The struggle is real: Reaching teens

One of the most common questions I get from library staff is “How do I get teens into the library?” For many libraries, it may seem as if it’s feast or famine – either they are swamped by after school crowds or they never see any teens step foot in the door. The crowds can be dealt with, but how do you get teens into the your library?

My go-to answer for the above question is, “Don’t expect them to,” meaning don’t expect them to come into the library, with expect being the key word here. Why would they come into the library? There’s a lot working against it – whether or not they can get a ride, what their friends are doing, how many after school commitments they have – the list goes on.  Going to the library has to be a conscious decision they make and then they must have the transportation and support to actually get there.

 Photo by Nicole Berro from PexelsSome better questions to ask might be, “Why aren’t the teens in my library?,” “What are the barriers to service?,” “What is structurally in place that stops them from coming in?,” and most importantly, “What can we do to overcome those barriers?”

The answer to these questions will be unique to each system and branch. Start by taking a close look at the culture and atmosphere of your library. Do teens feel welcome there? If no, what is causing them to feel unwelcome? Do your co-workers or administration understand why it’s good to have teen patrons, rather than becoming frustrated by them? I do staff day trainings on this topic and am working with the Young Adult Library Services Association to offer more workshops on teen services. The short version of the message I share in these trainings is that we can help teens gain important life skills through our programs. Well-rounded teens make for well-rounded citizens, and teens with positive library experiences make lifelong library users.

If transportation or busy schedules is a major issue, consider going to them. Where are they gathering? Is school the best place to reach them in a non-pandemic year? Could you reach them during lunch or after school at an extracurricular? Of course, COVID-19 has created an even bigger barrier. The answer to “where are the teens” right now is hopefully “home.” Even schools that are opening this fall will likely limit who can enter their buildings and public library staff may not make the cut. So, what can you do?

Look for other community groups that might help you reach teens. Connect with organizations in your area, such as social justice organizations, church youth groups, YMCAs or Boys & Girls Clubs, to arrange for on-site book pick-up and drop-off services, kit lending or even virtual programming. They may also be able to put you in touch with teens who are interested in particular topics – like gaming or STEM – or those who would make great teen advisory board members.

Figuring out who to partner with in your community is your first step. Take a look around. Drive through your streets and make note of organizations and businesses you might contact. Ask co-workers with teens what their kids do after school. Does your library have teen shelvers or pages? What do they suggest?

If you are from a community so tiny that you don’t have any groups or organizations to work with, might delivery be an option? Come up with a project that will benefit a charity, like making blankets to donate to your county’s Humane Society. Then offer to drop blanket making kits off at the homes of your teens. If that’s not feasible, reach out to your school librarian, or any other teacher with whom you have a relationship, and ask them to recommend teens for the aforementioned teen advisory board. Make it an honor that requires a teacher recommendation and will look good on their college applications! The board can meet via Zoom.

If you already have a pre-COVID established group of teen patrons, this may all be *slightly* easier for you. Zoom meetings and book clubs, YouTube craft tutorials and using Discord for chatting or gaming with your teen crowd have all been common ways to reach out to existing teen patrons. One example of a library using Discord with teens come from the Pendleton Community Public Library. Their teen librarian, Matthew Stephenson, had an established group of teen patrons before the pandemic and has stayed in touch with them using Discord. See my interview with Matthew below and check out this Discord tutorial, recorded by Andrew Laverghetta, a librarian from Eckhart Public Library.

Ultimately, what you do will depend on your unique community and what it needs. What works at one library may not work at yours. This is a time to reevaluate our library services and determine what is essential, and to refocus on quality over quantity. If you can have an impact on the lives of even a few teens in the middle of the pandemic, that’s significant.

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Interview with teen librarian Matthew Stephenson, Pendleton Community Public Library:

How have you been reaching teens during this time?
As we moved our teen programs and services to Discord, the teens who were already using Discord embraced the “new normal.” However, we have a significant portion of teens who rely on places outside of their home for high speed internet that makes Discord, Zoom and other resources possible. Because of that, I think some teens who would enjoy and embrace our virtual services are unable to find a time or place to do so.

