Category Archives: Teens & Libraries

Ms. Pac Man at the Chattanooga Public Library (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

Photo Jun 01, 4 42 27 PM
This is what it’s all about: A tween and his Dad enjoy Ms. Pac Man at the Library

When I was a teenager, I spent most if not all of my time in video game arcades in shopping malls.  It was the time of fighting games…Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, World Heroes, Primal Rage, and many, many more.  Who knows how much money I spent playing those games and more importantly, who cares.  What mattered most (and what sticks with me to this day) was being in the same room with people my age who enjoyed the same things as me.  It was exciting.  It was fun.  It created friendships and community.

Video gaming in libraries isn’t a new thing.  It seems to have picked up steam in the last decade and is now something that most libraries will offer to their communities.  This is a good thing: video games can be fun, rewarding, help those playing them understand stories/character/plot, and so much more.

I’ve always wanted to recreate that vibe that I felt back when I used to frequent the arcade in the public library.  It was exciting to stand around an arcade machine and watch someone get as far as they could in a game on one quarter.  It was exciting to go one-on-one with someone in a game like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat.  Public libraries are places where people come together and experience something.  Why not have a bit of that something be an arcade machine?

It has been a dream of mine to get an arcade machine in a library since I started in libraries back in 2007 and this past week, thanks to the Friends of the Chattanooga Public Library the support of the staff at the Chattanooga Public Library, and my wife Haley (she found it on Craigslist for only $150!), we now have an original Ms. Pac Man arcade machine on the 2nd Floor of the library…and it has been a great thing.  I love seeing the reaction people have when they realize that the library has an arcade machine.  I love seeing families (like the photo above) playing it together.  I love seeing the teens gather round and have tournaments to see who can get the highest score.

I cannot wait to see the community and friendships that this little ‘ol machine will create.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Distracted Driving PSA created by Teens at the White Plains (NY) Public Library (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

The White Plains Public Library is doing some amazing things with their teens (claymation, LEGO catapults, and more) with Teen Librarian Erik Carlson at the helm.  Recently, they finished up a minute long PSA about distracted driving.  I’ll turn it over to Erik for more:

This idea came from a film maker last year. He wanted to work with the library & the only money we had was from a grant from the Allstate Foundation. It was a large project where over a dozen teens worked on a PSA that lasted 5 minutes. We took that as a learning experience.

This year we found another local film maker named Mike LaVoie. I contacted the White Plains High School SADD chapter to see if they would like to work on the project. We had a smaller group…I think there were about 7 teens altogether. Mike put togethera no-budget script and explained it to the teens. I (Teen Librarian Erik Carlson) worked on locations, the library parking garage, a co-workers home & a local cemetery. Mike showed them some movie magic to make the car to appear to be moving, using fake smoke, lighting tricks. I came up with the eye drops for tears & one of the teens was able to talk a local medical supply store to loan us a wheelchair for the afternoon (this was a last minute thing).


You can check out the final cut of the PSA here:

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

I’m Your Neighbor, Portland, Maine (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

I’m sorry I won’t be in Portland,ME to see the unveiling of the most excellent I’m Your Neighbor, Portland, Maine project that was put together by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City and is a partnership between the Portland Public Library, Congressman Jon Hinck, Maine Humanities CouncilNAACP, Portland Branch, and Portland Adult Education.

So what’s it all about?

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


Read more about this project here and here.

Good luck to all those involved!  I will be watching closely from Chattanooga, TN!

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Thursday nights can be slow at my library (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

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:  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)

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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.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: A TTW Guest Post by Maria Papanastassiou

A Brief Synopsis

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

Hanging Out

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).

Messing Around

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.

Geeking Out

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.

Mezirow, J. (1997), Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Retrieved from

Pinkard, N.  (2011, February).  Rethinking our definitions of literacy.  Ex?ert Q & A [weblog].  Retrieved from

Transformative Learning Theory.  (2007, January).  “Core Principles of Transformative Learning Theory”.  Available at

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.


shot_1312681777670Maria 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. 

Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults 2012 (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

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.

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 (20 points)
  • Overall quality of the program (well planned, promoted, organized, implemented, and evaluated). (20 points)
  • Clarity of the application (10 points)

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 protected]

2. Entries must be models of clarity and completeness.

3. The application must be submitted electronically via the online form at

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.

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 [email protected] or 1.800.545.2433 x4390

Badges for Teens – A TTW Guest Post by Steve Campion

Every year Pierce County Library System unveils a new Summer Reading Program. This year we’ve taken the teen program online (Teen Summer Challenge 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 protected])

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

King Middle School Expedition Learning TV

click on this image to watch King TV

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 

I wanted to share this awesome project some of the teens who use my library just did at their school.  They came into the library today and were really excited to show me.  Great job by Abdi, Ahmed, Anas, Hafs, Musa, Nasteh, Princie, and Roukia!

UPDATE: Click here for even more videos about what the teens are learning at King Middle School!

Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Please consider supporting the Young Writers & Leaders Film

The Young Writers and Leaders film is part of a Telling Room programSonya 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.

Please consider supporting this project by visiting their Kickstarter page here.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor