Volunteering Vs. Service Learning

I just got back from the YALSA conference, which was held in Portland this year. My head is still swimming with ideas and information. But of all the sessions I attended this weekend, one in particular stood out to me: “Elevating Teen Volunteers to Loftier Roles.”

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My minions. *Cough*  I mean volunteers.

I’ve been struck lately by how boring traditional “volunteering” duties can be for teens. Yes, shelving books and DVD’s can be helpful (and necessary). But, if that’s all your volunteers are doing, that makes for a pretty uninspiring volunteer experience.

Enter the Seattle Public Library’s Service Learning Program. SPL wanted the same thing I do: to give their teens a meaningful role at their library. Their goal was to help their teens develop leadership and project management skills while working collaboratively together. So they decided to put their teenagers in charge of their programs.

Yes. You read that right. The teens were in charge of programming.

There were three key requirements for the programs the teens built:

  1. Projects had to be teen-driven (and they had to be exciting to the teens)
  2. Projects had to meet a community need
  3. Projects had to meet a library need

For example: Let’s say the teens wanted to start a Animanga Club. All three of the aforementioned requirements would have to be met in order for the program to take place.

It sounds so simple but is really is profound. I love this idea of making volunteering more meaningful by allowing teens to plan and implement their own Service Learning Projects. It gives them a chance to develop real-world skills they can use later on in life (marketing, event planning, working within a budget, etc.) It makes their voices and ideas hold weight and empowers them to take ownership of their library.

This is something I hope to implement in our volunteering program going forward. Our teen volunteers give so much to the library. I want to make sure that they’re “getting something” our of volunteering too.

 

Coming Up For Air

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So for those of you wondering why I fell off the face of the earth…I’m officially coming up for air. 🙂 It’s been an unexpectedly busy summer at my new library. Fun, but a whirlwind.

Our Youth Services Coordinator, for personal reasons, resigned in the middle of Summer Reading. Which meant instead of just managing tween and teen programs, I inherited all three of her weekly story times and her children’s programs to boot.

It was chaos. Glorious chaos. And somehow, I managed to survive. 🙂

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This is my “I survived Summer Reading” Dance

Thanks for your patience during this crazy adventure. I look forward to getting back to sharing my adventures with you!

An Update (AKA “Why I fell off the map”)

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In case you were wondering about my absence from cyberspace, I’ve got an exciting announcement to make: I’ve accepted a new position! I’ve been invited to be the full-time Teen Librarian at the Dalles-Wasco County Library in Oregon.

Yes. Oregon. I get to see mountains all day. 🙂

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I’ll be working to do what I did in Safety Harbor: rebuilding the teen program and helping it thrive. I’ll be posting again soon as the dust clears and things settle down. Thanks for your patience in the interim!

❤ – The Loudmouth

We Need Diverse Books: The YA Holiday Edition

IMG_2895I was one of those kids who got bullied/excluded when I was little, which means, as an adult, I have a minor obsession with making sure everyone feels included.

So I was determined this holiday season to incorporate not just Christmas books but Hanukkah and Kwanzaa titles into my book display.

Surely, I thought, there would be a bevy of titles I could incorporate. After all, we have an unholy amount of picture books on the subject. There just had to be titles for teens as well, right?

Wrong.

After countless hours of searching the Internet, pestering Facebook friends, authors, and so on, I realized that there’s next to nothing available for non-Christian teens during the holidays.

It was baffling. I mean, it’s 2014 for goodness’ sake. But after sifting through dozens of (admittedly lovely) holiday titles, I only found two non-Christmas titles for teens: one for Hanukkah and one for Kwanzaa. I ended up having to add two middle grade titles – The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming and Feast of Lights – to my display just to balance things out.

Now I get it. We all have cultural biases. But we need to work to overcome those biases so no one is left out. Teens, just like children, need to see themselves and their traditions represented in the books they read. And diversity in books isn’t just something for our little ones: our middle and high schoolers need it as well.

So to all my author friends: Gimme some YA Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books. Stat.

For everyone else, here are the two diverse YA holiday titles I ended up going with:

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My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories

A beautiful, well thought out, much-needed addition to the YA holiday marketplace. As the publisher states, “Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone.”

