Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: Sometimes You are Not the One, and That’s Okay

One of my earliest and most terrifying encounters working with teens in the library came early on in my career, before I had taken a single class to help me understand the ins and outs of just what it was I was signing up for. A teen boy came in to the library one day, agitated and jumpy. There was a fierce intensity about him, a raw panic that made people stand back. I approached him and asked him if there was something I could help him with. It turned out he was positive he was possessed by a demon and looking for help. I’m not going to lie, it took me several seconds to even think about what I should do in this situation, it was a question I was in no way prepared for. I obviously didn’t really have what he needed, but I referred him to some local mental health places and a priest that I thought could probably help him and did the only thing I could – hoped that he would be okay. We actually talked for a bit that day and it was obvious that he wasn’t an immediate threat to anyone, but he did need help far beyond what I could give him in a single reference interview and in the pages of a book.

At this same library, a group of kids came in once and got me because they said one boy was beating up another boy right outside the library doors. I walked up to the doors and saw a very big guy beating up a very little guy. Right away I knew there was no way I was going to be able to do anything to stop it, so I ran inside and dialed 911. The next day, the bigger boy – the aggressor – came in to the library with several other kids, one of whom held a sledgehammer.  He walked up to the chair I was sitting in, putting one hand on each arm of the chair and pinning me in, and told me I better never call the cops on him again. A few weeks later he approached me at a gas station; the poor gas station attendant called the cops and came running out to make sure I was okay because it was obvious that this teenage boy was threatening me. He ended up being permanently banned from the library. That’s right, a teenager was permanently banned from the library under my watch and to be honest with you, I was perfectly okay with it.

Library administrators like numbers, but many of us working in youth and teen services know that there is more that matters than numbers. I can have a program where only five teens shows up and see how those five teens and I sat there doing those crafts and talked about amazing things and bonded. I can walk away from a program with only five teens and feel really great about the program, because I know that those teens had a moment where they bonded with and were affirmed by an adult and they will probably look back on that moment as a moment that matters. The five on a report handed to admin may look bad, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

I think this is in part because may of us who work with kids don’t just do so as a job, we do it as a kind of ministry. Many of us view being a youth services librarian as ministering to the individuals, to the community, to our world’s future. And we know because of things like the 40 Developmental Assets that this is true. Our work creates ways for a variety of those assets to be met and we are doing good things. And we also know that we have the opportunity to have those one on one moments with teens that can make a difference. Sometimes it is a one time thing, sometimes it turns into a an ongoing relationship between the librarian and a teen or group of teens. Other times, those interactions fail; the truth is that sometimes you are not the one and that is okay.

That boy who thought he was possessed by a demon – he needed someone to help him, but I was not that someone. I didn’t have the knowledge or skills necessary to help him. What was happening to him was way beyond here read this book or here is an adult that cares about you. He needed a mental health professional and I was not the one.

That boy who was permanently banned from the library – he too needed someone to reach out and make a difference to him, but I was not that someone. It got to the point where my safety became a higher concern to me than being the one to bond with him and maybe be the one to lead him to change. He needed someone that could approach him without fear and I was not the one.

We can’t be the one for many of the teens that walk into our libraries. Sometimes they need people with knowledge and skills in different areas of expertise than ours. Sometimes our personalities don’t click. Sometimes people just get lost in the shuffle because of the sheer number of teens that come in our library doors.This too is part of why it takes a village.

In our communities, there are other adults that care about teens and are working to meet their needs – get to know them. Network with them. No matter how awesome you are and what kinds of awesome programs and services you are offering, you can’t be the one for every single teen that walks in your library doors. And that’s okay. Your job is also to know the services and resources in your community that you can refer them to.

So when you have those moments when you are in fact not the one to connect with one of the teens that comes into your library, it’s okay. You are, in fact, only human. Do your best, provide great customer service, provides the services and programs you can realistically offer within the confines of your library space, staff time, and budget, and give yourself permission to be human. It’s not just that you aren’t “the one” for every teen that walks through your library’s door, because the truth is – you can’t be. The adult that made a difference in your life is much different than the adult that made a difference in someone else’s life, it’s not all on your shoulders. There are other shoulders out there to help bear the weight of the world. It’s okay to occasionally let your shoulders take a break from all the heavy lifting.

You Mock My Printz! The 10-1 Book Club

This past October, sixteen freshmen and sophomores got together in their school library, after school, with the express goal of finding the best teen book of the year over the four months that would follow.  It’s a big job, but they had plenty of help on hand: five librarians, four public and one school, that had come together to make the job a fun and easy one.  Recently, I wrote about the benefits of networking with teen services librarians in nearby locations.  This school year, one of my networking projects has been this multi-library book club that began as a combination joint TAB and Mock Printz book discussion group.  The 10 to 1 Book Club meets between October (10) and January (1) and narrows the field from ten books to the one it thinks is the best of the bunch.  It’s been a real success, and we are extra excited heading toward the Youth Media Awards to see how close we came to matching the Printz award and honors books.

