2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: When Summer Learning Deviates From the Plan on Paper

In the past six months I’ve learned a lot about collaborating, co-teaching and co-leading, recruiting, planning, marketing, career and job readiness, and most importantly, teenagers. The YALSA Summer Learning Resources grant was the first grant application I ever wrote, and I was humbled to be selected and given the chance to execute an educational library program (career and job readiness) with a unique twist (the culminating experience would be shopping for a professional interview outfit).

To prepare for summer, I worked with the high school principal and counselors, staff at the Boys & Girls Club, and appealed to teens directly. I spoke with parents, put an ad in our local paper, and held meetings with students. But as summer ticked closer, I grew more frantic, faced with a sparse participant roster. Most teens halfheartedly expressed interest but withheld their full commitment, holding out instead for a potential job at Hardee’s, Pizza King, or the local watermelon fields. 

In the end, my program reached a younger audience than I had anticipated. I worked mostly with teens ages 12-16. This would not be a crowd ready to shop for a professional interview outfit – they had years before entering the full-time workforce, and they were bound for plenty of changes in those years. 

Teens taking the Holland Code quiz.
Teens taking the Holland Code quiz.

The curriculum I executed, in which we discussed teamwork, hobbies and extracurricular activities, and communication with adults, was very different from the curriculum I had envisioned: streamlining resumes, serious mock interviews, and on-the-job excellence. The teens were younger, gigglier, and flightier – they weren’t tied up with work, but dealt with unstable housing arrangements, sports practices, and babysitting younger siblings. Even from this group it was impossible to get firm, eight-week commitments. 

Instead of the program I proposed and envisioned, I threw my enthusiasm into the people in front of me, holding my head high even when only two or three teens showed up for a meeting. I focused on planting seeds and didn’t stress about teaching it all. We didn’t purchase interview outfits, but our teens were able to earn a “stipend” with their attendance at meetings and instead purchased new school uniforms, school supplies, or equipment to help them reach their professional or educational goals.

A page from a teen's dialogue journal.
A page from a teen’s dialogue journal.
A page from a teen's dialogue journal.
A page from a teen’s dialogue journal.

It’s hard to see a grant-funded program deviate from your vision. It’s different from an isolated flop because there’s more time, effort, and energy woven in – it feels like there’s more at stake, because it’s something you’re doing very publicly. I’ve learned that there’s still a lot to learn about how, when, where, and why teens will congregate for an event, which motivates me and inspires me to keep going, keep trying. 

I won’t disregard this experience or pretend it never happened; it was painful and confusing at times, but never a waste. I now have a better understanding of my patrons. I now have new partners with my same passion for youth, and plenty of notes on what worked and didn’t work with this particular attempt. My plan going forward is to continue to lean into each encounter – each fumble and each success. 

Abby Davis is a Youth Services Librarian at Laurel Public Library.

Equity and Access – Learning Environments (formal and informal) for those with visible physical disabilities

Hello everyone,

For October, the focus on my presidential theme Striving for Equity Using YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies is on access, and in particular for those with disabilities. As Teen Services Competency Content Area 3, Learning Environments (formal and informal) states, we should “Acknowledge challenges to teen equity and inclusion that occur in the design and management of the overall library program”; “Remove barriers of access to library learning environments” and “Provide space (physical and virtual, in the library and in the community) that is engaging for all teens…”. In order to do this, all areas of the physical building and any locations where library-sponsored activities and programs take place must be fully accessible to all members of the community, including those with physical disabilities. How can we strive for equity if we leave any members of our service area from full participation?

 

In the realm of visible physical disabilities, the just-opened Hunter’s Point branch of the Queens (NY) Library has been recently in the news. Again. And again. Architecturally lauded by the New York Times, New York, and others, a glaring flaw was quickly found in the design of the building. Three large sections of the Fiction collection are inaccessible to library users who cannot ascend a steep staircase. The one elevator in the building does not stop to access this area. Queens Library has since acknowledged the problem, and are working to move that collection to become available to all users of the branch. However, the fact that a $41 million building that was years in the making overlooked such a basic access issue is troubling.

Are there areas of the libraries that you work at which are inaccessible? Do you consider all of your teens when planning programming? Consider both your building and any off-site locations.

Remember, too, that there are free webinars for this and all of the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

Thanks!