 

 

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Listen for the Fig Tree by Sharon Belle Mathis

An older yet moving YA novel about a blind sixteen year-old, Muffin Johnson, who struggles with an alcoholic mother. Muffin is trying to find light in her dark world and Kwanzaa plays a role in that quest.

 

Any diverse YA holiday titles I’ve missed? Help a librarian out. Post them in the comments section below. Thanks and Happy Chrismakwanzikkah!

My Year in Numbers (aka Teen Library Program Attendance)

MegStats2So excuse me while I geek out for a moment. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m also ridiculously competitive. I can’t stand to lose. So my goal during my first year as a Teen Library Assistant was very, very simple:

I wanted to blast my predecessor’s teen program attendance record out of the water.

One habit I picked up from my time as a teacher is using data to drive your efforts. Otherwise, you end up stumbling around blindly as you attempt to reach your goals. So I sat down with my boyfriend who, very generously, helped me create an Excel spreadsheet. I used it to track my monthly progress and see how I was doing.

I wasn’t sure I’d make it. Some programs were more successful than others. But I’m pleased to announce that I improved teen attendance at our branch by an average of 96% this year! Ninety-six whopping percent! I am beyond ecstatic. 🙂 Guess that means I’m doing something right. Here’s to a successful year!

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ALA Booklist’s Response: Let’s Hear It For the Girls

Ten tweets and dozens of retweets later, looks like we got their attention. :)

Ten tweets and dozens of retweets later, looks like we got their attention. 🙂

I am delighted to report that, after the efforts of myself and several other bloggers/tweeters (Kate Messner, Caroline Carlson, et. al.), ALA as released an additional list of 2014 sports books with female protagonists.

It is a credit to ALA Booklist’s senior editor, Daniel Kraus, that such a timely and thoughtful response was swiftly generated. I only wish they’d thought to include “the girls” the first time around.

But everyone makes mistakes and ALA’s response is heartening. Here’s hoping this can be a tool for generating wider and deeper conversations about gender and identity in our culture. Thanks to everyone.

– ❤ The Loudmouth

Sitting on the Sidelines: ALA and the NFL’s Gender Parity Problem

m5Confession: I’ve never been a big sports fan.

I was one of those awkward kids who never knew to do with their bodies. I was clumsy: tripping, falling, crashing into everything. I always dreaded P.E. class whenever it occurred. I was the smallest. The slowest. The weakest. The lowest. The girl who was always picked last.

Not to mention the fact that, amongst family and peers, sports was clearly a “boy” thing. We watched my male cousins play baseball. We cheered at their basketball games. I attended my brother’s soccer and karate matches. My job was to watch: not play.

Admittedly, I didn’t exactly ask to play. None of the girls I knew played sports. Theater, dance, and music were our thing. I also 48_504483045529_75801209_30208066_6571_nloved to read. I could gobble up a book an hour. But out of all the childhood stories I remember to this day, not a single one featured girls playing sports.

Basically, I didn’t think playing was a possibility. It wasn’t part of our culture: my family’s or mine. Sports were an alien, foreign thing.

But then, halfway through my 4th grade year, we moved to North Carolina – to a podunk town by the name of Burnsville with a population of 1,673 people. There were no ballet lessons to be had. Singing lessons were unheard of. I didn’t participate in a single play the entire six months we lived there.

There was, however, one thing the 4th grade girls in Burnsville enjoyed doing. One thing which they participated in together and formed fast friendships doing. It was the thing that consumed their waking moments, that brought out their competitive streaks. It was the thing that made them feel like they belonged.

Softball.

I had never played softball. I didn’t even know what it was. I didn’t know there was “baseball” for girls. I could ‘t wrap my head around it. But there was nothing else to do and no other way to get “in” with those shy, mountain girls. So, for the very first time in my life, I decided to play a sport.

And I loved it.

My competitive streak, which was a mile wide, was channeled into a positive outlet. Yes, I played catcher and left field (aka the positions for people who suck). Yes, I was still clumsy and awkward and tripped all over myself.  But the way I felt about myself changed dramatically.  I felt strong. Brave. Significant. I didn’t feel small. Or weak.

I had a team. A safety net. A place where I belonged. I had friends who believed in me and cheered me on – even when I failed. Angel, Tuesday, June: I still remember their names.

