Category Archives: Ideas

Crokinole – Not just for Mennonites anymore!


Awhile back I was listening to a podcast about gaming in libraries. Commentator Scott Nicholson was talking about dexterity games. To my surprise he started talking about how Crokinole was worth considering because the boards, which are usually rather ornate and pricey, are finally being produced at a reasonable cost. (To jump to a price list for Crokinole boards click here)
Continue reading

Cheap Holiday Thrills

First of all, I know this isn’t a “YA topic” but at least it’s a library topic, so ease up on the judgements, Scroogmeister! Moving on…

Figure 1. (click to enlarge)

The faculty of architecture and engineering are having their annual Christmas party in the campus lounge this weekend. On my way to work I saw them setting up the usual gaudy X-mas trinketry, in mid-scoff I was silenced by the presence of Santa’s Chimnery Maze (See figure 1). I’m an adult (legally and in apperance) but I definately wanted to give it it a go… I’m a skinny Man so I could have fit, unfortunately I didn’t have the 20$ one of the decorators claimed was the price for adults. I briefly toyed witht he idea of pushing him down and escaping into the maze, but remembered certain legal expectations of being an adult and decided just to take some pics and be on my way.

Continue reading

A sign of the times…

Hey folks,

I was biking around Halifax today and noticed this sign outside the King’s View Academy which is a private school beside a major throughfare road into the downtown and is about two blocks from a Public School, Oxford School. The two schools may not be in heated competition for students as there is only a two year overlap in their respective services. The Oxford public school serves children from preschool to grade 9 while the Kingsview academy serves grades 7 through 12.

Anyway the sign was striking for two main reasons. Firstly, public schools, especially high schools (the particular setting King’s View is trying to pinch students from) are often portrayed in the media as being scary places. I tried to find reliable data measuring the extent of “safety in public schools” but did not have any luck. I did however find this graph that may help to explain why some feel public schools are hotbeds of bedlam: The highest crime rate for accused people occurs between the ages of 16-19. I stress that this is a chart of people ACCUSED of crime. Statistics on convictions where not categorized with the list of the accused.

This could be a result of agist accusers, or a final rush to the dark side before the protection of being a minor is forever lost. Who knows. One thing that is CLEAR is that the crime rate in general and for youths is dropping, continuosly.

Police reported that nearly 153,000 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of a crime in 2010, almost 15,000 fewer than the previous year. The youth crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime committed by youth, declined by 7%.
(Statistics Canada, 2010)

The second reason this sign got my attention is because I had a macabre sort of “A-HA!” moment. If the private school is using the perceived threat of the public school environment to attract new members then libraries could potentially do the same.

Of course public libraries should NOT use this tactic… rather the opposite that libraries and public schools should form respectful relationships. This is not to say that public libraries can’t use the perception of high schools as dangerous and libraries as safe spots to their advantage. If we can convince the bullied, the strugglers, the bored, etc. to hang out in libraries we can create a positive feedback loop and help schools address issues they may not be aware of or help them deal with issues they are already working with. The presence of homework centers for teens in public libraries is an example of how this is already happening. Check out this article to get ideas on how to start or improve a homework center in your library:

Brannon, S., & Hildreth, W. (January 01, 2011). Teen Homework Centers – Minimum Resources for Most Budgets. Texas Library Journal, 87, 1, 19-25.

What the King’s View sign impressed upon me was the reality that librarians and public school officials need to work together to a) decrease the perceived threat of public school attendance and b) share the social responsibility of teaching, guiding, and entertaining students. One way this can be done is something I’ve been reading a lot about lately; the Co-hosting of events between schools and libraries. If a school production (play, musical, art exhibit, spoken word, science fair, etc) where to be hosted at a local public library the burden of organizing and staffing the event can be shared between librarians and public school officials. As well, it allows patrons who have no previous connection to public schools and their populations to see tweens and teenagers participating positively in their lives and communities.