It’s not always straightforward to connect teens with the newest, best reviewed fiction.  Library budget and processing cycles mean it may be months before a newly released book makes it onto the shelves.  Heavy course loads and highly demanding extracurriculars limit the amount of time teens have to read recreationally.  Busy teens have difficulties making it to the library between school, sports, extracurriculars, jobs, family responsibilities, and doing that essential teen task: hanging out.  Additionally, we have noticed that while participation may be strong early in the school year, as obligations mount, attendance can dwindle in the springtime.  Our book club took both of these factors into account.  We have structured the group for the teens, making it easy for them to get to the meetings by spreading them around at the four local libraries as well as the school library, and only meeting between October and January.  We have all made a commitment to providing multiple copies of the books, and using displays, and the same bookmarks, posters, and stickers to promote them at all of the libraries.

All involved libraries used uniform signs, spine labels, and bookmarks to highlight the titles.

Choosing the books

In selecting the list, I say it is a balanced selections of contenders because though we are trying to encourage teens to choose the best YA book of the year, we stacked our list in hopes of appealing to a wide range of readers.  We included speculative and realistic, contemporary and historical, guy and girl appeal.  Our list was drawn from our newest favorites, and relied heavily on Karyn Silverman and Sarah Couri’s Someday My Printz Will Come blog and reviews.  From a long list of possibilities, each of us read and previewed and then chose our top twelve.  The votes were tallied to come up with a shorter list, which we then tweaked and balanced based on the interest of our local teens.

Setting the meetings

Understanding that we were asking teens to read above and beyond their schoolwork and hoping they would choose our books for their recreational reading, but knowing that we’d be pushing some out of their comfort zone, we wanted to make the meetings as simple as possible.  The four public libraries are all in communities that feed into one public high school.  Meetings were scheduled roughly once a month, distributed across each public library, with more meetings happening at the school.  We promised to feed them at every meeting, providing lunch at the meeting on the half day of school and at our final meeting, the voting party.

Finding participants

We drew on summer reading participants in the public library, and our amazing school librarian hand delivered invitations to each of her top readers – many of whom made up our group.  We used a uniform flyer for promotion, and branded the program with the same logo at each location to give it more of a presence.  Several of the teens knew one another, but as it is a large school, there were some new friendships formed as well.

Discussing the books

This part was a cake walk.  Once we provided the list, we invited teens to read any and all of the books on their own schedule, so each meeting was full of teens talking up the books that they had read and persuading one another to read the good ones or skip those that didn’t resonate with them.  Very little guidance on our part was needed, as the teens were wonderfully articulate and informed.  We did have lots of opportunity for readers’ advisory and offering further reading suggestions, and the teens swapped suggestions too.

Our vote

Our final meeting was January 21st.  It was a day off of school, so we meet at a local lunch spot where the librarians treated the teens to lunch, collected their votes, and thanked them for participating by raffling off an autographed copy of Ask the Passengers, which I was fortunate to pick up at the YALSA YA Literature Symposium.  If you think autographed books are appealing to teens, you should have seen the dropped jaws when I held this carrot out to the teens.  Don’t get jaded — ARCs and autographs, Skype chats and simple notes from authors are HUGES to teens who are not as connected to the world of books and authors as librarians are these days.

And the winner was….

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
The two runners-up:
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Every Day by David Levithan

Next steps

Since we are located in the Chicago suburbs, we are hoping to bring some teens to the Exhibits at ALA’s Annual Convention this summer.  Offering the opportunity to meet authors and get galleys was incredibly exciting to our teens, and helped to persuade several to join.  But there are still more ways to keep the teens engaged for the 2-9 portion of the year, such as…

  • involving them in choosing next year’s ten books
  • trying to arrange a Skype chat with winning authors 
  • encouraging the teens to involve their friends with “bring one – get one” incentives with small gift cards to local businesses or first dibs on ARCs
  • getting their feedback on the development of the school’s summer reading list (something that was a big topic of conversation at lunch on the 21st)
  • drawing on their enthusiasm to drive our Summer Reading Clubs (they didn’t know they were actually signing up for a stealth TAB group!)
  • inviting them to review books for our library webpages and blogs.

If you think setting up a Mock Printz for teen readers is beyond your abilities, it’s not.  Invite some other librarians to join you and jump in.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.
Please feel free to share your experiences with teen book groups and Mock Printz programs in the comments.

What I DIdn’t Learn In Library School: Making Conferences Successful: Christie’s Version

If you know anything by now, you know I don’t tend to run in normal circles, no matter what I look like.  So it stands to reason that I don’t do conferences as a normal, either. Maybe it’s the anxiety, maybe it’s my brain, who knows, but I just don’t seem to fit a typical conference go-er.  I like doing it my way, and it works- I come back energized  refreshed, and ready to tackle new things and ideas.  It’s completely the point of a conference to me. How do I do it?

