Teen Librarianship has a unique place within libraries. It’s not quite a new idea for libraries to provide dedicated services to teens, yet it doesn’t still have the same kind of rich history we have with other populations. This gives teen librarianship a unique place within libraries today; it allows the librarians that serve these groups the chance to experiment in regards to how we approach library services. Teen librarians are not exactly bound by the same rules and programs which have held public libraries together for many years. Librarians working with teens have the chance to fully embrace participatory culture and help build a community of patrons who participate just as much as they consume.
THE LIBRARY STAFF IS THE COLLECTION
Librarians can act as the teachers for guiding their community towards being more active in sharing. This is one of the ways libraries in the 21st century can show their public value to their communities. The role of the librarian is transformed when librarians help their communities create content instead of merely just consuming it. We become teachers for our community, guides who help patrons learn and experience in new ways. This also adds value to the library staff. No longer are library staff just “there to help”, but they are there to help you experience. This added value re purposes libraries; the staff has become as important as the collection. Much like the reference book that helps you repair your car, the staff and their unique skills can help patrons navigate the 21st century.
LET’S BUILD SOMETHING
The use of technology has changed the way our community members can communicate with other. Patrons are no longer restricted by geography, forms of communication, or channels to publish their communication. Libraries now have a vast array of tools in our utility belt that we can call upon to engage patrons, build unique collections, and more. For example, take Historypin, which allows users to upload photos and pin them to a Google Map. With photos added, the true power of Historypin becomes clearer, as it creates a visual map of your community. The best part about it? It’s free to anyone that wants to contribute and share. Our communities now assist in building collections, and librarians become the curators of those collections. Better yet? Teen are learning new ways of communication which will no doubt aid them in their own search for identity but also give back to the complex fabric of the community in which they live.
(check out this and this for examples on teens creating unique content for their local public libraries)
I got an iPhone this past month, and I’ve been slowly digging into the vast library or apps that the phone offers. A lot of things have grabbed my attention, but nothing perhaps so much as Historypin. From Wikipedia:
Historypin is an online, user-generated archive of historical photos and personal recollections. Users are able to use the location and date of an image to ‘pin’ it to Google Maps Where Google Street View is available, users can overlay the historical photograph and compare it with the contemporary location.
When I use Historypin, all that I can think about is how libraries should be jumping all over this and using it to create a unique glimpse into their community. I’ve talked before about how I believe the path forward for public libraries is in encouraging our communities to create unique content (1, 2, and 3) and here is a tool that allows us to do this.
Here’s what I’m imagining from my point of view as a teen librarian: what if I got a handful of teens interested in photography, a few digital cameras or iPod touches, and we had a program where we headed out into the city for a half hour taking pictures. We could then come back into the library and, using the library’s wifi and the Historypin app, upload the photos and catalog our city at that moment in time. What’s even better is that Historypin encourages users to snap pictures of old photographs and upload them to Historypine (see the above image for an example). Say that your library has an extensive local history collection (sort of like the one at my library). Wouldn’t it be great to mobilize some volunteers to digitize photos and upload them to Historypin? The library could even partner with local tourism organizations to give people with mobile phones a walking history tour of the city.
Double Jump is Michigan’s only local game show. Each episode host Dan Hartley explores gaming as a legitimate and mainstream form of art and entertainment. We’ll explore the various facets of the medium itself with experts and designers, as well as games’ impact on Michigan industries. Independent and local developers also have a voice here as well as any industries and educational facilities tied to them.
Libraries are one of our nation’s oldest institutions, and gaming one of our newest. What happens with these two disparate worlds meet? In the first segment of “Libraries and Gaming”, Double Jump looks at LCC’s game room and University of Michigan’s open videogame archive talking to librarians about the future of libraries and gaming’s place in it.
We met over lunch at Kamasouptra and we came up with a simple idea: get beats, teach teens about music, hip hop, and writing, and let them make music.
THE PLAN IN ACTION Sonya put out the word to those in the hip hop community that we were looking for beats for the program. She got a number of beats back from some great producers. Our teens then listened to those beats and selected the two which they wanted to work on over the next few weeks.
THE NEXT THREE WEEKS Over the next 3 weeks, the teens hunkered down with Sontiago in the library and worked on adding to the music. The teens (with Sontiago’s guidance) mapped out where the verse, chorus, and bridges would be in the song. They took the instrumental tracks and transformed them into their own pieces of art. By the end of the third week, all of the teens parts had been written and recorded. The final step was mixing the tracks and blending the teens vocals together to create something truly moving. Between the work done by the producers, the teens, and Sontiago, this was a true collaborative project that took place in the public library.
FOR MORE INFORMATION I wrote about the Make Music at the Library over at my personal blog while the program was going on. You can read those posts here.
Here’s a video playlist taken from the four weeks the teens spent working on the tracks:
It has been a fun almost 2 years. We’ve danced, we’ve went out and got tattoos, and most of all we’ve talked about video games a lot. But sometimes things just need to come to an end, and my part in 8BitLibrary has come to an end.
Since I’m a librarian and all that, I’ve decided to organize my 8BitLibrary writings in a nice little PDF and post it here for anyone to read or download.
I hope you enjoy my writings. I’ll continue to write about gaming in libraries here on Tame The Web from time to time, so stay tuned!
“The time is now,” I keep telling myself. Let me tell you why.
It’s been almost five years since I fell into being a teen librarian. I was working toward my MLS at Clarion University when I was approached to do some summer teen programming at the Clarion Free Library in Clarion, PA. Their proposal was simple: do stuff for teens, buy some cool books, and get them into the library. I was a one-person team tasked with pretty much creating a library for these oft-forgotten patrons. I did it, and the teens were happy, but I realized at the same time that I had inadvertently reinforced the mainstream belief that all it takes is one teen librarian to make it happen.
