I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is a Portland, Maine community-wide read and series of public events in designed to promote a sense of community among the diverse people who make the port city their home.
I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is sponsored by the Portland Public Library and funded by the Maine Humanities Council.
Over the last three decades, the city of Portland has seen a significant cultural shift through the arrival of immigrants and refugees from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Here in Maine, we’re blessed with a crop of recent titles, from picture books to young adult novels, that offer both particular cultural details about the lives of recent arrivals to our state and themes to which any reader can relate.
The goal of I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is to engage members of the Greater Portland, Maine community, both new arrivals and long-term residents, in reading books about recent immigrants to Maine and sharing in discussion of differences and commonalities, to build understanding between the two groups.
The series will open with a gala launch on May 25, 2013
Thursday nights can be slow at my library. The teens have all gone home for the day, and the only ones that remain are the quiet few who are tearing through their homework or have their eyes focused on their internet browser. Tonight at my library, the scene was the same but before me was a pretty huge question:
My little brother locked me out of my iPod. He’s five years old and he won’t tell me how to unlock it. How can I start again? Do I need to buy a new iPod?
The teen was pretty bummed that he couldn’t access his music. I’ve seen him here in my library before…he’s always got his headphones on and he’s always got a smile on his face. You can tell that this kid loves music. Tonight, I didn’t see that kid. I saw someone who was really bummed out. He presented his iPod to me.
That’s where we were to start. With a quick Google search, I showed him how to find help on Apple’s website: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1212. He tells me that he didn’t know that there were such helpful things on the internet.
Our next step was restoring the iPod. I told him that everything was going to be deleted, and he understood. He said that all of his music was on his computer (more on that to come)
After about ten minutes of waiting and watching the iPod slowly restore itself, the teen’s frown turned into a smile. He was the same kid that I remember seeing every other day in the library. When Welcome to Your New iPod flashed on the screen. He threw his hands up in the air. “YES! FINALLY! THANK YOU!”
Next up, we searched for his music. He had never used iTunes before, so all of his music files were buried in a Real Player folder somewhere on his hard drive. He helped me locate the folder and I showed him how to drag and drop into iTunes. He smiled again when his music library showed up. My final step was telling him about syncing his device. I told him to use iTunes to manage his music and to always keep iTunes synced to his iPod. His music library automatically refilled itself and when it was done, he disconnected his iPod from the computer, plugged in his headphones, gave me a fist bump, and walked away jamming out to his music.
Thursday nights can be slow at my library, but they can also be some of the best times I’ve ever spent in a library.
The book, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, is based on the findings of a large-scale collective of ethnographic studies conducted by y over 20 researchers at MIT from the Digital Youth Project on youth and their social/friendship-driven and interest-driven practices producing, consuming, and sharing media and technology. The case studies offer pretty fascinating insights into youth culture and voices. The authors of the studies concluded that youth often engage in three genres of participation with tech/media: hanging out, messing around and geeking out. It is a participatory cultural progression in intensity and complexity both in terms of development (first social, then personal, and finally an enriching of both of those areas) and of learning. Other topics addressed in the book include gaming, media production, and how media/ technology usage and access are impacting friendships, families, privacy, and dating.
The Three Genres of Youth Participation with Technology and Media
In the hanging out phase, youth are often driven socially to interact with media based on extending their already existing friendships. The primary focus here is on social development, usually conducted without adult supervision. Youth are almost always “on” digitally even when physically with others, and may not have much time for reflection and introspection when dealing with others digitally as they do face-to-face. The exchanges take place both privately (IM, texting) and publicly via social media outlets, with the public forum often leading to interpersonal and intrapersonal lessons that often have highly visible consequences. Adults often place many judgments on this particular stage of media/tech interactions and will often attempt to dictate access. Youth, however, are creating and dictating their own digital social norms. As Thomas and Brown note, the question for this stage is “What is my relationship to others?” (2011).
During the messing around stage, youth are often independently and open-endedly experimenting with technology, exploring media, and seeking information to pursue more personal interests. They are self-directedly acquiring new transliteracy skills and learning how to construct queries. The level of involvement and investment is dictated individually. They often share their creations with others to assess and provide feedback on, or to seek out technical assistance from. Access to technology and media tools is essential for this phase, along with the autonomy to delve into their own interests and seek out information or to create/customize using media. They may experiment with repurposing tech tools or creating work-arounds for tech/media issues. Regardless of whether there is an end-product or goal fulfilled, the tinkering aspect allows youth to gain new skills and knowledge.
