This two-part piece looks at ways to manage large afterschool crowds in a library. To read about ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments, see Part 1. This post discusses behavior and discipline.
To keep things fair, orderly, and predictable in a busy library, consistency is key. At Addison Public Library, Elizabeth Lynch has found great success using a system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She says, “The core of PBIS is…that kids really don’t know what appropriate behavior is, especially in a public setting. So the focus is to educate them on what expectations are and think about the systems we’re creating and whether that’s giving them the support they need in the space, or whether we’re making it impossible or difficult for them.”
PBIS is not only a philosophy, but also involves a set of clearly-defined rules, consequences, and instructions for staff. These are discussed in the sections below. Having clear and explicit rules helps teens learn what appropriate behavior is, and creates consistency in staff responses to troublemaking. It also reduces friction among staff, since everyone is operating under the same rules about what is appropriate and how to respond to infractions.
For some libraries, back to school is more like back to the zoo.
If your public library is in walking distance of a middle or high school, chances are you have what’s known as an “afterschool crowd”–a term uttered as often with alarm as it is with affection. While large groups of teens coming to the library is a gift and incredible opportunity, it can often leave library staff feeling out of control and create friction between Young Adult Services staff and staff from other departments, particularly those who value peace and quiet.
While I was working on my Master’s of Library and Information Science, I had the pleasure of working for Elizabeth Lynch, the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Illinois. Every day, 60 to 120 kids troop across the street from Indian Trail Middle School to the library in a wave that calls to mind the Invasion of Normandy. The kids are hungry, chatty, sometimes cranky, and full of pent-up energy. Many come from low-income families and their parents work. The library is a safe place for them to stay until they can be picked up.
How do we provide these teens with education, fun, safety, and positive socialization—and keep them from damaging eardrums, property, or our relationships with other patrons and staff? I’ve drawn on my own experiences and advice from Lynch to offer some ideas.
In this post, we will discuss ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments in your library. In Part 2, we will discuss behavior and discipline.
For the past few years I’ve been really curious about the Cities of Learning initiative. I’ve watched with interest as several cities launched, using the Cities of Learning framework, a variety of activities to support youth learning. One aspect of this work that impressed me was the way in which different community groups, elected officials, and community agencies worked together to provide quality formal and informal learning opportunities for teens.
Do you have a maker space?
Do you provide STEM-based programs?
Do you work with community partners?
Do you have afterschool programs and services?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, I have another question for you, “why?”
The reason I ask is that a lot of times I hear library staff working for and with teens talk about the great programs they sponsor and develop with teens – robot making and coding and creative writing – but I don’t hear much about the why. And, it’s that why that is most important. I know it might not seem like it, but it is. Why? Because it’s the why that helps make sure that the programs are going to help teens grow up to be successful academically and in their personal lives. Because it’s the why that is what funders and elected officials and community members are going to want to know in order to decide if your program is worth funding or supporting in another way.