From April Witteveen, Deschutes PL:
As a YALSA Committee Member (the Organization and Bylaws Committee and the Editorial Committee), I am happily required to attend both the ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences for the 2 years of my appointment. We all know how pricey these national conferences can be; I am grateful to OYAN for having provided me a scholarship to assist in the attendance of a full-day YALSA preconference at Midwinter, titled “Libraries 3.0: Teen Edition.”
The preconference featured a varied line-up of presenters and program themes. To begin the day, we met Stacey Aldrich, State Librarian of California, someone who considers herself a “futurist.” A futurist looks ahead to upcoming trends and identifies ways to implement them, specifically here in a library setting. Stacey is a big fan of new technology, so she spent some time talking about what we’d consider Web 2.0 tools and how they impact the lives of our patrons and their potential library applications. She encouraged us to look at trends without assumptions and basically “think outside the box.” To wrap up her segment, she had the preconference attendees work together in small groups to imagine a Teen of the Future (year 2025) and what s/he might look for from their local library. My group imagined Jazzmyn (gotta love the spelling), who’s looking for ways to get her writing noticed online. We discussed the library offering everything from creative technology software on public computers to providing links and a virtual space for sharing with her peers. We had a strong realization though that whatever this future library decides to implement, it needs to be really great so as not to get lost in the rest of what the web might offer Jazzmyn. This was an enjoyable exercise, and as the groups shared we all still had a concept of the future library being a physical place.
Next up on the preconference agenda was a Skype videoconference with the author Cory Doctorow. I loved his first teen novel, Little Brother, so was very excited to hear what he had to say. Unfortunately, the audio quality in the room was horrendous; most of us spent our time holding our ears to avoid the squeaks and squeals of the Skype/speakers combination. The conversation was also not well organized, so Cory had to just wing it; he focused on themes such as the boundaries between creators and consumers of information, and how the line is getting more and more fuzzy, what he thinks about technology and teen life (a chance for freedom and self-expression), and how he’s curious about what the future of books and reading will look like for his 2-year old daughter. Most of us breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the Skype session, though my ears continued to ring throughout lunch…
After lunch was a session titled “Flip this Library.” A panel of school librarians spoke about how they transformed their libraries into exciting and usable spaces. Most interesting was a school librarian from rural Arkansas who spoke about the horrendous
state of her collection when she began her job 7 years ago—she found not just old, old, ridiculously old books, but old books filled with racist language, etc. Things are looking up thanks to her! One thing that got the audience buzzing was one of the school librarians talking about how she interfiles biographies and reference books in with the rest of her nonfiction. An interesting example of helping teens find material, but may not be that plausible for those of us who don’t have control over the bibliographic records for items..and who have to deal with an ever-rotating shift of shelvers and asked us to think about what a “collection” in a teen area could really be: think about board/video games, movies, music, etc!
The day wrapped up with a panel of Boston-area teens talking about books and libraries. The teens were all avid readers and library users, so it wasn’t too shocking to hear their favorite thing about their local branch library is the books. They didn’t have much to say about using computers/technology at their library, despite being asked some very leading questions by the panel moderator…after a day spent thinking specifically about the possibilities that technology could offer readers, all the teens strongly stated they would not like to read a book on their cell phone, as the screen is way too small. It would have been interesting to see some other teen library users on this panel who may not see the library primarily as a place to get their favorite book. When asked what the teens’ idea of a perfect librarian would be, some of the answers included: “one who give us cookies” (yay free food!), “nice, helpful, cheerful,” “quirky,” and “someone who doesn’t shush you!”
The teen panel was a great end to a day full of ideas and networking. The school librarians among the audience were very happy that the preconference included their point of view, as many felt it can be hard to apply theories that work in public libraries to a school library situation.
Despite the few kinks in the day, I was happy to attend the YALSA preconference at Midwinter, thanks again OYAN!