Giving Tweens Ownership in Space and Programs

Creating a sanctuary away from school expectations

June 26, 2016

Lisa Kropp of Lindenhurst (N.Y.) Memorial Library delivers a presentation on how to serve tweens in the library.

On Saturday, Lisa Kropp of Lindenhurst (N.Y.) Memorial Library delivered a presentation on how to serve tweens in the library.

She began by asking her audience, a room full of youth librarians, how they defined “tween.” Many replied that their tweens were between ages 8–12, and Kropp further explained that many libraries had teen sections that ranged from ages 7 to as high as 13. “It’s hard if you are in a rule-driven place where policy and procedure is black and white,” she said. Especially since defining what it means to be a tween is more of a gray area.

Kropp then introduced a video called Being Twelve in which 12-year-olds shared their challenges, pressures, and fears.  Kropp used this to illustrate how kids feel pressure from everywhere and said that the library can be a sanctuary away from school expectations and the Common Core. “Giving them a little bit of independence is a good thing,” Kropp said.

This led to a discussion about tweens needing their own space. Kropp explained that a space for tweens gives them a sense of ownership and creates opportunities for socialization. However, she admitted that some cons of a tween space included confusing organization and the possibility of programs being spread too thin. She warned her audience not to segregate readers but that, instead, librarians should “create a spot that is a mix and a range at the same time.” She said, “If you create even a small space and your kids find it, they will use it.”

It’s important to remember that tweens really do have ownership of the space that librarians create. Kropp said, “You’re going to lug out the furniture the way you want it, and the second you have two kids up there they’re going to move it, and that’s got to be okay.”

Kropp ended with suggested programming for tweens, which ranged from STEM challenges to crafts to Legos to laser tag.  Whatever the program, she stressed, “If you have programs that are not the norm, that’s going to be golden.”