Have you ever had a moment where a patron recognizes you, but you can’t identify who they are? One day while I was walking between library departments, a young teen called out my name and stopped me in my tracks. She started asking me personal questions. I politely answered her, but I couldn’t figure out how this teen knew so much about me.
Suddenly, the teen began to discuss Percy Jackson, and I immediately recognized her as one of my library’s former tweens. In a matter of a year, she changed so much that she was nearly unrecognizable. This encounter reminded me how important it is for the library to have consistent library programming for tweens and to have program evaluation. Children grow up quickly, and as a library, we need to ensure that we are growing and changing with our audience.
As another year begins to close, I always strive to evaluate my tween programs and services.
To do this, I try to check in my regular tween library users to see how things are going, what is popular, and what the library can do for them in the future.
At my library’s last tween advisory meeting, I asked the tweens: How can the library improve their services and programming to meet your needs?
While there were some outlandish suggestions like unlimited free food, all of the tweens carefully took into consideration what the library could change, and they came up with three great ideas.
1. Offer More Tween Focused Passive Programs
Libraries often have passive programs for teens, preschool, and school-aged patrons, but they usually leave out tweens. One tween commented that this makes them feel unwelcome and makes them unsure of what area is theirs. Or if there is a passive program, the tweens thought like the passive was out of touch with their interests.
When asked what type of passive programs they would enjoy, the tweens mentioned that they wanted self-discovery quizzes. Others suggested having game computers designated for their age group (so they could play games like Minecraft) or have fandom themed activities and crafts.
If librarians are unsure of what to put out, the tweens emphasized that they should ask tweens what they want. By including them in the decision, it makes them feel like they have a voice and a place at the library.
2. Be Where Tweens Are
The tweens all agreed that they wanted to be more involved with what was going on with the library, but they felt like libraries were not on platforms that they were on.
Libraries are slowly logging on and beginning to use social media outlets to serve their patrons, but the scope of these posts are too broad, and younger users want something focused on their age group. If a tween followed the library on social media, they got bored with it because it was not of interest to them.
Several tweens indicated that they wanted to see an exclusive Youtube channel or playlist for their age group that has trending topics, new books, information about community events, and even how to videos on how to use library services.
These focused social media posts would help tweens feel more connected to the library and to the community.
3. Have More Staff Dedicated to Tween Services and Outreach
Finally, all of the tweens wanted more tween programs and services. They mentioned that they would often connect with a staff person, but then they might not see that staff person again for months.
Or they would attend and enjoy a tween program, but the library might not have another activity like that for months. In comparison to other programming going on, the tweens felt left out.
As a librarian, I know that some of the things that the tweens want are not realistic. Budget constraints are the most significant obstacle. In general, however, tweens want focused programming and services for their age group.
Librarians can offer this by evaluating their services and programming to tweens, and making modifications when they can.