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]

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