Monday, May 27, 2013

Show Me the Awesome: Creating a Teen Blog for the Library

Banner created by John LeMasney
Today I'm participating in "Show Me the Awesome," a blog series that encourages librarians to share the exciting and innovative things they're doing for their libraries, their communities, and their profession. Visit Kelly, Liz, and Sophie for more details on this initiative, and be sure to search for the hashtag #30awesome on Twitter and Tumblr. 

I'm excited to tell you about the way I created an opportunity for my library's teens to earn volunteer service hours, gain real-world writing experience, and create a positive digital footprint-- by blogging.

The need
The idea was born from a community need. In my library's education-minded community, teens have a high demand for ways to earn service credit. Teens and their parents often inquire at the library’s reference desk about volunteer opportunities, but we weren't able to offer a year-round, experiential volunteer program for teens-- until now.

The solution 
Create a (mostly) virtual way for teens to earn volunteer service hours!

As my library's teen services librarian, I am privileged to lead a team of around 50 teens in creating the Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice, a blog where local teens write book reviews, enthuse about their favorite authors, make literary top ten lists, conduct author interviews, and recap author events.

I am so proud of what these teens have accomplished, and I want to shout it from the rooftops!

How did I make it happen?
The Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice is an outcome of my participation in the Eureka! Leadership Program, and is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

I recruited interested teens by reaching out to local schools and teen organizations, working with the City's public information specialist to issue a press release that got picked up by local media, and marketing within the library. I hosted a brainstorming meeting to introduce the blogging project to the teens and solicit their input about its content, look, and feel.

Over the next few months, I worked with the teens virtually to collect content for the blog, worked with a graphic designer (the amazing Elle Cardenas!) to develop a sharp, professional aesthetic that exudes youthful energy, and consulted with other departments in my organization to make sure the teen blog would support the mission and vision of my library and the City.

One of the reasons my library didn't have a regular teen volunteer program in the past was a lack of staff time and resources. Managing this blog does take up a good deal of my time, but I can do a lot of the work while multitasking-- editing and scheduling blog posts while I'm on the Reference Desk, for example. So far, this project is working out really well for the library and the teens.

Why it's good for the teens
Writing for the Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice is an opportunity for middle and high school students to earn volunteer service credit by sharing their enthusiasm for books and promoting teen literacy. Participating on the Teen Blog Team enables them to earn service credit on their own schedule and offers a real-world opportunity to sharpen their writing and critical thinking skills. It also empowers the teens to build their personal brand online and create a positive digital footprint that will impress colleges and future employers.

Plus, the teen bloggers are invited to participate in unique learning opportunities that help build their skills, like a personal branding workshop with a digital strategies expert, and a talk on social media by author and YouTube personality, Kaleb Nation, who made it big on the Internet at a young age.

Why it's good for the community
The teen blog provides a peer recommendation system for teen literature that the whole community can use. It also raises awareness within the community about the awesome things their local teens are doing.

Why it's good for the library
This project enhances community building for the library. To maximize the teens' opportunities to learn new skills and expand their creativity, I've worked to build partnerships between the library and local schools and other organizations that serve teens.

Sharing the awesome
As I mentioned earlier, I am bursting with pride over all the great content the Teen Blog Team has contributed so far. These teens are so smart and motivated, and they want to share their enthusiasm for books with the world. Will you do me a favor and help me reinforce the terrific work these teens are doing? Visit the Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice and comment on one of the posts. Share the blog with a friend or colleague. Please help me show off what these amazing teens are doing.

When I started this project, I honestly didn't know if I would get a positive response-- teens have so many other things to do, I wasn't sure if they'd be on board with blogging for the library. But they were! I have been continually amazed by their enthusiasm. This whole endeavor has been really rewarding for all of us so far. If you're thinking of starting a teen blogging project at your library, feel free to contact me with any questions!


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