Jaffrey Public Library’s teen staff and participants in our teen book club, Book Buzz, indicated a need for more accessible, highly engaging books for reluctant readers, as well as an expanded virtual outlet for sharing their thoughts about what they read and other topics of interest. In response, we used our funds from the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant to purchase titles from ALA’s “2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” list, as well as an iPad with an Apple pencil for teens to create book trailers of new teen titles and other digital content. The plan was to feature this content on a new page for our website, JPL Teen Magazine.
The Jaffrey Public Library serves the middle and high school population of the Jaffrey-Rindge school district. 2018 saw the loss of separate middle and high school libraries, as the School Board recently voted to combine the two schools. The loss of school resources put more focus on the public library for our teen students, and we have seen a rise in library attendance of this population, particularly among teens who are struggling academically and looking for a safe place.
The primary goal of our project was to address the risk factors for these teens, by increasing engagement with library activities, resources, and staff that provide support. They have indicated boredom and a lack of interest in school, but many have shown a high level of engagement with library STEAM and literacy programming. Through content creation activities and online engagement with JPL Teen Magazine, we intended to impact teens’ textual, visual, and digital literacy skills while also promoting the most accessible parts of our collection.
In addition to inviting Book Buzz participants to create content, we marketed the formation of a new Teen Advisory Board to meet biweekly during the summer. We also included “Make a book trailer using our new iPad” and “Check out a book from the Summer Learning display” on our teen Summer Learning bingo cards. Overall, Summer Learning turned out to be a phenomenal success. Registration by middle and high schoolers in the Summer Learning Program went up 70% over the previous two years, and engagement went up by 50%. We played the book trailers that were completed on our big screen during various programs, and those titles received increased interest from teens. (See one of our most-viewed book trailers here.)
The success was not, however, driven by engagement with the Teen Advisory Board, as initially anticipated. What we discovered was that even teens who attended more than one meeting and expressed interest in more solid commitment during the school year found it difficult to commit to regular commitments during the summer. The greatest engagement from teens came from the at-will aspects of our Summer Learning Program. As a result, not enough content was generated to launch JPL Teen Magazine during the summer months. Staff anticipate renewed engagement during the school year as schedules become more regular, and we look forward to both a vibrant Teen Advisory Board and JPL Teen Magazine in the months to come.
Andrea Connolly is a Youth Services Librarian at Jaffrey Public Library.