Friday, March 7, 2014

Reaching out to Teen Parents

      Teenagers are one of the most difficult age groups to get involved with the library, and often it takes some truly innovative thinking to devise programming and events that will attract teens to the library. Combine those barriers with those facing teen parents and the challenge becomes even bigger. Although teen pregnancy occurs in all cultural, racial, and socio-economical groups, many teen parents are themselves low-level readers. (Fesko, 2010) But even teen parents who are academic achievers may not have the maturity or the knowledge to understand the importance of reading to their children. The rationalization for this program is that teen parents are an underserved part of a difficult to engage demographic.

      The outreach/teen librarian should collaborate with homeless shelters, churches, schools, and various other local programs designed to assist teen parents, and offer a story time program designed to teach teens the importance of reading to their children, and instruct them in reading and story telling techniques. Because teen parents may not often come to the library, or may even believe that the library has nothing to offer them, the librarians must search for resources that will help them connect to the target audience. Librarians should be sure to network, advertise the program not only at the library and online, but in places teen parents are likely to spend time or receive help from. The benefit of a program like this is two-fold: first, it gets new parents reading to their children. And second, it gets teens involved with the library and gives those with lower reading skills the opportunity to improve with encouragement and support. With many of the barriers to literacy that children face being rooted in inter-generational issues, a program such as this could improve parents' reading skills, foster bonding between parents and children, and nurture future literacy.


Fesko, S. (2010) Reaching out through outreach: Providing service to teen parents. Voice

            Youth Advocates 33(3), 227.

The Libraries' Best Friend

When it come to children's literacy, research has shown that all the senses are important in the child's development. For example, we learn from Shenton & Dixon that the ability to touch and interact with various items is an important part of early informational-seeking activities. Hearing, too, both in the forms of being read to and in reading aloud for themselves.

One activity used by many libraries that engages all of the sense is the use of animals - typically dogs, although chickens are not unknown and almost any animal could be used - as passive audiences for beginning readers to practice on. The results are, as we see in Shaw, very promising on both the intellectual and social levels.

Most of these programs, however, still rely on the child being brought to the library to participate in them. I would suggest that the animal, especially if it's a dog, can also be its own outreach. By holding a session of these programs outside of the library space - in a public park of some kind is most likely, weather and local laws permitting - the program can be exposed to children (and their parents) who might not have heard of it before, with the positive effects being multiplied.

Further Reading:

Shaw, Donita (2013) Man's Best Friend as a Reading Facilitator, The Reading Teacher 66(5), 365-71.

Shenton, A. K., & Dixon, P. (2004). The development of young people’s information-seeking behaviour. Library & Information Research, 28(90), 31-39.

Library Scavenger Hunt

Library Scavenger Hunt

One of the important issues in library services to children and young people is the need for this user group to receive adequate training and instruction on how to effectively research.  A library scavenger hunt is a fun and interactive way to help this group receive instruction and practice the skills that they need to develop. This program would be conducted in a public library by the Youth Services staff and will be targeted to students in upper elementary. The program will be held at the library and advertising will be done by creating flyers to be distributed at the schools by upper elementary teachers. The library staff will work with the teachers and the school librarians to market this program.

The rationalization for this program is the disconnection between children’s prior knowledge and their ability to create and implement adequate search strategies. As noted in the literature review there is research that indicates that while children may be very knowledgeable in a particular subject area they often lack experience and skills needed to effectively research further on their own Pattee (2008). The scavenger hunt would also include some digital activities as well since as noted by Bilal and Bichar (2007) children and young people often experience difficulties with digital research as well. The children would be allowed to work in groups, since as noted by Lippincott (2012) millennial or net generation students often work in groups, enjoy using technology and combine their social and academic lives. 

This goal of this program is to help children of upper elementary school age to develop the skills needed to do effective research on their own for both personal needs and academic purposes.  Allowing children to practice these skills through a fun program and work together in groups will also help to make children more comfortable in the public library.  The staff will provide a handout that offers tips and advice on conducting research that they can take home and use in the future.