Did you already have a pretty solid group of teen patrons?
I had a very solid group of teens who would be in the library multiple times a week. Some have made a similar commitment online since March. Others I haven’t heard from since then.

Have you reached new ones?
A few teens have discovered our virtual programs and services through our summer reading program, which incentivized joining the library’s teen Discord server.

What other methods have you used, besides Discord?
I have used Netflix Party to watch and talk about anime as a group. I’ve had a few teens who want to watch a whole movie that way. I’ve tried to use Zoom, but most of the teens who have attended are leery of being on camera. Lastly, I recently used Kahoot! to make a quiz competition. A few of the teens really enjoyed it, but thought I made the quiz too difficult, which I am, admittedly, prone to do.

Examples of any virtual programs you’ve done?
I’ve converted our in-library video and tabletop game programs to virtual versions done through Discord. They can get five to ten participating teens on a regular basis, but can accommodate up to 50. Our Teen Quiz had several participants and was asynchronous, which seems to be more popular with teens since COVID-19 and our building project began in the spring.

Is the library open to teen patrons yet?
Most of the library is currently closed for renovations, but we are offering essential services, such as copying, faxing and circulation of materials in our community room. All computer sessions are limited to one hour and patrons are encouraged to not linger in the limited areas open to them. We hope to open the library to next phase of reopening, which we call ‘Grab and Go,’ in August.

Thoughts on how you have/might work with schools this fall, pending your area’s school reopening plans?
We are launching our “One Card One Student” initiative at the beginning of the school year, which will give every student in our school system a special library card to use our databases and check out e-books. I believe that will place the library as an even more important complementary element to improve e-learning for our community’s students. This is in addition to offering Tutor.com to our residents and placing our Student Portal front and center on our library’s homepage.

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This blog post was written by Beth Yates, children’s consultant for the Indiana State Library.

 

What does the children’s consultant do, exactly?  A year in review

In my role as children’s consultant in the Professional Development Office of the Indiana State Library, it’s my mission to offer training opportunities, best practices advice and general support to youth services library staff across the entire state. Out of my three years in this position, this year has been the busiest so far. I’ve been lucky to be involved in a number of exciting projects!

NASA @ My Library: The year began with the good news that the Indiana State Library would be part of the NASA @ My Library program. This program came with a grant that allowed us to create and circulate 13 kits that contained the materials to do a number of space-centric programs in libraries. These kits went to public libraries this summer to support their A Universe of Stories programs. And, you can continue to borrow them even though summer is over! Learn more about the kits here.

Leap Into Science: In February, I attended a training in Philadelphia for the Franklin Institute’s Leap into Science program along with my fellow Indiana Leadership Team members Nicole Rife from the Indiana State Museum, Renee Henry from the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and Sarah Reynolds from Early Learning Indiana. Through the training, we learned how to integrate open-ended science activities with children’s books during programs designed for children ages 3-10 and their families. We brought the program back to Indiana and offered four workshops for librarians and other out of school informal educators in August of 2019; we also plan to offer four more sessions in spring of 2020. Watch for those trainings to be announced early in the year. Read more about Leap into Science here.

YALSA “Teen Services with Impact”: In March, we brought in Linda Braun of YALSA to provide day-long trainings to teen services librarians and administrators about the impact libraries can have on the lives of teens. The sessions discussed how teen librarians can describe the value of what they do for and with teens, and built an understanding of how social emotional learning fits into the work they do for and with teens.

Collaborative Summer Library Program: In September, Indianapolis was thrilled to host representatives from every state, along with several US Territories and island nations, for the CSLP Annual Meeting. At the meeting, we voted to use Oceanography as our general theme in 2023; the slogan will be voted on in 2020. The artist in 2023 will be Frank Morrison. In November, I began traveling the state to offer 11 CSLP training/roundtables on the 2020 program, Imagine Your Story. Dates and locations for the remaining trainings can be found on ISL’s Calendar of Events.

