Over the past few weeks a couple of students tweeted about a video on Teacher Tube called Pay Attention. It’s a seemingly simple presentation that focuses on why educators need to actively integrate technology into teaching. With that focus, it’s really about engaging students of all ages in learning.
Engaging teens in library programs and services is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. What does it take to engage 13 to 18 year olds so that they are interested in what librarians have to offer?
Perhaps it takes:
- Paying attention to what a teen in 2008 is interested in – music, videos, movies, TV, books, etc. That means not focusing primarily on what we think they are interested in but really going out and finding what does grab the interest of teens.
- Using the technology that teens use. Text messaging is something that I’ve blogged about more than once. But, if teens are using cellphones to communicate with friends and parents why aren’t libraries engaging teens with this technology more frequently?
- Advocating for teens in the library and the community, if not at a state and national level. If teens know that librarians are willing to speak up for them and fight for the programs and services that the age-group deserves and needs, then teens will be more willing and able to be engaged in the library and willing to work with the librarian to get things done. This means advocating in a traditional sense for space, materials, staff, and programs. And, it means advocating for teens in order to make sure they have access to the technology and online resources that they want and need. Librarians frequently tell me that they can’t use various tools because of library policy or lack of technology support. How much does the lack of access impact the ability to serve teens? Often, quite a bit. If that’s the case how can one not advocate for what’s needed?
- Being where the teens are. Teens need to be engaged on their own turf, so to speak. That means that librarians serving them have to go to where teens are. Whether that be a physical location or a virtual one. Consider how teens might be engaged at the local coffee shop, via Facebook, on YouTube, or at the baseball field. (To name a few places where teens sometimes are found.)
- Creating spaces that reflect current interests and needs. Maybe the library in which you work can’t look like an Apple Store. But, can you take a look at how you arrange your furniture, highlight materials, integrate technology? Then, at the very least, re-arrange in order to provide a space that gives teens a chance do as many of the following as possible read, browse, listen to music, watch video, surf, and create content.
- Making content creation a seamless part of services. Teens in the early 21st century are very interested in creating video, audio, virtual environments, blogs, wikis, web sites, and more. If the library wants to engage these teens they have to provide opportunities for that creation to take place. All you have to do is read any of the blog posts by YALSA teen blogger Storm Basiat to see how engagement happens via content creation.
Perhaps engaging teens in all these ways might be hard to achieve all at once. But, it’s important to start somewhere. The Pay Attention video provides some topics to focus on. It also provides some good ammunition for helping others to understand why it’s important to be attentive and engaging.