Tag Archives: youth outreach

Links Round-Up: New Blogs, Old Zombies, Training, and a Case Study for Read-A-Thon

1 Apr

Michael Gove wants schools to teach more classic literature. A number of YA authors signed a letter objecting to Michael Gove’s initiative to create of a list of 50 books that “all children should read.” The authors didn’t object to the idea of children reading but to the idea that certain books should be mandatory. What do you think?

Trainer Anne Harding has just begun a new blog, annehardingtraining.blogspot.com. She assures me that “there will of course be lots that relates to teenagers.” I’m not surprised, given that one of her most popular trainings is on library services for teenagers. Anne is running one of those teens-and-libraries trainings on 18 May (click for details) and a second one on 27 June.

Teen Librarian‘s How Do You Get Teenagers Interested in Sustainability? Answer: Zombies! is sure to amuse and inspire.

Green Bean Teen Queen has written a case study and instructions for running a very successful teen programme called The Teen Read-A-Thon. It sounds pretty fun!

On the YALSA blog Linda Braun ponders the recent limit set on loans of Harper Collins Overdrive books and its potential effects on teen readers and libraries.

Penultimately, and certainly not least, you can now watch a trailer for the new season of Doctor Who. It’s the talk of the town [country], I tell you.

Spicy Reads interviewed audiobook producer Tim Ditlow. Tim talks about the virtues of audiobooks (including whether they are “easier” than print books), some of his favourite YA audiobook titles, how to break into the audiobook industry, and which types of books make great audiobooks:


“Teen Readers’ Advisory Toolkit”: Matching Books to Teens

30 Mar

Some time ago I was granted the opportunity to attend the YALSA Symposium 2010. My first session of the day was Teen Readers’ Advisory Toolkit, led by Crystal Faris and Stephanie Squicciarini. Below is some of the advice I gleaned from the session. It has been slightly modified and annotated, but is mostly paraphrased from the aforementioned presentation.

Although teen users visit the libraries for myriad reasons, one of the main ones is to pick up books for reference or education. Read the below for ideas on how to become a trusted source of knowledge and recommend books to young people.

Build an active or nearby presence in the teen area of the library, but don’t be invasive. You want to make teens feel comfortable approaching you, and engaging with you even if they’re not looking for a specific material or not certain what they want. Clearly many of our libraries don’t have reference desks in the teen area, so tidying or editing books or other useful but non-invasive area maintenance may be useful. Simply looming in the area may make teens feel spied upon. If you linger nearby, teens who need help will eventually ask you for your advice.

When advising teens about their reading material, the most essential thing is to listen actively, and “with a purpose.” Be direct in vocal expression and maintain open/relaxed body language, because teens are still developing the prefrontal cortex and learning to interpret body language and facial expressions. Teens don’t just want a good listener, they want to engage in conversation, so express that you’ve heard them, and engage them with active questions. Faris and Squicciarin pointed out that when teens say “I want a book just like it” doesn’t mean “I want a book with the same plot” but one that makes them feel as intensely as the book they just finished did. They add: “Make sure you’re not just heading for the fiction section, but that you’re heading for what the teen really wants to read.”

When you do get around to recommending a book, use active, exciting and descriptive language and keywords to pique their attention (as Faris said, use “words that create active images and pictures in your mind”). This always makes me think of the film The Princess Bride, in which the grandfather (reading the story The Princess Bride to his grandson) describes the book as containing “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, [and] miracles.” I recently sold the Lord of the Rings trilogy to a tween using a similar description!

Ask teens four questions:

1) Are they looking for something specific?

2) Do they read a great deal, or not so much?

3) What was the last book or movie they enjoyed? Or: what is their favourite game? (Faris the example that teens who enjoy world-building games are more likely to enjoy SF/F books, shooter games might indicate interest in war books, action books such as Young Bond.)

4) Ask whether they’re read anything recently that they loved or hated.

Advising parents is a delicate art. One should try to speak to the teen directly (if they are present), and gauge their actual reading interests. However, it is also important to make the parent feel as though they aren’t being talked over or ignored. If the teen isn’t present, write down your contact details and tell the parent, “if these [books] don’t appeal to them, here’s my card, email or come in and I can give you some other suggestions.”

