Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Starting a Kids Advisory Board

My branch library has had a thriving Teen Advisory Board for years. I think our group is perennially successful for multiple reasons: it provides teens an outlet for socialization; it recognizes that kids from different schools, clubs, and cliques may have something larger in common; and it allows teens a chance to carve out a meaningful space in their community. TAB is great.

So, of course, I wanted one for my kids.

This spring, I advertised a new Kids Advisory Board program for children between the ages of 10 and 12 (they have specifically asked that I not call them "tweens," a word they dislike) and put out some flyers with the mention of snacks in hopes of drawing some attention. I also personally invited many of the pre-teens I see in the library often.

I know that any new type of program is going to take some time to gain attendees, so I wasn't unhappy with the turnout at our inaugural meeting earlier this month. There were three pre-teens seated around the table with me, and they were definitely excited to be the "founding members" of the Kids Advisory Board. They were so excited and chatty, in fact, that I didn't need to break out the icebreaker game I had planned; instead, they all bonded over the fact that they all have retainers.

Retainers! Gosh, I love my job.

After we got to know one another, I spent a few minutes talking about what KAB meetings would look like before getting into the meat of the meeting. Our KAB members engaged in three library topics during this meeting, a format which will continue in the future:
  1. Programming -- I was frank about wanting the KAB members' opinions about programs; what they like, what they want to see, themes they would enjoy. As a direct result of their advice and enthusiasm, I'm going to work on securing a live animal presenter as well as offering a Percy Jackson program over the summer.
  2. Service -- I want kids to be actively involved in the library so that they feel they have pride and ownership in the space and what happens in it. During this first meeting, we talked about what service projects might look like. Next month the KAB members will help create a matching game for our summer reading kick-off party, and after that we'll look at projects to support our early literacy programs.
  3. Reading -- These kids are voracious readers, and they love to talk about what they're reading. Since I was surrounded by such enthusiastic readers, I mentioned my Newbery position and that I would love to hear what they think about any 2013 books they read. I was amazed at how thrilled these kids were at the prospect of helping me understand how kids are responding to books.

As we finished up talking about reading and book discussion, the tornado sirens went off, which meant everyone in the library joined us in the room where we were having our meeting. Thus ended our first Kids Advisory Board meeting. I look forward to seeing how conversations, motivations, and friendships develop over the coming months as we continue to meet; I hope that our founding members keep participating and bring other library-loving friends into the mix. Mostly, I hope that these kids will feel like the library is a place specifically for them, where they can be themselves and be a part of something, perhaps for the first time, that doesn't involve their moms or dads. I'll keep you posted.


  1. I LOLed at the common bond of retainers!!

  2. I've been thinking about doing something similar. I just need to find a time that works for that age group. But I think they would love it!

  3. Kids at the library are very dependable. Actually, their parents really appreciate finding screen-free activities. Personally, I am having a blast playing marble games (Ringer, Knuckle Box, Picking Plums...) with kids at the library. I would like to see this program spread to other libraries. Rich Maxwell,


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