Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Teens Got Talent: Empowering Teens and Creating Buy In

Sometimes trying to find creative library programs that will interests teens is difficult, but there is a great resource for us that we don’t offer consider: the teens themselves.  Teens are singing, acting, making short films, designing web sites, making models and so much more.  They have talents and hobbies that they want to share, so give them a place to do it.  Go beyond an American Idol type program or a talent show and allow teens to share their talent – whatever it is – and create a dynamic, ongoing library program for teens, by teens.

Tired of trying to come up with program ideas, I declared 2005 the “year of the teen” and let my teens do the programming.  I went beyond a teen advisory board and canvased my community to determine what talents my teens had that they wanted to share.  I created an application with a deadline, selected the programs, met with the presenter, developed publicity – and then let the teens do all the work.  One teen shared how to make recycled Capri Sun purses (before you could buy them in the store), another teen shared about her travel experiences, and more.

The great thing about this type of programming is that it really taps into the 40 developmental assets (http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18).  It basically expands on what we try to do with Teen Advisory Boards and takes it to the next level: it’s not just a group of 12 or 20 giving program ideas but is open to any teen in the community.

Allow your teens to take ownership of your teen programming, be creative, and increase participation; allow them to share their gifts and talents with other teens in an attempt to provide creative, developmentally appropriate teen programming that also recognizes that teens are peer oriented while demonstrating how the library can help teens grow in their interests and abilities through the use of information services.  Almost any topic a teen will want to present on, you should have support materials in your collection – be sure to put them on display.

Example Slogans:
Teens Got Talent (take this moment to tie in with popular shows like America’s Got Talent and American Idol)
You’ve Got Talent – Share it With Us!
Celebrate you!  You’ve got interests and talents – share them with other teens. 


  • To expand your services to teens in the community
  • To provide innovative, creative teen programming by providing a forum for teens to express themselves and share their talents with their peer group
  • To meet the developmental needs of teenagers to express themselves proactively while utilizing the importance of peer influence and recommendation as a great asset in publicity and promotion
  • To use teen interests to promote the library collection and services

Phase 1:  Application of Teen Participants

Set an application period for teens to submit a program idea regarding a hobby, talent or experiences they would like to share with others.  Teens will have to submit a sample for tangible items, such as crafts, hobbies, etc. or a letter of recommendation for talents such as singing, acting, etc.  Or have them audition privately in a meeting with you.
 Needs for this phase:

  • Application
  • Permission form (?)
  • Publicity

Phase 2:  Programs for Teens Presented by Teens

From these applicants we pick one teen for each month (or each Friday, whatever time frame works for you) to present a program.  Meet at least once with each presenter before their program to make sure they have it all together and go over any ground rules (language, length of time, etc.).  In addition, you do all publicity and support materials.
Needs for this phase:

  • 1 overall poster highlighting all of the programs that have been selected
  • Individual program fliers
  • An individual meeting time for each presenter (approximately 30 minutes)
  • Program/presentation checklist for each presenter

Program Cost:

  • Staff time
  • Traditional publicity and support materials
  • Traditional program costs of materials or snacks depending on the nature of the program

Promote, Promote, Promote
Not only is there benefit to the teens when doing this type of programming, there is benefit to the library as teens become your promoters – they are going to want their friends to come.  They will hand out fliers for you, promote it on their social networking sites, and more.  Including teens in this way creates stronger buy-in, and teen buy-in increases word of mouth promotion, which is your most successful type of promotion.

With the popularity of reality shows, especially talent shows, the time is right for this type of programming.  Tap into the zeitgeist and let your teens shine!

The Disney Channel has a really good example of this with their video features, TTI (The Time I . . .)  If you can’t do live programming, definitely ask for video submissions that you can share over your webpage and Facebook.  If you do live programming, make sure you record it so you can also generate these video snippets to share.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKM39idF1Zo]

Verb Up Your Image

Everything you do is another building block in creating the overall image for your library and teen services program:  Every piece of paper you put out.  Every poster you put up.  The overall look of your area (Is it neat and organized? Are you merchandising titles face out and filling holes and straightening throughout the day?).  The number and types of programs that you do.  Think of it as a piece of pointillism art:  Each action is one small pointy stroke of your art brush and as your teens pull away from the canvas they begin to see the whole picture.  What do you want that picture to look like?

When putting your copy together, you need to think about your audience: teens!  Teens are active.  Even if they are just sitting around, they are still “hanging” and “chilling” (or chillaxin).  So what you want to do is tap into this desire to be active, to be a part of something and lead all of your copy with verbs.  Verbs are an important brushstroke in your marketing plan.  You want to let teens know that there is something unique, amazing, powerful happening at your library – something they want to be a part of.  Don’t tell them they don’t want to miss out, show them in your marketing materials and let them come to that conclusion on their own.

Think of the awesome verbs you can use: capture, engage, feed, explore, discover, crave, win, delight, share, fascinate, captivate . . . You can even use hang and chill, depending on your overall goals.

The temptation is to use being/helping verbs.  Or to use the verb Read.  Of course we are promoting reading, but you want to present a more multi-faceted image.  Libraries are not, after all, only about books.

Even though it is not grammatically correct, you want to start everything you put in the hands of your teens with a verb.  You are inviting them to DO something.
That something can be a guided activity, a program, or it can be a moment that is self guided, using your materials and resources.  It can be an event.  It can be a process.  But your overall message is this:  when you step into this public library, you will DO.
More about using verbs in your marketing materials:

Library Bootcamp

Reach out to your incoming 6th graders now and help them develop the library skills they need by creating a library book camp, reel them in to your teen services program and really catch their attention.  In the fitness world, boot camps are popular – so let’s take it a step further and help teens get fit minds, too. 

