Lessons From a Successful Teen Program

by Dara Lohnes

Tina Cherry was originally contracted by the Jerome Public Library to administer an emerging literary program for preschool aged children and their caregivers. Inspired by one of her teen daughter’s complaints that “the library has programs for everyone but teens,” she founded the teen version of that program in 2003. She researched similar programs and pitched the idea to then-library director, Susan Jacobson, who accepted her proposal.

Cherry was given permission to start her program and hand off the duties of the pre-school program to the children’s librarian. She conducted her research on library listservs and the Web, describing her findings as “a bunch of earnest libraries with poorly attended programs that were designed by librarians, and a few success stories with the common theme of the teens of the programs taking the lead.” So she set to model her program on the successful ones. When choosing teens for the committee, Cherry selected a “wildly popular teacher to hand-pick students and break the ice.” Lori Cottle, on staff at the Jerome Middle School, fit this description and was also a good friend of hers. Cottle helped by talking to past and present students and convinced them to attend the first meetings. Cottle gathered a mix of students who would be good for the new program and who were likely to benefit.

Cherry’s main responsibilities included building and maintaining a young adult section in the library and working with a board of teens known as the YAC to develop programs. During her first meeting with the original group of teens, Tina simply had what she termed a “paper agenda” designed to gather information from the teens about what they desired from their program. The most important detail about this agenda was that emphasis. Cherry did not run the program; she was purely the volunteer liaison, facilitator, and advocate between the teens, the community, and library board. During the first year, “some things went well and some, though they had great potential, bombed.” It all depended on what the teens saw as important enough to follow through with.

Cherry acted as a teen advocate and community educator regarding library and community teen services. She coordinated fundraising events and participated in writing grants to help fund the library and young adult section of the library. When she left the program after six years her title was “Digital Native Services Coordinator,” which is the equivalent of a young adult department head. Her most important partners in the program, she claims, were the teens. As a group, they were the ones that had the power over the success of a program.

According to Cherry’s observations, there are three aspects of the Jerome project that made the YAC program successful in the community. The first aspect was that the core group of teens that formed the YAC had the most sway with their peers. “The most brilliant programming might get no to low attendance if there are not teens telling their friends ‘I’m going, you should come too,’ no matter where and how you advertise the programs,” explained Tina.  The second successful aspect was that the teens themselves decided what programs would be popular with their peers and most of the time, they either came up with the ideas completely on their own or modified ideas from national and regional groups. Third, the majority of the programs were not specifically book related. Tina justifies this with her philosophy that in order to attract the teen age group, they need to know that they are welcome patrons and valued for their presence. “I think that when libraries feel that they need to relate everything they do to literacy and education, they’re putting the cart before the horse. You’d be surprised at how many books I managed to push out of the library one on one!”

In regards to her role in the program versus the students of the YAC’s role, Tina once again explained how it is the teens that have the power. She acted at the preparator for the programs, but all the brain power was from the YAC group that specific year. Some groups were able to come up with a greater percentage of original ideas than others; she would fill in the gaps with researched and gathered ideas that they would work with. In the end though, the teens chose which programs were implemented and which ones were not. “As far as preparing programs, it depended on the content.”  For instance, programs such as Survivor in a Day and Murder Mystery Dinner Parties had to be prepared without teen help, or the helpers could not participate. But programs such as creating a Banned Books Week display or the National Gaming Day at Your Library were almost all completely teen-run. “I met a lot of young people eager to help. They were full of ideas and ready to make them happen.” Overall she described her role versus the teen’s role for the program with humility. “In the whole scheme of things, the teen’s role in creating programming was to dream, do, teach me, and bring friends. My role was to listen, learn, work for teens, advocate, and protect their right to be there.”

The politics that surrounded encouraging the presence of teens in the library were part of the difficulties that Tina faced while working on the programs. “To be blunt, ignorant adults were a near-constant issue. There were Friends of the Library who said things such as ‘do we even want teens in the library?’ and ‘the teens are too noisy, kick them out.’ There are adults in libraries who do not understand teens and their actions….There were also a few teens who succeeded in rolling back hard won progressive policies, but really, the most difficult teens weren’t as difficult as some closed-minded adults.”

The directors she worked under made her job easier. Tina describes herself as “very lucky to have worked under two fantastic directors” (Susan Jacobson and Laura Burnett) while she was a part of the YAC programming. She also advises that “it isn’t an easy job. Teens need someone passionate about serving them in the library setting; someone who is willing to strive to learn about them and willing to fight for their rights to library services and programs that suit their developmental stages.”

