Posted by Kendra Skellen, TAGS Committee Member, Gwinnett County Public Library

How do you recruit? Here you will use your standard forms of publicity: word of mouth, brochures, posters, flyers, web and maybe applications. When we started our TAB groups at our branch libraries, we used an application form. This allowed us to create a database of interested teens, and each teen then got an invitation from the library for the first TAB meeting at the branch of their choice.

If you are relying on posters and flyers, you will want to place these items in more places than just the library. Where to place the flyers and posters:
• local hangouts
• coffee houses
• parks

• schools
• Boys & Girls clubs
• Library (of course)

Make them eye-catching with enough information to catch their interest.

If you have teens who are already volunteering in the library, they are some of the first you should try to recruit. They already have an interest in the library or they wouldn’t be there volunteering. Ask they to help recruit their friends and to put up posters and flyers to the places where teens hang out.

Next posting – Recruitment by Invitation

Posted by Linda W. Braun

A couple of days ago I was with a group of teens in a public library and was reminded of how wonderful teens can be if we give them the chance.

There was a group of about 20 teens at the library for the weekly teen advisory group. For this week’s TAG the teens were testing out some new games the library purchased. Not everyone wanted to play every game, and when some teens were playing a game others weren’t interested in, the non-interested teens hung out, talked, read, etc. No one got all crazy about not being able to play. Similarly, whenever it was time to try out a new game, no one got all crazy about having to give up what they were playing.

The one game that brought everyone around the gaming console, and the TV which it was hooked up to, was Karaoke. (Which had a DDR dance pad attached along with a microphone.) All of the teens were interested in watching and/or singing. All of the teens cheered each other on – even when it was obvious the person singing had a terrible voice. When one of the youngest (and smallest) teens said he wanted to sing (he didn’t play any of the other games) I was really impressed with how comfortable he was getting up in front of the others whom he had just met, and how supportive the other teens were of his singing.

There were a couple of things I thought about as I spent time with this group of teens. First, the library was obviously a place where they felt welcome and respected. They were comfortable in the environment and were comfortable being themselves. They knew no one was going to judge them about how they played, sang, talked, etc.

Another thing I thought about, this is something I think about all the time, is how much more often we need to tell the positive stories about teens and what they do for themselves and with and for each other. The afternoon I spent with this group of teens was a definite positive story of smart, respectful, and confident teenagers.

I also have been thinking about how the library, through this TAG, demonstrated several of the ways in which it is possible to help teens develop successfully as outlined by the Search Institute’s Developomental Assets. These include:

  • Support – by respecting the teens, giving them a chance to plan programs and services, and giving them a place in which to test things out and be themselves.
  • Boundaries and Expectations – by helping the teens cycle through the games in order to test each one.
  • Empowerment – by giving the teens the role of game testers and by showing teens then can “perform” in front of others and not be judged.
  • Social Competencies – by giving teens the chance to play games together, hang out in a comfortable environment, and talking to them about their needs and interests.

I know the library I visited isn’t the only one doing great things for teens. It’s incredibly exciting however any time I get to see the positive impact library services can have on teens in actual practice in a library.

Posted by Kendra Skellen TAGS Committee member, Gwinnett County Public Library

Recruiting for your Teen Advisory Board/Group
Recruiting teens to be a part of your Teen Advisory Board (Group) can be one of the most maddening yet worthwhile tasks you will have in creating or maintaining a TAB. Being teens it will be a constantly changing group. The teens will become interested in other activities or, gasp, grow older over the years and outgrow the group. However, with good recruitment tools in place you will never lack for those new teens to replace those you have lost.

Open to all or by Invitation

You need to decide what is best for your library. Open recruitment to all interested teens will give you a group with a wide range of interests. It can also give you more teens than you may want in your group. Membership by invitation will be a lot more work, but will limit the number of teens you have to work with. It may also give you a group of teens who are more responsible for they are teens who have been recommended to you by your peers in the community.

Your choice of open recruitment or recruitment by invitation may be determined by what your plans are for the TAG. Will the group be advising you in materials selection? Will they be planning and presenting programs in the library? Will the group be more involved with getting teens into the library for fun activities? What will be their purpose?

Once you have determined the purpose of you TAG, you can then make a determination of how you would like to recruit the members.

