Last month one of my Twitter friends tweeted that the administration at her library had just approved an entirely teen-planned summer reading program. A few weeks later, she posted a picture of some art in progress and I knew I had to get the full story. Below is an interview with Faythe Arredondo about her 2013 summer reading program, created in collaboration with her teen advisory group and featuring teen-created art, videos and more. All images are provided by her. [Note: the interview has been edited for length and clarity]
Emily: Let’s start by talking about how you and your teens made the decision to go with a teen-planned program.
Faythe: I was lucky enough to have a TAG meeting the day after the summer reading program ended and get their immediate feedback on what they liked and didn’t like. Internally, the staff was trying to decide what summer reading program to sign up for next year between the Collaborative Summer Reading Program and iRead. I wasn’t too thrilled with either theme, so when I met with my TAG I asked them if they were interested in coming up with their own theme and they were. When I met with them again, I gave them some hard deadlines and said if they couldn’t get it done in the time frame I wanted, we would go with CSLP. In the next hour they came up with the theme, the slogan and a basic outline of who they wanted it to run.
Emily: That’s fantastic! Had your TAG had some previous experience planning programs with you?
Faythe: A little. The group just started in March 2012 so they are still finding their way. They helped pick out the movies we showed during this year’s summer reading program, they have the final say on what books we read for the Book Club and they almost demanded the Lock-In! They are starting to realize that their opinions matter to our library and are using their voices more. It’s fun to watch!
Emily: So they’d been helping make decisions, but it sounds like this project was a big step up for them as a group and you as a facilitator.
Faythe: Yes! I had planned to guide them, but once the idea of “Murder Mystery Summer” was thrown out, a spark was lit! I just kind of sat back, took notes and interjected when they directly asked me questions. I still can’t believe how fast it happened. The meeting was over, I was getting ready to let them go and they started talking and one thing led to another and the summer was basically outlined.
Emily: That’s awesome! Let’s talk about the program itself. Can you tell me a little bit about what teen-created content it includes and how the program will work?
Faythe: One of the major components of last year’s summer reading program was the Digital Media Lab. As soon as I started this job in June 2012, I was told I had an LSTA grant and I decided to incorporate the equipment into the program to help foster their creativity. I was blown away their enthusiastic response to the “toys” we had for them. One wrote and produced a song (that can be downloaded) and a few others redesigned book covers. I knew I had a creative group.
Once they decided on a Murder Mystery Summer, they used the movie Clue as reference and decided that all 10 members of the TAG (and me) would have assigned roles over the summer. There are six color leaders (Plum, Peacock, White, Mustard, Green, and Scarlet) who all have motivation to kill Ms. Bodie, the head librarian. The plan is to write bios and scripts this fall and produced film short movies that will be shown and embedded on color specific websites. Those embedded videos will be password protected. To gain the password members assigned to the color teams will need to find the password in predetermined books. The TAG has picked out the murderer and who else may be murdered along the way. There are detectives and a reporter to mix things up. My role is the maid AKA the gossip to possibly lead people down the wrong path.
Emily: So teens who sign up to participate will be trying to solve the mystery by reading specific books that have the clues that will grant them access to the videos, is that right? And how is that connected to the incentives part of the program (counting pages, minutes, books, whatever)?
Faythe: The Murder Mystery Summer is an added element to the summer reading program. The program itself will be similar to how it was run last year (most pages read wins). There will be prizes tied to the Mystery aspect, but teens who are not interested will still be able to win a number of prizes. The goal is to offer prizes that will get teens into the library and see that it is a place we value teens. The books with the clues will always be available for those playing along, but they have to see me in order to gain access to them. If they read those books on their own, they will get a “bonus.”
Emily: So elaborate – and so exciting!
Faythe: It is very elaborate! I still can’t believe they did it in an hour. They are already working on graphics so we can get approval from administration. They are already even thinking of marketing. It so incredible to see them get excited and take over!
Emily: You’re really embracing the idea of teen ownership of teen services. What’s the next step in terms of getting approval from the administration?
Faythe: Administration has approved the idea and what the teens want, we just need them to approve our budget! I’m really lucky in that all the right people are very supportive of the teens and really want to help foster their creativity and help them grow as people. Right now I am currently outlining the prize structure, what will happen if some teens don’t want to participate in the mystery of the summer, and keeping the teens on task. Right now they are working on graphics and I hope to have that done within the next month.
Emily: It sounds like it’s going wonderfully so far – you’re responsible for more of the administrative stuff, and the kids are taking more control of the creative side. Have you and your TAG talked about working with outside groups or organizations?
Faythe: That is something we will most likely do! The prizes this year are all incentive-based and the teens want more chances to win. Instead of giving away two iPads, we will give away one and the rest will be gift cards. I’m hoping to work with local businesses to possibly get one or two donated. The teens also want to put up posters wherever they can which means they will be the ones going into stores and asking permission. After the program is over, the teens want to hold an after hours event that will allow the public to see all the hard work they put in for the program. If administration will let us, I’m hoping to get a sponsorship for event so we can serve refreshments.
Emily: This sounds like a great project, Faythe. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds throughout the year and next summer. Thanks so much for chatting with me!
Faythe Arredondo is the Young Adult/Reference Librarian Librarian at Visalia Branch of the Tulare County Library in Visalia, CA. Emily Calkins in the Young Adult Librarian at the Milton Public Library in Milton, MA.