The most rewarding part of Tina’s position for her was being able to provide a place that is “less structured than school or sports and safer than someplace without supervision” where teens could spend time with other teens. She is still in contact with many of the teens that were a part of her program, which she attributes to her role not as an authoritative figure but as a facilitator. From the beginnings of the program where everything teen-related was associated with the YAC, the program was able to gain more support and grow. With that program growth, Tina’s position as advisor for the YAC grew too. That is when she says her most rewarding experiences occurred. Some examples are when she was able to send home the “perfect book” for each reader by doing what she calls “booktalking.” She got to know a non-reading teen and found a book for him to try reading just for her and had him come back saying; “I (he) loved it! Is it a series?!” Finally, Tina said her favorite part was “giving troublemakers meaningful work in the library, instead of suspending them, and watching them take ownership and becoming leaders in modeling respectful behavior for their friends.”

When asked if given another opportunity to work with a YAC program she replied that she “would in a heartbeat. I miss watching teens grow and learn and become themselves.” In Tina’s last couple years of heading the program, the Jerome Library was “brimming with teens after school until five or six. The library was the place to be and I was the trusted adult who liked teens and had a good sense of what they might like to do while hanging at the library with their friends.” There were projects out on tables to work on with “How To” books as guides, literary scavenger hunts, and quiet study places available.

Her biggest piece of advice for someone who finds themselves working for a similar program focused on teens is “if you feed them, they will come. But after they come, make sure it is their program, not yours.”

Dara Lohnes is a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, studying humanities and fine arts with emphasis in museum and library science related coursework. She was born, raised and graduated high school in Jerome, Idaho and was one of the founding members of the YAC program under Tina Cherry.

Scribes, Scripts, and Books [Review]

reviewed by Lizzy Walker

Scribes, Scripts, and Books: The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance
Leila Avrin
Chicago: American Library Association, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-8389-1038-2, Paperback
356 pages, $50.00

Leila Avrin gives an extensive and informative exploration into book arts in her book Scribes, Scripts, and Books: The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance. Her experience as a faculty member at the School of Library and Archive Studies at the University of Jerusalem and her academic credentials (an MLS and a doctorate in Art History) add to the content between the covers of this book.

Much of the book is devoted to the history of book arts from the ancient world to modern times. There are chapters devoted to writing and the alphabet of different cultures, manuscript illumination, Greek and Roman books, and more. Avrin discusses materials used by people in each era to create their tomes, the sociopolitical climates of the regions and how this affected the book arts, and numerous other aspects of this interesting topic. She briefly touches on papermaking and bookbinding, which continue despite the emergence of the ebook.

The plates published within the book would benefit from color reproductions, as illuminated manuscripts are very vibrant in color. One chapter in particular that would be enriched by color plates is the chapter on the Islamic book with its intricate images and writings.

Scribes, Script, and Books would be a fantastic addition to any library or private collection with an interest in the book arts.

Lizzy is currently working on her MLIS with the University of North Texas SWIM cohort and works as a Library Assistant 2 at the Boise State Albertsons Library.

Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark [Review]

reviewed by Erica Littlefield

Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark 
Cynthia Compton (Author), Jeff Noble (Illustrator), F. Kent Compton (Cartographer) and Melissa Compton (Designer)
CreateSpace, 2011
ISBN: 9781456510312, Softcover
122 pages, $15.95

When Idaho teacher Cynthia Compton looked for a classroom resource on Lewis and Clark’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage, she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted. so she decided to write one herself.  The result of this resourceful teacher’s work is her book Run the River with Lewis and Clark.

Compton’s book is a chronological account of Lewis and Clark’s expedition from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, starting with an explanation of the political climate surrounding the trip and a brief discussion of the Louisiana Purchase. The discussion of the journey itself focuses mostly on the company’s interactions with Indians and wild animals, but Compton gives enough details so that the reader gets a well-rounded picture of what Lewis, Clark, and their crew experienced on their journey.

The main source material Compton used for the book was The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Gary E. Moulton, ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1998), and Compton includes numerous excerpts from the explorers’ journals. She also includes snippets from letters written by other members of the expedition, including John Ordway, as well as quotes from Thomas Jefferson.  Included maps and Jeff Nobel’s black and white illustrations add visual interest to the text, and a bibliography gives interested readers the opportunity to learn more.

Compton states that her intended audience for Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark includes students, families, and classroom teachers. Compton’s straightforward writing style and pages with plenty of white space make the book accessible to students. One of the book’s strengths is the inclusion of little details that students will find fascinating. For example, the author discusses what supplies were needed to start the expedition, explains that they could at first travel only about 10 miles a day, and mentions how they celebrated Christmas in 1804 by simply shooting off some of their firearms. Compton also begins each chapter with a paragraph directed at the reader, asking them to imagine themselves as part of the expedition and think about how they would handle certain situations. These asides would be perfect discussion-starters for a classroom. Compton is also developing a teacher’s manual for the book that will be available to order on the book’s website, www.runtherivers.com.

Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark is a solid choice for all school and public libraries. It would be especially helpful for 4th grade teachers and students as they study Idaho history.

Erica Littlefield is a Youth Services Department Head at Twin Falls Public Library. A native Idahoan, Erica is currently pursuing her MLIS degree online as part of the SWIM Cohort through the University of North Texas.

Treaties and Treachery [Review]

reviewed by Christopher N. Fox

Treaties and Treachery: The Northwest Indians’ Resistance to Conquest
Kurt R. Nelson
Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2011
978-0-87004-499-1, paperback
xiv, 280 pages, $18.95

“History is written by the victors.”

While on its face this is obvious – who else would have the power and means to write the story of a culture or civilization but those who became dominant? – the deeper meaning of this oft-used axiom is that the history written will often glorify the victors while glossing over the means by which that victory was won, and the sometimes unsavory means by which the vanquished were conquered. In Treaties and Treachery: The Northwest Indians’ Resistance to Conquest, author Kurt R. Nelson attempts to write the history of the vanquished, thus providing balance to a story often overlooked. In doing so, he successfully makes what happened to the Indians even more compelling, and adds to the weighty pathos that is this history of Indian-white relations.

Nelson sets out to prove two fundamental arguments:  first, that depravity and atrocities were committed on both sides; and second, that the history of this conflict, which was particularly hot in the Oregon Territory between 1853-1859 for various reasons he explains, continues to influence and shape events even today.  The first premise is amply proven through detailed accounts of the many battles in the various theaters of war during this period, the interactions between the two clashing cultures, and the various, and often conflicting, motivations and agendas of the people, personalities, and politics involved.  The starkest example of this, Nelson relates, is the difference in philosophy between the territorial leaders and militias and their federal counterparts, particularly the leaders of the regular U.S. Army.  The former group favored annihilation of the various Indian tribes, while the latter on the whole were more sympathetic towards their opponents and attempted to deal with them fairly through negotiation and enforcement of the treaties, something the territorial officials never intended to do. As a result, Indian aggression and atrocities stemmed more from extreme frustration and too much experience with a long trail of broken promises and mixed messages.

Nelson’s second hypothesis, that the history of this volatile period of time continues to influence the region today, suffers from a lack of attention and detail compared to the first premise.  While stressed in the book’s introduction, the question of how the past influences the present is never answered.  Only in the book’s final few pages is this issue even mentioned again, and then it is left as a question to be answered by the reader, with no evidence or data with which to answer it. In contrast, Brian Schofield, in his book Selling Your Father’s Bones: America’s 140-Year War Against the Nez Perce Tribe (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009; reviewed in vol. 59, no. 2 of The Idaho Librarian) offers a complete, compelling, and transcendent argument that the history created in the 19th century between whites and Indians is very much alive and inseparable from life in the Pacific Northwest today.

Aside from editorial mistakes and inconsistencies, and problems with the writer’s style and organization, this book successfully tells a story that is necessary and long overdue. It is not a smooth read, but would fit well in any academic library or public library with a focus on the history of the Pacific Northwest. It definitely offers keen insight into the intractable problem of Indian-white relations during a very pivotal time in American history.

Christopher N. Fox is Catalog Librarian at BYU-Idaho McKay Library. He also enjoys his duties as a subject selector for U.S. History and popular fiction.

Memory Wall [Review]

reviewed by Amy Vecchione

Memory Wall
Anthony Doerr
New York: Scribner, 2010, 2011
978-1-4391-8284-0 (pbk.)
267 pages, $14.00 (trade paperback)

Idaho’s own Anthony Doerr is widely recognized for being a distinctive author of literary fiction. His newest book, a collection of short stories entitled Memory Wall, exceeds expectations by carrying the reader into terrifically imagined stories. Each short story showcases a powerfully vivid yet cerebral plot, evocative of experiences common in this modern era. The stories address issues of our contemporary global society such as aging, memory, complex family structures, and infertility. Doerr draws conclusions in each story that are uncanny and unpredictable, leaving the reader to progress through each as quickly as possible to find out what will happen.

In the title story, “Memory Wall,” Doerr takes us to Cape Town, South Africa, in the year 2024. The main character’s memories have been recorded onto a sort of cartridge machine that allows her play them over and over again, losing herself in her own past. Her memory is so poor that she needs a wall of reminders to keep her up-to-date on her current situation. The tour that the reader takes to the ending of this story is enthralling.

