In Our Mailbox: How to resurrect a long dead TAG?
Many of us have had this problem at one point or another. Having a TAG (or TAB, or YAAC, or Teen Council – whatever you want to call it) is drummed into our heads as The Thing to do in order to get teen input on library services. But sometimes they fizzle, sometimes you burn out, and sometimes there’s an interest, but it’s unfocused and needs some direction. An established librarian in a new position, here is reader Sarah’s dilemma:
My library at one time had an active and thriving Young Adult Advisory Council, but from what I’m hearing, interest waned, and it sort of died a natural death sometime during the previous (retired) librarian’s tenure. I’ve had some recent inquiries by teens interested in joining it (they never took the information about it off the website) and my director is definitely interested in resurrecting it, but is leaving the details up to me. I was hoping to get the benefit of your experience working with teens and see if you had any ideas or suggestions?
I have a great group of summer teen volunteers that I’m hoping to interest in being part of the YAAC once school starts back, but I don’t want it to be just a “show up, eat pizza, gripe about school and life, go home” social club. I am toying with the idea of setting it up as simultaneously a Harry Potter Alliance chapter, because I love their focus on citizenship and doing good in the community and the world if I can get my director to go for it.
You’re new in your position
Everyone expects new employees to shake things up a bit. You can use this more pronounced flexibility to either try out something new and radical, or revitalize what used to be there with your own spin.
Your administration supports you
Holy cow – how great is this?! You’ve been given the go-ahead to deal with the details. I’m going to assume that this go-ahead comes hand in hand with the full support, understanding, and dare we hope funding of your director.
You’ve got kids who are interested already, and more you can tap
You have an idea of what they can do and why they’d want to do it.
Create a link between the club and the mission of the library
Find a few moles
Report on your successes … and failures
If you or anyone else in your situation wants more in-depth information on teen leadership and revitalizing TABs, I highly recommend Amy Alessio’s chapter, “Keeping the Teen Advisory Board Relevant—and Real: New Clubs, Themes, and Attitudes” in our new book The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services. Amy has a really great, down to earth approach with her teens, and has been able to reshape and revitalize her teen groups into dynamic, purposeful, popular programs for years now.
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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