YA Librarians are always trying to figure out how to get high school patrons into the library and actively participating in programming. At Hinsdale Public Library, we decided to stop trying to develop the perfect program to bring teens into the library and instead we developed a program around the times they are already here. It didn’t take us long to realize that the time they are in the library the most is during finals.
Finals Service didn’t happen overnight. We started small. Some snacks and opening the large meeting room for group study. We got a couple hundred kids over five days. Every semester the Finals Service program has grown a little bit. Every time we add to the program, we get more students. Now, we can guarantee at least 1,000 teens over five days.
These are a few things that have worked for us:
1) Make sure the whole staff is ready to pitch in!
There are going to be a lot of teens coming into your library. Most of them don’t know a Young Adult Librarian from a book cart. They’ll ask anyone for help if they need something. So, everyone needs to play nicely. We made a step-by-step internal PR guide to help people know what to do if they come across a kid with a bucket of fried chicken or two teens taking a “study break” under the OPACs. Every department monitors the Large Meeting Room, answering questions and refilling snack bowls and every department keeps track of statistics and head-counts. To sweeten the pot, we made it worth the staff’s time. We had snacks available in the break room and got approval from the board to wear jeans throughout finals service. Once we did something for the staff, we stopped hearing how AWFUL the teens were.
There are teens that will arrive at the library when the doors open and stay until the doors close. They need something to eat. We started by just buying food in bulk from a Wholesale store. You can’t go wrong with rice krispies treats, fruit snacks, pretzels and granola bars. Go with the small bottles of water and recycling bins so you’re not throwing away ½ full bottles of water all week long. As the program has progressed, we’ve been able to use our teen numbers and statistics to get local sponsorship to cover almost all of the cost of snacks and water.
3) A Little Somthin’ Somethin’
For three years, we have given away a pen/highlighter combo at every Finals Service. They’re cheap, you buy them in bulk and they’re awesome advertising and promotion for the library. We have them printed with our logo, phone number and website. The teens go to school with their pen, their friends ask them where they got it and we see new faces at the library the next day. Not because they want the pens, but because talk of pens leads to talk of snacks, study rooms and who else was at the library the day before. This year we were able to find pens that were eco-friendly so we could feel better about the thousands of pens we give away every year.
Maybe what works for us, won’t work for you. Maybe you just have one day or one weekend. Perhaps you team up with the local high school and do a program at the school or the staff from the high school comes and helps you at the library. Whatever you do, try to do something. Teens are a difficult group to grab and you wouldn’t want to let this opportunity pass you by!
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about Finals Service or starting a program at your library. (firstname.lastname@example.org)