Get In Where You Fit In: Engaging Busy Teens @ Your Library

We all know that today’s teens are busy with the demands of school, employment, and extracurricular activities. This does not mean they devalue the library and its offerings. Just because they do not have time for extensive programs does not mean they do not have time for the library. It means we need to take a step back and evaluate how we can still fit into their lives.

“Teens are good for libraries because many of them have grown accustomed to outstanding library services as children. In libraries with a children’s department, kids are used to being served by specially trained services and special programming, in a unique,’child-friendly’ section of the facility. We know that teens will soon enough become the parents, voters, school board, and library board members who will, among other things, make important decisions that help decide the fate of our libraries.” (Honnold,2003,p.xv)

Libraries are made up of caring staff members that have the interests and needs of their patrons at heart. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with such people at a county-wide youth service meeting that meets frequently throughout the year. At these meetings, we are able to share ideas, challenges, and passion projects that benefit our community as well as get support from our District Library Youth Services Consultant.

Try Some of Our Ideas…

  1. Take-Home Packets: At the Sinking Spring Public Library, Christine Weida—Children and Teens’ Librarian—engages both tweens and teens by creating STEM take-home packets. They contain a brief intro to the subject, an article or link to more information, an item, and an experiment. Her packet for April is Whoopee. In the past, she has focused on lenticular images, coding, math magic tricks, and magic eyes.  “The parents love to take these home to try and the kids get really excited too when they see them. I give them hints but don’t tell them what exactly is inside. I always learn a lot when I make them as well, so I enjoy that aspect. I try to choose things that aren’t mainstream,” she says.
  2. Makerspaces: Makerspaces are important for self-exploration. In my YALSA blog post on the subject, you will find detailed information and ideas on how to start your own. (Why Makerspaces Are So Important in Public Libraries—November 2018)
  3. Interactive Displays and Games: Having supplies available for free play and social engagement can make the teen section of your library feel personable and welcoming. At the Mifflin Public Library, Youth Services Librarian Andrea Hunter has a magnetic poetry board, card games, and an interactive bulletin board where she posts a monthly prompt. “So far we have done thing such as New Year’s Resolutions, and Which Hogwarts House Are You [From].”
  4. Drop-In Craft Activities: At the Reading Public Library Teen Loft, every Friday we have drop-in crafts where teens can show up during an allotted time period to create.  We choose things that do not need a staff member to facilitate. Instead, we introduce the project of the day and leave the participants to socialize with each other and make. This is a great way to use materials from past programs so that nothing goes to waste.

    Instructions for a craft using popsicle sticks is pictured next to craft materials.

  5. Flexible Programs: Having a few programs on your schedule that are flexible—such as Drop-In Crafts—is necessary. Busy teens need to know they will not be an interruption if they cannot come at the start of a program and that they are still welcome to participate.
  6. Use Pop-Culture to Your Advantage: Think of all the books you have on the shelves that have now been turned into movies or shows. I like to create “Read It Before You See It” displays to encourage patrons to read.  Many times they are unaware that their favorite movies and shows are derived from books.
  7. Online Programs using Social Media: Go where your busy teens are—online. Find the social media platform your teens use the most. You can interact with them by posting the same questions you may have on your bulletin boards. Tell them about books that were turned into movies or shows that they can checkout from your e-book sites. Talk about upcoming programs in-house and create virtual ones. Take pictures and show them what they are missing at your library. The possibilities are endless.

    Hands are pictured, with hashtags written on them. One says "Power in numbers #sisterhood."

  8. School Connections: This is not always the easiest thing for Youth Service staff in public libraries. It can be a true challenge to find an advocate in your local school, whether it be the school librarian or school counselors. But it is worth it. Each month, I send calendars with a cover letter highlighting some of the programs. Frequently, the teens will tell me they got a calendar at school and that is why they came to a program.

Programs such as these can be a win-win for both patrons and staff. Some benefits are that less staff is required, there is time flexibility for both patrons and staff, the library is promoting self-exploration, the programs attract both regular patrons and newbies, and if the program did not generate the participation you anticipated, you did not spend a lot of time prepping.

Over the years I have found that you need to find your library’s “programming patterns.” This can help you determine where and when to spend more time on extensive programs versus passive programs. I do my most extensive programs during the summer because I know teens will have free time and will be looking for things to do. In fall, there is still some buzz and the weather is still nice enough for them to attend scheduled events. During winter, I try to reuse leftover materials and engage my busy teens the best way possible by using these ideas.

A white t-shirt is being decorated with iron-on letters and patches.

Remember your teens. Just because they are busy does not mean that they do not need our services or that they have forgotten about us. I always love to have conversations with patrons I have not seen in a while. We catch up, talk about exciting things that are happening in their lives, and I let them know what is new at the library. Many of the conversations start with phrases such as, “I am so happy I’m here. I was just so busy,” or “I’ve wanted to stop by so many times, but I’ve been so busy.” We are still on their minds.  We are a place that will continue to be near and dear to their hearts. We just need to get in where we fit in.

