No Job is Too Small for…the Tween Teamers!!

by Traci Glass

Today I had the first meeting of the Spring Session of Teen Team — a volunteer program for middle and high school students.  Much to my great joy, I had a lot of tweeners this time — usually Teen Team has more than its share of Juniors & Seniors due to the really stringent volunteering requirements that the local high schools implement in their accelerated program.  With older teens I’ve noticed that they get interested in the volunteering program when they see the advertisement — we try to put them in a variety of places, in their schools, here in our Teen Center, and also in our library newsletter.  The older teens fill out the forms themselves, call me with questions, and take on the responsibility of participating in the program.  However, this time we did a lot of press leading up to the start of the program in local newspapers and on the radio.  So, the majority of people calling up with questions and asking for more information were the interested parents of tweeners!  The parents saw the advertisements or heard them on the radio and relayed their excitement to their tween sons & daughters.  Thus, this session has a ton of 11- and 12-year old participants who are relatively new to middle school and new to the Teen section of the library!  Our volunteering program has been a great success — I’ve gotten to know a lot of teens in our area, but for the most part, they’ve been quick to move on since they have usually been 16- or 17-years old.  Getting to know tweeners that are civically minded is exciting because hopefully through this experience and getting to know library staff personally they will feel more comfortable not only in the teen room, but in the library as a whole!

Here is some information that will hopefully help you start up your own volunteering program for middle and high school students!

We run 3 eight-week sessions per year, based on the school year calendar. Each session consists of up to 15 teens or tweens all meeting for an hour each week.  The first session is an orientation where my assistant and I introduce ourselves and give them a tour of the library with a special emphasis on the Children’s Room and the Teen Center — the two areas they will be spending most of their time doing special projects for us.  We also go over the agreement that contains information on how they are expected to behave, dress, and our attendance policy. Many of our teens and tweens get community credit for volunteering so there is a sense of mutual benefit and job-training going on. The final session is a pizza party with games like charades etc, book and goodie giveaways!  That gives everyone something to look forward to!   

We work with the folks in our Processing department to allow up to five teens and tweens each week on a rotating basis to go to Processing to help with getting CDs, DVDs and books ready for Circulation!  That’s what all the teens and tweens have told me they look forward to the most!  We also assign them to do pick-up and shelf straightening as well as book cleaning, Storytime toy cleaning and special projects from co-workers from all departments of the Library. 

We keep a Teen Team binder, where each teen or tween signs in and out; we also keep a book cleaning log and a task sheet that shows a list of jobs that they’ve done in weeks past so we don’t keep assigning the same task to the same kid. 

Another thing to take into consideration is timing.  Here’s how we do it – we start the Fall session in late September and end a week or so before Thanksgiving. That way, kids can get settled into school and the program ends before the holidays start getting underway.  Spring session begins in mid-January and ends right before Spring Break. Kids get so busy after Spring Break that participation really drops off so we don’t do any special Teen/Tween programming between then and our Summer Reading Program. In addition to Spring and Fall, we also do a mini five-week program in the Summer. We mainly advertise in the local middle and high schools, our Teen Center and in our Library’s bi-monthly publication.  However, this time we did some extensive marketing through local newspapers and radio, which, as I mentioned, really brought out the tweens due to their parents seeing our information and passing it along.  We have a basic application process which the teen or tween must fill out — not their parents!  We really want them to want to be a part of our volunteering program; if their parents fill it out for them, we think that encourages the thought that the parents are also making them participate.  The only thing we need from parents or guardians is their signature if the participant is under 18.

All in all, Teen Team has been a great experience!  Just another great way of bring Tweens and Teens together @ your library!

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