Obtaining Management Buy-In for Teen Programs

It feels like destiny when you or your teen group discover the perfect match for Teen Read Week, pairing your creative library-themed program with the teen community. If your plans are met with disapproval or financial obstacles from fellow staff and/or management, it’s easy to get discouraged or it may become difficult to find the support to make their TRW plans come true. While our situations are unique and reflect different types of resistance, we are able to pull from each other’s experiences and implement a pro-active approach towards removing those barriers. In this post, we offer a mix of traditional and modern practices to help you strengthen support for young adult services.

‘ Prepare your advocate toolbox by equipping it with stats.

As librarians, we come to know our teen patrons by name and can recall their reading interests. We’ve heard their stories and have seen some of them grow up. These relationships enrich our work. Likewise, it is as important to know your community by their faces and background as it is to understand the community you serve (and don’t serve) through statistics. By having this additional knowledge, you will become a more experienced translator and better able to describe your community’s needs to management. Having numbers at hand will offer those success stories a background in which others may understand their values.

  • You’re prepared for the rest of the school year to support your program plans. You’ll be able to emphasize related information to showcase the benefits of your plans.
  • Prepare one stat sheet that displays more general information in an easy to read format for parents, teachers, or your fellow staff.
  • Create a more detailed sheet that describes the particulars of your community that would be beneficial to management in libraries and schools.
  • Create surveys for your teen patrons on their interests that will offer further insight that may not be found online and award random prizes as motivation for completed surveys.

‘ Make those numbers P-O-P

Our re-tellings of a success story with a teen patron is one easy way to communicate how numbers have meaning beyond an absolute value. However, it’s more intimate and lasting when those stories or anecdotes come from the teens themselves, either in person or through other communicative means. The teen vernacular is a powerful voice that adds an extra layer of legitimacy that our professional language can poorly imitate. Having avenues available for teens to express themselves through recorded media can further portray the community you serve to others.

  • Take ample video and photos of teens at library programs or using library services to submit in e-mail, reports, or to designate as the cover of thank you cards to be sent to admin and library staff from teens.
  • Getting teens to become library activists can extend beyond their written reviews of books. They can star in quick how-to video explanations on databases and other library services to be used for library promotion.
  • Insightful or positive responses from teens to your library’s social networking accounts can also serve as physical documentation to utilize.
  • Have teens create young adult reader’s advisory for adults. For instance, teens may see movies that were based on an adult book and would be able to make a written or recorded recommendation of a similar young adult title.
  • Similarly, teens can create a children’s literature display showcasing their favorite and recommended childhood reads, which can be shared with parents and children.

‘ Create a team environment through collaboration.

It’s much easier to be successful when you have allies in your fellow peers and supervisors and some will be more willing to assist you than others. A supportive and encouraging team is essential in any endeavor, it fosters and builds confidence and raises moral. It also can be a catalyst for momentum. At the same time, we must continue to remember that promotion should be reciprocal. When we ask others to lend a hand either to promote our program or assist us behind the scenes, the acts must also be returned to fuel that team spirit.

  • Request the advice and from fellow staff members to encourage their participation in promoting the event. These requests can be as simple as “What type of snacks should we purchase that goes with our Japanese theme?” to “Would you be willing to provide makeup or makeup tips for our anime night?” Use their strengths and interests to help you with programming and decor.
  • Teens also have relationships with parents, teachers, and siblings who are targeted for other library programs directed by our peers. Just as we expect parents to pass along teen programs to their children, empower teens to inform their families of these opportunities.
  • Have teens lead programs for others such as a craft during storytime, computer classes for beginners, advanced how-to’s for admin over new media such as Vine, reading tutors for children, or volunteers for book sales. These creative avenues will demonstrate to management that teens are resourceful, intelligent, and caring citizens.

‘ Support is a steady path hard won.

We’re ‘ sure you’ve noticed that some of these suggestions are impossible to implement for TRW 2013. Since being an activist for teen services is a career long aim and building a team environment is a continuous work-in-progress, these ideas are flexible to be tried at anytime. Change won’t happen all at once and in some cases it will seem like there isn’t any improvement, but with persistent activism your situation may improve over time. If you have had any success with a particular idea that has not been listed in this post, please share your tips and experiences in the comments.

Other resources on seeking management support:

Fink, Margaret, ed. Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week: Tips and Resources for YALSA’s Initiatives. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011. Print.

YALSA. 2013 Teen Read Week Manual. ALA Graphics. Digital download. 8 Oct. 2013.

Amanda Barnhart is the Young Adult Associate at the Kansas City Public Library Trails West Branch (in MO., not KS). She is also a current LIS student at the University of Missouri, Columbia and a member of the 2013-14 Teen Read Week Committee.

Stacy Vandever Wells is an at liberty youth librarian who spends her time reading, writing and volunteering at large. She is a member of the Teen Read Week Committee. Find her at @stacyvwells.

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