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl

Photo credit: Jake Dobkin, Gothamist

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Tips and Tricks to Make your Internship Program Successful

For the second year in a row, the Walkersville Branch Library, a small rural suburb located just North of Washington, D.C., hosted their annual Summer Lunch Program. With free lunch served daily for an average of 85 children and teens, we needed not only a friendly face to welcome our hungry families, but one who had the organization and quick-thinking skills to jump in wherever needed, even after the last juice box was given away.

From the last week of June through the first week of August, “Ms. Lydia” greeted our families, served up a quick lunch, signed up families for our Summer Challenge, and assisted with program preparation and administration. We were truly grateful for her service and assistance throughout some of our busiest times at the library.

However, we learned some things too. Managing a teen intern is very different then managing a regularly employed library staff member. 

So, here are our TOP 8 TIPS for those libraries interested in hiring a teen intern in the future:

  1. Require those interested candidates to drop off their application at the library. While email or online submission is easiest for those who are applying, requiring a quick visit to the library gives you an immediate snapshot into the individual on a relaxed basis. Did they drop off the application and run? Did they hang out to snag a library card? Are they a familiar face? 
  2. Offer an opportunity for those not chosen to receive some feedback on their application and interview. Not only is it valuable for them, but it forces us to step outside of our comfort zone and provide constructive feedback.
  3. Be honest with the amount of time that you are expecting from the intern. Teens don’t reside in a vacuum, and it can be frustrating to find out that their caregivers are expecting them for a family vacation that may take place in the middle of their required work time. 
  4. Set boundaries with your teen intern in the workplace.  If the teen gets a lunch break, will they feel welcome to take it in the break room?
  5. Be Specific about their daily job tasks and goals. Make sure to always have plenty of additional work to do if you find your intern completes their tasks in a more than timely fashion. 
  6. Welcome them when they arrive, and thank them when they leave. Yes, they were hired to do a “job” but learning the concepts of workplace creation are equally as important as the job they were hired to do. 
  7. The exit interview is just as important as the entrance interview. It can provide you with valuable information for the following year’s internship.  
  8. Work with the Workforce Development or Job Coordinator at your local school. They will know    the ins and outs of the work permit (should your state require it), and they will also have information about comparable internships and jobs in your area.  

 

Betsey Brannen is the Children’s Services Supervisor for Frederick County Public Libraries – Walkersville.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Grant benefits library, teens

“I feel like I accomplished something today.”
– A summer teen intern after a particularly busy day of STEAM programming

Our library received a YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant this year. We used the $1,000 grant award to provide a $500 stipend to each of our two summer teen interns assisting us with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programming. Before our summer’s start, we laid out the follow goals or learning outcomes for our interns:

  • Participate in a real-world job seeking situation, including completing an internship application and sitting for an interview with our library’s interview committee;
  • Gain greater self-confidence and self-esteem while improving on social interactions in a work setting with people of all ages;
  • Enhance customer service skills by working with a diverse group of people with varying needs;
  • Improve problem-solving skills as STEAM activities require analytical thinking;
  • Gain work experience which will be helpful later when competing in the job market; and
  • Gain a greater appreciation for, and (we hoped) an interest in STEAM learning.

At our library, we have been emphasizing STEAM programming for children and teens for the past few years. This year, we found in the beginning that our teen interns had little experience working with the kind of STEAM resources that our library offers, but they quickly learned and began to appreciate them.

During their time with us this summer, each of our interns worked 50 hours assisting with STEAM programming, each interacting with library staff members and hundreds of children, teens, and adults. As we revisit our pre-summer learning outcomes for our interns today, we believe (and they believe) we were mostly successful in meeting these goals together. In the exit survey we asked interns to complete, they responded favorably to the question, “In which areas do you believe this internship has helped you,” checking off most of the above outcomes and adding some of their own that we hadn’t included, such as developing more patience. We are pleased with this outcome.

We’ve been fortunate enough to receive a YALSA Summer Teen Intern Grant on three occasions within the past couple of years. During the years, our approach to this grant and our interns has changed. In the very beginning, our interns were here to help us, we thought, (i.e., setting up a room, handing out program evaluations, and other necessary, but menial tasks) and to get a paycheck for themselves. 

The truth is that we as a library staff can handle these tasks on our own; this program is to benefit these teens. Our interns have much to offer and are not here solely for a paycheck. I refer to the above quote as evidence of this point. Yes, the stipend is nice and appreciated by our teens, but they also want to be engaged in meaningful work, and they appreciate the opportunity to interact with others, to learn new skills, and to be productive. 

