In December, 2005, our 180 square foot alcove morphed into a lovely 1,200 square foot oasis for teenagers from grades six through twelve. Complete with computers reserved just for teens, we have one of a very few teen service desks in the entire state of Michigan.
We have a regular staff of four that are teenager-friendly. You’ve probably wondered what it is, exactly, that the Teen staff does in that strangely organic offshoot of the library. Well, all of those materials and programs come from somewhere, and that somewhere is us!
We order all the materials for the Teen Area, including audio books, books, graphic novels, magazines, and movies. Ordering is a multi-step process: get suggestions from teens on what materials they want, read many, many reviews in professional journals, determine if an item is appropriate and needed in our collection, decide if there’s enough money in the budget for one or multiple copies, order the item(s), assign a call number, send the item(s) to Support Services for processing, and finally, place the item(s) on the shelf to be checked out. Whew!
Programming for this age group has always been a challenge. Getting teens to attend library programs is like digging a ditch in the Sahara. Teens always want the next new thing, so our programming is constantly changing to try to meet their needs. Another consideration is that teens have lives: friends, school, homework, chores, band, clubs, and jobs. Library programming is on the bottom of their list of things to do. So our staff is always brainstorming for new ways to attract teens to the library.
How? We read emails lists and visit websites to see what’s hot with teens. We flip through teen magazines and watch teen movies. We read as much of the current teen literature as possible so we can make good recommendations. We create bibliographies - lists of related books - so teens can be self-sufficient if they don’t want to talk to the “library lady”.
We visit our local middle and high schools to promote the Teen Area. We collaborate on programs with other community organizations like Parks & Recreation, and solicit donations from local businesses for our Teen Summer Reading Program. Then, we collect statistics to see what works and what doesn’t.
This brief overview is only scratching the surface of what we do. We do our best to create a welcoming, teen-friendly space with materials and programs that are not only what teens need for school, but what they want just for fun.