In over ten years of youth services work I’ve found that one of the keys to success, especially with teens, is consistency. Knowing what they can expect from you and what to expect in the library encourages trust between teens and the library and helps them work within established boundaries.
Consistent Behavior Management
Do your rules apply to everyone equally, or are teens constantly singled out for things like drinks in the library or standing around in a group? There are times when this might be a real issue, but if you wouldn’t feel the need to ask a group of senior citizens or toddler mommies to disperse in the same situation think twice.
Behavior guidelines should also be addressed the same way with the same consequences no matter which staff member is handling the problem. This is where management support and advocating for teens is essential. While it can be tempting to be the soft one that lets teens slide in the end you’re just making it harder on everyone including yourself. Teens will take any chance to see how far they can push you and they will respect you as long as you enforce guidelines and consequences consistently. This also means not giving your regulars or book club kids special treatment because you know they don’t mean any harm. Other teens are watching.
Very few of us are lucky enough to be in a position where we are not building an audience for our programs. Especially if you are starting teen services where there hasn’t been much offered before I highly recommend consistent programming. Talk to your teens if you have any, or watch the flow of traffic in your library and pick a day and time to stick with at first.
Even if you can only do one program a month right now having it regularly on, for example, the first Thursday of the month at 3:00 can really help. If teens know that there is something for them happening at 4:00 every Wednesday then that is much easier for them to remember and it becomes part of their routine. They can even put “set it and forget it” alerts on their phones to remind them of your programs.
Think about your own life. If the time and day of your yoga class or knitting group changed every week wouldn’t you be less likely to attend?