by Linda Evers
Watauga Public Library
In many Libraries, the lack of Teen involvement is an ongoing concern. Many of us are left to wonder what we are doing wrong. How do we entice this elusive group into the remarkable place called “The Library”? How do we make our services valuable to the next generation?
The Teen Advisory Board (TAB) at the Watauga Public Library has made our Library an exception to this concern. With innovative programming ideas and a willingness to listen to peers, the Teens have created an atmosphere that is attractive and appealing to the 12-18 year old age group.
When forming the TAB, I asked dependable volunteers if they would like to help plan the upcoming Teen Summer Reading Club. The first year, I made a list of activities and asked what they thought. A deadly silence fell over the room. Realizing I had somehow missed the mark, I said the most important words you can ever speak to this group: “What do you think?” again, and the discussion.
They took my neat little ideas and exploded them into an amazing adventure. For example, I proposed a Board Game Night, but they thought a Carnival Night sounded like more fun. With over fifty teens in attendance for the evening, they were exactly right. We learned to work together as a team and I learned I do not have to have all the answers or ideas. They had great ideas, strong opinions and boundless energy.
From that time forward, we have worked with a different understanding. TAB members would formulate the list of activities or programs and I would serve more as a liaison and facilitator. A TAB member would volunteer to serve as a leader for a program and would be responsible for overseeing the publicity, scheduling and a list of supplies needed. Each member was then able to serve in a leadership role and as a team member. It was wonderful to see these very talented young people move between leadership positions and being a supportive part of the team.
Our Teen Advisory Board has grown from program planning to extending Library Services by sponsoring the Chess Club, the Scrabble Club, the Trading Card Club and sharing suggestions about YA collection development. They are an amazing source of all that is current, especially in the technical world. They have established community partnerships with our area schools and hosted a Chemistry Expo with fellow students and their teachers during which they performed various science experiments. Over sixty teens showed up over Spring Break for this program last year.
I emailed our TAB members and asked them to send me their thoughts on how our group functioned. I think it was interesting that there was a common theme of ownership and pride in the accomplishments of the group.
Here are some of the responses I received:
Katie Dungey, freshman at TCU, member at large wrote …
Since the first teen board I took part in my freshman year in high school, I knew that I was part of something special. Each year I have had the honor of participating in the teen board, I have been astounded by the creativity, flexibility, and willingness to work together to achieve the goal of great programs that all of my fellow board members have displayed. Not one of us ever tried to run the show or was forced to handle a program alone. We all worked together to try and make the programs the best they could be. Both Mrs. Linda and Mrs. Betsy stepped in and helped us when we needed it and encouraged us to have fun and be creative. In my opinion the teen board was one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in.
Jane Tran, senior at Haltom High School, wrote…
I think that we rock. I’m not sure how I should really explain it, but we work hard to get the job done. We make things happen, we make MAGIC happen and I couldn’t be more proud of everything we’ve accomplished. I’m glad to have gotten the chance to work with such amazing people.
Tony Pulickal, senior at Keller High School, wrote…
The Watauga Public Library Teen Advisory Board is responsible for planning, organizing and overseeing programs and events for the youth of the local community. What makes it work so well is the fact that it is run by the youth. Dedicated and hardworking – but also energetic and fun loving – the board brings together a wide array of personalities and ideas ranging from the nicest, such Jane and Melinda, to some who are more eccentric, borderline insane – i.e. Kevin and myself. While it seems as if there would be a conflict of interests, everything somehow melts together seamlessly forming what would be best described as a harmonious cacophony.
For example, we may start planning a scavenger hunt but it will eventually transform into a library-wide book hunt in pitch-blackness with our paths lit solely by glow sticks.
And let’s not forget the explosions. Those are icing on the cake!
Kevin Ung, senior at Central High School, wrote…
I believe that WPL’s TAB works so well because of the atmosphere the library creates. If you walk into any other library and compare it to Watauga – it’s different. The atmosphere at the Watauga Public Library is very gentle and relaxed. (Unlike other libraries where a teen would walk in and not be treated as an adult.) I guess what I’m trying to say is, the staff of the library puts faith into all patrons and just not adults. That is what makes it fun! When there is fun, you have social gatherings of people. I love the atmosphere.
Another reason why our TAB works so well is because all of us have been library patrons for quite a while. We know how the library works; we know the expectations; we even know the staff! It’s the familiarity and friendships that are created that make our board and programs turn out so well. It allows us to have fun while thinking of interestingly odd ideas for programs and be productive as we are doing so.
Oh, I forgot! I love the Watauga Public Library! It’s almost like my, no; it’s my second home.
In summary, Teens are a valuable resource to their community. We can help foster this resource by providing them a forum that promotes leadership skills. Hopefully, in return they will understand just how valuable of a service they provide to the Library.