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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

How I Changed My Teen Advisory Board by Michelle Biwer

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Teen Volunteer Home Base

I identified a number of ways that my library’s teen volunteering program could be improved and give more of the responsibility back to the teens. With over 150 teen volunteers I was having a hard time recognizing teen volunteers who go above-and-beyond, keeping track of the number of active volunteers, and generally making sure volunteers felt valued and were informed of changes and procedures. I looked at how the library’s TAB could solve these problems and came up with a new structure for the group.

TAB Leadership

Teens submit applications before a new school year for a leadership position in TAB. They are required to have volunteered a certain number of hours at the library and encouraged to be an active TAB member. There are 5 positions (President, Vice President/Publicity Chair, Teen Programming Chair, Membership Chair, and Collections Chair). Each leadership position has a long term project and monthly responsibilities to work on at every TAB meeting.

Group Work

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Having a TAB leadership team that knows what projects need to be worked on during TAB and can supervise other teens is essential due to the 30+ attendance that I regularly receive at TAB meetings. Every TAB leader supervises a group of volunteers working on a project I’ve assigned that is related to their job. For example, those interested in teen programming will help plan or create an upcoming teen program with the Teen Programming Chair. Those who love YA will create a display in the teen area with the Collections Chair.  The Membership Chair just finished an amazing project–digitizing the volunteer sign-in process!

TAB is open to everyone

Any teen can attend TAB or become a volunteer, there is no mandatory commitment. All new teen library volunteers must attend one TAB meeting. Even if some teens choose not to regularly participate in TAB and teen programs, attending one meeting means they know what the teen department at the library can do for them and what opportunities are out there in terms of volunteering. The Membership Chair runs a volunteer orientation as one of the group projects during TAB.

These changes have allowed teens to really take charge of TAB and have made meetings more productive.

Join the TLT Teen Advisory Board!

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Did you know we have a Teen Advisory Board here at TLT? We do! We currently have 6 active TAB members and they do a variety of things like review books, share teen culture, and talk about teen issues with us. Several of our TAB members graduated or dropped out last year, so as we head into fall we are looking for a few more teen voices to help us help libraries serve teens. All voices are welcome, but we are especially interested in more diverse voices as our TAB is very white teen girl at the moment and there are a lot of viewpoints that aren’t represented. We would also like to have representation from all over the U.S., as many of our members are currently located near a TLT member. But since things can be done remotely, we’d love to have more geographic diversity as well.

Read More About TLT and Our TAB Here

At the end of the day, what we want is to hear from teens. As teen services librarians, we do our best work when we talk with and listen to our service base – teens.

We ask that TLT TAB members submit one post per month. It can be whatever type of article you like. For example, The Teen reviews for TLT, and she developed her Post It Note reviews.

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The Bestie and The Teen do ARC Parties, giving us snap teen judgments of books based on their covers, titles and synopsis.

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Lexi reviewed pretty regularly – oh how I miss her – and loved getting all the books and swag. She wrote pretty long and thoughtful reviews with her own point of view.

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Others have posted about YouTubers, talked about issues, and more. Libraries aren’t just about books and your posts don’t have to be just book reviews, although we obviously do like book reviews because – hello – librarians!

Here are the requirements:

You need to be a teen

You need parental permission

You need a nickname, a short bio and a headshot (which will appear on the About TLT page under TLT TAB)

You need a monthly post

You need access to the Internet and the ability to share a post via email (your public library can help you with this)

You need to be willing to attend a quarterly virtual meeting or group chat

Here’s what you get:

You get to be as creative as you want to be. It doesn’t have to be a written post. You can submit a video, do bullet lists and more. Think outside the box and express yourself in ways that mean something to you while you talk about things that mean something to you.

If you want to review books, we help hook you up with books, often before they are even published.

You’ll also get to express yourself, be creative, and speak for teens.

You’ll brush up on writing and tech skills, maybe even use it as an opportunity to learn some new ones.

And when it comes time, I will sign your forms for school asking for service hours and write those recommendation letters for jobs or college. TLT is a part of the School Library Journal blog network so we have a little bit of street cred. We also have millions of page views. It looks good on a college application.

Most importantly, you’ll get to be heard!

So what next:

So if you are interested, contact me at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com and look over the following application/contract/submission guidelines.

TLT TAB Application