This is a great way to transition younger users to your new teen services and area, to get them invested in the program by helping them know how to navigate the area, and to let them meet teen services staff and start building those essential relationships.  This is a fun way to make sure teens learn basic information literacy skills. 

Getting Organized:
Determine what you want teens to take away from your boot camp.  I recommend the following 3 basic areas (think stations on an obstacle course to keep with the boot camp theme):  Navigating your teen area, Navigating the catalog, Navigating your library databases.

Enlist the help of staff, you’ll need a lot to make this work.  You will need at least 1 staff member for to be the instructor for each obstacle course station and you will need about 3 platoon captains so you can divide the students that come that day into 3 platoons to alternate between the stations.  So we’re talking a minimum of 6 unless the teachers bring assistants to lead the teens from station to station.

Pick a time, I recommend the first 2 hours that you are open so that there are less people in the library to be disturbed and there are more open Pacs.  I also recommend setting a finite window that teachers can sign up for, which will depend upon the number of schools you serve.  When you send out your packets to the teachers be sure to indicate that they can call from x amount of time to y to sign up for spots at 9 am during the weeks of September 6 – 30, for example.

Get an advertising packet together:  Write a letter explaining to your teachers what you are trying to accomplish, what the benefit is for the schools and the students, and highlight how it can provide curriculum support.  In addition to a letter, put together a very attractive, very visual brochure to sell the bootcamp to the teachers and administrators.  I recommend both approaches to reinforce the message and reach a wide variety of brain types, some teachers and administrators will respond better to a formal letter while others will embrace the visual.  Always try and communicate your message in multiple ways to reach the greatest number of people, what works for one person will not work for another.

Develop a basic scavenger hunt that will include questions (let’s say 5) from each obstacle course stop.  Put it together in an attractive one page sheet (not too long, you don’t want it to be intimidating or look too much like school work).  During your bootcamp you are not only training your teens on basic library skills, but you are selling yourself (your library and your teen services program) by showing that the library is fun.

How it will work:
When the students come for the day, divide them into 3 groups.  Each group is given a leader who will take them from station to station.

At each station they will be given a basic overview and then an opportunity to explore and do hands on activities that will allow them to answer the questions on the scavenger hunt sheet.  You are looking at 20 minutes per station.  Plus a 10 minute introduction and a 10 minute wrap up, minimum. 

After the teens have rotated through all 3 stations, get everyone together and share the correct answers.

Don’t let them leave empty handed:  Have a raffle for arcs or leftover SRC prizes that you have hanging around, hand out bookmarks and fliers for upcoming events (be sure to have one coming up soon after their visit).

Sample Boot Camp Questions:
What is the call number for Twilight?  How many different formats is it available in?
Tell me the name of a graphic novel series available in the teen area?
What library database would you use if you needed a magazine article on social media?
How many items in the library have the word “zombie” in the title?  What is the most recent addition?
I need to know how to survive the zombie apocalypse, is there a handbook for that?
Name an author who writes both adult and teen novels.
How many posters are on the wall in the teen area?
Name an upcoming teen program?

This is the layout I did for a 30 day online scavenger hunt.  You can do the same type of layout for Bootcamp Bingo.

I can’t take credit for this idea myself, it is an adaptation of an awesome program put together by the staff at Washington Centerville Library in Ohio and from my time working with them I can tell you that this is a great program.  It may take a couple of years to get all your teachers on board and fill up your slots (and work out the kinks), but don’t give up – it is worth it.

You can also set this program up as a once a month program with open sign up to get all the teens in your community trained in library skills.  Have a monthly or quarterly library bootcamp.

Note: I picked 6th grade but it may be 7th grade for some libraries, depending on how your program is defined and arranged and how your local schools are arranged.

Geek Out Your LIbrary

Geek (n.) – a person with enthusiastic interest in a particular interest or devotion.  Typically technology, science fiction and fantasy, comic books, etc.

Urban dictionary defines Geek as: The person you make fun of in high school and wind up working for as an adult.

Right now, geek is cool.  This past weekend was a Comic Con extravaganza with the cast of popular movies and tv shows present.  This year alone there are Thor, Captain America, and The Green Lantern movies.  This weekend we will see the release of Cowboys vs. Aliens.  And of course there are HP and Twilight movies, can’t forget them.

So this is a great time for teen librarians to embrace their geek coolness and geek out your library.

How, exactly, does one “geek out” their library and get their geek on?

Get out your graphic novels and manga and put them on display

Create your own creative and geeky comic book style fliers for programs, services or materials
     Do you use Photoshop?  Here are 20 photoshop effects
     Don’t have Photoschop?  Download GIMP, it’s free.  Here are some GIMP tutorials.
     Have an iPhone?  There’s an app for that.

Created with the iPhone app

Share fun tools with teens to create their own comic strips
     Comic Strip Creator
     Captain Underpants Comic Creator

Share information about comics, graphic novels and manga

Geek out your webpage.  Entertainment Weekly has done a fabulous job of creating the whole package on their website, follow their lead.

Get someone in to do a drawing workshop

You know your teens that come in and are doodlers, get them to let you share their work on your website or FB page.

Send out a poll, reviews, and discussion questions on your FB page or website about their favorite books, movies and tv shows.  Think Twilight trailers, magazine article links, and more.

Create a fun, interactive contest: drawing contest, create your own comic, give this picture a caption

Lots of popular teen fiction titles are also being released as gns, put the two together
     Some titles include Alex Rider series, Artemis Fowl, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, Twilight,     
    Vampire’s Assistant and Vampire Kisses

Host your own Mini Con!
Invite your teens to come in dressed in their favorite cosplay.  Set up displays, panels, games and other events throughout the day.  You can include any of the above as part of your Con.  Bust out your video game console – and board games, there are lots of awesome board/card games that would work.

