The Teen Space Every Neighborhood Needs is at the Library
The fact that public libraries hold a wealth of information is something that most people know and appreciate. However, for teens who are being exposed to new ideas for the first time and trying to navigate complicated classes, awkward social lives, and changing bodies, the library becomes an even more valuable resource.
Libraries are one of the best places for teens to learn, discover, and grow. Not only are they consistently developing more programs and obtaining materials that would be useful for them, they also have specific groups, events, and sections of the library that are catered specifically to this age group.
Teens and tweens need libraries for a number of reasons. Not only does it give them a place of their own to explore their own passions and develop new ones, it gives them a safe space to socialize, learn about themselves and the world, and get connected with opportunities in the community. For one, libraries offer homework help to those who need it. There are expert librarians available who can walk them through library resources and get them acquainted with the steps in doing research. On top of that, there are also specific homework help sessions for those who have questions about class material and even free access to online homework help resources through the library.
Digital and traditional literacy are also important skills that the library can provide teens. While teens are comfortable using technology, they aren’t always great at picking out reliable sources or effectively using the internet to find the information they need. Reading skills are also an important aspect of life that libraries help to address. It may come as a surprise, but many students still fall behind when it comes to standardized tests and having the library as a support system has been shown to significantly improve that.
Beyond the school-related learning, libraries are a great place for students to learn more about themselves whether it is unfamiliar topics, new passions, or simply learning about what it means to be a teenager. This works in many ways, for example, teens are able to meet and connect with others their age who are going through similar experiences. They are also able to find accurate information on the topics they are curious about and have knowledgeable and trustworthy adults to guide them if they need help.
Getting involved and social is one of the things that teens do best. While teenagers are notorious for having friends and extensive social lives, many are left on their own once school gets out which opens up a lot of opportunities for them to get into trouble.
The library has multiple teen-related programming and groups in place to create a safe space for students to go after school. Having this type of organized activity helps to keep them engaged and also away from activities that could do them harm or teach them bad habits.
There are a variety of groups and clubs that teens can participate in from faith-based groups to those that are interested in birdwatching or building robots. There are also a number of events set up that encourage teenagers to volunteer their time. These are usually held with other organizations in the community and can help them meet other teenagers who are also excited about volunteering for the same cause. Just a few examples include making blankets for senior centers or visiting local animal shelters and walking dogs for an afternoon.
Teen Advisory Boards
If your teenager is excited about being at the library they can take it another step. Many libraries will have a Teen Advisory Board set up for teenagers that want to get involved with helping the library become more teen-friendly. This is usually made up of a group of volunteers that guide the teen librarian to find materials and plan events that other teenagers would be interested in.
It doesn’t take much to get involved with a teen board. It usually just requires a simple application and a willingness to commit a certain amount of time each month to the board and its events. There have been a lot of cool ideas to come out of these like teen murder mystery nights, mental health initiatives, and book clubs.
These are great for making the library an even more inclusive space for teens because the advice is coming straight from the source itself. Having this type of collaboration not only benefits the library by giving insight on useful events, but it benefits teenagers as well because they are getting the exact materials, resources, and information they are asking for, in addition to working on leadership and teamwork skills.
Although the pandemic has led to much confusion and uncertainty, libraries are slowly starting to open up their physical spaces again. While we all have had our ups and downs this past year libraries have been doing what they can to make members of their community feel supported, especially the teen population. Their job was to continue making sure that teens felt welcomed in their spaces and they have done just that through their dedication to serving all of their library patrons.