The Evolution of a Tween Librarian

Christina Keasler started a new job with no official title or description. After conducting focused outreach and listening to community feedback, she found her calling serving middle schoolers in the public library.
I am the middle school librarian for the Glen Ellyn (IL) Public Library. But that wasn’t always the case. When I first started, I didn’t even have a job description. The position was previously labeled as an outreach librarian, but I was hired specifically to serve middle school students. I inherited two regular programs and a mission to wow these kids. Soon after I started visiting schools, my title was quickly changed to tween librarian. It was a step in the right direction, though not without its own challenges. The socially accepted definition of “tween” can vary. Webster says tweens are 11- and 12-year-olds. The ever-credible Urban Dictionary claims nine through 14. When you say “tween,” most people seem to intuitively understand what that means. But when advertising programs to my community, the lines started to get a little blurry.Word Cloud Our tweens were initially defined as children in sixth through eighth grade. We had included grade requirements when advertising programs, but still had parents of nine- and 10-year-olds wanting to join. They explained that their kids were technically tweens by their own social definition—and it’s hard to argue with that. I decided to embrace the expanded concept of "tween," offering programs for kids anywhere between fourth through eighth grades. I would split the programs up a little, sometimes offering specific times for grades four and five, other times offering activities for fourth through seventh graders, and hosting special programs just for eighth graders. Unfortunately, I wound up with a full class of fourth graders, with a random sixth grader thrown in the mix. The seventh and eighth graders disappeared completely to the high school room. I had lost them. We were getting complaints, and the whole idea of tween service started to evolve again. This time, we went back to sixth through eighth grade and went through a marketing rebirth. I became truly “official.” I now had a job description, and my title was changed to middle school librarian. Ladies and gentlemen, I had arrived. Our library is filled with middle schoolers. After our recent renovation, we have a designated middle school space that kids rush to after school. They feel ownership of their space and are excited to return to the library. We offer up to seven programs for middle schoolers per quarter, with a good turnout for each one. Fourth and fifth graders don’t get to use the special middle school space, but they have something to look forward to and a welcoming party as soon as they graduate elementary school. Overall, things are pretty great. By being flexible, trying several methods, and ultimately listening closely to feedback from our users, we were able to nimbly adapt to the needs of our community. While things seem to be working wonderfully by focusing squarely on the sixth-to-eighth grade range, we’re always keeping an ear to the ground and thinking about ways to improve service. Do you have a dedicated space for tweens or middle schoolers in your library? Are you thinking of creating one? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Brenda

If one of your local middle schools were 5th-8th, but others weren't, would you modify your "middle school" position to cover 5th-8th? I'm worried that if I target 5-8th, it's too broad a segment and that many 8th graders will turn away.

Posted : Apr 07, 2016 12:58

Christina

I probably would have to include the fifth graders in my"jurisdiction", but I may segment my programs in to more specific age groups to keep the 8th graders interested. There was talk of having an 8th grade VIP area in our middle school room. We didn't end up doing it, but if we had 5-8th, we may have considered it more.

Posted : Apr 07, 2016 12:58


Melanie

This sounds incredible, I would love to do this. We don't have this at our library but I would so love to start this up, you sound like you are having a wonderful time! Congrats!

Posted : Mar 24, 2016 12:46


elly swartz

All of these curious readers are so lucky to have you. Your passion, dedication, love of reading and commitment to these kids is transparent, authentic and beyond wonderful. Thanks for all you do!

Posted : Mar 22, 2016 08:12

Christina

Wow! That's so kind of you, thanks! I'm sure you're doing great things as well!

Posted : Mar 22, 2016 08:12


Alice

Starting a Tween Scene Group for our Library! Our First Meeting our our Tween Scene Advisory Board is March 28, 2016! I have 4 girls and one boy on the committee. Not sure what our plan is, but I want the kids to tell me what activities they want! We have a teen program and the tweens want to attend those but the Teens don't want the Tweens at their events. I hope we can find a balance and get a nice group together. For me I consider a Tween 8-13.

Posted : Mar 17, 2016 01:43

Christina

You might find yourself polarizing with programming for that big of an age group. You're on the right track with your committee. Good luck!

Posted : Mar 17, 2016 01:43


Leyla Meza

Love your article, thank you for the advice. Keep up the great work!!

Posted : Mar 17, 2016 12:58


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