At Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we have a year-round VolunTeen program that gives teens the opportunity to volunteer at any of our 20 branches to gain workforce development skills, while also earning community service hours. Part of our process involves applying and interviewing to become a volunteer each term because we want to better prepare teens for the real world. Our teens assist with various duties such as shelving, program prep and delivery, in addition to more specialized opportunities like being a reading buddy or a teen tutor. This year, we were also able to offer three paid internship positions this summer thanks to YALSA and Dollar General.
Upon receiving the Teen Summer Intern grant, we were able to work with three fantastic teens who took their VolunTeen position to the next level. As we require our interns to have previously volunteered with the library, they come in with a basic skill set that we can then build upon over the summer. This gives our teen interns a more focused approach, and also instills qualities that help them to become stronger leaders. We use our grant funds to invest in our teens by providing our interns with a stipend for their service over the summer. Not only do they serve as a VolunTeen at their home library branch alongside their peers, but they also intern at Main Library and ImaginOn for a more concentrated project.
This year, we had an intern working in Idea Box, which is our makerspace at Main Library. In addition to learning new equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers, she also helped to brainstorm programming ideas about how we can develop community service programs for teens using Idea Box. During downtime, she also helped to create booklists and work on special projects when she was able because: “I enjoy being productive and trying out new things.” We also had a teen working on admin duties related to our Summer Break program at Main Library, which is our online summer learning program for all ages. Whether it was entering statistics, creating spreadsheets, or even reorganizing the collection, our intern was ready to help. Lastly, we had an intern in our Outreach Services department at ImaginOn assisting with checking-in our Storytime to Go kits, labeling and organizing program materials, and preparing literacy-based extension activities.
From the library’s perspective, we were able to have reliable, creative, and eager interns to assist us during a busy and hectic time of year. More importantly, we were able to help those teens develop essential skills and knowledge that they can continue to use and build upon as they grow. One of our interns said: “It’s really fun because I get to learn more about what the library does for different parts of the community and be a part of it!” All around, our interns are able to get a well-rounded experience that empowers them to be their best selves thanks to this grant. Participating in this program has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved and has positively contributed to our mission of improving lives and building a stronger community.
Holly Summers-Gil is the Teen Services Coordinator for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library where she has worked for the last 9 years. Her passion for serving teens still drives and inspires her work every day.