On a Shoestring: Creating a Teen Offer without Staff or a Budget

23 Feb

This is the first post in YA Library UK’s On a Shoestring series. The series is designed to give advice to librarians struggling to develop teen library services amidst budget and staffing cuts.

Given the serious cuts and closures public and school libraries are currently facing, creating or improving your teen offer may seem nearly impossible. This can be hindering and highly discouraging. However, the situation is not impossible! Even if you have no staff hours or budget dedicated to teen services, there are some steps you can do to improve to improve the teen offer in your library.

Working in partnership with other organisations is a wonderful way of boosting your available programmes for teens. However, the suggestions below can be implemented without external assistance.

By improving your teen space, running passive programmes in your library, and working with other staff to devise a formal plan for teen services in your library or authority, you can invigorate teen services in your library.

Improving Teen Space in Your Library

Whether the library you work in is a sprawling central library or a cramped one-room branch, you can make the teen space awesome. If you work in a very small branch–or a mobile library–your entire teen area may be a shelf of books (hey, some spaces are just small!). If your have a shelf of books with, considering soliciting reviews of YA books, graphic novels and manga from teens who visit your branch regularly. Display the reviews by their respective books. The only cost there is for a piece of paper and a piece of tape. If you want to be especially fancy you could always laminate the review, or find a plastic wallet to display it in. Larger libraries can create entire review shelves or, if you have an area where you can put a book display, an entire review stand.

Alternately, ask teens who come into the library to help you think of themes for book displays (and ask them which books they think should be on it!).

Similarly, cork boards or an area of wall for posters can improve a teen area quite a lot. This space should be designated for information on teen events happening in the library and elsewhere in your community. It can also be used to advertise books, DVDs, graphic novels, manga and music of interest to teens. You can make short themed book recommendation lists and post them here. If film adaptations of YA books are being released, promote books and media that tie into the film (or relate to its theme). Make interesting posters of book lists and reviews to place in the teen area. Recruit talented teen artists and designers to help you.

Make a suggestion box for your teen area and put forms next to it. Bring teens’ attention to it whenever you have an opportunity, and encourage them to add their suggestions for the area (and the library).

Even small improvements to the area can make a large difference to teens who use it. Ask teens who use your library regularly what types of changes they’d like to see to the teen area. Teens in Essex Libraries have suggested that books in the YA section be divided by genre. Depending on the size of your YA collection, dividing the books may not take much staff time, but it can make a huge difference to readers.

Have passive programmes available in or near the teen area in your library.

Passive Programmes for Teens

Passive programmes are activities for teens that will help invigorate the library but put few demands on staff or budgets. While I don’t recommend comprising your entire offer of passive programmes, they can certainly help make the library more active, engaging, and teen-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started:

+Keep board games behind the library’s counter. Teens can borrow these when they come into the library and return them when they leave. If you lack the funds for board games, you can make basic packs of cards available (again, behind the counter, to minimise the chance of cards getting lost), and display information about card games and tricks. If you lack a card budget, you can always make pens and paper available and display instructions for paper-based or homemade games (please comment or email yalibraryuk@gmail.com for details of these kinds of games). You can also encourage teens to bring their own games from home to play in the library, and provide a space for them to do so.

+Post a poster advertising a writing or drawing competition, and offer a prize. Teens can submit their work to a reference desk or counter. Post winners (and winning drawings or pieces of writing) in the teen area! (Unless you are offering library vouchers or ARCs as prizes, you will probably need a small budget to purchase a small prize.) I’ve even heard of librarians simply putting jars of candy on (staffed) desks, and having teens guess the amount of candy in the jar. The teen with the closest guess wins a small prize.

+Provide a cork board (usually £4-14) and review cards for an Add a Review board. The Add a Review board is quite similar to the displays mentioned above, except that any teen can submit a review to be posted on the board. This is a great way for teens to be acknowledged in the space. It also promotes literacy.

+Start a review, writing, or library blog to which teens can submit reviews, writing, or art.

+Start a Facebook page for teen library services in your authority. It will take some time to develop a following, but a virtual presence still helps promote library services to young people.