When my parents told me we were moving back to Florida and that I’d miss our softball finals, I sobbed. Bitterly. It felt like my 4th grade world was ending.

Worse still, when I got back to Florida, our old culture reasserted itself. My team was gone. My strength was gone. I was slow and small again. I went back to dreading P.E. To being the last girl picked. To being fiercely bullied for being weak. I never played sports again.

I returned to a world where only boys could succeed athletically. I observed them on the field. On the TV screen. Passively watching was my game.

This passivity, this lack of agency, was the hallmark of my young life. It followed all the way into adulthood. And into an absuive relationship.

When the story of Ray Rice broke on the news, I never asked why Janay didn’t leave. I knew the answer: she didn’t know how. She’d gotten too used to watching. She didn’t have anyone to encourage her when she failed.

She was stuck in a boy’s game.

The toxicity of this cultural tendency cannot be understated. And if you think there’s no correlation between the lack of gender parity in professional sports and violence against women, you’re not just mistaken: you’re wrong. As much as we might wish it to be so, we do not live in a post-feminist society. And the consequences of gender inequality are vast and far reaching.

Turn on your computer. Your television. Stop on the first sports-related thing you find. What will you see? Men. Only men. Sports are still for boys.

We know it shouldn’t be this way. Even the old guard knows it. But they’re not quite ready to do something about it, so they try to placate us instead. They give us “A Crucial Catch” and have their football players wear pink. They give us fitted baby doll tees emblazoned with our favorite teams’ logos. They tell us that women can be passionate about sports too, that we have a place in the arena.

Then they courteously dust off a bench and give us a seat on the sidelines.

But the tendency to marginalize women in sports isn’t confined to the NFL: it permeates our society as a whole, infecting even some of our most cherished organizations.

The American Library Association has long been an advocate of equality. They’ve championed the rights of minorities nationwide and reminded everyone that #WeNeedDiverseBooks. But diversity isn’t restricted solely to ethnicity or sexuality. It also includes gender.

And, when it comes to supporting gender diversity in sports, ALA has just failed. Utterly.

ALA Booklist’s “Top Ten Sports Books for Youth: 2014” was published on September 1st. And normally, most librarians would think of this as an exciting thing. These are the sort of lists we wait eagerly for and use to add books to our collection.

Except, in this list, not a single sports-playing protagonist happens to be female.

Let me say that again: all of ALA’s sports books feature only male MC’s.

I expect this from the NFL. Not condone, but expect. But to see this “boys club” mentality trickle down to ALA? In 2014? I am embarrassed for my profession.

Children are not dumb. They can read between the lines. They pick up on the cultural cues espoused by our books and media. And when girls don’t see themselves in sports books, they internalize the message that sports “aren’t for them.”

So I’ve compiled my own list of “Top Ten Sports Books for Youth in 2014” – books that actually feature female protagonists who are passionate about participating in sports. I’m going to be reading each and every one of these books over the next several months. I’m going to promote them to the teenagers in my life.

I hope you’ll do the same.

Better yet: come up with your own list.  Visit blogs like Sporty Girl Books. Hunt with me for titles published specifically in 2014. Then hop on twitter and tell ALA’s Booklist what you think of this nonsense. Let’s start a storm. #girlsplaysports #sportygirlbooks @ALA_Booklist

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The Loudmouth Librarian’s “Top Ten Sports Books for Girls in 2014”

crossing the ice

Crossing the Ice by Jennifer Comeaux (Pairs Figure Skating)

Gold Metal Winter by Donna Freitas

Gold Metal Winter by Donna Freitas (Figure Skating)

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (Running)

Blue Forty Two by Faith Nhira

Blue Forty Two by Faith Nhira (Football)

take me on

Take Me On by Kate McGarry (Kickboxing)

In Deep by Terra Elan McVoy

In Deep by Terra Elan McVoy (Swimming)

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morill

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill (Figure Skating and Hockey)

The Love Match by Monica Seles  (Tennis)

The Love Match by Monica Seles
(Tennis)

One the Road to Find Out by Rachel Torr (Running)

One the Road to Find Out by Rachel Torr
(Running)

Babe Conquers the World (sports nonfiction)

Babe Conquers the World by Rich and Sandra Wallace
(sports nonfiction)