Know Your Territory 

I always do research before I go to a new city for conferences, so I know one special touristy that I want to do: last time in Seattle it was EMP Museum by the Space Needle, and they’ve added so much that I think That Guy and I will go back.  But I also found where the nearest drug store to my hotel was (there’s always a chance I’ve forgotten something like Excedrin), where the nearest shopping mall was (for souvenirs for my staff), where the nearest shipping place was (to ship books and other things back, because I never make it to the Post Office spot on the exhibit floor, and sometimes it’s actually cheaper), how far it was to Pike’s Peak Market, how much a cab would take from places I wanted to go, where the nearest ATM for my bank is, and what places to eat were recommended by local newspapers.  And when I got to the hotel, I start asking the staff where they recommended to go to eat.  My budget never stretches as far as the ALA official dining guides, and the places around the convention center are always packed, so I make sure to talk to the locals to see what they eat when they’re working- and they’ve never steered me wrong yet.  I’ve had some of the best pizza, burgers, and Italian around.  
Find a library family 
I have a wonderful group of friends that unfortunately, I only see at conferences for the most part due to life.  So they are termed my library family.  I know that they’re going to be there every conference, and we catch up on what’s going on, share life, and have wonder times together.  SO GO FIND YOURS.  This isn’t as hard as you might think- find a group of people that you want to be around, and be around them every conference.  Patrick Sweeney talks about his Think Tank and how they rent a house every conference.  If a share house isn’t your thing (not mine), think about the people that you know and get along with that you’ve met along the way (via Twitter, committees, blogs, networking), and reach out and say HEY, ARE YOU GOING TO SEATTLE? Me, too?  Want to meet for dinner or something some night and talk, like, in person?   
Go to the socials
There is no time like a conference to find wonderful people who share your passion, no matter what it is.  And you’d be surprised who shares it.  Not sure where to start? 

ALSC is having Speed Dating.The New Membership Round Table is having a a social.  YALSA’s having a Happy Hour.  GLBT-RT is having a Social. Great places to meet people who share your passion, and at the most, you’re out a couple of hours of time at a great place!   
Know Your Limits
Everyone I knows goes to conference in the same mindset as they go to Disney World: I gotta do this, and I gotta do that, and I have to do this, and this and thisandthisandthisandthatandthisandthat…..  And then you’re frazzled and can’t breathe and can’t remember what you were doing or why you wanted to go to the conference in the first place.  Especially when a conference is in a different time zone/climate than you’re used to, and you have to get adjusted and thrown into everyone all in one day.  Use the tools available (the ALA Scheduler and the app, for example) to find out what you want to go to, and then find out WHERE it all is.  Because trust me, not everything is going to be in the convention center, and most will be scheduled on top of one another.  You’re going to have to pick and choose, and it may come down to whether to go to that workshop or stalk Jonathan Maberry…  (I know who wins, BTW)… 
Pack The Basics
You have your clothes.  You’ve searched the weather.  You’re all jazzed up about your tablet and your ultrabook and your smartphone, and you’re going to go PAPERLESS this conference!  Good for you! Just remember, you’re going to need your business cards and pens and paper.  Why? Because the vendors have give-aways that want your card, the booksellers are wanting you to fill out stuff, and if your laptop dies in the middle of a presentation, you’re going to have to take notes for back home (even if you didn’t get any of your way paid, you’re going to have to present to justify your time).  Don’t forget a good back back, because the freebie bags are crap and kill your shoulders. 

Everyone always says wear your normal work clothes- I wear what I’m comfortable in, which is my t-shirts and jeans, and no one seems to mind. I’ve also got spare batteries for my smart phone because I can never find a charger, and I pack a surge protector as That Guy and I have more gadgets than the hotel room has outlets, and running out the door at 6 a.m. for a session with this sign:  is a doomed day. 
Sit In On An Open Session
Midwinter is the “working” conference, where almost all of the book committees meet, and while there are a lot of closed sessions where you can’t come in, there are a number of open committee ones as well.  Search them out online, take a look at what they’re doing and do a little research before you go to conference, and then sit in on one of their sessions.  You’ll be surprised at what you find, and how hard these committees are working, and you might find a new thing to join.  Examples would be The Amelia Bloomer Project, The Rainbow Project, Amazing Audiobooks, Notable Children’s Recordings, SRRT Task Force meeting, and the YALSA Groups Work Session.

So those are mine.

What are your tips for making conferences successful for you?

A note from Karen: If you see Christie at Midwinter, please take a moment and say hi.  Also, remind her she is not allowed to come back home unless she has an ARC of Requiem by Lauren Oliver for Karen. Just saying.

Are you Nobody too? There’s a pair of us. (part 2)

On Tuesday I talked about why we as teen librarians need each other.  If you didn’t read that post, but are interested in this topic, I suggest you go back and read it now to place this post in context.  Now let’s talk about how to make these connections happen.  
There are usually a couple ways we know it’s time to look away from what we’re doing and make a connection.

Here’s one:

My dog demonstrates one way I know that it’s time to pay attention to something.
Can you feel that cold wet nose?

