Starting a Teen Advisory Guild

My main library only has one night per week when we’re open beyond 6 o’clock, and on that night, I’ve been seeing a fair amount of teens using our computers and lurking at the art stations I’ve set-up at the very back of the library. I wanted to find a way to get them more involved and so I fell back on a teen programming staple- a teen advisory guild.

This was a good option for me because:

A. Our local schools require students to have volunteer hours, so they’re pretty motivated to come to us if only for that.

B. I’m the only person doing programs for all ages in two small libraries. So, yeah. I could use a little help coming up with and executing ideas, especially for a population as elusive as teens.

I know about five teens fairly well, either from volunteering with us or just talking to their families. I was sure to talk to them directly about starting one, and they were actually pretty excited by the idea.

But I also wanted to reach teens who had never spoken to me or my teammate before, and I did this by planting information in the areas where they tend to hang out. Namely, the computers and those art tables. For the computers, I made tents to go between all of them with brief information and instructions to go to the desk if they wanted to sign up.

teen advisory

I felt that a lot of teens weren’t going to want to ask us questions, so I left out quarter sheets with a jar for them to sign up. The quarter sheets simply asked for a name and contact information. This was a quick, no pressure way for them to show interest. The rest was up to me.

For the art tables, I chose to have a similar sign with a few more details and another jar and forms to sign up.

Both ways allowed teens to join without needing to talk to me or my teammate.

I had better success talking to teens I knew and even a couple I didn’t, but I still had three teens sign up using this method.

In all, I had 9 teens signed up within a few weeks. A couple of them asked me about our first meeting, and I wanted to keep their enthusiasm, so I set-up our first meeting after these three weeks passed.

For our first meeting, I bought pizza and just asked them about the kinds of things they like. We had four out of those nine teens come, and I didn’t think that was too terrible.

We talked about the music they love, what movies are their favorites, books they’ve liked, what kinds of events (like concerts and fairs) they’ve always wanted to go to. They told me about their hobbies and school activities. I got a good sense of who they are and ran with it. That same night, I scheduled an after-hours movie night with them. They loved the prospect because they could have the library to themselves and since none of them are driving yet, this was close to a feeling of independence. Of course, I let them pick out the movie, too.

We had our movie night last week, and our four stretched to five as they invited friends to come. It felt great to see them feeling some ownership for the library and being excited enough to ask friends to come with them.

I learned from the movie night that this group is really interested in dancing, so I’m hoping to find someone to come and teach them a few moves in the future.

I’ll keep you posted. 😉

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