Making School Libraries Work for Teenagers

Posted by Colleen Byrd on 8/13/2019

In the Marshall Memo, a weekly round-up of ideas and research in K-12 education, a Texas librarian asks, “What will make the teens who walk into your library keep coming back?” Above and beyond the basics of creating an attractive space, curating a first-rate collection, and hosting engaging and relevant programs, here are Karen Jensen's suggestions:

  • Young adolescents must find something they need, want, or value. If they don’t find something of interest, they’re not coming back – and since there’s a wide range of interests in any student population, there must be a variety of things to do: books, information, programs, access to the Internet, and a safe space to be social.
  • Teens must feel valued and respected by the library and its staff. “By staff, I mean allstaff,” says Jensen, remembering a colleague who hated young adolescents and made a point of giving them the “stink eye” when they arrived. “From the moment they walk through the door to the moment they leave, teens need to be treated well,” says Jensen. “Everything done behind the scenes is undone and every dollar invested is wasted if we aren’t providing good customer service.”
  • Teens must have an overall positive experience. They are likely to remember and share negative experiences, including on social media. “The only control we have is to do our parts to make sure our young patrons have positive experiences,” Jensen concludes. “It takes knowledge, passion, and dedication to make all this happen.” 

“Keep Them Coming Back for More” by Karen Jensen in School Library Journal, August 2019 (Vol. 65, #7, p. 18), no e-link available

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