Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Expecting the Unexpected: Lock-In Bob-ombs (TPIB)

“There’s a plan in everything, kid, and I love it when a plan comes together.” -Col. Hannibal Smith, A-Team (2010)
Lock-ins are wonderful when you have the right mindset at the beginning; however, they can easily snowball into a mess if you look the other way for a minute. Every library is different; the community surrounding my library is vastly different from the community surrounding the branch library less than twenty minutes away but in the same town. As the teen librarian (or the de facto teen librarian, since you’re reading this), you know your teens and the community, and should know generally what will and won’t work with your teens. That’s not the point for this post- you’ve gotten the basics, talked to your staff and admin, and posted for ideas on the various listservs. The point of this post is to point out the little things that can trip you up and cause issues before you even start.

The Basics:
You want a LOCK-IN! That’s wonderful! How long do you have to have the teens for? 3 hours? 4? Overnight? What ages can you have, and have you checked with your legal department to make sure you can legally have it that long for those ages? In my community, we have to start at 13 due to legal requirements. Who’s it for? Is it a reward for a certain goal achieved for the summer reading program? Or for your teen volunteers? If you open it up for too many, you may not have enough people to staff it, or enough room. How are the kids going to get home if you release them at midnight, and what do you do when there’s that one kid that never gets picked up?

It all Starts with the People:
Having gone through the approval process with your administration, and being the uber talented teen librarian you are, you know your ratio for adults to teens (the more the better, ideally 1:7 or 1:5). But have you taken a good look at the adults that you have? You can cajole staff to be at a program all that you want, but if they are not willing or able to interact with teens in a way that will be both enjoyable and responsible, then you may actually be harming your program. Are they ones that have fun with your teens? On a daily basis interact with them, talk with them, joke with them? If you need extras, think about contacting former teen attendees that have aged out who would make good volunteers. Make sure you have both genders represented- a co-ed lock-in needs co-ed staff. Who else will you have to check the opposite gender’s bathroom at 3am for shenanigans?
Documentation, Please!
Yes, the teens at your library are perfect. Mine, however, are not exactly angels, although they tend to behave MUCH better for me than others. Do you have a permission slip that is signed by a parent or legal guardian for your lock-in? Are you sure it’s really the parent or legal guardian who signed it? Was it approved by your city attorney or legal department? Did you cover food allergies and medications that they need to take, and will those meds be in the original prescription bottles? What about if the teen misbehaves or if there’s an emergency, and the parent/guardian will need to pick up the teen, even if it’s at 4 a.m.? Or if the teen brings their mp3 player, video game, cell phone, camera, favorite teddy bear, etc., and it’s not locked up in a safe and secure location, it’s NOT the responsibility of the librarian (you), the library, or the city?
Being creative and flexible, you’ve already gotten donations and worked around any restrictions about food purchasing within your organization. You’ve arranged for massive amounts of pizza from the local parlor, and donuts for the morning. However, did you think about what your little angels might be bringing with them? The average age for teens to TRY alcohol is 11 for boys and 13 for girls, and an overnighter *ANYWHERE* with a less than 1:1 ratio of adults to teens is a perfect time to try and sneak something past. If you’re allowing your teens to bring food and drink into your lock-in (and realistically, who wouldn’t, have you seen how much a teenager can eat?!?!), make sure that you hit hard on the fact that they have to be in unopened, original containers, and make sure that you also check seals and bags. The way I handle it is that I check their stash, and I offer to make a store run so if they give me money in advance, I can buy their Jones Sodas ahead of time.
Planning for Fun
Do you have enough for the teens to do? Do you have a broad enough scope of things to entertain fully all the different types of teens that you have for however many hours you expect to have them? After 8 lock-ins at my current job, I’ve found that the more we run on a schedule, the more fun the teens have- if I let them have too much free time, they get antsy and want me to poke people to do things together. Hence, “THE SCHEDULE.” I have it out in advance (usually posted on the door to my office), and we have a meeting a few days beforehand to go over the schedule and answer any questions. I alternate planned activities with free time, but anything that is planned is MANDATORY unless they are sleeping in one of the “safe zones.” For my upcoming lock-in in August, it will look something like this:

5-7 p.m.: Teen and Volunteer Check-in and Library Set-Up
7p.m.: Lock-Down, Roll Call, & Group Pictures
7:30 – 9 p.m.: Dinner and Group Games
9-10 p.m.: Free Time
10 – 11 p.m.: Volleyball and Gym Activities
11-Midnight: Free Time
Midnight – 2 a.m. Movie
2 -4 a.m.: Free Time
4-5 a.m.: Group Gaming
5-7 a.m.: Free Time
7:15-8 a.m.: Breakfast, Group Pictures, and Clean-up
8 a.m.: Release to parents
In my space, I’m lucky in that we have the run of a community building, so that during a “free” time in my schedule, I can have basketball in the gym, a Runescape tournament in the computer lab, crafts in the large meeting room, movies in the game room, console gaming and reading in the library, Yu-Gi-Oh dueling and chess in the hallways, and still have room for separate gender sleeping space and tag. Make sure that you have enough extra things so that your teens, when they split off into groups, have enough to keep them occupied without coming up to you and saying, MISS, I’M BORED….

The Fine Print
Finally, there are the things that go outside the norm of a typical teen program. Is your building’s climate control housed within your building, or is it controlled off site? Whom do you need to contact to make sure you have lights, AC, electricity? Do you need to contact the local police station and let them know you are using the building after hours? What about the security company- will they call someone if the alarm isn’t set by a particular time that day? Do you need to let the building cleaning crew know that you’re going to have 15-30 rambling teenagers roaming the building during their scheduled cleaning time, or do you need to reschedule them around your program? What is your library’s policy regarding computer use and teens, and what happens if one of your teens doesn’t mesh with that policy (doesn’t have a library card or permission on file)?
As Col. Smith says in “A-Team”, “Give me a minute, I’m good. Give me an hour, I’m great. Give me six months, I’m unbeatable.” Plan for the ridiculous, plan for the extreme, and you’ll give yourself an easy time and your teens an experience that they’ll come back for again and again.
Today’s TLT post is brought to you by Christie G, find out more about her here.
Why we’re talking Lock-Ins, be sure to check out some of our other articles on Lock-Ins:

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