The Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts Libraries Fund opened for applications in September 2012. It’s a £6 million scheme granting funding to public libraries of £1,000 to £100,000 for partnership arts schemes, and it’s open for application until March 2015. Find out more and apply.
A volunteer programme can bolster your teen offer, but the process of establishing volunteering hours. Here are some tips that will help you set up a volunteer service for young people and decide what type of volunteering is appropriate, and how to manage it.
What type of volunteer work should my library offer to young people?
Teens may receive volunteer hours a wide variety of activities. You could also establish a programme in which teens work with children (mentoring, reading, etc.) or the elderly. Young people may also receive volunteer hours from participating in a reading group, Teen Advisory Group, or other youth-related library project. Contact your local youth volunteering representative (probably someone from vinvolved) to find out more.
Some activities you could do with pre-existing teen groups: a reading group could write reviews and post online, and/or help come up with new ideas for displays, and/or plan reading-related events for children. A teen writing group could publish their work, or write stories for local children; an art group could illustrate library materials.
What are the benefits of teen volunteering?
Benefits to the library may include input and help with teen and other events, teen leadership (which means supporting projects rather than always leading them), building a positive profile with local young people, greater role in the local community, building a better offer for young people and, importantly, creating positive associations with the library, reading, and information.
Benefits to teens include a voice and greater investment in their local community and library, new experience/skills to add to their CV and university applications, positive adult mentors (librarians!), and positive attention and encouragement for skills and input.
How do I make a volunteer programme official?
Coordinate with a local volunteer group like vinspired who can give teens certificates and other vetted rewards for their hours. Contact a local representative and request information on their volunteering requirements, such as the minimum age to volunteer, and what types of roles are suitable or unsuitable for young people.
Once you have established the rules of the volunteer programme, collaborate with colleagues and local teens to come up with list of duties, responsibilities, rules. It’s especially useful to consider specific skills that your library’s volunteer programme can offer to young people. Will they improve their writing or speaking skills? Perhaps they will learn to lead projects and make important decisions. Or they will make use of communication or teaching skills.
How do I register teen volunteers and keep track of logged hours?
The teens will usually need to fill in a registration sheet. Once they have filled this out, you should create a sheet with their name that goes into a binder in which you record individual teen volunteer hours (and a brief list of activities done – two or three words should usually cover it). When teens reach certain landmarks (20 hours, 50 hours – these depend your local volunteer organisation), send a copy the teens’ volunteer hours sheet and obtain a certificate to award to teens for their service.
Remind teens that skills they’ve learned can go on their CVs and possibly in applications for uni (have a list ready is they’re not sure how to phrase them). For example, helping to plan a local event or applying for a grant for a teen-led projects both yield desirable skills.
How do I interest young people in volunteering?
I don’t have a magic bullet to recommend. The best way to get teens involved is to appeal to a few who are interested in the activity and then make the volunteer experience rewarding enough to keep the young people coming back.
Speak to young people who already use your library service and/or attend teen library groups about volunteering. They are a built in “user group” and some of them are likely to be keen.
Make local volunteer coordinators aware of your most interesting/enriching programmes. When they council young people on finding volunteer work, they will also recommend yours.
Put up posters in the library, in schools and at youth centers. List your volunteer opportunity on local websites and, if appropriate, in local magazines or papers.
Whenever engaging in outreach (at schools, youth clubs, etc.) be certain to give a good “elevator talk” about the library’s volunteer opportunities.
How do I keep volunteers coming back?
If you can, hold “thank you” parties once or twice yearly. Rewards like this make teens feel special and appreciated and keep them invested. They ARE doing a great service for your library. Say thanks.
Consider other rewards that be appropriate to the volunteer activity. At the library where I used to work (I miss you, Southend!) the teen reading group used to go on yearly “book buys” to London. It was a fun day, and the books they selected were allocated a special space in the library. (Aside: this collection always circulated brilliantly.)
As you get to know some of the young people involved, you will also build a positive relationship with them. You may feel comfortable offering to write job recommendations or helping them in similarly appropriate ways.
A few important notes:
Running a volunteer programme is not a quick fix to short staffing or other issues. Volunteer programmes require time and energy to establish and maintain!
Due to health and safety regulations, library staff members need to be present when volunteers are working. Libraries cannot hold events that are volunteer run.
Although it’s not necessary, I highly recommend that you a course about managing volunteering programmes.
