Teen Programming – The Biggest Gamble in the Library

by Shayna Monnens, Head Editor, INALJ South Dakota

Teen Programming – The Biggest Gamble in the Library

shaynam1As everyone in the library/reading world knows, teen literature is the hottest thing since the invention of the sandwich. Every day it seems to be the best and hottest new YA release has come out, and everyone is clamoring to read it. The fact that some of Hollywood’s biggest young adult and teen focused movies have ALL (ok, exaggeration) been based on teen lit is only continuing the trend. How awesome is that!

So, because of this amazing surge of teen and YA interest in the library, I sometimes find myself scratching my head for some new and exciting things that the library can offer to the hordes of adoring teens that flock our door (ok, another exaggeration). In fact, it’s a bit more like how can I get these teens to keep coming in!

I have had some pretty brilliant brainstorms within the past year that have either been spectacular successes or failures on an epic scale. Let me share a few of the things that went well:

–        Hunger Games event: Ok, this one is a bit of a given, because who doesn’t love this dystopian phenomenon? I had around 25 kids show to this event, which is amazing(!!) for a town with 10,000 people. We had an archery contest, pizza, t-shirt stencils, and some great goodies given away at the end (book set, movie, soundtrack, etc). Well worth the time and effort and cash that we put in to that. I got thank you cards for hosting the event, and requests for more events similar in style.

–        Manga Club: SHOCKINGLY this is a huge hit! I was a bit surprised when a couple of the teen approached me with this idea, and we ran with it. We have about 15-18 teens who show up every 1st and 3rd Friday of every month. I personally buy the Japanese candy or beverages, but its not usually too much and it’s so worth it. We have a great time, and I am continually blown away by the interest in it. Long live the manga!

However, as sad as it makes me, I’ve had some pretty epic flops.

–        Teen Tech Week (Make Your Own Android Event): Styrofoam heads with oodles of computer and hardware parts should equal an awesomely artistic and teen-friendly time, but instead resulted in ONE PERSON showing up. The saddest part of that one individual is that she was the library page who was getting paid to come in for those two hours an assist. I hung my head in shame over that one. However, can’t expect much of a turnout when most of the teens were at the district boys’ basketball playoffs in which the local high school team was in the finals. Yea, no way to see that one coming.

–        Breaking Dawn Part 2 Book and Movie Discussion: Even with the added incentive of pizza and giving away 2 tickets to the 11 PM showing on release night for the movie, I had 2 teens show up. Well, not much pizza had to be ordered, and it was very easy on who the tickets were going to be given too. I think that everyone and their dog have been vampire’d out (which is ok with me).

Everyone knows that when you go into the library profession you have to be prepared for these variations in numbers. One can never expect people to show up for an event (although we certainly hope and pray so), and it’s so hard to try and gauge the public interest. I am constantly looking for new ideas and programs, and am using my manga club members as a “teen advisory” panel to bounce ideas off of. They don’t know that I call them that. I think they would be a bit freaked out by this idea; it’s a work in process…don’t judge me :D. Here are a couple of ideas that I have been toying around with and I might just get them to fly.

–        Magic Card Tournament Nights: See if the local gaming store would be interested in collaborating with me on this one. Nerds of the world unite!

–        Dungeons & Dragons Club: I brought this idea up as an almost afterthought suggestion and I had huge interest in this one. I will admit, I was surprised. Now, to learn to become a D&D game master.

–        Every other month host some sort of teen event (decades’ party, art showing, ink and tattooing workshop, etc). I got ideas, now just need the interest.

–        Teen/YA Book Club: This one is a long term goal. The library where I work had very minimal teen programming (if any!) before I started there, so I have slowly started integrating teen programming in. I don’t want to push too much too fast.

I am always open to suggestions from teen and young adults on what we can be doing to improve and enhance our teen department. There are so many other great ideas out there as well, not including the ones that haven’t even been thought of yet. Working with teens is definitely a “fly by the seat of your pants” gig. You can try and guess what the kids will be into and what is hot, but the kicker of it is, it’s always a risk.

I personally love working with teens. I wish that I would have had a dedicated teen librarian in my area when I was that age, so I try to make it as fun and entertaining while still being relevant as I possibly can. Teen are at that very temperamental stage where their parents aren’t really bringing them into the library anymore, and you really need them get into the habit of using the library, or they might not utilize its services when they are adults. It’s a challenge, one that is both rewarding and disappointing, but one that certainly keeps me on my toes.

  5 comments for “Teen Programming – The Biggest Gamble in the Library

  1. June 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Great ideas for teen events. I think a party coinciding with the Catching Fire movie release would be a great idea. I also like the Magic and D&D event ideas.

    • Puerto Rico to Wyoming editors
      July 3, 2013 at 12:31 am

      Funny you should mention “Catching Fire”. I have had a chance to do some book talks at the schools and the school visits for summer reading, and I still have kids mention the Hunger Games event, and inquiring as to when we will have another for CF. I look forward to the prep and the planning for that one!

      • July 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

        Good to know it’s still popular. I’m going to suggest an event for the library I’m doing my fieldwork at in the Fall. I think it would be a fun for out little library.

  2. June 28, 2013 at 10:04 am

    One thing that I’ve heard about that’s popular with the teens, a couple of public libraries around here have done them, is read-a-thons. Invite a bunch of teens to spend the night in the library, reading and discussing and raising money, either for the library or another cause. I know if they’d had that when I was a teen I’d have jumped at the chance to stay overnight at the library.

    • Puerto Rico to Wyoming editors
      July 3, 2013 at 12:29 am

      That’s a great idea! I do know of a few teens that would jump on that idea! Thank you!

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