I love the idea of TAGs (Teen Advisory Groups) for libraries. I love the sense of empowerment and ownership that it fosters in teens and how a group of “trouble” patrons can turn into a library’s most treasured assets. I love the idea of building collections and programs around the needs and wants of the users- and actually asking them what they would like to see in the library.
The trouble is, we have very few teens at my branch. Our new YA librarian is working to bring more attention to the YA collection and has started doing her own monthly TAG meetings, as well as monthly Teen Tech sessions. So far the attendance has been pretty small. But these things take time.
What I do have is a good number of tweens- children between the ages of 9(ish) and 12(ish). I use “ish” because the definition of a tween seems to keep changing. When 8-year-olds begin dying their hair and wearing stiletto heels, I’d say their edging out of childhood and into tween territory. Regardless of my personal feelings about growing up too early, the bottom line is- we are seeing increasing numbers of children who want to be treated as teenagers and want library programs that reflect their interests. Of course, they aren’t teens. And some of the subject matter, books, and music that often accompany teen events may be a little too sophisticated for these kids.
So what’s a librarian to do? While trying to figure out the answer to this very question, I remembered something wise one of my library school professors told us over and over: “ASK THE TEENS!” (This particular library class was on public library services for teens.) His point was that librarians could do all the brainstorming about teen services they wanted but no idea they could conceive would be as telling and helpful as simply asking the teens themselves.
Thus, my plan is to ASK THE TWEENS! and my first step is to set up a TAG for tweens. Since tweens may not be as assertive as teens or as articulate in discussing what they want from the library, I’m trying to come up with some basic outlines for the meetings. I’d like to do some ice breakers, have snacks (of course), and maybe suggest a team project to get them inspired and invested.
If you’ve had any experience with setting up a tween advisory group, or something like it, I’d love to hear about it.