Another story, “Afterworld,” speaks to the pain experienced during the exodus of individuals in Germany to concentration camps before World War II, and the way later generations contextualize the events. The main character is bound to her past, hallucinating her time in an orphanage, and some other strange places, during episodes of epileptic seizures. She is living in a surreal state of liminality. The following exchange between the survivor and her grandson represents the central theme of Memory Wall:

“That’s in your head,” Robert says. He twirls his father’s car keys around his index finger. “The doctor says what you see is only real in your head.”

“Real in my head?” whispers Esther. “Isn’t everything that’s real only real in our heads?” (211)

Doerr asks readers to consider this throughout the book, as each story’s characters seem to live within their own heads crafting their own interesting realities. This fantastic theme is reminiscent of a plethora of David Lynch television series and movies, such as Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, in which the main characters are all living within a reality of their own creation.

Memory Wall consists of a series of stories which transport us from our everyday lives into stories that help us understand our own experiences. This deep, wonderful, and transformative book is highly recommended for all libraries. Mature audiences will enjoy this book, as will all fans of intelligent, literary fiction.

Amy Vecchione is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library.

Imprisoned in Paradise [Review]

reviewed by Alison Perry

Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp
Asian American Comparative Collection Research Report, Number 3
Priscilla Wegars
Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-89301-550-3, Soft cover
53 pages, $19.95

Priscilla Wegars, Ph.D., an historian and historical archeologist, details the two-year history of an internment camp near Kooskia, Idaho, in the 1940s. Before World War II, the camp was designed to house those involved in building the Lewis-Clark Highway (U.S. Highway 12) connecting Washington, Idaho, and Montana. In the book’s introduction, Wegars explains the difference between this camp and another World War II camp outside of Minidoka, Idaho.

The Minidoka camp in southern Idaho was handled by the War Relocation Authority as one of ten “concentration camps” (later called “incarceration camps”) created to hold Japanese-American citizens. The Kooskia camp, in contrast, was an Immigration and Naturalization Service/Department of Justice site designed to hold “aliens” identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as potentially dangerous to national security due to our state of war with Japan, Germany, and Italy. These aliens, for the most part, were first-generation immigrants to the United States. As a “prisoner of war” camp, the Kooskia camp internees were accorded rights and privileges designated by the Geneva Convention. They could work for wages and had better living quarters, food, and medical attention than those in incarceration camps. In many instances, the Kooskia internees were first-generation Japanese immigrants who were relatives of second-generation Japanese-American families interned at the incarceration camps, including the one in Minidoka. The title of the book, suggested by a line in one of the internee’s letters to a relative, illustrates the irony of the camp’s beautiful mountain location.

Until reading this book, I was not aware of a World War II-era camp in northern Idaho, nor did I know about the different levels of camps that were created to handle those considered enemies of the United States during World War II. Imprisoned in Paradise describes the progression of the Kooskia camp from a Civilian Conservation Camp (CCC) to a satellite work camp for federal prisoners, and then to a camp for detainees seen as POWs during the war. The Bureau of Prisons needed to close some of its work camps due to lack of appropriations and, coincidentally, the government was looking for places to house “enemy aliens” identified throughout the United States by the  FBI. To my surprise, I learned that some of the “enemy aliens” even came from Mexico, Panama, and Peru due to U.S. treaties with other countries! Latin American Japanese internees were removed from the countries to which they had relocated years before World War II and brought to the United States,where they did not even know the language.

Wegars provides details of the lives of certain internees before the war, during their internment, and in the years following the war. She traces, when possible, which internees were sent back to Japan in prisoner-of-war exchanges. In many cases, these were men who chose to leave Japan and live in the United States or other nearby countries from the late 1890s to the time immediately preceding World War II. They had established their identities in their new country and, as with many immigrants, might not have had many ties with their “old country.”

Imprisoned in Paradise documents an unpleasant period of wartime America. Pictures and footnotes illustrate extraordinary research into government documents, newspaper articles, letters, diaries and detective work to seek out stories of specific men held in the camp. The author interviewed families of the internees as well as those of the Americans in charge of the camp, including directors, guards, and other employees from local Kooskia families. This is an enlightening study of the Kooskia internment camp, and I appreciate the effort involved in bringing a little-known piece of Idaho history to light. It is a must-read that provides further understanding of what can occur, especially during a period of national emergency, when those from seemingly different cultures are targeted as threats to a society.

This book would be useful to anyone interested in studying Idaho or American history during World War II, or for those interested in Asian-American history. It could be used for high school and higher education courses.

Alison Perry is the librarian at the law firm Hawley, Troxell, Ennis & Hawley, LLP, in Boise.