Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

And that’s a wrap: looking back on 2011

It’s almost the end of the year, which means everyone is putting together their “best of” lists.  I could tell you about my favorite books, but you know that’s not how we roll here.  I don’t think I could get my favorites down to just 10.  Plus, I think libraries are about more than just books and your best of lists can be – and should be – more, too.

School Library Journal went beyond books in their various best of lists.  Entertainment Weekly did too.  Both of these talk about apps among other things and I recommend you look at them; there are some that can you help create great images for your marketing and web presence and some that will work well for creating book trailers.  Step beyond the pages and share with your teens your favorite books, movies, apps, games, websites, causes and more.  Don’t be afraid to share the fun stuff.  It has no bounds – share your favorite viral cat videos if you want.  Remember that teens are visual creatures living in a visual world so share, share, share!

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things in 2011.  These things inspire me as a teen services librarian, help me get great ideas to be successful, provide things for me to share with my teens, and sometimes – they let me just have a moment to remember what it is like to be a teen and connect with my audience.

10.  Instagram

Instagram has succeeded in bringing creativity and personalization to social media with incredible ease.  I have spent many blog posts talking about my favorite creative apps that I use to create marketing pieces, but Instagram takes the cake.  You just click, snap, choose a filter, and upload.  Teens are visual creatures, so this is a great tool to use.  The Instagram phenom helped inspire The 2012 Project (read about it and join).

More: Things you didn’t know you could do with your Instagram pics

9.  Social Activism

Every where you look in the media they seem to be discussing the amount of time that teens spend on the Internet and on social media sites, usually with a lot of concern.  I bring good news:  World Vision recently teamed up with Harris Interactive and determined that teens that use social media sites are MORE LIKELY to be aware of the needs of others.  This is just one of the benefits of social media (let’s face it – it is a good marketing tool.)  And online teens can find a wide variety of ways to be involved and take a stand for causes they believe in.  They can even start their own and spread the word.
Here are some teen oriented campaigns that you can share with your teens (and there are tons):
delete digital drama – The ABC Family campaign against cyberbullying
Do Something – Promotes activism of all kinds by highlighting projects created and promoted by others
donatemydress – In partnership with Seventeen magazine, encourages teens to donate used prom dresses for those in need
Friends for Change – A Disney campaign that focuses on environmental projects; encourages tweens and teens to start local projects
It Gets Better – A large scale campaign against bullying of gay youth in response to the large number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens who have committed suicide as a result of bullying.
The Free Child Project has a list of links and resources about youth-led social activism that you may want to look at.

8.  Creativity Lives!

Many people bemoan the death of arts and creativity with our current flood of technological teens, but the truth is that technology is simply a tool and you can do creative things with it.  Picnik.com allows teens, or teen librarians, to upload pictures and do some simple editing – for free.  You can also download GIMP – for free- and use it as a photo editing software tool.  GIMP is comparable to Adobe Photoshop; you’ll spend a lot of time teaching yourself to use it, but once you do you’ll appreciate all that you can create. 

Of course the Internet is more than just photo editing.  One Sentence.org challenges participants to tell a story using only sentence.  The stories can be funny, heartbreaking, or make you think – but they can be only one sentence.  This is the type of site I like to share with my teens, and you can present the same challenge to your teens and invite them to tell a story on your FB wall with using only 1 sentence.  (Note: not all of the content is teen friendly)

Post Secret invites participants to make creative (and anonymous) postcards and share their deepest secrets.  Although many teens love Post Secret, it’s content is not always appropriate for teens.

All over the web you can find contests that invite teens to flex their creative muscle and share their talents.  These posters about teen dating violence were created with the input of teens.  This is when technology really shines.  Having contests and encouraging teens to be creative with technology is a great way to promote teen involvement in your library and to generate content for your teen web presence.

7.  Teen Nick

Teen Nick has taken quality program to new and interesting levels, in part because it is home to Degrassi.  Degrassi is an ongoing “soap opera” aimed at teens that deals realistically with teen issues.  They are afraid to go no where with their topics and treat their audience with the respect that many teen fiction authors do – they recognize that teens are in fact on their way to adulthood and dealing with and thinking about things that many adults want to pretend they aren’t.  In addition to Degrassi, Teen Nick has brought about a revival of awesome 90s shows including Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Freaks and Geeks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Anything that introduces Buffy to a new generation of teens is all right in my book.

6.  Mtv’s True Life

True Life is a long running show that appears regularly on Mtv.  It’s focus is highlighting unique things in the lives of teens and young adults and bringing them to light.  Past topics have included various forms of addiction, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, various sexual dysfunctions and more.  This year True Life had episodes focusing on the rising prevalence of teen food allergies and a disorder known as EE (look for my upcoming article about this in the February 2012 issue of VOYA) and on teen participation in the Occupy movement.  You can view past episodes online and find a schedule on the website.  Although this show focuses on the emotional aspects, I think it succeeds in helping teens step into the unknown worlds of other teens and develop compassion. (Aimed at the more mature end of the teen spectrum).

Coming soon, my top 5

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