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February 27, 2008 > InfoBrain: Teens, heart of the library

InfoBrain: Teens, heart of the library

By Rebecca Alcal‡

"Do teens really use the library since they can just Google for information?" I get this question a lot from people; usually people who don't spend much time in the library during after school hours. Otherwise, they would know that the opposite is true. Teens flock to their community library daily. In the Tri-Cities public libraries, it's not just about checking out books. It's also about accessing information, building community, and hanging out with friends.

Public libraries have long been conduits to information for every generation. Whether it's through books, magazines, or asking reference staff a question, the public looks to the library for all sorts of answers. In this online era, libraries have done their best to keep up with the times and teens have noticed. As soon as school lets out, teens are running to the library to grab a computer. This is their opportunity to communicate with their friends online through MySpace pages, blogs or chatting on Instant Message.

The virtual AC Library is reachable in or out of the Library from any online location. Just by clicking on the "ASK US we're here to help" icon on the AC Library home page teens can find the IM your question button. This allows them to send an instant message to a librarian and ask any question, including how to get help with homework or access the online resources. This service is available from 3-5 p.m., Monday- Thursday.

In addition, students with library cards can get free live online help with their homework every day from 1-10 p.m. just by clicking on the "Live Homework Help" icon on the Alameda County Libraries home page. However, these are not the only online experiences the Library offers teens. Information rich databases can be accessed from the AC Library home page by clicking on "Articles and Databases" under "Research" on the blue menu bar at the top of the home page. One of the many great databases for teens is the Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center is a one-stop source for information on today's hottest social issues. It features viewpoint articles, topic overviews, full-text magazine, academic journal, and newspaper articles, primary source documents, statistics, images, podcasts, and links to Web sites. New to the database are Lexile reading levels for periodicals and an integrated national and state curriculum standards search with content correlated to the standards.

When teens need help learning how to find and use the many online resources the Library offers all they need to do is stop by the information desk at any AC Library location. A reference librarian is available to show them how to get comfortable and proficient in using the virtual online AC Library.

Teens looking for fun and new friends can also find many opportunities within the County Library walls. Just check out what's happening in Newark Library. Every Friday afternoon they host the very popular program "Friday Gaming @ The Newark Library." Teens are able to play with video games such as DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) or any number of other video games. Union City Library recently had a group of teens organize a Chinese New Year celebration on Sunday, Feb. 10. Nancy He, a senior at Irvington High School and one of the organizers said, "This was an opportunity for us as teens to build community by teaching others about the Chinese culture and traditions." In addition, teens at Union City Library will provide bilingual story time in Mandarin to continue educating the public about their culture.

Helping the community is also very important to teens. Not many people realize this, but teens lead very busy lives. They're in school most of the day, have homework, and participate in many extracurricular activities. And yet, they find the time to give back to their communities by volunteering at the library. You will find them pushing carts to re-shelve materials, helping in the Homework Center, or tutoring adults. The Fremont Library offers teens an opportunity to help through their award winning program, Teen/Senior Web Connection where teens are paired up with seniors to tutor them on how to surf the net or just learn how to use a computer.

Finally, teens participate in the age old tradition of just hanging out with friends. Some like to sit and talk with friends, do their homework together, or just sit and read. Libraries are very much a part of teen life. So to answer the initial question, "Do teens still use the library?" The answer is a resounding yes!

Rebecca Alcal‡ is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Union City Library, a branch of the Alameda County Library System.

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