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 . . .
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!