Starting Over Again

Sometimes we have to start over building a teen program/section/following because we’ve moved to a new library, but just as often there’s a regular rebuilding to be done as kids age out or, in the current case, maybe kids aged out and aged in but you weren’t there to pull them in. Or they’re just starting to feel comfortable coming with COVID.

When we closed in 2020, I had a solid group of middle schoolers with a few high schoolers coming to programs. Very few programs got no people and all my program ideas with only a few exceptions were coming directly from my Advisory Board kids, which I had a solid group of regulars, including some younger kids who were likely to stay for a long time. I have a hard time retaining kids once they’re into high school but I had a few dedicated kids.

By the time we restarted in person programming last summer, my high schoolers had graduated and many of my old middle schoolers had moved to high school and left the library behind. The only online programming I’d had success with was a weekly D&D, some of whom were new since March 2020 and some I’d retained (some I still lost over the course of COVID). While my programs for summer did all right and I pulled in some of my new younger kids, once the school year started, most of those kids vanished. With things so up and down, I was hesitant to restart Advisory Board when I couldn’t feed them (which had always brought semi-reluctant kids in who often turned to regulars).

Finally, this spring, I restarted Advisory Board and got two of my old guard and one new kid but it was awkward. They didn’t want to talk and the easy chatting of before was gone. So I asked them what would make it more fun and we rebranded it as The Teen Creativity Cafe where they would still be suggesting programs to me, but besides food, I’d also offer assorted leftover easy crafts, writing prompts (we have a strong group of writers right now) and basic board games for them to do while we chatted. The first TCC filled! And while I didn’t get a lot of good advice, the same kids have signed up for May and I hope I can start some dialogue going.

I also had the first real successful program since school started (that’s not D&D) last week where I got 5 kids (and 2 drop ins I was able to accommodate) to Peeps Slime. Those kids were really excited about our upcoming May programs.

Of course, I keep wondering: am I picking terrible program ideas? Are they just so busy with everything restarting? Where am I going wrong?

I think it’s a bit of all of the above (I hope my programs aren’t too terrible but maybe they’re just not hitting the right interests right now!). I had my kids ask for a sewing program and I’m doing a basic embroidery/stitch craft this week and no kids have signed up. It’s not that it’s terrible idea. It’s that that might not be the kind of sewing they want. Or maybe they’re just busy after school. Or somehow I’m not reaching them correctly.

I can only hope that I’ll start to see more consistent numbers soon. I know it’ll come. I’ve done it before and I’ll probably have to do it again. Don’t despair. Just keep trying. At some point, things will hit!

6 responses to “Starting Over Again”

  1. Casey this is exactly what I’ve struggled with since we returned to school after distance learning and the restrictions of COVID! I’m a high school teacher librarian and this has been a discouraging year for our once thriving teen book club. All the programming I’ve done that was well received and brought in crowds in the past didn’t connect with the students. When they do attend, they don’t talk comfortably and hardly even discuss books and reading. Some say they’ve stopped reading completely. If nothing else, I guess it’s good to know we’re not alone in finding a new path to teen services after COVID. Thanks for this post!


    • I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with the same thing, Bethany! But it will get better! I think there’s so much going on that rebuilding this time might just be slower! Good luck 🙂 – Casey


  2. I feel this so much! I had a SOLID group of 8 kids graduate out of my TAB in 2019. I also had a handful of 8th graders I was looking forward to building my relationship with but by the time in-person programming had resumed they had all moved on to other things. I have almost no attendance at my programs but I keep telling myself that these kids went from being stuck at home to resuming all of their other activities in the blink of an eye. They still shoot me a message from time to time, but now I’ve accepted I need to focus on finding some new kids for the program!


    • Oh yeah that’s rough! I feel that too. I have very few repeats from before. Those kids who are coming (except my D&D) are all new since we restarted in person programming. You’ve got this! -Casey


  3. I’m experiencing the same thing and it has me completely unnerved. My programs used to be popular and now I feel like I’ve lost my knack. But I think an important component is that kids are also having a difficult time of getting the hang of socializing again. I love hearing about the Creativity Cafe. It gives me hope and inspiration. Thank you!


    • Unnerved is a great word for the feeling! I couldn’t understand what in the world was going on for a long time but I think it is a lot of the socialization thing and just doing things in person and restarting everything at once so trying to find balance! Best of luck!! -Casey


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