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.

Cultivating Teen Programming at the Library

When someone wants to start their own garden, there are a lot of things they have to think about–location, climate, soil, and maintenance to name a few. It is important to know what kind of soil you are dealing with before you start cultivating the ground. Determining the quality of your soil allows you to utilize the ground to produce the best crop possible.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  -Audrey Hepburn

What does this have to do with having a teen presence and programming at the library? I have found the same principles and practices used in having a successful garden can be applied to cultivating a teen presence at your library.

I am the director of Bolivar-Hardeman County Library in Bolivar, Tennessee. We are a small and rural public library serving a diverse community. When I started nearly two years ago our teen attendance at our programs were at an all-time low—basically zero at our library. The demographic of our patrons is increasingly getting older. It was and is my passion to revitalize the library into a place where teens want to come. Shortly after I started, I became of a member of YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) and ARSL (Association for Rural and Small Libraries). You can become a member by going here for YALSA and here for ARSL. I was starting from ground zero on developing any type of teen programming at the library. YALSA and ARSL has and continues to provide invaluable information and resources regarding teens and young adults with little to no budgets. One example is the Future Ready with the Library grant I received to be a member of the second of cohort. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. I highly encourage you to read more about Future Ready with the Library. The past several months I have been very busy with gathering information about my community, schools, and youth for the Future Ready with the Library project. Because of my recent research and community engagement it has given me a fresh perspective on Bolivar. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the lack of teen involvement in the library.

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Content Experts Sought for YALSA’s Teen Programming Database

YALSA seeks up to fifteen members to volunteer their time as teen programming Content Experts, especially those with expertise in STEAM, school libraries, ESL, community engagement, outcomes/evaluation, teen-led programming, and serving underserved youth, for its online database, Teen Programming HQ.

Content Experts will work with the site’s Member Manager to vet all incoming program submissions and determine which meet the necessary criteria for being featured on the site. As part of this effort, Content Experts will be expected to give timely, constructive feedback to individuals regarding their program submissions. Content Experts will also provide advice and drive discussion in the HQ’s Q & A forum.

New this year, Content Experts will also participate as “content creators” and submit new content (programs) to the site. Content Experts will be expected to submit one program per month. Content Experts should also feel comfortable with social media and have an understanding that marketing the website will be a crucial part of their role in order to solicit content submissions to the site.

List of Qualifications for Content Experts:

  • Membership in YALSA and a passion for YALSA’s mission
  • Thorough knowledge of best practices in teen programming, especially as outlined in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action”
  • Strong background in engaging teens and community partners to plan, implement and evaluate innovative and impactful programs for and with teens that meet their developmental, educational and recreational interests
  • Expertise in STEAM, school libraries, ESL, community engagement, outcomes/evaluation, teen-led programming, and serving underserved youth, is a plus
  • Ability to devote a minimum of 1-2 hours per week for 6 continuous months to the HQ
  • Excellent written communications skills and good netiquette
  • Respond to Member Manager inquiries and vet programs in a timely manner
  • Successful experience in coaching, mentoring and/or teaching other adults
  • Ability to work well in a team environment
  • Ability to work well in a virtual setting, including using tools such as Google Drive, Google Calendar, Skype, etc. to coordinate work and communicate with others
  • Ability to navigate social media tools to promote the HQ
  • High ethical standards and no real or perceived conflict of interest with YALSA or its portfolio of print and web publications
  • Dynamic and self-motivated

Up to fifteen Content Experts will be selected. Candidates must complete the online application form by no later than March 1, 2018. Eligibility requirements apply. Please note this is a volunteer opportunity. The term of appointment is six months beginning April 1, 2018.

The mission of the site is to provide a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing information about programs of all kinds designed for and with teens. The site promotes best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report.

The site also enables dissemination of timely information about emerging and new practices for teen programming; raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen programming; and provide a means for members and others interested in teen programs to connect with one another to support and share their efforts to continuously improve their teen programs. Learn more about the Teen Programming HQ at http://hq.yalsa.net.

Transforming Youth Services: Supporting Youth Through “Adulting”

About seven months ago, I noticed a new trend among public libraries of offering adulting programs. When I first saw a posting via social media about this program, my brain screamed, Where were these programs when I was 17?! I didnt know ANYTHING about adultness.If youre unfamiliar with the concept of adulting, it means to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (Urban Dictionary, 2017, ¶ 1). These included duties and responsibilities that seem bewildering to an older teen: finding an apartment (and roommates), signing up for utilities, managing bill payments, etc. Some youth may receive this type of instruction and guidance at home, within their communities, or by participating in youth-supportive groups but this isnt always the case.

Adulting programs are generally geared towards older teens (16 -18) and emerging/new adults (19 – early 20s) and support these young patrons in developing life and college ready skills. News articles and similar commentary about library adulting programs appeared somewhat flippant and even disrespectful or disparaging of young adult attendees. Yet through such programming, libraries are providing a unique service which appeals to two underserved age groups and impacts their lasting success, health, and wellbeing.

