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 programs/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 210teenlibrary Discord 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) in San Antonio. In May 2020, the first virtual program - Dungeons & Dragons, 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.
Since its inception, teens have been the driving force of the server - and Teen Services staff make it a priority to provide opportunities for teens to be empowered and take ownership of the server. Teens freely suggest and recommend new ideas while providing feedback on existing features, and more often than not, these discussions take place in public channels which allows other teens to provide their thoughts as well. Teen volunteers are essential to the server, especially those that serve as moderators ("Teen Mods"), as they take on a leadership role among their peers by encouraging positive and safe interactions between teens, facilitating clubs and other virtual events, answering questions when staff are unavailable, and more.
As the reality of in-person library services shifts and changes, the quantitative performance measures along with qualitative information tracked by the 210teenlibrary Discord workgroup clearly indicate that virtual library services resonate with and meet the needs of digital teens in San Antonio - and Teen Services at the San Antonio Public Library is excited to continue offering this as a service to teens.