How do you incorporate pop culture / teens’ interests into your programming? What’s worked and what hasn’t? How do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from anywhere and everywhere. I listen to what my tweens and teens talk about when I’m doing crafts programs and helping them with homework, I pay attention to what’s on television and in media, and I look at what’s being sold to teens as “on trend”. I have teen nephews who beg me left and right for things that fit into various categories, and it also helps that I have a bit of a teen taste in culture.
Right now my tweens are into Minecraft, Plants vs Zombies, and anything Legos, while my teens are into The Flash and Arrow (television versus comics), Supernatural, zombies, and Doctor Who. I’ve done games and programming everywhere from a set of games to a full program tailored around werewolves, vampires, zombies, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Sherlock, and Minecraft, and had Divergent, Hunger Games, Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures, and other book related movie events for the first releases in the series.
I’m not sure if it’s my teens, but they don’t seem to get into things once they hit really big unless they’re really dedicated fans; before it becomes a “thing” at Hot Topic seems to be an indicator that it will be a hit. They still love Doctor Who and Sherlock, but they don’t get BBC America so they’re catching up on episodes either streaming them at the library (which is slow) or on reruns on PBS. They liked Hunger Games before the movies, but now that the movies are here, they’re not into a complete program around it.
They love a movie night, yes, but they’d rather not have specifically themed crafts and other activities so instead we talk about the difference between the book and movie, and then what’s going on in their lives while we’re doing other things. I think part of it is that they get so overwhelmed with the media references that they’re “over it” and just don’t need it hammered at them in their safe zone.
When I first started, teen programming pretty much consisted of making things with duct tape. Don’t get me wrong–duct tape is pretty cool, but month of duct tape is not particularly inspiring for teens. I wanted to make the programming experience something that they would get excited about.
I’m already really into YA literature, and even if there’s certain series that I personally don’t like, I make sure to have a working knowledge of them so I can chat with them about my teens. Same thing with TV shows/movies/YouTube phenomenons: I don’t watch Supernatural, for example, but I know the rudimentary facts. A lot of times, they’re just shocked and surprised that you know what they’re talking about! I don’t play Minecraft, but I get the general idea. So don’t worry if you don’t have time to watch everything that the teens are interested in: first of all, you won’t have enough time, and second of all, you should have a life outside of library time! However, I am also a giant geek and attend cons, which impresses the teens immensely and gives me great ideas and swag!
My most successful program to date has been our Doctor Who Live Clue. I had seventeen teens attend, sixteen of whom I’d never seen at the library before. They were all shocked that there were other teens in the area who were Whovians. It ended up being a great networking opportunity for them.
I’m currently trying out a program called Fandom Frenzy. Last month we did 8-bit art of whatever fandom they wanted to illustrate, and it was a riot. There was much debate about who played the best Doctor or what’s going to happen in Supernatural. I just sat back and made my baby dancing Groot–they had claimed that time and space as their own.
Programs centered around popular movies are one thing I haven’t done yet, and I’m a bit ambivalent about it. I don’t thing I have a strong enough teen base to build a more intricate program. But we’re getting there!