Programming for tweens can be difficult; we all know this. The kids in this age group are constantly in flux and their needs change a lot. Figuring out what exactly they need and how best to serve them is a challenge that many librarians are familiar with. Today I’m talking to librarian Amy Diegelman, Young Adult Librarian at the Vineyard Haven Public Library in Vineyard Haven, MA, about how she’s meeting the needs of the tweens in her community.
ALLY: What were the needs that you were seeing from teens in your library that weren’t being met?
AMY: We found ourselves with a group of kids coming into the library to hang out after school (awesome!), instead of going home or to one of the two or three other local after school options. What we ended up with was predictable- hungry, energetic tweens bouncing off the walls. More than anything, they just needed a place to goof around with their friends – but our children’s area doesn’t accommodate them and our YA area is near the quiet study tables.
ALLY: How did you adapt your programming for this age group to better serve the tween patrons coming into your library?
AMY: Our program room provides space and seclusion from other patrons, but the tweens were uninterested in the activities we’d been offering (Wii, Legos, etc). But I did have one thing they were totally interest in: snacks. So on one day that they commonly come in, I had a simple snack ready for them (baby carrots and cheese crackers), had them come sit with me, and asked what they wanted. The answer was easy enough to come up with – a snack, an unstructured activity, and permission to play. Now those program timess include a snack and a very light activity like coloring, simple origami, or magazine collage making. The activity is not mandatory, though, and the tweens are free to chat, play, or make videos on their phones.
ALLY: How is this working for you and how might you continue to change your programming to meet the needs of your kids?
AMY: The results have been great! The tweens, staff, and adult patrons are happier and we are now drawing more kids to these programs because they can make the time their own. The big lesson for me has been flexibility. I’ll be checking in with the tweens often and using this new structure to respond more quickly to their interests and build on their feedback. I’ve already had several program ideas just watching what they choose to do when left to their own devices!
Thanks, Amy! You can find Amy on twitter at @amydieg.
How do y’all best serve the tweens in your library? Sound off in the comments!
Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a library consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.