Posts tagged ‘teen advisory boards’

A visit to Carmel Clay Public Library

On Monday my Youth Services class took a field trip to Carmel Clay Public Library in Carmel, Indiana. We met with the Young Adult Services Department Manager, Hope Baugh, who–in addition to being a stellar librarian at CCPL–has been on the Alex Awards committee for the last three years. She told us about her department; did some storytelling (she told us a story about a man who marries a woman with a golden arm and the story of the little girl and the Gunniwolf and we were all utterly transfixed); gave us a tour of the library; and then answered our questions about her job, her library, and the profession.

CCPL’s YA department is–relative to other libraries I’ve gotten to know–huge. They have a full-time manager and a full-time librarian, both with their MLS degrees, and three part-time library assistants who don’t have MLS degrees. What a far cry from the “lone librarian” position in which most people working in YA find themselves! CCPL’s also noteworthy in that the reference desk handles all homework and research questions, leaving the YA desk to attend exclusively to teen patrons’ readers’ advisory needs. (The library also has an adult readers’ advisory desk that helps patrons with their recreational reading and even provides custom reading lists upon request.)

CCPL’s computing set-up is also unusual: they have computers scattered around the library, but their Internet access is restricted to the library catalog and the databases to which the library has access. It’s at the Tech Center that patrons can sign into a computer using their library card to get access to Microsoft Office and have unrestricted access to the Internet. CCPL has chosen to forego federal E-Rate funding to provide unfiltered Internet access to their patrons. I didn’t get this exactly right; please see Hope’s comment below for a correct (and detailed) description of their computer use policy and set-up. While there are more graduated levels of computer access than I described, the choice to have unfiltered computer access anywhere in the library still means CCPL has to give up federal E-Rate funding for their Internet and computer access.

We go to take a peek at some of the staff work areas and storage areas in the Youth Services department. Every staff member, even part-time library assistants, have their own workstations and work areas. And oh man, the materials they have for programs and storytimes! The back storage areas were full of plastic containers marked “FROGS” or “FEELINGS” or with different books, and inside were finger puppets and toys and craft ideas related to those themes and those books. And the room they use for storytime has wooden doors with little preschool people-sized doors in them for late arrivals!

Since our trip to Greenwood focused mostly on services for younger children, this visit focused on young adult services. Hope told us about her Teen Library Council, which was originally limited to 25 teens but has, under her guidance, expanded to 50 teens divided into two groups who meet separately on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The two different groups mostly work on their own projects, but they do a lock-in once a year as one big group and plan a big program for school-age children together once a year.

One of the other neat things that the TLC does is designate Choice Picks. At each TLC meeting, a notebook is passed around and teens write down a book they’ve read recently that they enjoyed and would recommend to other teens; once a book gets three votes, it’s designated a TLC Choice Pick, gets a special spine label, and is moved to a special shelving area.

Teens also have the chance to get involved with the library by leading a How-To Wednesday. Once a month, a teen volunteers to design a demonstration of a particular skill or craft (like origami, magic tricks, or juggling) and teach other teens to do it. They receive three hours of volunteer credit and get experience with planning an event. CCPL also has a recurring DIY Monday’ and Book Discussion Thursday in the teen lounge (a corner of the YA department with comfortable seating, tables, board games, magnetic poetry, and plenty of electrical outlets for laptops) that are fairly casual programming; the book discussions in particular require no reading ahead of time but provide teens with an opportunity to talk about books they’ve read and enjoyed recently or about certain topics like books that should be made into movies. Of course, food is always provided at these programs!

After our tour, Hope talked to us about some more “behind the scenes” sort of things. She went over the library’s book challenge process and talked about encounters she’s had with patrons who have been unhappy with a book in the library. She also told us about this great in-house database the YA department has been building over time with book summaries and “flags” that denote sexual activity, bad language, death, and other sensitive topics. I think that as librarians we’re always reading with an eye for that kind of thing (and for more general characteristics like appeal or certain kinds of characters or settings), and the database allows CCPL’s YA staff to easily know the content of books beyond what they’ve read.

I was impressed with the work that’s gone into CCPL’s YA department from having a surprisingly large staff that really enjoy working with teens to giving teens opportunities to shape the library for themselves and their peers. And I’m not sure it’s come out in this post, but I was also really impressed with the wisdom and professionalism that Hope has cultured over her years as a YA librarian. In her local work and her work with ALA and YALSA, she’s absolutely an asset to our profession.

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March 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM 3 comments

Reflections on ALA Annual

One month from today I’ll be headed to Portland for PLA’s 2010 National Conference! I’m really looking forward to more opportunities for professional development and meeting other cool librarians from around the country. In anticipation of PLA 2010, I thought I’d reflect on the highlights of my experience at ALA Annual 2009, which was the first conference I ever attended.

I was really lucky last year; it was my first year in the SLIS program and ALA was in Chicago, so I was able to attend at the student rate, not pay airfare, and not pay for a hotel (I have friends in Northwest Indiana so I stayed with them and took the train into town)–all of which made the conference affordable. And it was such a fantastic experience! By last summer my experience in actual libraries was pretty limited: most of what I knew I knew from class readings, homework, and discussion. Going to ALA showed me how much more libraries could be.

