30 Days of Teen Programming: Staff programs sufficiently and appropriately.

Staffing situations vary from library to library based on a number of factors including population served, budget, and organizational structure. So who gets to staff programs? YALSA’s guidelines lay out a number of considerations to take into account whenever making staff and volunteer assignments for a program, no matter our size or structure. Points 6.3 and 6.5 in particular consider the different roles that staff and volunteers take.

6.3: Consider which tasks are best suited to librarians and which are more suited to paraprofessionals, community partners and mentors, adult volunteers or Friends of the Library, and teen volunteers and participants.

With any program, someone needs to take the leadership role and accept responsibility for everything (the good and the bad) that comes of it. I find this is most often the person (usually a librarian) who pitches the program, and who believes in it enough to carry through with it. Whether hiring a presenter or relying on a crew of regular volunteers, the program leader needs to know (or find how to find) the answers to any question anyone may have about it from the time it first goes on the program schedule to three weeks afterward, when someone calls to ask when the next one will take place. The librarian leading a program is also most often the person charged with enforcing the rules as in, “Sorry, this a teen program for teens only.”

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Getting the Rest of the Staff Involved

I am noticing a big problem at a lot of libraries – mine in particular, since, you know, I’m there a lot.’  The problem is that the teen patrons only talk to the teen librarian. When I’m not there, reference questions go unasked.’  Books stay missing.’  Computers go unused.’  They are scared to talk to anyone else.’  A girl approached me that had been looking for a book for three weeks that was sitting on the shelves the whole time because she was too intimidated to ask anyone but me what the call number meant.

The kids, being kids and all, come in after school and are noisy.’  Shocking to all of you, I know.’  Since when are kids noisy?’  It bothers other patrons and usually ends with a staff member scolding them.’  This scolding is usually the only time the teen patrons interact with any other members of the library staff.’  They only know people I think of as helpful and kind as yelling, angry adults.’  Thus, they avoid them.’  I am in the YA room nearly every day for multiple hours, so I am a familiar, friendly (I hope) face.’  I have talked to them, so they know that they can talk to me.’  The rest of the staff are all really fantastic people that would be happy to help the teen patrons, but the teens are afraid and refuse to approach them.

I’m doing my best to encourage the teens to go to the staff with their questions.’  I have supplied the other reference librarians with book lists and summer reading lists so that they are well-equipped for reader’s advisory and other YA questions.’  As you all well know, the teen years are when libraries lose most patrons.’  I want to make sure that we are showing these kids that the library is a place they are welcome to be in.’  If they feel welcome, they will keep coming here well past their teen years.’  The question is how to get my staff involved?’  I am guessing that many of you have dealt with a similar problem.’  What did you do?’  I’d love some advice to make my teen population feel more comfortable.