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Youth Services Librarianship
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Programming in Public Libraries
Without programming in public libraries, the libraries would have less users (never being able to draw in new users), which would also mean less circulation, and they may even be less likely to be seen as an essential contributor in community involvement. Furthermore, if libraries are not seen as essential in their community, then they will receive less funding and support from government, children's, or educational organizations or the community itself. Therefore, without support of the community, there library may cease to exist.
To the library itself, programming is important because it can draw in users to the library who were not users in the first place, which then can increase circulation or even support for the library. Socially, the programming helps keep children and teens interested who already go to the library, and can show them that the library can be a fun and exciting place to hang out. Culturally, programming can be important because it can help users develop an appreciation of the different cultures within their community. Overall, the library can help serve the community by meeting health, educational, informational, or other needs.
Programming is a key factor to demonstrate to the community that the library cares about its users, and wants to meet their needs and show children that the library is a safe, fun environment where children can develop their minds through reading and exploration.
The American Library Association provides a list programming aspects it examines when it selects the winner of the annual ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award. This list requires that the program not only be high quality, but well planned, budgeted, and evaluated and that it fits a need in its community. These requirements double as a check list for any librarian planning a program:
“Clear statement of organization goals and objective
"Clear statement of the link between library objectives and community impact
"Identifying the audience for the project and developing a program directed at that audience.
"Documenting the need for the program, was the need well-defined
"The quality of the design of the program.
"The clearness of the action plan and calendar
"Whether the needed resources were available (including staff) to make the program a success.
"Whether the budget is adequate and reasonable for the program.
"Whether appropriate evaluation methods are being used.
"Additional areas that may be considered: the importance of the problem addressed; the seriousness of the proposal to the library's needs; whether the program improved delivery of services to user.”
ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award Application Guidelines
Additionally, the Association of Library Services to Children includes programming skills as one of its nine Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries. In addition to the marks of quality that the ALA awards committee searches for, the list competencies emphasize programming for children, parents, and caregivers and providing outreach and programming to frequently ignored and high need groups of children. It divides this competency into five basic points:
“Designs, promotes, presents, and evaluates a variety of programs for children of all ages, based on their developmental needs and interests and the goals of the library.
"Identifies and utilizes skilled resource people to present programs and information.
"Provides library outreach programs which meet community needs and library goals and objectives.
"Establishes programs and services for parents, individuals and agencies providing childcare, and other professionals in the community who work with children.
"Promotes library programs and services to underserved children and families.”
Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries
(ALSC Education Committee, 2009)
For teens, the Young Adult Library Service Association touches on programming in their
Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth
under the Services area of competency. The three main points that they emphasize are that librarians should be capable of implementing and evaluating programs, should involve teens in planning programs, and should be aware of pop-culture and incorporate it into programs (Young Adult Library Services Association, 2010).
National Center for Education Statistics - This center is devoted to fulfilling a Congressional mandate to collect, analyze, and provide statistics on the condition of American Education so that government officials, federal agencies, state education agencies, educational organizations can use the information to support their own research or projects (NCES).
Anime - A Japanese style of animation that is highly stylized with colorful art, exaggerated poses, emotions, and even violence ( although a lot of the violence is slapstick in nature for younger audiences).
Programming - What Works
Programming for School Age Children
clubs tend to be very popular in public libraries, especially with boys. Although having a
club doesn't seem to be as reading-oriented, it allows for boys to use their imagination's to create spaceships, castles, houses or whatever they can think of. Kids like these kind of programs because they have freedom to create whatever they want and even get to see their work displayed in their own libraries.
Battle of the Books (Quiz bowl) - In teams of six students, students will go head to head to battle each other in a jeopardy game of book knowledge. One student from each team at a time will have 30 seconds to provide an author's name, book title, or character name to answer question about a book. The winners will battle the other group of winners and so on until there is a champion team (Milton Public Library).
Programming for Teens
Craft Clubs - These clubs tend to attract girls more than boys, but everyone is welcome to attend. Craft club activities can range from making origami, to scrapbooking, to even creating mini books..
