I’m excited that this post is a part of Kelly, Sophie & Liz‘s excellent project Show Me the Awesome: 30 days of self-promotion. Dedicating 30 days to spreading the good word on how library people are doing awesome things, you can read many inspiring posts by searching twitter, Tumblr and blogs for #30awesome. Check out Kelly and Sophie‘s intro posts for more info.
When I landed my job as Children’s and Youth Librarian, part of my brief was to place a particular emphasis on engaging teens. Historically our library service hadn’t kicked too many goals in this area, but we’re not alone in that. It’s not always the case, but teens can be a tough demographic to get into libraries and using library services. However, I’m stoked to report I have finally had a break-through! Introducing…
My libraries’ Manga + Anime Group, or MAG as we affectionately call it, is a common interest group for 12-17 year olds. It’s free to ‘join’ the group; you don’t have to be a library member, and you come whenever you can. The group is for young people who are into manga, anime, and comics. I admit it’s not an original concept, but starting MAG in our library was my brainchild and I am proud of the idea. We meet fortnightly at our central branch for 1.5 hours, but people often stay an extra half hour til the library closes (yeah!). At MAG, teens:
- hang out
- draw (and, oh. Whoa. They can draw!)
- watch anime
- make craft
- listen to their music (apparently mine is “weird”)
- play and make stuff with apps
- check out Facebook, deviantART, and Tumblr,
- and a couple play Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.
It is group-driven and firmly motivated by my “give the people what they want; it’s their library” philosophy. Every week I tell the group “this is your group, so you call the shots, we can do whatever you want (chuckle, snicker), within reason”. So when they asked for a Tea Party, we had one. They all bought some food – some even baked – and I provided fancy teas, tablecloths, brownies and flowers. Occasionally we have special events as requested by the group. For National Youth Week we screened anime and ate pizza. When they asked to hangout more online, I made a MAG Facebook page; a couple of keen teens are page admins like me, but I also moderate. We also created a teen-powered MAG Tumblr. The group have log-in details and some submit drafts which I moderate and publish. One group member kindly tweaked the Tumblr code and another is working on custom banners for Facebook and Tumblr. I love that they feel/know these online spaces are theirs, just like they ‘own’ the library during MAG. Did I mention these guys often come to MAG in partial cosplay and Lolita?! Awesome.
Each meeting I pin up large sheets of paper with questions and topics to plan events as a group, encourage idea sharing and to pick their brains. Questions have included: More people would come to this library if… And, How can we awesome-ize our MAG Facebook page? Last week a group member penned the question: If you could be best friends with a manga/anime character, who would it be? I also lay out a large table with pencils, markers, paper, card, origami stuff, discarded manga to cut, collage or take home. There’s also books about how-to-draw manga and comics, and post-its for ideas. The guys commandeer a stereo and make use of the PCs I reserve for them. I feel I should mention, there is no budget for MAG. When I want something (like tea bags, popcorn or origami paper) I clear it with my supervisor and we get it from the whole library promotion budget.
Since conception seven months ago, the numbers have grown from ten, to twelve, and now a constant sixteen. I’m super stoked with those numbers. Almost everyone is a library member and a few have joined the library since attending MAG. Three young people even travel from the neighbouring LGA i.e. a different library service. And the loans! Most of them borrow heaps of manga, anime and some comics, and some also borrow youth fiction. Compared with the same period last year, since MAG has begun, graphic novel loans at our central branch are up 28%. Also, by observation only (because we haven’t yet catalogued titles to differentiate them from other DVD/Blu-ray loans), I know our anime loans are way up too. It’s not all about the numbers – not ever – but I need to justify my programs, budgets, and my time. These figures definitely help.
It’s hard to get teens into my library, but once a fortnight they own it. They fill it with creativity, laughter and K-Pop. (That’s Korean Pop; don’t worry I had to look it up it too.) I’m proud of my little group and what we’ve achieved. So when you say “Show Me the Awesome!” I’ll show you MAG.