Here’s another:

(photo credit: danjaeger on Stock.Xchng)

We’re pretty used to moving when someone is in our face and demands our attention, or when someone is totally avoiding it.  That teen browsing in the corner who avoided eye contact – you’re going to go see if he knows where the new books are, right?  The giggling that you know is bound to end with someone accidentally-on-purpose falling off the chair – you’re all over that too.  These are the cues we have to know it’s time to engage with our patrons, our work, and other parts of our daily lives.  But engaging with one another tends to be motivated from a different place.  We get lonely.  We get bored.  We get desperate. We need ideas. Now.

We need connections to help ourselves, not to help someone else.

Of course, the flip side of this is that in helping ourselves, we are helping someone else too.

As people in a helping profession, it can be hard to approach a new relationship with the idea that we need help.  If that is part of what is holding you back, take the global view and see if you can’t get more motivated by the thought that a partnership will help someone else.

Start close to home.  Very close to home.

The easiest and most important place to find a partnership is in your own library.  Yes, you may be the only teen librarian, but think about the overlap that you have with Children’s or Adult services.  Perhaps you could recruit someone from each of those departments to create a Teen Services Committee, much like you might have a staff development or technology committee drawn from all areas of the library.  Teens are a service population that demands more than one person can provide in any community unless the teen librarian is staffing the desk every hour the library is open, and even if that’s the case, it doesn’t mean that the teen librarian should be the only one tasked with their service.  Frequently in my presentations about Readers’ Advisory, I point out that it would be a horrible breach of service for someone to tell an octogenarian, “Oh, the senior citizen librarian isn’t here today, but here’s her card,” or “Um, I don’t really work much with old people, let me go get Joe.”  Help create in your library a culture of teen friendliness by finding staff that are willing to have a monthly discussion with you about how your library can do things better for teens, how new policies are working out for them, which services from each person’s respective department are underutilized by teens, and how to promote them.  Chances are you’ll uncover a secret YA reader in there somewhere.

Start closer to your actual home.

Think about your commute – do you pass any libraries before you get to work?  Leave half an hour early for your 1:00 shift some day, stop in, and see if you can meet a teen librarian.  Take your business card, pull the “I was just in the neighborhood” line, and just see how it goes!  You can also pick up the phone and make a call.  And yes, you could send an email, but if you do, please please remember that you’re trying to forge a friendship and partnership here, not sell yourself to the Board or get your foot in the door as a booktalker at the school down the street.  Be friendly.  Plead a little.  Suggest a time to meet, then do it!

Shout it from the virtual mountaintops

How many libraries are near enough that you send patrons there to pick up items?  You should probably know if any of those libraries have a teen librarian, and it would be even better if you knew that person’s name.  You don’t need to be on a board or have a position in any kind of regional organization to call a meeting.  Send out a broadcast email to the teen librarians within a short drive, suggest a central location or offer your own meeting room, throw out a Doodle poll and get a meetup together.  It really can be that easy.  You don’t need an organization or a system or an acronym to be the one to get a bunch of librarians together, you just need a few chairs.  Your first meeting can be just that – meet one another, exchange contact information, go around the room and ask what everyone is reading, have some cookies and make a plan to meet again soon.  My guess though, is that more than a few people will have a question or an idea that will generate enough conversation to fill at least an hour.

Hello? Hellooooo?

Are you in a rural location, or is your region one with a dearth of teen librarians?  I urge you to try to find some face to face meetings, even if you can only do this quarterly or twice a year.  Reach out virtually to those librarians who are nearest you, or who share your interest.  Start a Google Hangout, have a Skype chat, or start or join a Twitter chat.  Over the last few years I’ve been doing a lot more craft programs than ever, so I created a Pinterest board to swap ideas.  As the followers and contributors list grew, I started a Facebook page for discussing how we’d use the pinned ideas.  The page has grown into a place that people have asked about popular nonfiction, brainstormed program names, gotten suggestions on handling behavior issues, and more.  Sure you could join either of these projects, but are there topics that really drive you?  Look around online and see who is doing exciting things.  Follow them on Twitter.  Subscribe to their blog.  Send them an email and see what they have to say about your idea or predicament.  Is there someone whose posts on a listserv really jive with how you see the library landscape?  Or maybe someone who seems completely different than you.  Send them a note.  Open a conversation.

The Self Assessment Quiz:
Are you signed up for the Yalsa-bk listserv?
Are you signed up for a state or regional listserv?
Do you follow librarians, publishers and authors on a social media site?
Do you go to professional conferences at least once a year on the state or national level?
Do you participate in a couple of webinars a year?
Are you engaged in any local/regional groups that meet reguarly, even if informally like meeting the teen services librarian in another library for lunch once a month?
If you have a concern about a teen issue, are on the fence about a book purchase, or have a teen librarian specific vent to get off your chest, do you have someone to call?

We don’t all know each other – you won’t be butting in – you belong in this conversation as much as anyone.

