Supportive relationships are a key factor in the success of youth programs.1 Your choice of facilitator for your program affects not just the activities you can develop and the outcomes you achieve, but also the sense of shared purpose that teens feel when participating. Looking beyond library staff for other possible facilitators or leaders is part of building pathways for learning.
Library staff are the most obvious choice to facilitate a program, and there are many reasons why they are often the best choice as well. Library staff, particularly youth librarians, are the most familiar with the teens that visit the library, and often form the long-term, supportive relationships with them that are important to a program’s (and a teen’s) success.1 Youth librarians are also the best equipped to work with adolescents, who have different cognitive needs and abilities than adults (see the Youth Development module). Don’t feel held back because you are not an expert at the topic you are considering. Co-learning with an adult can be just as valuable as being mentored by an expert (see the Mentoring module for more on this).
Expert mentors with a standing relationship with the library can also develop long-term relationships — either with many teens, or just one or two. Artist-in-residence arrangements are another way to bring experts into the library for more than just a single event or program. See the Mentoring module for more.
Experts who aren’t mentors can help library staff with specialized activities, either on a one-time or regular basis. These experts are often found through community partnerships and may not have the skills to work with youth, particularly teenagers. A youth librarian’s skills can be very useful to supplement the expert’s instruction.
Teens and filmmakers worked together to create these short films.
Multnomah County Library
Jenniver Velasquez describes teen participation in programming on a spectrum from “captives” to “advocates, leaders, and partners.”2 If this a new concept for your library, your teens may not be ready or willing to jump straight into designing and leading a program. Having teens lead or even develop programs is not just valuable to them, but also for the participants.3
Giving Control to Youth Facilitators
Multnomah County Library
You do want the students to be the ones that are in charge of it, but it works better when you can have multiple mentors that can be there so when the students do get stuck, they have someone they can ask.
— Youth Services Specialist at a rural western library
Program Design Activity: Facilitators
Who will facilitate the program?
1: Museums and Libraries Engaging America’s Youth: Final Report of a Study of IMLS Youth Programs, 1998-2003, by Judy Koke and Lynn Dierking. IMLS, 2007.
2: Teen Programming Development: Making It About the Teens from Start to Finish, by Jennifer Velasquez. YALSA, 2016.
3: “Hennepin County Library’s Teen Tech Squad: Youth Leadership and Technology Free-for-All,” by Cynthia Matthias and Christy Mulligan. Young Adult Library Services 2010(Winter), p. 13–16.