When I started working at my current position, I inherited a fairly active teen advisory board (TAB). One of my very first solo tasks at this library was to run a meeting with my TAB. Having taught both junior high school and high school students, I knew how to work with teens in a classroom setting, but I wasn't sure what would work well in a library setting. However, I have learned a few things along the way about keeping a TAB meeting productive.
- Have an agenda. I always, always have an agenda printed out, which I hand to each teen. This way they know what to expect from the meeting, how long I expect each discussion topic or item to last, and how many things we need to do. We don't always stick exactly to the agenda, but it does exist.
- Allow for chatting. I give my teens ten minutes at the beginning of the meeting to chat (and eat) before we start the business of the day. The teens need a chance to catch up with each other, and acknowledging that by allowing them to chat will help to keep their focus on the business at hand later on.
- When brainstorming, accept all ideas (even if you don't plan to use them). My teens have come up with all manner of goofy ideas, but I have found that if I allow them to brainstorm, I do eventually get some good ideas from them. For example, we were tasked with decorating a window downtown for the holidays. After we got past a snow camel, a book burning scene, a summer parade, and a host of other silly things, someone finally suggested a scene involving favorite book characters all geared up for winter and reading. I wrote down every single idea, even the ones I knew I wouldn't use. This helped the teens to open up and actually share ideas so that we ended up with a dozen or more suggestions instead of only two or three.
- Set time limits. On my agenda I give estimates of how long an item will take. I then set a limit and allow the teens to discuss whatever it is for only that set amount of time. In the above brainstorm, I gave the teens ten minutes to discuss. When the ten minutes were up, I thanked them and we moved on to the next item. Otherwise you will spend the entire time on your first item and never get anywhere.
- Give out responsibilities. Are there things you can let your teens take ownership of in the library? I allow the teens, for a few minutes of our meeting, to redecorate our chalkboard in the teen area and to set different books out on display. This helps them to feel ownership over the teen area in the library (and sometimes causes them to check out more books, too!).
- Leave time for fun. I find sometimes that we don't have much to discuss at our meeting. When that happens, I bring a board game for the teens to try. One time I brought a plastic wrap ball and we went around the room unwrapping it and keeping whatever emerged when it was our turn. Having fun makes you more approachable and helps the teens to know that the library should be a fun place, too.
The teens at my library look forward to our TAB meetings because they are given a say in what we do at the library and they get to have fun. Any way you look at it, having a TAB meeting brings teens into the library, which is a win for everyone.