Share it: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Every once in a while, an amazing new book comes along that moves you.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is that book for me, right now.  This is an amazing story: creative, moving and just inspiring.  There are also a lot of great programming opportunities that tie in to it.

As a child, Jacob was inspired by his grandfather’s stories about a home where a variety of peculiar children lived.  His grandfather shared haunting photos of these children: a girl who seemed to float on air, a girl with a mouth on the back of her head . . .  As Jacob grows, he begins to doubt the wondrous stories his grandfather has always shared.  He is working at his uncles drug store empire, trying every day to get fired and wondering what his future holds when his grandfather dies.  Jacob has seen a strange creature which everyone thinks is part of his coping mechanism.  Soon Jacob is sent on a journey where he tries to find this home, to learn the truth about his grandfather.

Miss Peregrine’s home is a rich fantasy full of adventure and discovery.  It is also a story that celebrates how truly different and unique each person is.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWrNyVhSJUU]

Throughout the story Riggs shows a variety of beautiful, haunting pictures that really enhance the reading experience.  Riggs found the photos at garage sales and in attics, and they really help bring the journey together.  Riggs has a blog that I recommend you check out.  This is his first book, and it will definitely not be his last.  I sincerely hope that he continues to explore the world that is mapped out in Miss Peregrine.

If you have not read it stop reading this blog post now, go read and then come back.  It is that good.

Are you back?  Okay, now I want to share with you some ideas I have for programming that tie-in to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Have a “Peculiar Party” where you show the book trailer, discuss the book, and engage in some creative activities inspired by the book.

Make a Picture, It’ll Last Longer
One of the truly amazing parts of Miss Peregrine are the photos throughout the book, and we definitely have a wide variety of tools at our disposal to help create our own images.  As you know, TLT believes in providing opportunities for teens to express themselves creatively and learn technology skills that will help them succeed in life.  So get out your digital camera (or iPhone, there are a lot of apps that would be great for this) and get teens shooting.  Then, upload the images and use photo editing software (you can do some in things like PowerPoint and Publisher, which a lot of libraries use, but GIMP and a couple other programs are available for free download if your library hasn’t purchased any photo editing software).  Let the teens explore ways they can manipulate the images and make themselves, or their friends, into “Peculiar” children.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be done digitally – some teens may want to draw or make collages.  You can also do thinks like a scrapbooking project or make picture frames to work with the creative aspect of Riggs book.

You can also have teens put together a photo essay.  A photo essay tells a story using a series of pictures.  Teens can create the photos themselves, or collect photos similar to making a collage.  Here is a list of sites that talk about good photo essay activities.

You may also have a local photographer who would be willing to come in and do a workshop or a series of workshops to talk about basic photography and layout and design, etc.  The photographer for your local paper, a college instructor or the teacher that does your local high school’s newspaper may be willing to give some basic instruction.

Have teens think about what type of peculiar child they would like to be:
What type of talent would they like to have?
What would it look like in an old fashioned photograph?

Make sure you get copies of each created piece so you can decorate your teen area and share them online.

An example flier
This picture was taking using Hipstagram on iPhone

Monster Mash
There are dark monsters that inhabit the peculiar world that Riggs has created.  These creatures, want to use the talents of the peculiar children for their own selfish purposes.  Have the teens discuss this aspect of the book.  Then, they can create their own monsters.  I am a big fan of the Gocks, so that is certainly one thing you can bring into your program.  Of course you can just make your monsters out of any type of found materials.

In fact, this would be a great time to employ the old practice of exquisite corpse: get teens a long sheet of paper (like table covering paper) and fold it into 3 sections.  The first teen will draw the head and then fold it over.  The second teen, without seeing the head, draws the body and folds it over.  And the final teen draws the leg portion without having seen the body or the torso.  When you unfold the entire art piece you get one cohesive monster that features the imagination of 3 teens put together in a Frankenstein mish mash.  You can also do this as a writing exercise, have 1 teen write a sentence then they pass it on.  This is a creative way to get interesting poems or short stories together with a wide variety of input.

The Wonder of Found Art
Remember part of the inspiration of Riggs work was a collection of found art.  So any activity that allows for creativity is a great tie-in.  And as you talk about how the story came to be, it is great to incorporate the idea of found art into your programming.  It is amazing what teens can come up with if you give them a mish mash of items to work with.  Collect clean trash from staff and then give each teen a container with say 10 items, see what they can make out of it.  You could also just get a bunch of your leftover craft supplies together and do the same.  They can make 3-d art or paper art, either would work.  Here is an example of some amazing found art.

You could also have the teens bring in their favorite stuff to share.  Or have a swap meet and let them trade.  It is always amazing to see what teens have that mean something to them, and it is equally fun to see what they have that they want to get rid of.  One person’s trash truly is another person’s treasure.

The Collector’s Peculiar Museum
On his blog, Ransom Riggs shares about his peculiar hobby of collecting pictures of people he doesn’t know.  Give your teens an opportunity to share what they collect:  You can have them take photos and create a digital museum or have them bring in examples as part of a kind of swap meet/show and tell.  Maybe you have a display case and you can let teens set up displays.

The Collector’s Museum – Have teens take a picture of themselves with their collection.  Then print off the pictures and hang them in your teen area.  Maybe put a call number reference on the poster and use it as a means of teaching teens to navigate the stacks. 

Have a teen of the week feature on your FB page and share the picture with a brief bio of the teen (first name only).  Share any books your library may have on the topic.

What a Peculiar Short Story
Get a bunch of old photographs together.  When teens come into your program have them randomly choose one out of a bag.  Then, ask them to write a brief short story about the picture.  What is happening?  How does the character feel?  What journey are they on?

