Note: The concept of this program was inspired by the brilliant programming designed by The Show Me Librarian. To see her concept for her Chat & Chew program, visit: http://bit.ly/2hGdAYO
Developing a program for teens in our community might be one of the high points of my career (to date). As many teen librarians and small library directors know, getting teens in the doors of the library is a difficult and seemingly impossible task.
There are a lot of obstacles to tackle when trying to create a successful strategy for getting teens excited about the library, the biggest being the cool factor. If they don’t like it, they will not come. They could be sleeping in or binging on a Netflix show, so your program has to peak their interest! Secondly, you need to find a time that has minimal conflict with extra-curricular activities. Finally, you have to find a way to let them know about it, especially if they don’t come through the doors of the library regularly.
The basic concept for my program was to run a two-hour event on Saturday morning, beginning at 10 am. I have coffee and hot water, as well as breakfast treats available. From there, the concept changes monthly as to what the activity will be, but the time, place, and spread of food always stay the same.
In addition to book talks, we also just recently tried Sharpie art and it went over really well (see photo below for our handiwork).
Additional programs planned include Valentine’s Speed Date with a Book, DIY terrariums, and a hand lettering workshop. So far we’ve had 7 – 10 teens attend every program, which for a library our size is an awesome success!
With the recent success of our program, I wanted to share some of the strategies I used to develop our program, and here they are!
1. Find like-minded community members to help you reach your goal.
This one came in the form of our school district’s librarian, who I absolutely adore. We’re both like-minded in wanting to create new and exciting programs for the community and frequently pool our resources together to help each other. Whenever I’m planning a program, I always send my information over to my school counterpart. She’s a great advocate for our programs. If you are not currently working with your school librarian, I highly suggest you set up a meeting with them!
2. Find a time with minimal conflicts.
With the number of extracurricular activities out there, there is never going to be a perfect time free of other events, but I’ve found that Saturday mornings are a good time for us to host programming. I set the time of the event to 10 am (because most of us like to sleep in). However, maybe a weeknight would work better or an after-school program. Whatever it may be, observe your community, look over your school district’s calendar, and test out a time for a program. If you have low attendance, ask for feedback (many time teens ask their friends to join, so they’ll know why people didn’t come) and you can adjust the time of your events from there.
3. Ask for feedback!
Teens know what they do and do not like, and if you plan programming they don’t like, they are not going to show up. At my first program, I had a list of several program ideas I thought might be of interest and I spent a few minutes going over them and asking their opinions, which they gladly gave. Some they LOVED, and some they didn’t. Anything that didn’t get good feedback, I crossed off my list.
Another activity that went over really well was giving the group a list of books the library was considering for our young adult order, letting them read over the titles, discuss them, and then vote on which ones they wanted to read. The books that got the highest votes were added to our book order.
4. Bring food.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to put this on every post about a program, but I will for good measure. Everyone loves snacks, especially teens. Feed them and they will come back.
I hope you find some of these strategies helpful when planning your own teen programming. If you have ideas for other projects you could do for a teen event, leave them in the comments below!