Building Teen Services at Your Library

After blocksspecializing in Teen Services while in library school, Gretchen Kolderup was hired as the part-time Teen Services librarian at a library in a small town in Connecticut. The position of Teen Services Librarian was brand new, and the library had previously offered programming for teens only sporadically, so there wasn’t much on which to build.

In a post at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Gretchen reflects on what she wishes she’d known about building teen services from scratch.

  •  Data is Useful: “It takes work to collect the data, but what it tells you about your patrons and services is invaluable.”

You’re already tracking circulation and program attendance. Are you using this data to support your programming decisions? Data can demonstrate a need, and it can give you a baseline against which to chart your progress. Instead of guessing at what would work for your patrons, data can help you figure it out. Data is a great way to support requests to your board.

Your Field Services Librarian can help you with this! We can do year-to-year comparisons of the data you submit for the annual report. We can also compare your library to other libraries in North Dakota.

  •  Have a Vision: “Having to write a vision statement and look to the future of my department forced me to clarify and articulate the library’s values when it comes to teen services…as I was planning new projects and programs and outreach, I was grounding them in what I had decided was important.”

Once you’ve decided on what is important for your community, it will be easier to determine what programming the library can offer that best fits with those needs. You don’t have endless amounts of time, so you want to make every effort to ensure the time you do invest pays off. Having a vision for what you want to achieve can help.

For more information about setting goals for your library, check out the resources from the 2013 Summer Breeze Colloquium on strategic planning. If you couldn’t attend, but would like more assistance with the process, contact your Field Services representative.

  • Relationships Matter: “Relationship-building affects all other aspects of library services to teens.”

Building relationships both with the teens themselves and with other community organizations who work with teens will help your library programs succeed. Teens are social creatures, and once you get a few involved, they will bring their friends to programs and help spread the word for you. Don’t limit your outreach to teens who are already coming to the library – partner with the local school and other community groups who can help recruit teens.

For more information on reaching out to other community groups, check out our previous post on Building Your Base, a program which provides “tools for connecting with your community.”

  • Professional Community is Valuable: “A good professional community is a never ending source of continued learning throughout one’s career.”

What’s working well at the library in the next town over? Maybe it would work in your library, but the first step is talking to the other librarian about how it worked for their library. Many librarians in North Dakota are solo librarians, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone!

Connecting with other librarians who work with teens might be as easy as contacting the librarian at the local high school. You could also connect online through YALSA or The Hub. For other in-person options, try attending the NDLA annual conference or a State Library workshop.

Gretchen also comments in an earlier post at the YALSA blog that “you can’t just snap your fingers and have a library full of teens, a calendar full of programs, and a community that knows what you’re doing. Creating a teen services program takes time.” It’s important to remember that, especially if your first program is not the huge success you envisioned. Evaluate what might work better next time, and try again. You won’t reap any rewards if you give up after only giving it one shot.

Since she didn’t set out to write a how-to post, Gretchen suggests reading Starting from scratch : building a teen library program by Sarah Ludwig for more in-depth information on building teen services at your library.

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