My first day, I attended YALSA’s Genre Galaxy, which covered different genres of YA lit: what makes them appealing, what books are out there, and how to sell them to teens or program around them. But the best part of this preconference were the authors who spoke to us about their work, including James Kennedy (whose appearance was all done in-character and involved local teens re-enacting a scene from his book–Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 did writeups and posted videos here, here, and here), Dom Testa, Simone Elkeles, David Lubar (whom I also got to speak with during a break–he’s such a cool dude!), Patrick Jones, Libba Bray, and Holly Black. Honestly, I was a little bit star-struck after a day of hearing these YA lit rockstars talk–and getting to talk to them one-on-one during breaks! The giddiness of being able to meet people whose work I enjoyed so much really impressed on me how great it’d be to be able to bring that experience to teens and children through author visits.

I also attended a bunch of sessions that blew me away with how incredibly awesome and proactive libraries could be. Scott Nicholson talked about gaming in libraries and did a great job explaining why gaming is good aside from just the way it brings kids into the library, and he explained the importance of being able to back up gaming in your library with your mission statement. Different librarians also talked about how they’d implemented gaming in their libraries–and it ranged from something as small as just having a teen-organized gaming collection in a tiny public library to a huge program with classes and guest speakers on how to create games at NYPL.

I also attended the panel discussion on Teen Advisory Boards and again had my mind blown (see my earlier post about my class presentation on TABs). The only Teen Advisory Board I’d seen in action was just a group of kids the librarian could bounce ideas off of. I’d never even considered how TABs could be harnessed to make a library better and give teens leadership opportunities, or how they could very nearly run a teen department with the right development work from the librarian. More than any other session, this panel discussion got me really excited about being able to work in a library and really make an impact with what I did there.

I sat in on a presentation on sex in YA literature that challenged notions we all have about teens and sexuality and the books they read. Laura Ruby‘s talk about writing for children and then writing for teens and having her books challenged gave interesting insight into the author’s side of things, and Marty Klein did a great job of putting things in a historical and psychological context and examining the state of teen sexuality and teen sex education today.

I also went to the panel discussion on graphic novels that included a representative from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore, and Craig Thompson. Again, it was interesting to hear from the creators of works that get challenged, works we feel we need to defend. The consensus seemed to be that they don’t set out to be controversial; they just write and draw the story they want to tell and it’s only after it’s been released that the work starts to get categorized and analyzed and challenged and loved. They also did a good job of making the point that just because it’s a graphic novel doesn’t mean it’s for children–and that’s something we need to keep in mind as librarians. I also enjoyed their conversation about how graphic novels differ from other media like film or text.

Beyond the sessions I attended (and there were more–those were just the ones that I found particularly inspiring or interesting), I had time to check out all of the vendors on the convention floor. I got some neat free stuff including books and bags and pins and a Polaroid of me hugging the Cat in the Hat and ARCs (see my earlier post on ARCs)–including one of CATCHING FIRE, which was fantastic and exciting. Especially since this was my first conference, this part really was overwhelming at times. There are just so many people and so many booths and so much stuff everywhere. I was shielded in part by not actually having any sort of purchasing power, and it did give me a good idea of what’s out there for when I am working in a library and go to conferences representing my institution.

Part of visiting vendors was being able to meet authors and illustrators and get signed copies of their books. I got to meet Mo Willems and tell him what a fan I was and have him sign a few books; I met E. Lockhart and briefly discussed Frankie’s mix of psychopath and awesome while she signed my copy of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS (now out in paperback with a much more boring cover); and I not only met and received signed books from MT Anderson but was able to have a surprisingly long conversation with him. He turned out to be a super-nice guy and I really wish I’d been able to talk with him even longer. I also ran into Lori Ann Grover of readergirlz right before the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and had a chance to learn more about how she started readergirlz and all of the great things they’ve done so far.

And finally, I got to attend the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and the Michael L. Printz Award reception. The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder event was so elegant and the acceptance speeches were moving and inspiring. I especially loved Ashley Bryan‘s story of growing up black and wanting to illustrate and his energetic, expressive group recitations of Langston Hughes’s poetry.

While the Printz reception was a more casual affair, it felt more personal, too. I enjoyed hearing from the honor books’ authors as well as the winner, and I especially liked the chance to mingle with the honorees afterward.

My first conference experience was a little bit overwhelming and exhausting (I really packed in every activity I could while I was there), but more than that it was incredibly inspiring and energizing. Through the sessions I attended and the people I met, I got to see what kinds of rockin’ awesome things librarians are doing. I came away from the experience feeling really excited about my profession and really motivated to learn more and do more.

So with PLA quickly approaching, I’m looking forward to being able to re-energize myself in my work, especially in a more focused framework since PLA will be about public libraries specifically, and I’m looking forward to everything I’ll learn and be inspired by and inspired to do. The one way in which I felt like my ALA experience was lacking was that I didn’t get to meet as many new people as I wanted, and I’m hoping to do that at PLA–in just one month!

February 24, 2010 at 4:19 PM Leave a comment

From the classroom: Teen Advisory Boards

My Youth Services class met for the second time tonight (we missed a week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and last week because our instructor was sick). I gave a short presentation on Teen Advisory Boards to fulfill our assignment on current trends in youth services.

I’d first been introduced to TABs during my internship at the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in Zionsville this summer, but I really had my mind blown by what they could be at ALA in July. One librarian on the panel discussion on TABs has transformed her teen council from just an advisory board to the real heart of teen services: they plan the activities, work within a budget, arrange for speakers to visit, and run activities for younger children. Rather than implementing teens’ ideas, the librarian’s job is to help teens develop as leaders and to provide them with teambuilding and leadership training. Imagine how much better equipped for the real world her TAB members are! And imagine how capable they must feel!

Anyway, the presentation is short, but it’s a decent introduction and it concludes with a list of resources for further information.

February 1, 2010 at 9:17 PM Leave a comment