The Old Bridge Public Library’s usage increases exponentially during the summer months while our staffing stays the same.  This makes it difficult to offer the summer learning programs that would benefit our community, but thanks to the YALSA Dollar General Grant, we were able to acquire a teen volunteer to host a myriad of STEM classes centered on the “Build a Better World” theme. 

We have a thriving year round teen volunteer program with over 100 active teens and during the summer months this number increases.  So when we advertised for our summer learning intern position, we knew we would get a huge number of applicants.  Close to a hundred teens applied for the intern position.  We knew more than half of them had the tech skills and open schedule that we needed, but would they have the social skills to make this program successful?  In order to find that out, we held interviews to see if they would be able to interact with all ages, including leading a group of their own peers.

We chose Ariana, or “A” as our summer learning intern for many reasons.  Since A was a teen volunteer for 4 years working in all aspects of the library, and went to a technology high school, she already had the necessary library and technology skill set that we were looking for.  There was no need to train her on those sections.   The Teen Librarian and I gave her a brief talk on the ages that she would be serving and explained their developmental stages.  Because of this, depending on the people attending the program, she was able to alter her robotics programs to ensure that everyone was getting a valuable experience out her STEM classes.    

LED circuit droid

Our summer intern was an essential part in our summer learning programs.  Since we believe in empowering teens, A’s role was not only to act as support in librarian run programs, but to also create her own. One of the first agenda items that we went over with A was to make a list of goals and program ideas to give her some guidance on how the summer would run.

A was responsible for helping us with the day to day duties that would arise in the children’s department during the summer, including the kickoff and finale, story times and summer reading sign ups.

Kiddie Camp visit

Summer Intern Highlights

  • Minecraft Camp
    • Every Wednesday in July, A helped out at our Minecraft camp.  Using Redstone blocks, a group of 8-10 year olds used their engineering skills to build worlds.
  • Star Wars Camp
    • Week 1- A taught the campers (ages 7-12) how to make paper circuit LED cards
      • The kids in this camp are very diverse in age, ethnicity and learning styles.  Among the mix of fifteen attendees, we have an autistic camper, and two ESL kids.  It was good to have A around to make sure that they were getting the individualized attention that they needed.
    • Week 2- These are the Droids you’re looking for.
      • A trained the other teen volunteers how to use the iPad robotic apps and sphero robots before the camp began.  Then she and the others taught the kids how to use the robots and created a maze where they had to navigate the spheros through without knocking over the good guys, unless you were part of the Dark Side, then you got to knock over my beloved Chewie.
      • This taught “A” the importance of collaboration and team work when working with others.  She noticed the different learning styles of the other teen volunteers and modified the way she instructed the teens to better suit their learning behaviors. 
  • Tweens Night Out “Robots in the Library”
    • Due to an unexpected staffing issue, “A” came in on a Friday night to run our monthly tweens night out program.  This was helpful since not all of the Youth Services staff knows how to use all of our robots and only one staff member works on a Friday night.
  • Special Needs extended school year and Kiddie Camp visit
    • Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you have a school visit unexpectedly show up when they weren’t scheduled.  What was scheduled was a camp visit of over fifty, first graders in costumes celebrating Halloween in July and a family story time.  Because A proved how trustworthy and able she was, we were able to have her train our teen volunteers on the activities that were scheduled that day for the Halloween celebration, thus freeing up a librarian to do an impromptu story time with the special needs extended school year kids.
  • Total Eclipse of the Sun Celebration
    • On Monday, August 21, A will host a table at our “Total Eclipse of the Sun Celebration.”  She came up with an eclipse activity for all ages and will help us with the rush of people who will be lining up for the remainder of our viewing glasses.

Having a teen intern not only gave us the chance to offer programming that we would not be able to do, but alleviated the stress of the unexpected, such as unscheduled camp visits, unforeseen sicknesses and accidental scheduling snafus that required someone familiar with robotics and coding to run the library programs. 

Star Wars Camp Sphero maze

Throughout the summer, the teen librarian and I held weekly meetings with “A” to see how the summer was progressing and if she had any questions.  At our last meeting I asked her what was the one big thing she learned this summer.  Her answer, “I’d say that the main thing I learned was how to work with kids.  Social skills are always really important and even more when it comes to children so through all the programs we did, I got a lot more experience in teaching and helping them.”

As the summer comes to a close, I was lucky enough to see Ariana show the many skills that are needed in our ever changing world; patience, kindness and infectious enthusiasm.  Because Old Bridge is a diverse community, she gained the necessary experience working with different ethnicities and ages.  This knowledge is advantageous for her to grow into a mature well rounded individual who will be tolerant and kind to all members of society.

Pham Condello is a supervising librarian specializing in youth services, from kids’ brains to teen culture.  When she is not hanging out with this entertaining demographic in the library, she is training library staff on how to properly interact with teenagers. 

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