There’s a new organization on the block in New York City which officially opens in April called SurpriseIndustries.’  The description about the organization on their web site reads, “sells surprise experiences in NYC. It could be anything from a deep tissue massage to a fire eating class, but you won’t know for sure till you get there.”

You can probably guess where this is going. But just think . . .

There’s been a lot of discussion in library-land about making the library a place where experiences happen. Many of us might have even attended a library training session where aspects of Disney are portrayed as good customer service.

The book, The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage (Harvard Business School Press, 1999) goes in depth on ways that businesses have repackaged their services as experiences and selling them as something that can be purchased.

What could a model like SurpriseIndustries mean for serving teens in libraries? While we probably won’t be mastering the art of fire eating (well, speaking for myself) anytime soon, there is a lot we might be able to do to convey that the library is a sense of fun and excitement. Giving surprise experiences doesn’t have to be high tech.

The photos on SurpriseIndustries site of people in various mid air positions and smiling made me wonder what it is they are doing but it definitely looks inviting. While photo policies vary from one library to the next, it could be one way to intrigue visitors-not only having them online but in the library themselves.

Offering programs that don’t require registration and ‘just because’ might be another idea. A few years ago, some colleagues of mine started using Chase’s Calendar of Events to plan wacky programs based on holidays or celebrations that aren’t necessarily commonplace. Having something tactile for the hands (there was an excess of bubble wrap for months before the actual program) or mouth (such as flavor tripping) can go a long way in creating unexpected experiences.

Feel free to share what your library does with and for teens to give an experience they might have been surprised at.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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