Research Roundup Blog – Year-Round Teen Services

Welcome to Research Roundup. The purpose of this recurring column is to make the vast amount of research related to youth and families accessible to you. To match the theme of the fall issue, this column focuses on year-round teen services by examining current articles that share opportunities to mentor teens and support their leadership development.

“The Value of Continuous Teen Services: A YALSA Position Paper” available at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/value-continuous-teen-services-yalsa-position-paper. In April 2018, YALSA published a position paper recommending school and public librarians “support healthy adolescent development, teen interests, and work to help mitigate the issues teens face by providing year-round teen services.” Current research also points to the value of including teens in the planning process to ensure authentic learning experiences and provide young adults with opportunities for leadership and personal growth.

“Adulting 101: When libraries teach basic life skills” available at https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/05/01/adulting-101-library-programming/. A popular new idea in year-round teen services involves teaching basic life skills. Adulting 101 programs might have originally been planned for older patrons, however librarians are reporting high attendance from teenagers. Teresa Lucas, assistant director of North Bend Public Library in Oregon, and library assistant Clara Piazzola “created a monthly series of six programs focused on cooking, finances, job hunting, news literacy, apartment living, and miscellaneous topics such as cleaning an oven and checking engine oil” (Ford 2018). Programming costs are minimal and oftentimes community members volunteer to teach specific areas of expertise. Adulting 101 series provide a meaningful service to teenagers preparing for their future.

VolunTeen Summers: The experience” available at www.voyamagazine.com, October 2017. Teen programming can also be service oriented. The Crooked Lake Branch of Anoka County Library redesigned their VolunTeen program in 2016 with a focus on helping their youth volunteers develop practical job skills, both during their busy summer reading program months and throughout the school year. Interested teens participate in an interview before completing an orientation session. VolunTeens are expected to attend work meetings and consult a project notebook for their assignments. Teens are encouraged to choose meaningful assignments and submit proposals for staff approval before beginning their work projects. By treating their volunteer hours as an actual work experience, teens are given a valuable opportunity to hone real-life skills that will serve them well in future employment. The library reports higher retention rates for their teen volunteers and plans to continue reflecting and improving their already successful program. “Teens were more engaged, staff got to know the teens better, and the teens gained skills in interviewing, problem solving, project management, and other areas that will help them succeed” (Hendren 2017).

“Let Teens Lead” available at https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=let-teens-lead-makerspaces. Makerspaces and technology centers continue to be among teens’ favorite year-round programs in many libraries. These teen hangout spaces can include everything from robotics components, 3-D printers, and video games to typewriters, board games, and sewing machines. “Working successfully with teen makers means being willing to step back and dispense with structure if needed. It also means resisting jumping in to direct activities and offer help” (Jacobson 2018). Librarians keep teens interested by rotating new materials frequently and allowing them to be the experts in their own space.

“Teen Leadership Development Through a Teen Gaming Program” available at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/vol-15-no-4-summer-2017.pdf. Not only do teens enjoy the camaraderie of learning new technology or playing games with their peers, they can also build leadership skills by presenting programs and organizing tournaments. Central Library in the Boston Public Library system employs Teen Tech Mentors and Teen Gaming Specialists to plan and present technology workshops and gaming tournaments for tweens and teens. “These opportunities support teens’ deep exploration of their interests and passions in the gaming and technology fields as well as encourage the development of leadership, professional, and industry skills” (Dowds, Halpin, and Snow 2017). At the end of the program, the Teen Tech Mentors and Teen Gaming Specialists have gained valuable work experience, forged professional contacts, and begun building their portfolios and resumes for future employment opportunities in their fields.

“Library Takeovers: After hours Nerf games and more at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library” available at https://commons.pacificu.edu/olaq/vol23/iss4/11/. Of course, some teen programming is simply for entertainment. The Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in Oregon hosts monthly Teen Takeovers where only teens are allowed in the library after hours to play Nerf battles or video games, watch movies, or complete crafts. “Takeovers are all about having fun and connecting with others and have proven to be incredibly popular” (Brzozowski, Johnson, and Hodge 2017). These after-hours events encourage more people to visit the library, some for the first time. As they stage Nerf battles in the stacks, teens have an opportunity to see different services the library offers.

 Submitted by Committee member Kimberly Kinnaird.

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