Isn’t that just the question of our lives? How do you get the teens and tweens through the door? I don’t presume to have all the answers, because if I did, I’d be a genius and have more teens that I could handle. But considering I’ve grown my program from scratch over the last 10 months and now get a pretty good group at most programs (I do still have some flops), I have a few tips and tricks to offer that have worked for me and some words of encouragement too. Posts like this make me wish I had a better GIF game.
A) Mine any and all kids that come to any programs. Get their contact information and use it. I’ve slowly been developing an e-mail list of all the kids who have come to any program and send out weekly e-mails of upcoming events. I sometimes include other information of interest too – such as the Teen Top Ten voting from YALSA or cool community programs we’re helping with or know about. I make sure to keep my e-mails to once a week and pretty regular – usually Monday mornings, for the obvious reason. And it really does work. I usually see an immediate uptick in registration following an e-mail blast.
B) Advisory Groups. Mine has proven vital to my program. I started one within two months of starting here and used kids who hung around the library a lot or who had already attended some of my first programs. I started out getting 3-4 kids and have now gotten 13 (almost more than I can handle) at each of the last two month’s meetings. They approve all programs and give me constant suggestions of what to do. Not only that, but they just this weekend ran a Haunted Library for the elementary school kids that they planned, set-up and staffed. Now they’re all super stoked to run more programs as well as suggest things. Plus, some of the kids who helped run the Haunted Library have joined Advisory and vice versa. Even if you don’t have enough for a full meeting, ask the kids who might be hanging around for feedback or have a feedback box near your YA books.
C) School partnerships. This is still a work in progress for me, but I’ve got a teen who posts things for me in the high school with permission and also I’m in constant contact with the middle and high school media specialists and we’re going to be partnering for book clubs starting in the winter to tighten the relationship. I started this by just e-mailing both of them. Neither had been in their jobs very long and were more than happy to meet and greet.
D) Not all programs will work. Yeah, this is a negative but only sort of. My Advisory Board keeps asking for trivia but no one shows up to the trivia programs. But what I’ve discovered upon further asking is that they want trivia built into other programs, especially fandom ones. So my Star Wars and Hunger Games programs in the next two months will both contain short trivia games that they can win prizes for. Speaking of prizes, offer them for as much as possible. Prizes are such a draw for my kids.
E) Food too. Some of my kids come for the food and stay for the program. I found that buying in bulk at a place like BJs or Costcos can help keep cost down too for those of us with small budgets.
It’s not always easy to take the time to try and error to see what might build a following and a program. But you can do it! We’re all here to support the failures and successes – I’m still sad no one came to fantasy trivia after I worked so hard on the questions, but I made sad faces and moved on and learned to integrate trivia instead.
These are just some of the things that I’ve found have worked for me. I’d love to hear what’s working for you! Good luck!