Just a few short weeks ago, I held a teen summer finale party to honor those teens that had turned in hours of reading over the summer.’  This is the first time at my current position that I have held a finale, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.’  The program components were pretty standard:’  food, Wii gaming, and a craft.’  I invited the teens and had about 17 RSVPs.’  Although I felt that my finale activities were fun, I wasn’t sure if IT would happen.

The teens started to trickle in to the room, and I felt nervous.’  The room was so quiet.’  A few kids were playing Wii, and other muched on cookies and watched them.’  Unless something happend soon, I figured my party would be a bust.’  No one was talking.’  Then IT happened.’  Two of the girls had a conversation that involved Edward Cullen (bless him), and suddenly the room was a-buzzin’ with talking, laughing, and groaning about the greatest, the latest, and the now.’  The girls gathered chairs together and gossiped, while the boys bonded over Wii.’  The party was a success.

IT, my friends, is the unplannable thing that makes your program a success or a failure.’  It is when the teens start to have fun.’  They bond and relate to one another.’  They identify with each other and find similarities.’  From that moment on, the girls moved as a unit around the room.’  First they talked, then they felt safe enough to go over to the craft table and paint metal bookends.’  They didn’t want to leave, and some switched phone numbers.

There was even a moment when a teenage boy asked one of the girl if she would like to play Wii with him.’  When I told my co-workers later, she told me that was practically a date, so we even had co-ed interaction.’  But until that moment happened–the magic IT–the party was a bust.

I have held plenty of programs that never had the magic IT.’  My TAB group never took off because of this.’  The teens came to the meeting, but no one talked and or switched phone numbers.’  It was just me talking to silent teens that would make monks jealous.

Like I said, you can’t plan IT.’  All we can do is create the environment for IT to happen.’  I think there are two guidelines:

  • Be flexible–Plan the event and what will take place, but don’t be afraid to jump off the map if an opportunity presents itself.’  It might go to places would never imagine.’  Andrea Purdy, a teen librarian at the East Regional Library in Knightdale, NC, has a TAB group that has truly come alive.’  Their newest project is going to be a library musical that the teens are writing and directing.’  This came out of a TAB meeting.’  As far as my party goes, I didn’t force anyone to paint bookends.’  I told them about the project, but the first half hour or so, the girls just sat in the chairs and talked.’  After they felt comfortable and started talking, they painted 18 bookends.’  Don’t try to control the situation.
  • Be Proactive–Flexibility doesn’t mean you just sit back and wait for things to happen.’  Do you know two teens in the room have something in common?’  Bring it up and sparks might fly.’  Two of the girls in the room had almost identical reading tastes.’  I mentioned a few titles, and those two girls did the rest.

You can make IT happen.’  You can just create the environment.’  Most importantly, be kind to yourself if IT doesn’t happen.’  You may try and fail, and we will all have successes and failures.’  How do you know if IT has happened?’  The teens stand around and talk after the program is over.’  And you just enjoy the moment.

About Lindsey Dunn

I am a teen librarian who has worked in the Wake County Library system for six years now. I have been in YALSA for 3 years now and currently serve on the YA Galley Committee. I received my MLS at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2001. My specialties include book clubs, teen advisory boards, programming, and blogging.

3 Thoughts on “Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust

  1. Congrats on the fun events!

  2. Jen Waters on August 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm said:

    My sentiments exactly! I have had lots of programs lacking IT, my TAB never took off because of IT, but every once and awhile I see the quiet kids at the beginning of a program become the chatty ones by the end. My favourite was a few months ago when I did a DDR tournament that only 4 kids showed up to, but they danced all afternoon and when one mom called, her daughter said “no, not til 5 … because I’m having fun, OK?!?!”. It is moments like that which help us put up with all the crap and realize our jobs are actually meaningful.

  3. Hi,
    You’re totally correct–to get “IT” to happen you have to be patient. I just had a “Love Stinks! Chocolate Fest.” for teens at our library. I started with a chocolate teen play dough that they could all make into shapes. That seemed to really help get everyone relaxed. I also provided several different kinds of chocolate (kisses, Dove’s dark hearts, Dove’s milk chocolate) for them to taste. Then I had them cut out shapes in some homemade fudge I had made for the occasion, having them guess what flavors I had put in the fudge (almond, hazelnut & orange–I meant to include cinnamon but forgot). They were all having fun (talking among themselves and sharing the cookie cutters). I even had 3 boys–one came late though, so he didn’t participate much. Then I brought out the Valentine cutouts for them to make Valentines, and the actually seemed to enjoy it. So all in all, it was a good party/group (13 in all). It’s always so nerve racking trying to get teens to come in and enjoy themselves. I never have this kind of success with my TAG group, and I’m still trying to find something that actually gets them excited . . . no success yet. SIGH!

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