My library is in a community heavy on teen foot-traffic and light on teen activities (outside of the library), so during the summer it is common to see the room filled to the brim with teens escaping the heat, annoyed at the friends they have spent every hour of every day with, looking for something–anything–to do. How can we help them find that “anything” that actually keeps them entertained, and excited to return to do it again? Planning summer programs for a Teen Center is an imperfect art, but if you see it is such – an art – then you won’t feel as bad when things don’t come out perfectly, and conversely you will be astonished when the boring turns exciting. Here are a few passive and active programming ideas that I urge you to try in your own library. With a little money, and as little or as much librarian involvement as you can afford, these programs have the ability to interest the regulars and pull in the new patrons.

Art Gallery: If you have empty wall space, you have an art gallery. Post flyers calling for artists to submit their work, photography, drawings, paintings, computer graphics, etc. Using painters tape (which is safe for the walls and the art), hang the art. Make sure to include their name (and school? Age? Inspirational quote?) so they get credit. If funds and time permit, host an artist reception on the day you hang new art. Anyone whose art is hanging on the wall for that week/month (or however long of a rotation you decide upon) are guests of honor, but of course all library patrons’ can attend the “opening”.

Board Game Tournaments: We have all hosted gaming tournaments, and even though the gaming systems are always being used, it is safe to assume that even the teens are bored with Mario Kart and RockBand. Therefore, grab the Monopoly game from your attic and plan a board game tournament. As teens sign up for the tournament have them choose their playing piece, so there are no disagreements on the day of the tournament. This is sure to keep the teens buys for a couple of hours, and the only cost to you should be a cool prize for the winner and runner-ups, such as a “Tax Refund” (waived overdue fines), monocle, or a 100 Grand candy bar (do they even make those anymore??).

Contact your local MLS program: These students are smack-dab in the middle of their higher education experience and are probably dying for some practical experience. Ask them to come in and co-host a program you currently lead, or lead the teens in a simple craft project or volunteer activity (greeting cards for senior citizens, toys for shelter animals). This way the teens can meet a new person, and you can have time to do all the billion things you put aside between June and August.

“I’m Bored” Boxes: Grab a few empty shoeboxes and fill them with any craft item you can find (make sure you include glue or tape) and let the kids get creative. Scrapbook paper, glue, ribbon, buttons, safety pins, duct tape, etc. You would be amazed at what they can make out of seemingly nonsensical stuff.

Volunteers: Have scrap paper that needs cutting? Children’s crafts that need preparing? Keyboards and mice and shelving that need dusting? Call in the volunteers! Teens who I never would have thought wanted to donate anything but crumbs and noise to the Teen Center approached me last summer to volunteer. I set them right to work, and a couple of them even came back a couple times over the school year. You never know what boredom can push a person to do.

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