The Trouble with Tweens

I love the tweens (10-12 year olds) who frequent our library after school. They are enthusiastic and generally well behaved, and I thoroughly enjoy some of the philosophical yet short attention span conversations I have with many of them.

However, they are not yet teens and shouldn’t really be included in teen programs or allowed to hang out on the teen floor. Many of them are not mature enough to be part of the conversations that take place in our No Boys Allowed Club, watch PG 13 movies (that their parents often object to), or discuss novels of the Ellen Hopkins variety. We also have programs for school aged kids (6-12) in the children’s department. Of course, the tweens don’t want to attend those programs because they feel they are far too cool for them. But alternatively if they attend teen programs, the older teens (15-17) feel like their time has been taken over by little kids and it is no longer a teen program.

So how do we solve this problem? I initially decided that they can only come to a teen program if they have a teen card, but that is problematic because of the 10 and 11 year olds whose parents have given consent for a teen card because their child has read EVERYTHING in the children’s section. Or perhaps because they want to sign out video games or graphic novels (which they can’t do with a children’s card).

My new plan is to offer a tween club once a month with teen-ish activities (crafts, Wii, movies etc) and let 10-12 year olds attend. We have the first club scheduled for March 17, and this could potentially be a hit … but it may also fall flat on its face. I have a hunch that nine year olds may try to crash the party this time!

Do many of you face tween troubles at your library as well and if so, do you have any great solutions?

About Jen Waters

Jen is the Teen Services Librarian at Edmonton Public Library in Alberta, Canada, where she happily spends her time ordering controversial teen novels, planning crazy programs and being insulted by teens on a daily basis.
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10 Comments

  1. How about arranging your services according to elementary / middle / high school designations?

  2. Perhaps … but the other problem is that there is only myself and one other woman working in teen services and we are already full up on our programs for 12-17. If we divide them into 6-11, 10-13ish, 14-17 we will have to plan even more programs. Also we don’t have huge attendance to any of them so would probably end up with teeny groups for each school designation.

  3. First, I’d like to say that I think the tween population is one of the most underserved groups in libraries and we do our communities a disservice by ignoring them. However, I’m with Jen (who is lucky not to be the only designee in the YA department). Unless you’re specifically hired to serve 9-18 year olds, I think it should fall on the youth department and/or be a collaborative effort. I’m torn though because someone should be reaching this crowd.

    Other programming ideas include tween book discussons and advisory councils.

  4. I agree – libraries usually have lots of programs for kids and teens but the tweens often fall through the cracks. And they are such a great age group to work with! I think collaboration between the youth and teen departments in my library would be great, but possibly unlikely … but I’ll let you know how the first tween club goes!

  5. I look forward to hearing how it goes. I think this population is very under-served, but I must admit I don’t quite know how to target it with good programs. Because

    1. The kids in that age range vary widely in terms of maturity, reading level, family’s values, etc. While teens and kids are also diverse, the tween age can be very different from kid to kid.

    2. Teens can come to library events on their own. Kids are brought to library events by parents. But tween don’t get taken into town for events as often and many can’t come to the library on their own. Events designed and advertised for the tween crowd often end up being full of little kids.

    3. Tweens want to hang out with the teens, not so much with one another. Because they are looking “up” to the teens, its hard to make events for them.

    anyhow, that’s my thoughts on it. i wish there was some way to deal with that better.

  6. I agree with Adrienne that tweens are underserved. I’m in a 7-8 middle school, and more than just programming (which is very different in a school setting), I have a hard time doing collection development. There is a lot of YALSA and publisher focus in YA lit on high-level, older teens, but for the 11-14 age group, especially those who are, in either maturity or reading ability, behind the average.

  7. Iit seems that there often is a disconnect between materials and programming. A lot of what I’ve witnessed is library programming for tweens and younger teens (or, these are the age groups of library users who will actually attend programming) On the flip side, publishing for teens continues to inch up older and older. Some great materials for tweens still resides in the kids’ collection, but of course most kids want to read up. It boils down to matching the right materials and programming to the demographic of your library at any given time, and adjusting it continuously and appropriately as users grow up and new ones appear.

    I would disagree that YALSA focuses on high-level, older teens; it is pretty clearly stated in the mission statements that the target age group for this division is customers ages 12-18. Certainly that pushes some tweens into ALSC territory, so there needs to be a bridge of understanding and cooperation between the two divisions to best serve this population.

  8. I’m kind of a late-comer to this thread, but I’m curious if any public librarians reading this have created a tween collection. I’ve heard/read about them, but would love to get some other feedback. Do you have a tween collection? Where is it? How do you feel about it? Do you wish you had one? Do you have a philosophical take on tween collections in general? If you feel like dropping me a line, it’d be great to hear from you: aprilw@deschuteslibrary.org. TIA…

  9. Informative post. I think the tween population is one of the most underserved groups in libraries and we do our communities a disservice by ignoring them.

  10. I just wanted to update you all on this, almost a year later … I have been at a different library since October but have started a tween club here (and did at my previous library as well) and both have gone very well! I also had a bit of a breakthrough at yesterday’s program, when tweens in different friend groups actually starting becoming friendly with each other. That may not sound huge, but in my mind it is. I’ve found that board games and brain teasers have worked best (Jenga, Rush Hour and Connect Four in particular) as well as the regular duct tape type crafts. I’ve advertised the tween group as 10-13 but have decided to not be too limiting, and will allow a little younger and little older to join if they like.

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