Teen Advisory Groups (TAGs), also known as Teen Advisory Boards (TABs), can be a real benefit to teens in your community, and also to your library.
What are TAGs?
TAGs are groups designed to energize teen programming and services, allow teens a greater voice at the library, and add to overall library improvement. They show teens that they’re important and that they can contribute in a meaningful way; they also address developmental needs of teens. In addition, they help give librarians the important teen perspective. You can:
- Get valuable ideas for teen programming and collections from your TAG
- Have your TAG members volunteer in the library doing all sorts of useful and creative tasks
- Discuss YA books with teens and have them write up recommendations for their peers
- Have fun and make teens feel comfortable in your library
What a TAG looks like is really up to you. Ages are often start at 12, 13 or 14 and are capped at 18, and you can start with just a few interested teens. With those first participants, select a regular meeting time, such as the first Tuesday of every month from 4:00 to 5:00. One or two staff should supervise, but you do not need a YA librarian or even a youth services librarian to have a TAG!
How do I attract TAG members?
- Talk with the teens that already frequent your library; they’re probably your best bet for starting up the group
- Ask teens who are interested to talk it up to their friends; peer-to-peer advertising is one of the best marketing tools for teens
- Put up a poster or make an appealing display in your teen area and put flyers at the circulation and reference desks
- Contact your local high school; ask teachers and school librarians to pass out flyers and ask to speak at an assembly
- Ask to put flyers in teen traffic areas, such as stores and restaurants popular with teens
- Contact organizations like churches, Boy and Girls Scouts, YMCAs, and homeschooling groups and tell them about your TAG; ask them to spread the word
- Write an article for your library’s newsletter and post it also on your website, Facebook page, and other online media your library has
- Advertise the TAG on computer screen savers
- Invite teens and older children who signed up for last summer’s Summer Reading Program
- Send press releases to your local paper
- In all of these methods, let teens know that being an active TAG member will look great on college and job applications; if they’re especially active, offer to be a reference or write a letter of recommendation for an application
What does a TAG meeting look like?
- As meeting facilitator, agree on ground rules upfront with the teens’ input. Let teens discuss what’s on their minds and listen to them. Guide them when necessary.
- Have an agenda, but be flexible to give teens time to explore areas away from the topics at hand. Agenda items may include selecting graphic novels for the collection, planning a teen program on blogging, decorating the library for a holiday, discussing their favorite books, etc.
- Have something tactile and fun to do (and useful to the library), like preparing craft materials for an upcoming children’s program, putting together a puzzle, stuffing and labeling envelopes for a big mailing, designing bookmarks, etc.
- Have food available, if at all possible! It doesn’t have to be expensive. To borrow a great idea from Mesa Public Library in Los Alamos, New Mexico, cook ramen noodles in a crockpot—it’s cheap, easy, and teens love it! Or, have snacks available for a small fee, or invite teens to bring in food to share—this could be snacks or a whole potluck meal. For a treat, ask a local pizza place to donate pizzas a few times a year.
- Ask the teens for agenda and discussion items.
- Be prepared for participants to come to meetings irregularly or late and be flexible.
- Play music in the background from your collection.
- Once or twice a year, do something fun with the group to let them know that you and the library appreciate their time and ideas. Take them on a field trip, throw a pizza party, hold a costume party on Halloween, etc. Write an article for the local paper, your website, and your newsletter about the great work they’ve done.
What can TAG members do in between meetings?
- Keep in touch with members via email, a blog, a Facebook page, Twitter, and/or texting. Suggest the TAG set up a blog or Facebook page for themselves!
- Ask members to volunteer in the library between meetings. Ask what they’re interested in helping with, but also feel free to assign them tasks. Be creative with what they can do. Just a few ideas: they can tutor, decorate the library, shelve books, make or update a blog or Facebook page, teach classes to other teens, help with children’s craft programs, read to younger children, help with book sales, make flyers, help with mailings, help plan and lead summer reading activities, lead book discussions, choose YA books and music to purchase, create library podcasts and vidcasts, conduct a local history project, create booklists, raise money for the TAG or a charity, plan a talent show or other special program for all ages, etc.
- Encourage them simply to come to the library—and bring their friends!
TAG resources for more info
- Teen Advisory Boards: Challenges, Benefits and Opportunities from WebJunction (PDF)
- Teen Advisory Groups: A list of print and digital resources for anyone interested in forming and sustaining a teen advisory group, also from WebJunction
- “Successful Teen Advisory Groups” article from VOYA
- Starting a Teen Advisory Group and Further Teen Advisory Group DOs and DON’Ts from the YA Library UK blog
- Library Teen Advisory Groups by Diane P. Tuccillo, VOYA Books, 2005.
- Teen-Centered Library Service: Putting Youth Participation into Practice by Diane P. Tuccillo, Libraries Unlimited, 2009.
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