I had a casual conversation several years ago with someone running for YALSA Board.  She asked if YALSA seemed cliquey.  “Without a doubt!” I answered.  But in hindsight, I don’t think I was right.  It just seemed like everyone knew each other, and they didn’t know me, and despite my ease at conversing with whichever stranger comes to the desk about whatever topic they bring up on a daily basis, making actual connections with people that are going to last longer than three minutes is hard for me.  At my core, though I no longer balk at the idea of speaking in public, talking to strangers, or blabbing on the Internet, like many in our field, I am a shy person.  Are you one too?

So there’s a pair of us.  Advertise!  

Once  you find someone else you can talk with about teen library issues, don’t stop.  Bring others into the conversation.  Now you’re the one who’s helping forge connections.  See how that works?  Cool, huh?  Continue to reach out.  Use the different circles you are a part of to broaden your search and scope.

Following my own advice

This topic grew out of a a conversation I had with a librarian at a nearby library.  I had an idea for a joint book club, focusing on the students at the nearby high school, whose students are drawn from four local communities with libraries.  It only made sense to me that the librarians in these nearby towns should know each other and the school librarian, if not to run my harebrained bookclub scheme, at least so we would know who to refer teens to if they needed to use a neighboring library.  So I sent an email, and happily everyone wanted to meet.  After our first meeting to discuss the bookclub, as we were walking to the parking lot, three of us stopped at a bench, chatted for close to an hour, and found that the challenges we face as solo teen librarians in our locations are not unique.  We found that each had helpful solutions that we could bring back to our own libraries.  We found common ground and friendship.  We’re meeting tomorrow, and have invited several librarians from other nearby towns to join us too.  I can’t wait.  Extra bonus: our joint book club has become successful too.

My presence on this blog is another example of reaching out.  I needed help on a writing project – the kind of help that Karen seemed perfect to provide.  I reached out to her, knowing her only through this blog and YALSA-BK conversations.  We chatted on the phone, decided to work together on that project, and now I get to talk with all of you too.

I encourage you to use the comment section to share your successes at collaboration and connection with others in the teen librarianship or teen advocacy community.  What works for you?  How did you get started?  Any tips or suggestions?  Do you have some thoughts or ideas that you’d like to bounce off of someone?  We’re all in this together, so let’s talk.

A note from Karen: Networking is good.  And it doesn’t just have to be with librarians.  You can also network with the organizations in your area who work with teens to learn more about local programs and services, share local insights, share success stories, and train each others in areas of expertise.  There is tremendous value in knowing the people from your local Boys and girls Club as well as your fellow teen librarians.  I wrote about it in VOYA:http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2011/10/asset-builders-coalition-support.html.  I have also participated in regional teen book review groups that met quarterly and shared book reviews. I highly recommend it.  Online is nice, but it is nice to get out of the building and share a cuppa with your peers.  Rotate libraries so you see what other libraries are doing with their space and graphics and then you can steal their ideas.  I mean borrow.  You can borrow their ideas. Silly me.

Running a Local/Regional Group:

  • Determine your focus: book reviews, programming, all areas
  • Pick a regular meeting time to avoid confusion: The second Monday of each month, every 3rd month
  • Have a coordinator: This person will collect email addresses and create a distribution list, create an agenda, and send out reminders prior to the meeting and recap notes following the meeting
  • Rotation is Key: Rotate libraries so that the same people aren’t always driving, you are visiting new library to get new ideas, and you are sharing the burden of set-up, providing food, and clean up.
  • Have food: Everyone likes food, not just teens.
  • Keep it light and informal, but set some ground rules: confidentiality, no gossip, honest but positively focused

Asset Builder’s Coalition support materials

I was very honored to have an article appear regarding asset building in the October 2011 edition of VOYA (page 354), the Voice of Youth Advocates.  My article was entitled Mpact: An Asset Builder’s Coalition and if you are a regular reader here at TLT you know that I am a big advocate for using the Search Institutes 40 Developmental Assets in program planning and evaluation.  It also provides a good framework for communicating the importance of what you do to your co-workers, administration, and community.  It’s all in the article, read it.  In this post I am going to share with you some of the support materials that didn’t fit into the article.  You’re welcome.

Getting the Word Out
Getting things organized is often the hardest part.  Before you can be a coalition, you need members.  So spend some time getting organized.  Develop your organizations vision, purpose and goals.  Then send out invitations to area organizations that work with youth and ask them to come and share their knowledge and resources.

Text of initial letter sent to community agencies that work with teens:

As the teen services librarian at ____________________, I am invested in helping teens meet their full potential through both educational and recreational information and services.  I would like for those of us in the ______________ community who provide services for teens to come together and share information and resources, and to engage in some joint programming through a group I am calling _____________, the area asset builder’s coalition for youth. 

Our goal, simply stated, will be to Share, Link, Promote.

