Tag Archives: Youth

Public Service is a Library Program: By TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

10 PRINT "Hello World!"
10 PRINT “Hello World!”

The last time I posted on Tame The Web was on August 6, 2014 in a post titled Catching Up. The title of that post sort of sums up the past year and a half in my life here at the Chattanooga Public Library…lots of work for the community and not enough time to sit back, reflect, and share with everyone in the world. It’s all good. In that time, I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head and over the months and days they’ve been revised, edited, and now they’re ready to go.

In my role as Manager of The 2nd Floor/Coordinator of Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library, I’ve been looking a lot at how libraries operate their youth services departments. From kids to tweens to teens, we all seem to have a common theme connecting us: we all have so much passion for working with ages 0-18. That passion leads us to want to constantly offer the best services, be it story times, maker programs, special events, and more. The passion to give back to our community drives us.  It is that passion that makes youth services in public libraries some of the most innovative and popular public library offerings.  Corinne Hill (Executive Director, Chattanooga Public Library) and I call Youth Services in public libraries the “bread and butter” of public library services…the keep us well loved in the community and they act as our most popular circulated materials and programs attended.  In summary, Youth Services drive public libraries.

However, passion alone cannot drive a youth services program. While amazing and powerful, passion can also lead to some misguided decisions when it comes to how we should operate at our core.  The days where youth services staff were plentiful and there was an almost unlimited time to plan and prepare for programs has gone away.  These days, the need for great public service at all times is what we need to focus on. The need for great public service at all times is the opposite of having large amounts of time to plan and prepare. You can’t do both at the same time. You can try, but you will get stressed and burnt out in the end.  As a manager, I’ve stared at the weekly schedule and tried to figure out formulas for how my staff can have the time to prepare for programs that they’re used to having and also to have that necessary public service time. After working on it for a year, my conclusion is simple: it just isn’t there anymore and if we want to grow and continue with our successes, we need to change how we work.

2013-11-04 17.11.38

Realizing that this was the new normal in our youth services lives, my colleague Megan Emery and I began having discussions about this new reality. How can we continue to maintain great levels of passion for what we offer to the community and have our public services faces on at all times? How do we achieve balance with something that seems to be so naturally out of balance…innovation and public service? How does a public library operate in times of lean staffing, increased community usage, and the need to constantly innovate?

From that conversation came a phrase that now drives what we’re trying to accomplish at the Chattanooga Public Library: PUBLIC SERVICE IS A LIBRARY PROGRAM. There is an art to working a public service desk in public libraries. You have to be “on”. What do I mean by this? You’re basically involved in a shift long performance art piece where you’re helping, teaching, and aiding the community.  The traditional library program, you know, the ones that take place only from 4-5pm on the third Tuesday of every month and only for ages 13-18? Yep, those ones.  Those types of programs can and will still happen but it can no longer be our focus.  What can be our focus? The public.  Being “on” for them at all times. Being there for the community at all times.

If public service is a program then how can we actually have programs for our community? This ties into another thing that we’ve been thinking about a lot in youth services libraries….unprogramming, never ending programming, anti-programming….whatever you want to call it. It’s an idea that takes the library space, turns it into a destination, and adds programs, activities, and chances to learn into everything that we do. The 3D printer, button maker, rainbow loom…whatever it is, it’s all there and it’s ready for the community to use.  The programs happen during our open hours and they don’t end.  The library staff working in public services becomes the programmer. Their job is simple: guide the community in the library, help them find what they need, teach them all about the learning opportunities in the library, and to simply just have fun.

2014-01-24 18.57.29

That’s where our passion for what we do in youth services can go.  We don’t have to leave it behind and become nonstop public service workers.  We can weave that aspect of our job into what makes us passionate about working in libraries.  Public services is our programming.  We can create engaging learning opportunities for our community and run those opportunities while we’re working public service. We can mix the two and it will not be the end of the world. It will be a seismic shift, but we will survive. This is the new way for us to work and be the best for our community.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

DEV DEV – Summer of Code at the Chattanooga Public Library by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

During the month of July 2013, my colleagues, community partners, fifty teens, and I were stationed on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library for DEV DEV: Summer of Code.  It was, to be completely honest with you, the greatest single experience I have ever had in a public library.  Let me tell you why.

PARTNERS
Since the program happened on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library it would be easy for everyone to think that this all happened at the library and it was all the library and that was that.  But that’s not the case and I’d like to take this moment to tell you about our partners.  Without the support of Engage 3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation, DEV DEV would not have happened. Their support (educational, funding, brainpower, design, etc) and dedication to the program and the community of Chattanooga is one of the key ingredients as to why this beta test run of this program was as successful as it was.

It really takes everyone in the community getting together to make amazing things happen.

SUPPORT
Without the support of EVERYONE at the Chattanooga Public Library, DEV DEV would not have worked.  Every day, the circulation staff would wait on the teens that came into the library at 9am, making them their white hot chocolates and letting them in the doors before the rest of the public could get in.  The rest of the staff smiled and welcomed the teens every day.  They knew how big this was for the teens attending DEV DEV and they made sure they had the times of their lives.

