What Can the Library Do for Teens?

by Stefanie

I’ve been a library nerd my whole life, since well before “nerd” and “geek” became proud terms that we  nerds reclaimed from those people who might use them against us. I was raised by a library nerd. It’s in our blood, and is definitely why I’m working at the library today, writing this particular post.

The more recent evolution of the public library, from book repository into community resource and meeting place, has been an unexpected bonus. I could not have predicted all the services our public libraries would add (or what the next several decades will bring), but for me, that transition has transformed me from a library lover to a librarian, and transformed the library itself from hobby to career. I know I’m not alone in that feeling. Libraries were always cool, but now they are filled with librarians who spend their time thinking, “Yeah, we’ve done lots of cool things already, but what ELSE can we do?”

That brings me to our teens.

We are lucky to live in an area where the high school provides a ton of after-school activities for its students. Teens can be involved in sports, drama, robotics, and all kinds of other clubs catering to their interests after school is over. But it is still our goal as a library to be a resource and meeting place for teens (and tweens) as much as for adults and children. So we look for gaps that we can fill, services and other things we can offer to teens they might not be able to get from them middle or high schools.

We try to fill these gaps in one of two ways. First, we do our research. We look around at programs that other libraries are doing, programs that seem like they would be appealing to people who have attended our programs before, or just ones that are plain fun (Dungeons & Dragons, anyone?).

Second, and far more important, we get out there and ask our teens and tweens what they want to do. We ask them at our existing programs, when they come in to the library, and, when we can manage it, at school directly (after all, we want to find kids who wouldn’t already be coming into the library, as well). We can create programs until we can’t think of a single other thing to do, but it won’t matter if we’re not going directly to our teens and getting their opinions. We’re here for you, so who better than you to tell us what it is you’re looking for?

By that same token, we want to expand the materials we have for check-out for teens and tweens, as well. I love young adult and middle grade (who doesn’t?), and as both these areas become more dynamic, we try to do the same with our collection. This means keeping up with the books you want to read, as well as adding to our teen non-fiction. Non-fiction is all about providing materials on subjects you’re actually interested in. Our collection should feel inclusive, and should make clear to our whole community that all of us are important and valued.

Our goal in the coming months is to get a Teen Advisory Board up and running. This would be a group that meets monthly to put together and give feedback on programs, help us make decisions, maybe get exclusive access to new books before everyone else, and eat snacks (the snacks are very important). Teens who participate in the TAB group can get volunteer credit for coming, as well as get to pick the programs we do. How awesome is that?

If you’re interested in being a part of this group, please let us know!

And above all, talk to us. If there’s a program you want us to do, tell us. If there is a book or author or even topic you want included on our shelves, tell us. That’s what we’re here for!

Our next teen program is our No-Fish Sushi Making program at 3:00pm on Thursday, March 22. Drop in and join us. Or even drop in to tell us what else you’d like to be doing! We can’t wait to hear from you!

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