As a coalition, we will work together to successfully develop a coalition of community partners who value youth, and commit time and resources for initiatives to reduce risky behaviors in teens and provide positive community experiences.  Our goals will be:

  1. To share information regarding individual organizations purpose, goals, and upcoming events.
  2. To share experiences and generate ideas for marketing and promotion, event planning, and resource sharing.
  3. To plan a yearly community event for teens 
Coalition partners will actively attended meetings and work together to form common goals that draw upon the strengths and unique offerings of each of the individual organizations that work in the community with teens.  Partners will also use this as an opportunity to learn about various area resources so they can appropriately refer teens when needs are expressed.  In addition, partners will work together to plan larger community events to provide teens with community based outlets to express their creativity, divest their individual talents and resources and expend their energy in healthy, meaningful ways.  And finally, coalition partners shepherd initiatives that fit with their community involvement and goals.

Our goal is to continue to develop relationships throughout the community in order to expand participation in coalition initiatives and generally encourage support for youth. Each coalition partner will participate in planning and strategies that find opportunities to connect with youth, parents, community leaders, law enforcement personnel, education systems and business owners in _________.

The Framework

Asset building is a framework that helps provide passion, purpose and communication when working with teens.  Your passion and your purpose, to help provide teens with positive assets through your programs and services.  And as you communicate with your co-workers, your administration and your community, you help them see how there is value in what you do, in what the library does in the lives of teens and for the community.  Successful, engaged teens developing positive assets is not only good for teens – it is good for the local community and all of society in the long term (not an exaggeration, the Search Institute has done the research to back up this claim.)

At our first meeting I shared our vision, purpose and goals while explaining the need and benefit for an asset builder’s coalition:

The Model
At our meetings we discussed:

  • What are the assets and how do you use them?
  • Community organization basics:  Define the goals of your organization, basic operating information, who to contact, when to refer. (I really recommend developing a wiki to share this information and allow all participating organizations the opportunity to update and keep it current.  In addition, this is a good way to share a calendar of local events to avoid scheduling conflicts.)
  • Marketing to teens (Our local United Way marketing coordinator was involved and she shared a lot of helpful information.  United Way is really good at marketing.)
  • Social media use with teens
  • What types of past programming has been successful, and why.
  • Basic adolescent development
  • Specifics of our communities, the make up, the challenges, local history and eccentricities


Their is power in networking.  Libraries today, in fact many organizations today, face a shortage of resources including staff, staff time, and money.  Working with community organizations takes an investment in time, but it can reap bigger rewards.  Instead of being one teen librarian working to help youth, you become a network of people working to help youth.  You know the saying, two brains are better than one; by networking you increase your potential through increased knowledge and increased resources.  Plus, there is great benefit to learning what is working well for others and what doesn’t as  this can help influence your decision making.  And as you share upcoming programming schedules, you help eliminate those conflicts that often arise when you set programming dates and times in a bubble.

The challenge is someone must take the first step and be willing to be the organizer.  This takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and commitment.  You have to be enthusiastic and patient; just like programming, you don’t necessarily get immediate interest and success.  You have to make sure there is someone scheduled to present (cross train) at each meeting.  You need an agenda, refreshments, and the ability to keep the conversation going.  But most of all, you have to believe that what you are doing is important; we all fail without vision, but together you can create a common vision for the youth in your community.

Other TLT posts that discuss asset bulding:
Understanding the Wild Child
Don’t Underestimate the Value of “Hanging Out”
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff part 1 and part 2

End Note: Evaluating YOUR Teen Services Program Using the 40 Developmental Assets

We have discussed using the assets to evaluate and communicate your teen services program.  At the end of each year I simply make a quick outline of the assets and make sure what we are doing accomplishes what we say we are doing.  Think of it as creating a yearly plan and then making sure at the end of the year that you met your goals.  Here is an example:

