The teen advisory group (TAG) at Lima Public Library currently consists of about 15 teens in grades 6-12 from a variety of area schools. Working with the teen librarian, they plan nearly all the teen programs, help with selection of materials, and have even planned and presented programs for kids.
The TAG was formed four years ago. To start the group, the teen librarian invited several regular program participants to meet to brainstorm program ideas. The teens seemed to enjoy the idea that they could have input on what programs were offered. By scheduling and planning programs with teen input the library was able to increase the average attendance at teen programs from 5-10 to 20-30. Those initial members invited friends to join the group, and the group expanded. TAG members have an application to fill out with their information, why they want to be a part of the TAG, and what their hobbies and favorite classes are. The current TAG members vote on new members and have never turned anyone down to date.
Members are expected to attend the monthly planning meetings. One unexcused absence results in a warning. Two puts them on probation and a third results in their removal from the group. Excused absences do not count against them. A typical meeting includes about 60 minutes of program planning, 30 minutes of talking about various topics including what they’re reading, favorite music, movies, tv shows and books, and 30 minutes of program preparation and setup for the monthly special program that follows the meeting.
At the planning meetings, programs are planned several months in advance. Lima Public Library offers a Creativity Lab program after school twice monthly, a Teen Tuesday evening hangout weekly, a monthly movie night, and a special program one Saturday a month. A small group of two to four TAG members are assigned to each special program. The whole group selects a theme for the program, and the small group plans what activities will occur at that event. They provide the teen librarian with the activities planned, materials needed, and a setup plan for the Teen Spot Lounge. The teen librarian works with them to modify plans as needed to fit the library’s needs and the programming budget. The planning group then presents the program to participants. Recently they’ve hosted a series of fandom-related programs including Nerdfighters, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Marvel Comics. On several occasions they have planned and presented programs for kids as well.
A group of members who are voracious readers are given the opportunity to write reviews of books they’ve read, provide input on materials that are selected for the collection, and read ARCs as well. These readers also help to pull materials for a variety of display topics selected by them as well as the teen librarian. These materials fill the four display areas in the teen collection and are rotated on a monthly basis. Book reviews are completed on a form provided by the teen librarian and include a 1-2 sentence book talk that is shared on the library’s teen Facebook page.
In return for their work planning programs and giving input on materials selection, TAG members are rewarded with a yearly overnighter program. They get to come to the library at 6:00 on a Friday evening and stay until 8:00 the next morning. They fill the night with games and activities of their choosing including some that can’t be done while the library is open such as flashlight tag, beach ball volleyball on the main floor of the library, and human Battleship.