Teen volunteer corps helps run the library

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by Magen Kritsch, courtesy of Daily Journal

Greenwood Public Library (IN) has started a Teen Library Corps. For the past year, the teens have been doing tasks around the library that have plugged them into coming to the library, which makes sure it is offering programs teens will want to participate in, teen librarian Jessica Smith said.

About 20 teens help clean the library, set up new exhibits and help guide what classes and curriculum the library will offer for teens.  They shelve books and dress up as the Easter bunny for community festivals.

And librarians hope that the teens will help outreach to the community, will help them show that the library is for more than checking out books and will give the teens leadership and social skills they can use when they are adults, she said.

“We want to create leaders; that is the real reason,” Smith said.

The program started about a year ago, when librarians decided to revamp the teen room. A panel of teens had already been in place for years. That panel was revamped into the Teen Volunteer Corps, she said.

Teens meet once a month to discuss what they want to do and what the teen room could offer their peers. Each meeting garners around 100 ideas that the teens want to do. Librarians help them pare down their list.

The volunteer corps is behind ballroom dancing classes and self defense classes. It was also the volunteer corps’ idea to change how a video game tournament was scored, which helped attendance at that teen event, Smith said.

“We kind of get into the teens’ minds,” she said.

The teens are also expected to be at all of the teen events at the library, they help with festivals and public events the library hosts and they help with other more mundane tasks, such as cleaning shelves and setting up exhibits, Smith said.  “They are a huge help, especially when we need volunteers and things we just do not have enough hands for,” she said.

Teens also enjoy pitching in and guiding where the teen programming of the library goes, said Kayley Moore, a senior homeschool student in Greenwood.  “I really wanted to help out my community,” she said.

Teens also write reviews of books and those reviews are then put out into the public using the library’s Twitter, Smith said.

The largest part of having the volunteers is helping the teens get skills they can use outside the library. The No. 1 goal is to allow a place where students can have camaraderie and learn the skills they need, she said.  “We really want them to know that the library is a place where they can come and hang out with their friends,” Smith said.