I do apologize for the silence around here, but it’s been an interesting year for me. In previous years, I’ve held one big event most months (say, 8/12), then had an anime & TAB meeting on two different Saturdays, and occasionally had a weekly hang-out or game night.
But back in spring of 2014, when we were already thinking about the fall (summer obviously already planned), I knew that I just could *not* deal with Smash Bros for two hours every week any longer. (BWAH BAH NAH NAAAAAAH! NAH NAH NAH NAH NAAAAH! I was starting to hear the theme in my sleep), so I decided that although we’d continue to have weekly events (they would be here anyways, now that I’d trained them to come each & every Thursday), we would do different stuff every week.
It… has made for an interesting year, and a very different approach to my programming than I’ve done previously. Why?
– My crew is mostly guys right now, and has been since the fall. I don’t really know why – the events I plan aren’t particularly gender-specific (we watched TFIOS with 15 guys and 3 girls). So while most other libraries tell me their teen events are populated by middle school girls, I now not only get primarily high schoolers, but guys as well. I don’t understand why – there’s no secret that I’m aware of.
– The guys, and even the girls who do come, do not want to do crafts. They’ll all make t-shirts and do coloring sheets, but not crafts. My craft closet is suspiciously full.
– I’ve had to seriously re-think how I spend money on programs. Whereas in the past I’ve spent a decent amount of money on that one big event and next-to-nothing for a weekly hangout (to be fair, I have a VERY generous budget [Thanks, Supportive Director & Board!], but I have to make sure I now have enough money to get food and the occasional craft and prize for the 10-40 teens who attend every week. I know, it’s a fabulous problem to have, but still. More teens = more food (and more cups/bowls – those things add up!), more supplies, and just more ‘stuff.’ My teens are hungry, and also bored, and Thursdays at Main is sometimes the only time they get to hang out together. They expect it to be fun, each and every week.
And you better believe they let me know when it isn’t.
Fascinatingly, besides (usually) remembering that the first Thursday is Game Night (for which we purchased a shiny new Wii U and Smash Bros, thanks for our Friends), they never have ANY IDEA WHAT THE EVENT IS. They take SO MANY flyers, but they just don’t know. Sometimes I have teens who come for that specific event, but the core group of 10-15? Nope. No idea. They just know that it’s Thursday, and so they’re here. Usually right after school – and we can’t get into the room (due to computer classes) until at least 4:30. So it’s noisy from about 3-4:30 down in Teen Central, then we finally take the noise upstairs to our meeting room until about 7:30. There are frequent trips to and from Teen Central for books and to the Circle K down the street, but yeah. Lots of teens here on Thursdays. I’m always reminded of the scene from High Fidelity: “They just started showing up every day. That was four years ago.”
So what have we done? Some examples:
– Monthly game nights, featuring the occasional tournament. We’ll be bringing back Minecraft in the fall once a quarter.
– Movie nights, sometimes with a featured food item (we made sundaes in January to watch Frozen, PF Chang-type lettuce wraps for Chinese New Year while we watched BOTH Kung Fu Panda movies, and made cotton candy [like the clouds?] when we watched & cried through TFIOS), and always with coloring sheets.
– Movie Premiere Parties: Maze Runner featured ‘Maze Races’, wherein I printed increasingly difficult mazes and the first to finish each one got a big Airhead (they LOVE those things!); Insurgent featured watching Divergent while they drew tattoos on each other and made t-shirts.
– Some featured events, like the annual Love Stinks Chocolate Fest and the Nightmare on Mahoning Ave, our Halloween party, still went as usual. I just made sure to schedule more less-expensive events (such as movie nights) during those months to save a bit of money. We also hosted the Ultimate Teen Challenge and threw a SuperWhoLock Party, both of which I’ll write about later, that were pricier than some of the others.
– We had a really excellent Retro Game Night, where I had the teens play old Sega games on our PS2, dragged out my husband’s old Dreamcast so they could play the original Soul Calibur and Crazy Taxi, and got out a few laptops and loaded up Oregon Trail (spoiler alert: most of them HAVE NOT EVEN HEARD OF THIS. I highly recommend this! And yes, they all died, much to their confusion, of dysentery.) I’m definitely doing this again.
– We hosted a few nights where the teens shared favorite Youtube videos, to varying success. They all might watch videos, but they watch very DIFFERENT videos, and when they were watching something they didn’t like, they were incredibly vocal about it. You had better believe that we had lots of conversations about rudeness, respect, and overall decency.
What I’ve found, even more than in past years, is that these teens cannot just watch a movie. They can’t just sit and do a craft. All of the programs have needed to be multidimensional, whether it’s the TV cart in the corner with some games available, a variety of board games and card games (Munchkin has been a big hit with my teens) for them to play during the movie or Youtube videos or whatever, and they need the freedom to talk and enjoy each other’s company. They still want something to be happening, but they are also perfectly comfortable sitting in the corner with a few friends seemingly ignoring what’s going on. It’s an interesting need, but I’m glad I can provide it.
Oh, and an outlet. Which is probably why they’re in the corner, but yeah. They have to have a place to plug in that phone.
Click here for the quarterly flyers of our weekly events so far!