Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Asset Builder’s Coalition support materials

I was very honored to have an article appear regarding asset building in the October 2011 edition of VOYA (page 354), the Voice of Youth Advocates.  My article was entitled Mpact: An Asset Builder’s Coalition and if you are a regular reader here at TLT you know that I am a big advocate for using the Search Institutes 40 Developmental Assets in program planning and evaluation.  It also provides a good framework for communicating the importance of what you do to your co-workers, administration, and community.  It’s all in the article, read it.  In this post I am going to share with you some of the support materials that didn’t fit into the article.  You’re welcome.

Getting the Word Out
Getting things organized is often the hardest part.  Before you can be a coalition, you need members.  So spend some time getting organized.  Develop your organizations vision, purpose and goals.  Then send out invitations to area organizations that work with youth and ask them to come and share their knowledge and resources.

Text of initial letter sent to community agencies that work with teens:

As the teen services librarian at ____________________, I am invested in helping teens meet their full potential through both educational and recreational information and services.  I would like for those of us in the ______________ community who provide services for teens to come together and share information and resources, and to engage in some joint programming through a group I am calling _____________, the area asset builder’s coalition for youth. 
Our goal, simply stated, will be to Share, Link, Promote.
As a coalition, we will work together to successfully develop a coalition of community partners who value youth, and commit time and resources for initiatives to reduce risky behaviors in teens and provide positive community experiences.  Our goals will be:
  1. To share information regarding individual organizations purpose, goals, and upcoming events.
  2. To share experiences and generate ideas for marketing and promotion, event planning, and resource sharing.
  3. To plan a yearly community event for teens 
Coalition partners will actively attended meetings and work together to form common goals that draw upon the strengths and unique offerings of each of the individual organizations that work in the community with teens.  Partners will also use this as an opportunity to learn about various area resources so they can appropriately refer teens when needs are expressed.  In addition, partners will work together to plan larger community events to provide teens with community based outlets to express their creativity, divest their individual talents and resources and expend their energy in healthy, meaningful ways.  And finally, coalition partners shepherd initiatives that fit with their community involvement and goals.
Our goal is to continue to develop relationships throughout the community in order to expand participation in coalition initiatives and generally encourage support for youth. Each coalition partner will participate in planning and strategies that find opportunities to connect with youth, parents, community leaders, law enforcement personnel, education systems and business owners in _________.
The Framework

Asset building is a framework that helps provide passion, purpose and communication when working with teens.  Your passion and your purpose, to help provide teens with positive assets through your programs and services.  And as you communicate with your co-workers, your administration and your community, you help them see how there is value in what you do, in what the library does in the lives of teens and for the community.  Successful, engaged teens developing positive assets is not only good for teens – it is good for the local community and all of society in the long term (not an exaggeration, the Search Institute has done the research to back up this claim.)

At our first meeting I shared our vision, purpose and goals while explaining the need and benefit for an asset builder’s coalition:

The Model
At our meetings we discussed:

  • What are the assets and how do you use them?
  • Community organization basics:  Define the goals of your organization, basic operating information, who to contact, when to refer. (I really recommend developing a wiki to share this information and allow all participating organizations the opportunity to update and keep it current.  In addition, this is a good way to share a calendar of local events to avoid scheduling conflicts.)
  • Marketing to teens (Our local United Way marketing coordinator was involved and she shared a lot of helpful information.  United Way is really good at marketing.)
  • Social media use with teens
  • What types of past programming has been successful, and why.
  • Basic adolescent development
  • Specifics of our communities, the make up, the challenges, local history and eccentricities

Evaluation

Their is power in networking.  Libraries today, in fact many organizations today, face a shortage of resources including staff, staff time, and money.  Working with community organizations takes an investment in time, but it can reap bigger rewards.  Instead of being one teen librarian working to help youth, you become a network of people working to help youth.  You know the saying, two brains are better than one; by networking you increase your potential through increased knowledge and increased resources.  Plus, there is great benefit to learning what is working well for others and what doesn’t as  this can help influence your decision making.  And as you share upcoming programming schedules, you help eliminate those conflicts that often arise when you set programming dates and times in a bubble.

The challenge is someone must take the first step and be willing to be the organizer.  This takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and commitment.  You have to be enthusiastic and patient; just like programming, you don’t necessarily get immediate interest and success.  You have to make sure there is someone scheduled to present (cross train) at each meeting.  You need an agenda, refreshments, and the ability to keep the conversation going.  But most of all, you have to believe that what you are doing is important; we all fail without vision, but together you can create a common vision for the youth in your community.

