The Auburn Public Library, northeast of metro Atlanta, currently serves a population of about 8,000 city residents, but is located in one of the most rapidly expanding areas in the state. Our small library draws in an average of 1,000 patrons per month just for its free programs, and is planning to expand later this year. As one can imagine, this number doubles or even triples during the summer months, and being able to hire interns to help handle the workload is a lifesaver!
Thanks to Dollar General and YALSA, we were able to hire a part-time Summer Intern for eight weeks. We advertised the position for about a month via social media and at the two local high schools before conducting interviews. We received over 20 applications and interviewed 17 teens before deciding on Christina Miller, a 16 year-old rising high school senior, for her first paying job. Christina has grown up in our library, volunteering with us since she was 12. She came to the interview incredibly prepared with pages of notes and dressed more professionally than we had ever seen her, a sign that she was taking this opportunity seriously. We knew that she was the right choice for this position.
Christina helped us with a little of everything over the summer. We offered a program every day of the week, including a free lunch program for youth 18 and under. She helped hand out summer reading prizes, take pictures, shelve, and interact with patrons at the information desk. But where Christina really shone was in helping lead teen programs. Our teen programs, for teens aged 12-19, took place on Thursday nights. One of our more popular programs that we repeated several times is Virtual Reality. We have a 40-inch TV set up in our teen section and an Occulus Rift system hooked up to it. Christina assisted with the setup of the device and by the end of the summer, she could operate it better than any staff member! She helped download updates, choose games, and we stepped back and let her run the show with the other teens. She was fair, making sure everyone got turns and keeping the audience engaged in the fun. She also ran her first-ever Dungeons and Dragons campaign sitting in the Dungeon Master chair to a group of seven very excited teens (we almost had to throw them out of the library at closing time).
Having an extra person to help during the summer was amazing, but seeing Christina step up and lead programs was an extraordinary experience. We provided her with tools and opportunities, and she performed beyond our highest expectations. We labeled our teen summer learning program a success for many reasons (higher participation, higher attendance), but watching Christina bloom with confidence was a highlight of the summer. Thank you, Dollar General and YALSA, for allowing us to be a part of your program – it changed lives.
Bel Outwater is the Library Manager for the Auburn Public Library, part of the Piedmont Regional Library System serving Banks, Barrow, and Jackson counties in northeast Georgia. Working in a library combines her two passions: reading and helping people. She is obsessed with penguins, sloths, dinosaurs, and too many fandoms to count.