Why to Get Your Teen to the Library

With nearly 10,000 teens taking part in the 2013 Summer Reading Club, Young Adult librarians got creative with projects to keep teens engaged over the long school break. This year’s reading club centered around the theme of food, so some lucky teens learned how to make homemade vanilla ice cream and candy sushi. Some got airbrushed tattoos, did paper crafts, and celebrated completing the reading program with a taco party. Many teens volunteered to work in the branches this summer helping with the activities, participating in Teen Council, and advising librarians on new books to purchase for the teen section. But even now, as the bells are calling students back to class, this type of innovative programming to encourage teen literacy and community engagement continues. We checked in with three Young Adult librarians—Elyse Barrere from the Sherman Oaks Branch Library, Vi Ha from Teen’Scape at Central Library, and Corinda Humphrey from the Mark Twain Branch Library—to offer a sneak peek at why your teen might want to renew their interest in the Library this season.


What are some of the surprising ways you see teens getting excited about coming to the Library?
The teens I see coming to my branch are drawn to it the same way I was at their age. Yes, they have the Internet, online gaming, and their cell phones, but sometimes they just want to find a really great story that will speak to them, and inspire or comfort them. When I go to schools and speak to classes, the students enjoy hearing about the Library website, the databases, and Live Homework Help, but they get especially excited when I start talking about the books. Also, a lot of teens don’t expect the Library to have e-books available and they’re really surprised when I show them how to access e-books from their home computers. There is still a real stereotype of libraries as giant buildings full of books and librarians as technophobes. Teens are excited to see that we are present and active in the online world.
It’s great to see when teens get so excited about coming to the Library that they bring their friends. I make it a point to learn about who these teens are, and similar to the hospitality industry, make the teens feel that they are an integral part of the Library and its programs. It is less of who I am, but what interesting facets and interests these teens bring that make the Library a fun and exciting place.
Teens usually come to the Library to socialize or for a school assignment, or they come with their families. I have a silent group of readers who come to check out stacks of books. Other teens are here as a place to wait for parents after school and to use the Internet. We get interest in using our resources when we tell teens about the free printing at the Student Zone computers. The teens who are already readers are interested in hearing about books or the Summer Reading Program. I offer two free books to teens who sign up and attend my Tuesday summer programs. I also get a lot of attendance at my programs by families when I do crafts, for example, at Halloween.

What creative activities do you have coming up that you are looking forward to experimenting with?
I am interested in having teens use sneaky, indirect methods to build up an understanding of how the world works and what their role in modern society is. I am working on a program on how to do “selfies,” self-portraiture for use in social media, but taking it from the perspective of being respectful of who they are, of future job employment, and artistry in photography. This program idea is still very much in its early stages. Clearly, I would love to encourage teens to ask the hard questions of how things work, whether it is a physical object, politics, or society.
I am huge fan of Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos. Last year we had 50+ people at my two separate Halloween/Dia crafts. This year we will again decorate Sugar Skulls and do another craft.
Elyse: Teens in my neighborhood can’t always be there when I have my regular programs, so I’m hoping to try out some passive programming—activities that teens can do whenever they’re in the library and have some free time. I’m going to have a “Guerilla Positivity” or “Kind Bombing” kit with small slips of paper for teens to use to write messages and hide in books, lockers, or to leave on the bus or other places. I want to have coloring pages and markers and some board games for the teens to use in the branch. I’m also hoping to start a book club since the teen collection circulates so well and they’re always coming back for more!

What do you see as the “greatest” service you offer teens?
One of the most important services we provide is a space for teens to express who they are.  We have so many resources for them to utilize to develop life skills.
I used to work in Lincoln Heights, a largely immigrant community of Asian and Latinos and I think the greatest thing that I brought them is the fact that I grew up in this community, and I can be a good role model as a strong, intelligent Asian American woman.
Elyse: I just want to make teens feel welcome in the Library because they’ll be more likely to keep coming back. Teens are going to need information literacy and library skills to succeed in the world—they need to be comfortable using more than just Google. But I want the Library to be a place that feels safe for them. I believe if we instill a love of and loyalty to the Library when they’re young, they’ll hold onto that good will long into the future.

Check out lapl.org/ya to learn more about programs for teens, including online tutoring through Live Homework Help, SAT prep courses through Student Smart, and more.

Share on