The goal of the 210teenlibrary Discord server ("the server") is to provide a virtual library space for teens (ages 13 to 18) in San Antonio that redefines and reimagines how teens interact with their library, pursue their interests and passions, take ownership of their skills and abilities, feel valued and understood, and ultimately create and share their experiences with their peers.
Through the server, Teen Services at the San Antonio Public Library accomplishes this goal by establishing rapport with teens on the server and empowering them to take ownership of and activate the server. As a result, teens participate with their peers on the server by:
Overall, the server constantly shifts and adjusts to the communities of interest established by active teens on the server, most often in the form of new channels. Because there are no physical limitations to the server, teens are able to request channels that speak to their diverse interests/perspectives. Over time, active teens on the server will organically gravitate towards some channels and stray from others, allowing for the server to accurately reflect the interests of current teens on the server.
As teens introduce/explore/discuss these communities of interest, the server organically becomes more inclusive and welcoming by providing ample space for any teen to make new connections with their peers.
Using Discord to provide virtual library services for teens eliminates the barriers of transportation, location, and physical building parameters. Teens – with internet access and a compatible device – can attend library programs or ask questions regardless of their location within the city and without the need to be physically present at a specific library location at a specific time. Teens are also free to organically create and take ownership of the server without the need to compete with other library services/programs within a physical library space or be disrupted by library business hours. The elimination of these three barriers provides the opportunity for teens throughout San Antonio to collaborate, share experiences, and create positive relationships with their peers and the library in unprecedented ways. Additionally, the server allows more Teen Services staff to be available to more teens throughout the city.
The server also provides opportunities for teens to have far more control of how they present themselves to their peers in a library space, including the ability to indicate their pronouns on their account, change their username/nickname to match their identity, and choose an avatar that best represents their identity or interests.
Throughout the server's history, the 210teenlibrary Discord workgroup has examined how a virtual library space for teens resembles and differs from physical library spaces for teens. Although physical library spaces offer a plethora of benefits, virtual library spaces expand on those benefits by providing new and additional ways for teens to engage with their library and their peers.
Some examples of high-level benefit comparisons include:
|Reference Services to Teens||Teens can receive answers to reference questions from location staff, which may or may not be a Teen Services Librarian or Liaison||Teens can receive answers to reference questions from any Teen Services staff on the server, regardless of the teen or the staff member's location in the city|
|Teen Programs||Teens need reliable transportation to attend in-person program and may be limited to visiting library locations in their immediate area; Teens/teen programs are bound by library/building hours, available library spaces, or other activities at the library||Teens with a compatible device and internet access can attend any virtual program remotely without needing transportation or to be at a specific physical location; Teens/teen programs are not bound by library/building hours, available library spaces, or other activities on the server|
|Teen Spaces||Teens may only interact with/meet other teens in their immediate area; Teens take ownership of the physical teen space by hanging out together, attending/hosting their own programs, sharing their artwork, discussing music, etc. - but their physical teen space is bound by library/building hours as well as physical limitations of the building||Teens can interact with other teens throughout the city; Teens take ownership of the virtual teen space by hanging out together, attending/hosting their own programs, sharing their artwork, sharing discussing music, etc. - and their virtual teen space is not necessarily bound by library hours or physical building limitations; Teens can ask for new dedicated spaces to chat about specific topics or display certain content|
|Teen Identities & Interests||Teens are welcome at the library, however they identify||Teens are welcome on the server, however they identify; Teens can also display parts of their identity (such as pronouns) and interests (such as hobbies or games) on their Discord account for others to see, as well as change their nickname/username and avatar accordingly|
The 210teenlibrary Discord workgroup tracks a variety of measurable indicators that illustrate the success of the server. In Fiscal Year 2021 (October 1, 2020 - September 30, 2021):
On October 1, 2020, there were 68* active teens (100 teens total) with 37 text channels / 9 voice channels in 11 categories on the server.
On September 3, 2021, there were 175 active teens (269 teens total) on the server. On this day, the server was pruned** and 73 teens were removed from the server due to inactivity or because they had not accepted the server’s guidelines.
On September 30, 2021, there were 163* active teens (208 teens total) with 79 channels / 15 voice channels in 17 categories on the server.
* Teens are counted as active if they have sent at least one message in a text channel AND/OR spent at least one minute in a voice channel in the previous 3 months.
