The Who, What, Where, When Why and How of Managing a Teen Advisory Board

RoseMary Honnold

Who should be on a TAB, Who should manage it?
Teens (ages 12-19) that are already in the library, congregating after school or hanging around during the summer to read, use the internet, do homework, or checkout music or comics. Teens that are active in their school libraries. Teens who need volunteer credit to graduate. Teens who need to find a group to belong to.
Some libraries choose a board that meets regularly for a defined period of time, others have casual groups that any interested teen can attend whenever a meeting is needed.
The number of teens depends on how many you can work with comfortably, but keep in mind that every teen will not attend every meeting. For example, I have had up to 25 teens active in a year, but the meetings usually have between 9 and 16 teens in attendance.
You do not have to have a YA librarian to start a teen board! Our board was organized by 4 of us on staff that were interested in starting some teen programming. The interest generated by the TAB and the programs that resulted evolved into a need for YA librarian who now manages the group (that would be me!)

What do you do with a room of teens at a TAB meeting?
Volunteer projects: wrap gifts, cut out materials for children’s crafts, assemble booklets, fold newsletters, sign up to help at children’s programs, help set up book sales, decorate for children’s parties, assemble SRP handouts, serve refreshments or usher at adult programs.
Develop the teen collection and teen space: Choose music CDs, comics, magazines, books, help weed paperbacks, straighten and read shelves, make displays and decorate bulletin boards, decorate for holidays.
Plan Teen programs: Brainstorm ideas on flip charts. Sign up to help set up, clean up, publicize, provide refreshments, and props. Involve them in the planning and implementing of all the teen programming to give them ownership. Community involvement: Decorate a library Christmas Tree for a community festival, read for Radio Storytimes sponsored by the library.
Create a publication: Create newsletter or bookmarks with annotations or book reviews, original drawings or writings, favorite websites, news of upcoming programs.
Promote librarianship: Invite guest speakers from the staff to tell what they do at the library. Play library games, take a tour of the behind the scenes.
Discuss books and movies!

Where do you find out about other TABs?
Join a List Serv: Teen Advisory Groups - Advisory Discussion (TAGAD-L) A Discussion forum for the advisors of any public library teen advisory group. Send an email to to join.
Search the internet: Type in “library teen advisory boards” at or your favorite search engine to see what other libraries are doing.
Talk to other YA librarians!

When is the best time for a meeting?
Try an hour or so after school, but before dinner, sports practices and homework begins; the last Monday of each month, 4-5 p.m. works well for our library. Saturdays or even Sundays may work better in your area. When scheduling evening programs for teens, keep in mind ballgames, music competitions, and practices. Special programs are usually on Thursday nights in Coshocton during the school year. Teens who are overly committed to other activities may not be your most active TAB members!

Why do you need a TAB?
TABs give teens great opportunities for building the 40 Developmental Assets!
Teens are the BEST resource for finding out what your library can do for them. Don’t waste time producing a program YOU think is a great idea but find out teens won’t come to it! Let them help you plan and produce the program.
Teens can get a lot of busy work done in a short amount of time and free up staff time.
Teens are our future financial supporters. Give them some lasting memories of good library experiences and they will be there for us in the future. Teens need to be heard and will become your friends and allies if you listen to them.

How do I get started?
Put up a poster in your Teen area, make flyers for the checkout desk, send an announcement to be read at the schools, place applications in teen traffic areas, talk to the teens in your library. Write an article for the newsletter.
Try an interest survey in your Teen area if you need feedback to begin.
Send meeting reminder post cards each month to your board members; include a topic or event that will be covered at the meeting.
Make an agenda of items that need to be covered before each meeting, allowing for discussion, visiting, and brainstorming. If your teens are from several different schools, this is a good thing, and you need to allow opportunity for them to visit with each other and get to know each other so they can work together.
Ask the teens if they want officers. Our group opted to take turns each month. A sign up sheet goes around a couple times each year to volunteer to lead the meeting, take the minutes, or give a book talk. Other groups prefer a more formal meeting. Let the teens decide what works for them.

Resources to help you with your TAB:

The Search Institute. Forty Developmental Assets

Tuccillo, Diane P. 2005. Library Teen Advisory Groups. Lanham, MD:Scarecrow Press VOYA Books.

YALSA.TAGS - Teen Advisory Group Site: helping teens make their mark on libraries

©2012, 2001 RoseMary Honnold.

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