This is a picture of a fold-up mini book created at a craft club with the teen services librarian at the Normal Public Library
Photo Courtesy of Shelley Singler
Anime Clubs or Graphic Novels - see Programming with Graphic Novels and Anime.
Cultural programming is important in a public library because it can make a minority group feel important and truly welcomed in the library. It can especially help minority children connect with other children within their own ethnicity or it can help children who are not a minority to open up their experience to other cultures and become appreciative of other cultures.
Silk Screen T-Shirt design:
At Arizona's Phoenix Public Library, silk screen t-shirt designs became a successful program for Latino children, because the YA staff hired a Latino artist who would perform hands-on workshops, teaching the kids to make t-shirts that represented some part of their Latino culture (Naidoo and Vargas 14).
Programming with Graphic Novels and Anime
In addition to utilizing more "traditional" young adult collections when programming, programming ideas also abound when considering using graphic novels and anime. These are some of the more popular genres being included in teen sections in public libraries, and it only seems natural to start creating programming around these unique collections. This section will expand a bit more on the
Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels
section of the wiki, as well as including ideas involving anime titles.
Active vs. Passive Programming
As with all programming ideas, the level of involvement for library staff can vary depending on the program itself. For graphic novels and anime, there are a number of programming ideas that fall into both categories, giving librarians and paraprofessionals options when concerns like staff time, resources, and budget might stand in the way.
Some examples include:
Anime Screenings/Anime Festivals
Many graphic novels have counterparts in film, and screening these programs can be an easy way to get teens interested in reading certain titles. Anime programming is great to show in libraries because "[s]ome anime companies, most notably Funimation, have 'anime club' programs that will send libraries free screening DVDs" (Fletcher-Spear and Jenson-Benjamin 119). Additionally, many of the companies that will charge for a fee will be under the blanketed film license, like Disney (119). Though Fletcher-Spear and Jenson-Benjamin focus mainly on anime and manga, this can also be done with titles like
Batman: The Animated Series
and other superhero cartoons that have roots in comics.
Costume or Cosplay Parties
Cosplaying, which is "fan speak for costume contests" (120), allow teens to test their creative skills by dressing up as their favorite graphic novel character. Teens can vote among one another for Most Creative, Most "Realistic," etc. These parties can also carry themes of their own to go along with many of the graphic novel titles available, such as "Ninjas v. Pirates v. Zombies" and "Curses!," which features graphic novels with cursed characters (121).
Comic Book Trivia Nights
Trivia is an easy way to test teens' knowledge about any and all graphic novels and can be integrated into other larger programs or stand alone as a
-style program. Questions can span manga to traditional comics and even graphic novel works, meaning that questions should never be hard to come by.
Author or Artist Visits
Local and national authors and artists can speak on a variety of topics revolving around graphic novels and anime, as well as potentially teaching some workshops for teens. As with the trivia nights, these can be stand-alone programs if the authors are local, or can be part of larger programming if a "bigger" author or artist comes to visit. They could potentially do how-to-draw sessions, give advice on getting in the business, and hold Q&A sessions for the teens.
Create Your Own Comic Book
This program can be as simple as providing teens with the materials to make their own comics, such as paper and colored pencils, or could be integrated into a larger program "if partnered with a guest presenter on the topic" (124). Books on how-to-draw manga, comics, and graphic novels abound and may be helpful additions to the library's collection.
Graphic Novel Discussions
These can be similar to book clubs, where teens read the same title and then come together to discuss it, or perhaps done in a way which teens each read their own title then meet and booktalk their titles to one another, exposing teens to more than just one title at a time and giving them the opportunity to see what other titles are out there. This is a good opportunity to teach teens how to properly booktalk a book without revealing spoilers (125).
An anime and graphic novel conference on a much smaller scale, libraries can ask local vendors to set up shop to offer their wares. Mini-cons can also include some of the previously listed program ideas, like cosplay parties and author or artist visits, as well as some of the passive programs listed below. It's important to remember that "mini-cons are not for the faint of heart, as they are time-consuming to plan and can attract large crowds" (126). Only take on this programming if you have the appropriate funding and staff time to make it worthwhile and successful.
