Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson

Measuring Program Success

Working with tweens can be fun and also frustrating. My branch will have a large after school crowd of tweens but they’re not at the library to attend a program or hang out. Instead they are at the library to meet with a tutor, work on homework, or grab a book quickly before they rush off to their extracurricular activities. No matter how much we advertise programs to this age group, our attendance can sometimes be low. Or at least it feels low when we’ve put a lot of effort into planning a program that we hope will be a big success.

It’s hard to get caught up in numbers and statistics when it comes to programming. It’s also hard not to compare programs with each other. Sometimes I think about how we can get a group of 30 or more toddlers for storytime but I’m lucky if I can get a few tweens for a program.

But I can’t get caught up in measuring program success by numbers. Instead I focus on the stories. Like the middle schooler who came to every single Hunger Games program we provided last year, won the movie tickets in the giveaway, and came to the library this year and said “thank you so much for having those programs about The Hunger Games! They were my favorite and I met my best friend-and we’re still friends today and we met at the library.”

Or the tween who attended a recent program and was excited to win a set of books she hadn’t read yet.

Or the tween who gets excited to meet someone else who shares their interests when they thought they were the only one who liked Doctor Who, or Origami Yoda, or Cupcake Club.

When I feel down about tween programs and wonder what we could do better to reach this age group, I remind myself of all that we have provided for tweens and that we are successful. We are providing a place for tweens to come, meet other tweens, and participate in a program just for them-and that’s a success.


  1. Tammy Blackwell

    You’re completely right! It’s hard to get teens to programs, especially for those of us in rural areas. They have so many other commitments, and unlike small children, they’re often left alone without any form of transportation to get them to or from the library. But the impact we have on the ones who do attend can be huge.

    1. Sarah Bean Thompson

      Our library is very dependent on transportation as well. But when we have a program that has an impact on our tweens, it’s all worth it!

  2. Jeannine

    I am the Youth Services Librarian in a small rural branch library where I have astonishingly great tween program attendance (I have a dedicated group of 10 – 15 boys who show up for every program)! My secret? A series. I have a tween program every Thursday from 4:00 (when they can get to the library after school) to 5:00. It’s a different thing every week, which repeats every month. My tweens never ever look at the library’s calendar, but it doesn’t matter because they know that there will always be something for them to do at the library at that time slot. This also makes it easy to advertise when I go visit middle school classrooms.

    In case you’re wondering, the programs in my series are: 1st week of the month = craft/art project, 2nd week of the month = a “whatever” book club with pizza, 3rd week of the month = games on the library’s iPad lab, 4th week of the month = gaming. If I have a special program I want to do for them (Hunger Games party, etc.), I just substitute it in for one of my regular programs. They don’t care, as long as there is something to keep them entertained. And snacks, of course.

    1. Sarah Bean Thompson

      That’s a great idea Jeannine! We have one of our branch libraries that hosts a monthly tween program that happens at the same time and day every month. It’s easy to promote that way. I like the idea of having a weekly event that has a changing theme each week.

  3. Jennifer

    I got the middle school to announce my monthly Middle School Madness on the PA the day of the program. Kids always forget otherwise. I usually get about 10-20 6th and 7th graders. We have also gotten good attendance at our teen movie nights, but it’s mostly middle schoolers. I think I could get more with a more regular program series, but we just don’t have the staff or time to run anything else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *