2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Gadsden Public Library

Teens at the Gadsden Public Library made slime with the help of staff, a teen intern, and volunteer.

Teens at the Gadsden Public Library made slime with the help of staff, a teen intern, and volunteer.

The interview and Hiring Process
The GPL chose 3 interns to work for us this summer ( two of which were paid from the YALSA/ Dollar General grant, the other was paid with money from fundraising). These young adults were chosen after filling out an application and also being interviewed. The process allowed us to choose teens that would gain the most experience from working at the library, but also mesh well with the YA department. There were around 15 applicants, and the ones we chose were the applicants that interviewed the best.

Considerations:

Teen intern leads a discussion on flying drones.

Teen intern leads a discussion on flying drones.

  • Prior experience was not necessary
  • They had to go to school within the county district
  • They had to have multiple references.

Interview Questions included: 

  • Why are you interested in this internship?
  •  What do you want to do / where do you want to be in 5 years? 
  • What is one of your favorite books? 
  •  What are your strengths/weaknesses? 

The interview process allowed us our first glimpse of the interns’ personalities. We found out what classes they enjoyed, what books they loved, and what their interests pertain to.  This insight helped staff when determining to schedule the teens.

  • One intern loved flying a drone and also had experience with telescope.  He was scheduled to help with STEM/ Tech programs and space programs.
  • Another intern loved social media. She was scheduled to take photos and videos of event and come up with captions for the visuals.
  • The other intern wanted to help with children’s programs and we adjusted her schedule to spend some time in that department. We were happy to provide an opportunity for her to learn, especially because she is interested in education.
Two teen interns pose before the annual Harry Potter Birthday Program held by the Gadsden Public Library

Two teen interns pose before the annual Harry Potter Birthday Program held by the Gadsden Public Library.

Training Teen Interns
The interns were required to participate in a training day to gain a better understanding of what it is like to work in a library. The interns and volunteer toured all areas of the library, including closed stacks, met staffers, observed programs, learned basic policies and learned about professionalism.

  •  Their training involved talking about the importance of the library (more than just books!), knowledge of other departments, as well as shelving time.
  • The teens also had to learn the programming schedule because they were required to assist Teen Zone staff during programs. Because our library has teenagers in the library all day long, the GPL provides passive programs which keep all teens busy and active no matter what time of day they arrive.  The GPL also provided free lunches and snacks on the weekdays. Then there were also ‘big’ programs every day which included altruism, art, STEM, gaming, and more. The interns had to engage with the other teenagers during the programs and also assist staff with setting up and cleaning up of materials. 
  • The interns were scheduled for 5 hours a week; two 2.5 hour shifts, and scheduled during our busiest time of the day.

Manage and Engage Interns

The Teen Zone participants are ready for an Oreo Taste Test which was set-up by a teen intern.

The Teen Zone participants are ready for an Oreo Taste Test which was set-up by a teen intern.

The best way to work with young adults is to understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Two of the teens had experience working with others, specifically during children’s birthday parties. They both were also involved with many activities at school, so they were more comfortable balance multiple tasks at once. These two teens did really well with loud and boisterous programs.  They enjoyed engaging in art activities and with the other teenagers. 
  • The third teenager got very overwhelmed when dealing with too many people-loudness in particular. Once we realized this, we found other activities for him to do. He proved to be accurate and meticulous with shelving books and scanning materials. This taught us an important lesson- most people assume a library is quiet. Though many places in the building are, the Teen area is not! Since our room is closed off, we encourage laughter and conversation.  The next time we have intern (and volunteer) training, this is a subject that we will discuss.

    Teen intern leads others in a paper airplane race.

    Teen intern leads others in a paper airplane race.

  • With all teens, we did not just assume that our teen interns and volunteer would know what to do. Everything that was expected of them for each day was explained in detail, especially if there was a program going on. For example, some days we would have a talk at the start of the shift about the day’s itinerary and what they needed to do.  Other days, we’d talk about what we were doing and also have a check sheet to help them complete tasks.  
  • During ‘down time’, the interns and volunteer would all be expected to shelf books or prepare items for upcoming programs.
  • Sometimes, the interns would get chatty with the other teenagers.  Since positive relationships with patrons are encouraged, we did not tell them not to talk to them. However, we did remind them that while they were ‘on the clock’ they represented the library: keep the conversation professional.  

Final Thoughts

A teen intern at the GPL assists other young adults during a program on galaxy bath bombs.

A teen intern at the GPL assists other young adults during a program on galaxy bath bombs.

The intern program turned out to be very successful.  Both the teens and staff benefited from the relationship. The library had extra help during our busiest time of the year; the teen interns received beneficial experience which will help them as they join the workforce and/or college.

  • The GPL staff would recommend this grant to other libraries.
  • We also want to extend our information should others have questions about working with teen interns during the summer.

Email Nicole (Young Adult Librarian) at nicole@gadsdenlibrary.org
Call  Nicole at (256)549-4699 (ext 2122)

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