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Library Hack: What’s a Teen To Do?

Posted on January 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

By Sheri Boggs

A moment for embarrassing self-disclosure: it’s been a long time since I was a teen. A really super long time. The Spokane Valley Library was my branch, and although I loved books and spent a lot of time there, I couldn’t wait to grow up and move away. Which is pretty much what I did. It took many years and several careers, but I gradually drifted back to the library appreciation of my youth. I learned what revolutionary, democratic, and even environmentally-friendly places libraries really are. I won’t insist the library is a trip to France, an amusement park, and Urban Outfitters all rolled into one. It’s still the library. But I can tell you, with all sincerity, that the library is actually far cooler than I ever knew. Here are some behind-the-scenes secrets for making the most of your library.

Get the good stuff first

If you have a hard time waiting, this bit is for you. Did you know we do our eBook orders every Friday? This by itself probably isn’t that interesting but the end result is: we have fresh new eBooks on our website every Friday night. If you’ve already got the OverDrive app on your device, just tap on the link that takes you to the SCLD page, and look for the little green and orange box that says “Teens Collection.” Tap there and it will take you to the top trending YA titles, and from there you can tap on “New eBooks” under “Collections.” All the stuff we’ve just ordered will show up there and you can often be the first to check it out. (This also applies to new digital audio on OverDrive.)

Library Hack: What's a Teen To Do? by Sheri Boggs | Spokane County Library District

As for analog books (and DVDs, audiobooks and music), we often have new titles in the catalog way ahead of their actual release date, which means if there’s a title you know is coming out later this year, you can place a hold to be among the first to check it out. If there’s nothing specific you’re really waiting for but want to browse upcoming titles, try the New Arrivals library in our online catalog. It works just like the New Arrivals shelf at your library, except you can see new arrivals all over the district, often before they ever even hit the shelves. My colleague Cara did a great walk-through of how to do this here. And remember, you can have up to 25 holds at a time!

Win school

There was literally no assignment that I wasn’t doing at the last minute. Ditto for college applications and articles for the high school newspaper. I thrived on the adrenaline, but this dubious strategy sometimes fell apart if I’d forgotten to get everything I needed before starting my assignment. If you’re like me, and it’s 2 in the morning and you need one more article, you don’t understand the finer points of osmosis, or you need help with the finishing touches on your science fair submission, we can help. Go to our Digital Library page. We have a suite of Gale “In Context” databases that are designed with you in mind. You might be thinking “can’t I just google what I need?” Well yes, you can, but our databases have only high quality targeted info and will probably save you a ton of time. Science in Context has extensive, current reference resources and articles in biology, chemistry, health and medicine, earth and environmental science, physics and astronomy, and math, engineering and technology. They feature up-to-the-minute news stories in the sciences, and even a dizzying range of science experiments. The search bar gives you the option to look for just experiments, images, videos, statistics, reference and more. This is great if you’re in a big hurry and just need a diagram of plant cell structure, or specific data, such as breast cancer rates by state.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context is a gold mine for the social sciences. Here you’ll find articles and reference related to business and economics, law and politics, society and culture, and war and diplomacy. You can limit your search to primary sources, images, audio, video, and viewpoints. This is great for any kind of assignment where you need to compare and contrast, or give some context to explain an issue. There’s even an entire section devoted to the current National Debate Topic. Biography in Context lets you browse contemporary world leaders, historical figures, notable social reformers and more. You can search by occupation, nationality, and place of birth, and of course by individual name. Proquest gives you access to thousands of full-text articles and even helps you cite them properly. And finally, HelpNow has live online tutors available from 2-10pm PST. In addition to that, you can make your own FlashBulb flash cards, practice your language arts skills in the Writing and Language Labs and even test yourself on various topics (or prep for the SAT, AP exams or ASVAB) in the SkillSurfer module.

Library Hack: What's a Teen To Do? by Sheri Boggs | Spokane County Library District

Life after school

Whether you define “life after school” as the precious hours from 3 pm to midnight, summer vacation, or the period following high school graduation (where you may or may not be taking on even more school), we’ve got you covered. Gale Courses offers all kinds of classes, notably college readiness, including SAT, PSAT, and AP test prep. The Testing and Education Resource Center has a resume builder (which is a great help when you’ve never made a resume before and have no idea how to do it), a scholarship search, and test prep (including the ASVAB, CLEP and GED). JobNow is invaluable when it comes to shopping potential careers and figuring out where you might fit in the big wide world. You can hone your interview skills, build a resume, or test your aptitude for a variety of different careers. And if you want to get a serious head start (and impress your peers) by investing some of your hard-earned cash, Morningstar can help you learn how investing works and give you constantly updated stock market information.

In addition to all these digital resources, the library is a great “third place”—not home, not school, but somewhere you can just be. Our shelves are packed with outstanding novels, DVDs and music, and we regularly have teen-friendly programming, including YA authors, and Anime Club. Our online Events Calendar will keep you hip to everything going on in our physical building spaces.

What I love best about all these resources and opportunities is that they’re free, high quality, and readily available with your SCLD library card. Do you have a favorite “library hack” not mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!

Sheri Boggs

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