Lately, it seems I have been attending a barrage of meetings and trainings designed specifically to help me become a better librarian, a better teen librarian. ‘ I hear a variety of programs that everyone is conducting/sponsoring/fostering, and I have begun to think about what our core values, our core programs as teen librarians should be, especially now that library service as we know it is being altered by the economy.

Yes we are trying to entice teens to come to our programs. ‘ Yes, we want high attendances, but at what price?

Many systems have big programs, spending a ton of money to have a plethora of teens attend venues outside of the library, and then the teens don’t come into the libraries themselves or check out books or internal programs.’  These programs are wonderful, well planned, crowd-drawers and ……expensive.

Now the country seems to be in an economic downturn, and the money is just not there to host these big events, even though they are extremely popular.’  What do we do and how do we get teens to come through those front doors without having to bribe them with big prizes and wafting food aromas? ‘ Because, let’s face it, times are hard.’  Libraries can barely afford to pay staff let alone provide funding for programming.

So, what should we be doing instead? We need to get back to the basics.’  Think about what your libraries core values are.’  Do they need revamped to address the issues of the economy? ‘ Look at the resources you currently have.’  If you are lacking, start becoming partners with other organizations. Sometimes they can fill a need you have and vice versa.

Examine and apply for grant opportunities.’  There are some funding sources out there, like ALA and YALSA.’  If you have never written a grant before, get on the wiki, ALA connect, or the blog and put a shout out to others across the nation, and I’m positive you will find a ton of resources and assistance with the process.

Get back to basics- there is nothing wrong with holding good old fashioned teen’ library programs like board game nights, book clubs, recycled craft projects, and mentoring programs.’  Feel free to check out the professional development sections of ALA, YALSA, your library systems and your regional offices.’  They can lend ideas for inexpensive programs.

These programs at first glance might seem like they won’t grab a lot of attendees, but it only takes a little boldness.’  Go to the schools; talk to the teens in your libraries.’  Get to know them and be persistent.’  Get involved with the latest technology in your community whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace.’  Keeping reaching out! Once you build a core group, it will continue to grow from there.’  But, you have to keep working…while all other programs are being cut, teens and families will appreciate and desparately need’ what you and the library can offer, even if it is missing the big venue, flashy prizes, and the gooey pizza.

About Krista McKenzie

I am a Children's Specialist at the Ruth Enlow Library in Garrett County, Maryland. I work with kids from the ages of 0 to 18 and am also a reference librarian. In addition, I am member of the YALSA Legislative Committee, and the Children's Services Division of the Maryland Library Association.

2 Thoughts on “Getting Back to Basics….

  1. I completely agree – we hear about so many libraries that are doing so many great things, but I’d rather have lots of smaller programs than have one huge one. I just did a felt plushie workshop over the summer, & the teens are begging me to host it again – felt & yarn is pretty darn cheap!

    Movie nights (if your library can afford the license) I’ve found to be big draws. I just ask the teens what they want to see, & voila! They’re here & I can booktalk similar reads to them. 🙂

  2. Jen Waters on August 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm said:

    I have found that I seem to get the roughly the same number of program attendees regardless of how much I spend on a program, so I agree – why not get back to basics! In the fall we will resume some after school clubs and add some new ones – including manga club, movie days, photography club (they bring their own cameras), no boys allowed (girl discussion group), and pride club – all for little or no cost.

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