The last 5 months have been nothing if not challenging! Looking back, I almost feel the same emotion I felt after completing the hiking trail in this picture – amazement that I’ve succeeded as well as I have. There have been highs and lows. I was prompted to think about what success really means in my job (Teen Librarian at a very urban library) after a program that was a clear failure. Not one teen attended – for a duct tape program! What did I do wrong? Well, the answer is probably nothing. I did all of the usual publicity for any of our library programs, plus I contacted school librarians and teachers directly to promote it. But it was mid-term exam week. Plus I know that some of my regulars had other commitments. I don’t think my program itself was a bad idea. The timing was wrong. I will be re-evaluating the scheduling of programs over the next couple of months, though I can’t really change any Spring programs because the schedule through May has already been published.
Program attendance is one of the most obvious measures of success for a library’s teen services. By that measure, my teen services are a complete flop. Attendance has been down for several months. As I thought about it, I realized that I actually feel like I have been successful in my job over the last several months. But how could I measure that success? Let me stress that I am not talking about official metrics here, but evaluating on a personal level what I have actually achieved.
It didn’t take me long to try to put my own stamp on our Teen Services. I quickly decided I wanted to bring a pop-up Maker Space to the library. I also wanted to increase STEM programming. I was excited to try out my new ideas. So what worked? First, I was able to take an idea from a session at the Virginia Library Association’s annual conference and create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” scavenger hunt for Teen Read Week. The scavenger hunt was probably my most successful program, both in numbers and enthusiasm. Plus it was successfully used by two of the library system’s other branches. I’ve now been asked to create another hunt for the system’s Big Read in March.
Another major accomplishment is a revamping of the Teen Homework Help section on our website. It had been sadly neglected, partially because it required a little knowledge of HTML and websites to properly keep it up. Thank goodness for that Web Design course last Spring! Feedback is that the Homework Help is now helpful. Other projects and ideas I’ve had may not have been particularly successful at my library branch, but have been adopted and used by other branches with much more success. I’ve gotten the teen New Book section set up properly, with stickers and cataloging! (So important to a librarian!) The result is that New Books are getting the attention they deserve because they return to the New Book shelf after being checked out. So circulation of those is up. And my displays have been pretty successful, too, as measured by how often I have to refill them. One even made it on to the local TV news during Banned Books Week.
So maybe my program attendance is sad, but my work has had a positive impact in other ways. In the new year I do need to look at ways to improve teen participation. I may need to change the day and time of the programs. Just because it used to work doesn’t mean it still does. I’ve got some other ideas for building neighborhood partnerships that may help. And it may just be cyclical. The Summer Reading Program is not far off and will be a great time to try to build teen involvement, maybe even to attract new teens. We’ll see. In the mean time I’ll focus on the fact that I have won over some of the teens who were concerned and skeptical about the new Teen Librarian, and that while I may not be directly reaching teens at my branch, I am having a positive impact on Teen Services throughout the entire system.
How do you measure success?