When it comes to advocating for teen services, many of us have had to justify the importance of our role to our communities, library boards, and sometimes even fellow staff members; the unfortunate reality is that we will need to continue doing so for the unforeseeable future. With cuts to staffing and operating hours affecting how we do our day-to-day jobs, it can be easy to put advocacy on the back burner instead of keeping it at the forefront of all that we do. As we rush from program to program, patron to patron, we could all use more help advocating on behalf of the teens we serve. What better resource than the teens themselves to help promote libraries and, more specifically, teen services! Read More →

As professionals who work with youth, we understand that volunteering is one way that teens can increase their social and academic development while giving back to the community at large. With many high schools instituting service credit criteria for graduation, teens are in need of opportunities to fulfill these requirements. What better time to evaluate your library’s volunteer opportunities for teens than at the beginning of a new year! What better place than the library, the hub of the community, at which to volunteer! Here are just a few of the ways that libraries can help teens make a difference: Read More →

Earlier this month, Wired magazine ran an article by Clive Thompson that discusses how students today lack reliable Internet search skills despite being digital natives. He points to a study conducted by the College of Charleston where a group of students were asked to look up the answers to several questions. Most of the students used Google and selected the web pages at the top of the list, not knowing that the order had been changed to include less reliable sources as a part of the experiment. The study concluded that the students placed too much faith in the search engine-generated results than in their own abilities to assess information.

Why are students who are so adept at navigating the digital world so unskilled when it comes to selecting what’s reliable and accurate? Read More →

I’ve owned my iPad for several months now and while I enjoy it on a personal-level, I really love utilizing it professionally. When I bring it to the library and hook it up to our overhead projector for after-school programs, my teens can’t wait to find out what we’ll be doing. So far, we’ve only explored one aspect of apps-based gaming—trivia—and the teens have really responded favorably to it, so we’ll continue to incorporate this into our programming as we look to broaden our apps horizon.

The Scene-It? programs that are available, particularly the Horror version, are the current teen favorites, but the Family Feud app is gaining momentum. In both cases, the teens work together to answer the questions and beat the clock, and while they enjoy bragging rights for figuring out difficult clues, the teamwork they demonstrate supersedes everything else. They’re competitive without being cutthroat, and they enjoy showing off their knowledge of pop culture and trivia.

The teens and I haven’t even scratched the surface of programming possibilities; in fact, we’ll be trying Lego’s Life of George soon as well as other creative apps including Toontastic, ComicBook!, and Wordfoto. It will be challenging to coordinate a program where so many teens will have great ideas but only one iPad to voice them; my teens, however, have shown that they’re willing to try anything. While I’d love to have an iPad available for everyone, for now we’ll share mine as we continue to discover new apps and programming ideas together.

You’ve got the materials. You’ve got the space. So, what can a teen librarian do to draw the teens in and get the books in their hands? A lot, actually. What follows is a brief list of some of the techniques that can be used to make the most of your teen collection.

1. Displays, displays, displays!
By far the easiest way to highlight new books to your collection, under-the-radar reads, and staff favorites. Themed displays work well to capture those audience members who like a particular genre or subject, but eclectic displays can also be just as effective. (Blue-covered books, anyone?) Let the display do all the work for you.
2. Cross-merchandise
Filling displays with books is a no-brainer, but don’t forget to include other formats including audiobooks, Playaways, music CDs, magazines, and whatever else you may have available to enhance your displays and invite potential use.
3. Build the buzz
Create a display featuring books that are in high demand—if you can keep them on the shelves—and include a visual that indicates when the sequel is due. Not only does it answer readers’ questions about when the next book will be coming out, it also builds anticipation and discussion between yourself and your teens.
4.’ Highlight crossover authors
The YA publishing industry is still going strong, and many authors who have typically written for an adult audience are finding that there’s an untapped teen market out there. Best-selling authors including James Patterson, John Grisham, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Harlan Coben have made the leap into young adult fiction, so featuring their work not only introduces teens to well-established writers but also draws adults into the amazing world of YA books.
5. Make use of your TAB
What better way to get the word out about your library’s materials and resources than by having the teens themselves do the marketing for you in a convincing, authentic way.
6. Tag your titles
If your library catalog supports a tagging system, such as Encore, used by the Cuyahoga County Public Library system, then make use of it! Tagging your books allows similar titles to be linked to each other, so when searching the catalog by tag, other like-minded titles will appear as well. It’s a great way to “recommend” titles to those patrons who’d rather discover books on their own.

Of course, these are just a few of the ways to feature what you have in your collection, and really, there’s no wrong way to do this. Experiment with different approaches, be creative, and have fun; if you can do these things, then your teens will get what they want and need from your collection.

Any teen librarian who is fortunate enough to work with a talented children’s librarian knows that the possibilities for collaborating on innovative programs are endless, providing youth from birth to young adulthood with programming that meets their developmental, social, and educational needs. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to work closely with your children’s librarian on a project, there’s no better time than now to do so. Why collaborate? Here are three good reasons:
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When faced with the chance to build a teen section from the ground up, most teen librarians would jump at the opportunity to create the perfect teen-centric, state-of-the-art space filled with ample, comfortable seating, the latest in technology and resources, and, most importantly, teenagers. To craft such a space is practically every teen librarian’s dream, and many library professionals agree that having an innovative, separate, and distinct teen space is one of many factors linked to teens wanting to use the library more.

Most of us who work with teens in a library-setting already know that they need a place to call their very own, so why state the obvious? It seems that a new trend in library design for youth may be emerging, which focuses on a “whole youth” approach to space and service. While not necessarily a new idea, this more traditional approach creates a youth space that moves from one stage of development to the next and provides patrons from birth to young adult with a continuity of service from a team of youth librarians. In this model, the teen space is once again situated near or, in some cases, in the youth (i.e. children’s) department, and a teen librarian may spend most of the day assisting pre-teens. Yes, there will still be a dedicated space for teens, but its proximity to all things children may diminish its favor among young adults. As Kimberly Bolan (2009) so aptly states in Teen Spaces (2nd ed.), “Teenagers do not want to be associated with little kids” (p. 30).

It appears that the advances Bolan and others have advocated for and gained on behalf of teen librarians and their customers may be in danger of becoming the exception to the rule once again. Will teen services become diminished as a whole youth approach to library services and design takes root? Will teens continue to use the library once their separate space is integrated into the youth section? Only time will tell.