Photo by @chattlibrary  http://instagram.com/p/chi99IiWnz/
Photo by @chattlibrary
http://instagram.com/p/chi99IiWnz/

The parents brought it all together.  Not only did they drive the teens back and forth from the library, but on the last day of the program they came out to show their love and support.  It is in moments like this where you can just see teens gaining so much love and respect for their families.  Awesome.

TEENS
DEV DEV would not have happened were it not for the amazing talent and dedication of the teens involved in the program.  For four weeks, you gave your attention and hard work to learning how to build websites, make robots dance, and program video games.  You blew all of our minds.  For me personally, as I get older, I am happy to know that the world is in such good hands.  To borrow from southern lingo….Ya’ll are gonna do some amazing things.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?
DEV DEV was not meant to be a one shot program but instead an ongoing series, a library/community brand if you would like to call it that.  As with any program of this size and scope, some time is needed to rest, reflect, and accurately plan the next steps.  We’ll be doing that over the next few weeks at the Chattanooga Public Library.  I already had a great discussion today with Engage 3D Education Director James McNutt about online learning communities.  He is a brilliant dude and I can’t wait to see his ideas in motion.

For more on DEV DEV, please visit our site: http://devdev.chattlibrary.org

For the full DEV DEV: summer of code story, please visit: https://storify.com/JustinLibrarian

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Designing Libraries That Encourage Teens to Loiter (by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)

Image by Michael Moran and Rice+Lipka Architects

 Instead of siphoning teens off into different rooms (and locking away noisy activities), the space is airy and completely open. The openness means, among other things, that it only takes one or two librarians to monitor the entire space.

Rice says his team renovated the floor on the cheap, using paint and low-cost materials to fill the space. “Teens appreciate the rawness,” he says. “Rich materials might be a little bit of a turn-off.”

The key, he says, is a space without much security, where kids feel free to just hang out. “It makes teens feel as if they have free reign over the space,” he says. “They don’t feel like they’re under this intense adult scrutiny.”

It’s great to see this post over at The Atlantic focus on what I think is the most important part of a teen library…the atmosphere.  When you give teens a space that they can make their own and feel comfortable in, amazing things can happen.  As I move ahead with planning the space on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, I will make sure that the teens on our Teen Advisory Board have a lot of input into how their space is laid out.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

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: http://frontboxcreative.com/wplains

-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

Programming is great, but…

Have you ever given your all for a teen program, only to feel less than spectacular about the end result? We’ve all been there. Maybe we don’t attract the attendance numbers we hoped for or that our well thought out plan didn’t go exactly as we expected it to go. It’s got me thinking about life in the library beyond programs.

Programming is a great tool for libraries, but it can only get us so far. Real interactions, friendships, and something as simple as saying hello to our patrons is one of the best practices for a teen librarian to learn. I’m inclined to believe that librarians who spend more time interacting, building friendships, and communicating with their patrons have better results with the community that they serve.

How many teen craft programs can we host? Do teens even really like Star Wars/Harry Potter/Twilight themed events? Is gaming really one of the main solutions we have to keep turning towards?

We shouldn’t abandon programming all together. Think of programming as the first step, the gateway towards something deeper. Plan ahead with teen programs, but don’t spend a majority of your energy and focus on the programs themselves. Spend this time and energy on people. Take the time that you’d be taking to plan and implement an event like, say, teen after hours, and instead funnel that energy one day towards sitting down with your teens. Ask them about their day. Tell them about your life.  Listen to their stories. Have a laugh.

Another idea, although slightly pricey, may be to think about investing in staff. Sure, employing even a part time staff member can even have a tremendous effect on your budget, but you can’t think of it in business terms. An employee whose main priority is to interact with teen patrons and make them feel like part of the community can bring such a great positive energy to a library.

The next time you want to focus your energy and budget on a Twilight themed prom style event, think about your other options? Is it worth spending your energy sitting and chatting with the teens in your library instead?

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Make Music at the Library

THE BACKSTORY
I wanted the teens using my library to do something creative this summer.  I’ve recently grown weary of having programs for the sake of programs, so with this mindset I reached out to the amazing Sonya Tomlinson aka Sontiago to help unlock the amazing creativity of the teens here in Portland.   Sonya’s an amazing hip hop artist based here in Portland who has already done some amazing work with teens in our community (click that link, please), so it was a no-brainer to have her be the person running this event.

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.

Beat #3 is by Josh Thelin, who goes by Thelin.  He works at Gateway Mastering here in Portland. He is the producer in the duo, Trails.

Beat #4 is by Nate Shupe, who goes by Shupe.   He hosts hip-hop open-mic night every Wednesday night at The Big Easy on Market Street. He is also aproducer/rapper in the group, Sandbag.

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:

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Who knew a library could be so epic?

Last night, we held the first Teen After Hours event at the Portland Public Library.  This program was a collaboration between the library and Officer Ray Ruby of the Portland Police Department.

All in all, it was a great success.  We played video games, ate pizza, had a massive hide and seek game, and just enjoyed life.  It’s the best example of what I’m calling the teen “un-program”.  With the teen un-program, you have a program with lots of different stuff, you open it up to teens, and…well, just watch the video to see what happens.

I can’t wait until we have the next one.

(Many thanks to Portland Public Library Teen David Chu for filming/editing this video.  David takes awesome photos and videos and shares them with the world at his website)

*PS* At the end, the teens are very politely telling me to stop tweeting!  Ha!

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor