Tweens and Teens at the Library
At my library, we have recently been having the discussion of how to help bridge the gap when a child graduates from the Children’s Department and enters life as a teen in the library. We have a fairly stead and regular crowd of tweens in the Children’s Department, but they do not always continue to use the library once they become a teen. As the Tween Librarian, my main programming focus is 9-12 year olds. My Teen Librarian colleagues create programs for ages 12-19. A few months ago, my colleague had the idea of partnering with the Teen Department to have programs for tweens in their programming room. It was a great idea, and one we were able to execute this week!
First, I need to mention that our library is a very big building. The Schaumburg Township District Library is notably known as the 2nd largest public library in the state of Illinois, with Chicago Public Library’s main branch, Harold Washington Library Center on State Street, as the largest. One of our biggest hurdles in keeping teens engaged when they were very engaged as tweens, we think, is that our Children’s Department is on the main level, and the Teen Center is on the 2nd floor. This can make tweens nervous to use a space they are unfamiliar with, or they may not even know it exists! Now, even as a staff, we sometimes feel a disconnect from our colleagues on the 2nd floor. I am sure others who come from multiple storied libraries understand this. There are times where I do not see certain staff for weeks at a time! Then, all of a sudden, I will see them three days in a row passing in the hallway. Go figure.
Our plan was to offer programming for ages 11-13 upstairs on the 2nd floor in the Teen Program Room, with me and one Teen Librarian (in this case: Allison Riggs) in the room. We wanted to have a familiar face (me), while introducing the face of their future Teen Librarian (Allison), and we wanted to have the program in Teen Place so the tweens can start getting comfortable coming to the 2nd floor. Also, so they get a feel for the space they will call their own (without adults!) when they turn 12 years old. When a child turns age 12 here, they can get their teen library card, and access the super awesome Teen Place. Teens at our library love to come and study in groups utilizing our Teen Discussion Rooms, to use our MacBooks, to play video games, and to participate in passive programming such as polls or art activities. It is a great Teen Place, and one we want to promote to 11 year olds!
How it Went
It went great! Honestly. We did a program called Winter Tree Art, and had 10 tweens and teens attend. It was also pretty cool that two sisters, one who is 11 and one who is 13, got to attend a program together for the first time in awhile! We also were especially pleased when one of our tweens asked, “So, this is the Teen Program Room?” Yes it is!
We plan to do this program every other month, and are looking forward to our next program, Build a Leprechaun Trap, on St. Patrick’s Day in March!
This post addresses the ALSC Core Competency: III. Programming Skills 2. Acknowledges the importance of physical space to engage and foster learning, and establishes appropriate environments for programs that respond to developmental needs and abilities.