Last week, I did an interview at YA Librarian Tales for Sarah's feature on "Life Behind the Reference Desk." I talked about my Teen Library Council and was asked to give more information. So here it is!!
-Basically, my Teen Library Council (TLC) is what I call my "teen brain"-I always tell them I hate growing up and sadly I'm not a teen anymore, so they need to tell me what teens want, what's hot, what's not and what I need to know about teens.
-TLC meets once a month (we meet on a Saturday but other libraries have good luck meeting on weekday afternoons). We meet anywhere between 1 and 2 hours and I keep track of who attends the meetings. They can count council time as volunteer time for the library.
-TLC helps me plan library programs for teens-that's their biggest job. They help me with ideas, crafts, events, and even program prep, set up and tear down. In December the TLC members will even be presenting a storytime for the kids and they will run everything! (And yep, this program was their idea!)
-When not planning programs, we talk about books, movies, music-anything! Sometimes I make a list and ask them "what's hot/what's not" and we go down the list and they have to fill it out-I always love hearing their answers! Other times I'll bring in covers of books and hold up the cover and not tell them anything else and they have to tell me what they think the book is about and if the cover is good/bad. I'll bring in a laptop and we'll watch book trailers/movie trailers/YouTube videos and talk about what's coming up that we're excited about. I'll bring in catalogs I get from publishers and have the teens go through and circle books they think the library should add to the teen collection. They gave feedback when we re-designed our teen space. They help me make booklists. They give me ideas of authors to contact for our new Skype Book Club. Our meetings are pretty much a hodge podge of stuff. We plan things for the library, but the teens also provide me with feedback on how programs went and what teens at my library want.
-TLC was already set up when I moved in my position in YA. Even though I already had a set time the group was meeting, it's a group I always have to do recruiting for. Many of the teens I started with graduated so I had to start new about a year in. I talk about TLC anytime I make a school visit and tell the teens about the group. I also advertise it in our library program booklet, on the library teen Facebook page and blog. Also, anytime I have a program at the library or talk to a teen who has ideas about library events, I promote TLC and invite them to come. There's no registration, no sign ups-they just come, see if they like it and can decide if they want to keep coming.
-Here's the biggest piece of advice I can give: Perks of being on the Teen Library Council can go a long way!! The perk of being on the TLC is that TLC teens get to read and review ARCs. My stash of ARCs for TLC started out small-I entered contests, tried to look for giveaways on the YALSA-listserv, and asked co-workers going to conferences to please look out for YA ARCs. I've been lucky to attend ALA annual the past two years and I grabbed ARCs that I thought would appeal to my teens. I ended up with two boxes shipped back from the TLC members, so I knew it would last us awhile! I keep books on the ARC shelf even after they've been published-the teens honestly just love reading and reviewing it in it's ARC form and they love the perk of borrowing a book that might have a big waiting list. I also only put out ARCs up to two months out from the month we're meeting in so there's always something new to add. I also add ARCs I get to review from my blog in the stash after I've reviewed them. I put labels on the cover of every TLC ARC that says "Please return to Sarah, Teen Librarian" to make sure the books get back to me.
The first time a teen visits TLC, they can borrow one book, after that they can borrow two at a time. They can return them at TLC meetings or to me if I'm around. I also have teens stop by and drop them off at the reference desk, they just can't exchange it for a new one if I'm not around. (I don't let them get anything new if they have stuff still out to make sure I get things back). I keep a document of everything I have on my ARC shelf, mark off who has it and when they borrowed it, and mark it off when it's returned. I've had a few books disappear, but for the most part the teens are really great about getting them back and passing them on to other members. I use the YALSA Galley Group review sheets for reviews and if they borrow a book I ask them to review it. We spend the beginning of each meeting sharing what books we've read and filling out reviews. Once we're all done with our agenda for the day, they get to pick new books.
Another perk of TLC is that when we hosted our Teen Book Mania event at the library, the TLC members were "author hosts." They got to give tours of the library, eat lunch with the authors, and emcee the event. I also got them t-shirts that we wrote T.B.M. T.L.C. and our names on with silver sparkly markers. Many of the teens than got their t-shirts signed by the authors.
I can't say this would work with every advisory group, but for my teens it works like a charm! My group is full of big readers and they love reading, reviewing and sharing books with each other. Like I said earlier, I promote the TLC when I visit schools. This past week I visited a high school book club and a middle school English class where I gave booktalks. I always end up booktalking some ARC and I mention how TLC members get to read and review ARCs. This last Saturday I had six new members at TLC because I mentioned at my school visits!
Other libraries have ice cream or pizza at each meeting or the teens get some other special perk for being on the council. I've found that having that perk really makes the teens feel important and gets them interested. Our meetings are low key, we have fun, and I don't mind if we got off track once in awhile to talk about how excited we are for the new Harry Potter movie-as long as we get through our "to-do" list for the day. We laugh a lot and we can be loud at times, but we have fun and I let the teens be themselves and that's what makes the group work.
My TLCers are such a huge part of what I do at the library-I couldn't do it without them! They make my job worth it. I have so much fun with my TLCers they were even part of my wedding last year-they got to be the ushers and attendants!
What about you??
If you're a librarian I hope you can start a TLC group-it's well worth it! And if you have one, I'd love to hear about it! What works with your group? What are your meetings like?
And if you're a teen, ask your library to start a TLC group or see if they have one and join it! It's a great way to give feedback and get involved in your library!