Welcome back to Challenge Monday! This month’s topic is: Who are we serving?
Today we wanted to start a discussion about the ages and placement of Teen Services. What grades/ages do you cover? Is your department in Youth Services, Adult Services, or something else? Do you agree with how your library has it or would you prefer it to be set up separately?
Here are what some of the TSU Agents think….
Technically, teen services here is considered grades 6 to 12. However, I do let those who have just graduated stick around for another year if they’d like. It makes an easier transition for them than kicking them out cold turkey. Most of them find by the end of the year, with college and working they don’t really have time to come to events any more. We used to be under Adult Service, but we were switched to Youth Services just before I started 6 years ago.
Honestly, if our middle schools did not include 6th grades, I would bump the Teen Services to 7th. I find that a lot of our 6th graders are not ready to move up yet, both mentally and emotionally. They’re usually the ones I have the hardest time getting to focus and listen. However, some have moved up and joined in just fine! Our solution was to add more programs for Kids that went up to 6th grade. That way they have the option of going either way.
As for if Teen Services belongs under Youth or Adult, my answer has always been neither. I’m a firm believer that Teen Services is it’s own entity and should be treated as such. I still hope that happens here someday, but I am eternally grateful for all the help my fellow co-workers have been doing for teen services!
We consider teens here as being in grades 6-12, so technically it’s tweens and teens (I know some people probably hate the word “tween,” but it’s really useful in describing that particular demographic). The issue actually has to do with how we are required to report our statistics. I actually cannot create a program that is for grades 3-6, because then we’re overlapping categories. So in my situation, who I serve as “young adults” is set by an external body.
You definitely see a difference in behavior when comparing 6th graders and 10th graders doing the same program. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; you just need to be aware of the gap, and then be proactive during the program to assist teens who might need a little more direction. I always tell my kids that I’m not holding them hostage, and if they feel they need to go, they can go. I’m considering splitting some of my summer programs into 6th-8th and 9th-12th grades.
In an ideal world (or at least, an ideal library), Teen Services would be separate from adult and children’s services. In my library, it currently falls under the umbrella of Youth Services and there is no dedicated Teen Librarian. However, my coworkers are becoming increasingly excited about the increase in teen programming attendance we’ve seen and many are very passionate about addressing teens’ specific needs.
I work for a large county system and Teen Services stands on its own. Each library in the system has at least one children’s, teen, and adult librarian assigned to it, though I split my time as a teen librarian between two small community libraries. In our system, teens are generally considered grades 6-12 since most of our middle schools start at 6th grade. I find myself having to explain this a bit when I do outreach to middle school students and parents. That even though you are not a teenager yet, you get to come to teen programs at the library.
At my library, I tend to see more middle school students in programs. I have been playing a bit with planning programs more for the tween set, which I consider grades 4-7. The children’s librarians are also planning more for this age group, so we do have to do more coordinated planning than we are accustomed to. We had a successful Minecraft program that self-selected to grades 4-8 even though it was open to older teens as well. I also recently held my first teens and adults program. This was a chocolate-making class that drew some teens with their parents, which was really fun! And since I don’t want to neglect the high school students entirely, I try to set up more events at the local high school. This of course has its own set of logistical nightmares and I’m still attempting to figure out the best way to approach it.
Overall, I like that Teen Services is separate from adult and children’s in my system. And luckily all of my co-workers in those areas are open to collaboration. The one downside is that I miss doing some of the more traditional children’s programming. From a professional viewpoint, I think it will be harder for me to move to another library system that has a more general youth services approach since I won’t have the storytime and early literacy chops!
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