Programming is a big job for library staff. To come up with program ideas we hold Teen Advisory Board meetings, talk with educators and community members, and find out what our teens are interested in or want to learn about. We nurse a program idea through planning meetings, we order supplies, choose a date, and promote our baby program on every channel at our disposal. Finally the big day arrives, it’s program time and…not one teenager shows up. Now you’re standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by supplies, and alone with your formerly fabulous program idea. But is it really that your idea wasn’t good? Did no one want to come, or is it actually that teen schedules are beyond crazy and it’s impossible for any library staff member to take every possible conflict (including the unpredictable weather) into consideration when planning a program. My money is on the latter.
If your library is like mine then you have some days when it’s so quiet that you expect an honest to goodness tumbleweed to blow through the department, but then the very next day is so over the top busy that you feel like you’ve run a marathon by the time you get home. Granted, most days are somewhere in between, but wouldn’t it be nice if your fabulous programs could coincide with those marathon busy days? This is where pop-up programming can become your new best friend. Instead of picking a date and hoping teens will show up at a predetermined time, do everything except schedule your program. That’s right, plan, order supplies, and then…wait. Wait until the day when there are so many teens in your department that they’re practically climbing the walls. Wait until you hear, “I’m so bored,” over and over in one afternoon. Then, bust out that fabulous program at the most opportune moment.
The easiest programs, in my experience, to do in a pop-up format are crafting and technology. There are craft projects out there that require little set up and almost no instruction, seriously, have you tried perler beads? My teens are obsessed. The same can be said of technology programs, if you have a stash of iPads at your disposal then apps like Quiver, a free 3D coloring app, and Videoshop, an inexpensive and easy to use video editor compatible with most social media platforms for easy sharing, are great for quick, fun programs. It can also be fun to invest in a wireless printer (my library has a Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer). These little printers give teens the option to print their smart phone pictures, which you know they never do, wirelessly with a free app. The images can be edited before printing and they come out looking like tiny polaroids, just begging to be decorated with markers, glitter, washi tape, etc.
Pop Up programming has its challenges, but with a little creativity, flexibility, and enthusiasm you can make sure that your programs are well attended and no teenager is standing around whining about how bored they are. I suggest still having traditional, scheduled programming, but always with a few pop up programs ready to go just in case. Have you tried pop up programming before? How did it work for you? What kinds of activities have you tried?
For more information and ideas:
YALSA Stem Programming
Teen Programming Guidelines
Determining Teen Needs Through Community Assessment