Giving More than You Get
Jessica Farrow and the Web Surfers from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
In recent months and years, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and economic uncertainty have become frequent news topics. With each new concern, though, there has also been an outpouring of love and giving from people across the world. Many have been inspired to not just give to disaster victims, but to find things they can do in their community to help positively impact those in need. As teens begin to decide what they believe and support, they may also be looking for ways to help those around them. When this is coupled with the community service requirements of high school organizations such as National Honor Society and the looming “Extracurriculars” section of college applications, many young adults quickly realize that they are in need of a reliable place to volunteer. While many may hope to volunteer in the library itself–and often are welcome to do so–those who work with teens on a regular basis may also want to offer some alternatives to young adults looking for a volunteer spot. From seeking to boost their college recommendations to wanting to make a positive change in their community, teens are becoming more and more eager to volunteer with organizations both locally and abroad. The Websurfers share their favorite sites for getting involved and giving back.
Through YA Eyes
5I 3R 5U
This website offers a database related to informing those viewing the site with volunteer opportunities in their area. Volunteermatch.org organizes all of their information in a well-organized, colorful, and easy to navigate interface. The website even allows you to narrow your search to get more specific results. It allows you to select the cause area for which you would like to volunteer and then select the group that you’d like to volunteer with. This would be where you would select if you want to volunteer around children or the elderly. Volunteermatch.org also directly ties you to those in charge of the different opportunities. It gives you the specific days, times, and even a small description of what you’d be doing. The website also includes personal stories of those that have given their time to help others. My favorite part about the website is that as soon as you log on it immediately gives you volunteer opportunities around you which is extremely convenient. Overall, I believe that this is an extremely useful tool for those, like me, that need to know of volunteer opportunities because I have required volunteer hours. Even if you’re just using it to better yourself, Volunteermatch.org is a great tool.—Madalynn Foley
Habitat for Humanity
5I 3R 5U
While many might think of Habitat for Humanity as an organization for adult volunteers, they also have programs and activities designed just for kids and teens. Their Youth Program pages provide ways to find Habitat for Humanity organizations near you, many of which will take teen volunteers. It also has great ways for groups like scouts or church youth groups to educate their teens on homelessness and the importance of helping through organizations like Habitat for Humanity. This includes lesson plans, games, and ways for kids and teens to get involved, like their Paper House Campaign, which helps interested teens contact their elected officials regarding homelessness. For many students, this might be the first time they’ve ever taken political action on a subject they care about, so having an easy template to help them do it is very helpful. They have a specific youth program newsletter, youth leadership conferences, and “Alternative Spring Break” opportunities where teens can spend their break helping at a Habitat site. The best part is that students don’t have to wait until college to volunteer. They offer all of these programs to high school students too. There are even instructions for ways to start Habitat for Humanity Youth chapters at your high school or college. Habitat for Humanity is looking for teen volunteers and makes it easy to get started!
5I 3R 5U
Do you want to do more for the environment, but don’t know how? Well, GoEco is the place to start. This website connects you to volunteer opportunities around the world, all of which are looking for eager eco-enthusiasts like yourself. GoEco offers volunteering positions in several fields, such as medicine, education, conservation, and humanitarian. Some current opportunities include assisting researchers collecting data on the dolphin population on a boat in Italy, or going to Laos to teach children English skills, which will help them tremendously in their futures. Just scroll through the page to check out all the different opportunities available. These programs are on the hunt for people who want to not only give back to the international community but also to have the experience of a lifetime. Not to mention that participating in adventures like these are an amazing resumé-builder, and a great way to meet people like yourself, who are passionate about the projects you care about. All of GoEco’s programs are structured to accommodate teenagers, so why not see if a life-changing adventure is in your near future?—Eliza Falk
Kudos for Library Teen Sites
While library’s teen sites can often suffer from an inability to connect with their audience, TATAL, the Teens at the Arlington Library website https://library.arlingtonva.us/explore/babies-kids-and-teens/middle-and-high-school/  and social media presence, is both teen-friendly and, in many cases, teen-driven. Their main page features large icons with appealing, diverse photos that showcase the variety of things they offer for teens. This ranges from curated teen booklists to their Teen Advisory Board/Teens Talking About Books group. Homework help and research resources are featured, as are teen events and Maker activities.
Where TATAL really shines, however, is with its blog http://tatalonline.blogspot.com/ and Tumblr http://wearetatal.tumblr.com/ . While all of the Arlington Public Library pages have, at the bottom, links to their social media, they made the choice to create a separate Tumblr page specifically for their teens. This is a wise choice since Tumblr boasts a much younger user base than most other social media sites, especially those generally used by libraries. Arlington is connecting to their teens where they are and are using this social media presence to provide teen-friendly content. They have a link directly to all their posts in which they’ve interviewed a YA author, a feature that isn’t often seen on teen sites, but which I love since it gives teens an extra connection to their favorite authors.
Their blog and Tumblr feature new titles, booklists on a theme, and book reviews by both librarians and teens. The teen reviewer pieces are some of my favorites, as they not only give teens a chance to see what their peers are reading, but also gives them a voice to talk about their likes, dislikes, and favorite finds. I was also impressed by the variety of the reviews, which range from realistic fiction to fantasy and frequently include books with diverse characters. The blog and Tumblr are also updated regularly, with weekly columns such as “Middle School Monday,” which features books aimed at the often-overlooked middle school age, and “Up and Coming,” which highlights soon to be released teen titles. The layouts of their Tumblr and blog, like the web page, is clean and straightforward, with a gray background to make images pop and relevant links clearly displayed on the side. I especially liked the clearly displayed rules at the top of each, which remind visitors that they are on a page designed for use by Middle and High Schoolers and that disrespect of others, inappropriate language, and posting of personal information are all prohibited. Libraries work hard to maintain a safe space for teens, and Arlington is working to extend this to their online spaces as well. Their teen page, blog, and Tumblr are all teen-centered, enticing, and easy to navigate, providing a friendly and inviting online space for Arlington’s young adults.
Jessica Farrow is a youth services librarian with the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University.