Works Cited
Bilal, D., & Bachir, I. (January 01, 2007). Children’s interaction with cross-cultural and multilingual digital libraries: I. Understanding interface design representations. Information Processing & Management, 43, 1, 47-64.

Lippincott, J. K. (January 01, 2012). Information Commons: Meeting Millennials' Needs.Journal of Library Administration, 52, 538-548

Pattee, A. S. (2008). What Do You Know? Applying the K-W-L Method to the Reference Transaction with Children. Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 6(1), 30-39.

Booktalks and Book Clubs for teens: why not meet them at school?

While researching the information needs and behaviors of preteens and young adults, I came across an interesting suggestion by way of a question: “Does the librarian ever appear in school classrooms and assemblies to do booktalking so that his/her face, in association with the public library, conjures up good stories and enthusiasm in the minds of children and youth?” (Wilson, 1983, p. 152) I was familiar with booktalks, and with the concept of strong collaboration between school and public libraries, but this exact idea had not before occurred to me, and it seems like an excellent way for the public library to reach out to this age group.

Exploring this topic further, I came across a paper entitled “Rethinking Reading Promotion” (Chance & Lesesne, 2012) which promotes the idea of public librarians using booktalks and book trailers presented in middle and high schools as successful methods of encouraging reading in young adults. I was especially intrigued by the suggestion of recording a live booktalk and using that as a form of book trailer that could be shared beyond the audience of the initial talk. Given the right preparation such a venture could include some of the other elements book trailers are popular for, such as images and music to accompany the talk.

Taking it one step further, a teen services librarian might also hold book clubs at a middle or high school, with the cooperation of the school librarians. Jack Baur and Jessica Lee (a public and school librarian, respectively, both serving teens in Berkeley, CA) detail their successes with a comic book club held in the local middle school (Talking Comics, 2012). While they used comics due to their appeal, and I would personally relish the opportunity to do the same, it is likely that any popular books could be used just as easily. Once a rapport is established, a librarian could then work to expand the club member’s horizons a bit by suggesting similar books that are less well known (as long as they are likely to hold their patrons’ interest).

Both the booktalk and book club programs, when held in schools, provide the benefit of getting the public librarian out of their building and to a place where the users are. This not only directly gets around the problem of users not coming to the physical library as often any more, but it also demonstrates the value of the public library to the users, who may then decide to come in. Even if they don’t, as long as they take part in the program they are engaged. Especially in the case of the book club, once a rapport has developed between the teens and the public librarian, other information needs might be uncovered and addressed, such as in conversation before or after (or even during) the meeting.

Clearly, this would require a great deal of coordination and cooperation between the public and school libraries, but if Baur and Lee’s example isn’t enough to convince you that this isn’t just possible but desirable, consider that there is a long history of such cooperation, and as tightened budgets continue to strain resources and imperil programs, the ALA is strongly encouraging more such cooperation (Amann & Carnesi, 2012). Another benefit of this collaboration is that the school library will be able to promote the program(s) to kids very easily, perhaps using some of the other methods discussed by Chance and Lesesne such as recording promotional messages to be announced over the PA system after the morning announcements (Rethinking Reading Promotion, 2012). This might open the door to further collaboration, such as mutual program promotion, resource sharing, reciprocal lending etc. (Amann & Carnesi, 2012). Even if it doesn’t, the school library, the public library, and most importantly the young people being encouraged to read all benefit. This alone makes it worth pursuing.

While these are clearly not entirely new ideas, given Wilson’s reference to it in 1983, it still has plenty of merit and should be explored, or expanded upon, by any public library looking for more ways to enhance outreach to young adults.

Works Cited

Amann, J., & Carnesi, S. (2012). C Is for Cooperation. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 10(3), 9-13.
Baur, J., & Lee, J. (2012). Talking Comics. Young Adult Library Services, 10(4), 17-21.
Chance, R., & Lesesne, T. (2012, June). Rethinking Reading Promotion. Teacher Librarian, 39(5), 26-28.
Wilson, E. (1983). Reference needs of children and young adults in public libraries. The Reference Librarian(7-8), 151-156.