Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Introducing RevolTeens, a new monthly column with Christine Lively

Today we are excited to share with you a new monthly feature that will be highlighting amazing teens doing amazing things. This new column, RevolTeens, will be brought to you each month by Christine Lively. She’s here today to introduce herself and tell you more about the column. At the end, please share with us some of the teens that inspire you in the comments, keeping in mind privacy rights so use first names only and even a fake first name works. Or it can be a public figure. Our goal here is to show how amazing teens can be by sharing stories and shattering stereotypes.

“I’m a middle (or high) school teacher.”

Any of us who has ever told someone this has inevitably been met with a response along the lines of, “Wow. I can’t imagine doing that!” or an incredulous “Why?” or “Ugh, teens are loud/obnoxious/ridiculous.” Sometimes I get a sympathetic, “Better you than me!” or “I could never do that.” Teens can be unruly, uncouth, and excitable, for sure. Those same qualities that make some adults cringe at the thought of spending time with them are the same qualities that make teens irresistible to those of us who love to work with them. 

I have worked in middle and high schools for ten years now. When I became a teacher and school librarian after staying home with my own children, my experience with kids was focused on the preschool and elementary set that my kids were a part of at the time. Little kids misbehavior is usually seen as adorable and part of a learning process. Painting outside lines, making a mess at snack time, pushing someone out of the way in line, and other kinds of transgressions are just part of being a kid and learning. In so many ways, teens are just bigger and older kids who still make mistakes and break occasional rules, but when they do, they’re judged quickly and harshly. They should know better by now, and follow the rules. 

Working with teenagers was a bit of a shock to me at the time. I had loved school and found the order and expectations of the classroom to be comforting. I knew that not everyone liked school or their teachers, I didn’t fully appreciate how frustrating school could be for so many students. The students who surprised me the most were the loud, obnoxious, angry, and rebellious kids that I encountered every day. How could they walk in the door with no interest in what we were doing? Why did they question nearly every instruction I gave? I was frustrated and felt that I just couldn’t get through to my them. Like every teacher, I thought to myself, “What is wrong with these kids?” It wasn’t the kids. It was me. 

I soon realized that the energy, curiosity, and rebelliousness of my students was what I admired and genuinely liked the most about them. They made me laugh and made me think. Where other adults saw them as obnoxious, I saw them as rebels in the best and most positive way. They didn’t accept rules without question. They were outraged when they thought they or their classmates were treated unfairly. They wanted their world to make sense and to be just. They weren’t going to do anything because someone “said so.”

Schools are focused strongly on conforming, behaving, and toeing the line. The path to success is time honored and unquestioned: Get the best grades. Go to the best college. Get the best job. Do what you have to do to get there. Any deviation from this path is not just frowned upon but punished. Teens don’t even have the choice to fail a class any more, they just get more and more help and retesting until they get a passing grade. If they hate math and aren’t successful in it, they are assigned an additional class period of math remediation. So they have to spend twice as much time on a subject they hate and don’t feel successful in, and give up an elective that they would have enjoyed. Few students feel able to fight the system and question the rules. We don’t give them choices or listen to them. We give them instructions and “because that’s how it works” explanations.

Yet, we know that the rules and traditions are not the only path to success and so do teens. They see their favorite musicians, YouTube stars, actors, and business moguls become successful and being noticed because they break the rules. The heroes of their favorite movies, books, and news stories are teens or young adults who revolt. Heroes like Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Miles Morales, and Starr Carter are heroic because they question and stand up to the unjust systems they’re living within.  We enjoy these stories too and enjoy them with our kids, but something happens to us when they become teenagers. 

We want teens to be successful just as much as we want them to be safe and happy. That conflict is overwhelming for parents and teachers alike.

I remember sitting down with my daughter as she was about to start middle school. I told her this, “Your job for the next six years is to get the best grades you can possibly get. It doesn’t matter if your teacher is a jerk or if the class is stupid. Your grades will determine your future, and you need to give yourself the best chance you can to be successful and have choices after you graduate from high school.” I am ashamed to think of it now.  I value grades, college, and traditional success differently now, but this is still the ingrained message kids and parents hear from teachers, counselors, administrators, family members, and in media stories and it’s dangerous. If every teen followed and never questioned the rules, if there wasn’t a kid revolting, our world wouldn’t change. We need to tell teens that they can change our world, and celebrate when they do. We need RevolTeens. 

There are heroes out there among teens and young adults. Yes, they make waves, they break  rules, and often become the change agents in the world. Their lives and decisions are the stuff of stories we retell in novels and on the big and small screen. In this space, I’ll be sharing stories of teens who challenge authority, make waves, and find success outside the traditional path. The kids who might sing the song that Tim Minchin wrote for Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, “We are revolting children, living in revolting times!” 

