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How Can Libraries Attract More Teens?

I’ve worked at a small-town library for the past two years. I help with the children’s summer reading program, but my main focus is on teen programming. Some events I’ve organized in the past:

1. Teen Read Week (October)
2. Teen Tech Week (March)
3. Prizes for reading (summer)
4. Zine workshops (throughout the year)

The zine workshops were my favorite. The students made their own magazine by submitting artwork, short stories, and book reviews. Our library is lucky enough to be involved in an ARC program, so we receive Advanced Reader Copies of middle grade and young adult books. The goal was to have students read the ARCs and then write reviews to generate early buzz for the new books.

The problem: low participation. I never had more than two or three students show up for workshops. Sometimes it was less than that. It got to the point where we just couldn’t finish a zine because we didn’t have enough help or materials. Meanwhile, stacks of ARCs were piling up in the library, unread.

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Advertising for the teen events had been limited to flyers, the occasional press release, and a Facebook page for the library’s teens. I knew I was stuck, unable to move forward without some outside help. Something needed to change if we were to have any hope of saving the library’s teen programming.

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. The worst that can happen—the person will say no. But I was lucky enough to find the right teacher, the one who said YES.

Today I’m talking to a local 7th grade class and asking them the following questions:

1. How can the library get teens in the door?
2. What can the library offer you that you can’t find elsewhere?

I’m so excited to hear their ideas. I would love it if we could establish some teen advisory committees, go-to groups for thoughts and suggestions. Who knows what students want better than the students themselves??

What do YOU think? What should libraries be doing to serve the needs of their community teens?

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4 thoughts on “How Can Libraries Attract More Teens?

  1. The terrible thing about a love of books and reading in general is that it’s so ethereal, so hard to share with someone new to it. I passed down the love of reading to my children by reading to them when they were little. But as an external source outside of the household it becomes so hard to pass on that love because reading is such a solitary joy most of the time.

    • Hey Tim, thanks for your comment! I completely agree with your insights here. A love of reading isn’t easily conveyed to a non-reader, and I know I’ll never be able to reach 100% of students in a classroom (or anywhere near 100%). However, of the 7th graders I talked to, a significant portion of them DID love to read, yet I had never seen them in the library. That makes me wonder, “Why aren’t these kids in the library?” There seem to be several factors involved, and that’s what the students are helping me to figure out. And if we can attract a few non-readers in the process, that would be even better! 🙂

      • There are so many properties out now that came from YA novel sources (Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games, Twilight). Maybe the ‘trick’ is to reverse-engineer their interest. Set up a display showing all of these books and letting them know how much more rich and nuanced the novels are might be the gateway into these properties and more. It could even be encouraged that they could get the insider scoop ahead of their friends of upcoming movies (the next two Hunger Games, Matched, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, The Maze Runner) by reading the books first.

      • I like the way you think, Tim! Even reluctant readers are more likely to get interested when there’s a movie involved—especially if it’s one they can discuss with their friends. Thanks for the idea! 😀

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