How do you build connections with tweens that motivates them to come to programming? Recently, my library started a monthly tween program. Every month, we highlight a program that the tweens request. We collaborate with them to offer programs like Percy Jackson book club, a Descendants sing along, and animal STEAM events. These programs are targeted and planned by their peers, but attendance is low.
This year, I have been on a mission to up attendance and help my library’s tweens transition into our teen programs and events. I’ve tried fliers, outreach, and word of mouth. These things did help, but the biggest thing I have found that helps the most is to build relationships with tweens through reference interviews.
Reader’s advisory is key. Not everyone that comes into our branches knows about our programs, but they usually come to the library for books. As a librarian this is a win, right? Reader’s advisory is something we are already doing, and you can better build these connections in four easy steps.
1. Tap into your passion
Take a moment to think of your favorite book of all time and how you feel when you read it.
Got that? Good! Tap into that feeling when you are talking to a tween. Sometimes as librarians, we get busy. That reference question often feels like it is another checkmark or person that needs to be served but don’t forget to show your passion too. This is what you love! Make your love of reading contagious.
2. Give the patron a variety of books to try
If a tween wants a fiction book with dragons, it is a common practice to give that patron one or two books to look at, but what if we did more?
Growing up, this was one of my biggest pet peeves. If I went to the reference desk and asked for help finding a fun mystery, my librarian or school librarian would usually only give me one book to look at. The book was usually old, had a terrible cover, and was nothing like what I imagined.
As librarians, we aren’t oracles. We can’t see the future and know if a patron will or won’t like a book (unless we know that tween really well).
If we only give them one or two options, however, it is more likely that the patron will not like what we recommend.
Instead, try to give them at least 5-6 books to look at. Try to strive for at least one new book, a book at a lower reading level, a book at a higher reading level, a popular book they might recognize, and a classic. If you can’t do all of that, that is okay too, but try to offer more options.
As you give the patron these options, also try to offer to find more if they don’t like the options you chose.
This will not only show off your expertise as a librarian, but it will show that you are taking a genuine interest in them and their family. This can lead to forming a foundation to build relationships and connections with patrons.
3. Find common ground
Pay attention to what book the tween is asking for. They are coming to you to help them find something they are passionate about. Then, try to find a place where your interest intersects with the tweens.
If tween loves fantasy books and they are looking for some more recommendations, try to find common ground by recommending fantasy books you enjoyed or talk about popular books that the tween is probably familiar with such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Warrior Cats, or Wings of Fire. Most tweens are not used to talking about their passions with adults and will appreciate someone taking interest in them and their passions. If you take time to listen, the next time they come in, they will most likely come back to you for more recommendations or help with other library services.
4. Follow up
Once you are done, try to follow back up with the patron. Invite them to programming. Go the extra step by trying to remember their name and their interests the next time that patron comes in. Or if they need more book recommendations, try to create them personalized book lists.
The tween will really appreciate this extra effort.
We can’t always offer these extra things in reader’s advisory, but the next time you are in the stacks, try to go the extra mile. Tweens see how much we invest in them. If we take that time to invest in them every day, the tweens are more likely to become involved in the library and later on in the community.
How do you connect with tweens in your library?