Teens and libraries

  • Frontier Regional High School Environmental Club holds a planning meeting at Tilton Library. Contributed photo

  • Meghan Waldron, high school library employee (now graduated), shows her picks for great young adult books and movies. Contributed photo

  • Teen area "street signs" at the Tilton Library. Contributed photo

  • The teen room at Tilton Library in South Deerfield. Contributed photo

  • Candace Bradbury-Carlin, Director of The Tilton Library in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 7/31/2019 3:45:54 PM
Modified: 7/31/2019 3:45:44 PM

Life is messy. Teens are great. Libraries want to do right by them. So, what are libraries doing for teens and what can we do better? Teen fiction — or “young adult fiction,” as libraries categorize — has soared in recent years in both scope and quality. Added to the core classics and teen romance stories of generations past are more novels that address themes of real teen concerns or reach into the world of science fiction and fantasy in amazing ways. The graphic novel is a genre that has reached new heights in variety, depth and artistry. And these are just the books. We expect great books at libraries, but the world of young adult books has expanded greatly in just the past generation. Very exciting. What else?

Space is an important thing — teens like their space. A growing number of libraries have spaces just for teens — spaces that fit and evolve with what they need to learn, create, feel safe and connect. Some libraries are able to offer computers, gaming systems, maker spaces and other amenities of technology and innovation in teen spaces. For some teens, this is just the thing that draws them to the library, for others, just having a space of their own in which they can read, study, or hang out is very appealing. 

Here at the Tilton Library on North Main Street in South Deerfield, we have a diverse collection of print and electronic young adult books, movies and more (and we do have rooms designated for teens). However, in a library constructed in 1916, space is a commodity and we have had to be creative to carve out what we can. In these small but cozy rooms, teens are invited to write and read peer book reviews, write down ideas for programs and exhibit their art, as well as browse books. We are hoping to offer more space for teens with the possibility of an expanded building on the horizon. Recently, the Tilton sent surveys to different age groups to inform our latest strategic plan, and the number one thing that teens said would make the library better was more space for teens.

While space might be in demand, services and resources are very important for teens and libraries have them in abundance. At the Tilton, our local teens have access to a vast source of solid reference materials for free — online, in our physical collection, or attained through our interlibrary loan program. We also have offered exam proctoring and babysitting match-up events. We have up-to-date listings of community resources for teens that are struggling and in need of help.

Events for teens can be some of the best programming at libraries, as teen interests are constantly changing and staff rise to the challenge to meet them where they are in the moment — whether it be a board game night, movie night, a concert performed by teen bands, or something as quirky as zombie badminton. The Tilton has had varying success with teen programs, mostly due to our spatial challenges, but game night is a perennial favorite. We are making plans to elevate our teen programming to the level of being a regular and highly anticipated component of the Tilton’s community.

So, libraries have it all for teens — great books, technology, research aids, resources and cool programs. Some have really great teen attendance due to their offerings, space, and another reason — location. Being easily accessible by teens is key. The Tilton is quite lucky to be located within a block of the regional public middle and high schools in South Deerfield. A significant number of teens go past our library daily. Of course, some do come in, but we would love to see more. How can we make that happen now? Here are some ideas.

We want the library to be a community hub for all ages, including teens.

The word gets out fast with teens on whether or not something is worth their time. One thing they expect is great connection — wifi connection, that is. We have it, but hope to get faster service soon, in order for teens (and everyone else) to feel like they are working or playing at a more satisfying speed.

As mentioned earlier, we would like to shake-up and expand our programming. Though program space is limited we could host smaller programs in the library and hold bigger programs outdoors or at another location in town. Ideally, it would be the library itself that would be the epicenter for all programs, but in the meantime, we can be creative. For instance, we are looking at offering life skills workshops, teen author talks, writing/publishing groups, guerilla art happenings in and around the library, setting up cool drop-in activities, bringing in experts on educational and fun topics like tarot card reading and henna tattoos, and creating more interesting ways for teens to volunteer or work at the library — such as teen-led special projects and collaborations, or running our Instagram page.

Having quick and factual information on topics important to teens is a must. The Tilton plans on making up sets of “flash cards” for teens (which would also be a page on our website) on subjects such as being smart with money, job-seeking skills and how to get behind a cause you believe in.

Mostly we want to hear from teens and know that they feel not only welcome at the library, but valued.  We’re here for you.

What teens can look forward to at the Tilton in the coming month

■The Tilton Summer Library Program, A Universe of Stories, offers teens (and adults) a book review challenge in that every review card you turn in serves as a raffle ticket for a $100 GIFT CARD to Atlas Farms or Greenfield Games! Tell us if a book brings you to the moon and back or leaves you lost in space.

■The Frontier Regional High School Environmental Club will present during the week of September 24-30, as part of the Tilton Climate Preparedness Week. Date TBA.

Programs for teens at other local libraries

■Greenfield Public Library: Summer drop-in crafts in the teen area — make a zine or a friendship bracelet, coloring pages and a variety of board games for teens to play at the library. During the school year (September through May); Middle School Mondays, meets weekly at 4 p.m. We do a different activity each week including comic book discussions, role-playing games, Manga club, crafts and more; pizza and a movie the first Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m.; Art Club the 4th Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m.; Game On the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. At each meeting, there is a Nintendo Switch playoff and a board game is introduced. Also in the works are a regular Dungeons & Dragons game and a sewing/embroidery/knitting group.

■Sunderland Public Library: Book Making Workshop — Saturday, July 27 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (registration required); Crochet Amigurumi Aliens,  Monday, July 29, 6 to 7 p.m.; Harry Potter Etched Mugs,  Friday, Aug. 16 from 5 to 6 p.m. (registration required); Make Your Own Wizarding Wand, Monday, Aug. 19 from 5 to 6 p.m. (registration required); Make Your Own Monster Book of Monsters, Saturday, Aug. 24 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. (registration required); The Teen Advisory Board also meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m. Teens enjoy pizza and work on a different project to help out the library each month. 

Candace Bradbury-Carlin is the director of Tilton Public Library on North Main Street in South Deerfield.

Greenfield Recorder

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