“I’d like to learn how to apply for a mortgage.”
When he said it, I have to admit I laughed a little. I mean, here was a teen who a moment ago had been talking to me about the latest Nintendo game we’d acquired for the collection and now all of a sudden he wanted to know about mortgages? When I looked at his face, however, he was quite serious, and not smiling at all.
A little further conversation revealed that he was interested in helping to move his mother out of their apartment and helping to take care of her once his father returned to their native country. This was one of those moments in my library career where I was reminded me that these young people we spend time with are facing complex scenarios outside of our doors, and that there are often needs that haven’t been met because we didn’t imagine any person that young needing them. More conversations with my older teens have revealed that a good number also felt a need for programming that taught them how to move forward in starting their adult lives.
Almost Adults was born.
Meaningful life skills programming for teens is not a new concept, by any means. A few great libraries have also adopted the idea of teaching teens things that don’t quite make the school curriculum. Changing a tire, applying for a job, even cooking a healthy meal, are all topics that can be daunting for a young person who has never had the opportunity to try them out.
Last year, I took to the calendar and made space for a banking workshop presented by our local community bank branch. The program included info on how to get an account, how to manage it, and how to save money. All the materials were covered by the bank, and we had a great turnout!
Another successful program last year was Dorm Room Cooking. Helping teens make quick, easy, and healthy meals for themselves was our focus. We taught how to make sandwiches, salads, and other small meals on a college student’s budget. I also made sure to supplement our collection with cookbooks that kept to that same theme.
Choosing a Career was another focus that fared well. We started by providing teens with personality tests to help pinpoint which of their skills and personality traits were best compatible with certain careers, and followed up with info sheets on career choices. For the collection, I found a few series on youth entrepreneurship, job preparedness, and uncommon career choices.
With those tastes of success under our belt, we decided to brand the programming and try to do more this year.
Our slate of programming has been:
Time Management and Goal Setting
Keep Calm (relaxation techniques for teens)
Personal Finance and Banking
Sadly, although the topics were great, I have to admit that they came a little too late this year. Until this year, my teen population was very heavily living up to the “young adult” moniker. Many of those teens have since graduated, or have commitments that keep them out of the library this year, so Almost Adults attendance has been pretty abysmal this year as middle-schoolers aren’t quite as interested.
All hope is not lost, though! We’ve revamped our Dorm Room Cooking program into a monthly Pop-Up Kitchen series where teens can continue to learn healthy and easy recipes to cook on their own. We’ve also talked about finding other skills that can appeal to our new middle school demographic, like bike repair or other younger focused topics. Lastly, we’re taking the success from the career-focused programs to invite small business owners to talk to teens about how to become their own businesses.
Some other great topics I’ve seen at other libraries include an info session on student loans, understanding a bus schedule, or even car maintenance.
So I’m not giving up, and you should give it a try! Something as seemingly simple as sewing on a button, getting stains out of laundry, or making a phone call, are all things that we as librarians can introduce to our teens. So think outside the book, and get started! Let us know what you come up with.