The Club Connection: Bringing The Library TO Students!

This post represents a category of content that has been fairly rare on my blog so far: writing about library programming.   I have yet to blog much about library programming, lesson development, or other library activities for several reasons.  Mostly, as a young rookie librarian, I find the amazing, creative programming blogged about by my more experienced peers a bit intimidating. However, I hope the use this summer to change this pattern!  Especially since I believe that offering a break down of my tentative programming will encourage other newbie librarians.  After all, one of the biggest lessons I learned during the last few years as first a library intern and now a full-time librarian is the value of accepting and embracing failure–especially the failure of new activities or programs.  A program or a lesson won’t always work the way you hoped–or work at all.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable.

Today, however, I’d like to share a couple of library activities I developed this past year that were actually successful.  These two particular activities were especially successful in connecting specific groups of students with the library and reminding them how the library can be a source for information & support outside their academic needs.  It’s not a particularly new idea but I want to write about the great value in using pre-existing teen groups (such as school clubs) to connect young adults with the libraries in their lives.

My collaborations with student groups this past year represent two different methods for the creation of such events: the ‘active search & approach by librarian’ method and the ‘eager seizure of an unexpected opportunity’ method.  The first collaboration came about when I initiated contact with a student leader of a club and made a direct proposal. After spending the last week of June 2012 attending a wonderful conference of multicultural education–The Georgetown Day School’s Equity Collaborative, I began the school year  determined to find new ways within my particular sphere of influence to make our school a more explicitly supportive, inclusive, and safe environment.  One fairly simple act was to quietly reach out to our Queer-Straight Alliance and offer to share some LGBTQ-specific resources available in our library.    Initially my offer was, in fact, too quiet and it was lost in the bustle of the new school year.  However, I tried again in the spring and was able to make a connection.  Through quick conversations with our QSA’s president, it was decided that I would come and visit their next meeting to share a list of resources relevant and interesting to LGBTQ youth.  I spent just over a week pulling together a resource list that included a diverse group of YA fiction featuring young, LGBTQ protagonists, a few key nonfiction titles, and a couple of good websites.  I also put together a quick Power Point presentation that allowed me to give an overview of the list’s contents.  My goals were: to show them rich diversity of currently available fiction and nonfiction for & about LBGTQ youth, to explain explicitly where they could find these resources and get good information, and to demonstrate that their library is safe place where they have adult allies.

Now, as I stated at the beginning, this simple activity is neither revolutionary nor extraordinary.  However, I am very proud of it because it accomplished a rare feat:  I actually achieved all my initial goals and it will likely be a repeatable activity! Students who attended checked some books out right away and some came back & asked for more later.  The president of the club requested a digital copy of the resource list to share with club members unable to attend the meeting and the group’s faculty advisor was enthusiastic about the idea of repeating this event early next fall.

Here are my presentation and resource list, both of which I plan to update slightly over the summer 🙂

The second collaboration with a student group came about through pure chance and, even more excitingly, a direct approach from a student.  This year my newborn Student Library Advisory Board (SLAB, as its members like to call the group) and I planned & ran two very fun movie nights in the library.  Our second movie night was a Valentine’s Day theme and had around 25 students in attendance–which is awesome, especially considering the relatively small size of our school, the many other options for Friday night activities, and the geographic spread of our student body.  Afterwards, a student that attended this movie night emailed me, saying how much she enjoyed the event and that she was interested in doing a movie night event for a student group she had recently helped begin on campus. She asked if I could give her some tips about setting up such an event.  I happily responded, offering to help her plan the event.  The group is focused on spreading awareness about various issues related to adolescent health and the members wanted to do a movie night as a fun way to begin a discussion about adolescent mental health issues.

I was thrilled to be asked and so we worked together to plan a small Friday evening event during which we would show the recent film adaption of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story.  Both the student leader and I connected with a member of our school’s awesome counseling department and she agreed to open the event with a informational discussion about adolescent mental health and mental illness.  Meanwhile, I, of course, offered to create a resource list of websites (based on suggested from our wonderful counselor) and fiction dealing with adolescent mental health issues.  To create this list, I made use of one of the best resources out there: other librarians!  I sent out a request for fiction titles related to adolescent mental health to the yalsa_bk listserv.  In response I received an amazing wealth of titles! So again, thank you to the wonderful subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv!  The event went wonderfully–the opening discussion was really informative,  the movie touching and funny, and the resource list well received–with a digital copy requested to be emailed out to friends 🙂

Here is the resource list I created with the help of our wonderful counseling department and the awesome subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv.

I somewhat stumbled into this method of library outreach over the past year but I’m very excited about these small successes since they were fairly simple to implement but powerful in their impact.  As a result, I’ve created relationships with more students and I’ve found ways to share the library’s resources in targeted doses to interested audiences.  I’m hoping to continue this type of outreach next year by repeating events like the QSA resource share and by seeking out other student groups who might be open to collaboration.

How have you used pre-existing student/youth organizations or clubs to connect teens to YOUR library?  I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments!

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