Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Put a Teen on It! The library board that is (Teen involvement)

When we talk about teen involvement in libraries, we are often thinking of ways that we – the teen librarians – can involve teens in our planning activities and give them a voice in our services.  But there are countless ways to involve teens in the life of the library.  Today I’ll discuss a big one – creating a position on the Library Board of Directors for a teen.

This is not a Teen Advisory Board – what I’m talking about here is creating a spot at that big table in the Board room for a teen to fill each time the Library Board or Library Trustees meets.  Does it sound crazy to you?  While the practice is not yet widespread, it’s not unprecedented, and now is a good time to start moving on the idea if you want to implement it in your library starting in the fall.  Your best avenue for reaching the kind of civically engaged, focused, dedicated, high achieving [read: busy] student that will best suit such a position could very well be someone you don’t know yet because he or she is likely too busy to come to library programs.  Reaching out to the schools will yield a better field of candidates, so start thinking and planning now before exams, the Spring show, and prom take center stage for your high school community.

Why Teens on the Board?

While it may seem obvious to those of us that work with teenagers that they have something meaningful to offer the Board, when presenting this idea you may need to convince some folks who aren’t so keen on the idea.  Teens on your Board can provide:

  • Information on technology trends that are important to teens during discussions of the Technology committee.
  • Perspective on how and when teens use library space when the Board is entertaining proposals from architects or signage companies or considering a reallocation of hours.
  • Insight on how new policies will be received by the teen community.
  • A direct “insider” connection to local schools.
Meanwhile, your Board can provide the following to the teen or teens they invite in:
  • A firsthand experience in local government
  • An opportunity to be heard by and have opinions valued by adults (Hello 40 Developmental Assets!)
  • An excellent college prep experience
  • A connection to the library that will last a lifetime
  • A deeper understanding of how the library works
  • Will the teen be an elected position or appointed?
  • What kind of requirements and application process will you implements?
  • Will there be an interview for the position, and if so, with whom?
  • Will the teen have voting rights?
  • Must the teen also be involved in the Teen Advisory Board?  If not, how will you stay connected with the teen liaison?
  • How would you deal with removing or replacing a teen Board member who was unable to fulfill the duties?
  • How long will the term be?
  • How many positions will you open?
Once a teen has been added to the Board, check in with him or her periodically.  Make sure everything is going well and that you’re available to answer any questions.  Try to stay in the loop, and offer assistance if schedule or personal issues come up.

If you still find the Board resistant, propose a trial year, or try appointing a teen liaison to be on specific Board task forces or committees that have a direct impact over teen services.  Prepare yourself, collect documentation, and be ready to champion the teen voice in your community.  And if they still don’t budge, try again when the Board has turned over and some fresh faces may be more receptive to your suggestions.

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