With my Summer Resources grant, I purchased video games for our teen room and supplies for a maker wall and cart. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this process, and what I wish I had been telling myself (and my coworkers) at the beginning of the summer:
- It doesn’t take as much as you’d think.
When I applied for the YALSA Summer Resources grant, I predicted that I’d need to spend half of my grant money on video games. I spent months polling teens and asking for feedback about what games we should buy. (They’re not allowed to play M-rated games at the library, so that limited their options.) I don’t know much about video games, but I imagined we’d need a ton of them for teens to feel like they had enough choices. I was wrong. The same titles came up over and over again. It didn’t take as much money or as many video games as I thought it would to give teens some solid choices.
- Stop worrying about things that haven’t happened (or, just fix them when they do happen and move on!).
If you work with teens, you have probably heard these concerns from your coworkers:
“They’re going to draw/write/make/say/do something inappropriate.” I have only removed one inappropriate drawing from our teen room all summer.
“They’re going to make a mess.” Yeah, they will make a mess. Then they’ll clean it up. If they don’t, I will.
“They’re going to think it’s dumb.” Probably not. If they do, we’ll change it.
“They’re just going to steal that.” Most of our maker wall supplies have not walked away. Bigger ticket items are in a cart that I can move in and out of the teen room. But I think that leaving some supplies in the room at all times shows teens that you trust them, and building that trust is critical. And if they do steal some stickers or a ball of yarn—who cares? Maybe that item will occupy them on a long bus ride or make them smile before a test. Plus, adults steal pens and other supplies from our library all day long—I’m not going to worry about it if teens take stuff that I’m specifically leaving for them to use.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or even the good enough).
I know this—we all know this—but I still have to remind myself all the time. If I waited for the perfect space or the perfect day or the perfect idea, I’d never get anything done. Especially with a project like this, it will change over time. I can always add supplies or project ideas later, but it was important to start with what I have!
Carolyn Vidmar is a Teen Services Librarian at East New Orleans Regional Library.