The Charlotte Mecklenburg library system in a large library system with many teen volunteers across twenty branches. Our focus for the grant this year was to choose a branch that does not have a high recruitment and retention rate for teen volunteers. Our Sugar Creek branch is in a low-income and widely served area in our county, and in the past, we have had teens not complete the summer volunteering program at this branch.
Our teen interns were integral to making some of our summer programs a success. Summer Interns assisted with our Summer Reading Kickoff at the beginning of summer. Each intern operated a STEAM station and helped the Children’s Department with various projects such as, prepping Summer Reading materials, Summer Reading registration, book displays, and programs. They maintained weekly shelf-reading assignments which included pulling duplicate copies from our fiction and nonfiction collection as well as processed Book Sale items, and they have assisted the Circulation Department by pulling morning holds and processing daily delivery.
The teen interns were asked which experience this summer was the most meaningful, and each of them gave a different view of why libraries are so important for teens. One of our interns, Treyson, also volunteered to be Clifford the Big Red Dog as part of the Summer Reading Kickoff. As Treyson was dressed as Clifford the Big, Red Dog in the summer sun, he said that even though it was a very hot costume, he “didn’t have to wear it” and that he “wanted to”, especially seeing how happy it made the children to see him.
Aleah shared about a moment when she was shelving in the children’s department, there was a child who told her she did not have anyone to play with. So, Aleah started coloring on the chalkboard with her, and she commented that she enjoyed spending time with the child, instead of leaving her alone. Aleah also stated that volunteering “gave her an excuse to read”. She never put books on hold before this summer, and now has a large stack. She also discovered ebooks and audiobooks and sometimes requests them at the same time!
Kaliyah has goals to become a graphic designer, and during this internship, she spent time with a staff person who is also an artist. The staff member gave her tips for her art and showed her how she can market her art as well. This internship gave her a connection she may have not made before.
Giving the teens several opportunities to work and collaborate with each other and library staff really benefited Sugar Creek. They were able to shine through their different personalities and have a fun experience, while learning how a library operates. This experience showed growth in each of the teens as well. By giving them a variety of tasks, they were able to find their niche, and they had a very positive impression of the library. By making the tasks fun and diverse, the teens committed 229 hours this summer, and there was no concern about retention.
Hayley Burson is a Teen Librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.