Setting Clear Goals

Creating a plan for teen library provision does not require a formal budget. Sit down with other staff and establish goals: how many teens do you intend to get into the building? What would it require to do achieve this goal? Do you need to raise or apply for money in order to implement aspects of the plan? What are staff fears and how can they be allayed in a manner respectful to both staff and teens? (There will be a post addressing the latter question tomorrow, and one about writing a detailed teen plan on Friday.)

Please note that the above is not an advocation for reducing staff or budgets. It is intended to help librarians working in less than ideal conditions. Hopefully these suggestions will assist you in creating a foundation on which a more robust teen programme can be built.

Look for Part 2 of the One a Shoestring series next week! If you have any passive programmes or staff/budget-free projects that you’ve done, please comment or contact me!

The Portable Library: Teen Services to Take Away

11 Feb

We know that getting teenagers into the library, getting them readings, increases their quality of life. Now the question is, how do we get teenagers into the library? Or, more importantly, how do we get teenagers who don’t currently use the library to read for pleasure?

One of the many answers: we meet them where they are.

I have only recently realised the importance of delivering library services outside of our hallowed public building. This past week I visited a local youth centre and spoke to teens who use it regularly. The youth centre is beautifully equipped with a media center, a music production lab, art spaces, a garage for working on cars and bikes, a careers advice office, a volunteer outreach programme, gym and sport equipment, a cafe, and caring adults.

The one thing it was missing, however, was reading material. There was nothing to read: no books, no graphic novels, no manga. There weren’t even magazines.

It was clear that young people in the local area felt safe and comfortable in the youth centre, and enjoyed being able to access its excellent facilities. Why, I began to wonder, would they consider regularly going to the library when they already had a local space outfitted with interesting equipment, and where they were able to spend time with friends?

Thus, the idea of bringing library service to the youth centre, rather than making the youth leave their safe space and come to the library.

Portable or pop-up libraries are by no means a new concept. Book exchanges and library outreach programmes – to youth centres, sports clubs, juvenile detention facilities, workplaces and schools – have been going on for decades. However, with a couple of exceptions, few of the portable library projects target teens.

When I asked teens at the local youth whether they’d like to have reading material (or a portable library) available, the group got quiet. After a few moments, they began to nod, and then begin to give tentative comments and suggestions. In truth, they had never considered that the library could meet them where they were. For most of them, the library was a last resort, when the Internet, parents, friends, and at-home reference books failed them. It had never occurred to them that the library could not only maintain a presence in a space they already used, but might also supply reading materials they were interested in (such as magazines and hand-selected books and manga).

The value of this type of outreach is two-fold: first, it gets teenagers reading for pleasure. Second, it familiarises them with the library and puts a human face on library services. For the time being, they may not be interested in visiting the library. After some time, as they become familiar with members of library staff who visit the centre and work with us to access material they like, they may eventually begin to feel curious about the library, and comfortable visiting and exploring the other types of materials offered.

This type of partnership can be brokered not just with youth centres but with any place teenagers congregate, such as schools or clubs. The most important thing is to first establish contact and broker a respectful partnership with an adult in that organisation. Find out what the needs of that particular teen community are, both by exploring the currently available resources and by speaking to the teens there. For example, a secondary school that has a library may not be in need of additional reading materials, but might perhaps be interested in partnering to offer a lunchtime reading club. A sports club might appreciate a frequently changed selection of athletes’ biographies and sport magazines. Partnerships could be brokered with Jobcentres to allow teens out of school and looking for work to access collections about careers, further education, and varied material for pleasure reading.

Of course, librarian participation and visibility is also important. Introducing yourself to teens, asking their opinion and gauging their needs can put a friendly, human face on the local library service.

Getting teenagers reading is paramount. Once they are reading, and feel comfortable with the idea of library services, they are far more likely to venture into the building. Reading and learning start with small, simple steps. Meeting teenagers where they are and putting reading materials in their hands can make all the difference.

Against Cuts: Teen Library Services and Literacy

10 Feb

The National Literacy Trust recently found that libraries play important role in supporting literacy. From the article (emphasis mine):

“Children who use their local public library are twice as likely to be above average readers, according to research published by the National Literacy Trust…. seven- to eleven-year-olds are nearly three times more likely to use the library than 14- to 16-year-olds.”