YALSA Connected Learning & Computational Thinking for Teens: At the end of September, I was excited to go to Seattle to be trained by the excellent folks at YALSA on how to incorporate Connected Learning and Computational Thinking into programming for teens. Youth Services Consultants like me from across the US attended these trainings, and we’ll all be rolling out various workshops for teen librarians in early 2020. Watch for Connected Learning trainings in March!

Every Child Ready to Read: As always, I offered a number of ECRR trainings across the state this year. I’m currently in the process of planning another batch for 2020, and hope to announce those by the end of 2019.

In addition to all of that, I continue to offer a set list of trainings, which I can do by-request for library staff days and round tables. I intend to add one or two new trainings to that list in 2020, so keep an eye out.

I hope the upcoming new year is an excellent one for you, your library and the youth you serve!

This blog post was written by Beth Yates, children’s consultant for the Indiana State Library.

INLLA participant Erin Cataldi strives to improve teen engagement

Every two years, the Indiana State Library hosts the Indiana Library Leadership Academy program for up-and-coming librarians in the field. Librarians across the state, and from a variety of library backgrounds, apply to attend INLLA. Each librarian is chosen based on the responses and project proposals submitted with their application. The participants selected, along with their coaches, spend four days learning about the qualities of leadership and, specifically, how those leadership qualities translate to the library profession. During the most recent INLLA, facilitator and author Cathy Hakala-Ausperk, of Libraries Thrive Consulting, contributed her expertise by sharing aspects of her library experience and talking about what it takes to be a leader.

Beginning with the four-day retreat, INLLA is a two-year commitment culminating in the completion of the projects that the participants designed to improve, enhance or strengthen some aspect of their library or community.

Pictured are Erin Cataldi, Stacey Kern and Raenell Smith at the Kwame Alexander author event held at Clark Pleasant Middle School.

INLLA participant Erin Cataldi, teen and adult reference librarian at the Clark Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library, wanted to increase teen engagement in her library. She realized that reaching teenagers in a mostly residential community can be hard and that there aren’t a lot of spaces for them to congregate and hang out. She wanted to improve the teen “space” in the library to become more inviting and to be used by its intended audience – teens.

One of Erin’s innovative programs: a Harry Potter escape room at Clark Pleasant branch.

Erin wanted to begin this process by offering more innovative programming to get the teens used to coming in to the library. She also wanted to revamp the teen space to make it more appealing to teens. Her approach was to work with local businesses and organizations to offer ongoing passive programs at all times in the teen space. She also decided that working more closely with the local schools to promote the library would be a good way to let teens know that the library is a safe place to meet up, hang out, study and create.

Currently, Erin doesn’t have control over the teen space due to the size of the existing building, but a recent announcement conveyed that by 2020 the library should be breaking ground to build a bigger branch. The proposed plan includes a generous teen area for materials and activities. So, the future is bright!

Erin Cataldi and Annie Sullivan at the Whiteland Community High School author event.

By volunteering to help out at school events, such as an author visit by Annie Sullivan, Erin continued to solidify her already established relationships with the local middle and high schools, which gives the students a closer connection to the library.

Monthly makerspace at Clark Pleasant Middle School.

Additionally, Erin operates a monthly makerspace at Clark Pleasant Middle School and regularly drops off program brochures, library card applications and posters to the schools around the county. She is also launching a teen advisory board this month in order to gather input into programming ideas for teens. She also attended a young adult round table to talk about best practices for teen programming and to get ideas to supplement what she is doing at their branch.

Erin is an example of a library leader who is having an impact on her library and on her community. This process began with INLLA and the project that she created to increase teen engagement in her area. With the idea of increasing teen engagement, Erin has developed a closer relationship with the schools by volunteering at their events and making more school visits. Teens at the Clark Pleasant Branch of the Johnson County Public Library are lucky to have Erin on their side and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

This blog post was written by Kara Cleveland, Professional Development Office supervisor at the Indiana State Library.

