LITT: Teens

Teen and tween services in libraries can be tricky – they don’t fit the traditional early learning model and they aren’t always welcome in adult spaces. During the LITT: Teens chats we will discuss how to serve a teen audience and create programs that are meaningful for this age group.

The Idaho Libraries Teen Services listserv is a great way to stay connected between chats. Check out our listserv guidelines before posting.

Subscribe to the Idaho Library Teen Services listserv:

Our next LITT: Teens chat will be held on March 25, and our topic will be engaging teens during the summer.

Notes from Past LITT: Teens Chats

Highlights from the discussion:

  • Communication:
    • Strategies to connect with a school library: school/district directory; talk to the front desk staff (wait for a time when they are not busy or at lunch); email or call; try to connect at the beginning of the school year; each school and school district is different – you may need to research rules for communication; let your colleagues know that you want to connect – they may have contact. Make sure to mention ways you can help them or take something off their plates. School library staff are super busy, and it may be hard to prioritize a new partnership – keep trying and don’t get discouraged if your first email doesn’t work. An asset map can help you keep track of your connections. If you have a newsletter, you can sign your school library contact up for it so that they have the latest info on what is going on at your library.
    • Strategies to connect with a public library: for larger public libraries, ask for the contact information for youth services or teen services staff. For smaller libraries, start with the library director. Identify which students you see and express that you are looking for ways to extend their access when the school library is closed.
    • General: Make your first email short and welcoming. Relationships take a while to build – start small and build it over time.
  • Collaborations – here are different ways that public and school libraries have collaborated:
    • Public libraries do programs/give out books at school lunch sites over the summer.
    • Bring the bookmobile to the school.
    • Volunteer to table at school events – like reading nights, kindergarten registration, STEM nights, etc.
    • Do a reading challenge together – the ValNet consortium does one called GenreQuest, and there is also the Idaho Teen Reading Challenge.
    • Don’t forget about private schools or charter schools that do not have a library – they may need to connect with their public library so that kids have access to library materials.
    • Public libraries usually have cool stuff to share that schools don’t, like button makers or gaming consoles.
    • Lunch time activities at the school.
    • End of the year assemblies are a great time to promote summer programs at the public library.
      • One public library loads thumb drives with e-books from Project Gutenberg and info on library services, and hands them out to high school students at the end of the year. The books are selected by a teen leadership group at the library.
    • Recruit teens from the school library to volunteer at the public library. (We also had a side discussion here about utilizing Vocational Rehab resources for teen volunteers).
    • Once a relationship is established, public libraries could try to get invited to collaboration meetings at the schools to share information on library resources, LiLI, etc.
    • Share storytime techniques and resources. Getting rid of unused props? Share them with your partner!
  • Resources:

How are you engaging teens in your community this summer? Are you offering a teens-only summer reading program? Are you keeping your school library open for teens in your community? Are you doing after-hours programs for teens? Are you recruiting teen volunteers? Join this months’ LITT: Teens chat and share your great ideas (and maybe steal one or two from your generous colleagues!). Here are some highlights from our discussion:

  • Summer Reading Programs for Teens:
    • Many libraries don’t count minutes read or books read for teens and instead incentivize making reading a daily habit.
    • Some libraries also set a community goal for reading that everyone can contribute to.
    • Many libraries offer prizes throughout the summer (for reading 10 days, 20 days, etc.) and some also offer a book for signing up.
    • Recommended vendors for purchasing prize books: Book Depot, Book Outlet, local bookstores, Amazon, donations
  • Summer Programs for Teens:
    • We noted that the teens in the library during the summer are sometimes different than in the school year (and often better at following library rules).
    • After-hours programs seemed popular.
    • Other popular programs: anything food-related (including “Chopped” style competitions), crafts, spa night (where teens make their own products), escape rooms, and video games.
  • Youth Voice and Serving Teens:
    • Some libraries include teens in planning programs and helping out with programs for younger kids.
    • Many libraries go to local parks or try to serve teens where they are during the summer.
  • Resources for programs:

The Idaho Teen Reading Challenge is well underway in public libraries and schools across the state. Join colleagues from other libraries to chat about how you are promoting the challenge and how kids in your community are participating. We had a brief discussion about the ITRC, and ended early due to low attendance.

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend our LITT: Teen Services chat earlier this week. We talked about ALL the upcoming events for library workers who work with tweens and teens. This document has a month-by-month rundown of what to expect over the next few months (spoiler alert – September is scary!).

We also had time to brainstorm ideas for our statewide Teen Convening on March 1 and 2 – save the date for this important teen services conference.

