Teen Tech Week Connects Libraries, Teens

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By Steve Zalusky

Today's libraries offer much more than books.

Enter your library and you will encounter a dazzling array of technology. CDs, DVDs and audiobooks are available for checkout. So are laptop computers and even e-readers.

Library users are taking full advantage of these resources. You will find people using the computers to conduct research, create resumes and complete homework assignments. Not to mention accessing their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Even more important, though, is that you will find library staff consisting of trusted professionals who will not only guide people on how to use the technology, but also to use it in a safely and effectively.

This is especially important when it comes to teens.

March 6-12, libraries throughout the country are celebrating Teen Tech Week, a national initiative of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The initiative is aimed at teens, librarians, educators, parents and other concerned adults and highlights nonprint resources at the library.

The 2011 theme — Mix and Mash @ your library — focuses on encouraging teens to use library resources to express their creativity by developing their own unique online content and safely sharing it using online collaborative tools.

The events planned for this year are not only tech savvy, but also fun.

The San Jose Public Library is holding a battle of the bands, in which teens will be posting performances on social networking sites and submitting their entries. As part of the contest, the library system has been making three branches available for recording sessions. Entries are posted online

The Alleghany County (Penn.) library system, at its Westernport branch, is celebrating with a gaming night in which guests will explore the new XBOX360 Kinect. And at its Washington Street branch, teens ages 13 thru 17 will learn how to use free software from Animoto to create their own movies.

The St. Louis County Library will celebrate Teen Tech Week 2011 with an entire month of programming in March. This year’s line up includes podcast workshops, DJ Hero competitions, an internet scavenger hunt, techno art projects and more.

Going with a Harry Potter theme, at the St. Johns County (Fla.) Public Library's Ponte Vedra Beach Branch, middle and high school teens will help build a LEGO Hogwarts Castle for the library's children's department.

At the Cranston (R.I.) Public Library, teens in middle and high school will pick up Bingo cards, receiving a prize for completing a row, column or diagonal line. Each spot on the card indicates technologically related activities at the library, such as creating a playlist of favorite songs at playlist.com or commenting on a photo on Facebook.

And demonologist Carl Johnson, who appeared on the television series "Ghost Hunters," and medium Dina Palazini, creator of Beyond the Veil Paranormal, will present the technology used in ghost hunting, such as special lighting techniques. 

Linda Archetto, children and youth services librarian, said the library has participated in Teen Tech Week since its inception in 2007.

"We have had a good response to it," she said. "We have had one year where they learned about database searching with one of our reference librarians."

Archetto has seen the use of technology blossom since she started as an audio/video librarian in 1983, when computers were just coming into vogue at the library.

"Now there are so many technologies that we use. The phone has become so important, and the phone linking with the Internet now, downloading books into Kindles," she said.

Recent studies from Pew Internet & American Life Project show that, on average, 8-18 year olds spend more than 6 hours per day using technology including TV, DVDs, cell phones, video games, audio media, and computers. 93 percent of teens regularly use the Internet, and three-quarters of American teens send text messages every day.

Sol Hirsch, director of the Alachua County (Fla.) Library District, recognizes that technology can be a gateway to library use. On the library's website, he said, "Getting teens into libraries is essential. Offering gaming, access to computers, and online homework help is important, and letting them know that we can help educate them on how to use these resources will get them in the door. Once they’re in the door, we can show teens that with technology at the library, anything is possible.” 

At the Monroe County (Mich.) Library System, web designer Paula Loop said  the library has held a Teen Tech Expo, as seen in the video below.

Loop said Teen Tech Week showcases what teens can do with technology.

She said local community colleges also participate, suggesting to teens possible career applications.

Loop said the library has experts demonstrate uses of technology ranging from how to make stop motion videos and use music editing software to how to find books through online communities.

They are also provided with information on how to stay safe online, she said.

The library has two technology trainers that hold classes on everything from YouTube and Facebook to programs like Word and Excel. 

"The teens really enjoy (Teen Tech Week)," Loop said. "They ask a ton of questions. That is the best part. They are really interested. That makes it worthwhile."

Far from detracting from the use of books, Archetto said computers are actually working hand-in-hand with them.

"The same people who are reading are the same people who are using the technology. It goes hand-in-hand," she said. "When they go on the computer, they're doing things with words or visual literacy. (When they go to a website), they're reading something. They're taking that information and processing it. And when they do the research at the library, they use both the book and the computer. They  mesh that together. They actually work hand-in-hand."

In this environment, the librarian is a useful guide to a somewhat daunting online research environment. "We show them some of the other things that they're not aware of," Archetto said. "We tell them how Google ranks the sites. A librarian can help them in processing their information and deciding what's most useful to them - what's more valuable."


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