Monday, February 17, 2014

Program FAIL. Now What?

One of the hardest parts of working with teens is coming to terms with failure.  Teens are fickle creatures and failing is familiar territory for anyone working with this age group. There are certainly ways to mitigate missteps but make no mistake; you will fail at times. And that's okay.

Some of the most valuable lessons you can teach your teens is adaptation and perseverance. Failure of a program or project is not necessarily a reflection on you.

Be flexible!
Adaptation is the name of the game when you work with teens. Willingness to scrap a program mid-execution can mean the difference between lukewarm reception and rave reviews. Similarly, planning programs over a wide range of subjects, styles and times can lead to program attendance you may have only dreamed about. I recommend trying a new program once a month. If your teens don't embrace it then move it to the back of your "Program Ideas List" and try it again in a year. Remember that working with teens means that you get a new "crop" every few years - your new teens may love a program that your current teens found 'meh'.

If you're looking for program inspiration Pinterest is your best friend. CAUTION: Pinterest can also be an enormous time-suck so make sure that you stay focused on what it is you are actually looking for! Many a librarian has lost hours at a time to the sweet siren call of pinning. But in all seriousness, there are tons of ideas on Pinterest and they tend to come with helpful pictures. Another source for ideas is YALSA's listserv (I highly recommend subscription) as well as individual YA Librarian's blogs. (There's a list of recommended blogs under the Resources tab.)

Keep on trying!
Programming is a tricky beast; a program that is wildly successful one month may flop horribly the next time you schedule it. Don't be discouraged if/when this happens. I often give a program two or three attempts before abandoning it completely. Teens don't always have control of their schedules and transportation and, frankly, attending a library program is low on the totem pole of school, sports, church and family obligations. It's hard not to feel personally attacked when something you've worked so hard on fails to have the expected outcome. But uneven attendance and program popularity are sometimes part of life when your working with teens. Often the teens that I am personally closest to, who I've promoted to and who have expressed excitement about a program are the ones who forget to attend. Keeping teens' attention is difficult, no matter how wonderful your presence, programming and library.

As I mentioned earlier, I often will give a program two or three attempts before dismissing the idea. And I might give it another shot in a year or two when I've got a different group of teens! One of the bittersweet aspects of YA Librarianship is that your teens move on and a new group of teens comes into play. Remember to try different programs with your teens.

So what was your biggest flop? What do you think you could do next time?