These days, and for a long while, our summer teen interns (when we are fortunate enough to have them) help our staff members lead our STEAM programs, and they also provide us with valuable feedback on our programs and how we can make them better for people like themselves. Our library and our interns both benefit from this experience.

In closing, we offer some parting comments from our interns on the impact of their internships: 

  • “I learned that I’m a people person and that people flock to me. It made more positive and helped me to learn more about people.” 
  • “I realized I am a good multi-tasker and am an easy-going person. I have good patience with people’s requests and communicate well. I also realized I am an open-minded person.”

 

Katina Gaudet is an Area Librarian at Lafourche Parish Public Library – South Lafourche Branch.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Teens Leading Teens – The Power of Empowering Interns

This summer, The Bill Memorial Library of Groton, CT was fortunate to employ two teen interns through funds provided by the YALSA Teen Intern Program and Dollar General.  Over the course of the summer, our two interns were given a number of tasks that enriched our summer learning program for participants under age 10. These tasks included helping our youngest patrons with crafts, playing our summer learning game with younger students, and crafting a Cultural Banquet from beginning to end.  While we fully expected this intern program to be enriching for our summer learning participants and are interns alike, we didn’t foresee the greatest benefit of the program – the chance for our teen interns to lead other teen volunteers and gather important skills as future leaders.

Each year, we have a number of teens ask to volunteer during our summer learning project.  As any teen services coordinator knows, young volunteers can be a blessing and a curse. Volunteers are just as likely to be eager and passionate about helping the library as they are likely to be reluctant or forced by a parent to help out in their spare time.  We have certainly encountered this in past summers at the Bill Memorial Library. This year, however, was different. This year, we had teen interns that we tasked with overseeing these volunteers. And the result was both unexpected and rewarding.

As soon as we placed these younger, sometimes reluctant, volunteers in the charge of our older, passionate teen interns, we saw an immediate change in their engagement level.  Our young volunteers were suddenly eager to assist and began to see the benefit in assisting the library. The task of “volunteering at the library” was no longer a burden for these teen volunteers.  Suddenly, it was a worthwhile project that gave them a purpose and direction in the doldrums of summer. The older teen interns sparked a fire in these young volunteers that we as adults and authority figures could not start ourselves.  It was as if these young teens saw their older peers taking ownership of their newfound responsibility and said, “I want that too.” What we as staff witnessed was the growth of our young volunteers under the tutelage of their older peers, and what this meant for us was that we were watching a new generation of impassioned teen interns sprout up right before our eyes.  We also watched as our teen interns gained a level of confidence in empowering their peers and honed important leadership skills that will serve them later in life.

Bill Memorial Library interns Sam and Anika sit on the front steps.
Bill Memorial Library interns Sam and Anika.

Perhaps the greatest piece of knowledge we gleaned from our time with our teen interns was this: the ability for teens to empower their peers is invaluable and should be fostered whenever possible.  Our teen interns will be the next generation of leaders, and it is our hope that those teen volunteers will be the next generation of teen interns. The continuation of this cycle will ensure the ongoing enrichment of our summer learning program, our library, and our community, and this realization would not have been possible without the YALSA Teen Intern program.

 

Kate Bengston is a Teen Programming Coordinator at Bill Memorial Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Teen Literacy Kit Outreach Program

Our goal for the Teen Literacy Kit Outreach program was two-fold.  We wanted to encourage teens from high poverty and homeless families to continue building their reading and writing skills over the summer.  We also wanted to bring our library-based programs to the teens in our area who didn’t have transportation to the library during our regularly scheduled programs.  To accomplish these goals, we contacted our local Dollar General store and asked them to let us block off part of their parking lot and turn it into a Teen Program space once a month during the June/July summer break.  They enthusiastically agreed, and we got to work.  

Step 1:  Create Literacy Kits

Teen literacy kit contents.

Our concern centered on the large number of teens that are enrolled in the local middle and high schools who don’t have a consistent place to call home, much less a space to store books and journals.  My Children’s Librarian and I (Library Manager) wanted to find a way to give those teens portable reading and writing materials, so we came up with the idea of literacy kits: drawstring bags with a book, unlined note book, bookmark, pen, toy, writing prompts and word games, and a Frequent Readers card donated by our local Dairy Queen.  We also decided on an Honor Library so that the teens could take books and not worry about returning them.

