We have tons of wonderful resources at our fingertips to create an awesome environment for our teens. Maybe you’re chatting with others about what they’re doing for the Hunger Games release, or you’re scanning Pinterest for new craft ideas. You hear people talking about how such-and-such program was a huge hit, and you think, â€œI’ve got to try that. My teens will love it.â€ So you spend time and money planning this sure-fire program, or maybe you’re creating your own Teen Space so they have a place in the library that’s theirs, and the time has come for the big program, the big reveal â€¦ and no one comes.
We don’t get a lot of teens at my branch year-round. They come in the summer, and teen programs at my branch during the summer are a lot more successful than other times of the year. Summer, though, is not nearly long enough for everything we wish we could do with our teens, and other times of the year are hit-or-miss, emphasis on the miss. The last teen program we had, no one but two middle-schoolers came, and while we didn’t turn them away, everything we had planned kind of went out the window. Summer aside, this happens time and time again, so we’ve cut our teen programming to once a quarter, which we know sucks, but with one librarian for birth to 18, it’s hard to justify spending more time and money on programs that are constantly unsuccessful.
But we keep trying. Different programs at different times on different days of the week. These kids are busy, and we have to compete for their attention. We keep trying to cultivate relationships with the teens we see during the summer to get them coming back the rest of the year. Our YA collection is fairly awesome, and our circs are good. We know that what works even at a different branch may not work for us. We go back to old programs that flopped years ago because it might work for this group of teens. And even if no one comes to the mini-Ren Faire we have coming up, I’m still dressing up, even if I have to joust with my co-workers. If teens are scarce in your library, leave a message in the comments with what you’re doing to draw them in.
Boy does this sound familiar. I’m with you about still offering things whether they come or not. You have to try.
This past year I’ve worked at getting involved in other organizations’ programs/events. Depending on the group and their focus, I could be offering support to conference presenters, adding literacy elements to activities, doing book talks that fit the event, etc. It allows me to connect the library to the teens AND these organizations. Most organizations will gladly accept the “added value” of the library’s involvement (looks good on reports too).
My best successes in teen programming have come when the teens really took a lead role in planning and implementing what the library sponsored. That way they were invested in what took place. The librarians worked with the teens in the planning and implementing but the teens really had ownership in what happened, along with the librarians.
The other successful technique I’ve used is organizing programs with teens outside of the library facility. That means going to teens where they hang out in other organization’s facilities – as is mentioned in Angie’s comment above – and planning with that other organization and the teens for a program outside of the library’s own space. It helps to make the library part of the community and connects with teens who might not traditionally be a part of library activities.
My best success was a study hall program during finals days. We opened up our large meeting room with tables, chairs and snacks for the teens. I’ve also been trying to put together more ‘passive programs’ that the teens can participate in during their normal visits to the library. Most recently we asked teens to vote for Team Gale or Team Peeta before the movie was released.