Do boys belong in the library?
Walking into the library is an uncomfortable and intimidating experience for many boys. They often feel inadequate, out of place, and even unwelcomed. Growing up as a non reader, I hardly ever visited the library. On the few occasions I did, I remember how nervous and uncomfortable I felt. Even with today’s more modern way of thinking, many boys still feel like they just don’t belong. I see that look in their face all the time, as they first walk into our library.
It’s all about your library VISION!
If you really want boys to be involved in the library, you must define and publicize a vision that
includes them! Read this article called, “Redesign Your Library Vision.
” It addresses how to get your administration and staff on board as well as a handful of other great tips.
Create an inviting atmosphere
As soon as a student walks into a library, they make a very important first impression. I go through a lot of work to make the entry area look inviting. Teens are especially opinionated, so set up your library to make a good first impression! To learn more about changing the atmosphere, read this upcoming article – “Extreme Library Makeover.”
Allow Encourage food and drinks
Carpet is overrated and computers are almost indestructible. For almost 4 years now, our library cafe has enticed hundreds of messy teens EVERY SINGLE DAY and we haven’t ever had any major problems, not even one.
It’s natural for most teenagers to leave trash and spill drinks all the time. Don’t get frustrated! Expect it, have a plan, and don’t sweat it. Assign volunteers or student assistant to check the carpets each day. Respect and take care of your custodians. Get their buy-in by explaining the library goals and vision. Thank them often and give them a little treat here and there to say thanks. Paint is the only thing I worry about, and it’s still worth the effort.
Many adults shutter at the thought of food or drinks in the library. Overcoming personal fears, issues, and traditions can go a long way to making the library a good place to be. Allowing food and drinks is a step in the right direction.
Provide comfortable seating
Guys love to be comfortable! When I surveyed students before doing our Extreme Library Makeover, the 2 biggest requests by both girls and boys was food and comfortable seating.
Make the library look cool
If they walk in and see something that they like, a good impression goes a long way. Use student create artwork. Post photographs, and get ideas from students and staff. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
Provide reading materials that boys like
Display tons of non-fiction books and magazines on topics that they like.
Talk with boys and make an effort to get to know them. Ask them a few questions. The more you reach out, the more comfortable they will feel about coming back. Remind them that it is their library, not yours.
Start up a library based program
, Rock the Mic, Free Pancakes, chess, book swap, etc…
Get parents involved
- Encourage parents to bring their sons to the public library
- Teach parents techniques to get their sons stay involved with reading
- Talk with them about their questions, concerns, and ideas
It’s worth the effort
It’s no mystery that it can be a tough job attracting boys into the library, especially teenage boys. Successful library programs are spearheaded by librarians that are committed to the ongoing work needed. Good librarians will take the time and energy to do the things that boys need to feel part of the library. In many occasions, it only takes one committed adult to make a difference in the literary lives of thousands of boys. We may not always see the fruits of our labor, but have faith, because we do make a difference!
Things to Discuss:
What other things that parents can do?
What library programs have you heard of?