North State Libraries’ Teen Advisory Board
By Sue Ralston
Put It On The Tab
By Sue Ralston
Photos by Jeannine Hendrickson
If you were to wander into the Redding library on a Tuesday evening, you might find a group of enthusiastic teenagers in the youth area, laughing, planning an event, perhaps leaning over a computer together.
They’re members of the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), a group of kids ages 13-18 who meet weekly to plan events, suggest programming and perform community service at the library. A key mission of the TAB is to allow teens a say in what’s happening there. “I try to mentor them instead of running it like a classroom,” says Amanda Allpress, the youth services librarian who oversees the group. “They decide what activities we’re going to be working on and suggest programming and events.”
While the origin of TAB was a book discussion group started by then-children’s librarian Cheryl Cruse back in 2000 at the old library, the group now does far more. Last summer, the kids organized a wildly successful Comic-Con event to celebrate the contribution that comics make to culture, with more than 400 people attending. The TAB set up a book display table depicting diversity in comics, hoping to get people talking about the role non-traditional comic heroes play.
TAB members also make book recommendations to their peers by writing brief personal reflections on books they’ve read, creating handouts that are available at the reference desk.
The teens not only plan their own activities, but help with events for the younger kids and have designed buttons for library staff to wear during Banned Books Week. Allpress notes with appreciation that the kids in the group bring diverse interests and viewpoints, but always treat each other with respect. “It’s really inspiringto work with teens who care so much about their community. They’re all into very different things and have different beliefs about current hot topics such as politics, but they’re always positive in their conversations with each other.”
Anna Tracy, head of the youth services department, says specialized teen programming is one way libraries across the nation are remaining relevant for teens. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between traditional and digital literacy,” she says. “Digital literacy is now a requirement to be successful in school and in the workplace.” Minecraft, a popular computer game, helps teach engineering and math skills. “When technologies like that emerge, we build up our book collection, so they can go into our non-fiction sections and learn more. People forget that libraries aren’t archives; we keep up with what’s current,” she says.
The Redding library has a 3D printer and will soon have a second one. The Teen Creation Stations offer software and equipment so kids can learn how to print 3D models or jewelry. They can also use art, animation and music software. Video cameras, a green screen and movie editing software further expand their skills. Many of the TAB members go early to meetings just to use the technology.
Ethan Cruse, a freshman at U-Prep and son of founder Cheryl Cruse, has been involved for two years and loves having a group of peers outside of school who he can talk to about anything. “Being part of this helps us get involved with the community and also get community service credits,” he says. He’s particularly interested in the technology the library offers, using the 3D printer to make figurines.
The TAB will soon be participating in the Book-to-Action program. Federal funding is granted to library groups who choose a book that is read collectively, then programming is planned around it, culminating in a community service project related to the book’s topic. Book-to-Action provides a way to collaborate with local organizations, expands the role of libraries and enhances civic engagement. Allpress says the Redding TAB talked about homelessness, drug abuse and other societal problems.
The Anderson Branch of the library is just getting its own TAB started, encouraged by a student who wanted to take part in the TAB, but couldn’t make it to Redding. The Anderson group wants to make Teen Tech Talk – where library patrons can bring in their smart phones, iPads or other devices and get help from the tech-savvy teens – a signature of their group. They also hope to organize a murder mystery party and other literary events.
Membership in both branches of the TAB is open to those who are interested, or as Allpress says, “If they want to be here, I want them here.” Applications can be found on the library’s website.
Redding TAB meets each Tuesday evening at the Redding Library.
For more information: (530) 245-7253
Anderson TAB meets on the third Wednesday of each month.
Anderson Branch, 3200 W. Center St., Anderson
For more information: (530) 365-7685