“Cancel all your programs on Friday night, and spend some time just hanging out.” I uttered it to a small group of librarians, and they looked at me like I was crazy.’  We were at Sunrise session at Computers in Libraries.’  It was an interesting presentation innovation, and we were practicing the art of brainstorming. The idea hit me like a lightning strike.’  We were asked to share ideas without thinking about the specifics, and it just came out. When the group speaker shared it, there was an audible response.

The response was mixed, but it was audible.’  To be clear, I don’t mean to do this every Friday night. I just mean that we should do this on some Friday nights, or maybe we shouldn’t plan as much as we do. ‘ Activities are great. They allow teens something to focus on. This helps them to establish friendships, build skills and live a more enriched life. But, what about your teenage years do you remember most?

Literally made us climb random things.

I had a lot of fun as a teenager. Much of it was organized. But the moments I remember clearest aren’t the camping trips where groups of young men competed in orienteering competitions, or that time they made me climb (insert x object) even though I hate heights. Although clearly those moments made an impression, my clearest memories were the times my friends and I snuck out of scout camp. 5 boys, pushing a car down an unpaved road without lights in the dark of night to hang out in a K-Mart parking lot. Or that time we hung out in my friend Jackie’s room talking about music, and I learned who the Smiths were. (My parents loved Yanni… but mostly my dad and I listened to 1010 wins)

This is the kind of things we did on the weekend.

To my point, a YA book about kids doing crafts is boring, unless there is something else happening while they do crafts.’  YA books are about kids going on adventures, even if they are local adventures. They are about relationships, and they are about the stresses of teenage life. Consider cancelling all your programs one night when registration is low. Consider buying them food, grabbing some CD’s and then letting a moment happens. You don’t need to dim the lights and give them permission to make out. Be present, and be involved.’  Be there to maximize the fun of every teen, but let them make their own plan. Let them have their own mini-adventure.

If this is too radical for you, and it might be, consider instead my rule of 3. Rather than plan every minute of a program, I plan 3 things to do. They can be conversation starters, mini-game or they can be crocheting.’  You don’t need to dominate a room with a lesson or a performance or a book discussion. You don’t need to keep them on topic. Just provide them with something to do while they hang out and watch the magic of relationships unfolding. Why? Because when you make a plan, you want to stick to it. It is human nature. We become attached to the things we invest in. And the best things in life happen are not planned. You can’t truly plan fun.


Cancel all your programs and have a‘ pop up anti-tournaments at the Sachem Public Library.

Fighting games are a perfect way to kill time on a Friday or Saturday with just a handful of kids. ‘ The kids love to compete against one another, and they love to compete against me. So I set up an Anti-tournament, that is when the person who loses stays on. It guarantees that everyone gets a chance to play, and that one really good kid doesn’t dominate the system. It also means that the kids have something to focus and talk about. My favorite bonding strategy is to trash talk teens when I’m losing. They think it’s hilarious and confusing. It also defuses the kids who are legitimately being rude to other players. We play Injustice.

Hawkgirl beating the crap out of the flash.

The rule of three:

Minecraft at the Sachem Public Library

Andrew Bollerman and I plan 3 events.

We break the kids into groups of six, because we have six computers.

1)’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  The kids on the computers have 15 minutes to build a library in creative mode.

2)’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  Another group of six is making creeper T-shirts.

3)’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  Another group is watching a movie.

We rotate the kids every fifth teen minutes.

Wrap up: At the end we have a popular vote on which library is the best, and that kid gets a certificate for 1 extra hour of computer time. We project these libraries right onto a big screen.


In addition to your comments, share moments from your teenage years at really influenced in the comments section. Get a little personal, because for the kids… its personal.

7 Thoughts on “Rethinking what we do: Programs

  1. The hangout time is absolutely essential for my teens. I have a program called Library Lounge for an hour on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30 (when all the kids get to the library after school) in which we just hang out, talk, read, play games, catch up, etc. It’s a great environment to teens to interact, make friends, work together, and learn about each other. They can follow their interests and do as much or as little as they want!

  2. Mike Buono on September 17, 2013 at 9:29 am said:

    I love that. Do you designate the time due to limited space, to manage expectations or as a solution to another work challenge you face?

  3. We split up the meeting space: M/W for teen programs and T/TH for adult programs. I designate an hour for Library lounge and then there is usually another hour-long, more focused program after that!

  4. Mike Buono on September 17, 2013 at 9:38 am said:

    A good mix, and an effective way of dealing with limited space. When you approach planning that second program spot, what is your planning style?

  5. I have a set of program styles that I cycle through: craft, book club, movie, fandom party, gaming. Having Library Lounge beforehand guarantees an audience for the second program!

  6. Mike Buono on September 18, 2013 at 9:12 am said:

    Eden, do you have any memories of being a teen that led you to use this style of programming?

  7. No way 😀 I didn’t do after school activities or sports or even go to the library much in high school. My adventures with friends were very spontaneous and unfocused. I do bring my interests, and the interests I share with my teens, into programs, most definitely. And these are most of the same interests I had as a teen, like books and writing, manga and anime, video games, etc.

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