Advocacy is crucial for telling voters, legislators, patrons, and other stakeholders WHY their continued support for libraries is so important. To help inspire and inform members on the many forms of advocacy, the Legislative Committee spotlights Diane P. Tuccillo, Teen Services Librarian at the Harmony Library in the Poudre River Public Library District, Ft. Collins, CO. Diane shares how teens in her library system are advocating for libraries.
Teens often have the biggest impact in impressing their peers–this can be negative or positive, and with library advocacy, it’s positive! Adults are also readily impressed by teens and their contributions. I have heard so many great responses from parents who truly appreciate their teens’ library involvement, and those parents are telling their friends and relatives in the community what their teens are doing. The teen library activity presence filters to their fellow teens, families, and friends, becoming advocacy in itself.
The way we get teens involved in advocating is by respecting them and welcoming their voices in our libraries. By offering a place for them to belong and serve in the library, they develop a sense of “ownership.” They want to show others how wonderful the library is and what they can get from it and how it can help them become avid readers. This happens when not only teen services librarians but fellow staff members, library administrators, and library board members all buy in and appreciate what teens do in and for the library–and we have that situation here at our library district!
Our Interesting Reader Society (IRS) teens are incredible teen advocates. IRS teens often bring friends and siblings to meetings so they can encourage them to join. Our IRS teens each get the black tee shirts with “IRS” imprinted in neon green. Sometimes the teens wear their shirts to meetings, but they tell me they often wear the tee shirts to school. They tell me the shirts are a great talking point when other teens ask what the shirts are for. It’s important that we keep up funding for this easy way for teens to publicize and advocate for the library.
Our IRS teens are major contributors to the Friends of the Library book sales. We always get feedback after the sales about how wonderful and helpful the teens were. Not only do the teens contribute their time to a worthy cause that supports the library but their presence at the sales gives them a chance to tell customers about the library and their experiences with it. The teens have an opportunity to advocate while doing a volunteer service. The Bookends television show project with PSD is a wonderful example of library advocacy by teens.
IRS teens also enjoy marching in local parades to represent the library. It’s great for people in the community to see library staff and board members marching, but when they see enthusiastic teens marching along as well, it demonstrates even more strongly how important the library is. After all, if teens are choosing to spend their free time helping with a library event, it’s got to increase public positive opinion. This was especially true when everyone was working to solicit support for the downtown library expansion, and the teens were right there with everyone else from the library asking people to give support and marching in the parade to show support.
Teens tell their parents about the library and get them involved. We have had parents help with some programs and some starting using the library themselves more often because of their teen’s interest. Advocating to parents, grandparents, and family friends is another important role of teens who are involved in their libraries.