Blogger Pamela Groseclose

Creating Relevant Programs with Tween Interests

On Tuesdays, I get to spend time with my regular teens.  As I walked over to the teen department, I  stumbled into an interesting discussion. In the midst of homework and computer games, my teens discussed the library.

One mentioned that she started to come to the library regularly when she was a tween. She appreciated that the library had a variety of materials for her to checkout.  Another teen talked about how awesome the programming was and how much she appreciated the staff.  

One of our newest teens surprised me the most. She just moved to my library from out of state and shared her own experience. After she agreed with the previous comments, she shared that her previous library only offered duct tape crafts, book discussions, and anime nights for teens.  She felt like the programs were okay, but the library wasn’t in tune with her and peer’s needs. As a result, she felt like that library did not care about her. It was only when she had other experiences with libraries that she knew not all libraries were the same. 

As a librarian, this concerned me. I knew my library was serving my teens well, but how was it serving the tweens?  It was then that I knew it was time to re-evaluate my programs. To do this,  I needed to get back to the basics. I needed to ensure that I knew my tweens. 

Are your programs relevant?

A mentor of mine once told me that to have successful programming, you must know your audience. Like any relationship, this takes work. If we our not doing this, we have a habit of getting stuck in a rut. 

I have found that the best way to get to know my audience is to make connections with tween patrons. This can be done formally in an advisory board or in an informal way like a reference interview. 

I try to get feedback whenever I can, but sometimes it doesn’t always work. Molding a tween program takes time. 

Recently, my library implemented a monthly program for tweens called “Club Awesome.” Each month we take a popular tween topic and shape it into a program. When we first started out, we started with general topics like a book club. We found that we were not relevant to our tweens.

So we talked to our tweens and did research. With this, our programs evolved from just a book club to  programs like a fan fiction workshop, a Percy Jackson book club, and even a “Descendants” sing along.  With the tweens help, we were  able to offer programming that made the library a more welcoming place for tweens. 

As the new year comes into full swing, I challenge you to take some time to examine how your tween programs and services are going.  Ask yourself : are your tween programs relevant to tweens? Are you stuck in a programming rut? 

Like how we examine and change ourselves, we need to do the same for our library services. Besides building a relationship with your audience, another thing you could do is to know tweens interests. This can build a foundation for tweens to want to come to the library for programming.

What is popular with tweens?

What's Popular with Tweens?

To help give you a jumping off point, here are a few things that my tweens say are popular.

  1. Descendants: This original Disney Channel movie has been a hit. It has left a wake of comics, books, and other merchandise that tweens are still raving about.
  2. Emojis: Emojis as a way of communication is trendy. Tweens like to use them in conversations with their friends or as a way of general expression. Libraries can harness this interest in passive programs or within program activities.
  3. Star Wars: The new movie has breathed new interest into this popular fandom. Tweens and teens of all ages are interested in watching the movies and reading books.
  4. Marvel and DC Movies and Comics: This trend is still popular. Tween boys and girls are captivated by superheros. Like with Star Wars, libraries can continue to offer displays, movies, and programs with this theme.
  5. LEGOS: the toy and movies like “LEGO Batman”, “LEGO Ninjago”, and “LEGO Friends” continue to dominate this age group. Tweens want to build with LEGOs and they want to follow everything this company releases. 
  6. Slime: Tweens are taking to the kitchen to make their own slime. This trend popped up last summer but its popularity hasn’t lost any steam. This is a form of self expression and creativity that tweens are playing with at home and bringing into schools. 
  7. Shopkins: This tends to be more popular with younger tweens, but it something that this age groups is passionate about. Kids especially enjoy the toys, but libraries can take this interest to theme food programs too. 
  8. My Little Pony: Some tweens might deny it while others might wear it proudly, “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is still a successful show and fandom. 
  9. Online Gaming: Minecraft, Roblox, and Undertale continue to appeal to tweens. Programming with this theme or having this gaming available is a way this interest could be used in libraries.
  10. YouTube: As mentioned in previous posts, teens and tweens no longer watch TV. Instead, they spend their time on YouTube and on Netflix. Popular YouTubers include channels like Dan & Phil and Markiplier.

Other things that continue to be popular include memes, Percy Jackson, Pokemon, and Troll. What’s popular with your tweens?  What types of tween programming do you have planned for the new year?

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