This is the first in a series of five posts about programme and event ideas for teens in public libraries. Check back every day this week for more!
Providing events for teens is one of the best ways of making contact with young people in your community and improving the library’s profile. It’s also a useful method of getting more new teens into your library.
The best way to recruit lots of teens to your service quickly is to run a few high-profile one-off events and simultaneously recruit for recurring groups. However, many libraries may find it easier to begin with a regular programme of recurring groups, which are less demanding on staff and finances. Here are some ideas to get you started or help you expand your menu of teen groups.
One of the wonderful things about teen groups is that they may be teen led (this really reduces necessary investment of staff hours!). Take a look at this YALSA article about teen-led groups (“your in-house specialists”) for additional suggestions. The costs for most of these groups is low, usually limited to snacks and drinks. (Providing nibbles is optional, but it does provide additional motivation to attend.) Typically only one staff member is required to lead the group; if the group is teen-led, you won’t need to provide any staff at all! Drawing and writing groups may require paper, pencils, pencils, and/or library computers to work on. Craft groups generally require craft materials (but these can be very inexpensive or even free if you choose crafts focused on recycled/upcycled materials!). Film showings and film groups present a special obstacle that I’ll cover below.
All groups will need some group-created parameters that you can help them establish from the very first meeting. Allow the group to help decide on ground rules (so long as they’re fair).
The group may want to read and discuss one book together, in which case you’ll either need to find a reading guide online (these are easily located by searching for the title and author of the book, plus “reading guide”) or invent one yourself. Other options include running quizzes and games based on the book read (for example, last week I linked to some Hunger Games activities). If the group wants to read different books (especially if they have vastly disparate tastes), have them participate in a book reviewing scheme or start a book review blog!
It would be useful to bring some writing prompts and exercises, which can easily be in creative writing books or on the Internet (Ink Provoking has an especially large selection of good writing prompts). Some may be keen to share and critique work, while others resist showing anyone their work. Establish ground rules including concepts of useful versus unhelpful critique. Again, it’s a good idea to talk this through, so that the group has the opportunity to create their own parameters and feels as though the rules are fair and accurate (instead of being externally imposed). Usually good critique involves being specific, stating strengths of the pieces before discussing its weaknesses, and focusing on the piece of being critiqued (as opposed to critiquing the writer themselves).
Art groups are similar in content to writing groups: prompts are useful (these can be objects or scenes to draw, characters or settings, et cetera) and critiques may feature (and need firmly established parameters to avoid both hurt feelings and soggy dialogue). If you library has a gallery–or any display space at all–you schedule a future exhibition for the group to make work toward. You can also run contests, or (if the group is interested), have them design cool library materials.
Craft groups can be focused on one type of craft (such as knitting), or many varieties of crafts. Though I’ve never tried a craft activity at my library, they are apparently very popular with teens in the US. For a few good craft ideas, take a look at the Arystocrafts page, as well as some free projects from The Hipster Librarian’s Guide to Teen Craft Projects. There are loads of DIY and crafts sites out there (for example Generation T , which features simple sewing projects that reuse old t-shirts). You can also join the free YA-YAAC mailing list (scroll to the bottom of the page for joining information). It’s regularly updated and often features great free craft projects that have already worked successfully at other libraries.
Comics/Graphic Novel Groups
This is much can take the form of a graphic novel reading/discussion group (like the regular reading groups, or a comics-creation group (like the writing and/or art groups). Reluctant artists who write and writers who are nervous about drawing can be paired to make jointly produced comics.
Anime and/or manga groups may wish to watch episodes of favoured anime together, swap drawing tips (and drawing pens!), learn to make better cosplay costumes, or simply want to chat about their favourite new manga.
An important note: if the group is wants to screen anime episodes or films, you will need to contact the distributor of the TV series or movie in order to gain permission. You may need to pay a fee in order screen films or television, although not all anime distributors charge for this service. See the Film Showings section (below) for more information.
Film Showings and/or Film Clubs
Film showings and/or film clubs entice teens uninterested in reading to attending library events. A film club may involve screening, discussing, or even making films (if you lack film equipment, you can always apply for a grant or bursary).
There are many out-of-copyright films legally available to watch on archive.org. Showing contemporary films is a trickier proposition. Many copyrighted English-language films are licensed by Film Bank. Film Bank charges a flat rate of £95 (including VAT) per year, if you don’t charge for the film or advertise the film showing outside of your library. If you want to advertise and/or charge, the cost is a £92 per film, plus a £150 deposit needed in order to open a Film Bank account.
Other companies (such as Optimum Releasing, who license Studio Ghibli’s animated features) charge a flat rate of around £92 per film. You can always subsidize the cost by charging a small amount to attendees or applying for funding to back the project.
Gaming groups can focus on real-time games from board games like monopoly to Role-Playing Games (RPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons, tabletop games such as Warhammer, or Live Action Role Playing Games (LARPs). Alternately, if you video game consoles or well-kitted computers, the group can play video games (from MarioKart to Guitar Hero) or live multi-player computer games.
Usually these sessions run themselves unless members are new and need to have complicated rules explained to them. The most important thing is to build a group around one type of gaming for which you have the equipment, otherwise you might end up with a lot of disappointed gamers.
You can find even more information about gaming in libraries on Teen Librarian.
Know a group of teens with a passion for Linux, programming, and/or gadgets? A computer group provides a place to exchange ideas, open-source software, and maybe even write new programs or solder circuit boards together (okay, so soldering is a fire hazard, but the rest is viable!).
If you’ve got a great idea for a group that isn’t featured here, email email@example.com or tweet it at us @yalibraryuk. As always, you’ll be fully credited for your contribution!