Teen Advisory Groups go by many names – groups, boards, councils – but the purpose is the same: get teens involved in the library! Teens can be a difficult group for libraries to reach with busy schedules and diverse interests. According to YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, a Teen Advisory Group can make a difference in program participation because “it incorporates your teens as direct stakeholders in their library.”
Sarah Bean Thompson, a teen and tween librarian who blogs at GreenBeanTeenQueen, seconds that view, calling her Teen Library Council her “teen brain,” as they provide her with insight into what teens want from the library. They also help plan programs and make suggestions for purchasing books for the teen collection. Sarah mentions that a group of teens does require a commitment to regular recruitment as teens graduate. Counting it as volunteer time can help with recruiting. She also comments on the importance of offering a perk for being part of the TAG, such as special borrowing privileges.
Beyond being a great way involve teens in the library, Lindsey Tomsu points out in a presentation on TAGs that an investment in teens is an investment in the library. Teens are future financial supporters of the library, so if you want them to support the library as adults, it helps to develop a relationship with them as teens. Of course, the better relationship you have with teens, the better you can serve them, which will increase your program attendance and circulation.
TAGs don’t have to be super formal meetings. Angie Manfredi, who blogs at Fat Girl Reading, notes in a presentation on teen services that you can start off simply by asking teens who are already hanging out in the library what they’d like to see the library offer. There can also be online interaction. If your library has a Facebook account, try using it to get feedback from teens. In her presentation, she outlines the details of her TAG meetings and few easy-to-implement programs for teens.
For help getting started, the New Mexico State Library answers commonly asked questions about TAGs:
- How do I attract TAG members?
- What does a TAG meeting look like?
Do you have a successful Teen Advisory Board at your library? What works for you? Share your stories in the comments!