! No written assignment! Put down books you don’t like.

She does author visits and field trips on the weekends.

Choice is the main factor in the summer reading list.

There are always booktalks when she’s around.

Summer: Harry Potter Camp and Hunger Games Camp (see Librariyan.blogspot.com) Their favorite thing in Harry Potter Camp was dueling.

Set traps to lure your children into reading!

Beth Saxon:

Program for circulation. All programs should promote some of your collection.

Make the solitary reading experience a social reading experience.

All programs should promote some of your collection.

Goal: An inclusive community of readers.

Go outside your own comfort zone.

Give the message: I see you; I hear you; you are welcome here.

Middle schoolers are always trying to find out how they fit in.

She gave lots of program ideas:

Book Tasting or Book Speed Dating: Give them 3 minutes to read the cover, etc. Give them paper and pencil to note down titles. Pass the book to the right after 3 minutes.

Book Club formats: Traditional read & discuss, BYOB, “Limited Run” – 3 months in a row, that’s it, Quarterly, Genre (Specific or Rotating), Guest speaker (Math teacher with An Abundance of Katherines, detective with a mystery, etc.).

Booktalking: 30 books in 30 minutes (Flash booktalks). Have kids time you on their phones.

Throwback Thursday: Highlight some great backlist titles.

Multimedia: Fandom (collage, fanart), photo sets (Tumblr), music play lists, book trailers

Character Chats: Role-playing program. Come as a character. Ask loaded questions. (This works great for an anime club.)

Programs for Specific Titles and Series: Validate fandom. Encourage curiosity. Really talk with teens about what they’re into. Cosplay? Fan art?

Technology Programs: The Catalog for Fiction Readers (show how to place a hold), e-Content Tutorials, Follow-a-thon (author twitter accounts and Instagram feeds).

Passive Programs: Awesome Box — If you think it’s awesome, return it here; Six Word Book Review Challenge — Every submission is an entry; Nutritional Label for a Book (Example: Total Sex: 100g; Actual Sex: 5g; Desired Sex: 95g; Unfairness: 75g; Love: 250g)


That was only the first evening and morning of the Institute! More notes to come…