In the geeking out stage, youth focus in on interest(s) more intensely that develop both their personal and social agencies while building deep knowledge and proficiencies. Whether this takes the guise of online gaming, fan activities, or media creations, youth are deeply involved in manipulating technology, creating and/or remixing media and collaborative knowledge-building/sharing via specialized knowledge networks based on their personal interests. This involvement often centers on online communities of experts, often dealing with peers (and sometimes adults) to seek out and provide information and assistance to others. Peer-based feedback and sharing are essential and reciprocity is expected in this phase, especially when it helps establish authority or expertise. This stage develops more deeply a youth’s personal and social personas and interests.
Youth and Transformative Learning
Youth are practicing their own form of transformative learning via their progressive acts of hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. They are often engaging (often unknowingly) in deep learning, extending themselves beyond gaining explicit knowledge and instead dealing in tacit knowledge while they take greater ownership of their personal and social roles (Thomas & Brown, 2011, & Transformative Learning Theory, 2007). They have embraced that learning processes can be fun, messy, challenging, and potentially intimidating/scary, but create the opportunity for subjective reframing (Mezirow, 1997, p. 7). Youth are most often turning to each other to build knowledge and connect with media and technology instead of school or the library, probably because they aren’t finding validation for their interests via these venues or their methods of learning; this is unfortunate as it most definitely supports their personal and developmental needs. When not under the direct guidance of parental or educational authorities, students are seen to assume more adult-like roles and increased ownership of how they present themselves, and their learning and peer evaluation (Mizuko et al, 2009).
What can librarians and trainers glean from these works?
Librarians and trainers can aptly take much from this large-scale study. Dr. Pinkard of the Digital Youth Network notes that literacy (and illiteracy) are defined by the technology of the time so to be “literate in 2020 will mean being multi-literate: the ability to critically consume and produce media such as print, video, sound and screen” (Pinkard, 2011, Rethinking Our Definitions of Literacy). Because we as librarians are concerned with literacy, we need to offer opportunities for literacy development and promotion in all different medias. Although the research for this book was conducted on youth, I think providing patrons regardless of age with a venue for play and examination with media and technology is crucial. For the “Hanging Out” stage, I don’t think libraries should be afraid of social media (which many seem to be). I think they should embrace it. Engage with patrons, whether via Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.
For “Messing Around”, it would be wonderful to provide patrons with access to tools to experiment and play with tech without set learning goals, but rather an open venue. It was emphasized repeatedly in the book that youth needed to have the opportunity for open-ended tinkering in order to transition to a more in-depth involvement with learning and engagement. Effective examples of youth media programs are centered on the youths’ own passions and interests and allot sufficient unstructured time so youth can fiddle around and explore without the need to heed direct instruction (Mizuko et al, 2009). In the place of classroom teachers, lab teachers/leaders do not assume traditional authority roles in which their job is to assess youths’ abilities, but instead should aspire to be co-conspirators and collaborators (Mizuko et al, 2009). An excellent example of a media lab that has been quite successful is the YOUmedia lab at the Chicago Public Library.
There have been other successful media labs that have been created for adults as well, such as the Skokie Public Library’s studio’s media lab which has served as a model for other libraries.
For “Geeking Out”, youth provide an excellent example of the types of deep learning and collaborative knowledge-building that can transpire in a Learning 2.0 program. They have modeled the need and expectation for play as a means of deep learning, a concept that not all adults are comfortable with. Libraries can offer programming that allows for in-depth play with librarians embracing the role of guide on the side. As Thomas and Brown point out, a fusion of information and experimentation lead to a new culture of learning, which youth exemplify (2011, p. 117). We would do well to heed the cultural change that youth are creating and embracing and consider this in our library programming and services.
Ito, Mizuko (ed.). (2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.
Maria Papanastassiou is a graduate student at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science. After her graduation in May 2013, she will be pursuing her certification in order to become a teacher librarian in Illinois. Maria’s interests include young adult literature, emerging technologies, and promoting transliteracy.
I’m very honored to be part of this years President’s Program Planning Task Force for YALSA. As part of this program, we’re announcing this years Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults program which you can find out about below. If you’re a teen program who’s doing awesome things, I highly suggest you think about being part of this program. There’s a lot of great teen programs out there right now being put on by hard working librarians and this is your chance to share them with everyone!
