Monday, May 14, 2012

Teen Success Part 3: Where We're At Now

Part 1
Part 2

So, here we are. Since I started at my library, every year I offered a lock-in during National Library Week, and last summer I decided to do another one at the end of summer. Despite my bad luck with Teen Thursdays, I was super excited about the summer lock-in since I had planned to play Life-Sized Clue with the kids.

This didn't really work for two reasons:

1. it doesn't get dark until at least nine in August, so our Clue time was at the end when the kids were all jacked up on soda and candy, and we were short on time (lock-in ended at 10 or 10:30, don't recall exactly--but we were crunched for time).
2. Dynamics again. I had a few kids who were there to actually do what I had planned and follow directions. And I had a bunch of kids who were there to go crazy.

So, when National Library Week rolled around this year, I decided to do things differently. I realized that my dynamic problems were partly my own fault. I was trying to do too much just to entice kids--any kids!-- to come to my programs.

Lock-In! Computers! Pizza! Soda! Snacks! Crafts! Life-Sized Clue! Games! And MORE!!!!!!!!
(seems a tad desperate, no?)

Essentially I was telling them it was a free-for-all and then being frustrated when they showed up expecting that. I decided that this year, although I would be doing it after-hours and it would essentially still BE a lock-in, I wasn't going to advertise it as a lock-in. I still wanted to play Life-Sized Clue, so that's how I advertised it.

You guys? I set the registration deadline to Thursday, and it was FULL by the end of Thursday! That's so epic for my library I can't even express it. I had 24 spots, and I could have had at least 30. AND THEY ALL SHOWED UP.

We went right into playing Clue. I had two staff helping, so we were able to 'host' three of the games, and the fourth group knew how to play. We played for about an hour and fifteen minutes, then took a snack break in the meeting room. At that point, rather than go back to Clue, we played large group circle games like Fruit Basket Upset and Secret Leader (these types of games are my specialty)

They were awesome. Everyone there wanted to be there, and wanted to do the activities I had planned.

Here's what I've learned:

  • There is little or no interest in weekday teen programming in my community. The need is for weekend/Friday night things to do. I'll admit that I've been avoiding that truth, but for a group like I had for Clue? I'll gladly work on Friday nights (well, some Friday nights). 
  • Don't overdo it. It doesn't have to be everything to everyone. Manage expectations on both ends by being clear in your advertising what will happen at the event.
  • I think I've finally figured out the right way to market to my kids (school announcements, forget the flyers). During the school year anyway--BUT I have contact info for all the kids who came during the school year, so I should be able to contact them directly over the summer.
Going forward:
Friday night events once or twice per month over the summer.
A planned redecorating of the existing YA area of the library--hoping to build ownership of the area with teens. 

Stay tuned to see if I'm on to something here!


  1. I think my community is similar to yours in that I don't think my teens really need or have time for another program during the school week. That is a hard reality for me to face sometimes but there it is. Like you, I need to focus more on Friday or weekend programming. I'd like to do something on Sunday even when the library is closed and perhaps make it a really special teen event.

  2. Thanks for taking us through the process. Too many times we tout how we run our library good but not the painful path we take to that good place. I really appreciate the trilogy of posts - they say more about the reality of teeen programming than anything I've read in a long long time.


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