This is the time of the year in which public libraries are preparing for their Summer Reading Program. Ours will be called “Summer @ Your Library” as an initiative to transform our SRP in a more welcoming and inclusive program. This initiative also considers inviting teens with special needs to join our team of volunteers. Our library already collaborates with different organizations that serve adult with disabilities, who come to the library and perform a number of tasks. However, our objective is to offer this volunteer opportunity to middle and high school students with special needs. Remember, teens with special needs are also looking for volunteering opportunities to learn work skills, build up curriculum, and meet new friends.
Tasks of the Volunteers:
- Register library children and teens for the library’s Summer @ Your Library.
- Oversee library programs that requires little preparation, but much interaction with the public, such as the program Lego Play.
- Provide crowd control during library programs.
- Distribute incentives to children and teens.
- Help with room set up for library programs.
- Basic room clean up: straighten up shelves and pick up books.
- Interacting with patrons of all ages.
- Explaining SRP’s goals and activities to children, teens, and caregivers.
- Team up your teen with special needs with another teen mentor.
- Teen mentors are great to motivate new or timid volunteers to overcome fear.
- Teen mentors can also help to teach confidence as one relevant task of volunteers is interacting with the public.
- Team ups provide a learning and caring experience for both teens.
- Trust your volunteers, especially if any of your volunteer with special needs feels ready to assume full responsibility for one of his/her responsibilities.
- Delegate responsibilities and tasks accordingly, based on the strengths and talents of the teen.
- Prepare library staff to welcome teen with special needs by being flexible, patient, courteous, and available to help and re-train if necessary.
- Respect the privacy of the teen in terms of his/her diagnosis.
- Invite teens with special needs to join SRP trainings and friendly assembles.
- With all teen volunteers, have emergency contact information readily available for library staff in case of emergency.
Unfortunately some disabilities might compromise performance as a Summer @ Your Library volunteer. Thus, communication between special needs teen’s parent/caregiver and your volunteer coordinator or children’s librarian is imperative. Honest assessment of what the teen can do, based on what the library needs, is very important. Parents input on their skills, personality, accommodations, and task capabilities is vital to the success of both the teen and the Library’s summer volunteer program. Speaking with the teen’s teacher would give insight as well, providing the parent consents to this interaction. Be flexible and open to communication as much as possible during the recruitment process.
Today’s guest blogger is Kathia Ibacache. Kathia is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library. She has worked as a music teacher and Early Music Performer and earned a MLIS from San José State University and a DMA from the University of Southern California. She loves to read realistic fiction and horror stories and has a special place in her heart for film music.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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Great reminder to get teens of all abilities involved over the summer!
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We are exited about this year’s SRP and the possibility of working with teens attending the special education program.