40 Developmental Assets
Through extensive research, Search Institute has identified the following 40 building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The _________ Public Library actively helps teens address and meet 27 of the 40 assets listed below, proving that the ___________ Public Library is essential community resource in the life of teenagers in the Marion community.
External Assets:
Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, and Constructive Use of Time
1. Family Support-Family life provides high levels of love and support.
2. Positive Family Communication-Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
3. Other Adult Relationships-Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
·         Library staff provides positive adult interaction to community teens and help teenagers successfully navigate the library environment. 
·         Teens who regularly attend Teen CoffeeHouse develop a positive relationship with Teen Services Librarian.
·         Through reader’s advisory and informal book discussions, many regular teens develop a positive relationship with Teen Services Librarian.
4. Caring Neighborhood-Young person experiences caring neighbors.Library resources, especially those designed especially for teens, communicate that the library community cares for teens in the community.
5. Caring School Climate-School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
6. Parent Involvement in Schooling-Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.
7. Community Values Youth-Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
·         The library provides a developmentally appropriate teen program that meets a variety of their needs and interests, including a special teen resource collection, which communicates value in the community.
8. Youth as Resources-Young people are given useful roles in the community.
·         Through regular interaction with the Teen Services Librarian, both informal and at programming, teens give input into programming, services and collection.
9. Service to Others-Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
10. Safety-Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.
·         The Teen CoffeeHouse provides a developmentally appropriate, enjoyable environment for teens in their neighborhood.
11. Family Boundaries-Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
12. School Boundaries-School provides clear rules and consequences.
13. Neighborhood Boundaries-Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
·         The acceptable behavior policy helps outline responsible behavior for teens in the library.
14. Adult Role Models-Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
·         All library staff and the Teen Services Librarian directly model positive, responsible behavior to teens in the community.
15. Positive Peer Influence-Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
16. High Expectations-Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.
17. Creative Activities-Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
·         The library’s teen services programs provides a variety of opportunities for teens to be creative, including drawing and poetry contests, etc.
18. Youth Programs-Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community.
·         The library’s teen services program provides a variety of programs that provide teens with opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate programming.
19. Religious Community-Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
20. Time at Home-Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.
Internal Assets:
Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies and Positive Identity
21. Achievement Motivation-Young person is motivated to do well in school.
22. School Engagement-Young person is actively engaged in learning.
·         Library has essential resources for teens engaging in learning
23. Homework-Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
·         Library resources are beneficial in the successful completion of homework
24. Bonding to School-Young person cares about her or his school.
25. Reading for Pleasure-Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.
·         Library provides an extensive collection for teens reading enjoyment
·         Library provides a variety of programs and events that encourage reading for pleasure
Note about education oriented internal assets below:  The ___________ Public Library provides a variety of resources, both fiction and nonfiction, to help teens explore, develop and enhance these internal assets.  The teen collection, which has developmentally appropriate titles written specifically for teens in a manner that will engage them, is an important part of helping teens in the community address these internal assets.
26. Caring-Young person places high value on helping other people.
27. Equality and Social Justice-Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing
hunger and poverty.
28. Integrity-Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
29. Honesty-Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
30. Responsibility-Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
31. Restraint-Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.
32. Planning and Decision Making-Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
33. Interpersonal Competence-Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
34. Cultural Competence-Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
35. Resistance Skills-Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
36. Peaceful Conflict Resolution-Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
37. Personal Power-Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
38. Self-Esteem-Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
39. Sense of Purpose-Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
40. Positive View of Personal Future-Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future

Special thanks to VOYA for the opportunity to share my passion for teens and asset building.

Bootalk It! Developing a Booktalk Program to Network with Area Schools

What does every librarian love?  A captive audience!  You want to get into your schools, into the classrooms, and develop relationships with your teachers.  One of the best ways to do this is to develop a booktalking program.

In its most basic description, a booktalk is a short introduction – think commercial or movie trailer – for a book.  What you want to do is give just enough information about a book to tantalize teens and then leave them salivating for more!  If you have done a booktalk properly your audience will be on the edge of their seat asking, “what happens next?”  And your answer is always, “you have to read the book to find out!”

Stop here and make sure you know some booktalking basics:

A very basic intro from the state of Vermont

And don’t forget to look at the booktalking research:

Booktalks on Wikipedia (I know it’s evil, but it refers you to a lot of good resources)
A booktalking program can be an effective tool in your school/library relations toolbox.  What you want to do is develop relationships with teachers who will keep you coming back again and again into their classroom to introduce new books to their students.  It can be once a month, once a grading period, or at the very least before winter and summer breaks.  So you have to sell yourself to the teachers to get your foot in the door, and then you have to deliver the goods.
1.  Making Contact
Do some research and put together a really good introduction to your area teachers about booktalks.  Let them know what booktalks are, why they want to let you do them, how they support the curriculum, and how they encourage students to read.  Make it short, simple and visual: you are marketing a service to them.  An example 3-fold brochure follows . . .

I created this brochure over the years based upon my own MLS final project which focused on booktalking.  In addition, I gathered feedback from students and teachers over the years to help me sell the program.  Always remember to save positive feedback to use in future marketing materials. I have always found that teachers and students both respond favorably to booktalks and their feedback helps me sell the program.

Your basic selling points are this:  Teens find that reading is more enjoyable and are more likely to finish a book if it is a book they select for themselves, booktalks introduce teens to a wide variety of books and allow them to make those successful choices, and booktalks increase reading pleasure.

Booktalks = more reading success, more reading variety, and more reading enjoyment!

Plus, it will help move items in your library.  Thus, booktalks = increased circulation.

Booktalks are win, win!

Wait until the second or third week of school and send a letter of introduction and brochure to each Language Arts/English teacher and each school librarian.  Ask the school principals if you can have a few moments to speak at a teacher in service day and give some example booktalks.  Do everything you can to get your foot in the door, then wow them.

2.  Creating a Package

Start out by creating for yourself a basic building block of say 20 booktalks of the best teen books that will reach the greatest audience.  Be sure to write your booktalks, practice them, and keep them readily available.  As you read a book, create an electronic file (or an old fashioned index card if you would like) that gives a basic description of the book, the appropriate audience, and a “hook” for that book.  What is it that will help you sell this book to teens?  You want to include a wide variety of books and talking styles, including some Booktalk 2.0 styles (included below in Tech It Up).

Some basic booktalk rules to follow:

3.  Play to Your Strengths

Honestly, I am not a funny person  (well, not intentionally any way).  I can never even remember the punch line to a joke.  So I don’t try to do funny booktalks.  Teens would see right away that I am out of my element.  In order to sell a book, you have to be authentic.  Don’t try and sell a book you hate.  Don’t try and sell a book you know nothing about (really, you should read it).  And don’t try to be something that you’re not.  You want the teens to trust you because you are trying to get them to do something . . . so be authentic.  Trust is vital.

However, you need to be able to employ a wide variety of styles.  Booktalking expert Joni Bodart discusses the different types of booktalks as being character based, mood based, plot summary, or anecdotal.  Find out what motivates the story, and then figure out your hook.  From there, you can engage in a wide variety of booktalking styles and techniques.  There are other places that cover that topic well.  You need to know these names Joni Bodart (check out her books), Nancy Keane and Naomi Bates.  They will help you develop the tools you need to be a successful booktalker.

4.  Get Your Audience Involved

Remember, in the ideal scenario you will go to a teacher’s class and booktalk to each and every period.  This means that you can be entertaining each class for anywhere from 15 minutes up until the entire period, depending on what you and the teacher agree upon.  So you want to make it fun for the teens – get them involved.

Ask a question and get them talking.  For example, when booktalking No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman, ask them if they have read Where the Red Fern Grows and how they felt when the dogs died.

Take a portion of the book and make it into a short reader’s theater

Create a short news show or interview that ties into a book.

Believe it or not, a lot of the same techniques your children’s librarian employs for story hour can also be successfully used in a fun, interactive booktalk.  So make cards with words on them and ask teens to yell them out every time the you show them the card.  Ask teens to sing, dance, act, and get involved.  It doesn’t have to be you standing up in front of them. 
5.  Tech it Up (Booktalks 2.0)



In fact, it doesn’t always have to be you at all.  Today most classrooms have a computer and an overhead projector in them, so take advantage of this.  Download book trailers onto a flash drive and share them.  You can download a wide variety on YouTube or at various publishers sites, or visit Naomi Bates and use hers (she also teaches you how to make your own).
You can also create PowerPoints or basic images to share and give that “wow” factor.  I find these to be particularly useful when I want to booktalk a book that is never in on the shelf – this allows me to show them the cover.  In fact, I now almost always create a visual presentation to go with my booktalks.  The visual reinforces the verbal.  Plus, I can leave it behind in the classroom for the teacher and students.

Check out the August 2011 edition of VOYA, it has a good article on alternatives to the traditional slide show.  Scholastic also has some video booktalks you can use.  Multnomah County Libraries have a variety of Podcasts available online.  There are a lot of great tech options out there to tech up your booktalks.

6.  No Really, Get Teens Involved

Teachers are always looking for creative ways to help students explore literature and share what they have read, so get the students writing their own booktalks and creating their own book trailers.  You can share what they do in the classroom in a wide variety of ways in your library with the proper permissions and platforms, such as on a web page or social media page or display screens in your teen area.

7.  Make Their Trip to the Library Successful

I have always been amazed when visiting the classroom how students will write down titles and come up and ask you about them.  If you can, find a way to check titles out to the students at the end of the day. I have written down book barcodes and library card numbers and gone back to the library and checked them out.  But what if the teen doesn’t have a library card yet?  Chances are, they are going to come in to the library and ask about the book – but they won’t remember much.  So you need to make sure all public service staff know not only that you visited a school and booktalked, but what you booktalked.  Make sure all staff have a list of the books, a copy of the cover so they can know what it looked like, and a general book description (or a copy of the actual booktalk).  You can do this electronically or in print, or both.  Then, when a teen comes in and says, “this lady came to our library today and talked about this book set in the future where everyone has a job given to them”, the staff member can pull out the list and determine that it is The Giver by Lois Lowry.  Teens are satisfied, co-workers feel informed and everyone walks away having a successful library interaction.  That is always our number 1 goal.

Also, if you make slides you can print them out and put them on display in your teen area.  And if the books are in you can put them on display.  Whatever you do, you want to make sure they can check out the book (buy multiple copies!) or put them on hold.  There is nothing worse then coming into the library to ask for a book and there is no one there who knows what you are talking about. 

Also, don’t forget your school librarians! Take the information to them and introduce yourself.  Chances are some of the students will go looking for the books at their school library, so help the school librarian find them there if the school owns them.  We want teens to have successful library experiences, whether it be your public library or their school library. 

It Only Takes 1!

If you deal your cards correctly, you can establish a good repeat customer relationship with at least one teacher – and if you visit one teacher’s class room every month for 6 or 7 periods, well that is a lot of booktalks.  At one library I worked at I visited one particular teacher’s classroom every month for 5 years.  The great thing about this is that after a year, you have a really good backlog of booktalks to draw from the next year.  All you have to do is add the new books that you read.  And that teacher, she could be counted on to spread the word to other teachers who would occasionally take me up on my offer.  Best of all, it was amazing getting to know those students throughout the high school years.

So good luck to you as this new school year starts.  Now get booktalking!