When you are a teen librarian, you (hopefully) often accept accolades from adults about the awesomeness of your programs. Teen programs in libraries, whether given by the librarian or by an outside presenter, are often built around creativity. We focus on topics and ideas that are often pop culture and would fall into the new and current category because we’re giving teens what they want. But, what happens when teens aren’t the only people who want in on the fun? What happens when you have adults who ask, “Can I sign up, too?”
As an Adult and Teen Programming Librarian, this is awesome for me. I get to blend together the two sides of my job in a fairly fantastic way. I realize that this may not be as easy for everyone, as it involves coordination between people…departments…budgets. But, while the work may be a challenge, the reward is pretty great, too.
At our library, we’ve begun opening up programs classically marketed just to teens to both teens and adults. No matter what the topic may be: crafts, fitness classes or movies, we’ve got interest in the topics coming at us from all ages. At first, my immediate reaction was of the, “No way, no how,” feeling. How was I going to have our teens and adults in the same group without losing the exclusivity and freedom that being in a library could potentially provide my teens? Our area is one that has a very miniscule amount of teen participation. There are a few strikes against us: we live in a village that puts high value on sports and school-related activities, the library is in the downtown vicinity, so teens who are coming to the library have to actually be on their way here already…we don’t get much walk-in traffic. What I saw at first was the potential to have an attendance increase. What about older teens who might not come to something they feel is too young for their age group? I decided to give it a try.
The program that I first said yes to marketing to both teens and adults was a craft program. It was during the winter, and I was teaching about finger knitting and finger crochet. The idea wasn’t major in anyway; it was something cheap (we’d gotten a MASSIVE donation of yarn), and it was something I could teach myself to do (thank you Pinterest and YouTube)! As registration was going on, it became clear that there were going to be just about as many teens as there were adults.
We had so many interesting pairings in that room. I had a 19 year old guy chatting with a grandmotherly patron about the crocheting she was teaching her grandchildren. I had teens from one of our high schools helping the adults in the room! I was just so impressed to see that there were little pockets of conversation everywhere I turned.
Now, as I do what we now call the Just Wing It Craft Hour every month, I see more and more moms signing up just to get a night away. I see teens signing up as well. But, my personal favorite is that I often see mothers and daughters or mothers and sons coming in to do our craft for the evening because we’ve given them more than a program that teens can be “dropped off” to. Rather, we’ve given them something that they can do together. I get repeat faces of all kinds—teens are now coming and doing the craft alongside a family member. Even when mom or dad can’t come, an aunt or cousin is dragged in.
I realize now that it wasn’t so much about keeping adults and teens separate. We do that with our age specific programming already. What we’re doing now is building a new kind of community.