Watch this space for more RevolTeens. 

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively

National School Climate Survey results about LGBTQ students’ experiences in school

2017 surveyGLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its biennial National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in schools from across the country, in the fall 2018. The 2015 survey results showed slight improvements for LGBTQ kids in schools. This newest report shows that progress in schools has slowed and transgender and gender-nonconforming students face more hostile environments than before.

196 page report (which is available as a PDF) looks at discrimination, harassment, assault, biased language, school resources and support, and more, and examines how these factors affect educational performance, safety, and mental health of LGBTQ teens. The report is filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBTQ students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported.  Being knowledgeable of the potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction.

As GLSEN reports, “The survey has consistently indicated that specific school-based supports are related to a safer and more inclusive school climate, including: supportive educators, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, inclusive and supportive policies, and supportive student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).).” For the first time, “This installment of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey also includes insights on LGBTQ-inclusive sex education, student activism, parent advocacy, experiences of LGBTQ students with disabilities, and experiences of LGBTQ immigrant students.” (See here for the media release, where this quote came from, for more quick facts.) 


This report should be required reading for anyone who works with students of all ages. 

“This report should serve as an alarm bell for advocates and a call to action for anyone who cares about students’ wellbeing,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director.

The following data is taken from the survey results. Though the report in quite long, it’s important reading. The report does offer summaries of survey points. All infographics are from GLSEN and available to download and share.  They also have posters you can download for your classroom or library, too. The summary points from this report includes offensive slurs. 

Findings of the 2017 National School Climate Survey include: 


Anti-LGBTQ Remarks at School

• Almost all  LGBTQ students (98.5%) heard the word “gay” used in a negative way often or frequently at school.

• 95.3% of LGBTQ students heard homophobic slurs such as “fag” or “dyke” at school.

• 94% of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks about gender expression at school.

• 87.4% of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people (e.g., “tranny” or “he/she”)

• 56.6% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 71.0% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.

School Safety, Harassment, and Assault at School

• Close to 9 in 10 (87.3%) LGBTQ students were harassed or assaulted at school.

• Sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBTQ students were harassed or assaulted at school.

• Nearly three quarters of students reported being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation (70.1% ); more than half (59.1%) were verbally harassed because of their gender expression.

• Over a quarter of students (28.9%) reported being physically harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; 24.4% were physically harassed because of their gender expression.

• 12.4% of students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, 11.2% because of gender expression, and 10% because of gender.

• 48.7% of students reported experiencing some form of electronic harassment (“cyberbullying”) in the past year.

• Over half of students (57.3%) were sexually harassed at school in past year.

The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely intervene on behalf of LGBT students.

55.3% of students who were harassed or assaulted at school did not report these incidents to school staff.

• The most common reasons that LGBTQ students did not report incidents of victimization to school staff were doubts that effective intervention would occur, and fears that reporting would make the situation worse.

• 60.4% of students who had reported incidents of victimization to school staff said that staff did nothing or told them to ignore it. 


School Climate by Personal Demographics

• Pansexual students experienced a more hostile school climate than students of other sexual orientations.

Transgender students experienced a more hostile school climate than all other students. Genderqueer students and those with other nonbinary gender identities experienced a more hostile school climate than cisgender LGBQ students.

• Cisgender students whose gender expression did not align to traditional gender norms had worse school experiences than LGBQ cisgender students with more “traditional” gender expression.

• Native American/American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to experience anti-LGBTQ victimization and discrimination.

• White students were less likely than all other racial/ethnic groups to feel unsafe or experience victimization because of their racial/ethnic identity.

The report goes on to discuss: 

*absenteeism (“LGBTQ students were more than three times as likely to have missed school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable if they had experienced LGBTQ-related discrimination in their school.”)

*academic achievement (“Over half of LGBTQ students (59.8%) explicitly reported a hostile school climate as being factor in their decision or doubts about finishing high school. In particular, students noted issues with harassment, unsupportive peers or educators, and gendered school policies/practices, such as restrictions on which bathroom they are allowed to use”)

*psychological well-being (“Previous research has shown that being harassed or assaulted at school may have a negative impact on students’ mental health and self-esteem. Given that LGBTQ students face an increased likelihood for experiencing harassment and assault in school, it is especially important to examine how these experiences relate to their well-being.”)

Additionally, it looks at discriminatory policies, discriminatory discipline, restrictions, and prohibitions regarding public displays of affection, attending dances, forming a GSA, writing about LGBTQ topics, etc. It breaks the data down by race, ethnicity, school type, location, region, and more.

GLSEN offers many recommendations for turning these statistics around, such as giving students more access to LGBTQ-related information (literature, history, etc), forming GSA groups, providing professional development to increase the number of supportive teachers and staff, ensuring school policies are not discriminatory, having anti-bullying and harassment policies that make it clear that they provide safety for LGBTQ students, and teaching an inclusive curriculum.