On a Shoestring: Reaching Teens in a Few Hours Every Week (or) How to Use Time Effectively When You Don’t Have Any2 Apr
Spend time near the teen books
The first place to do outreach is in your own library! Don’t hover or make up jobs, but do appear sometimes and chat to teens whenever you’re looking over books for ideas of what to order next, editing the collection, or putting up posters or displays or signs or leaflets in the teen area. Ask if there are any books they’d like you to order, or if they can think of any events or improvements to the library. Obviously you can’t do everything that’s asked of you, and it’s important to make that clear. But it’s also important to get feedback from young people currently using your service. At least a few of them will have passionate opinions, and be interested in becoming more involved with library offerings.
Dedicate a few hours to outreach
It can even be an hour a month of outreach, to start. Visit a school or a youth club. If you have teen events, prepare some activities or a quick presentation on those. If you don’t, or if you’d rather do something related to your materials, why not try a book talk?
If you go into one school every month that schools are in session, you could easily reach a few hundred young people every year. You’ll also become a friendly face for young people who feel nervous or unwelcome in the library. Young people are far more likely to use the library if they know there is a staff person who is kind, patient, and interested in listening to them.
Work in partnership
One meeting can save ten hours. If you have few or no outreach hours, meeting with someone who can reach the teens you want to work with can be a huge time saver. Your local council will have a department dedicated to all variety of youth services, including local youth clubs, at-risk teens and young offenders, NEETs (young people not in employment or work), and others who can use your service – but may not.
Introduce yourself to youth workers in the council. Tell them a little about your current services for teens, or what you’d like to offer. Ask them about programmes they think youth would like to see, and the best ways to reach local young people. Most youth workers who I have met are interested in getting teens more involved with libraries and reading.
Quality over quantity
It’s better to run, say, one really fun event every two months than to run an poorly planned event every week. It’s also a good way to gauge interest in recurrent activities or groups and make a case for them. Put your energy into a few really good projects, rather than trying to reach every teen all the time.
Support teens in running their own projects and create teen volunteer positions
This tactic requires you to spend time in order to save it. Teens do need some guidance for self-led projects and volunteering, but they can also help run events that you would never be able to put on without their ideas and investment. Read Teen Volunteers and Your Library for more information.
Apply for money for staff training
A little goes a long way. Many staff members are frightened of teens or feel “out of their depth.” Even a few hours of staff training (you can apply for money to fund this via your local branch of CILIP. Some, like East of England, accept applications from local libraries even if the applicants are not current CILIP members. Various Youth Libraries Group branches offers bursaries for conferences and other professional development projects.
Keep records of everything
Nothing is more frustrating than hunting around for that sheet of great book talk ideas, or trying to remember how many hours your teen volunteers have amassed. Don’t forget to keep records, even if they’re brief!
Know a brilliant timesaving technique? Comment or tweet it @yalibraryuk.
November is rapidly approaching, and with it the opportunity to engage your teens in a novel writing challenge, NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, although given its global participation it could more accurately be called IntNoWriMo. Every year NaNoWriMo challenges tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people to write 50,000 words of a novel over the course of the month. Sound difficult? It is. It’s really hard. But it’s also fun, and crazy, and educational, and exactly the kind of zany challenge that teens who aspire to write can get into.
NaNoWriMo is not about writing the best novel you can, but about simply going ahead and doing it. This egalitarian approach can be pretty encouraging for young people (and, well, adults too) who fear that their attempts at writing will not be “good enough.” NaNoWriMo is NOT about being good; it’s about seeing what happens when you push yourself past those expectations. Sure, there’s some dross, but it’s difficult to write 50,000 words of a novel without at least a few compelling scenes, or hilarious pieces of dialogue, or compelling characters.
The amazing thing about NaNoWriMo (besides its existence), is that it has a whole Young Writers Programme dedicated to encouraging young people to participate. There are already a ton of NaNoWriMo kits and lesson plans for adults who want to encourage local young people to participate. (The website uses American terminology, so click through to the “High School” lesson plans if you’re working with teens!).
Did I mention that writing is a free activity? With loads of pre-set ideas for activities already available on the website? And that you can run these activities with just one staff member? Or that teens can help organise/supervise/run activities themselves? And that teens get so into the challenge that they probably will want to volunteer, if not this year then next year? Not to mention that writing supports and boosts literacy and reading.
Teen NaNoWriMo would make a great library project. Find your local teen writers, or gather them from your library’s reading or writing groups (if you have them). Alternately, this would make a great collaborative project with a school. Why not join in and take a crack at writing 50,000 words yourself?
Do you know any teens who participate in NaNoWriMo? Have you ever run any teen NaNoWriMo programmes at your school or library? Have you ever written 50,000 words in November yourself? I’d be curious to hear your take on all of this.
This is the first post in YA Library UK’s On a Shoestring series. The series is designed to give advice to librarians struggling to develop teen library services amidst budget and staffing cuts.