Or daily post a random pic on your FB page and asks teens to write a caption for it.

My Peculiar Life
I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a huge fan of data visualization and of Nicholas Felton’s yearly annual reports, basically a data visualization account of his year – a type of “biography“.  I think teens would enjoy creating a visual biography like this.  It can be their biography, or the summary of a year, or a way to tell their family story.  I think this would also be a great activity for seniors getting ready to graduate.

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You
Riggs fabulous book will soon be made into a movie.  Have your teens create movie posters.  Have them create their dream cast: who would they want to play each character.  The great thing is you can send out a poll and have these types of discussions online to help generate traffic to your webpage.

Sharing Family Stories
At the heart of the story is the relationship between Jacob and his grandfather and the stories that his grandfather shared.  You can give teens opportunities to share their family stories.  They can write them, story board them, make a pictorial version.  Any of the creative ideas that have been shared on this blog can be used:  make posters, pictures, quotes.  Just give your teens an opportunity to create and share.

And the Winner Is . . .
Not everything has to be a contest, but any of the above activities can certainly be turned into a contest.  Your prize can be a Peculiar Gift Basket: a copy of the book, a digital camera, some snacks to enjoy while reading it.

What a Peculiar Read, Let’s Discuss It?
Basic discussion questions:
Why did Jacob start to doubt his grandfather’s stories?  Do you think you would have?
When Jacob runs out after the creature in his grandfather’s house, what did you think was happening?  How do you think you would have felt in that situation?
Would you have wanted to take the journey that Jacob wanted to take to learn about his grandfather?  What do you think this says about Jacob?
What was your reaction when Jacob first found Miss Peregrine’s home?
If you were a peculiar child, what type of peculiar talent would you want to have?
Who was your favorite peculiar child in the book and why?
What did you think about Jacob’s developing relationship with the various peculiar children?
What did you think of Miss Peregrine herself?
Would you have made the decision to stay in the time loop?
What was your reaction to finding out about Jacob’s counselor’s role in it all?
What did you think of Jacob at the end of the book?  What choices that he made would you have maybe have done differently?
Overall, what did you think of the book?
If you could travel back in time, where would you travel to and why?

If You Like Miss Perergrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, You May Also Like
Books about being different, time travel and journeys, and missing someone close to you
Freaks, Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klaus
Mr. Was by Pete Hautman
Looking for Alaska by John Green
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum Ucci
The Night My Sister Went Missing by Carol Plum Ucci

And an odd true story to share: 
Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science by John Fleischman

Other photo related activities to keep in mind: scrapbooking, making a wide variety of picture frames, and treasure searches (maps) such as the map of time loops.  There are a lot of possibilities, so be bold like Jacob and creative like Riggs . . .

Banned Books Week: Teen Fiction Is . . .

Depending on whom you ask, the answer may be “too dark”.  This year teen fiction like The Hunger Games came under fire as The Wall Street Journal, bloggers and NPR and asked, is teen fiction too dark?

The answer is, some of it is too dark for some readers.  Some of it is too light and fluffy for some readers.  Teen fiction, like children’s fiction and adult fiction, is a little bit of everything.  There is something for everyone – and that’s the way it should be.

The truth is that teens everywhere are living a wide variety of lives.  Sadly, there are teenagers who are living lives full of abuse, at home or at school; they live lives full of drugs and identity crisis and sex and . . . well, most of us try hard not to remember, but the teenage years are exciting and stressful and confusing and scary.
When I hear adults fretting about the darkness in teen fiction, I think of the teen who came into my library just a couple of years ago: at 22 weeks pregnant she had an abortion while her brother (5) and sister (7) sat in the parking lot and waited.  Her life was dark and she needed some realistic fiction to help her know that she was not alone and that there was a way out of the darkness.  There is no fiction darker than the life she was living.  And that is the sad truth for a lot of teens.
The truth is, teens are living lives every day that many of us could never imagine.  And if some teens aren’t, well – a parent guided reading of some darker fiction can help those teens understand the life of some of their peers and develop compassion.  It can help them develop the tools they need to engage and guide those teens to seek help from parents, counselors or some other means.  In order to have compassion for others, we must understand other points of view and step into other worlds.  Reading helps us develop a global perspective, a mature thinking process, and the tools we need to grow, overcome and step meaningfully into the world.
The truth is that we all have to walk away from home one day and engage what can be a very dark world.  The news tells us daily of the 3 wars we are engaged in, of how we are on the brink of imminent financial collapse, of mothers who murder babies and sometimes babies (teens) who murder their mothers.  Teen fiction helps teens take baby steps into the “real” world.  In the safety of their home and with the help of the adults around them processing what they are reading, teens can slowly begin to see that every day there are people living lives different than their own.  How much safer for teens to take baby steps into that world rather then jump off the cliff without a parachute.
What a gift it is for a teen to find that book that speaks to them; to their situation.  Who are we to assume we know what is right for that teen?  Each heart and mind is moved differently.  An outsider does not have the right to determine for someone else what is right for them.  I remember reading It by Stephen King in the 6th grade:  Whatever it may have been, to me it was a model of friendship.  Whenever I think of that book I am reminded of what it means to be a faithful friend.  And that is why I oppose censorship and support things like Banned Books Week.  I don’t like every book I read, and there are books that I would not want my child to read (totally and completely my choice), but I don’t want others having the power to determine what I or my child can or can not read.
Remember, throughout the course of history, one of the most banned and challenged books has been the Bible.  Never assume that you will get to be the one determining which books are banned.
So what will you be doing to raise awareness during Banned Books Week?
  • Get your teens thinking and discussing teen fiction and the freedom to read, share links to the various recent press it has received and see what they have to say (below).
  • Have a simple contest where you give the reason a book was banned/challenged and see if they can guess the book.
  • Do a display that highlights various banned/challenged titles.
  • Have a book discussion group that discusses some of the banned/challenged book, or books about censorship such as The Day They Came to Arrest the Book.
  • Arrest some of the banned/challenged books and have a read-a-thon to get teens to read to release them (think the MDA jail-a-thon fundraiser).
  • Make bookmarks and posters (they are also available via the ALA)
  • Have teens create visuals for banned books – posters, commercials, etc.  This could be a contest, craft activity or independent activity.  Or they can just make visuals about the concept of censorship.
The 2010 BBW Graphic from ALA.org
This is also a great time to remind staff of the library’s Intellectual Freedom position.  Don’t hesitate to get them involved in discussions.  Have a brown bag chat staff lunch and discuss.  Every day send out information on a book title that has been banned or challenged and tell them why.
THE single most dangerous idea out there is the idea that anyone can ban a book and impede your access to information.  Exercise your freedom to read.  Stand up for the freedom to read.