A Call to Action for Graphic Novels

The New York Times shocked its readership when it announced that it was losing some of its bestsellers lists, including the graphic novels bestsellers list. It’s a devastating loss for librarians and graphic novelists alike. There has been a public outcry among graphic novelists, although there has been division even amongst the voices speaking out. Newer bestselling authors like Raina Telgemeier lay out the reasons why it disappoints her, while Neil Gaiman proudly proclaims that he never needed a separate list when Sandman first came out.

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Insults, Laughter, Rhymes, and Good Times: Celebrating William Shakespeare

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

Image from the Manhattan Shakespeare Project

To be or not to be…that is the question… especially when it comes to implementing teen programming all about Shakespeare. As youth services library workers, we know that William Shakespeare is one of the greatest playwrights of all time. It’s only natural for libraries to celebrate his birthday by providing attractive displays and programming for the month of April. Given the amount of amount of distraction and noise via the internet, teens aren’t exactly running into the library to check out King Lear. Although the reasons for teens not getting excited about Shakespeare vary greatly, we can easily introduce Shakespeare to our teens through Pop Culture, Art, and Digital Resources.

According to the YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action (2014)1:

The library profession has come to understand literacy as much more than a cognitive ability to read and write, but as a social act that involves basic modes of participating in the world.44 This fundamental shift means that school and public librarians no longer view literacy merely as a technical competency that can be added to people as though they were machines, but rather as a social practice that varies from one context to another and is part of cultural knowledge and behavior.

When I was teen, I remember how Hamlet infuriated me. At the time, I had no idea why I would need Hamlet ever. As an adult, I am grateful for that experience because Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet to annoy teenagers: he wrote it to help the world understand the human condition when the soul is tortured by grief and selfishness. My hope is that teens are still reading Shakespeare in school, but, due to issues such as standardized testing, lack of funds, and no access to these materials, libraries can easily lend a helping hand. I mean, he is responsible for over 1600 words of the English language, but teens may never know this unless they attend a Shakespeare 101 class. As youth services library workers, we have the ability to not only introduce to teens the life, world, and art of William Shakespeare, we also have the skills to take a creative and modern approach to his works to help teens develop as critical thinkers and passionate human beings. Here are a couple of ideas that can help teens better appreciate the Bard a little more.

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Introducing African-American History Month through Music and Art by Deborah Takahashi

February is African-American History Month and libraries all over the country are celebrating this month with a variety of programs and displays. For teens, music and art are tools that will bring them together regardless of their race, religion, sex, and abilities so let’s use these art forms to celebrate this important event in a creative and innovative way. Here are two ideas that will appeal to teens and help them become part of a bigger conversation when it comes to equality and freedom.

record-828983_640Blues & Civil Rights Movement Listening Party

With the return of the record player and vinyl, teens can meet up and listen to a variety of Blues artists while learning the history of the Blues. Select a few artists and throw together a PowerPoint, or Prezi presentation, to provide a little background information about the origin of the Blues and how this genre provided momentum for the Civil Rights Movement. Once you have selected artists, play tracks that will interest teens and throw up the lyrics, or provide handouts, so they can read them while they listen. Once they have finished listening to the tracks, ask questions about the songs and see what kind of responses teens come up with. Here are a few examples from youTube that will definitely illicit interesting conversation:

Just like the traditional book club, we can form the conversation in a similar fashion where the lyrics become the story. Have teens write down their initial thoughts of the songs before discussing the meaning of the lyrics. When everyone has had a chance to write down their thoughts, ask teens to share their interpretations. Once everyone shares their findings, discuss how these ideas convey the meaning of the song. Let teens know that no one has a right or wrong answer, but do ask if this discussion has provided a better understanding of why these songs were incredible tools to help bring awareness to the Civil Rights Movement. If you have the time, or want to turn this program into series, expand upon your program by including the songs of protest of the Vietnam War and the rise of the Black Panther party to inner city violence and the birth of Hip Hop.

If your library doesn’t have access to a record player, you can easily purchase CDs and play them through a sound system. If you have the ability to purchase a record player, it will introduce teens to wonder of record players and provide them with actual evidence as to recording music tracks have evolved over the decades. You can easily purchase a record player on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Target, and Best Buy. As for the vinyl, you can also easily purchase these online or in stores that carry vinyl. I highly recommend visiting your local record store because you may be able to find used records, which will save you money, but make the experience even more awesome.

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Colors

Rose Quartz and Serenity are the official colors of 2016, according to Pantone.

Normally, one color is selected each year, and it influences fashion, impacts what consumers will see in movies, television, media, and design, and invariably reflects our culture.

Normally I don’t pay attention, but the selections for this year are meant to help start a conversation about gender, and break down our preconceived notions about color assignments.

