The “Insurance Question”

My Young Adult Advisory Board is really good at coming up with program suggestions. They have the most amazing ideas. However, a lot of them, especially at the beginning, were less than practical. Beyond that, many would have probably resulted in hospital visits. Or, at the very least, burning the library to the ground. My challenge was to harness the enthusiasm (can you tell my Advisory Board has never had a problem with speaking up?) into something productive and channel their energy into suggests that were feasible.

I’ve tackled this in two ways. The first way was less than intentional, but has worked surprisingly well. We refer to it as the “Insurance Question”. Before they share a suggestion, I encourage them to ponder the Insurance Question. Would this potential program require the library to have insurance against personal or property injury? If the answer is yes, then save your energy for another suggestion. If the answer is no or maybe, go ahead and share it. Many of the maybes get my response of: Yes, that is an Insurance Question. But just as many do not.

Is this the best question I would have liked to create a little self-reflection? Probably not. Is it effective? Shockingly so. Within a meeting, not only were kids asking less of the completely impossible questions, but when a newbie came, they would explain the rule to them as well. Now, over a year since I first asked the question, it’s rare that we need it. And usually only for our most enthusiastic of newbies.

Just Friday there was a post about having a Teen Advisory Code of Conduct. While I don’t think it’s always necessary, having a similar rule to my Insurance Question is not a bad idea to curb some of the enthusiasm and put a certain level on productivity.

Last meeting I asked for suggestions for Fall and Winter Programming and got almost two dozen workable programs, which is really more than I can use. My summer schedule this year has been a huge hit and every single program has come from my young adults.

Second has required being able to translate the wild ideas they shout out into something manageable to accomplish in a one hour to 90 minute time block. Sometimes this takes some creative thinking and back and forth and not everything ends up being possible. For example, my kids want us to show movies but we don’t own a movie license so that one is out. They wanted a full fledged comic con. I have done (and am constantly doing) research on that and have convinced them to scale it back, at least for a first one, following the example of many other libraries. We’ll probably do something next spring.

All this is to say: Depending on your age, you might get a lot of impractical ideas. Not all might seem as impossible as they first sound – if they’re like mine, they blurt out the first thing that comes into their minds – so see what you can distill it down to. And having a rule about keeping things reasonable. Feel free to steal mine!



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