From the desk of the children’s consultant

If you stopped by my cubicle in the Professional Development Office of the Indiana State Library, you might notice a number of items on my desk related to upcoming trainings and projects relevant to youth services. You’d see:

  • Materials for my Collaborative Summer Library Program trainings and roundtables, which began on Dec. 3, 2018 and will continue through Feb. 1, 2019. By the way, for those of you who cannot attend an in-person workshop, don’t forget the webinar on Jan. 9, 2019. See the full list of dates and locations, along with the description, on ISL’s calendar of events

 
  • The outline for two-day long YALSA “Teen Services with Impact” training sessions for teen librarians. These sessions are slated to take place on March 26, 2019 at the Brown County Public Library and March 27, 2019 at Kokomo Public Library.  While the locations may require travel time for many librarians, these otherwise free workshops will be an amazing opportunity for teen librarians in Indiana to gather and discuss the future of teen services while gaining valuable training from an instructor who works for the Young Adult Library Services Association. These trainings are still in the process of being finalized; more details should be announced in early 2019. Until then, be sure to mark your calendars.

  • A press release announcing the Indiana State Library’s acceptance into the NASA @ My Library program’s Cohort 2. Along with 13 other state library agencies, ISL will receive resources, training and support, which we will use to assist public libraries in increasing and enhancing their STEM learning opportunities. We will also be given kits for circulation among public libraries; details on these kits and how to borrow them will be forthcoming. Read more about the NASA @ My Library program here.
  • A travel request to attend the National Learning Institute in Philadelphia in February. The Indiana State Library, along with the Indiana State Museum, Terre Haute Children’s Museum and Early Learning Indiana, was accepted to be a State Leader for the Franklin Institute’s Leap into Science program Cohort 2. Together, representatives from those four organizations, with me representing ISL, will be trained at the institute to offer train-the-trainer sessions to Indiana librarians, museum workers, early childhood programmers and other out-of-school time educators periodically over the next three years. These sessions will discuss how to integrate open-ended science activities with children’s books during programs designed for children ages three to 10 and their families. More details on how this will roll out in Indiana will be announced in spring or summer 2019. Read more about Leap into Science here.  
  • A map of the seven 2019 Every Child Ready to Read training locations – these locations were announced last month. The trainings will take place in March, April, May, August and October and are great for those new to doing story time, and for those looking for a refresher. You can register for them via ISL’s calendar of events.   

There is definitely a lot going on, and I look forward to sharing these trainings and projects with you in 2019!

This blog post was written by Beth Yates, children’s consultant for the Indiana State Library.

 

Genealogy for kids

Are you looking for a fun, meaningful and ongoing activity you can do with your children? Here’s an idea the whole family will enjoy and it just might turn into a lifelong adventure! Why not get the family involved in some genealogy research by connecting your children to their grandparents, great grandparents and other ancestors down the line?

First of all, it is best to define genealogy in easy to understand terms. It’s the story of the family members that came before them. Explain that these people are their ancestors. Genealogy entails tracing back your family lines and studying your family history and family relationships. It is the story of where they lived, who they married and how many children they had. Genealogy can begin with a search for the vital records of ancestors. These records include the dates and places of birth, marriage and death. Ask children why these might be called vital records and why they are considered so important.

Ask your children, “If you want to discover your own genealogy and family history, who do you think you should start with?” Should you start with grandparents? Parents? Of course, they should begin with themselves because they know the most about themselves. It is also logical to start with themselves to be able to see how they connect to other family members down the line. A packet, “My Journal: All About Me,” can be accessed here. Finding out facts and other information about you and your family involves research and a good researcher should gather the appropriate supplies to help them be successful. They will need a notebook or paper and pencil to write down the information they find. A folder will come in handy to hold the notebook and any papers. Some optional items might include a computer, a camera or a video or audio recording device. The linked packet also contains helpful definitions related to genealogy and helpful websites and books. A list of starter questions to ask family members is included in the above mentioned packet. Children should also be encouraged to come up with some of their own questions to ask about the things they would like to know regarding their family members.