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Anime Club 2.0: How Teens Can Do More Than Watch Anime

Last month, I started an anime club at my branch library because anime is still, and always will be, popular. In fact, we had six teens show up to the very first meeting and, needless to say, they are super excited to be a part of this program. During our first meeting, I asked the teens what they want to see in anime club and the first thing they asked me was: “Can we do more than just watch anime? I literally screamed “YES!” because I have every intention of diversifying this program and I will definitely need the teens’ help in making this club thrive.

During our discussion about the club, the teens asked for a variety of programs that would include a cosplay event, a history of manga presentation, a Japanese food program, an anime inspired craft workshop, and other programs that celebrate the Japanese culture. Not only are these ingenious ideas, these will transform an already popular program into something else even more awesome. By taking a different approach to anime club, and asking teens what they want from a program, we, as teen services librarians, are demonstrating what it is to be innovative. According to the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession, innovation “approaches projects and challenges with a creative, innovative mindset. 1” By changing the concept of anime club (aka. sitting around and watching anime), we are adding elements that have the potential to not only bring in more teens, but help us re-evaluate our approach to programming in general. For example, when starting a new service or program, it is absolutely essential to consult our teens; by going straight to the source, we establish the outcomes we want to reach, which will shape how we plan and implement a successful program. Once we get a consensus of what teens want from programs and services, we need to figure out the best ways to get teens into the library, which is why we need to get innovative with our outreach.

Although many of us use social media and other marketing methods, the one method that we can always rely on is reaching out to our community. Whether it’s a concert venue, a teen center, a school event, or even a college fair, we need to meet teens face-to-face and tell them what services are available. If we don’t have the means, or the opportunities to go out into the community, we can easily apply that idea to every teen that walks into our library. In other words, we need to be vigilant in making sure that every teen is welcome and that we are available to serve them to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we need to do everything in our power to establish some sort of contact with them, which can easily start with “Hi! I am the Teen Services Librarian. What’s your name?” By initiating, and creating an ongoing dialogue with teens, they will realize that there are actual adults who are dedicated to serving them, which is not only great for us, but incredibly beneficial for those who need a safe environment to be who they are and for those who feel the need to be a part of something. With this new anime club, my hope is to not only involve the teens in the planning process, but give them the chance to be involved in the implementation. Whether it’s passing out flyers, using their massive social network to promote the program, or setting up the program, teens will experience all the necessary steps to finish what they started. Anything is possible with teens so let’s give them the chance to show the community their passion and dedication to providing something unique and fun!

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Instagram of the Week – July 27

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

This week we’re looking at two ways to spice up your library’s Instagram account and engage users with library memes and opening lines of books. With websites that allow you to create your own memes using popular themes or uploaded images, the possibilities for witty library humor are endless! For #firstlinefriday or #firstsentence posts on the first of each month, some libraries share opening lines of books as a way to engage followers with trivia, to advertise an upcoming book club, or showcase new materials in the collection.

Have you created memes for your library’s social media accounts? Have a preferred go to meme generator? Posted any opening lines? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Week of Making: Maker Faire

To end out our week of making I’ve asked my colleague Michelle Angell to share her experiences with Maker culture. She started out with programs and wanted to create makerspaces, but found that a Maker Fair was an even better way to celebrate and embrace the Maker community. The following is Michelle’s response. Continue reading

Instagram of the Week – May 4

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

May the fourth be with you. Today is May 4 and that can only mean one thing — it’s Star Wars Day! A nod to the phrase “May the force be with you” from the movies, today is a day for fans to celebrate their favorite franchise. Not to be confused with Star Wars Reads Day which has been held in October (October 6 in 2012, October 5 in 2013, and October 11 in 2014) to celebrate reading, Star Wars Day grew out of a grassroots movement started by fans and gained the support of Lucasfilm Ltd. With the release of the newest film Episode VII: The Force Awakens debuting in December, the excitement surrounding the Star Wars saga is on the rise. Over the past week, many libraries have been preparing for today, sharing Instagram sneak peeks of displays and programs. Enjoy your Star Wars Day celebrations, but beware of the Revenge of the Fifth tomorrow…

In addition, this past Saturday, May 2 was Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). Held on the first Saturday of May since 2002, FCBD is a single-day celebration of comics during which participating shops, libraries, and schools distribute free comic books. From hosting library Comic Cons to crafting with recycled comic book pages, this year’s participating libraries offered a variety of activities in addition to free comics.

Did you hold an event for Star Wars day or participate in Free Comic Book Day? We want to hear from you! How did you spotlight your Star Wars collection for your teens and which programs did you offer? For FCBD, how did you obtain your comic books? How did you get the word out to your community?


For more information about Star Wars Day and the upcoming movie release, visit the official Star Wars website at: http://www.starwars.com/

For more information about Free Comic Book Day, visit the official website at: http://www.freecomicbookday.com

 

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