Maybe that was true in 2007, but it’s 2011, and things have changed.
Being a teen librarian is a full-time job fit for a small army, and it is high time that we reward the position with proper staffing. No longer can the work rest on one person’s shoulders. Teen librarians deserve to be recognized as their own department within the larger structure of a public library, not a bridge between children’s and adult services.
I can only point to examples from my life to highlight how great the need for expansion of teen services is. At the end of 2010, I put together this https://sites.google.com/site/portlandplteens/2010yearinreview year in review to share with the community all of the things we’d been doing for teens. The numbers are pretty staggering, especially when you consider that we opened to the public on April 15, 2010. Yes, I did have some help with my programs, but it was small—one employee running our public desk for ten hours per week while I programmed/managed/collected/did everything I can’t when I work directly with the public.
In 2011, that system persists. I also dedicate four hours per week to help with shelving returned materials. However, when it comes to the bulk of the steering, I do it solo.
Luckily, I have Twitter to call upon other teen librarians. When I posed this question to them, I found that quite a few of my colleagues were in the same boat (here are their full responses). The ones that were not had some kind of small team around them, and the thoughts they shared were rather positive (for example, read what @johnny_pistols has to say). This leads me to think about the atmosphere we’re creating in our teen library spaces. Sure, we’re making awesome experiences for teens, but are they also picking up on just how stressed out we are?
Day in and day out, our teens are seeing us as the one person they can identify with in the library. If part of our jobs is to help them become strong adults, are we failing them? I’m 31 years old, and I’m finally realizing that very little can get done when you’re acting alone. The real magic happens with teams: family, community, and friends are what we need to make things happen. We’re giving our teen patrons a false sense of what it means to be an adult by operating our teen services this way.
That’s not to say that we should be hiding away in teen library land. In getting our own department, we’d have a great responsibility. It would be our time to rise up and communicate effectively; enrich and broaden library services. Our teen department should be well tuned into what’s going on with children’s and adult services and vice versa.
Yes, I realize that adding staff is hard to do in these times. Over the years, I’ve been hearing so much about budget cuts, scaling back, doing more with less, etc. In the midst of this doom and gloom came voices of support from patrons, the media, and most important, the community at large. This article comes to mind:
The message is clear: people love libraries, and if we add more value to their experiences, we could win more financial support that could be directed to teen services. Some concrete evidence as to why we should choose this branch of services over others: Over the course of nine months last year, my teen library alone saw 7,053 one-hour computer sessions completed. Most of the teens who logged in this screen time are new to the United States (Portland, ME, has a large Somali and Sudanese immigrant population) and spent it searching for jobs, learning how to get a driver’s license, watching soccer, talking to their family members overseas, and Facebooking.
We have also given teens the opportunity to be creators instead of consumers and explore interests that could become careers. Self-confidence, always a difficult thing to develop, is a goal. The “Make Music at the Library” program allows them to tinker and compose, The end result is a unique piece of art that will be stored forever in our library.
Finally, what I consider the most wonderful thing about working in a library is the connection that we most often overlook because it isn’t measurable: we offer teens friendship and a nonjudgmental ear. Over the past week, I’ve had a number of teens come to the library just to talk to me about life, love, the pursuit of college, and everything in between. They didn’t leave the library with a solid answer of how to move onto the next step of their lives, but that’s not what we’re here to do. By simply listening, we’re giving teens a chance to talk things out.
I sincerely believe that despite our current economic situation, the time to expand library services is now. One of the best ways to ensure that libraries thrive well into the future is to invest in its future adult citizens: teens. So let’s talk, and better yet, let’s act.
Here’s Andromeda Yelton‘s TEDx talk from this past June at Princeton Public Library in New Jersey. In 6 minutes and 31 seconds, Andromeda talks about how her and a gang of librarians (see below) earned enough money to build a library in India and then raise enough for 100 extra books, a newspaper subscription, and then, to top it all off, 4 bo0kmobiles in Africa. All of this, might I add, was done through Twitter/Blogging/Social Media.
I was lucky enough to be part of the gang of librarians I mentioned above. Much love to the work of Andromeda, Ned Potter, and Jan Holmquist on the awesome Buy India A Library Project.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten to watch a group of teens that come into the library grow into full fledged hip hop artists.
It all started with The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing center in Portland, ME, and their 2011 program Play. Their amazing Young Leaders and Writersworkshop was the start of a collaboration between three teens (Chrispo, Emmanuel, and Ali) with local hip hop artist Sontiago (aka Sonya Tomlinson).
The group of teens started coming into the library on a daily basis and used our study rooms as their rehearsal space. They would freestyle over beats and furiously scribble down lyrics on scraps of paper. It was through them that I met Sonya and ideas about future collaborations came to fruition. Since the teens were already using the library as a rehearsal space, we couldn’t see why the teen study rooms couldn’t be used as a recording space as well.
The recording happened over two weeks in May 2011. Sonya brought in her 8 track recorder and for a few hours the team camped out in our study rooms. Verses and beats leaked out of the study rooms, and during their time spent in the library creativity flowed through the air.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
Last week, Chrispo came into the library and came up to the teen service desk. He had the final mix of their song all ready to go and needed to get it online. I gave him some extra time on the computer so he could make a quick YouTube video to share it with his friends and family. I’ll end here and let their creation do the talking…
Wouldn’t it be great if libraries could do this kind of stuff all the time?