Abundance of Teens…

When I first saw this topic, my first thought was of Colin Singleton in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. Child prodigy that he was, Colin was afraid he would never do anything of worth that would classify him as a genius…so he went on a road trip to work it all out. He knew he would not find the answers at home in Chicago. What he was searching for was “out there,” and he ended up in a small town, Gutshot, Tennessee. It was here in this seemingly small, insignificant town with a powerfully painful name where he would find the answers to his conundrum amid people of large character.

Thinking about Colin’s story reminded me that most teens do not live in our libraries. We have to go “out on the road” to find them where they are, working out their own identities and problems. We have to have Colin’s tenacity and confidence that we can truly make a difference for the teens in our community, but we have to go “out there” where they live. This is a perfect opportunity to form collaborative partnerships with local junior high and high school librarians.

In an ideal situation, having a youth services librarian who is familiar with teens and knowledgeable about teen programs would be important, but in the current economic era, it may not be possible to fund an additional librarian, especially in small communities with limited budgets. The important thing about teen program planning is to talk to teens to find out what they need and/or want from their libraries. Online survey tools such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang can help us collect information so that we can plan meaningful teen programs. High school and junior high school librarians can help get the word out about our teen survey and might be willing to help us form a student library committee for better teen programs at both the school and public library.

Librarians can also form collaborative partnerships with local businesses for donations to help fund basic program needs such as providing refreshments. Teen library committees can meet alternately at the school library or public library, and the librarians should work on getting the local newspapers to provide media coverage, or teens can submit articles about what events are taking place. Web 2.0 social networking tools such as Facebook can also help you get “out there” and add fans and friends so that news of your teen events can be communicated to those who need to know.

Teens can help disburse information via Twitter, blog book recommendations (e.g. Blogger), and create book trailers using Animoto. Consider using Flickr or Photobucket as a collection of pictures to market events. Many teen are already using social networking and other Web 2.0 tools, and they can help with designing programs and marketing. Your most important collaborative partnerships will be with those teens with which you form connections. The key to an “abundance of teens” is collaborative partnerships and a willingness to take risks. We have to recognize that teens are not going to come to us necessarily, so we have to be willing to take that “road trip,” or we will never learn what Colin Singleton learned—that all of us are important and our contributions, no matter how insignificant they may seem to us, do matter.

About Paula Griffith

Paula Griffith teaches young adult literature at the University of Houston Clear Lake. She is a member of YALSA's Legislative Committee.

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