LGBTQ students experienced a safer, more positive school environment when:

– Their school had a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) or similar student club.

– They were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history, and events through their school curriculum.

– They had supportive school staff who frequently intervened in biased remarks and effectively responded to reports of harassment and assault

– Their school had an anti-bullying/harassment policy that specifically included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

– Transgender/gender nonconforming students in schools with official policies or guidelines to support trans/GNC students had more positive school experience, including less discrimination and more positive school belonging.


Previously at TLT:

Many posts for collection development and ways to support and affirm LGBTQIA+ students can be found by searching the tag LGBTQIA+ on the blog.

Also check out:

The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Project, which “is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.”

Unfamiliar with GLSEN?

From their site: GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

@GLSEN on Twitter

As I Try Desperately to Get Home Again, Not All Children Can. Here’s why it matters.

The news is full of horrific stories of young children being taken away from their families for the sin of wanting to come to a new country to flee the extreme poverty, violence, and whatever else it is that one flees from. There are pictures of babies crying, audio of children wailing and crying out for their moms and dads. We sold them the promise of the American Dream and then when they come seeking asylum and hoping for a better life for their babies, we ripped apart families and put children in cages.

As someone who works with youth, I know and understand the importance of feeling safe and secure in the development of a child; I understand the importance of being talked to, being read to, of making healthy attachments. I understand the long term effects of childhood trauma. These children are suffering trauma compounded by trauma compounded by trauma. The lifelong impacts of this will be devastating for us all.

KidLit Says No Kids in Cages


At the same time, I am dealing with my own family emergency. My Dad is not okay and I am thousands of miles away from him. After a lot of tears and anguish and wrestling with fears and doubts and uncertainty, I whipped out my credit card and booked super expensive tickets that I can’t afford to go out and see my Dad. We leave tomorrow.

Here’s the deal, I have no idea how I will ever pay down the balance on my credit card. I don’t know if my Dad will recover or if he will pass away. I am begging God, the universe and everyone in between to please provide a miracle and if not, to let the girls and I see him one more time to let him know that we love him. Suddenly I am a child again crying at night for her Daddy.

I am a 45 year old woman who is trying desperately to get home to see her father. Many of these children will never have that choice, we took it away from them. And yes, I mean we. This is us. We elect our politicians, we hold them accountable, we are collectively responsible to one another because no man is an island and that’s how society works. We’re in this together.

The woman sitting beside my Dad throughout all of this is my stepmother. She is a pretty remarkable woman and I think often of how much she loves my Dad, how much she loves my children, and the anguish she is going through as she sits vigil beside my father’s bed. She is only able to do so because just a couple generations past, someone in her family immigrated to this country from Mexico.

My parents divorced when I was in the 4th grade, I was around 9 or 10. It was a horrific thing to go through. Nobody handled it very well and there was a lot of heartache through the years. Parents fought, moved, and moved again. Relationships were broken and over time, slowly and painfully, they were reborn. The four years I was in high school, I did not speak to my father. There were legitimate reasons for that and they were the right decision for me at that time. Then over time, people change, healing happens, and new relationships are born. I know every day that I am lucky for the healing that happened between my father and I, for the relationship that we were able to cobble together despite all the hurt and heartache. During the last 15 years, as I parent my own children, I saw him become a man who took genuine care of this new family that he had made for himself. He has been a good grandfather to my daughters. For the first time in my life, I had a home to go back home to with memories and traditions and that sense of an anchor that makes it easier to navigate this world. I love going to my father’s house and sharing childhood memories with my children, taking them to the places that I used to love to go, and watching them return to the same home over and over again and making that connection stronger. I have loved, finally, having a place to go home to.

There shouldn’t be a lot of parallels to what’s happening in the news and what is happening in my own life, but I can’t stop thinking about the two and perhaps it is the nature of the human mind to draw connections where perhaps there shouldn’t be. I come from a broken family and my heart aches to see these families being broken. I know that they are not broken in the same ways, but I know that broken families are destructive forces that leave lifelong scars. I know that I have privilege that allows me to remake a relationship, to keep in contact, to jump on a plane to try to see my father.

These children have none of those things. They are being torn from their families and they often don’t even have the language skills necessary to advocate for themselves, to ask the questions that are burning in their hearts. They are in a new place with no family or friends to turn to for emotional support or stability. I can not imagine the fear and uncertainty. The terror.

Sheer terror and anguish.

Yesterday, Donald Trump declared that he was ending this policy, but by all accounts there is no plan in place to reunite those children already ripped from their parents arms. Some of those parents may already have been deported. Some of those children may grow up never knowing where their parents are or how to get into contact with them. Some of those children may never get the chance to say goodbye to their Dad.

