Friday, June 30, 2017

Teen Summer Programs at DC Public Library

This month, with summer now in full gear, we have a guest blog post from Jennifer Thompson, Teen Programs & Partnerships Coordinator at DC Public Library.

Teens come to the library for many reasons. Many of us (me included) have fond memories of using our library as a teen. Granted, I mostly used the library to play poker with my friends, but while I was there, I ended up learning much more than to how to tell when someone is bluffing.

I learned that the librarians and other library staff were great resources for not just book recommendations. They would help me reserve rooms in the library for study groups, they would guide me to online resources when I had homework-related questions, and they would take time out of their busy schedules to chat with me about my day. Today, teens use the library in similar ways. They enjoy checking out books and getting recommendations from our staff, hanging out and chatting with their friends, using our computers, learning about other opportunities in their community, and expressing themselves in the programs we offer to them.

DC Public Library has 26 locations across the District. At all of our branches, we offer multiple opportunities for teens to engage with us during the summer. The library employs youth ages 16-24 from the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. Although these youth are only with us for a 6-week time frame, they learn a lot while they’re here. They assist with our Summer Meals program, work on Capstone projects that allow them to demonstrate what they’ve learned about working at the library, and are key players in promoting our Summer Reading Program.

The library’s Summer Reading Program, which takes place from June 1 through August 31, 2017, is for all ages, but I’m going to focus on the program we offer for teens ages 13-19. Our Teen Summer Reading program is an interest-driven initiative that focuses on out-of-school learning for teens in a variety of ways. There are 4 components to our Teen Summer Reading program – reading, technology, community and art. Participating teens can win sunglasses, a pair of headphones, tickets to a Washington Nationals Game, and raffle entries for a Kindle Fire and MacBook! By giving them an assortment of activities to do during the summer, we validate their interests and passions and show them that the library is more than “just books.” They can learn about our online resources, write poems or songs, participate in community service projects, and attend library programs.

What kind of programs, do you ask? Well, we have a variety of them. And they are all free! Due to our fantastic partnerships with other organizations, teens can create zines, make murals, take improv lessons, create original writing pieces, get educated about environmental issues, play board games and tabletop games, build robot faces, and design circuits.

We also have many programs being offered by our Labs staff! Teens can build and decorate keepsake boxes, customize and build keychains with 3-D printers, sew their own tote bags, learn photo editing basics and video production techniques. 

And last, but certainly not least, teens can enter the Teen Book Review Contest. The top 4 entries will win Google Chromebooks and will have their work published on the DC Public Library website.

I’ve been lucky enough to observe our programming in action, and how it makes a difference in teens’ lives. Both our staff and outside presenters have experience working with teens, so they understand the importance of mentorship and guidance. Before each workshop is offered, they ask themselves “what will the teens taking away from this workshop?” Whether it’s giving them a chance to express themselves, giving them tools for future job readiness, or just the opportunity to learn a new skill, library programming is a fun and free way for teens to spend some of their time in the summer.

But we need your help! Oftentimes, teens don’t know about all of the wonderful things they can do at our libraries. Help us spread the word. Teens will listen to the caring adults in their lives because they trust you. Let them know what we have to offer. Tell them about these opportunities, and encourage them to visit their local library!

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