Ask an Agent: Do You Have Posted Rules for Programs?

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Question: I’m a newer children’s librarian and typically work with very young children. Our library is expanding its programs to include a group for those in middle school. My question for those who already work with this group is, do you have a set of rules the you discuss or have posted somewhere? I’m sure we wont have any issues, but thought that having a set of rules in place when we start the new group would be better than trying to add them later. If you have a set of rules, what are they?

Thanks!

Jenni (South San Francisco Public Library) says:

I have never posted rules for the kids, and I haven’t had any behavior problems from the tween groups I run. The kids are pretty good at acting like decent human beings. If things ever got too rowdy, I would just remind them that they are in a library and we have to stay somewhat calm, but that hasn’t been a problem yet.

Paige (Lethbridge Public Library) says:

My Street Team (aka TAG) came up with short, easy rules that I post near the entrance to our programming space every time.  (poster)  Our rules:

–          No Smiting [gives me a chance to explain that it means no unwanted physical contact of any kind]

–          Be Polite [watch your language, give everyone a fair chance to take part, tidy up your messes]

–          Accept Everyone [aka the “don’t be a dick” rule]

–          Share the Snacks [no hogging the chip bowl]

My program regulars have a very solid understanding of these, and are good with sharing explanations, or nudging newbies who have stepped over a line.  I like that they’re so very concise – makes it easy to keep the poster bold/obvious, and also gives me a chance to expand upon what each of the rules mean when I’m talking to the teens.

Sarah (Chicago Public Library) says:

In our teen space, called YOUmedia, we have a Code of Conduct:

  • We embody a culture of respect. We are inclusive and non-violent in the space and online.
    • We respect staff, equipment, others, and their property.
    • We are a neutral space.
    • We don’t wear hats.​We follow Chicago Public Library policies.
  • We keep our belongings with us or store them in lockers (when available).
  • Eating and drinking are permitted, but we don’t eat near computers or equipment.
  • You may be required to pay for any lost, damaged, or stolen equipment.
  • Conduct that is disruptive, destructive, and disrespectful or that violates these expectations may result in a temporary or permanent removal from YOUmedia.

I’ve found that this covers all the bases. We have it posted in several places and refer back to it when needed. Obviously you would tweak these rules for your own space, but I’ve found that the “we” language goes a long way in building a community of teens that hold each other accountable, rather than a place where the adult has “rules.” I’ve heard teens quote the code of conduct to each other when they’re acting up and even if they do it half-mockingly I can tell they’ve taken it to heart.

Valerie (Springfield Greene County Library) says:

Middle school kids are awesome! In my experience they are an excitable bunch and very willing to share things both good and bad. They are also very passionate about things going on around them and their personal lives. I have a group of middle school kids that come to my unofficial Teen Advisory Board. They come from all walks of life and can be very opinionated! Because of this and some previous meetings that dissolved into political battles and religious rants, I had to come up with some rules to keep the peace. I have three rules that cover most issues that might come up. They are pretty simple and I can change the wording if needed.

1. Respect Others- Everyone is different and that is awesome! Please respect others opinions even if they don’t match your own. Bullying is not tolerated at our events and I would hate to ask you to leave. Be mindful of your words and your actions (not everyone likes a hug) so that we can have the best time possible when we are together!

2. Respect Yourself- You are awesome!! Remember to take care of you and let us know if you need anything. The staff is always willing to talk if you need it. * I added this one because we have several girls who sometimes need to chat before or after meetings about relationship troubles, school  or home troubles. Mostly they just need an adult to listen and we want them to know we are a safe place if they ever need it.

3. Respect the Place- House Elves do not work here! Please clean up after yourself and take care of library property so that others can enjoy the space.

I hope these help! You are going to have so much fun with your middle school kids!

 

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