Trump’s Executive Order On Family Separation: What It Does And Does Not Do – NPR

I am a 45-year-0ld white woman, steeped in privilege, who just wants to sit beside her Dad’s bedside and have the chance to say goodbye if that is what this moment calls for. I desperately want this moment to be something else, of course. But in my own personal anguish and desperation and pleading with the universe, I can’t help thinking of those kids. I’m a 45-year-old woman who just wants her Daddy, I can’t imagine what it must be like for these kids.

One of the hardest moments I have ever had working in the library occurred at the Reference desk. A woman came up to me with a name of her birth mother that she was trying to track down. This was after Hurricane Katrina and she knew that the woman lived in New Orleans. I did a little searching and unfortunately found her in the Social Security Death Index, she had died soon after Katrina. I looked up at this woman who was probably the age that I am now and delivered the news. The woman stood before me and openly wept as I told her I was so very sorry. “At least I know what happened to her,” she said. “Thank you.”

How many of these children will never get the chance to know.

I’m not here to debate immigration policy or politics with you. I am here as a lifelong advocate for youth to remind us all that we must do everything we can to minimize the harm that we do to children in every aspect of life because it has lifelong consequences for youth and for our future. Do the research, we will spend millions trying to undo the lifelong damage that is being caused right now as our politicians try and use innocent children as pawns.

Important Resources:

Brain Development • ZERO TO THREE

Childhood Trauma : Long-Term Effects and Symptoms

Immigrant Children Separated From Parents At The Border: NPR

How To Help Parents And Kids Separated At The Border – Refinery29

Dispelling Some Myths about Public Libraries, One Tweet at a Time

teenprogramI have worked in public libraries for 24 years now and every few months (weeks? days?) it seems like another think piece or post on social media comes out proclaiming that we should just shut down and stop funding our public libraries because no one even uses them anymore, or everyone just uses the Internet, or that nobody reads, or that you can just buy your books from Amazon. That happened again this week but this time, the outcome was different.

Earlier this week Andre Walker posted that no one, especially adults, uses public libraries anymore and that we should just take all the books and put them in the schools.

To be clear, Walker is a New York Observer columnist who lives in the UK, so he is probably talking about UK libraries, which I am no expert on. However, this type of sentiment is very common and librarians and library users responded to his tweet. To begin, let’s break his tweet down. This tweet makes a lot of incorrect assumptions:

1. That nobody – especially adults – uses public libraries anymore.

The truth is, public library use is up, especially among millennials.

Public library use in U.S. highest among Millennials | Pew Research

Library usage and engagement by Americans | Pew Research Center

2. That a public library is nothing more than a building full of books.

As I mention, I have been a public librarian for 24 years and even before the turn of the century, public libraries were more than just a building full of books. Yet with the growth of technology and a public that is increasingly reliant on online access, public libraries have become increasingly important as an information portal to their local communities. That’s to say nothing of the programming, services, and resources that public library provides to help meet the educational, developmental, recreational, and informational needs of citizens of all ages in their local communities.

But at the same time that public library usage goes up and local communities grow increasingly dependent on their libraries to meet a wide variety of their needs, our culture, which seems to be growing steadily away from the idea of the collective good, continues to decrease or even suggest un-funding public libraries. This puts our most vulnerable populations at risk as they are the most dependent on the library for computer usage to search for and apply for jobs, as well as the technology training that many local libraries provide, supplemental materials for school work, and even just safe places to be social and engaged. But it is not just our most vulnerable that libraries serve in our collections, programs and services, but the entire public. For example, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (where I work), hosts a Great Decisions series where we invite the public to come and discuss current and relevant topics with informed speakers and reading materials. This week alone we will host a 10-hour family Halloween movie marathon, story times, safe Trick or Treating, and our Teen MakerSpace will be open for teens to come in and safely explore topics like coding, robotics, electronics and crafting in a safe environment with access to a great variety of tools and resources that they may not have at home.

And yes, we have books. A lot of them and in a variety of formats on a variety of topics to meet a variety of needs and interests. Books to help you fix your car, apply for college or jobs, learn a new skill, decorate your home, etc. etc. etc. Oh, and to read for fun. Because reading for fun is valuable too: 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day.

To highlight what public libraries are doing, I asked my fellow librarians on Twitter to share with us the various ways that their local public libraries were helping their communities using the hashtag #PubLibsProvide. Libraries are doing amazing things, from lending mobile hotspots and bikes to creating seed sharing libraries. This is in addition to the daily task of providing quality reference assistance, computer access, technology training, and, of course, access to a wide variety of books, materials and resources.

