Cut Through the Static, Get Feedback
You have heard me say it time and time again but my mantra is simple: you can’t serve teens unless you care about them, know them, and value them. And if you are really good at your job, you will empower them and help give them a voice. (Think 40 Developmental Assets!) One of the best ways to do that is to get their input. You can do this through Teen Advisory Boards, no doubt. But I believe there is tremendous value in doing a large scale, once a year survey to get large scale feedback.
The truth is, TAB attract a certain type of teen and they tend to be limited in scope because you have to limit their numbers for them to function effectively. With TABs, you don’t always get the input of your outliers. So at the end of every summer or the beginning of the school year, I like to put together a large scale survey.
I get that a survey is not a perfect tool. But the truth is any tool is better than no tool. And in your best case scenario, you use a variety of tools. So ideally you would have a TAB, engage your teens on a daily basis, do mini-surveys on your social media sites, etc. But don’t underestimate the value of a large scale survey.
Some of the benefits of a survey include:
- It gives you large scale feedback from a wider sample of your target demographic
- It gives you good feedback to make decisions and discuss the decisions in terms that make sense to administrators. Remember, numbers matter to admin.
- It gives you feedback to share with your community and community agencies that work with teens.
- It gives you valuable teen quotes to share in all your various PR forums.
- It gives your teens a voice and empowers them.
So, how do you do a survey?
1. Outline the type of feedback that you need to be successful at your job: collection development, programming types, hours, days, etc., TSRC prizes and format and more.
2. Formulate a template (one is provided below). Make sure on your format that you have a way to get both statistical data and verbal feedback. Ask open ended questions as well as your basic rate this types of questions.
3. After you put your survey together, find a way that works well for your system to distribute it. If you have a good relationship with your schools, you can ask the schools to help distribute it. Put them in your teen area and share them through your various online resources.
4. Give yourself a good time window to get surveys back – but put a finite end date on it.
5. Remember that anonymity helps ensure that you get more honest feedback. Although I will be honest, I have also provided incentives for filling them out and it resulted in a higher return rate. Depending on the budget of your system, you can hand out $5.00 food gift certificates to teens who return their completed surveys to the circulation desk and let them put it directly into an envelope to help make sure their are no faces associated with comments.
6. Compile your data and run with it.
Teen Summer Reading Club
Other TLT posts about empowering your teens
Draw It: Teen Summer Reading Club art contest
Putting the “Teen” in your Teen Space
Teens Got Talent: Empowering teens and creating buy in
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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