Getting Started with Teen Outreach

23 Jul

So you’re out in your local community, all ready to promote library services with a bunch of confused/indifferent/wary/excited teens looking at you, watching for the big pitch. What do you do?!

The answer to that question varies widely depending on the intended audience and venue of your presentation. In fact, there are so many different methods of promoting your library service to teens that it would be impossible to cover them all in one short post. YA Library UK will revisit the topic frequently. For now, here are a few ideas to help you get started (or, if you’re not sure where to find teen groups to speak to, check out Where to Do Outreach for Teen Library Services):

To generally promote the library service:

Bring along library materials (books, graphic novels, et cetera) for the young people to look through. Some won’t be aware of how many interesting items the library has. Bring fliers promoting library events for teens.

Booktalks are quick soundbites that can be used to pique interest in a particular title. Booktalks take no more than a minute or two per book!

Get interactive and ask for feedback, or run an activity such as a round of Library Myth Busters or other interactive games.

If you can, get a few members of your Teen Advisory Group (TAG) to come with you and run games and promotions! Keep in mind that not all teens are up for doing this.

If you’re teaching the teen group a skill:

When teaching a skill, such as database searching, it can be useful to run contests to see who can find the information quickest, have quizzes or other interactive and relevant games to keep the group focused. You can also concentrate on searches related to areas that teens find entertaining, such as careers (idea mentioned by Kelly Jensen on the ya-yaac mailing list–her careers database includes a quiz, which is very popular with teens she’s worked with!).

If you’re speaking to reluctant readers:

Promote quick and exciting library materials such as magazines, graphic novels, manga, select nonfiction (ex: tattoos, popular music), practical resources like study and careers books, instructional books on everything from drawing to building machines to DIY to writing (many teens who don’t enjoy reading write journal entries, poetry, and/or short stories, or write their own comics or graphic novels).

Don’t forget to bring along fliers about teen activities in the library–a teen uninterested in reading might still enjoy the anime or computer or writing or film club.

Mention other types of library services–free computer access, films, video games (if your library rents them).

If you’re promoting the service at a festival or fair:

Bring relevant library stock and fliers! (This is almost always a good idea.)

Run a craft activity related to the festival or fair.

Run a prize draw for anyone who fills out a joining form that day. Announce the winner at the end of the day! It’s easy enough to provide a small prize, or even get a local business to sponsor you with a voucher or some other type of appealing goodie.

A few other ways to get teens interested in your library service:

Request feedback from groups of teens about what they’d like to see in the library. Many teens feel as though the library isn’t for them, or that they aren’t welcome at the library. Asking for their feedback and listening seriously to their ideas can help belie this notion.

Other ideas:

Teen contests reward young people’s creativity and also appeal to non-library users.

Have a tried-and-tested idea for outreach, or one you’ve just thought up? Disagree with any of the methods suggested in this post? Don’t hesitate to let YA Library UK know!


4 Responses to “Getting Started with Teen Outreach”

  1. Anne Downes July 29, 2010 at 09:48 #

    Opening the Book offer an online course called ‘Effective Outreach Projects’ that supports staff to plan, undertake and evaluate small-scale, time limited outreach work. Its additional to Frontline, that introduces reader-centred skills. The aim is to gain confidence and make a start with a new partnership or a new group outside the library that can be a platform for future work. There is more information on


  1. Where to Do Outreach for Teen Library Services « YA Library UK - July 23, 2010

    […] See the follow-up post full of ideas about what to say and do when you talk to groups of teens in your commu…. […]

  2. Helping Teens Lead and Fund Library Projects « YA Library UK - February 13, 2012

    […] start reaching out to those already using your service. Introduce yourself, host an event, or reach out to teens in the community. For those who are feelings daunted based on time constraints, look out for an upcoming post about […]

  3. Complete Resources List | Public Library Professional Toolkit - Outreach - February 22, 2014

    […] Getting started with teen outreach. (2010). YA Library UK. Retrieved February 22, 2014 from: […]

Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: