Virtual Teen Volunteers

Since 2020, our library system’s Teen Volunteer League program has been virtual and I’ve had the good fortune of being TVL program manager since the switch to virtual occurred. The core planning team consists of two other teen librarians (my TVL Dream Team) and our lovely program sponsor. In the past, TVL was an in-person program where teens could apply to volunteer at their home branch over the summer with their primary duties being Summer Reading sign-ups and handing out Summer Reading prizes. Branches decided how many teen volunteers they wanted to take on and what the teen volunteers would work on.

Now teens meet on Zoom for 10 weeks over the summer. Each meeting is 1.5 hours, twice a week. That’s 30 hours of community service if no meetings are missed! We open TVL applications mid-May and have room for 30-35 teens between the ages of 14 and 18.

Teen Volunteer League is a robust program. Last summer, the Zoom meetings looked like this:

  • Two integrated book clubs
  • Library resources training
  • Weekly segments where teens shared what they were reading, watching, and listening to
  • Four job skills trainings
  • Nine library staff guests from across the system
  • Ten Passion Projects where teens presented on things they were passionate about (writing, photography, theater, and more)
  • Six Culture Shares (my favorite!) where teens presented on different aspects of their cultures
  • Two literary agent Q&A sessions
  • Two book editor Q&A sessions
  • Four author/illustrator Q&A sessions (we had a budget to pay these folks)
  • Five Q&A sessions with local community members
  • Lots of check-ins
  • Lots of games and brain-breaks

Outside of the Zoom meetings, teen volunteers participate on a closed TVL Discord server to connect with each other and library staff asynchronously. This is where the friendships and connections truly get a chance to blossom. They also use Discord to share their assignments and tasks. Teen volunteers may create booklists, book talks, book reviews, content for our Teen Instagram, and more. They also used this space to share memes, music, videos, ask each other for homework help, vent about anything and everything, ask for job interview tips, and share bits of their lives with each other.

Each year, teen volunteers worked together on a Big Project throughout the course of the program. In 2020, teens created a website. In 2021, teens interviewed local workers for a Career Interviews series.

Teen voice and input is a huge part of our philosophy, so we incorporated a program called TVL Youth Advisors to help with this. In TVL YA, we invite Teen Council members and previous TVL participants to meet with staff for six weeks over the spring to help us plan and shape summer TVL. We use these meetings to run our ideas by the teens and to gather ideas from them.

Summer 2022 will be the third virtual year for TVL and planning is currently underway. TVL YA starts up later this month and we’re hoping they supply us with ALL THE IDEAS!

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