Step 2:  Design Teen Programming for a Parking Lot

A tent is set up in a parking lot with library kits on display.

This was the most challenging aspect of the program.  Whatever we planned to do, we would have to bring everything from tables and tents to craft supplies.  We decided to go with science experiments that could be done individually or as a team and didn’t need a lot of supplies to complete.  Each experiment had goals that would allow the teens to earn points towards a prize: a coupon for a free dilly bar at Dairy Queen. We had planned to run the program like one of our library programs with a set beginning and end time, and we advertised it that way, but we found that teens trickled in throughout the program time and could only spend an average of 15 minutes with us.  We modified the book talk to make it a quick introduction to the book and got the kids started on the experiments to keep them with us as long as possible. We passed out literacy kits to any teen who stopped by the tent and even a few that we chased down leaving the store. We only had 17 teens come to the first program and 12 teens come to the second program.

Step 3:  Get Your Local Schools Involved

 

Since the parking lot programs didn’t reach our target of 50 teens, we reached out to the middle school up the road from the Dollar General store.  They provide washers/dryers for homeless families in our area, and they also have a food pantry and used clothing rack. The school let us set up outside and pass out the literacy kits and honor books to teens during their laundry hours in July.  We were able to pass out the remaining 21 kits and 14 of the honor books to the teens that we had hoped to reach. Success!

A librarian is smiling in a tent full of books for teens.

 

Melissa Clark is the Library Manager at Millersville Public Library of Sumner County.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Creating Community: Teen Programming in an Urban Library

Located in Slavic Village, the Fleet Branch is one of 27 branches of the Cleveland Public Library. Fleet is one of the library’s busiest branches and serves a diverse population of patrons, from infants to seniors.

As a Children’s and Youth Services Librarian, I work with infants through teens. The library provides many programs, inside and outside the library, for our youth. Connecting with our younger patrons has always been easy. Connecting with our teens is much more challenging.

When I applied for the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant, I wanted to design a program that would engage and excite our teens. I wanted the program to be an opportunity for our teens to bond with each other and with the library staff. On most days, teens come to the library, use the computers, and leave. They have little interaction with anyone and it can be nearly impossible to get them off the computers.

My library branch is located in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. The teens I serve deal with toxic stress every day and are not as apt to participate in programs. We try to entice them with food, movies, and music but are often unsuccessful. When teens do come to programs, they tend to keep to themselves and not interact with each other. I wanted to host a program that lent itself towards interaction and would be fun and engaging.

To do this, I purchased BreakoutEDU for our “Teen Agents: Mysteries Unraveled” program. BreakoutEDU is an escape room-esque program where teens are trying to solve clues and decipher codes to break in to a lock box. BreakoutEDU includes an interactive platform and a kit with lock boxes, locks, invisible ink pens, and other detective tools. BreakoutEDU supports collaboration. To solve each mystery, the teens have to communicate and work together.

Three teens stand in front of a dry erase board at Cleveland Public Library.

We had three teens register for the program and two of them showed up. On the first day of the program, we were able to get additional teens to join us. From the start, I could see the teens were having fun. We gave them their clues and told them to solve their first mystery. There was some initial hesitation, but they soon started talking and got to work. As the teens became acquainted with one another, they started to discuss other topics besides the mysteries they were working on. It was nice to see them begin to build relationships with each other.

Besides interacting with each other, the program also allowed the teens to interact with the youth staff. Myself and the branch’s library assistant facilitated the program. Although we were familiar with the teens who attended the program, we did not know them well. Throughout the program, the teens turned to us for guidance, which led to conversations and an increased rapport. Since the program’s conclusion, we have seen all of the teens in the library and had conversations with them. One of the teens even shared her writing with myself and the library assistant. The teens also told us they are excited to attend the program when we host it again.

Three teens gather around a table at Cleveland Public Library.

Even though we had small numbers for our program, I consider it a success. The program enabled our teens to meet new people and begin to establish relationships with the youth staff. I am looking forward to hosting more programs this fall!

