Some of your best program leaders may already be attending your programs. They’re sitting there, watching you struggle to cut the snow flake from the recycled printer paper, thinking the whole time about the really awesome program they want to run. Yes, one way to enhance your programming during lean times is to involve your teens as workshops leaders.

Start by talking with your teens when they are hanging out at the library, or during a discussion program. Be honest about the library budget, and find out what ideas they have. You can talk about a unique talent that you have (unicycle riding, origami, rock painting) and let the discussion happen from there. Chances are, teens will start talking about the skills they have, and then it becomes a matter of scheduling and mentoring.

Once you’ve got the first workshop scheduled – drawing, for example – you’ll want to work with the teen leader to get ready for the big day. Work with them to select items from your collection to support the workshop, such as Christopher Hart’s ubiquitous books, and help them outline the lesson. It doesn’t need to be highly detailed, but having some structure in place will give you some peace of mind and help your teen leader develop their project management skills. If they’re not comfortable guiding their peers, the program outline can help them stay confident and focused. In addition, having your collection materials on hand during the program can provide a positive circulation boost, which will help you make your budget case in the future.

Since public speaking remains one of people’s top fears, you may want to give your teen leader time to do a quick rundown of the lesson, ideally in the space where they will be leading the workshop. Remember the fear you had the first time you presented before a group of teens? Or how about the first time you presented before your friends in high school? Yeah, a practice session would probably go a long way to easing their mind.

Supplies will be the next big hurdle. Pencils and paper can probably be found in a cupboard in the library, but erasers might be trickier. If you can’t place an order for the big pink erasers, scrounge through past reading incentives, since erasers are usually part of any Summer Reading order. Talk with the teens who are interested in the workshop, and find out if they have a spare eraser they can bring in for the program.

Remember, you’ll want to be in the space when the program is happening. While your teen will be leading the workshop, you’ll be in the audience providing moral support and participating along with the rest of the audience.

Offering teens the opportunity to run programs in the library gives them a chance to demonstrate their talent, work with their peers and adult role models, and participate in the community; otherwise encouraging them to grow in all 8 of the Developmental Asset subsets identified by the Search Institute. From drawing to anime clubs to magic performances, your teens can help you bring a wide variety of programs to your library even during the leanest of budget years.

About Chris Shoemaker

I'm a YALSA Past President. I blog about YA programming, technology instruction for people interested in teen services, and YALSA governance stuff. I like baking and dislike humidity.

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