Recent articles about Teen Fiction:
The Wall Street Journal
Chris Crutcher’s Response

Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff, A Teen Services Plan Example

In the previous note Talking with Non Teen Services Staff About Teen Services, part 1, we discussed the importance of having a Teen Services outline to train incoming staff and use as a background for communicating with all staff. We also discussed how communication is a marketing tool.  The final basic element we discussed was a Teen Services outline; a road map for you and staff that discusses why you do what you do.  A general teen services outline example follows . . .

For the purposes of teen programming and services, the library defines teens as anyone entering grade 6 through the completion of grade 12 in accordance with the local school district.

Understanding Teen Patrons
The teenage years are a time of great change. Teens are trying on a variety of roles and determining their identity, they are peer oriented, becoming more independent, and developing a stronger sense of right and wrong. Hormones cause a variety of changes. In addition, research indicates that teenagers use a different part of their brains; they literally think differently than adults do. For information on the teenage brain and how it influences behavior, please visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teenage-brain-a-work-in-progress-fact-sheet/index.shtml

Goals and Objectives of Teen Services

  • To create developmentally appropriate and appealing collections, services, and opportunities for teens in our community
  • To meet the developmental, emotional, social, educational, entertainment and information needs of teens in our community
  • To introduce teens to the library and develop lifelong library users and supporters
  • To provide unique experiences for teens that are developmentally appropriate and provide social opportunities for teens to interact with their peer group. These positive experiences help teens develop positive attitudes about the library.

Programming and Contests
Throughout the year we offer a variety of programs and contests. All programs and contests vary to meet the diverse needs and interests of teens grades 6-12. There is a special emphasis on the Teen Summer Reading Club each summer and Teen Read Week which is the third week in October. (http://www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/teenreading/teenreading.htm)

General Notes about Programming

  • Hands on, interactive programs, such as crafts, games and contests, are more popular than static programs such as speakers.
  • Parents are allowed to stay with their teens during programs. However, younger siblings and adults without teenage children are not permitted to attend to help maintain the safety and enjoyment of teens participating in the program and to maximize the use of limited space.
  • Contests are a type of self-directed program that allows teens to work at their own pace while allowing them the opportunity to explore library resources, develop research skills, and cultivate their talents.

Registering for Programs and Turning in Contests

  • Some programs may require registration. This is indicated on the fliers and all registration takes place at the Reference Desk. Please get complete information, including name, grade, telephone number and how they found out about the program, when registering teen patrons.
  • Patrons are called the weekend before a program to verify they are still planning to attend.
  • If registration is full, up to 10 patrons will be placed on a waiting list. These patrons will be notified the day of the program if space becomes available to them.
  • All contests are turned in at the Reference desk. They will not be accepted after closing time on the date indicated on the contest.

Teen CoffeeHouses
During the school year we offer a Teen CoffeeHouse on Tuesdays after school from 3:00 to 4:30 PM. This has proven to be a popular program in the past. We have an average of 60 teens participate on a weekly basis. Teens are invited to hang out, play games or work on their homework and snacks are offered.

Outreach to the Schools
We endeavor to reach our target audience during the school year through the public school system. This allows the greatest opportunity to reach a large group of teens with the least amount of cost. Some of the ways we utilize the school include:

  • The faxing of announcements to all schools in the county for upcoming programs, etc.
  • School visits
  • Booktalking
  • Working with teachers to produce bibliographies, etc. on specific units or topics of interest to teens or for curriculum support.
  • Teacher services

A Note about Booktalking
A booktalk is a 30 second to 2 minute introduction to a book. A dramatic presentation is used to introduce teens to a book and give them just enough information to make them want to check out the book and find out what happened.

  • A minimum of 3 weeks notice is necessary to schedule a booktalk visit
  • All teachers must talk to the Teen Services Librarian to schedule booktalks

Sample Booktalks:
By Neil Gaiman
The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring. In Coraline’s new house there are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. Only it’s different . . .

The Giver
By Lois Lowry
Welcome to the community. It is perfect. Everything is under complete control. There is no war, no fear, no pain. And there are no choices. Are you willing to sacrifice freedom for perfection?

What the students say about booktalks:

  • “If it wasn’t for you, I would have lost the opportunity to read a lot of great books”
  • “You inspire us to read”
  • “I liked hearing about the books you brought”
  • “Thanks for bringing us books . . . It really helped us explore our horizons”
  • “You get me involved in books”
  • “Thank you for coming to our school and making the library seem fun to the people that don’t usually go”

Teen Readers Advisory
Teens today live in a very visual age and utilize technology more than previous generations. It is an increasing struggle to attract teens to the print medium of the book. All Reference staff provides basic RA services to teens. You can utilize the RA pamphlets provided in the teen area as well as various resources online. When helping teens select books please remember:

  • Try to provide the teen readers with a couple of choices. Teens who choose books on their own are more likely to read the entire book and enjoy the reading experience.
  • Use terminology such as, “other teens have enjoyed”, “is popular” to appeal to teen’s interest.

