Back to (After)School – Desperately Seeking Teens for TAB

With school back in session, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and recruit new blood for our Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). If you already have a good group as it is, it’s still a great idea to recruit new members as their perspective would be incredibly valuable as every teen brings new and interesting ideas. Although some of us may be reluctant to have a large TAB, the sky is the limit when it comes to the size of TAB because the more passionate teens we get, the more spectacular results we will get!

As we recruit new members, it’s super important to get the incoming freshmen on TAB. Freshmen literally have a full four years before they graduate, which means they are more inclined to stick with TAB as they  have a bit more flexibility and availability compared to upper classman who are swamped with AP classes, extracurricular activities, and applying for college.  By taking an interest in lower classman, not only will they find a sense of purpose, they will feel like they a part of something that won’t require tryouts or anything intimidating. However, before we start recruiting like crazy, it’s a good idea to review our applications, guidelines, and procedures just so we can outline what we expect from TAB members.

All of us are probably familiar with the “last minute volunteer hours” teens who will want to join TAB. Since TAB is not the typical volunteer opportunity, we need to give make it clear that TAB requires dedication and commitment.  If we get inundated with applicants, it might be a good idea to arrange an interview with teens to not only explain the mission of TAB, but what we expect from members and what they would like to get out of this experience.  It’s very important to ask teens why they want to join TAB because we want to ensure that we are providing them with a program that’s going to develop leadership skills and, as I mentioned before, a real sense of purpose. We need to remember that TAB exists is to give teens a voice in the library where volunteer hours are a small incentive for their hard work and that their input is much more valuable.

With a clear of vision of TAB, and who we would like to recruit, we need to advertise that we are accepting new members by going out into the community.  The best place for us to start is to get in touch with middle and high school counselors and career centers. By working in tandem with career centers, we can tell them all about TAB and also provide them a list of resources that their students can consult in regards to going to college and finding a job that are available at the library. Another way we can entice teens to join TAB is to contact other local service/leadership organizations in our communities like the Boys and Girls Scouts. In fact, one of my former TAB members used his four years of TAB experience as a service project in order to get his Eagle Scout promotion including a letter recommendation from me. Along with outside service/leadership groups, get in touch with local home school groups as those teens are looking for opportunities to socialize with other teens and give back to their community at the same time. Lastly, talk with teens who regularly visit the library even if they don’t seem interested.  Again, from my experience, TAB is a great way to engage teens who may have nothing stimulating to do or are looking for a way to utilize their time constructively.

When it comes to recruiting, we need to try as many avenues as we can, but don’t forget that we have help!  Along with contacting administrators and educators, our current TAB members will have the opportunity to recruit as well.  If TAB members are already involved with other community groups/clubs (i.e., service, church, advocacy, etc.) this is advantageous as well because these teens can talk about their experiences and why their peers should be involved as well. What makes TAB great is that offers teens a sense of ownership, which is something our current members can talk about when they are recruiting new members.

Since TAB is considered a major component of teen services, the main reason why we, library staff and teens, love TAB is that we get to build amazing relationships with one another. By providing opportunities like TAB, teens will get the real world experience they will need in the future. Furthermore, by working closely with TAB, we can teach them the importance of commitment, responsibility, and hard work, which are key components in obtaining meaningful employment and leadership positions.  So when teens come into the library, take a moment to talk about TAB and how their influence and abilities can shape our services, programs, and how they can help us become better staff members and youth advocates.

Published by

Deborah Takahashi

Deborah Takahashi is a Senior Librarian for the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Deborah has been working with teens and children for seventeen years and loves every minute. Deborah is also the author of "Serving Teens with Mental Illness at the Library: A Practical Guide."