Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

A Day In the Life of a Library: Lock-In Preparation

A lock-in can be extremely rewarding for teens and libraries if done the proper way.  You, the teen services specialist, need buy in not only from your teens (which is relatively easy- I mean, if you don’t have teens clamoring to stay all night in the library, email me, we need to talk), but also within your community (meaning the parents/guardians and other patrons) and your administration (not only your boss, but your director, the Friends of the Library, and the Library Board).  Getting that buy-in may not always be easy, but if you have a secure plan in place, I find it’s a sure-fire way to start.

I have always tied mine in with a reading program (summer or winter) in order to have the teens EARN the privileged to stay the night.  I know that other libraries may not do this (I know others have special lock-ins for TAG groups, for instance) but I work (and have worked) in areas where teens need that extra push to read- they need a goal to work for, and the prizes that we’re able to give may not be the encouragement that they need.  Having adults that care enough to spend the night with them, and crazy enough to plan fun and interesting activities, shows that there is someone out there that wants them to succeed enough to devote the time and energy to them.  And it is a LOT of time and energy, so much that I don’t think anyone really realizes it from the outside. I know that a lot of my teens don’t. On lock-in days alone, I am physically AT my building starting at 5 p.m., and do not leave before 8:30 a.m. the next morning (15 1/2 hours).  In addition, on lock-in days, I am gathering donations from sponsors and collecting last minute necessities and prepping for the day.  Easily, I work (and I mean WORK) 20 hours on a lock-in day.

A typical lock-in day will go like this:

    11 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Placing calls and finalizing details.  This can involve arranging last minute delivery of donated food from local vendors like pizza, or arranging to pick-up T-shirts for the lock-in.  I’m also going over my check-list of places I need to go to and things I need to pick-up, as well as packing for the day.  I’ll stop back by my house between 4-5 p.m., and then I won’t be back until 9 a.m. the next morning, so I need to have everything in bins ready to grab and go. 
    1-4 p.m.
    Driving and gathering donations from various vendors around town.  This can be anything from pre-packaged pastries for breakfast, to freebies and trinkets from the Dollar Store, to juice and Kool-Aide donated from the local grocery stores.

    4-5 p.m.
    Packing up any supplies and materials at my house for transport to the library: PS3 and Wii games and controllers, board games, plates, napkins, and other donations that have been given by parents or other members of the community.

    5-7 p.m.

    Arrive at building, and set up library and large meeting rooms for lock-in.  Check off teen and chaperone names as they come in, and remind them that they need to be in the large meeting room at 7 for lock-down.  Have teens help set up tables and chairs for dinner, and gaming systems in the library.

    7-8 p.m.
    Building check with other staff to make sure building is clear, call any parents of teens that are AWOL.  Dinner.

    8-9 p.m.
    Group games.  We have done Clue, Werewolf, Building Capture the Flag, Muggle Quidditch, Apples to Apples, Killer Bunnies- anything that can be done as a group that will get some energy burned off.
    9-10 p.m.: Free time.  Teens can be anywhere in the building except the off limits zones.  I will be wandering halls, checking on teens, and making sure things are going smoothly.

    10-11 p.m.
    Gym time.  We have a tradition of chaperone vs. teen volleyball games, then dodgeball, basketball, or anything else we desire.

    11-12 midnight
    Free time.

    12 midnight- 2 a.m.
    Group movie time.  Anyone not asleep in the safe rooms (separate for boys and girls, and I check) is required to come to the library to watch the group movie.  This year it will be Flash Gordon.

    2 – 3 a.m.

    Free time.

    3 – 4 a.m.
    Group games.  Anyone not asleep in the safe rooms is required to join us in the large meeting room for group games.  These are usually based around a theme- this year it will be 80’s games like Twister, musical chairs to 80’s bands, and Team Operation.

    4-7 a.m.
    Free time.  This is the most important time to be wandering around.  Anyone found asleep who is not in the safe room is fair game for marking, and I get LOTS of pictures.  We’ve found them under desks, in corners, everywhere.  And one teen always gets marked, no matter what he does.

    7-8 a.m.
    Group wake-up, clean up, and breakfast.  One of the main rules I have with any teen program is that we set up and we clean up, and a lock-in is no exception.  We have to leave the BUILDING in opening order, so we have to clean up any messes that have been made, and when I mean WE, I mean the teens.  Kool-Aid on the floor, go find the mop.  Pizza crusts didn’t make in the garbage, go clean it up.  Everything is clean before the donated breakfast (usually donuts or other pastries) is served.

    8 a.m.
    Teens are released.  Those that are within walking distance can walk home, and those that need rides can call, or leave with parents. Hopefully all parents are waiting by 8 to pick up everyone, but I have had some be as late as 9.

    8:30 a.m.
    I am hopefully leaving the building after doing a final walk-through, loading up my car, and locking up everything before the building opens in 30 minutes.  The library staff will show at 9, the building itself will open at 9, but the library won’t open until 10.  If any teens have not been picked up, I stay until 9 when the building is opened, and then they are on their own.

    Yet, the fact that I have 12 at-risk teens who read 35 hours over their winter break, and the fact that my summer lock-in grows every year, shows that I’m doing something right.  These same teens are the ones who’s reading scores were failing and are now passing or higher.  While I cannot concretely tie it to involvement in the library, the reading program, and the lock-ins, I have to be doing something right.  They’re coming to the library, and they are reading.  They’re sharing their favorite authors with me, and I’ll catch two or three of them reading new books during free time. Every year, my roster of volunteer chaperones gets larger- they are my former teens wanting to make a difference.  So, something is right.