Our little town doesn’t have a centralized place for teens to hang out. Most of your teens go to a nearby town to visit the mall or the movie theater. And by nearby, I mean 20 miles in a different library district. We have to think up other ways to find the high school teens. Here are some of those ways:
Geeks! Geeks generally travel in groups which means they bring their friends. Geeks are often the smart kids and will be your readers/card holders. Geeks are sometimes technically inclined so if your are trying to get into Minecraft, 3D printing, Lego Mindstorms, etc., these teens can teach you or teach your class. Geeks are sometimes manga readers. If you have trouble buying manga for your collection, these teens can make great recommendations. Geeks are less likely to be involved in extra curriculars such as sports, band, and theater (there are some overlaps with band and theater geeks but these geeks are a geek sub genre). Because sports; cheerleading; band; theater take up a lot time due to traveling and practice, these teens just don’t have time for library events. Geeks, on the other hand, do have time to come to the library.
How do you find the geeks? Start an anime club and advertise it in your manga collection. Offer fandom programs such as Doctor Who, Supernatural, Harry Potter, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Yu-Gi-Oh, D&D, DC Comics & Marvel, Sherlock, etc.
Specialized Programs. If you are noticing that your attendance is mostly 15 years and under, there’s a reason for that. 8th-10th graders still rely on their parents to drive them around and give them money. Once teens are old enough to drive, they get jobs, relationships, and a life. The older teens are more likely to come to programs that impact their lives such as ACT prep or other college related programs.
Older teens usually need community service hours for graduation. A creative way to get older teens to your programs is to have a community service program. Their community service can be helping set up and clean up your event. During the event, they can participate but also walk through and clean up a table or pick up the floor. They can also participate by taking pictures with their phone and posting it on their social media sites. This is called a street team or marketing if it needs to be justified. Teens have fun while doing community service and you have teen attendees!
Teens are at School. Every two months we visit the library at our local high school. We sit at a table in the library and have candy, free books, and library info. The school librarians encourage teens in each class period to visit our table and we take the opportunity to talk to them. Sometimes we have a three question survey for them to fill out. If you can bring items with your library name/teen center name or website/Facebook page, this can leave a lasting impression and/or get hits to your page.
We have two high schools and the smaller school doesn’t have a library or library hours. In that case, we sit at a table outside of their cafeteria and invite them to free candy as they pass by. (Disclaimer: we are in the process of obtaining mobile circ so that we can bring books to them.)
Some high schools have book clubs during the day or after school. We visit their book club and bring free books we’ve weeded or obtained from conferences. At one school, the school with no library, we offered to buy two months worth of books because the principal buys their monthly books. This builds great relationships with the schools and the students. You are also attracting readers.
Attendance Doesn’t only Count in-House. You can do programs at the schools and this counts as attendance. We do after-school craft programs, we partner with school librarians for Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week, we run contests for the schools. For Teen Read Week, we had a John Green Quote Off at the high school. Teens created an original quote. The school librarian, my colleague, and I narrowed it down to 5 finalists and the teens at the school voted. We provided a John Green gift basket to the winner and turned the winning quote into enough stickers for the entire school. (Disclaimer: this school only has 430 students and faculty). We had 80 participants. At the larger school during Teen Read Week, we went to the school to help the school librarian with their planned activities. All we did was bring library info and passed out candy. Our goal was to give a face to the public library.
After-Hours Date Night: We showed a PG-13 movie and served pizza when the library was closed. We encouraged teens to bring a date.
Gaming: Super Smash Bros tourney always attracts older teen boys especially black teens. Table top games are also popular among older teens. Examples include Magic the Gathering; Pathfinder; Ticket to Ride; and Pandemic.
Short Story/Fan Fiction Contest: Many older teens like to write. Geeky teens are often into fan fiction. Get yourself a Wattpad account to connect to your teens. Wattpad is a social media site where people share their stories. Authors sometimes put the first couple of pages of their new books on Wattpad.
What are some ways you get teens to your library programs?