I know it’s one thing to come up with an idea, but an entirely different matter bringing that idea to fruition in reality. However, in a world where schools are adopting the attack ad mentality I think it’s important to at least think about solutions.

Impact via Video

This morning I read an interesting article in this morning’s Halifax’s Chronicle Herald. In an article called, “Digital video makes impact in classrooms” Joanna Sanders Bobiash is being highlighted for her efforts to incorporate mixed media into her teaching style.

Forgive me for taking the stance that it is common knowledge that technology should (possibly even MUST ?) be used to teach the current generation and those to come. Some will disagree, but I suspect that the YA librarians out there who give at least two hoots have all used various types of media in their programming for youth (and younger) patrons. So, I’m not here to proselytize, but to point out one specific concept that Joanne learned at Google Teacher Academy that I think would be a great concept for Librarians to use as well. This is the concept of “flip teaching”.

This is how the article describes flip teaching,

It’s when teachers film themselves explaining a concept, or assign an educational video and have the student watch it for homework so they’re actively thinking about the subject before it’s explored in class the following day.

This is the way I see flip teaching being used in a library setting: Have the librarian(s), library technician(s), teen volunteer(s), or whoever is going to be running a new program produce a short video, 2-5min sounds reasonable. Try and get participants to sign-up for a program and provide an e-mail address for contact, or alternately put out an e-mail sign-up sheet at the next teen drop-in session and tell people it’s just so the library can send them videos of upcoming programs and events they might be interested in.

If done properly a video introduction to the potential participants of a program will be interesting enough to avoid falling into the spam category of their minds and can be a good way to start building a good relationship between programmers and participants.

Public Libraries Teen Pages

Previously they were the most neglected age group of patrons, but service for teenagers is now becoming an integral focus for public libraries, and what better way to reach out to and interact with teens than through the web. I’d like to take a brief aside from discussing physical material to talk about outreach and access from the libraries website.

Hennepin County Public Library (HCPL)

As you may have noticed one of my Links of Interest takes people to a page of HCPL’s website where teens can post their own reading lists. The HCPL is know for being ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing technology, and their teen page is no exception. As you can see from the screen shot they have a very capable web designer working on this site. It is very visually appealing, and I am mildly surprised to find that one of the first descriptive words that comes to me when trying to describe this site is…cool! In addition to which a quick scan of the teen page and it’s links contain some valuable, though out content. Beauty and brains are a winning combination! However, I feel this site is a little too cluttered and with so many visuals I suspect that teens may just click on images that appeal to them rather than taking the time to read all the headings and figure out what exactly is going in in the site.

This clustering of images is contrasted against theMilton Public Library (MPL). As you can see from the screenshot of the MPL their teen page still has similar content as the HCPL page has, however I find the MPL’s page to be MUCH easier to access. There are still visuals, as any good website needs, but they are small and serve more to enhance the written content rather than overpowering it.

These are both pages from libraries that physically exist (which means they have funding of some kind beyond what ads can generate… unlike this next site). When searching for Library sites for teens I stumbled across theAwesome Library (online only) and I have to say it is the site I am using as an example of what NOT to do! While the first two sites have comparable screen shots of their homepage the awesome library homepage for teens is a big turnoff. It’s too bad because the content isn’t terrible. There is clearly an effort here to provide kids with up to date, reliable info, but the site is hampered by google ads and the content isn’t always the most academic, for example I wouldn’t be overly confident in citing MSNB.com as my sole source of information.

So, some quick lesson for your Teen page of you public library:

  1. Use visuals, but don’t make the site as cluttered as a teenagers room (not all teens rooms are cluttered, I’ll admit… just 99.9% 😉 )
  2. Make the page inclusive, HCPL has random polls and the book lists for teen input and MPL has the Reader rants section.
  3. Don’t use web design that looks like it’s from the 1990’s (most teens were barely even born in that century)… I’m pointing the finger at you “Awesome” Library.