Helping Teens Find and Select Books

  • Check on the library blog for reading lists on a variety of topics, including Inspirational fiction, Historical fiction, books for guys and books for girls as well as books recommended by grade level.
  • Read the inside front cover or back cover for a brief synopsis of the book. Be sure to pay attention to the topics of the book and the age of the characters. Books with younger teen characters or middle school settings will deal with situations and subject matters common among this age group. Similarly, books dealing with older teen characters and high school settings will deal with situations and subject matters common among this age group.
  • Take a few moments to look up books you are interested in the library’s catalog. When you find the title you are looking for select “details” and you can find subject headings, a brief summary and sometimes excerpts are provided.
  • Investigate titles by reading book reviews online. Book reviews can be found at Amazon .com or Barnes and Noble.com. Reviews provided are by professional journals, such as the School Library Journal, and other readers, often teens. VOYA.com is a journal that deals exclusively with book titles of interest to teens.

Teen Web Page
Teens today are very connected. The teen web page seeks to be a virtual library for teens in our community. We utilize the following technology to help meet the interests of our teen patrons:

  • The Teen webpage – basic program information
  • The Teen Blog – book reviews, basic program information, photos, links, etc.
  • The Teen Scene Facebook page – announcements of upcoming programs or books, daily communication

Teen Collection
The teen collection currently focuses on fiction, graphic novels and audio books. There is a small, focused collection of teen nonfiction that covers spirituality, friendship and peer relations, crafts, etc. Basic school (academic support) information is interfiled with the adult nonfiction so that teens can find a wide variety of academic resources in one location.

Teens interests and abilities are as varied as any other age group, and our collection reflects that. The library’s policy maintains an adherence to intellectual freedom standards and supports the right of the parent to guide their teen’s reading selections, as stated in the library’s policy. If there are any concerns about materials in the teen area, please follow the library’s materials challenge policy.

Merchandising (Shelving) in the Teen Area
Teens are visual and we strive to maximize our face out displays to promote materials and increase circulation.  Please see the following training sheet to see what the teen area should look like.

A merchandising example from Marion Public Library
Marion, Ohio

Miscellaneous Information about Teen Services

  • Parents are responsible for helping their teens select appropriate books. The Library does not endorse specific titles, nor does it act in loco parentis.
  • If you notice that a lot of teens are requesting a book title or asking for specific types of information to complete an assignment, please pass this information along to the Teen Services librarian. This information is useful to us in collection development, the future development of programs and the development of research aids such as pathfinders and booklists.
  • If a teacher, school or organization calls enquiring for services we do not currently offer, these requests will be evaluated on a case by case scenario depending on time and resources. Please refer these calls to the Teen Services librarian.

Your Role is an Important One!
Every day you will have the opportunity to interact with teens; you help shape their experiences in and opinion of the library.  Please take a moment weekly to review the Teen Scene newsletter so you know what we’re doing and how you can help us.  We are happy at any time to answer any questions or address any concerns.

Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff, Part 1

When working with teens, you will run across other library staff members that don’t necessarily jump on board (you know right this very moment a name has come up in your head). But there are things you can do to help them support your cause.
First make sure you have these basic elements in place: (1) a basic customer service plan, (2) the basics of adolescent development, (3) a basic acceptable behavior policy and (4) the basics of your teen services plan.

Basic Element 1: A Customer Service Plan
I am going to assume that you have a basic customer service plan and that all library staff members are trained in quality customer service. And yes, I do know what happens when you assume. But it is important to remind staff that every patron that walks through your doors gets the same quality of customer service regardless of their race, gender – and yes, their age. This should come from the top down and be a regular part of all your customer service discussions. Every patron should be greeted in a friendly manner, every question should be given the same quality answer, and every person who walks through your library doors should walk out feeling satisfied with their library experience. Teens are not just future library supporters, they are library supporters RIGHT NOW and it is their experiences in the library which will make them continue to be library supporters.

Basic Element 2: Understanding Teens
Next, get together a basic fact sheet on adolescent development to help staff understand why teens act the way they do. Why do they always walk through the doors in large, noisy groups? Well, teens are peer oriented and have just spent 8 hours trying to sit still, quietly, in school – but their bodies are not really designed to do this. Do some staff training exercises to get them thinking about what they were like when they were teens. What music did they like? What music? How much time they spent with their friends? How did they feel about adults and authority figures? Keep it simple, no more than a page of bullet points. There is a good overview at http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/350/350-850/350-850.html, but I would condense it down for staff. If you have a college or university in your town, or nearby, you can also ask a psychology professor to come in and give a brief presentation on the topic; I recommend doing this every couple of years as part of your staff training days.


Basic Element 3: An Acceptable Behavior Policy
Make sure you help administrators develop a good, basic acceptable behavior policy. This should be a brief policy that outlines the overall mission of the library and touches briefly on behaviors that would be a hindrance to others using the library. Your policy should also outline what actions library staff will take. Then all staff should be trained on how to handle difficult patron situations, when they should call the policy, how to diffuse potential problem situations, when to get other staff members involved, etc. It is important for staff to understand that the acceptable behavior policy applies to all patrons across the board, it is not a tool to tame teenagers – it is a tool to help staff achieve quality patron service and maintain access for all by maintaining a comfortable and safe library environment. Again, this is something that should be included as part of your staff training. Have staff engage in role playing activities and learn how to interact with teens in a wide variety of situations. Better yet, get a panel of teens together and having them discuss with staff positive and negative experiences they have had – in your library or in any business – to help them understand what quality customer service looks like to a teenager. Some example policies can be found at http://www.sharonpubliclibrary.org/about_policybehavior.htm and http://www.bpl.org/general/policies/acceptableuse.htm. You can also just google some examples.