 

Tracie Forfia is a Children’s & Youth Services Librarian at Cleveland Public Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Rising 6th Graders Bridges to Books

School library media specialists are under considerable pressure to demonstrate our absolute value within our schools. As a fourth-year media specialist, I have seen and read about the numerous cuts to school libraries so very early in my career. Being a career changer going into the library media profession, I never anticipated I would worry daily about my job being eliminated and libraries being managed by un-certified staff. Most recently, I read a social media post about a school librarian who returned to her library over the summer to find library books thrown in the middle of the floor, as two classrooms were being constructed from half of the library space. This story, among several others, has left me in search of the answer to the following questions. Why have school libraries become so disconnected and irrelevant to student learning? Why is the school librarian not viewed upon as an instructional leader and partner?

After much reflection, it was decided I couldn’t keep asking the questions, and instead, I had to create and share the why for our library profession. I made it a mission to step up and participate in any leadership opportunity made available to me as a school library media specialist, and in my reflection, all programs would be based on the student voice of my middle school students. While attending Teacher Leader Academy in a library media specialist cohort at my school district this past year, we were asked to develop a legacy project. My goal was to link the library with reading literacy and create a school culture of readers. Often, library media specialists (and library resources) are overlooked when developing initiatives for increasing student achievement because it is difficult to provide data. I wanted to change this, and I wanted the school library to be a partner in increasing students’ reading scores. Through my legacy project, I worked with a team of 24 teachers and my principal to create a school-wide independent reading program called, Griffin Reads 30. It was a strong collaborative process which now provides our students with 30 minutes of independent, choice reading during each school day. However, the legacy needed to continue beyond our school.

The next step to the legacy project had to expand to our feeder elementary schools to include rising 6th graders entering the middle school in the fall. Before attending middle school, these pre-teens needed the opportunity to visit their soon-to-be middle school, meet me, and learn about our library and our literacy program so that they felt empowered as new middle schoolers. Our library is the heart of the school, and true student voice and leadership are practiced in all areas including the purchase of new books, makerspace programs, and reading promotions and contests. The library is also filled with technology resources and rich databases for student academics. The second part of my legacy project was building “Bridges to Books” for our new students. 

This summer, the “Bridges to Books” program was facilitated in July, two weeks prior to the start of the new school year. All rising 6th graders were invited to attend, and the final attendance reached over one hundred students. As part of a community partnership to introduce our students to their library, collaboration was done with our public library and librarians to share the Cobb Library Pass. This free resource connects students with hundreds of digital books and several research databases. Students are also able to use their school student number to check books out from the public library. This partnership creates a strong presence of the importance of libraries, both school and public, for supporting student achievement and providing access to reading and research materials. 

Through the YALSA Dollar General Summer Reading Grant, paperback books were purchased, along with bookmarks, and a button maker which we use to create badges for reading achievement. Students also completed a makerspace project during the summer program and a scavenger hunt to locate books in their favorite genres and practiced checking out library books through the self-checkout system. 

Bridges to Books was a success, and when the students started school almost two weeks ago, students who attended were eager to say hello to me and began checking books out immediately during the first week of school. The library continues to be the heart of the school, and through this sustainable summer reading program, students will build a sense of pride for the library prior to beginning of each school year. It supports the transition into becoming a teen in the middle school by providing a safe environment, along with friendly and familiar faces. An additional bonus is the ability to showcase the importance of school libraries and certified school librarians as key educators in the academic and social emotional success of students. Through the summer reading program, I feel empowered to positively impact students before they begin a new school, so they will utilize library resources throughout their middle school years. 

 

Lori Quintana is a Library Media Specialist at Griffin Middle School in the Cobb County School District.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Jaffrey Public Library

Jaffrey Public Library’s teen staff and participants in our teen book club, Book Buzz, indicated a need for more accessible, highly engaging books for reluctant readers, as well as an expanded virtual outlet for sharing their thoughts about what they read and other topics of interest. In response, we used our funds from the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant to purchase titles from ALA’s “2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” list, as well as an iPad with an Apple pencil for teens to create book trailers of new teen titles and other digital content. The plan was to feature this content on a new page for our website, JPL Teen Magazine.

The Jaffrey Public Library serves the middle and high school population of the Jaffrey-Rindge school district. 2018 saw the loss of separate middle and high school libraries, as the School Board recently voted to combine the two schools. The loss of school resources put more focus on the public library for our teen students, and we have seen a rise in library attendance of this population, particularly among teens who are struggling academically and looking for a safe place. 

Two teens sit at a table in the Jaffrey Public Library.

