|Youth Services: Programming for one age group, Collection Development, Working only 40 hours per week|
After three years, I may have just had my first entirely successful teen program. No spin, no excuses, just 100% success. It feels really nice. Not sure if it's a trend, or something I can replicate but I'm sure going to try.
I've been part of ground-up successful teen programming before. I did an internship with a branch of a large suburban MN library while I was in library school. A classmate of mine (she worked there) and I created teen programming there for the first time, and it was very successful. We were reaching teen library users. They were regularly coming to library events and bringing new people to the library. We developed relationships with our population and turned a possibly disruptive element into library advocates. Soon after, the system hired a dedicated Teen Librarian and it has been interesting to watch the progression and success of teen programming in that system.
My current position serves ages 0-18, and frankly, I think that's a nigh-impossible task. My personal belief is that truly successful teen programming requires--REQUIRES--a dedicated, location-specific, teen liaison.
What is successful teen programming? I consider successful teen programming to be that which reaches a consistent, dedicated group of teens--especially those who are already library-users, and turns them into library advocates. It is not just one-off events that attract a bunch of kids who will never set foot in the library until the next big sexy event you throw (not that those events are wrong, but I don't consider a series of one-offs to be successful teen programming--you follow?). If you only consider attendance you may have the appearance of successful teen programming, but I bet for every 'successful' event there are at least as many flops/no-show events. I think this is why bigger libraries often seem to have more successful teen programs--a larger pool of teens to draw from means more attendance. But is it really successful teen programming?
Teens are so relational, you really need a LOT of time to build those relationships. Those of us in smaller libraries who wear many hats struggle to find that time. It's not impossible to do, but I think administrators and the public need more appreciation for the time and dedication needed for teen programming in general.
In part 2 I'll talk more specifically about last week's program and what's working/what hasn't worked here.