3. That school and public libraries are interchangeable.

I think it’s also important to point out here that school and public libraries each have very different functions and service focus, both equally important, and that communities need both. Research shows us time and time again that students who attend schools with strong libraries are more successful: Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students. Their goals are, rightly, focused on the students first and foremost. Research also reinforces the knowledge that communities with strong arts programs, including public libraries, thrive and are more attractive to both business and new residents: How Arts and Cultural Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place; Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More – Forbes; Making Cities Stronger – Urban Institute. The hours, types and breadth of the collections, and types of programs and services at a school library aren’t meant to serve the entire community in the same way that a public library is and does. So while moving the books from a public to a school library may be beneficial to the students in the schools that receives those books, it would not benefit the entire community in the same way that the local public library is and does.

The outcome to this story is, however, slightly different then the outcome of most of these stories. You see, the response to Mr. Walker was so loud and with such a positive outpouring of support for public libraries that he changed his mind:

Thank you to everyone that Tweeted. Even I learned of some innovative new ideas that I want to go and talk with my admin about.

Support Libraries, Save the IMLS


Earlier this week, the newest proposed federal budget was introduced and it included massive cuts to many services (see link below for a complete look at the budget in the Washington Post). Included in those potential cuts would be a complete elimination of the IMLS, the Institute of Museums and Library Services. The IMLS provides a variety of grants that provide quality and unique programs that serve local communities. TLTer Heather Booth tweeted at length in support of the IMLS by sharing a variety of projects that are funded by the IMLS. You can read those Storified tweets here: https://storify.com/TLT16/heather-booth-on-saveimls and see the many ways that the IMLS benefits local communities.

Trump budget cuts: U.S. federal funding 2018 – Washington Post


The ALA released a statement regarding the proposed elimination, which you can read here.

I spent some time tweeting about libraries, the 40 Developmental Assets and in support of the IMLS as well. You can read those Storified tweets here: https://storify.com/TLT16/support-libraries

Because I work at a library in Ohio, I see library budgets being attacked in several directions. In Ohio, public libraries receive state funding and Governor Kasich is proposing cuts to the state library funding at the state level. This is not the first time that Ohio libraries have been in this position and I am sure it won’t be the last. In 2010, the year after Thing 2 was born, I stood on the steps of the state legislature with The Teen as I shared how I had used library resources, including Inter Library Loan, to help better understand some of the health related problems my newborn baby had. I’m not just a fervent library supporter because I’m a librarian, but because I myself have used the vast resources of libraries at many times in my life to help navigate a crisis, to meet the special needs of my children, to help me cope with the loss of a pregnancy, and more.

In support of libraries, I spent the day today designing a variety of postcards to send to my representatives at all levels to share my love of libraries. If you would like, please feel free to download them and use them as well. Save them as an image and upload to Word, or another graphics program that you may use. Make sure they are 4×6 size to be postcard size; you can print 2 per page. Print on card stock so they can travel through the mail. jTo give them a personal touch, on the left side of your postcard on the back you can share your own stories. On the right, address and provide postcard postage. If you are interested in making your own, I use the postcard templates available in Canva to design mine. Please note, from everything I have heard calling your representatives is best, but I’m calling and sending postcards.

postcard44 postcard45





Serving Full T.I.L.T. : Talking Up Teens

For our final piece in our Serving Full T.I.L.T. (Teens in Libraries Today) series, Eden Grey is talking about advocacy. Next week we’ll here from you.

Why is in-house advocacy important?

We all see advocacy at a national level, in social media blasts by ALA and YALSA, awareness campaigns by School Library Journal, fundraisers by the We Need Diverse Books group. What we don’t see as often are the ground-level, grassroots efforts to increase awareness about Teen Services and the needs of modern teens. Much like the Serving Full T.I.L.T. series, initiatives by a small number of librarians are just as important as national endeavors by organizations with million dollar budgets. The advocacy efforts of individuals in their own library systems and consortiums can have a very important impact on the awareness and support of Teen Services in libraries.

When should you actively be advocating?

Seizing the opportunity whenever it arises sounds good in theory, but isn’t so good in practice. As an advocate for Teen Services, you’ve got to choose your battles wisely. Not every department meeting and program planning session is a good time to talk up your teens and your outreach stats. Instead, here are some specific opportunities for actively talking up your service to teens:

Seize (almost) every opportunity for sharing a warm and fuzzy story. Don’t do it every day, but every few days if you see an opening to share something heartwarming one of your teens said, or a nice outcome from an outreach visit, go ahead and make it into a story. These stories should be shared most often with your supervisor and other administrative officials, but can also be shared with your other co-workers. Your boss will most likely share the stories with others, even with his or her boss, and word about your teens and how you serve them will get around.

