Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Gregory Taylor. Gregory is a school librarian and former English teacher at Hillside Junior High School in Boise, Idaho. He’s loves Disneyland, Shakespeare plays, and talking to kids (and grown-ups) about YA Lit. You can follow Gregory on Twitter @bookhouseboy and on his YouTube channel, The Bookhouse.
I love being a junior high librarian. Our library is filled to capacity – in the morning before school, during our mid-morning break, and every lunch period — with kids reading, typing, playing games, finishing homework, and just hanging out.
But for every kid I see weekly, or even daily, I know there are at least a couple others who never walk through our door unless a teacher has scheduled their class for research or some other library activity. I want those kids in the library, too. I want them ALL!
I know if I can get a student to voluntarily walk in the door – for any reason – it will create a traffic pattern that will happen more easily the next time. We “trick” kids into visiting the library in all sorts of wily ways, hoping that once they walk in, we can convince them to stay… and come back again.
The Fun Room:
Our library has a small side room that used to contain dusty, seldom-used teacher materials and a huge, awkward table. We transformed the room into a student-friendly space that houses our audio books, graphic novels, manga, Guinness books, DVDs, games, and how-to-draw books. It now has a smaller table (but still big enough for jigsaw puzzles, card games, and chess face-offs), and some comfy second-hand chairs and couches. We christened it The Fun Room. We now have kids who race in to occupy the Fun Room every day – before school, during mid-morning break, and at lunch.
Contests, Games, Activities:
One of our favorites is Guess-How-Many. We fill a large jar with seasonal candy and students fill out a slip to guess how many pieces are in the jar. We usually have the jar out for a week, and during those few days I see faces I rarely see in the library. It’s a chance for me to say hi, learn their names, invite them back.
We also have holiday-themed puzzles, coloring sheets, and scavenger hunts. At Christmas time we cut snowflakes at lunch. During Teen Read Week in the fall and Read Across America week in the spring we have dress-up days like Tie-Dye Tuesday, Cat-in-the-Hat day (wear a cool hat), or Freedom Friday (wear red, white, and blue). Kids can get a treat or a prize (like a bookmark or a piece of candy) for dressing up, but only if they come to the library to show us their outfit – and maybe get their picture taken!
World Wide Wednesdays:
Starting this year, we’ve been playing a YouTube video every Wednesday during the mid-morning break. We might show a song, or a science experiment, or a vlog post (and every once in a while we sneak in a book trailer or something about an author). This has pulled a completely different crowd into the library at Break, and because we don’t start the video right away, these new library users have a few minutes to hang out and see our regulars doing all the different things that go on in a thriving library. Break is our busiest time of the whole day, and now Wednesdays are busiest of all.
Sometimes it’s a Lit Lunch, where we advertise a title several weeks in advance and then host a pizza lunch and book discussion. We close the library during Lit Lunches; only the kids who read the book and sign up in advance get invitations.
Sometimes it’s a meeting of the Library League – our club for kids who love the library – and everyone is invited in for library news, give-aways, the unveiling of our newest book arrivals, and cookies!
And sometimes it’s an actual author appearance. Kenneth Oppel’s visit earlier this fall for an assembly and Lit Lunch was one of our most popular events ever.
These are just a few of our sneaky strategies for tempting teens into the library. Once we start brainstorming, it’s not hard to come up with new ideas that don’t require a ton of time or money. We know if we can get them in the door, they just might stick around. And keep coming back, all their lives.
Thank you Gregory for sharing such creative ways to lure, I mean, bring kids into the library.