The survey also found that library users are more than twice as likely to read outside of class everyday. More than a third (38 per cent) of young people who use the library believe it will help them to do better at school.

“The most common reasons children gave for not going to the library were that their family does not go (52 per cent) and that their friends do not go (40 per cent).”

Pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults need libraries, and, more than that, library services. After the age of 12 or 13, reading for pleasure falls off educational agendas. This is the time that teen library services can step in and help promote literacy and reading for pleasure.

It is not enough to simply place books (or manga, or graphic novels, or even magazines) on shelves and hope teenagers will find them. Libraries often have such a low profile that teenagers who are not already aware of their offer will not venture into the library. Moreover the library is often seen as quite geeky or uncool, and thus is not a final destination unless the teenager must use the building for schoolwork or Internet access. (Of course there are ways of branding local libraries as “geek cool,” but these take a concerted effort: staff, time, and money!)

Having at least one member of staff dedicated to teen work, and exciting teen events encourages more young people to feel comfortable on the premises. Moreover, a dedicated staff person can do outreach, going to schools and youth centres, working with specific groups like young carers or young offenders to make the library service relevant and accessible to those groups. Library outreach to teens meets them in spaces they feel comfortable, with material that interests them and encourages them to read. Once a young person has begun reading, it is often only a matter of time (and patience) before they make tentative attempts to read beyond the level or genre they were comfortable with. The first step is literacy, then pleasure reading material, and then, finally exploration of new materials, new genres, new ideas. This is how reading for pleasure and self-education take hold of a person. They are lifelong habits, so developing them in teenagers in paramount.

Library cuts and closures are potentially disastrous for teen literacy. Teen library services are already fragmented. They are not (currently) a national priority. Yet, they are consequential influences on young people’s quality of life and education.

YA Library UK will continue to feature information about outreach to teens and teen library services on a shoestring. However, I am entirely against these cuts and closures, and the need for libraries to offer many services with very little staff and practically no budget to speak of. Library cuts do not accurately reflect library usage or other needs within communities. They neglect the needs of teenagers. I urge both local authorities and the government to seriously reconsider whether libraries are in fact a “soft” target or a service necessary for communities and their education and quality of life.

If you’d like more information about saving libraries and opposing cuts and closures, please visit the wonderful Voices for the Library website.

“Working in Partnership: libraries and youth agencies”: A New Post on Teen Librarian

3 Feb

Emma Sherriff authored a guest blog post about libraries working in partnership with other organisations. The post was featured on Teen Librarian. Here’s an excerpt:

Librarians can learn a huge amount from observing the worker’s methods of talking to young people and addressing issues. The service has provided informal training opportunities which enable you to deliver at a level that suits the young person and that the young person can relate to.

Youth agencies shouldn’t be scared to give a librarian access to the young people at risk in their community. As long as the librarian is prepared, which means having a full understanding of what the young people are experiencing. An opportunity to represent the library at community events is also useful, as you can be considered to be giving them something, even if it is just your time.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s article (and to learn more about how her library teamed up with the Youth Offending Prevention Service)!

Post-YALSA Conference Links Round-Up

9 Nov

Librarified summarizes myriad Young Adult Library Services Association conference panels. Click through to read a plethora of tips and heaps of encouragement!

Librarified also posted an edifying article about the history of Young Adult lit for adults reading YA.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table of the American Library Association has just announced their new Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award. Read more about it on The “C” Word blog.

The School Library Journal (USA) has just started a review blog called Adult Books 4 Teens that (no surprise here), reviews books marketed to adults that teens may also enjoy.

Speaking of reading for pleasure, Gamine Expedition reviews a recent study about kids and teens reading for pleasure and the potential impact (or lack thereof) of e-books.

2010’s Booktrust Teenage Prize has been awarded to Gregory Hughes for his novel Unhooking the Moon.

Teens Read and Write is giving away three free copies of Paranormalcy (including to people/libraries outside the US!).

A quick PS: After searching fruitlessly, I finally came across a splatter-filled horror film that’s rated 15 (instead of 18), and that I can therefore show the horror-hungry teens (ages 15+) at my library. The film is, of course, the American horror-comedy, Zombieland!