Colleen Zertler is the teen librarian at the Menomonie Public Library. She doesn't brag enough, but she has a terrific teen advisory board, a host of excellent and well-attended programs for teens, and some wonderful, smart ideas about connecting with them and developing meaningful relationships. Get some great tips about working with teens by reading her responses!
What is your best source for coming up with programs for teens?
Teens! They are my number 1 go-to. I will also look into Pinterest or check out other libraries' web sites to see what they are doing. I also love to bring people in from the community so when I'm talking to someone and find out they have a cool hobby I ask if they are willing to share. My latest find came from a young 6th grade boy who is into graffiti art; when I mentioned I have been looking for someone for quite a while to do a program for me he told me all about "Dan the bartender" a graffiti artist that he met at a wedding reception. I contacted the center where the reception was held and now have contact info. for "Dan the bartender"!
Do you have any tips for developing a rapport with teens?
Have fun with them. Don't be afraid to jump into the programs with them even if you know you will look like a fool. Yes, I've belly danced with the teens.
What are some of the most successful books you have read with your mother/daughter book club?
The one book that generated the most insightful conversation was Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner, Emily Buder and Sarah Buder. We heard about a lot things that we didn't know were going on in the schools, on the bus, etc. One of the most fun was The Card Turner by Louis Sachar. We had someone from a bridge club come in and teach us the game.
As a self-professed non-technology person, you have done a lot of great stuff with technology and teens. Tell us about an especially successful tech program, and tell us: How do you pull it off when you don’t already have the tech skills yourself?
Probably the favorite was Geek Out! A program where we had multiple geeky things going on: Scratch animation, SAM animation, Light photogray, and duct tape wallets. As far as pulling it off I never let myself believe that I will become some techie guru, it's just not in the genes. I firmly believe that you only need to know the basics of any techie program, let the kids learn for themselves. We are too quick to just give them the answer, this way I can honestly tell them that "I don't know" and they should play around until they figure it out.
When you aren’t at work, what do you love to do?
Read, walk my dog, and run my kids to all corners of the earth!
If you had an unlimited budget, what’s the first thing you would do at the library?
Have a teen room with sound proof walls, they love to be noisy.