February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Expanding Program Participation | Fresh Paint

Loudon County Public Library recently concluded the 8th annual Teen Film Competition which drew in 29 film submissions and over 50 attendees to the concluding Film Festival and awards ceremony. Gum Spring Library, a branch of the LCPL, hosted the film festival, but the program was open to all teen residents of the country. Yes, you read that right—the country. Opening up our Teen Film Competition and It’s All Write short story contest to teens across the United States was an easy decision to make, but one that required attention and dedication. It just took a bit of planning.

Teens at PCsThe Loudoun Youth Initiative was conceived in 2005 when the county’s Board of Supervisors recognized that the needs of the area teenagers were not being met. Overnight, services to teen residents became an objective of many departments—especially the library’s. Having long supported teens through literature and programs, library administration was enthusiastic about finding new ways to support them. An opportunity to do just that came in 2006 when the Rust Library closed for renovations. Part of the redesign included the 4,000 square foot A.V. Symington Teen Center, a space designed by teens, with the explicit goal of serving teens. This goal was fulfilled by hiring three full-time dedicated teen services librarians and three part-time library aides, and in July 2009, the county’s teens had a library space all their own. Within that same time frame, each of the other six branches restructured their personnel to include a part-time teen services librarian, and some even repurposed floor and wall space with lights and comfy chairs to entice young patrons to relax and spend time in the branch. Finally, in 2013 the Gum Spring Library opened which added another 3,000 square feet of enclosed teen library space.

It was only after the hiring of the dedicated teen services staff that expanding library programs to accept and encourage nationwide participation was born. Linda Holtslander, division manager for programming, said of the shift, “At a [teen librarians] meeting I asked ‘Should we let everyone participate in It’s All Write?’ and it was a resounding ‘yes!’. We didn’t care where they came from; we simply wanted to celebrate teens who write.” She continued, “The neatest thing about this contest—people say no one reads anymore—but here are 200 people who are writing things they know people will read. That they want people to read.”

Since 2009 we have had 53 out-of-Loudoun teens submit stories for It’s All Write, and one submit to our Film Competition. With submission numbers for those programs averaging 184 and 22 respectively, those non-resident numbers are encouraging. At the heart of these programs is the opportunity to celebrate creativity.

Red Carpt to Film FestivalIn planning for the 2014 Film Competition, we are already devising ways we can utilize our technology to teach teens filmmaking skills, such as screenwriting and sound editing. We are in talks with professionals in the area who are interested in leading workshops on attaining better sound quality with an iPhone. A recent donation from the King-White Family Foundation of 10 Air Macs and a portable charging station, we are hoping to host film-editing workshops at each of the eight branches. These workshops will teach the teens to elevate something from its most basic level to something transformed, or something new. A true artist—be it a painter, author, or filmmaker—knows that no work of art is ever complete; it can always be improved upon or modified to fit a different theme or idea. This same theory can be applied to teens in nearly everything they create, and we should be working with them throughout that creative process.

In addition to offering the teens a creative outlet and the use of advanced technology, we offer them interactions with industry professionals. For It’s All Write, we host a series of author-led workshops on genre-, fiction- , and short story-writing, and writing prompt sessions to get their creative juices flowing. These programs are well-attended and appreciated. (In fact, when adult patrons saw how much attention was being given to the teen writing contest, they demanded their own, and Write On was born this past summer.)

Every librarian and library programmer knows that support from the staff goes a long way in making a program successful. After each branch employed a teen services librarian, LCPL was able to move forward with offering large-scale programs to teens nationwide. Each branch serves teen users in its own way, and we all come together to host large events a few times a year. We are as dedicated now as we were in 2006 and 2009, and we eagerly await upcoming programs, as we anticipate more opportunities to work with teens to develop their creativity and technical skills.

Fresh Paint traces the development of teen services for a new public library in an underserved community.













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April Layne Shroeder About April Layne Shroeder

April Layne Shroeder is a Teen Services Librarian in a Northern Virginia public library system, and loves it! One of her favorite job duties is reading/being knowledgeable about YA literature, and discussing/recommending it to young people (and open-minded adults).

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