Remember, teens actually want and need limits and they respect consistency – so it is important that every staff member deals with problem situations fairly, consistently and immediately. And remind staff that for every problem patron they have, whether teen or not, there are 100s of other patrons that will never cause a problem. We tend to focus on and remember our negative experiences, so your library should make it a practice to focus on and remember positive experiences (we will address this more in part 2); make it part of your library’s daily, weekly or monthly practice to share positive feedback from patrons.

The Wheelock College Library Code of Conduct

Basic Element 4: A Teen Services Plan
Then make sure you have a basic teen services plan in place. This should outline your department mission statement for teen services and demonstrate how it fulfills the overall library’s mission, it should touch upon YALSA standards for teen services and competencies as outlined at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/profdev/yacompetencies/evaltool.cfm. I also recommend that you familiarize yourself with the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets at http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18. The basic premise is that the more of the assets a teen has, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. These are a good framework for evaluating your overall service goals and for community to staff and community the benefit of teen services.

A Basic Teen Services Plan Should Include:
1. A mission statement, which should support the overall library mission
2. Goals – what are you trying to achieve and why; what steps will you take to achieve these goals

A special note about collections: Your library should have a collection development plan and materials challenge policy in place. All staff needs to understand the scope and breadth of a teen collection and be given the tools to address any challenges that may came up.

When you have these components in place, you now have the tools you need to communicate with staff, and to train any newly hired staff. In fact, talk to your administrators and make sure that a part of any new hire training involves sitting down with you and discussing teen services. Also, discuss with administrators the need to have a teen services representative at all management meetings to help ensure that any new policies and procedures that are being discussed are considering the potential impact on this section of the population; children and adults are often well represented on management teams, but I have found there is often a disconnect when it comes to teen services and management. Internet policies, obtaining library card policies, and the use of AV materials are just some of the areas that are interesting areas for teen services librarians.

In Part 2 we discuss developing regular communications with library staff.  Remember, communication=marketing!

The “Be”-Attitudes of Communicating with Staff

Training staff to understand and work with teens is not a one time affair, but an ongoing process. After you have your initial service plan and training module in place, you should develop an ongoing communication tool to keep all staff informed about teen services.
Just as you must market your services to your teens, you also have to market it to your staff. You have to generate good will, buy-in and support.  Every staff member will have opportunities to interact with teens (or the parents of teens) and you want them to have the tools for a successful encounter. Plus, there is nothing worse then having someone in the library tell a patron they didn’t know about a book, resource, event or service – it undermines the message that we are information specialists.
So develop a communication plan and remember it should . . .
Be Informative
Basically, if you are sharing it with your teens, make sure you are sharing it with your staff, too.  Then when teens ask about what they saw online or on display, staff have the answer.
  • Make sure staff know about new and popular materials.
  • Make sure staff know how to address inquiries into current trends: vampire fiction, paranormal reads, what to read if you like He Hunger Games.  Try and share one RA tool made by you or an online site weekly.  Make sure there is a folder of teen links on the library favorites so staff know where to find them when RA questions arise and you are not around.
  • Let staff know about events in popular teen culture: what books are being made into a movie, new music, and more.  Highlight popular people and stories covered in your magazine collection, music collection, movie collection and online.
  • Share campaigns aimed at teens like the It Gets Better project or [delete] digital drama.
  • Share the latest research in adolescent development, technology use and trends, etc.
  • And of course make sure staff know about upcoming events, new resources and services, teen services campaigns, etc.
  • For things like a SRC or a Read Off Your Fines event or a special contest, develop specific FAQs outlining what they need to know including dates and prizes. Save your flier as a .jpeg and put it in your FAQ so staff see what the patrons will be seeing.
  • Find creative ways to share what you’re reading and your reviews with staff, too.

Be Proactive
As information and technology gurus, it is our job to lead the way.  We don’t want to be reactive, we want to be proactive.  We want to know about new trends, services, sites and more so that we have answers when our teens have questions.

  • Keep up to date and share tools often and regularly. Be skimming a variety of outlets you can help staff stay ahead of the information and technology curve, truly showing your teens that the library is THE place for information.  Get together a list of resources that meet your needs and then visit them frequently.  Sign up for RSS feeds, newsletters and FB updates.  Keep your list visible by your computer as a reminder to check them out.  Cover a wide variety of topics: teen literature, teen development, teen culture, music, movies, technology.  Also, be sure that a couple of marketing sites are in your rotation (and sites that are good AT marketing). 
  • Try to anticipate needs, trends and questions before they come up; it is a horrible feeling for staff to think they are the last to know something.
Be Inspiring
  • Pass on positive feedback from teens, inspiring stories – those moments when a teen raves about the library.
  • Keep staff in the know about statistics – book circulation, program attendance. It helps to see growth and positive outcomes. Show staff that the library is meeting the goals that you set.
Be Honest
Sometimes a situation occurs, acknowledge it. Use it as a training moment to refer back to policy and indicate what staff should do in the event that it happens again. Then, because we want to be inspiring, remind staff that a majority of the teens that come into the library are positive, as are a majority of staff interactions with teens.
Be Consistent

Develop a regular format and schedule. A simple weekly e-mail works, or if it’s more your style or better suits your organization, develop a paper newsletter. Whatever method you choose, brand your communication in a way that is consistent with both your library and your overall teen services scheme. Give it a title: Teen News Today, The Teen Services Must List (yes, I am an Entertainment Weekly fan, great communication vehicle), Teen Services Top 10.  Staff should come to anticipate and appreciate your weekly newsletter feed and find that it is a helpful tool.