YALSA will select up to twenty-five innovative teen programs from all types of libraries to feature at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference and to include in a sixth edition of Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults. Successful applications will focus on programs that address new teen needs or interests, or that address ongoing teen needs or interests in an innovative or unique way. The top five programs will receive cash awards of $1000 each. Up to twenty “best of the rest” programs will receive cash awards of $250. Each award will be presented to the applicant’s institution for use with future teen programs and/or for the applicant’s travel to the 2013 conference to participate in the YALSA President’s Program.
The program described in the application must be a library-sponsored event, inside or outside the library, which appeals to a group rather than an individual. A program can be informational, recreational, educational, or all three.
The program described must have taken place in 2012 or be ongoing.
The program must be targeted at teens within the 12 – 18 age range.
All personal members of YALSA whose membership is current as of 12/17/12 are eligible to submit an application.
Only one application per YALSA member may be submitted.
Criteria Each application will be judged on the basis of the:
Degree to which the program meets the needs of the teens in the community. (20 points)
Originality of the program (creative, innovative, unique). (30 points)
Degree to which the program reflects the ideals identified in YALSA’s national guidelines and competencies (at www.ala.org/yalsa/guidelines). (20 points)
Overall quality of the program (well planned, promoted, organized, implemented, and evaluated). (20 points)
Clarity of the application (10 points)
Instructions 1. The application must include a statement of support from the director of the public library, school principal, or the building-level administrator which is emailed to email@example.com.
2. Entries must be models of clarity and completeness.
3. The application must be submitted electronically via the online form at http://ow.ly/eKh40.
4. All online forms and statements of support must be received no later than midnight (eastern) Dec. 17, 2012.
5. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
Announcement The libraries selected with exemplary programs will be announced via press release the week of Feb. 4, 2013.
All of the selected programs will be invited to participate in YALSA’s President’s Program: Innovations in Teen Programming at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference. Prize money may be used to support travel and conference expenses.
All of the selected exemplary programs/services will be included in YALSA’s Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults, 6th edition, to be published in the fall of 2013.
Libraries receiving the cash awards will be recognized via press release and on the YALSA web site. A list of winning applicants will be included in the forthcoming book.
For questions contact: Letitia Smith, YALSA Membership Marketing Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.545.2433 x4390
Every year Pierce County Library System unveils a new Summer Reading Program. This year we’ve taken the teen program online (Teen Summer Challenge http://teensummerchallenge.org/) and challenged participants to explore their interests, their library, and their community through activities and masteries. Challengers can share their experiences, earn badges and achievements, interact with friends, claim their mastery of an activity group, earn library fine rebates, and share reviews of the books, music, movies, and places they love. Best of all, teens throughout out county library system can participate in the challenge together in one place!
The program has been going for more than a month so far and involvement is more than twice what it was last year. David Durante, one of the project managers, has promised the Youth Services librarians not to shave for a year if we exceed 2000 participants, and of course that’s elevated enthusiasm levels. What’s most remarkable to me is that this elaborate, interactive website was built on WordPress for less than $250. Kudos to librarian Patrick McVicker, its principal designer, for that. (Contact him at email@example.com)
We asked staff to beta test all of this in May. Over 150 did so, and they loved it. A few staff found themselves playing late into the night. Now that the teens got a month’s headstart, librarians outside Pierce County are welcome to sign in and try it out if they’re interested. Earn a badge or two. Steve Campion is Library Trainer and IT Specialist at Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA. He is a principal contributor to the library’s social media sites and author/editor of Mostly NF and WA-List.com.
At the request of the students, our class embarked on a geography themed expedition this year to study the beauty and mystery of this huge country. All the students in our class are new to the US. After researching they have became experts on one of the US Census regions. In addition, they developed a practical understanding of how the world is categorized into the 5 themes of geography. -Catherine Paul
The Young Writers and Leaders film is part of a Telling Room program, Sonya Tomlinson, David Meiklejohn, and 15 Portland, Maine area teens (all of whom use my teen library everyday!). Simply stated, the film tells the stories of the teens and their involvement in the Telling Room program and their lives in Portland, ME.
Their goal is to take their film and the fifteen teen participants on a trip to Boston and spend the day in the city visiting a sister writing center, pairing up with Boston-area young writers, and holding a screening of the film in a film house that holds 250 people followed by a Q&A with the Young Writers and Leaders students.
