Teen Librarian Toolbox
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The Rebuttal: Marketing and Library Lock-Ins

So, in my original post on Marketing and Library Lock-Ins I mentioned a co-worker and how she used library lock-ins to reward her teens.  She has been so kind as to write a rebuttal for my original post.  And here it is . . .

I would be the librarian that was mentioned in the blog on 2/17, although I don’t think of myself as particularly awesome.  My office is stacked high with stuff that needs to be done, half the time I can’t find my desk, and my walls are decorated with pictures from the library kids and posters of a few of my favorite Read @ Your Library actors (Alan Rickman smiles only for *me*).  And on one wall I have framed shirts and pictures from our reading program lock-ins.  So, when Karen asked me to write a response to her blog, I immediately told her, “I’ll be your huckleberry.”

I think that libraries that feel like they have lost their value actually have just lost their focus:  they need to take a good hard look at themselves and their market (patrons/communities) and evaluate what they are, and where they want to be.  It is easy to say that we want to create “intelligent, empowered, thinking and feeling members” of the community, but I think that can come about in a variety of ways, and not all of them bound by the stereotypical idea of librarianship. 

I would argue from a marking perspective that the benefit of a lock-in, done successfully and tied into a reading program, is hugely positive.  From a library viewpoint, your market is your patronage, and sometimes we can forget that in the struggle with budgets and boards and keeping our heads above water.  With lock-ins, we are creating positive experiences for the youth in the area, which will come back to us in the form of future support.  We are creating positive feedback from their parents by creating a space where their children want to come and spend time.  This is particularly important because there are relatively few stay-at-home parents in the area, and their kids choose to be here in the library, rather than be home alone.  We are creating advocates for the library because we are making a difference in the community through this positive feedback.  The teens are talking to their friends, encouraging them to come to programs, and not just the reading programs & lock-ins.  Younger kids are not only excited for their programs, but also looking forward to becoming a teen so they, too, may participate.  Their parents are excited that their children actually want to come to the library, and that fact clearly shows in the patron count coming through the door.

I may run my lock-ins different from the ways others do – I really do not know.  I make each one a prize above and beyond the reading program prizes, because I understand that not everyone can attend and not everyone will reach the lock-in goal, and that’s OK.  For those that do make it, however, they have a huge sense of accomplishment, and they brag about it to their friends.  I have 10 & 11 year olds who are counting down the days until they are 13, the age which they can start to participate.  They regularly beg to sign up for teen reading programs and read…and this is the age where we so often lose so many of our readers.

“Yeah, yeah, but what about the message it sends?”  The message it is sending to our community is that we are so involved with your kids that we want them to spend the night with us.  We care.  They have spent the summer or winter READING, and with some of them that was a goal they NEVER though they would reach, so why not celebrate it?  It is something above a pizza party, a pool party, dyeing the hair of the librarian – things that would not reach the community that I am in – they have had those in school, or do not particularly care about them.  Having some weird “adult” who is not related to them wanting to spend time with them, play games with them, take the time to be with them and get to know them for who they are, that is what matters, both to the teens and to the rest of the community.  That may be different than other libraries operate; however, it is something that I have tried to foster at every library I have ever worked at, and it is something that friends that are also librarians have tried to accomplish as well.

 “It’s not normal operating procedures.”  Define your normal operating procedures, then.  Why are well-structured lock-ins considered anathema, while other programming is not?  Is it because of the time involved?  Do it shorter.  Is it because it is focused on teens?  The bias about teen programming is getting way old- do you realize that the ages that we lose these readers and library go-ers is only a few short years before they are allowed to vote?  What about pajama storytimes?  Do you encourage little kids, parents, and staff to come in pajamas to programs?  What about that is normal library procedures?  What about Fancy Nancy or American Girl teas?  What about Stitch ‘n’ Bitch programs?  Those are craft times for adults, why are those acceptable?  Tax assistance?  ESL classes?  Craft fairs?    ALA and YALSA are constantly hitting up the 40 Developmental Assets (http://yalsa.ala.org/2010_presprgrm_si/assets_built_by_spark.pdf) and the New Media Literacies (http://newmedialiteracies.org/) – we hit a lot of them doing these programs types of programs. 

We, librarians and library advocates, are constantly fighting the fact that the public – including library boards, Friends of the Library, and voters – think they do not read or do not use books, and because libraries are perceived as houses filled with books, it follows in this flawed reasoning that if no one is using those books, then we do not need libraries.  But there is no such thing as a “typical” reader any more than there is a “typical” librarian, and we need to expand our thinking a bit to become (and remain) an integral part of our patrons’ lives.  I would argue that lock-ins are not saying that “being a library isn’t enough,” but that we are rising to the challenge of creating what the community needs within the evolving framework that we have with today’s teens. 

See, I told you she was awesome.  And I give her bonus points for showing how it meets the 40 Developmental Assets because she is entirely correct.  She gets more bonus points because she said she would be my Huckleberry. But I subtract points out of pure jealousy for the fact that she has an office (I kid, I kid) (kinda). At the end of the day, we’re all trying to do the same thing which is to connect teens with books and libraries and enrich their lives and our communities.  How we do that may differ, but the difference is only in the details. Thanks all for reading and joining our discussion. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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