** In regards to Discord, pruning refers to clearing members who have not been active/logged in to the server during a set amount of time.
Along with these quantitative indicators, the workgroup also records qualitative indicators including teen feedback during programs, screenshots of teen-led activities such as gaming streams, and and other positive teen interactions on the server.
The workgroup continues to identify new measurable indicators to track that will further demonstrate the success of the server.
Before a teen can interact on the server, they must accept the server’s guidelines which provide information on the parameters of the virtual space – as well as what a teen should do if they are uncomfortable with a situation on the server and what may happen to a teen who does not adhere to the guidelines.
There have been no major issues related to bullying, inappropriate content, or other incidents on the server. Due to the deep roots of teen ownership on and respect for the server, teens on the server are, by and large, self-policing and self-sufficient during any potential incidents. As an example, often times a newer teen to the server will ask if something is acceptable to post – and Teen Mods, as well as other teens, will quickly jump in with the correct information (or will ping Teen Services staff for additional assistance). With that said, Teen Services staff and Teen Mods are equipped with procedures to follow in the event of disruptive incidents on the server.
Teen volunteers were essential to the creation of the server in its initial stages and continue to play important decision-making roles on the server. After teen volunteers selected Discord as the best platform to provide virtual library services to teens, the first program to occur on the server was a Dungeons & Dragons campaign led by a teen volunteer (who was volunteering in-person before the pandemic). With the intention of giving this teen volunteer more responsibility and control on the server, not only during the program but also throughout the week, a new role - “Teen Mod” - was created for the server.
As the server grew and new channels/programs were added, it was apparent that more Teen Mods were needed. The Teen Mod role quickly became an opportunity to provide teen volunteers (both new and old) with different avenues to strengthen their leadership and decision-making skills – and in a more flexible format than traditional volunteering. Teen Mods earn volunteer hours by helping moderate the server, hosting virtual teen programs, recommending / adding new server features, assisting and engaging in conversations with teens on the server, and overall contributing to the safe and positive environment on the server. Teen Mods also share various server permissions with Teen Services staff (such as adding new channels or bots) and meet regularly with Teen Services staff.
Throughout the first few months of the server's creation, the workgroup noticed that Teen Mods were more successful in their role when they were already active on the server prior to becoming a Teen Mod (as opposed to assigning any teen volunteer to the Teen Mod role). Thus, the workgroup decided that new Teen Mods would be selected through a nomination process. Teen Services staff and current Teen Mods now periodically nominate new teens to potentially become a Teen Mod based on their observations of that teen's interactions and contributions to the server through text / voice channels. Teens who are interested in becoming a Teen Mod are encouraged to participate in multiple text / voice channels and clubs across the server, regularly read server content, and meaningfully respond to others’ posts.
Additionally, teens can also earn volunteer hours as a Club Assistant. Club Assistants are not Teen Mods and do not share server permissions with Teen Services staff; instead, Club Assistants are selected by their high level of leadership in a particular club on the server. Teens who coach others, help the club run smoothly, answer questions and encourage others to attend are more likely to be asked to serve as a Club Assistant. A teen who receives a Teen Mod nomination may also choose to become a Club Assistant instead.
More information about teen volunteers at the San Antonio Public Library is available here.
All Teen Services staff on the server are required to use their @sanantonio.gov email account to create a Discord account to use on the server. Teen Services staff use their first name (or variation of their first name) on the server, along with an appropriate avatar, and are only active on the server during normal library hours and for special programs or events. Although there is no set schedule for staff to be online aside from weekly programs, at least one Teen Services staff is usually available during normal library hours.
In order to ensure that the server remains a space with an authentic teen voice, teen-to-teen interactions take precedence on the server. In general, teens seem to enjoy that the server is teen-focused and that Teen Services staff do not have an overpowering presence. Of course, Teen Services staff will occasionally comment on ongoing conversations or start new conversations as appropriate, and certainly will respond when needed (as indicated by a teen pinging a staff member) or when a library-specific question is asked.
As a general guideline, Teen Services staff are able to go back and catch up on missed messages sent in a channel, but are discouraged from reviving those older conversations unless absolutely necessary.
If you have further questions, please contact Jennifer Velasquez (Coordinator of Teen Services for the San Antonio Public Library) at email@example.com or Matthew Loaiza (210teenlibrary Discord Lead / Assistant Manager for the Teen Library @ Central) at firstname.lastname@example.org.