We had a shorter discussion this month with a smaller group. Here are the resources that were shared:

  • The Arapahoe Libraries have created a self-paced free course called “A Teen Walks into the Library” that is recommended for ALL library staff to take to better understand and serve teens:
    • A good takeaway from this course is to start building relationships with teens by learning their names and understanding their developmental needs
  • YALSA has created an advocacy toolkit to help improve support for teen services. It has some great info, and I think the “Why” section on Page 22 is really useful:
  • Finally – Jennifer is available to help train staff on the basics of teen growth and development or anything else teens-related. We can do Zoom, or she can come out to your library:

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to last week’s LITT: Teens – Creating Welcoming Spaces discussion. Here are some of the highlights:

  • We used these words to describe our ideal teen spaces: Welcoming, Safe, Relaxed, Chill, Comfortable, Fun, Engaging, Exciting, Colorful, Multi-Use
  • Challenges to creating a welcoming space for teens include lack of physical library space, funding, and getting buy-in from other staff. Also, noise.
  • Teen spaces should be fun and functional – make sure to include charging stations for devices (including USB ports!), comfortable seating, and cool lighting fixtures (like a chandelier)
  • If you can’t paint your space, look for posters or art that would appeal to teens
  • Include passive programs in the space to give teens something to do or a reason to hang out – try magnetic poetry, spirographs, coloring books, chess sets, or an interactive bulletin board/white board
  • Don’t get discouraged! It may take a while for teens to find the space and start using it
  • If you can, try to locate your space next to the Teen collection, and not so close to high-use adult collections (like Large Print)
  • Check out these sound-reducing tiles that the Ada – Lake Hazel branch is considering and this style of chair that is versatile and works well with small spaces
  • Have you thought about co-designing the space with teens in your community?

Our discussion kept circling back to the topic of getting staff buy-in for offering teen services and how to train staff to work with teens. We will explore this idea more during our next LITT: Teens chat in May.

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday’s LITT: Teen Services chat on Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). We had a nice mix of librarians who have successful and engaged boards and those who are looking to start one. My main takeaway from the discussion is that building relationships with teens will contribute to their success on a TAB, and that sometimes you need to push them to accept leadership roles. While many TAB’s focus on producing library programs, there is a trend toward engaging in service-based activities that help the community. We also briefly discussed how to set healthy boundaries with teens and creating welcoming spaces. Here are some of the links shared during the chat:

The topic for this chat was a discussion of the Field Guide for Preparing to Support Communities in Crisis. As Idaho moves through the COVID-19 pandemic, are there ideas from the Field Guide that can help you serve the teens in your community?

We had a great discussion on how to use parts of the field guide to improve services to teens. The community asset mapping and program assessment tools were noted as being particularly helpful.

Thanks to everyone who attended last week’s LITT Chat on Teens and Summer Reading. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:

  • We started with introductions and a brief description of what everyone is doing for teen summer reading this year:
    • The Ashton Library (Fremont County) is offering scratch tickets for prizes
    • Some libraries aren’t sure what to do this year or are not doing a teen-specific program
    • Hansen will likely give gift certificates to Barnes and Nobles as the grand prizes for a summer teen reading program.
    • Burley: Weekly Prizes: McDonalds Donations -Burgers and Fries; Stokes -donuts ; Lava Hot Springs- Passes; Burgers ect – ice cream cones; local donations; weekly drawing from coffee and soda shops ($10) giftcards
    • Community Library Network: We are not having teen take-home kits this summer since our programs will be in-person. We will give out prizes for our one virtual trivia night program. SRP prizes include journals, stickers, food coupons, candy, and books.
    • Ada is doing 2 teen kits a month, so the kits we’re doing are, sewing kits, a Zine kit, a bottle cap pendant kit, and a DIY Travel pet snuffle mat kit.. Ada Lake Hazel is doing REALLY CUTE buttons with literary characters as animals. Then of course a book at the end. We are also doing “break-in bags” where they solve riddles to unlock the lock and break into the bag of goodies.
    • Idaho Falls: Teens are earning prizes every seven days that they log their reading. There are three different levels depending on days logged. Level One (7, 14, 21 days) can choose a prize from soda, snacks, candy, gum, lip balms, Sharpies, Post Its. Level Two is choice of local sponsor coupons. Level Three is a tote or tshirt. They get books along the way, too.
    • Coeur d’Alene: Teen Zone Take-Out Kits (various crafts, such as Friendship Bracelets, Geometric Decor, etc), Teen Zone Book Boxes (includes said craft, 2 books, and small gift). I have punchcards, too. Read 4; get the 5th free.
  • We talked about ways to communicate and reach out to teens over the summer:
    • QR codes on fliers are a good way to direct folks to electronic programs/resources
    • Chatted a bit about TikTok for libraries, especially for book talks. Eric Hovey (Ada Community Library) likes following these libraries/librarians on TikTok:
      • Doverpubliclibrary
      • Maricopalibrary
      • Kathyellendavis
      • Caitsbooks
    • ALA recently did a webinar on marketing that might be useful:
  • We gave advice/support and shared some additional resources:
  • We talked a bit about how many teens have jobs and that many libraries are rebuilding their teen groups. A perennial problem as teens age out of library programs. We may revisit this topic later.

Thanks to everyone who was able to join the Teen Services LITT chat last week. Here are some highlights/useful links from our discussion on virtual programs for teens:

Attendees shared what they learned at fall virtual conferences, including the ION Power Up Summit, ILA Annual Conference, and YALSA Symposium.

Questions or comments about LITT: Teens chats? Contact Jennifer.


LITT: Digital Resources

March 21, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

April 18, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

June 13, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

August 15, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

October 17, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MDT

Early Learning LITT Discussion

December 19, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MST

Jennifer Redford

Youth Services Consultant
Email / 208-639-4147
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