Other TLT posts that discuss asset bulding:
Understanding the Wild Child
Don’t Underestimate the Value of “Hanging Out”
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff part 1 and part 2

End Note: Evaluating YOUR Teen Services Program Using the 40 Developmental Assets

We have discussed using the assets to evaluate and communicate your teen services program.  At the end of each year I simply make a quick outline of the assets and make sure what we are doing accomplishes what we say we are doing.  Think of it as creating a yearly plan and then making sure at the end of the year that you met your goals.  Here is an example:

40 Developmental Assets
Through extensive research, Search Institute has identified the following 40 building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The _________ Public Library actively helps teens address and meet 27 of the 40 assets listed below, proving that the ___________ Public Library is essential community resource in the life of teenagers in the Marion community.
External Assets:
Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, and Constructive Use of Time
1. Family Support-Family life provides high levels of love and support.
2. Positive Family Communication-Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
3. Other Adult Relationships-Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
·         Library staff provides positive adult interaction to community teens and help teenagers successfully navigate the library environment. 
·         Teens who regularly attend Teen CoffeeHouse develop a positive relationship with Teen Services Librarian.
·         Through reader’s advisory and informal book discussions, many regular teens develop a positive relationship with Teen Services Librarian.
4. Caring Neighborhood-Young person experiences caring neighbors.Library resources, especially those designed especially for teens, communicate that the library community cares for teens in the community.
5. Caring School Climate-School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
6. Parent Involvement in Schooling-Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.
7. Community Values Youth-Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
·         The library provides a developmentally appropriate teen program that meets a variety of their needs and interests, including a special teen resource collection, which communicates value in the community.
8. Youth as Resources-Young people are given useful roles in the community.
·         Through regular interaction with the Teen Services Librarian, both informal and at programming, teens give input into programming, services and collection.
9. Service to Others-Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
10. Safety-Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.
·         The Teen CoffeeHouse provides a developmentally appropriate, enjoyable environment for teens in their neighborhood.
11. Family Boundaries-Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
12. School Boundaries-School provides clear rules and consequences.
13. Neighborhood Boundaries-Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
·         The acceptable behavior policy helps outline responsible behavior for teens in the library.
14. Adult Role Models-Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
·         All library staff and the Teen Services Librarian directly model positive, responsible behavior to teens in the community.
15. Positive Peer Influence-Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
16. High Expectations-Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.
17. Creative Activities-Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
·         The library’s teen services programs provides a variety of opportunities for teens to be creative, including drawing and poetry contests, etc.
18. Youth Programs-Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community.
·         The library’s teen services program provides a variety of programs that provide teens with opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate programming.
19. Religious Community-Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
20. Time at Home-Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.
Internal Assets:
Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies and Positive Identity
21. Achievement Motivation-Young person is motivated to do well in school.
22. School Engagement-Young person is actively engaged in learning.
·         Library has essential resources for teens engaging in learning
23. Homework-Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
·         Library resources are beneficial in the successful completion of homework
24. Bonding to School-Young person cares about her or his school.
25. Reading for Pleasure-Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.
·         Library provides an extensive collection for teens reading enjoyment
·         Library provides a variety of programs and events that encourage reading for pleasure
Note about education oriented internal assets below:  The ___________ Public Library provides a variety of resources, both fiction and nonfiction, to help teens explore, develop and enhance these internal assets.  The teen collection, which has developmentally appropriate titles written specifically for teens in a manner that will engage them, is an important part of helping teens in the community address these internal assets.
26. Caring-Young person places high value on helping other people.
27. Equality and Social Justice-Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing
hunger and poverty.
28. Integrity-Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
29. Honesty-Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
30. Responsibility-Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
31. Restraint-Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.
32. Planning and Decision Making-Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
33. Interpersonal Competence-Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
34. Cultural Competence-Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
35. Resistance Skills-Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
36. Peaceful Conflict Resolution-Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
37. Personal Power-Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
38. Self-Esteem-Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
39. Sense of Purpose-Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
40. Positive View of Personal Future-Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future

Special thanks to VOYA for the opportunity to share my passion for teens and asset building.

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.

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 . . .

Definitions
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:
Coraline
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.

http://stokefis.blogspot.com/2010/08/teenage-brain.html

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!