Many libraries provide opportunities for teens to build skills through volunteering, attending or leading a program. In the past few weeks at my library, meetings have come up where I thought it would make sense to invite teens to have a presence at the table and I’m glad we got them involved. Here are a couple of examples of how we had teens participate in meetings:
- A teen intern at my library proposed a handout for a film festival and indicated what the festival categories should be. At about the same time, my co-workers and I were having discussions about such a festival and setting up a meeting with a director of the premiere festival in our town. (Someone with expertise who has run and coordinated such an event for several years.) We invited our intern to the meeting. While he didn’t have a whole lot to say (though I made sure to include him in the conversation at several points), what he did add became part of the foundation of the event. It was also important that he was also able to network with the director and participate in a conversation where his ideas were valued.
- A second opportunity came a few weeks later when a colleague and I met with the lead for our state science festival. The meeting happened at a time when our interns were working. Because the activities we were anticipating doing for the festival were related to the technology the interns were just beginning to learn, it made sense to invite them to participate. They brought great questions and interest to the table and interest in sharing the festival with their homeschool network. They said their parents are always looking for these kinds of opportunities and the teens themselves hadn’t heard of the festival before.
While every meeting isn’t going to lend itself to having a teen attend, and every teen might not yet be ready to sit at the table, there probably are many opportunities, that you hadn’t thought about before, for them to be present. Their attendance may help getting ‘unstuck’ at those moments of spinning on a particular issue. What you have been going around and around about might seem like a no-brainer to teens and you’ll be able to move forward. The teens can also see how community organizations partner and get a chance to see the library differently than they had before as a result.
You never know where it might lead when you invite teens to have their voices heard. It can be risky at times (preparation on basic meeting etiquette and setting expectations before the meeting can help manage some of the risks) but in the long run it will no doubt be very worth it.