The Ever Elusive High School Student

Libraries are always trying to find a way to get high school teens into the library.  In communities where the demands on high school students are so great, a different approach is needed to get them to use the library.  Unless they get a little something in return, teens aren’t going to show.  I’ve previously written about our Finals Service program.  This program has been exceptionally successful and it inspired us to look at the other times of the year that high school students were using the library and develop additional programming.

It quickly became clear that teens are indeed coming to the library throughout the summer.  They were not here to participate in the Summer Reading Program, but here to check out the titles on their required High School Summer Reading lists.  The first step was to make it easier for them to find the books from the lists that they were required to read.  A display of all of the books on the list was created so all of the titles were together in one place. Additional copies of the books were purchased along with titles the library did not own and display stickers were placed on the spines so these books would return to the Summer Reading shelf in a timely manner, making them available for the next patron.

This approach to circulating Summer Reading titles was helpful but we felt like we weren’t doing everything that could be done.  There were a lot of students waiting until the 11th hour to come and get the books.  They didn’t want to wait for a copy to come in from another library; they wanted the book in their hands at that moment.  Question:  How can the library continue to satisfy the needs of these students without breaking our budgets and using all of our shelf space?!?

Answer:  The High School.  All of the extra books that we needed were already in the community.  They were sitting unread in a dark library through the summer.  We needed more copies; they had copies that were not being used . . . perfect!  We worked with the library staff at the high school to hammer out the details of how the exchange would work.  The high school copies were picked up at the end of the school year when the school library was no longer circulating.  Our Tech Services and Circulation departments put temporary barcodes on all of the books and made sure that the circulation period was long enough to enable students ample time to finish the books, but not too much time that books couldn’t be used by several students throughout the summer.  There was a cut-off return date for all of the high school’s titles to ensure that we gave ourselves flexibility to try to track down the books that weren’t returned on time.  Teens being teens, all of the titles didn’t get back by the time they needed to be returned to the high school, so replacement copies were purchased for the high school.

Working with the high school isn’t the solution for every library.  Perhaps your high school library stays open and continues to loan through the summer.   There are other options to help teens in your community obtain the titles they need.  Can you do a book loan between libraries in your area?  Can you ask the community for donations of the titles needed?  (Donations can be either new or copies that their teens have used in summers past.)

Libraries and Young Adult Librarians are always looking for opportunities to work with high school teens without reinventing the wheel.  These are a couple of solutions but YASF and teen librarians are always looking for more.   Watch how your patrons use your library and see what you observe.  Do you have any teen program ideas?  What programs have you tried?  Were they successful?