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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.

Server History

With the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teen Services at the San Antonio Public Library immediately understood that it would be crucial to identify a way to continue offering a space for teens (ages 13 to 18) to gather safely. During the first few weeks of location closures in March/April 2020, Teen Services staff met virtually with teen volunteers to check in with them as well as to have conversations about the best way to provide virtual library services to teens during the pandemic. 

Teen volunteers immediately pointed to Discord as the solution. Although Teen Services considered a variety of platforms for virtual activities/spaces, Discord was ultimately chosen not only because of direct teen feedback but also for its ability to provide a persistent space, much like a physical teen space at a library (more information about this is available in the overview section of this LibGuide).

In April 2020, the 210teenlibrary Discord Server (“the server”) was created by the Virtual Teen Services* workgroup (comprised of Teen Services Librarians and Liaisons at the San Antonio Public Library) with the intention of establishing a safe, engaging, and inclusive virtual library space for teens (ages 13 to 18) that could provide virtual activities during the pandemic. In May 2020, the first virtual activity - a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, led by a teen volunteer on the server - was held; and by June 2020, the server was fully activated in conjunction with the start of Teen Summer 2020.

Through the rest of 2020 and the start of 2021, the server adapted to meet the needs of teens on the server. Teens asked for established server guidelines, and the opportunity for teens to serve as volunteers in leadership roles quickly emerged as a way to further demonstrate the server's teen-led environment. They began hosting their own activities on the server, including pop-up activities (such as gaming and music streams) and developed activities (such as their own Dungeons & Dragons campaigns). Teens also requested a space for suggesting new server features and held discussions about the best ways to implement those suggestions.

"This server is basically like our before school, lunch period, and after school times we used to have." - Teen on the server, January 2021

With the start of Teen Summer 2021, it quickly became clear that teens were using the server not only to participate in virtual activities, but more importantly, as a much-needed space to safely interact with other teens while many of them remained at home. As most teens returned to in-person classes with the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the server's usage by teens continued to change. There was a further shift from the server's original purpose of being a place to host virtual library activities for teens; instead, the server became—at its core—a virtual place for teens to connect with each other, discuss shared interests, find new music, play games together, collaborate on artwork, ask for advice, and more.

The server continues to embody the tenets of Teen Services at the San Antonio Public Library by offering a place where teen participation and teen ownership thrive. Teens remain the driving force of the server, with Teen Services staff serving as facilitators when needed. Teen volunteers - including Teen Mods (moderators of the server), Club Assistants (leads for specific clubs), and Artists in Residence (artists for various initiatives) - are essential to the server, as their leadership roles allow them to encourage positive and safe interactions between teens, facilitate clubs and other virtual events, answer questions when staff are unavailable, and more.

Whether teens use the server to meet new friends, stream their favorite songs, share their latest poem, ask for help, or play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, the server ultimately exists as a virtual library space for teens where they are welcomed, included, respected, valued, and supported.

*The workgroup was formally called the 210teenlibrary Discord workgroup. In November 2023, the workgroup rebranded to more accurately reflect the mission and vision of providing virtual library services for teens, regardless of platform.