Early in my career, I made the mistake of mentioning in one of my one of my presentations that I was one of those librarians that didn’t read a lot but somehow got into libraries. Since then, I don’t think I’ve been able to live that down. To some, I’ve become “ that teen librarian who doesn’t read” and to some extent I think that’s hurt me. I was wrong in saying that I don’t read. In fact, I read quite a bit:
I read the most on my phone (news, gaming, music, sports, RSS feeds)
I play video games, all of which either require at least some reading
I read two stories to my son every night
I currently have one book I am reading on my Kindle
My statement that “I don’t read” was said to grab audience attention. Maybe it did that at the time, but as I look back at the ramifications of my statement and I wish I hadn’t said that at all. People now ask me “how can you be an effective teen librarian if you don’t read?”. The statement that “I don’t read” has also been questioned when it comes to my advocacy for video gaming as literacy. Saying that “I don’t read” has diluted my message that gaming can be an effective form of literacy. Why would someone want to listen to someone talk about how much reading is in video games when that someone is also saying “I don’t read” in the same sentence?
This has got me thinking about librarian identity and how we always have to be mindful of what we say and how we present ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you’ve focused on creating an identity for yourself over a few years because, like the “I don’t read” example above, those little moments can really shape your identity. Taking the road which shocks someone may get someone’s attention, but is that the kind of attention that you want to remain focused on you?
In the gaming league take people from Germany and the United States in an open competition against each other. Here are several computer games such as Wii bowling and playing Mario Kart.
Why did the German-American gaming league?
We believe that gaming will have a major impact on the culture and knowledge in the future. With this and many other projects we want to prepare cultural and educational institutions at that future. We would also like to develop an international network on the topic of gaming. Our colleagues in the United States are already implementing for many years a gaming league. There is even a National Gaming Day.We now want to expand this league to Germany, thus ensuring a sustainable and interdisciplinary networking.
Furthermore, we want to network with this project, the institutions with gamers.
Where are the competitions?
The competitions are held in participating libraries, museums and archives.
What is the cost to attend the gaming league?
Participation in the gaming league is for both the players and for the institutions in which the competitions take place absolutely free.
Who can play?
The gaming league is open to every person who has the desire to join in playing video games. There is no age restriction.
What games are played?
There are only played games with no age restriction. We begin in the first season with Wii bowling and Mario Kart. More games will follow.
When will the gaming league, and how long a season?
The Gaming League was officially launched in the Library Conference 2012 in Hamburg. This means that from now on, they can enter institutions. The gaming events in Germany are said to have taken place up to 30.11.2012, ie on 01.12.2012, we want to present the German champion, then travel to the finals in the United States. The next round will begin in June 2013.
Important: The registration period ends on July 20, 2012 , and we start with 20 institutions – first come, first play, first
Who makes the gaming league?
The Gaming League is a cooperative project of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, the association Zukunftswerkstatt culture and knowledge eV and libraries and gaming lovers from Germany and the United States.
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.
GetGlue and LibraryThing got me thinking about how we could make the library an even neater place if we could somehow integrate these services into what we do. Imagine going into a library and heading for the catalog. You start your search and because of LibraryThing you can read other library members thoughts on that item. The stack map then will help you locate what you’re looking for. Imagine if we took that a step further and GetGlue made a product called GetGlue for Libraries. Members could opt in to the program and check in to what they’re checking out at the library. Library stickers could be unlocked and shared. Even better yet, the conversation and recommendation part of GetGlue could make the entire library experience even more social and community driven.
Now you’re not just borrowing stuff, but you’re talking about it with your community as well.
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)
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:
“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.
-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor
People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens