28 Days of Advocacy #16 – How to Get Teens Involved

Teens rally for library funding

In order to get money for teen services in the library, the library as a whole must first secure adequate funding from its source.’  The library’s budget is often decided by a board of community leaders who must consider many other public services in which to allocate taxpayer dollars.

Finding a way to leave a lasting impression on the budgetary committee is a hard fought and widely attempted task, and utilizing the library’s teen population in your attempt may help the library stand out from the other groups and make your case that much stronger.’  If you need help convincing your administration that this is a worthwhile program explain how civic responsibility and engagement, which are integral foundations of our society, will serve as both a learning tool for the teens and an advocacy tool for the library.

Teens Rally for Library Funding

If you already have a Teen Advisory Group or just a few dedicated regulars, you are set.’  If not, there are other ways to recruit a few teens for the cause.’  Who hasn’t had the conversation with a disappointed teen in which you try to explain why you can’t afford to buy more than two copies of the newest books or do not have the funds to refurbish the old couch in the teen section that was a hand-me-down in the first place.

As you use this time to explain your budgetary constraints, why not give them the opportunity to help?’  Pull out some markers, a paint stir stick, and two pieces of poster board and ask them to create a sign that expresses their desire for adequate library funding and invite them to attend the next budget hearing with you.’  Also invite the parents, your coworkers, and other known library advocates to join you in this event.

Ask all those taking part to meet at the hearing 30-60 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to take place. ‘ Use this time to prep everyone for what is to take place before, during, and after the meeting.’  Before the meeting, you may consider holding a demonstration out on the sidewalk. ‘  If the weather isn’t permitting, peacefully display your signs in the lobby.’  Understand that many teens have never been a part of a “protest” and will look to the adults for guidance.’  But keep in mind this is a great chance for them to find their own voices and an opportunity to lead the pack.

Whether you sit as a group or spread out to cover all corners of the audience, once you enter the meeting room hold your signs high and proud, quietly and respectfully.’  Your presence will be known and felt while the budgetary decisions are being discussed and may just give you an edge on the competition.’  Find out beforehand whether there will be a chance for a representative to speak on behalf of the library.’  If you have a teen who would like to be that representative, and your administration approves, work with the teen and your Teen Advisory Board to craft the speech in the weeks prior to the meeting.

Be sure to bring your camera to capture these’  highly visible tactics.’  The pictures can then be used to publicize your efforts on the library’s website, blog, or newsletter.’  And if the meeting is being covered by the local media, they will have a hard time not focusing their cameras on your group.

Do not overlook the task of arranging a way for all interested teens to get to and from the meeting.’  Suggestions for transportation include:

  • Parent drop off/pick up
  • Walking from the library if the site of the meeting is close enough
  • Purchasing a few bus passes with your program budget
  • Offer van rides if you have access to a municipal vehicle
  • Offer rides in your own personal vehicle if permitted by your managers

About Jesse Vieau

Teen Services Librarian - Madison Public Library - Madison, WI
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