Ask to have meetings with your supervisor that are just focused on your services to teens. Make it clear that you want to talk about how you’re doing, what your numbers are like, what’s working and what’s not, etc. Show your supervisor everything you’re doing, and why it’s important. These meetings are all about you – and the focus should stay that way if you make that clear from the outset. If you have a good supervisor, he or she will understand the purpose and meaning of these meetings. If that is not the case, take the meetings to the next level – maybe meet with a department head, branch manager, or even ask to speak to your director if you are not being heard by others. These meetings should happen at least twice a year, but don’t be afraid to ask for more frequent meetings if you feel the need to.

Techniques of In-House Advocacy


It is so important to keep track of as many numbers as possible. Number of programs, program attendance, number of students, teachers, and librarians served at outreach, circulation of the YA collection, number of teens who use the board games in your teen area, teen volunteer hours, and the list could go on.

 Just recording the numbers isn’t enough. Put them in spreadsheets or tables and keep track of annual data.

Stories & Anecdotes

Heart-warming stories go a long way toward changing the perception of teens in libraries. If you have a good memory for stories and enjoy telling them in other aspects of your life, you’ll have no problem recording a bunch of anecdotes to tell your boss and coworkers. However, if you’re like me and are extremely awkward and hesitant when it comes to telling stories, here are some tips:

  1. Keep it short. Stick to the point or result of the story.

  2. Include names and other specific information.

  3. Jot down details of the story in your program reports or where you record your attendance or other numbers.

 For example, my regular group of teens has a couple of ringleaders that my coworkers are very familiar with. Nate and Maine are a little bit infamous at my library. However, when a new person shows up at programs, I can count on those boys to welcome them, show them the ropes, and introduce them to everyone. The new kid immediately feels welcome, and like part of the family. Whenever this happens I make sure to tell my boss about it – it shows just how caring, responsible, and kind my teens are. See also: Sharing Stories by Heather Booth.


If you don’t submit monthly reports to your supervisor, you should seriously consider asking them about it. While it may lead to your coworkers seriously resenting you, it will be worth it in the long run for everyone. Creating monthly reports of your programs and services shows just how much work you’re doing for Teen Services, and allows you to compare your work to previous months and years. Annual reports just aren’t enough when you’re dealing with the wide variety of tasks that Teen Services Librarians do.

 Turn the numbers you record into reports. Compare numbers from previous months and years. Ask how devoting time to one aspect of your job affects the results of other aspects: Has program attendance increased since you started working there? What about since you got into those new schools or classes? Has circulation gone up or down since you implemented those new programs?

 Take the answers to these questions and present them to your supervisor/s. Show them the clear-cut results of your hard work. If you submit a monthly report, include the tables of data and your conclusions. Those reports will be read by your supervisor’s boss, and most likely looked over by the library’s director as well.

 Public Relations

 Taking photos at programs and while teens are volunteering is also a great way to share a quick “anecdote,” and not only with your coworkers, but with the rest of the community as well. Recently my library’s head of PR sent out a reminder that she is always looking for stories. She keeps them in folders in her email, shares them with the library director, and uses them for community and media outreach. Sharing those stories with the media may lead to a local newspaper wanting to spotlight one of your teen programs or teen volunteers. Your library director may share stories from your outreach visits when he or she is at a committee or council meeting in the community. Having photos to go along with the stories means PR can share them on social media or the library’s website.

 Advocacy Takeaways

 Maintain a balance between talking up your teens and your own work, and just working hard. Take the right opportunities to share your work, and if those opportunities don’t arise on their own, ask for meetings with your boss.

 Don’t just record numbers every month; turn those numbers into meaningful data. Make reports tracking everything from program attendance to outreach numbers to board game and video game usage. Share those reports with your library’s administration whenever possible, and use the numbers to back up your own needs and use of time.

 Always be advocating. Seize the opportunity to talk up your teens to a grumpy coworker. Share information about your teen volunteer program to an overworked teacher or school librarian. Chat up people in the community about the library and the things you do for teens. Don’t assume that people know what you do at your job – enlighten them, whether they’re the cashier at the craft store or your weekly game night friends.

For more on advocacy, check out our various posts on advocacy under Professional Development

Serving Full T.I.L.T. (Teens in Libraries Today) series:

January 14 By the Numbers, making the case for teen services using basic demographic information (Karen Jensen)

January 21 Sarcasm, Spice and Everything Awesome: The Developing Teen (Rebecca Denham)

January 28 Teen Brain Science 101 (Heather Booth)

February 4 Asset Building 101, How using the 40 Developmental Assets can help us plan and evaluate teen programming (Karen Jensen)

February 11 Diverse teens, diverse needs (Eden Grey)

February 18 Sharing stories, how knowing and sharing the stories of our teens can help make the case (Heather Booth)

February 25 Empathy, remembering what it means to be a teen and how it makes us better teen services librarians (Karen Jensen)

March 4 A Teen Services 101 Infographic (Karen Jensen)


The amazing folks at Ferguson Library (I’m a big fan!) recently started the hashtag #becauseofapubliclibrary. It turned out I had a lot of thoughts about what happens because of a public library. Please do hop on Twitter and look at lots of the great responses about what has happened because of a public library. Below I share some of my tweets with you, I also shared a few from YALSA and one from the awesome librarian Stephanie Wilkes.