Some examples include:
Character Design Contest
Falling in line with creating their own comic book, teens can create their own character and judge one another's creations in separate categories. It may be a good idea to hold this program before diving into the "Create Your Own Comic Book" program to give teens a chance to test their artistic abilities.
These can be done at any time, displaying teens' works throughout the year that has been done at some of the programming mentioned earlier, easily giving teens a sense of pride in their creations. Additionally, displays can be created using old graphic novels and manga that need to be thrown away, giving them second life (127).
Name that Character Contest
Teens' knowledge can be tested by creating a board of graphic novel characters and asking teens to fill out an answer sheet provided. Prizes can be awarded to whoever guesses the most correct answers. Variations of this include famous graphic novel couples and asking teens to pair them up with their significant other, or asking who is behind a famous masked character (128).
Superhero Death Match
A survey that is purely subjective, teens get to vote who would win in a battle between characters from two graphic novels (128). Battles can span genres and abilities, creating some interesting matchups for teens to vote for. If answers are provided in a March Madness-style bracket, teens can track and check up on their favorites and predict who will win overall.
Trivia Web Hunt
This can be as simple as placing question sheets next to the computer terminals in the teen section and asking teens to search for the correct answers. Prizes can be given either for the most number of correct answers or, since they will be researching them and it's possible that many of them will get all of them correct, prizes can be given for completion.
(All names for active and passive programming courtesy of Fletcher-Spear and Jenson-Benjamin.)
Digitally Enhanced Programming
With the increased use of digital media and social networking libraries must adapt to these new resources or risk becoming irrelevant. Herr-Stephenson et al. (2011) divide digital media in libraries into three separate categories, digital media as content, meaning the digital materials that a library circulates like e-books, digital audiobooks, e-readers, etc., digital media as outreach, like providing internet access and instruction for under privileged communities, and digital media as hook, such as offering appealing, cutting edge digital programs to attract teens into the library and improve library image. All of these uses for digital media can be incorporated into programming with ideas like inside the e-book discussions, digital video how-to workshops, and creating Facebook events to advertise programs. For the purpose of this article we will discuss ways to use digital resources to enhance or increase accessibility to non-digital programs that already exist. For programs that center on the technology itself, see
For teens and youth that have a hard time making it into the library, such as those in spread out rural areas or for whom driving age or cost of transportation may be a concern, digital programming is a way to get them involved without actually requiring them to be at the library. It can also be used to extend programs outside of their designated meeting times and supplement traditional programming formats. And for all teens it can be a lesson in the appropriate use of and etiquette for technology and social networking.
If your library has funding to purchase e-readers or tablets to loan out to patrons then you may be able to have an e-reader book club and teen collection advisory, like Pam Harland’s book club in her article The High School Book Club- Now with Kindles! (2010). For libraries without these funds, incorporating technology and social media can still be a feasible and low cost option. These programs can be real time or not and many require only a computer with internet access. For those teens without home internet access, check to see if the websites you’re using can be accessed from school computers. Some programming ideas:
These are great for real time, face to face programs like a traditional book club discussion. One exciting perk is that you can easily invite guests from anywhere in the world, so check to see if the author of that month’s book or a related subject expert would be willing to speak for part of the meeting. The downside is that it requires participants to log in at a specific time and that they must have a strong enough internet connection to support the video feed. It also works best if the participants have their own cameras and microphones.
YouTube live stream
These are great for less participatory programming, like story-times or lectures. Though there is a chat feature that can be used for questions, be aware that with a large amount of guests it can slow down some internet connections and make it difficult for some to participate. After the stream, there is the option to save the recording and leave it on the library’s YouTube page to watch later, but if you choose this, be sure that there is no copyrighted material in your program and that everyone videotaped has agreed.
Goodreads and Facebook
These allow for discussions that can take place over the course of the month and can continue indefinitely, which makes them great supplements to a traditional book club as well. They are also great places to share relevant links. Either website will allow you to create a group for your specific program, but Goodreads has the advantage of being particularly book-centric and can also allow your library to display collection high lights and publish reviews. Goodreads may also be less controversial as it does not offer as many opportunities for sharing of inappropriate personal information and is less likely to be blocked on school computers. However, Facebook is better known and learning appropriate social networking behavior can be just as important as the content of the program.