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Winners Announced: YALSA’s 2017 Top Ten Summer Learning Programs!

YALSA just announced its list of 2017 Top Ten Summer Learning Programs from its Teen Programming HQ contest!

Congratulations to:

1. TechStyles submitted by Aubrey Gerhardt; Otto Bruyns Public Library; Northfield, NJ
2. Teen Summer Internship submitted by Elizabeth Lynch; Addison (Illinois) Public Library
3. Robots Build a Better World submitted by Ricky Statham; Oneonta (Alabama) Public Library
4. Raspberry Pi ad Codrone submitted by Kate Chalman; Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library; Gainesboro, TN
5. Summer Reading Intern submitted by Sonya Harsha; Algona (Iowa) Public Library
6. Adulting 101 submitted by Elizabeth Lilley; Pope County Library System; Russelville, AR
7. Summer of Service submitted by Stephanie Herrman; Union Parish Library; Farmerville, LA
8. Open Minds: Competitions in the Library Makerspace submitted by Sara Frey; Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School; Plymouth Meeting, PA
9. Recycled Tech for Teens submitted by Cat Mullen; Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Public Library
10. 3D Printer Clubs & Student Leadership Opportunities submitted by Pamela Jayne; Boone County Public Library; Burlington, KY

Each winner will receive a gift pack of YALSA books and swag. The winner of the $50 Amazon gift card – chosen randomly from all entrants of the contest – is Donna Bishop.

Entries were submitted via YALSA’s teen programming site, Teen Programming HQ.

YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ is a free, one-stop shop for library staff to find and share program ideas and to network with one another around issues related to planning, implementing and evaluating library programs for and with teens. The site aims to promote best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report.

Don’t Forget to Participate in the Top Ten Summer Learning Programs Contest!

Due to the success of last year’s “Top Ten” Summer Learning Programs Contest,” and in celebration of National Summer Learning Day on July 13, YALSA will be running the contest once more this year. We are looking for programs for your best ideas for summer learning and programs that focus on STEM/STEAM, digital literacy, college and career readiness, service learning, or that are aimed at under-served or underrepresented populations in your community are of special interest.

All interested individuals can enter the contest by submitting their program on the Teen Programming HQ site. All programs will be judged by the Teen Programming HQ’s member manager and its group of Content Experts who will select the top ten ideas that will become YALSA’s official 2017 Top Ten Summer Learning Programs. Submit your program now through July 15, 2017.

All ten winners will receive a gift pack full of great YALSA resources and swag. Additionally, one lucky winner from all submissions will be chosen at random to receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The official “top ten” list will be revealed in early August.

If you have any questions about the contest or the submission process, you can send your questions to the Teen Programming HQ’s Member Manager, Angela Veizaga at yalsahq@gmail.com.

Good luck!

YALSA Seeks Content Experts for Teen Programming HQ

YALSA is seeking up to four teen programming Content Experts, especially those with expertise in STEAM, school libraries, ESL, outreach, or community partnerships, for its web resource, Teen Programming HQ.

The mission of the site is to provide a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing information about programs of all kinds designed for and with teens. The site promotes best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report.

The site also enable dissemination of timely information about emerging and new practices for teen programming; raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen programming; and provide a means for members and others interested in teen programs to connect with one another to support and share their efforts to continuously improve their teen programs. In its first year, the HQ ran contests where prizes were given out to “top” programs.

Content Experts will work with the site’s Member Manager to vet all incoming program submissions and determine which meet the necessary criteria for being featured on the site. As part of this effort, Content Experts will be expected to give timely, constructive feedback to individuals regarding their program submissions. Please note that the Content Experts will not be submitting the content; rather, they will be reviewing content that is submitted by others. Content Experts should also feel comfortable with social media and have an understanding that marketing the website will be a crucial part of their role.

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YALSA’s Top Ten Summer Learning Programs

Last month, YALSA held a “Top Ten Summer Learning Programs” contest on its teen programming database, Teen Programming HQ. Thanks to the HQ’s member manager and content experts for reviewing the submissions, we have the winners of the contest.

The top ten are:

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone who participated in the contest! Don’t forget to visit the Teen Programming HQ to share and find great teen programming ideas!

YALSA TEEN PROGRAMMING HQ

What is the YALSA Teen Programming HQ?

If you haven’t heard about YALSA’s new Teen Programming HQ, this is where you can learn everything you need to know. Everyone working with teens in libraries is conscientious in offering programs for and with teens that;

1. Have direct teen input and are teen driven

2. Demonstrate high-quality in teen library programming

3. Have identifiable goals and learning outcomes

4. Include evaluation components to ensure the program the outcomes and goals.

The YALSA Teen Programming HQ provides all library staff working with teens with examples to help create these high-quality programs.

