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Teen Services Web

A professional development guide for Teen Librarians, Teen Liaisons, and anyone else fortunate enough to work with Teens in the Library.

Teen Participation Matrix for Libraries

The Teen Participation Matrix for Libraries serves as a guide to assist with the cultivation of teen participation in the development and implementation of programming for themselves and their peers. This matrix moves the focus of teen participation from a passive approach to an active approach, and incorporates concepts on how to formulate goals around this envisioned future as well as how to measure successes.

The following is a recorded presentation by Jennifer Velasquez (Coordinator of Teen Services) that details the Teen Participation Matrix for Libraries; key concepts are also included below. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Jennifer.

Key Concepts

Roles of Teens: From Passive to Active

  • CAPTIVES: Teens are forced to attend a library activity/service (e.g. class field-trip to the library, library presentation in classroom). Teens do not have a choice about participating. Quality of participation may be very low.
  • PROPS: Presence of teens is used to create the impression of teen participation or buy-in (e.g. teens are used in a photo-op at a press conference about a teen related library service/event/initiative). Their presence is used to indicate the desired target group for the initiative and to suggest what Dr. Anthony Bernier refers to a “youth-inoculation” of the initiative.
  • ATTENDEES: Teens passively attend an activity/event. Their role is passive observer while a program is presented to them (e.g. teens are the audience at a presentation). Attendance may be chronically low in this scenario which may cause librarians to assume that teens do not want teen programming—but we have to remember that teens vote with their feet and do not need to attend programs that do not fit their needs or interests.
  • ADVISORS: Teens suggest library activities and services with librarians serving as evaluators of suggestions, decision-makers, and implementers of activities and services. Teens as advisors create the illusion of participation (Teen Advisory Boards are included here). Teens are consulted but do not play a role in ultimate decision-making and implementation of library services and activities. When we treat teens as advisors, we ask the wrong questions—and place teens back in the role as attendees (at programs they suggest).
  • *PARTNERS: Teens actively assist library staff in selecting and implementing predetermined, librarian-developed and directed activities (e.g. assisting with teen or children’s program, serving as a volunteer). Teens as partners may begin to play a decision-making role by making choices about which librarian-developed activity they will engage in but they are not yet suggesting or developing programming for themselves and their peers. With staff vigilance, intervention, and encouragement, teens that are partners can transition to higher levels on the matrix.
  • **LEADERS: Teens plan, develop, and implement library activities for themselves and their peers. Teens play decision-making roles in programming, space, and collections. Teens take ownership of their library and determine their library experience.
    • When teens serve as leaders, library staff serve as facilitators to foster the realization of teen ownership and ideas. This reimagining of roles in teen programming, for example, can be difficult to do—especially for creative staff members because generating programming ideas may be an enjoyable part of the job.
    • Also, this user-based leadership role in programming further distinguishes teen programming from programming intended for older children (AKA tweens). Developmentally, teens are able to play decision-making roles and have the capacity to take on programming responsibilities—to be creators and implementers—to craft their library experience.
  • ADVOCATES: The very point of the arrow represents a role that teens take on outside of the library organization. At this level, teens take on an advocacy role for the library through the formation of an independent group such as a TEEN FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY. Such efforts take place without library staff or adult intervention.