When I was hired for my current position, I inherited, among other things, a small but active Teen Advisory Board (TAB). These are the teens who come to every program even if they aren’t particularly interested in the activity or topic at hand. I even have one teen who wants to be a librarian someday. Getting teens to a teen program is one thing, though. Getting teens to help at a kids’ program is a completely different animal.
As the sole youth services librarian at my library, I run the show from birth through 18, and it’s essential that I have help when I plan big programs, especially during the busy summer months. As much as I can, I rely on my teens to help make things run smoothly. Here are some tips for getting your TAB members involved in your summer programming:
- Let them help plan. If it’s possible, talk through your summer programming with them. Take their ideas and suggestions seriously, and see if any of them can be incorporated into your overall plan. Teens will be more likely to assist if they can see that you are using their ideas.
- Play to their strengths. I have a group of teens who love to do face painting, so I have them scheduled to do that very thing for me. On the other hand, my non-face painting teens also need a thing to do, and I can give them tasks like setting up a program, taking pictures, running back into the library to get things, etc. etc. One of my teens loves working with kids, but is very uncomfortable around adults or in large groups, so she is great to pair with a quiet kid who just needs a bit of extra help. Show the teens how well you know them by giving them tasks they are well-suited for.
- Keep track of hours (or help them to do so). Many teens need to fulfill a certain number of community service hours in order to graduate. If your teens have this need, create a log book or a log sheet and help them keep track of their time, then be willing to fill out any forms they might bring from their school to verify their participation.
- Praise, praise, praise. If you see a teen doing a particularly good job with something, say so. Tell them in person. Mention it at a TAB meeting. Tell your library board. Consider (gasp!) telling their parents.
- Show your gratitude. Can you have a “thank you for your help” party just for your teens at the end of summer? Or give them gift cards or a small gift of sorts? My teens love food, so those who volunteered will be given a pizza party at the end of summer as a celebration of their hard work. I often also allow TAB members who volunteered at the last big event be first in line for snacks at the next teen event.
We all know that teens are awesome people; these tips will allow you to bring out the awesome in them so others can see it, too.