Be Fun
Occasionally, have a fun staff contest.  Ask staff to share their favorite teen reads.  See if they can complete the latest contest sheet that your teens are doing.  See how they do at the VOYA Pop Culture quiz.  See if they can find the title.  You can modify the same activities you do with your teens and make it a fun mini moment with staff for team building, communication and, again, buy in.

By communicating regularly and frequently with staff, you lessen the need to have those big moments where you have to defend staffing and budget issues for a teen services program. Staff will already know what you are doing, and that you are doing it successfully.  In addition, staff feel valued and empowered by the sharing of information and it creates that sense of buy in; they are more likely to promote, promote, promote without thinking twice because it is second nature.
A Special Note About the Beginning and End of the Year
At the end of each year, put together an end of the year visual report (think data visualization) and share it with staff and administration.  Discuss statistics, goals met, and highlights.
At the beginning of each year, put together an outline of known programming and events: Teen Tech Week, National Library Week, Teen Read Week, Summer Reading Clubs, etc.  And put some goals for the year on paper.  This helps you put the year in focus, is a great tool to share with administrators and boards, and provides a general outline for the staff.  Then, whenever anyone asks – a parent, community member, or a teen themselves – staff can provide positive answers that highlight was an awesome teen program your library has!

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

First off, I realize not everyone has an iPhone and I apologize.  Also, I don’t know if the apps are available on other form platforms, but if they are – I recommend you check them out. 

When trying to come up with images to promote activities, reads, etc – well, sometimes I just can’t find something I think will work well so I have had to find an easy way to go out and create them on my own. I am not super talented at this, nor do I have a lot of time, so I need quick, easy and cheap tools.  Thankfully, I have found there are a ton of iPhone apps that help me fill the bill.

Along the way I have come to understand that teens love it when you use THEM in your images.  How fun is it to walk into your local library’s teen area and be able to say to your friends, hey that’s me?  It makes it feel more personal and cultivates that same sense of ownership that librarian’s try to achieve through advisory boards.  Check to see if your library has a policy for the use of photos, and then get creating.  You can create images to share online, in marketing tools and to decorate your teen space.  You can also ask your teens to create images and share them with you so that you can use them this way.  This is a great way to promote your teen area, teen services in general, or specific programs and events.

Made in Publisher using a variety of pics and some Wordle art

Imagine clicking on a short promo video for a library’s teen summer reading club and seeing your friends promoting it – it gives it a sense of fun.  It’s the ultimate way of tapping into teens and their peer orientation.  And the bonus is that teens are more likely to spread the word if they have that type of buy in.

So, here they are

1.Hipstamatic – This is my favorite camera app.  The basic package starts at $1.99 and then you can purchase additional film/lens/flash packs.  You want to be sure and buy the additional b&w package for some amazing b&w images.  This is a simple point and click camera, but it produces the most amazing looking images.  You’ll want to practice with it to find out what combinations create which affects, but they have a new contest feature on the app which gives some examples and they tell you which combinations were used to create each image.  The only downfall to this camera app is that what you see in through the image finder is not true to what is being taken, the perspective is a bit off.

Made in PowerPoint using a pic taken with Hipstamatic

2.  Pocketbooth – This app lets you create a 4 image photo strip like you would take in a photobooth.  It is easy and fun.  You can create this type of image using a variety of software editing tools pretty easily, but this app takes the pictures 1 after another pretty quickly like you are sitting in the actual photo booth.  You can choose black and white or color so there are options.

3.  Wordfoto – This app lets you take a photo and input a saying and then it recreates the photo out of words.  There are some ways of fine tuning the way it looks, but at the end of the day some photos work well in this app and other do not.

4.  Photo Shake – This app lets you input a bunch of pictures and create a collage.  This is a more extensive tool that takes a while to figure out how to use it successfully, but once you do it is worth it.

5.  Zombie Booth – Who doesn’t love zombies?  Take a picture of a teen and zombify them.  Yes, I know that isn’t a word.  Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, also has a zombie app but it is kind of lame – but the book is awesome!  I prefer this app.

6.  Adobe Photoshop – It is a more simplistic version of the popular software, you can do less but it is easier to use.  Great for adding a border or making a picture tinted.

7.  Photoforge – This app let’s you manipulate pictures more extensively than the Adobe app, but it is more complicated to use.

8.  Color Splash – This app takes a color picture, turns and black and white, and allows you to colorize a part of the picture for emphasis.  It can make amazing images.

9.  Super 8 – This is a video camera app that allows you to make old Super 8 looking movies.  It is a tie-in to the recent Super 8 movie.  You and your teens can make some fun promotional videos with this app.

10.  Comic Book – This app is a quick, easy way to put your pictures from your photo library into a comic book format.  There are a variety of layouts, word bubbles, and stickers to add.
Each app is just a tool, and are only successful if you use them.  So practice.  Then you can use your images on your FB page, webpage, blog, signs, posters and more.  You and your teens can get creative and have fun.  You can work together, have contests, and promote, promote, promote!
Please note: I am not involved in any way with any of these apps and I make no money from recommending them.  I just like to use them in a variety of tools because they do what I need them to do.

Another great part about creating your own images to use in promotional materials – you don’t have to worry about copyright issues.
And let me take a moment to make the unconventional suggestion that your library purchase an iPhone for library use.  Not only will this allow you to have one in house for the purposes listed above, but it gives you a library cell phone to use should you be in a program and need to call for additional supplies or help.  And really, with the wide number and variety of apps available, you can do a lot of things with it.  And no, I am not paid by Apple in any way.