The Teen Programming HQ is a website that anyone can access so to learn about quality program ideas  Each of the programs in the HQ include a description, the cost of running the program, age group targeted, instructions for replicating, learning outcomes and an evaluation strategy.

Where do the Programming HQ Programs Come From?

This is where YOU-teen library staff from all across the country-are needed. For the HQ to be successful we need you to submit your tested programs for review by the HQ team of experts. (Find out more about the experts below.)  YALSA is looking for programs that support the ideas in the YALSA Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report (frequently referred to as the Futures Report) and the YALSA Programming Guidelines .

Why the Futures Report and the Programming Guidelines?  Both of these documents focus on areas of importance and highlight skills teens need to develop to succeed in life. The documents also focus on how libraries can help teens achieve these skills.  Both talk about the importance of identifying learning outcomes and developing evaluation plans for programs and highlight reasons why these are important.  The documents provide library staff with real-life and research-based recommendations for ways to help teens entering the workforce gain much needed critical and technology-based skills.

The Programming Guidelines specifically are intended to guide library staff who design, host, and evaluate library programs with and for teens. They were developed to align with YALSA’s  Futures Report and are specifically intended to help library staff leverage skills and resources to provide relevant, outcomes-based programs to better the lives of all teens in the community.  (Which is what the Programming HQ is also intended to do.)

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Teen Programming: Building Teen Futures with Community Partnerships

In our last Teen Programming post, we outlined the importance of outreach and how to integrate it into your programming arsenal. Since “outreach” can translate to a wide range of ideas and actions, narrowing it down will help you take your next step towards effective methods of community engagement. This is where partnerships come in! This, however, opens a whole new can of worms. How does one establish positive community partnerships? How do you ensure that your goals aren’t lost in translation? How do I secure beneficial opportunities for teens through partnerships?

When I first began working in my position, I was immediately overwhelmed by the need my community has for the library and its community organizations. During my first few months, I had grand plans to “do it all” and open up so many more opportunity and learning experiences for my community’s teens. What actually happened was that I got burned out and became discouraged. I realized very quickly that I was not going to be able to accomplish many of my goals alone. I needed support from others who were positioned in the community to help me achieve what needed to be done.

So let’s break it down. YALSA’s Future of Library Services report states that today’s teens need libraries to connect them to other community agencies, but how do you establish these connections? Network, network, network! This may sound simple, but community leaders need to know who you are. Start by attending committee and board meetings to get a sense of the issues and climate of your community. PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) meetings are another community body that is important to engage with as they are directly connected to the teens that your services will affect. Are there task forces or coalitions that are specifically directed at alleviating a specific need? Don’t be hesitant to insert yourself into the community conversation because you have your library’s resources to back you up. As a library representative in the community, you are an integral voice in the larger network of organizations that are committed to improving the lives of teens. Pinpoint individuals whose resources are in line with your goals and begin a dialogue with them.

When starting this dialogue, how do you make sure that your goals don’t get lost in translation? Communication is so important when you are making efforts to partner with an outside agency. Before any communication begins, make sure that you have your goals and plans clearly defined. What is it that you want to accomplish? What role do you see this partnering organization offering? Additionally, offer your resources and begin a dialogue about how this partnership would benefit both organizations mutually.

How do you make sure that your partnerships bring beneficial opportunities to teens? Last month we discussed ways to discover your community through outreach. During this discovery process, locate areas that your community needs more from your library. Is there a group that’s being under-served? Who can help you bridge that gap? A few months ago, I recognized a gap in the services that we were offering. At the time, we had reached out to just about every group of teens to make sure that our programs and services were reaching our diverse teens’ needs. However, we hadn’t reached out to teen survivors of domestic violence. I made a connection with the director of a local organization that acts as a transitional agency for teens and families who are leaving abusive situations. They offer temporary housing, counseling, and resources to help them take control of their futures and I wanted the library to be a part of this transition. My goal in partnering with this organization was to bring enriching programs to the teens at this facility, as they might not have access to these opportunities during this transitional period of their lives. Upon meeting with the director, my goals were clearly defined and I listened as she described how our organization could benefit these teens. We agreed upon a plan and programs were implemented at their location. We also offered books from our collection that we had discarded. We wanted to give the teens that she serves the opportunity to continue reading since many of them were temporarily not in school. This partnership was a simple way of offering integral library services to a new demographic while still connecting to the larger community.

Ultimately, libraries must work with partners to alleviate their community’s needs. Start small, make connections, and be diligent about following through. YALSA’s Futures Report pinpoints the shift that libraries are experiencing in the 21st century. We have gone from quiet, solitary locations that provided relatively uniform services to spaces, both physical and virtual, that offer a broad range of resources that empower teens and grow their skills, interests, and goals. Partnerships are integral to meeting this standard because they allow us to continue to broaden the services we offer, bridge gaps in your community, and build a better future for teens.

What are your partnership success stories? How do you bridge the gap in your community with partnerships?