In the craziness of finishing up a week of camp (both for the teens and the younger campers who came in the morning) and heading back to Champaign-Urbana, I didn’t get a chance to write a Friday blog post. However, I’m here for a day five recap and a brief reflection on the week as a whole.

On Friday, we gave the teens more design time on their projects and also, gave them a chance to put their ideas together into a final presentation. A few of the teens made a PowerPoint presentation, giving an overview of their week and how they arrived at their design projects. It was a nice way to summarize the week and reflect back on what they had done.

After a brief dress rehearsal, it was showtime! The director of the Peoria Heights Public Library was there, some 4H staff members (the camp was sponsored through 4H and the University of Illinois Extension), and some of the parents of the teens. Their presentations were both informational and a celebration of their hard work.

And boy, did the teens have some great ideas. Each project showcased the teen’s strengths and their insight. The projects focused on how to make the teen space in the library more inviting for teens. Some focused on the physical space, others on what was in the collection, and others about how to bridge generation gaps between teens and older adults, using the library as the setting. The library director was intrigued by many of the ideas. I was reminded that we need teen perspectives because they have valuable opinions. I would be curious to return to the Peoria Heights Public Library in a few months and see what input was considered and put to use.

When I think back on the week’s teen design lab, it was a success. As I looked at YALSA’s teen programming requirements, I think these three were the most critical and crucial in our camp:

  • Align programming with community and library priorities

The community leaders told us in May that increasing community pride was very important to them. In future conversations, we learned that the teen space is underutilized and the librarians would like more teens to visit and use the library. Our program brought in those community leaders to share Peoria Heights pride and the teens’ final projects were suggestions to change the teen space at the library.

  • Facilitate teen led programs

While we had come up with an agenda for the week, I think by day three, we had pretty much thrown it out the window. This was because we let the teens lead and valued their input, both verbally and nonverbally. If they looked bored, we asked them for ways to make it more enjoyable. I think it’s important to go into a program with a schedule, but be confident in your ability to work with teens to adjust the schedule as needed.

  • Host programs in spaces that support the engagement, growth, and achievement of teens.

We hosted the program in the community room at the library. It was big open space, and we could change the space when we needed to. It offered lots of white walls, perfect for putting up our roadmap, the teens likes and dislikes post-it notes, agendas, and inspiration photos. The library director told us to leave everything on the walls when we left, and he would find a way to preserve the teens hard work and insights. The space was also perfect for our final presentation. We set up chairs and the whole situation felt real and important, again confirming the teens’ opinions are valued and crucial to making the library a better place for teens.

So how might you use some of these teen design lab concepts in your own library? I thought that a Teen Advisory Board “retreat” might be one neat way. It would be a condensed teen design lab, maybe over a couple of days. You could use the “Hack Your Library” idea to have teens look around the library and note their likes, dislikes, and surprises. The final part of the retreat could be presentations to the library director and other staff members — a pitch for the next great idea for the library. I believe that when you bring in stakeholders to those presentations you let the teens know that their ideas will be taken seriously and perhaps put into motion. This could also be program you partner with a local organization to help solve or brainstorm ideas for upcoming project.

So what did others think of this teen design lab? Any interested librarians in trying it out in their own libraries? I had fun blogging for the week and I’ll be back in August for my monthly post!

About Hailley Fargo

Hi, I'm a new professional working as the Student Engagement Librarian at Penn State University, University Park campus. As someone who provides reference to undergraduate students and teach information literacy to primarily freshman, I'm curious about the intersections of the work of YALSA and academic libraries (and how we can collaborate and work together to help our teens). In my spare time, I like to bike, read memoirs, watch TV shows, and consider myself an oatmeal connoisseur.

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