Given the serious cuts and closures public and school libraries are currently facing, creating or improving your teen offer may seem nearly impossible. This can be hindering and highly discouraging. However, the situation is not impossible! Even if you have no staff hours or budget dedicated to teen services, there are some steps you can do to improve to improve the teen offer in your library.
Working in partnership with other organisations is a wonderful way of boosting your available programmes for teens. However, the suggestions below can be implemented without external assistance.
By improving your teen space, running passive programmes in your library, and working with other staff to devise a formal plan for teen services in your library or authority, you can invigorate teen services in your library.
Improving Teen Space in Your Library
Whether the library you work in is a sprawling central library or a cramped one-room branch, you can make the teen space awesome. If you work in a very small branch–or a mobile library–your entire teen area may be a shelf of books (hey, some spaces are just small!). If your have a shelf of books with, considering soliciting reviews of YA books, graphic novels and manga from teens who visit your branch regularly. Display the reviews by their respective books. The only cost there is for a piece of paper and a piece of tape. If you want to be especially fancy you could always laminate the review, or find a plastic wallet to display it in. Larger libraries can create entire review shelves or, if you have an area where you can put a book display, an entire review stand.
Alternately, ask teens who come into the library to help you think of themes for book displays (and ask them which books they think should be on it!).
Similarly, cork boards or an area of wall for posters can improve a teen area quite a lot. This space should be designated for information on teen events happening in the library and elsewhere in your community. It can also be used to advertise books, DVDs, graphic novels, manga and music of interest to teens. You can make short themed book recommendation lists and post them here. If film adaptations of YA books are being released, promote books and media that tie into the film (or relate to its theme). Make interesting posters of book lists and reviews to place in the teen area. Recruit talented teen artists and designers to help you.
Make a suggestion box for your teen area and put forms next to it. Bring teens’ attention to it whenever you have an opportunity, and encourage them to add their suggestions for the area (and the library).
Even small improvements to the area can make a large difference to teens who use it. Ask teens who use your library regularly what types of changes they’d like to see to the teen area. Teens in Essex Libraries have suggested that books in the YA section be divided by genre. Depending on the size of your YA collection, dividing the books may not take much staff time, but it can make a huge difference to readers.
Have passive programmes available in or near the teen area in your library.
Passive Programmes for Teens
Passive programmes are activities for teens that will help invigorate the library but put few demands on staff or budgets. While I don’t recommend comprising your entire offer of passive programmes, they can certainly help make the library more active, engaging, and teen-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started:
+Keep board games behind the library’s counter. Teens can borrow these when they come into the library and return them when they leave. If you lack the funds for board games, you can make basic packs of cards available (again, behind the counter, to minimise the chance of cards getting lost), and display information about card games and tricks. If you lack a card budget, you can always make pens and paper available and display instructions for paper-based or homemade games (please comment or email email@example.com for details of these kinds of games). You can also encourage teens to bring their own games from home to play in the library, and provide a space for them to do so.
+Post a poster advertising a writing or drawing competition, and offer a prize. Teens can submit their work to a reference desk or counter. Post winners (and winning drawings or pieces of writing) in the teen area! (Unless you are offering library vouchers or ARCs as prizes, you will probably need a small budget to purchase a small prize.) I’ve even heard of librarians simply putting jars of candy on (staffed) desks, and having teens guess the amount of candy in the jar. The teen with the closest guess wins a small prize.
+Provide a cork board (usually £4-14) and review cards for an Add a Review board. The Add a Review board is quite similar to the displays mentioned above, except that any teen can submit a review to be posted on the board. This is a great way for teens to be acknowledged in the space. It also promotes literacy.
+Start a review, writing, or library blog to which teens can submit reviews, writing, or art.
+Start a Facebook page for teen library services in your authority. It will take some time to develop a following, but a virtual presence still helps promote library services to young people.
Setting Clear Goals
Creating a plan for teen library provision does not require a formal budget. Sit down with other staff and establish goals: how many teens do you intend to get into the building? What would it require to do achieve this goal? Do you need to raise or apply for money in order to implement aspects of the plan? What are staff fears and how can they be allayed in a manner respectful to both staff and teens? (There will be a post addressing the latter question tomorrow, and one about writing a detailed teen plan on Friday.)
Please note that the above is not an advocation for reducing staff or budgets. It is intended to help librarians working in less than ideal conditions. Hopefully these suggestions will assist you in creating a foundation on which a more robust teen programme can be built.
Look for Part 2 of the One a Shoestring series next week! If you have any passive programmes or staff/budget-free projects that you’ve done, please comment or contact me!