Kids will have fun answering questions about themselves and recording the information. Once they have answered the basic questions about birth date and where they were born, they can then delve a little deeper with answering questions like, “My name was chosen for me because…” or “I was named after…”

Their next steps will involve asking questions about parents. It’s important for children to know that it’s okay if they are not able to find out information about a parent or grandparent. It’s good to emphasize that everyone has one or more “holes” in their family genealogy that can’t be filled in at the moment. Some searches for family members can be ongoing for many years. Encourage children to just continue on with the family members they do have information about.

Now it is time to move on to gathering information about grandparents. Sometimes a visual chart can help children understand the connections between themselves and their parents and grandparents. Explain that maternal grandparents are the parents of the mother. This is easy to remember with the “ma” at the beginning of the word maternal, as in your “ma.” The paternal grandparents are the parents of the father. This is easy to remember with the “pa” at the beginning of the word paternal, as in your “pa.”

A very basic beginning family tree example.

By learning about grandparents and understanding what their lives were like, children learn and understand more about themselves and their immediate family. Hopefully, children will discover that they share some of the same traits, characteristics and talents that a grandparent might have. Helping children see similarities and connections will make it fun and relevant for everyone.

An interesting project that children will enjoy is gathering pictures of family members at approximately the same age and making comparisons between the family members.

A baby picture comparison of a grandfather, two of his children and three of his grandchildren.

As mentioned before, the linked packet has a list of suggested questions to ask. Questions such as “What kinds of games did you play?,” “What part of childhood do you think most about now?,” “How is the world different today than it was when you were growing up?” and “What is the most important thing that has happened to you?”

At this point, much information has been gathered. The concept of a family tree or pedigree chart can now be introduced. Some people show their family history using a family tree or a pedigree chart, which are diagrams of the members of a family. With each of these, lines are used to show how people are related. For example, the lines show people who are married or have children. There is an unlimited variety of family tree and pedigree chart templates that can be downloaded for free from the internet.

Example of a family tree.

Example of a pedigree chart.

For older children, you can now add in a discussion and some research about the immigration of ancestors. With the subject of immigration currently in the news daily, there could be some great discussions about immigration in the past and present. Ask about the connections between immigration and genealogy. Probe a bit and ask what they think are some of the causes for people immigrating in the past and now. Perhaps life may have become too difficult in their native country. It could be because of lack of means for earning an income and needing to live in a place where there would be better work opportunities available. Immigrants come because of violence, war or religious persecution in their native country. They may come looking for a better life and future for themselves and their children. They may come to join other family members that came before them.

For many of us, all of our long ago ancestors were immigrants to North America at some point in time, with the exception of those who are full-blooded Native Americans. The immigration story of each of our ancestors is part of each person’s family history. It can be powerful for children to learn about their ancestors’ struggles and stories of survival.

It’s important to ask children questions before, during and after their research. It will help deepen their critical thinking skills. Bloom’s taxonomy of learning progresses from remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Helping children engage in higher level thinking skills will help them develop into stronger learners and critical thinkers.

Here are just a few example questions that could be asked:

  • How can I connect this information to my own life? How are my ancestors similar; dissimilar?
  • What would you do if you lived in another country in 1800 and could not find a job to support and take care of your family? Explain your answer.
  • Why do you think your ancestors settled in a particular region or city? Explain.

I hope these tips will help you engage your children and family by facilitating a personal connection to learning about your family’s past. I also encourage you and your family to check out the genealogy titles for kids featured throughout this blog post. You can find the titles and authors by clicking on the pictures.

This blog post was written by Alice Winslow, librarian, Genealogy Division. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689.