The primary goal of our project was to address the risk factors for these teens, by increasing engagement with library activities, resources, and staff that provide support. They have indicated boredom and a lack of interest in school, but many have shown a high level of engagement with library STEAM and literacy programming. Through content creation activities and online engagement with JPL Teen Magazine, we intended to impact teens’ textual, visual, and digital literacy skills while also promoting the most accessible parts of our collection.

In addition to inviting Book Buzz participants to create content, we marketed the formation of a new Teen Advisory Board to meet biweekly during the summer. We also included “Make a book trailer using our new iPad” and “Check out a book from the Summer Learning display” on our teen Summer Learning bingo cards. Overall, Summer Learning turned out to be a phenomenal success. Registration by middle and high schoolers in the Summer Learning Program went up 70% over the previous two years, and engagement went up by 50%. We played the book trailers that were completed on our big screen during various programs, and those titles received increased interest from teens. (See one of our most-viewed book trailers here.

Two teens stand in front of bookshelves at Jaffrey Public Library.

The success was not, however, driven by engagement with the Teen Advisory Board, as initially anticipated. What we discovered was that even teens who attended more than one meeting and expressed interest in more solid commitment during the school year found it difficult to commit to regular commitments during the summer. The greatest engagement from teens came from the at-will aspects of our Summer Learning Program. As a result, not enough content was generated to launch JPL Teen Magazine during the summer months. Staff anticipate renewed engagement during the school year as schedules become more regular, and we look forward to both a vibrant Teen Advisory Board and JPL Teen Magazine in the months to come.

 

Andrea Connolly is a Youth Services Librarian at Jaffrey Public Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Too Many Teens? A Summer Reading Volunteer Dilemma

At the Westminster Public Library, we strive to provide inclusive and high-quality programming with and for our community. The Summer Reading Program (SRP), albeit traditional in nature, is no exception. From young to young at heart, everyone in Westminster is encouraged to participate and demonstrate positive literacy habits in our community. Rather than toys and trinkets, youth participants earn new books to keep after completion of the first reading level. Thanks to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation grant, we were able to continue providing new and diverse titles to our youth. As a double whammy, this prize approach not only encourages reading for pleasure, it also provides a rewarding volunteer opportunity for teens.

Managing daily SRP submissions and distributing prizes is a tall order for a lean 2-branch library system. As such, we rely on the generosity and skills of our teen patrons. Given that many schools in our area require community service hours, this opportunity has become a volunteer magnet. In previous years, Westminster Public Library has accepted upwards of 100 teen volunteers per summer. Think this sounds too good to be true? Well, in a sense, you’re right. Quantity doesn’t guarantee quality, and this volunteer program is the perfect example.

One problem teen services librarians love to have, is too many teenagers. However, when said teens are the face of your library throughout the summer, our standards go up as their expectations go down. During previous summers at Westminster Public Library, teen volunteer issues have included, but are not limited to: not showing up for shifts, sleeping, fidgeting with phones, and a general unwillingness to help. Word on the street was that the library offered easy volunteer hours with air conditioning to boot. With the 2019 Summer Reading Program around the corner, we knew we needed to try something new.

If teens were not invested and library staff was working harder to keep them engaged and on task, the value of the opportunity was in question on both ends. That’s when we realized the library may be for everyone, but volunteer opportunities are not. In an attempt to remedy this dilemma, we implemented a selective SRP volunteer cycle. Beginning with a standard volunteer application, teens were expected to complete and submit this basic form to the city. All applicants progressed to an in-personal panel interview hosted by both teen services librarians and additional library staff. Teens who were accepted were then invited to orientation to establish expectations. Following their training, they used an online sign-up system to manage their own shifts. To close out the summer, teens submitted feedback in exchange for their signed statement of volunteer hours.

WPL Underground promotion featuring teens reading and volunteering.

Overall, this year’s SRP teen volunteer experience has been a tremendous success, and we have achieved more positive outcomes than expected. Most importantly, we recognize that the application and interview process created an organic weeding effect. As a result, our pool of highly-capable and committed teen volunteers provided valuable support to our staff with significantly less oversight. Additionally, teens gained real-world experience by completing administrative tasks, building customer service skills, and engaging directly with the community. In the end, we learned that we get out what we put in; our commitment to the process delivered 70 teens that were truly committed to the experience.

 

Kaela Delgado is the Teen Services Librarian at Westminster Public Library in Colorado.