An app for the Apple iPad, subtext allows readers to share notes and have a discussion of a book inside the text of the book while they are reading. This is great for patrons who are short on time as it can be done while reading. It can also be more candid as it does not require participants to hold on to their thoughts for several weeks until the meeting. It is noteworthy that this is a high cost option, as each participant must have an iPad and a digital copy of the book being discussed.
Twitter can be used to do a guest Q & A session, many publishers arrange for their authors to do them, but you could arrange one for any speaker you’d like. While participation in these is in real time, the questions and responses are archived on twitter, so others can read the discussion later. They also allow patrons who are only available for a portion of the scheduled time to participate, and they require either a phone with texting or a computer with internet, but not both. Twitter can also be used as a way for teen attempt taking their creation or programming viral by tweeting about their creation or program using designated hash tags and asking others to participate.
For more creative programming ideas using technology see David Lee King and Michael Porter’s “Community Connections” article in the October/September 2012 American Libraries.
Theoretical Problems or Concerns About Programming
One main concern about programming is that it can sometimes become very expensive depending how many children/teens the program allows for, due to the cost of materials per child/teen. That is why it is always a good idea to look into grants for programming. But even grants can be hard to obtain and they can be a lot of work to write, so it is always important to research the type of grant you may need for your program.
The following link has a list of grants that may be of use to a public library, especially "Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved" provided by ALSC, MAE Trust (promotes reading for teens), Grants for Nonprofit Youth Programs (library and arts oriented grant), Partnership for a Nation of Learners ( seeks to meet community needs) and many more grants.
Advice for Librarians When Creating or Choosing Programs for Your Library
Don't be afraid to fail
Sometimes if a program is new to your library it may not be successful right away. Programs can be unsuccessful for many reasons, they may not be reaching the right audience, or they may not meet the needs of your community, or there could be a similar program already in your community. The most important thing a librarian can do to help make a program a success is to promote the program through marketing.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing!
Get the word out about your program. Create posters, flyers, make a note of it on your website and get the word out when you speak to patrons at check-out. Sending out fliers at schools or even getting the word out through a library newsletter can be a good idea.
Get to know your community
Before even creating or choosing a program for a library, a librarian must do their research on the community of the library, in order to make programming decisions suitable to the
the ages of the users, cultural backgrounds, socio-economic status of users, and the needs of the community. In order to do so a librarian can study the demographics in their community through websites like the National Center for Education Statistics.
-Under "Data Tools" and "State/District Profiles, Comparisons and Mapping", a librarian can take a look at the "School District Demographics System Map," which will map out the different types of races or ethnicities, population, and housing in that community. See
American Library Association Cultural Communities Fund. (2012). ALA excellence in library programming award application guidelines. Retrieved from
Association of Library Services to Children Education Committee. (2009). Competencies for librarians serving children in public libraries. Retrieved from
Fletcher-Spear, Kristin, and Merideth Jenson-Benjamin. Library Collections for Teens: Manga and Graphic Novels. Bowie, MD: E L Kurdyla, 2011. Print.
Harland, P. (2010). The high school book club- now with kindles!. Teacher Librarian, 37(5), 57-59.
Herr-Stephenson, B, Rhoten, D., Perkel, D., & Sims, C. (2011) Digital media and technology in afterschool programs, libraries, and museums. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
King, D., & Porter, M. (2012). Community connections. American Libraries, 43(9/10), 49.
Kunzel, B., & Hardesty, C. (2006). The teen-centered book club: readers into leaders. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.
Library Works. 28 Nov. 2012
Milton Public Library. (2012). 28 Nov. 2012 <
Naidoo, Jamie Campbell and Vargas, Luis Francisco. "Libraries Bridging The Borderlands Reaching Latino Tweens And Teens With Targeted Programming And Collections."
Young Adult Library Services
9.4 (2011): 13-20.
Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts
. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.
National Center for Education Statistics.
School District Demographics System.
25 Nov. 2012. <
Young Adult Library Services Association. (2010). YALSA’s competencies for librarians serving youth: Young adults deserve the best. Retrieved from
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