Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

Libraries, Music, Technology

Portland high schools take byte out of laptop use at home

There’s a lot of talk going on about the recent announcement that Portland, Maine area schools will be filtering the school issued netbooks at home in addition to while the students are in school.

Everyday here in the teen library we see anywhere from 70-100 teens everyday (last Tuesday, we saw 153 teens!) .  These teens come to our library as a meeting place and use our resources.  Many of them rely on their netbooks as their primary source of connection.  This connection includes internet access, word processing, social networking and Skype to communicate with their friends and family, and YouTube to connect them to their passions (many of them use YouTube to listen to music and watch soccer games).  These teens (many of which are immigrants from Sudan, Somalia, and Rwanda) use this connection for good.  It helps them connect with their family and friends through social networks.  It gives them access to the music and soccer they love so much, the hobbies they enjoy that keep them going.

The original article can be found here
The Portland Press Herald Opinion piece can be found here
Cory Doctorow’s response on Boing Boing can be found here

Here’s some great information that I’ve found to be very helpful in understanding teens, social media, and just how this all fits together in their lives and how librarians can help them

Teens and Social Media from the Pew Research Group
Elements of Educational Technology by  Heather Braum
Straight from the DOE: Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites by Tina Barseghian

The use of social media – from blogging to online social networking to creation of all kinds of digital material – is central to many teenagers’ lives.

Some 93% of teens use the internet, and more of them than ever are treating it as a venue for social interaction – a place where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities on the internet, up from 57% of online teens in a similar survey at the end of 2004.

Preparing teens for their future in a digital, connected world is imperative this day and age.  Technology will continue to become a larger part of our lives every day, and it is in our best interest to offer these teens access to the tools they need now to give them the best chance they have to succeed tomorrow.