Last week on January 7th, the Bushwick Branch had its first monthly Teen Craft: Calendar Decorating. We normally get a good number of participants for our YA programs (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Anime Art Contests)... but they're the same teens over and over again, and they are overwhelmingly male. Plus, man... there is only so much 'Mississippi Queen' I can take. I wanted to try out a program that might welcome some fresh blood (both male and female).
The description that ran in our monthly calendar:
Decorate and calendar for the new year with collage, markers, sitckers and more! Bring your own photos and stickers for a more personalized look.
I was lucky enough to find about 30 blank non-date specific calendars as a base in our unorganized craft room. It was more or less a regular wall-hanging sized calendar template: with the months and boxes printed up and a big empty space for art. A week after I decided on the calendar making idea, a patron brought in two large bags of a variety of magazines and asked if we could use them...hell yes! It was a perfect selection for collage. Since I used to be heavy into penpal-ing, I brought in a pretty massive collections of stickers that were crowding up my desk drawers at home. Quite easy to gather the supplies. Step one done.
I made sure to individually speak about the program with EVERY teenage girl that came into my branch (boys too, but like I said, we need more female representation) and put a flier right into their hands. I also filled in the dates of each month in my calendar for people to refer to as well as collaging a page as an example.
Fastforward to that afternoon: we had about 5 people show up initially, which I was thrilled about. Since my YA supervisor happened to be at the branch, he came down to help out. I was able to leave the program area and go back out to the floor to grab more kids... and I found a group of about 13 middle schoolers who had just been told by circulation staff (xoxo) to go to the program. Wonderful!!!
So we had a full house. About 25 teens showed up in total, and one even printed out her favorite manga characters to paste onto each month. It was great to see new faces, and I took the opportunity to go around checking out peoples work and introducing myself. I let the new kids know about our other programming and thankfully had February's craft on a flier already. About half of the new group came to this weeks Karaoke. I couldn't be more thrilled.
So what can I take from this, and reiterate with you?
-Introduce yourself and your programs to every middle and high school student that you see. And make him/her introduce his/herself! Not everyone can make it to a program, but a brief acknolwedgement of a teens present will make him/her feel a lot more comfortable approaching you.
-Make sure all the staff in your library knows what's going on with programming. That big group of students might have walked out of the branch looking for something else to do if it weren't for my lovely coworker who encouraged them to go downstairs. Communicate dude, and not just with fellow librarians.
-Try new things. Even if it was only the 5 initial teens who benefitted, it still would have been a success. Lord knows I can only take so much Guitar Hero. New programs (even 'old' ones like arts and crafts) draw in a new crowd, a different part of the neighborhood. It certaintly is wonderful to have additional patrons to serve, befriend, and collaborate with.