I am one of the 2018 YALSA/Dollar General Teen Intern grantees. This was our library’s first summer running a teen internship program. As we wrap up our program for the summer, I’m reflecting on how it went.

Our library serves a community where there are not many job opportunities for teens. Every time I visit schools and ask teens what they want to see at the library, one of their first answers is “jobs” (followed by “slime”). Therefore, our goal with this internship was to create a supportive and engaging “first job” experience for teens. We asked them to fill out an application and go through an interview process. We interviewed six teens for two positions. My hope is that this was a learning experience in a supportive environment, even for teens who were not offered the internship.

Once we selected our two interns, I worked to establish schedules and expectations with them. I also worked to create a list of tasks for them to complete over the course of the summer. I am glad I followed YALSA’s advice to plan more work than I thought they needed, because both interns learned quickly and finished tasks quickly. Both of our interns supported our summer reading program by helping prepare for and host children’s and teen programs. They also worked on various projects to help children and teens engage with our library space and collection, by creating displays, passive programs, and more. One of my goals for the year was to re-invent our teen space and collection by finding ways to give teens ownership of the space. There’s no better way to do this than to hire a teen to help!

Overall, the experience was extremely positive for our library. We’ve seen higher teen program attendance this summer than ever before at our branch. We’ve also seen an increase in our teen volunteer applications. Our teen volunteer hours per month have more than doubled this summer. Supervising multiple teen volunteers and two teen interns is not an easy feat, but it’s worth the effort. I think that when our community and our patrons see us investing in our teens and making an effort to help them succeed, more and more teens come through our doors.

The internship experience has also been positive for the two teens we hired. But you don’t have to take my word for it! I asked one of our interns, Sydney, a few questions about her experience this summer.

Q: Why did you want to intern at the library?

Sydney: I wanted to intern at the library because it would help me with my organization skills as well as regular job skills.

Q: What have you learned this summer?

Sydney: I learned how to work with others, including adults and kids. I also learned to be more patient with others.

Q: What did you like most about interning at the library? Did anything surprise you?

Sydney: Making crafts with kids was what I most like about the library. How much they planned ahead surprised me.

One of Sydney’s tasks every week was to help with our “Maker Monday” program, where teens make a craft or project. We were all very impressed with Sydney’s ability to connect with her peers while simultaneously explaining whatever we were working on. She truly has a gift for connecting with people and we were lucky to have her working at the library this summer! Thanks to YALSA and Dollar General for this opportunity.

Carolyn Vidmar is the Teen Services Librarian at the East New Orleans Regional Library, a branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

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