Katie Sundstrom’s Overview of:
Teen Technology at the Public Library
2012 MLA Conference
Presenters: Marika Staloch, Debbie Willms, Kathy Korum,
Marcus Lowry, Amy Boese
What do you think of when you are trying to connect teens
and technology at your library?  Maybe
your first thought goes to video games, say the Xbox 360, the PS3, or the Wii,
because what else could possibly interest that young crowd?  Or perhaps you are thinking from a more
professional standpoint of ereaders, ipads, and smartboards.  Well, what if I told you that none of that is
really what your teens need or want; you’d be shocked, correct?  Well then, you are just going to have to be
shocked.  As it turns out, what teens
want the most, and what they need the most, is a mentor relationship.
Now, I’m not going to go into detail on how to set-up a
solid mentor relationship, because that isn’t what this session was all about;
it’s about technology, after all. 
However, the one big, recurring theme from this session was that no
matter what technology you tempt teens with, no matter how new or cool it is,
and no matter how carefully you have planned and advertised your technology
programs, they quite simply aren’t going to work with the teen crowd unless you
take the time to build up a mentoring relationship with them as well.  For a good technology program to work, you
need to have a steady relationship with the kids, not just bring in a series of
one-time presenters.  You need to create
a safe space for them to learn and share their work in, a place to receive
positive feedback.  When you have this
solid relationship with your teens, you will be able to learn what interests
them specifically, and can take the time to direct their interests individually.  Also, by following through with this mentor
relationship, you will be able to grow those teens into good future mentors;
now, wouldn’t that be a good thing!
Now that we have covered the big, main theme from the
program, onto the technology!
Unsurprisingly, the presenters strongly recommend that
you collaborate with a number of local organizations.  While some of these have probably already
occurred to you (area schools, community TV, community radio), one organization
you may have overlooked is your local parks and recreation department.  Now you are thinking, ‘what does the parks
and recreation department have to do with technology?’.  Well, it turns out that parks and recreation
is into outreach as well, including outreach to teens.  In fact, they have funding for outreach,
which they are happy to combine with library funding for joint
programming.  Together, the St. Paul
Public Library and the St. Paul Parks and Recreation department have created a
permanent physical teen learning lab, a mobile teen learning lab (which moves
between three libraries and a rec center), and are in the process of creating a
virtual teen learning lab.  Believe it or
not, Parks and Recreation can be a great help when it comes to connecting teens
to technology.  While we might not all
have the funding and resources of St. Paul, it wouldn’t hurt to check in with
your local Parks and Recreation department.
And now what you have really been waiting for – a list of
free websites that your teens may enjoy playing with, and that you can center
programming on:
http://scratch.mit.edu/  (good for creating video games)
(also good for creating video games, a step up from scratch)
http://support.theflip.com/en-us/home  (good for creating videos)
http://www.weebly.com/  (create your own website)
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/  (you can make your own podcasts)
http://pixlr.com/  (this is a photo editor, but can also be used
for digital art)
http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/  (use this to make 3D models)
http://www.makerbot.com/  (3D printer – not free to buy, or to print
things, but it is cool)
Okay, so maybe you weren’t spending your days dreaming of
a quick and easy list of free websites for teen technology programming, but I
have decided to gift you with it anyway. 
Now take that list on over to your local Parks and Rec department, and start
that important discussion on what programs you’d like to dedicate yourselves to
and what technology to pool your resources for. 
And don’t forget – talk to your teens! 
Treat them like real human beings, sharing interests and ideas, not just
talking at them or asking endless questions that they probably don’t know how
to answer themselves.  And don’t leave
them behind; remember, none of this is going to work without a strong, steady
relationship with them from the start – you are mentors now!