Snapshot: Portrait of a Library Today

I worked at the Marion Public Library in Marion, Ohio for 10 years. It was in many ways one of the best work experiences of my life. I loved the library, I loved the people, and I knew that we were doing great things for the community. It was also clear over those years how much libraries were struggling to stay afloat in the midst of financial crisis. In the times when our communities needed us most, we had to look at cutting staff, cutting services, and decreasing the amount of materials we purchased and the types of programs that we offered. But how much it was struggling was made clear to me in this recent article in the Marion Star, Books Rely on Budgets.

Some of the interesting facts presented in this piece including the following:

When I worked at MPL we had a staff of around 80 people, today the staff is 31 people.

When I worked at MPL we had the 1 main library and 4 branches, while I worked there they closed one of the branches. Some of the branches are now only open 1 day a week for very few hours.

When I worked at MPL our operating budget was close to $3 million dollars, in 2013 it received $1.85 million.

When I worked at MPL the book budget was around $450,000, this year’s book budget is $165,000.

The last few years I worked at MPL we went through staff lay offs twice. The first time 12 people we laid off, the second time an additional 5 people were laid off. It was one of the most stressful things I have ever experienced in a work environment. My friend, another 10 year employee, was laid off and it took her 3 years to find another job. In those 3 years she had to move out of her apartment and move in with family. She recently found a full-time job in a library, right as her sister whom she is living with was herself laid off from work.

Marion Public Library is a great library in a struggling community doing important things. They had 20 public computers when I worked there and they were constantly full as people looked for jobs, completed homework, and tried to use the many services that moved to online only.

And that budget is a devastating decrease in book purchasing power. That means that residents of Marion County, around 50,000, will have less access to materials. And in a town where the median income is around $25,000 a year, those resources matter a great deal. We keep telling people to get a good education and find a good job, but the reality is that we don’t support funding the services that communities need to help people make that happen. We don’t support our local schools and library systems, but our communities desperately need them. Our future depends on them.

Karen’s Guide to Working with Your Local Radio Station, adventures in creative marketing

For 7 or 8 years, I got to be on the local radio station every Friday morning. It was a glorious thing for me. So today I’m going to share with you how that relationship came to be and some of my tips for working with your local radio station. I highly recommend that if you have a local radio station, especially a smaller, independent station, that you reach out to them and find ways to work with them to promote your library.

I was really lucky in that our local radio station had great hosts and we developed great working relationships over time.  We developed a rhythm, but they always made sure to have a brief segment where we talked specifically about upcoming library programs.  All the rest we made up as we went along. It was exactly like the morning shows you hear as you drive to work, except I wasn’t as funny. I’m just not good at funny.


Here are my radio cohorts: Host Rob Whalen, Intern Paige Dunham and Intern Margaret Emily engaging in a cricket spitting contest. Emily is filming and narrating the video for live broadcast. From the WDCM Facebook page.

If you have a local radio station, make contact with them and offer to do a weekly show with them.  Be open to what they need.  Simply talking about books doesn’t necessarily make great radio.  So I stayed on top of current news and pop culture tidbits, and then when I found and opening I would swoop in and make that library tie in.  Are they talking about J-Lo joining the cast of American Idol?  Mention she is on the cover of this week’s People and you can come to the library and browse the magazine collection.  Are they talking about The Walking Dead?  Be sure and mention all the great zombie titles in your collection.  You have to be quick and stay on your toes. But you also have to remember that every single thing you say doesn’t have to be library related; simply by being there as a representative for the library you are getting the library recognition outside of it’s four walls in a creative way.

Keep in mind that your local radio station also may be available to do a remote broadcast; this is great if you have a big event coming up.  They do sometimes charge a fee to do a remote broadcast, so make sure and get all the details before hand.  A remote broadcast is a great idea for a SRC kick-off party, library anniversary celebration, or author event, just to name a few.  Be sure to meet with your broadcaster beforehand to discuss when they will do breakaways and arrange a variety of people for them to talk to during your event.  If possible, have prize giveaways.

When Working with Your Local Radio Station Keep in Mind: It’s Their Show and You are the Guest

WDCM Marion, Ohio was the radio station I worked with while at The Marion Public Library

They are running the show, so get the 411 beforehand.  There are things that you can not say and huge fines involved.  We all remember what happened with Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl.  You don’t want the on air equivalent of a wardrobe malfunction.  And you don’t want to offend your hosts. You are in their space so please try and respect it. Ask them point blank and establish clear boundaries: what can I not say?