Over the past two years, I’ve come to know a lot of these teens one on one from my time with them in the library. As I sit and write this, I see Ali sitting in a study room in front of me listening to music and working on something even though it’s spring break this week. Just this morning, I met up with Chrispo and gave him a drum set that I had sitting around collecting dust in my storage unit. He’s been wanting to play drums for years now and used to use garbage cans at the open mic events we held in the teen library in 2010. I remember having many talks with Edna at the teen service desk just one year ago about her librarian-ish obsession to categorize, archive, and color code all of her homework in a specific brand of Office Depot three ring binders. These teens have come a long way in the two years that I’ve known them and now they’re getting a chance to tell their story and take it on the road to another community.
We had the idea to send the book out on the road, much like the characters in the story. We asked “how can this work and how can we help out libraries?” My response was: “make it easy and simple for teen libraries and give them a summer reading program in a box”. Simple things for the library to host and give their community something neat and exciting.
This is what we came up with.
We’re looking for libraries between Boston, MA and Austin, TX to join in on the ride. It’s simple: you host our traveling road show, you get free stuff and a program for teens, and that’s it.
Shirky, of course, advocates that we embrace “as much chaos as we can stand.” In this scenario, staff is encouraged to try out a new thing without regard to the way “it’s always been done.” This is messy, scary, and probably unwanted in most institutions.
It has been a little over a month since we began our grand experiment with lending devices to teens (for the first post on this, go here. for the second, go here) and I am here to check back in and follow up about the project with 100% honesty.
The Nook is still circulating and has a hold list. The device has been loaned out, returned, and been taken well care of. There hasn’t been as much interest in the Nook as there has been the iPod, but I think that’s to be expected with these types of devices and teens (for more on this, see Are Teens Embracing E-Books?)
The iPods have been lost. They were lent out to two teens at the same time and like clockwork a week later, they were gone. The teens came into the library and told me about their story. Both of them were using the device and let their friends borrow it to play a game and then their friends walked off with the iPod. I listened and explained to them that I understood where they were coming from but the fines for losing the device were staying on their card ($324). I didn’t tell them outright that I was a bit sad by the loss (for the library, for the teens that wanted to borrow them, and for the teens that lost them…that’s a hefty fine), but I think they could see it in me. Sometimes you don’t have to say much to get a message across. Emotions are a heavy thing.
Am I bummed that this all happened? Of course. There’s a small part of me that’s sad about how it all went down, but there are two sides to every story. The overall excitement that the teens had when they found out we’d be circulating these devices showed me that I was on the right track. Sure, we lost two iPods, but you have to remember it’s just an iPod touch and not some one of a kind, priceless thing. I’m also happy that we tried something new, something out of the ordinary for our teens and we now have more experience for when we run this program again…and don’t get me wrong, we will try again. I would be letting down the nine other teen patrons in the hold queue for the iPods if I didn’t. In conclusion, this minor setback will not get me down. I’ve seen many bigger successes – such as the one last week where one of my longtime teen patrons who just became a US citizen after being in this country for a few years – to put me down for the count. Those are the things that matter. An iPod touch? Not so much.
What did I learn from this?
You’re gonna lose items…and it’s ok. It’s all part of the learning process. Libraries lose a lot of materials with high value – think about when an audiobook collection goes missing or a disc needs to be replaced in a multi item set.
The teens have to know that they’re responsible. Fines may not be the best way to do this, but that’s a bigger issue for another time.
eBooks and teens? There’s a limited audience.
Teens want to have an experience.
How will this work next time?
One of the observations I made with the teens that had borrowed the devices was that they were more into using YouTube and the web browser than they were using the apps. A possible solution would be to limit access to YouTube and the web browser and limit the devices to what they were intended for: curated app experience devices
Credit checks/signed applications from parents/etc will not work no matter how hard you try to push this on teens. Teens can barely keep track of what they’re going to do after school, let alone understand what signing a piece of paper means. Perhaps a better way forward is for the people working with these teen patrons in the library to make individual calls on each lender. It may be a good idea for those working in the teen library to take some time to sit down with the teens that potentially want to borrow these devices, show them what they can do, and explain in fuller detail what it means to be “selected” for this program.
I won’t call this program a failure. I learned that there is a BIG demand for a specific kind of device (the iPods) and less of a demand for another (eReaders). What the teens want is an experience they cannot get anywhere else. I plan on giving it to them. I’ll make sure to check back in once our new iPods arrive in the next few months