Thursdays at Main: A different take on programming…

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the guys

*crickets*

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!

[edit] As of March 2016, we’ve reverted back to a weekly game night with one monthly special event. Why?
1. In the fall, our attendance exploded and we have 30-50 kids each week, no matter the event. This, in turn, made the special events (especially the fandom events) much less special for those teens who came because they love Supernatural – most of the teens in room were just there to hang out with their friends, not to enjoy the special things I’d planned. There’s nothing worse than doing trivia that you’ve spent a good chunk of time preparing for a room filled with kids who have no idea what you’re talking about.

2. It was becoming exhausting, coming up with new stuff each week. And since we have SO MANY kids each week now (I am fully aware that none of you feel any sympathy towards this), I couldn’t do some of the more special stuff, since it’d get too expensive to do a $3 craft with 50 kids. And frankly, I MISSED doing big special events; finding the perfect craft or game.

3. No one ever watched the movie for movie nights, which kind of defeats the purpose.

4. All they want to do is play the consoles. It didn’t matter what the event was; every single week, without fail, they’d ask, ‘Is the Wii U going to be up there?’ I’d blink at them incredulously and say, ‘No. It’s a movie night. Why would the Wii U be on if we’re watching a movie on the screen?!?’

So now we’re back to Game Nights. We purchased an XBox 360 and a variety of games, and we have three consoles going plus board & card games for two hours. It’s worked pretty well so far – everyone seems happy to either play the games or just hang out. Happy teens, much less stressed out teen librarians = happier teen services.

3 thoughts on “Thursdays at Main: A different take on programming…

  1. Polly

    I also run a weekly teen program with rotating games and activities that draws in mostly boys. I am impressed that you have time to plan them in advance in order to put them on a flyer. I am always scrambling for next week’s activity. The teens know to show up on Tuesdays and they know they’ll be in for a surprise.

    How did you license Maze Runner? My library has a site license with Movie Licensing USA and Maze Runner is not covered. If there is another option for licensing, I would love to know about it. Thanks.

    • Our Maze Runner event was back in September 2014 for the movie premiere, so we obviously couldn’t watch it.

      I have a rough idea of what we’re going to do at least six months ahead of time, based on annual events and what the teens want to do, so that makes it easier to plan. We have to have our events for each quarter turned in ahead of time (ie, Sept-Nov 2015 is due mid-July), so I figure I might as well figure it out. It helps for budgeting as well – I know that the other stuff in February needs to be cheap since the annual Love Stinks Chocolate Fest is generally quite expensive.

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