Talk to your administrators to discuss their rules on that end, too.  You want to try and avoid talking politics or anything that will reflect poorly on the library.  You don’t have the same freedom that the radio host does.  It is really easy when it is just you and the radio host sitting in a room talking to forget that the microphone is there and people are listening. Let the radio hosts know ahead of time of specific topics that you aren’t allowed to discuss and make sure that you make your boundaries clear up front.

Make sure you have the personality for it.  If you are not the right fit, then this is not the right marketing vehicle for you.  That’s okay.  The radio station hosts will be able to tell right away if it will work or not.  Trust them, they know what they are doing.

If you can, try and make it a regularly occurring segment on a regular day of the week at a regular time.  If people know when and where to find you, they will tune in. As I mentioned I went every Friday morning like clockwork.

When Working with Your Local Radio Station Keep in Mind: The Ins and Out of a Radio Show are a Delicate Dance, Learn the Steps [Read more…]

Books, privilege, and how libraries are the only way some children will get to read a bedtime story tonight

Libraries are the Beating Heart of Our Communities

You may be aware, but Amazon is currently in some kind of a negotiation war with the publisher Hachette. There are a variety of  houses and authors who publish and are distributed by Hachette. Amazon has cut any price discounting for Hachette titles, they are delaying shipping, and there is no longer any way to pre-order titles that have an advance publication date.

So in the midst of this, last week several people took to Twitter and urged people to buy their books from a brick and mortar store, an Indie store even if possible. A few hashtags sprang up, I think perhaps #BuyHachette. I even Tweeted several times about this, recommending a few titles here and there.

Then yesterday, an article appeared on Book Riot reminding us all that for some people, a bricks and mortar store isn’t a real possibility. It maintained that if you had a bricks and mortar store in your community, or a car that you could afford to put gas in to drive to one, then you were speaking from a place of privilege. The post then when on to talk about how for many people, Amazon IS the only option to buy books for a variety of reasons.

But if you take it a step further, being able to buy books via the Internet is also coming from a place of privilege as well. In fact, being able to buy books at all means that you are coming from a place of privilege. If at the end of your paycheck you can afford to pay your basic bills, feed your family and buy extra things like books, you have it better than an estimated 20% of the population. Having a computer or device with Internet access in your home, also coming from a place of privilege.
Every time someone tweets about watching Game of Thrones, they are doing so from a place of privilege because that means they can afford cable with HBO even.When we talk about driving our cars, turning on our heat or air, going to the movie theater to see a movie and even going to the grocery store, we are doing so from a place of privilege from someone else’s point of view.
Having books in the home is a huge monetary issue for many people and there are a variety of social activists who work hard to raise funds and try and get books into the homes of families struggling with poverty. Some children will never own a book they can call their own. And if we want to raise a nation of readers and thinkers and innovators, having access to books is a powerful thing. Scholastic has a good discussion about how lack of access to books can be an issue for school readiness.

Which is why we need libraries. It is also why libraries need to do better jobs of reaching out to their local communities and reminding parents about the importance of regular trips to the library, reading together, and having books in the home. It’s why we need things like 1,000 books before Kindergarten. It’s why we need things like every child ready to read. It’s why we need things like YA librarians and youth programming.

My library, like many libraries around our nation, is currently researching how to better reach the needs of our growing homeless population. There are libraries employing social workers and job counselors and writing grants to provide food for children living in poverty this summer who will go without a free school lunch. Libraries help children have access to the Internet, complete homework assignments, and have access to books they would never get to read if their only options was to buy them. Some people don’t have the money to buy books period.

I work part-time. I struggle from paycheck to paycheck to buy groceries. The nearest local bookstore is an hour drive for me. To be completely honest, I don’t buy a lot of books. Not from the bookstore. Not from Amazon. Not online. Mostly, I check my books out from the library. Because every time I choose to buy a book, the money for it comes out of our food budget. It is the only place in the budget that has any wiggle room. Sometimes we make that sacrifice and we eat a few extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Usually it is so my kids can have a book they want, not me. Luckily, the Tween wants a lot of the same books that I do. But even knowing this, I know that for many of the patrons I serve, I am still coming from a place of privilege. I buy books more often than they will ever be able to consider buying a book.

So I buy books for the library. Not just the books I want, but the books that my patrons want . . . and need. Because for many of them, that is the only way they will ever get to read a book.

So yes, buy books. Buy them whenever and however you can. Support your local bookstore sometimes if you can. And if you believe in the importance of books and reading, support your local library as well. Libraries matter. For the 1 out of 5 children going to bed hungry each night, libraries are the only way they’ll get to read a bedtime story tonight.