I’ll confess that there have been cycles in my ten years of teen services where my creativity to develop innovative library programs suddenly depletes itself. It takes time until I kick my own butt back into gear. I’m sure you’re familiar with this feeling that can result from the graduation of most of your teen advisory group, or your programming budget substantially shrinks, or your energy lags after delivering an outstanding summer reading program. If you are a newly minted teen librarian, you may not have experienced this sudden loss of drive to deliver 100% amazing library services. We all have our secrets for how we regain that equilibrium, especially when feeling depleted from intense summer programming.
Here are just a few tips to energize your programming creativity before, during, or after Teen Read Week:
Challenge yourself to explore their interests. Have those card playing teens who are always in your library after school teach you how to play Vanguard or Pokemon. It’s easier to understand and own the argument that these games make reading, math, and strategy fun when you are actually having to do it yourself. Once you comprehend the reasons for their enjoyment, it becomes easier to develop creative programming because you GET IT. For instance, our middle school anime and manga group will make Pokemon balls out of styrofoam and bring in a favorite stuffed animal. They’ll create a new Pokemon name and ability for their animal and have them spar against each other.
Challenge teens to explore your interests. After witnessing the effort I put into learning their shared interests, it was surprisingly easy to invite over a dozen teens to try their hand at knitting. I was able to share my enjoyment of pleasant conversation and the internal peace that knitting offers. Community knitters donated unused yarn to the library and we purchased the knitting needles. Over the course of three weeks, the library teens and I sat outside practicing our stitches and drinking hot chocolate.
They took surprisingly well to the quieter yet creative environment. A few stuck with it for several hours before deciding it wasn’t for them, but respected the craft and returned to share conversation. One young man approached it with such a degree of seriousness that he completed a handwarmer in less than 24 hours. Several other teens couldn’t wait until the next meeting for instructions. Instead, they looked up how to take their finished pieces off the needles using YouTube.
Get crazy and mash-up both interests for a dynamic program. Appreciating each other’s interests helps to strengthen our relationships with teens. It encourages an environment of collaboration and respect, and, in the end, creativity. Because some of our best ideas come from teens.
Free Pattern on Ravelry: Pokeball Mitts
What are some of your secrets for getting out of a creative funk?
Amanda Barnhart is a Young Adult Associate at The Kansas City Public Library.