Summer Teen Interns @ Onslow County Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Onslow County Public Library received the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Teen Intern Grant, which allocated a $1,000 donation to implement a teen intern program. We were thrilled to receive the grant and excited to see what would come of the program!

Teens applied, were interviewed, and were selected to be either lead (rising seniors) or assistant (rising juniors) interns. Our library system includes four library branches, and one lead and one assistant intern were hired for each branch. They completed training and dedicated 2-5 hours of work per week at their branch. Interns were responsible for planning, preparing for, and facilitating a genre book club for children in 3rd-5th grade. Other projects were assigned as needed.

Goals:

  • Give teens relevant experience in applying and interviewing for jobs.
  • Give interns experience working collaboratively and using creativity and resources to plan, prepare for, and lead a book club.
  • Gain experience in showing commitment to a schedule and learn about how library programs are planned and facilitated.

For the first year running and minimal marketing, the program was a success, with 13 applicants and 8 selected interns! The interns shared some of what they learned at the end of the summer:

“I learned that interviews are not as scary as I thought they would be, and interviewers are just people too.” – Loren

“A lot more goes into library programs than I thought.” – Josh

“Dress to impress!” – Ariana

The goals of the program were undoubtedly met and exceeded the expectations of the original grant. The teens were not only able to gain valuable experience in library programming, job skills and work ethic, but also gained a deeper understanding of the library and its mission. The teens learned that it is not only job skills and knowledge that make successful employees.

“I learned that it is important to get along with others and listen to ideas that are different than mine. Sometimes you have to change what you think to work on a team.” – Gabe

“It can be difficult to manage time and keep up with all the commitments you’ve made.” – Josh

These teens learned real-life lessons that will help them plan for the future and become more dependable and better communicators.

The interns impressed both the library staff and the patrons with their creative ideas and passionate love of reading. They were able to share this with the children, further proving the worth of this program. The children got to see people that they admire reading and enjoying reading. The activities helped to bring the books to life and show children that reading isn’t just words on a page.

I personally gained a wealth of new experience through this program. Before this summer, I had only worked with teens in libraries in an assisting capacity, never taking the lead. This program unexpectedly fell onto my list of responsibilities due to staff changes and I am incredibly grateful. I learned that teens are an invaluable resource to libraries, that marketing is an integral part of library programming and requires careful planning, and that evaluation is just as essential as planning.

The teens were capable of much more than we originally planned for and would have benefitted from more responsibilities and more assigned hours. While we were able to pay them thanks to the grant, we did not want to ask them to work too many hours. This was an error that was revealed in the evaluation phase. The teens were willing and able to work more hours and would have benefitted through a wider variety of projects.

In addition, we learned through post-program evaluation that more marketing and promotion was needed. While we were thrilled to receive 13 applicants to the internship, visits to the high schools would have garnered a much better response. The book club that the interns led would have also had a better turnout if the program had been promoted more effectively.

Teen interns are an incredible addition to the summer reading team due to their creativity, energy, and excitement. I highly recommend starting a teen intern program to all those working in libraries with young adults. Thank you, Dollar General and YALSA, for giving these teens the opportunity to show us how they stacked up!

My name is Jenna Kirkhart and I worked in child care and preschool after receiving my bachelor’s in Child Development. I found my passion for library youth services when a friend recommended I apply for a position at Onslow County Public Library. Since beginning my career here, I have done early literacy programs, book clubs, dance parties, and helped with more than I could list here! I especially enjoyed coordinating this teen intern program and hope to continue exploring new areas of library services.

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