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.
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.
Libraries across the country are being stripped of their budgets. Public and secondary school libraries are fighting to justify their continued existence despite their clear value, both as cultural pillars and as top providers of value for money (free books and information, anyone?). It seems like the worst time to add new programmes, particularly teenagers a demographic with whom so many are uncomfortable. Regardless, the United Kingdom needs teen library services more than ever.
Why provide a new teen offer that will require libraries to further justify their own competence, purpose and budget? Because British secondary schools are dropping in international ranking and “literacy standards ‘fall short'”. Because regardless of the demonstrable value of secondary school libraries, they are currently under threat. Because despite the fact that students who lack books at home and the internet are “disadvantaged in education”, disadvantaged and excluded young people continue to be neglected. Because next year increases in university fees will make entering higher education untenable for many bright young people. And because regardless their ability to improve the quality of life of young people and reduce social problems, youth clubs are also threatened by budget cuts.
For years public libraries objected to budgeting for teen programming on the grounds that secondary school and college libraries provided information, and youth clubs provided social experiences (nevermind encouraging teens to read for pleasure, or engaging them with cultural experiences and opportunities). Now that those services are being stripped, there is an even stronger case for teens library spaces and programmes, for cultural and literacy promotion.
During economically lean and difficult years, library programming for teens can help raise their quality of life. There is a fresh demand for youth education and cultural enrichment, creative literacy programmes for young people, and teen spaces, activities and clubs. Most of all there is a dire need for adults deeply committed to providing relevant and resonant services to young people, adults who connect and collaborate with local teens. Libraries are in the perfect position to provide dedicated staff and new programmes for youth.
Now libraries have the opportunity demonstrate how essential they are for the next generation. Provide warm, safe space for teens, fun educational experiences and games, promotion of pleasure reading, homework and study help, and workshops to teach new skills, and you’re likely find an ever-increasing teenage audience in your idea.
Libraries are not some panacea for nationwide budget problems, nor are fully-formed teen library services going to appear overnight. However, there is a great chance to provide a vital service to young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity or motivation engage with reading and other types of enriching experiences. Let’s nurture burgeoning opportunities for young people. It can and will positively impact the lives of teenagers.
Please check back within the next few weeks to read more posts about how to cultivate teen services at your library on a shoestring and with limited staff.