Next installment: Open Recruitment

Judy Macaluso TAGS Committee Member Ocean County Library

Today’s Millenial Generation wants to give back to their community and to become involved in things that affect them. Our library has been very successful by our TAGS being a community service opportunity and for teens to earn volunteer hours for their participation. And when that concept is carried forward into meetings where they learn that their ideas count and programs they want can and will happen and they are making a difference – it’s a win-win for sure. It is good to keep in mind that teens influence not only their peers, but their parents and adults as well. A meaningful experience for them being a library TAG member can have an unforeseen ripple effect. Positive news about the library, it’s activities and staff gets communicated to others. An unorthodox, but effective public relations strategy for sure! What are your thoughts about TAGS being a community service opportunity?

Judy Macaluso TAGS Committee Member Ocean County Library

Reason #1:Simply said working WITH teens is working FOR teens in the most developmentally appropriate and effective way. Teens on their way to adulthood are getting into the game of life – voicing an opinion, formulating an idea, making a plan, taking action, dealing with success and failure and making a difference. Teens want to do – not be done to. That is youth participation and that is what YALSA and Teen Librarians espouse.

Reason #2: Libraries are truly part of their community’s youth development support system. TAG’s are like Scouts, 4-H, Clubs, etc. By practicing youth participation with TAG’s libraries make young lives better – and that’s the whole point – isn’t it? Libraries that make lives better make a community better.

Reason #3: Rapidly changing fads, trends and interests – libraries have to know or they fall flat on their face. Teen Librarians need to be in touch with the unique teens in their unique community with their unique interests. Why have collections, programs and services that do not meet needs. Bottom Line: Libraries need to provide value and meaning by being in touch with the community we serve.

Reading Patrick Jones’s New Directions in Library Services to Young Adults is a great inspiration as well as Diane Tuccillo’s VOYA Guide – Library Teen Advisory Boards. And a valuable websites is http://www.jervislibrary.org/yaweb/TAGs.html

What would reason #4 be from your point of view?

Posted by Paula Brehm-Heeger, TAGS committee:

When there is tension in the Library, everyone feels it. Many libraries report that it starts around 2:30, when the after school crowd begins to trickle into the building. Often unhappy staff members are the most obviously stressed, but teens who feel unwelcome and unfairly targeted for constant correction of their behavior feel stress, too.

Lowering the tension level is tough to do once a pattern has been established, right? Sometimes words – no matter how calmly delivered to frustrated staff or teens that are not in the habit of trusting the library “really wants you here” – just don’t seem to do the trick.

Quality training opportunities– like those offered by SUS trainers – are extremely valuable. Take a look around your community, too. Are there staff training possibilities available from experts outside the Library profession?

Recently, I heard a community health educator specializing in adolescent medicine discuss the importance of bringing tense people out of the “red zone” – both mentally and physically – in order to effectively address challenging behaviors (“challenging behavior” of both teens and staff). This community health educator did a one hour stress management session with my TAG focused on physical and mental tools for simply calming yourself down. They loved it. Many have reported using these methods at school or when they are having difficult interactions with parents or teachers.

Why not host this kind of session for staff, too? It can be quick, easy and incorporated into a general staff meeting. Staff members may realize that, once they start reflecting on daily stress, it is not only (or perhaps predominately) teens that cause them to feel tension.

Now that my TAG has had some stress management education, they are very interested in talking more at our meetings about their ideas for de-stressing staff/teen interactions in the Library, too!

LJ Opinion Polls
I am a little delayed reporting on this as I struggle to be diplomatic, but I’m wondering… what kind of message does it send to our profession when Library Journal (Reed Business), publishes an opinion poll focusing on negative teen behavior in libraries?

Online polls about library issues have come under scrutiny before. In February 2005, American Libraries, in a poll via its January 25 issue of AL Direct, “Should ALA Council pass a resolution condemning the Cuban government for its imprisonment of dissident ‘independent librarians?'” was viewed as an “[Intervention] in the business of the Association.”

The great thing about LJ and AL polls is that they do become an opportunity for discussion. A brief discussion on the YALSA-BK listservs had librarians divided on the fairness of the poll. “Our big problems aren’t the teens, it is adults that give us behavior problems at times,” wrote one YA librarian. “I don’t have adults who poke holes in the furniture, shout, shove, and throw things across the room,” contradicted another, generating a lively conversation about patron behavior and serving the underserved.

The poll, although vague, does reflect the negative view of teens held by many adults, patrons AND librarians. The lack of support from administration for librarians working with teens, coupled with the behavior issues and poor attitude from fellow staff, seems to result in burnout. One librarian suggested that “Teen Librarians and Burnout” would be a great research project. There’s money available for research in the field, and I’d say this qualifies as a “Professional Problem,” which is a criteria for the the
Frances Henne / YALSA / VOYA Research Grant
. For more details, please visit the YALSA handbook to see YALSA’s Research Agenda, or consider applying for the Henne. Perhaps a YALSA member needs to create their own poll about behavior of all kinds, from patrons of all ages, and how it is dealt with and perceived by all staff.

A Quick Plug for SUS Trainers
Don’t forget, sometimes when you are making the case for teen services (or just arguing that they are valid and valuable patrons), it helps for the staff to hear it from someone else, even after all you’ve done to become the teen expert in your community. Ask someone at another branch, from another town, or even an SUS trainer to deliver a workshop on specific aspects of teen services. From the YALSA web site: “The subjects … include adolescent development, reading interests, behavioral problems, youth participation, facilities, and computer services for teens. The trainers have been trained to work with adult learners and are experts in the specialized field of young adult services.”

This week’s poll, perhaps in an effort to back peddle, focuses on teen participation, a core of library service to young adults. Teen participation is a terrific solution to teen behavioral issues: give them the opportunity to participate and it allows for relationship building, community building, and a sense of ownership that results in fewer behavior problems. As of noon today, 29.73% of librarians do have Teen Advisory Boards, 35.14% get teen feedback on ideas, and 35.14% do neither. The questions are clumsy – presumably, the purpose OF a Teen Advisory Board is to solicit teen feedback – why ask their opinion if you are not going to follow through?

Perhaps that’s a topic for another post.

~posted by Beth Gallaway

Posted by Linda W. Braun

Recently I’ve had the chance to work with Teen Advisory Groups at a couple of branches of The New York Public Library to find out how the teens would like to integrate gaming into library programs and services. The teens have, not surprisingly, amazing ideas about what the library can do and how they can do it. Every time I’ve said, “How will we make that happen?” at least one of the teens has replied with a viable option/solution. Here are some things they’ve been working on:

  • Hosting gaming nights for adults – parents, teachers, librarians, etc. – so the adults can learn about gaming from the teens. Teens are going to help adults play the games and demo. some of the games. The teens talked about what the program will look like, how to advertise it, what should go on the flyer, and what the registration limit should be.
  • Since there’s only one TV to hook up the consoles in the library teens suggested using a projection system for game demos. and playing.
  • One teen came up with the idea to host a tournament where players have to advance in a game only using their own wits – no guides, cheat codes, etc.
  • All of the teens want to invite expert gamers into the library to show how they play games and give the teens suggestions on how to be better gamers themselves.

This is just the tip of the iceberg really in what we’ve talked about and are developing. The teens are excited, the librarians are excited. And, to be honest, I’m excited.

At Midwinter 2007 YALSA is going to sponsor another gaming night for librarians. By then I bet I’ll have lots more ideas to bring to the event.

Posted by Paula Brehm-Heeger

Thanks to everyone for the great comments about TAG activities. Clearly, TAGs can be an invaluable tool when it comes to building effective teen services! Some unique TAG activities mentioned in comments from the field include asking TAG members to:

  • Speak at staff training events
  • Ask questions of candidates for Teen Librarian positions
  • Create booklists
  • Help with children’s programs
  • Offer general feedback about service
  • Plan special theme-based programs

A few of these suggestions hint at the advocacy role TAGs can play internally – advocating for service to teens within the Library organization.

What about the role TAGs play in advocating for the Library in the community, particularly with other teens? How do your TAG members raise the profile of the Library? Could they be doing more?

Welcome to the TAGS section of the blog! YALSA’s TAGS committee will host this section, and as the current TAGS chair, I’m pleased to kick off the discussion. Other members – Judy Macaluso, Kendra Skellen, Lisa Youngblood and Melissa Jenvey – will be posting TAGS-related questions, comments, suggestions and resource ideas in the near future, too. The key is for everyone reading the blog to share their thoughts, questions and comments about Teen Advisory Groups – we knows there is a lot to discuss when it comes to growing and maintaining a dynamic, energized TAG!

So, take a minute to brag about your TAG and tell us what you love most about your group and why? A little background information about your TAG would be great, too.

If your TAG is not already registered with YALSA’s TAGS directory, here’s your chance to sign up: http://www.ala.org/yalsatemplate.cfm?section=yalsa&template=cfapps/yalsa_tags/default.cfm