Teens & Libraries: made for each other

Playing Board GamesI’m very fond of teenagers. Why? Because they are full of intensity of thought, emotion, and growth. They are creative and open to new information and experiences in their search for figuring out who they are now, and who they want to be in the future. Libraries are the best public places for making friends, collaborating, being creative, building relationships, and learning (by both reading AND doing). These characteristics make teens and libraries perfect for each other.

Teenagers have unique developmental needs that are necessary to becoming successful adults. Young Adult library programs (ALWAYS developed in conjunction with teen input), are key in nurturing these needs. Library programs and volunteering teach responsibility, technology skills, develop teens’ interests and talents, prep them for academic success, and more.

How we are already making a difference to teens
Feedback from our teens: Aidan: “It (library programs) gets us out of the house & introduced to a variety of situations and experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise get.”
Dan: “It (the library) prepares us for the future.”
Nick: “This (teen hangout night) is the only place I can be with people I LIKE.”
Mary: “I’ve never been to anything like this before!” Can we do this again…?” (referring to the Vampire Masquerade Ball the Friends generously funded).

My observations
I see teens expanding their skills and confidence by creating designs for CCLD’s block at the sidewalk painting festival, planning a peer learning web programming workshop, and leading the monthly Manga group. New friendships are forged over a Wii video game, and informal homework help sessions between students pop up during teen night. Most poignantly, a teen came to me for help with a family crisis, because she had “nowhere else to go” (except the library) and liked and trusted our youth services staff, since meeting us through teen hangout night.

Activities with Teens at Central Library
I started a TAG (Teen advisory group) for the Central Library. Currently, I have 6 teens in the group. We meet once a month to brainstorm and plan young adult programs, assist with children’s programs, discuss what books, games and music the library should purchase, and determine which fun community outreach events we will participate in. Several of the TAG members are also regular library volunteers.

Teen oriented community outreach
So far this year the TAG group and I have promoted the library at the following community events:
Elmira Streetpainting Festival: TAG designed and painted a library themed square.
iMatter Festival: TAG manned a CCLD table at this annual life-affirming, youth oriented, scream music festival at Eldridge Park
Hero Bot Con: TAG members dressed as their favorite manga or sci fi heroes, helped library staff at the CCLD table, and took turns being Booker.

Current Central Library Teen Programs
Weekly Teen Hang out Night (every Tuesday at 6pm) came directly out of the teen survey I conducted with the help of the Elmira City school librarians. The number one request from area teens was for an after school hangout time.
• Teens play board and video games, socialize, and enjoy snacks. One teen said: “I like coming here because this is the only place where I can be with people I LIKE.” Teen night (and the library in general) is a safe, congenial place away from the social pecking order at school, or a chaotic home life.
So “Bad, It’s Good” Movie Night (monthly; open to Teens and Adults)*
*in collaboration with librarian Jennie Lewis.
• Join us every month for popcorn and good natured heckling of hilariously bad, cheesy movies.
Teen Manga/Anime Club (first Tuesday of each month at 3pm)
Geek out on all things Manga and Anime! Share your favorite movies & books, draw manga, learn about Japanese culture and more!

Future Plans & Programs
Karaoke edition of Teen night: (Tues. Feb 25 @ 6pm)
Teen Tech Share for Teen Tech Week (Wed. March 12 @ 6:00pm)
• Implement programs on game design and gaming.
Re-design the CCLD teen webpage and update the content, in partnership with virtual services librarian, Jennie Lewis and TAG.
Plan, design & find grant funding for a dedicated teen space in the Central Library. We envision this to be a vibrant, active space, one in which teens can do gaming, collaborate and create on computers and other digital media, listen to music, socialize, and..yes….read and study.
We are always looking for teen input or participation! Contact teen services coordinator, Doris Jean Metzger at metzgerd@stls.org or 607-733-9174. Watch our calendar of events and facebook for further teen library adventures!

Resources and Further Reading
Julie Biando Edwards, Melissa S. Rauseo, & Kelley Rae Unger. “Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town.” Public Libraries Online. Sept./Oct. 2011. Accessed December 30, 2013. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/04/community-centered-23-reasons-why-your-library-is-the-most-important-place-in-town/

Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell; “Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations.” Pew Internet. June 25, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2013; http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/06/25/younger-americans-library-services/

“Teens Need Libraries.” YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). Accessed December 30, 2013; http://www.ala.org/yalsa/teens-need-libraries#Key%20Services

Karyn M. Peterson. “Pew Study: Teens Still Love Print Media, ‘Traditional’ Library Services.” School Library Journal. June 25, 2013.
Accessed December 30, 2013; http://www.slj.com/2013/06/public-libraries/pew-study-teens-still-love-print-media-traditional-library-services/

Doris Jean Metzger
Teen Services, Central Library, CCLD