I work in a library where children’s and adult programming is incredibly successful on the whole–I’m talking standing-room-only in a room that seats 175 people, and in a town of about 20,000, that strikes me as pretty good. Teen programs…not so much. We’ve had a few programs where I was floored by the number of teens who came–nearly 60 to a Black Tie Party that the Teen Advisory Board hosted, about 50 to our Summer Reading Finale party. But some, like book groups, chess programs, craft stuff….get zero kids, two, three–teeny numbers. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of publicity I’ve been employing and how it should change.
Basically, the kind of publicity we do for teen events can be boiled down into three categories: print, in-house, and virtual. For print stuff, I send out press releases to the papers. In-house means electronic signage on our flat panel, flyers, and talking to the teens in the Teen Lounge. And virtual is email distribution lists, Facebook, and posts on the library’s website.
Having tried ALL of these methods exhaustively, I’ve determined that for our library, the best outreach is…in-house! Yikes. Not such good news, considering we’re trying to not just reach the teens who are already in the building. But I also think that, because the program is still growing, there’s nothing wrong with working what you’ve got. For example, the reason so many teens came to the summer reading party is because Heather, our awesome part-timer who organized the event, made hundreds of tickets on cool craft paper and handed them out to every single teen who walked through the doors.’ I think that her personal connection with each teen she spoke to, plus that feeling of “I’m invited to something special,” was what did it. It was an active interaction instead of a passive one. A blurb on the library website might not stick with a teen in the same way that a smiling, fun Heather will.
We’ve also started building programs around the teens who are already here. Sounds like a no-brainer–and many librarians are probably doing this already–but I can’t tell you how many times I ended up eating the pizza that was intended for a 7 PM book group that NO ONE came to. So now, we basically go into the Teen Lounge when there are a bunch of people in there, throw down some Flip cameras or a bucket full of craft supplies and let them have at it. It’s worked like a charm!
None of this is to say that I don’t want to keep hammering away at publicity that reaches out to teens outside of the library. I just don’t think email, press releases, or Facebook work as well as I would like them to. Press releases might reach parents, but definitely not teens. Teens don’t read their email, either. And the problem with Facebook is that you risk turning teens away when you invite them to 453786 programs a week. Right now I’m looking at text messaging outreach. If I could only send out text message blasts somehow….anyone out there have any solutions?