The Importance of Youth Access to Technology in Libraries

How does access to technology (or lack thereof) in school and public libraries impact teens' learning?

About The Speaker(s)

Jack Martin has worked in public libraries since the age of thirteen when his mom volunteered him to work at his local library in Cornelia, Georgia. Jack first got his feet wet in the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) as a committee member of the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team. After that he served on the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award committee. Following that he served on YALSA's award winning Board of Directors from 2010-11 before becoming President in 2012. You can follow him on Twitter at @yalsapresident or @jacksondevious.

Craig Watkins studies young people's social and digital media behaviors. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, in the departments of Radio-Television-Film, Sociology, and the Center for African and African American Studies. Craig is also a Faculty Fellow for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to serving as the Principal Investigator of the Connected Learning Research Network project "The Digital Edge," he is working to design and pilot new learning initiatives in both out-of-school and in-school settings. You can Follow him on Twitter at @scraigwatkins.

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Resources

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (06:40) There are over 40 million teenagers in [the U.S.] today. And statistics show that 1 in 4 of those teenagers don't have access to technology (whether they can't afford it or they just don't have access). That's 10 million teenagers who can't go online. If nothing else, that's an alarm call to school and public libraries.
  • (10:50) I think that librarians bring mediation: "I can provide a safe place for you to experiment...outside of the formal school setting."
  • (13:25) I think that libraries have always been the place where we can all discover who we are...A lot of information now is online...and not everyone can afford to have access to that information...Libraries level that playing field.
  • (16:06) Many of the library faculty...are facing a "catch-up" process around the fast-changing nature of these tools. One of the concerns I have is: how do we support the needs of the library faculty on their learning curve?
  • (19:47) One point I wanted to make from the [NTIA] report is that it...tries to give us a sense of where members of households are likely to go if they do not have access to broadband at home. Libraries rank quite high...
  • (20:37) Does anyone have any thoughts or reflections about how libraries might be able to function--not only as a place where kids can access technology--but also access the opportunities, the communities, the literacies, the ecologies that support their ability to be makers and doers of things in their communities that can give them a sense of fulfillment and efficacy?
  • (21:11) Access to technology is really important to kids, but we all know they don't come in with built-in skills. So, having adult or peer support who can help them learn how to use technologies to become makers and doers and creators is also really, really important.
  • (23:59) I think that part of the professional development experience that librarians and mentors that work in youth media programs need to do is explore that trajectory: how kids' interest in popular culture can be mobilized toward deepening their communication skills, deepening their critical thinking skills. But, also, connect back to discovering new interests.
  • (26:25) The answer is not just to take technology and say, "Here, kids. Go for it!" It's about providing guidance, it's about the whole adult-mentor-role model piece that's happening in YOUmedia.
  • (29:08) What's going on right now is a redefinition of the concept of "literacy"...Librarians are passionate about delivering those skills of accessing, analyzing, composing, reflecting, and taking action in community.
  • (31:10) What do you do when there are other groups or physical spaces in the area that offer similar services? Partnerships are great, but they don't always happen...
  • (31:43) The great thing about libraries is that everyone feels comfortable going in there (usually)...There's something about the open doors of the library where you know you can just go in and sit down and...can just "be" that teens really seem to gravitate towards and respect.
  • (37:18) Libraries are now trying to redefine where they are and what they are. When we think about bringing in these collaborations, or when we think about bringing in these partners...we have to be really careful because we have to figure out "Where do these collaborators and where do these outside partners...fit in inside a library mission?"
  • (38:45) When we think about equity in the world today...how do we begin to think about how libraries factor into this equity challenge?
  • (41:34) I have a question about the relationship between the K-12 library and the public library. Where are the opportunities for collaboration around the digital divide/equity question?
  • (43:50) Is [charging fees for youth media programs] a strategy or solution that we would want to encourage robust experimentation with in the teen library arena, or is that something we feel skeptical or critical about?
  • (48:08) Can you scale a YOUmedia project down to something manageable for a small library or a library that's picking how to spend its budget? And what kind of communities of practice are out there that librarians can take advantage of?
  • (55:06) What positive examples or stories can we share with our community about how digital media access opened up learning and/or other kinds of opportunities for teens that you might want to share?

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List of Hangout Participants

  • Jack Martin - President of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), 2012-2013
  • Craig Watkins - Moderator, Professor at the University of Texas-Austin, and Principal Investigator for the Connected Learning Research Network
  • Renee Hobbs - Professor and Founding Director of the Harrington School of Communication & Media at the University of Rhode Island
  • Marijke Visser - Assistant Director of the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy
  • Kiley Larson - Postdoctoral Researcher for the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub
  • Ally Godina - Outreach Services Manager for the Clearview Library District in Colorado

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