5 Ways to Draw Teens to Your Library

Mar 12, 2019 | Articles

If your library struggles to engage the teenagers in your community, you’re not alone. In fact, many libraries have told us that this can be the most difficult demographic to reach. It can seem like a daunting task to get teens interested in what your library has to offer, especially since their days seem packed with school, work, sports, and other priorities. But you might be surprised to learn that approximately 14 million middle and high school students are completely on their own after school. What better time to draw teens into your library?

Teen outreach takes work, but the time and effort will undoubtedly be worth it for both your library and the teens in your community. Your library will benefit from developing the next generation of lifelong library supporters, and teens will benefit from having a safe place to spend their time after school. Read on for five ways to help your library be more successful in its strategy for engaging teens.

1.   Create a Teen Advisory Group

The best way to ensure that your programming is of interest to teens is to go straight to your target audience for feedback. A great way to do this is to create an advisory group with 13-to-18-year-old volunteers from your local community. Your partners in local schools may be able to suggest specific students who would be a good fit for this group, and you’d do well to also post invitations to participate at places that teens frequent, like coffee shops, YMCAs, or other local gathering spaces.

Once you form your group, host regular meetings — biweekly or monthly should do the trick — where you offer free snacks and lead discussions around why teens are currently using the library (or not). Ask advisory board members what drew them to the library to get a feel for what they like about what you currently offer, and also invite them to share what they’d like to see your library offer in the future. Remember to continue to check in regularly to ensure that teens’ needs and interests continue to be met by your library — sometimes a few small tweaks can make a big difference for your engagement efforts!

2.   Offer a Diverse Lineup of Programs

After gathering feedback from teens, you can begin to refine/expand your teen offerings. Keep in mind that your community is diverse, and it’s made up of groups that have unique interests. To expand your library’s reach, make your programming diverse as well. Ideas include

  • Inviting local star athletes, coaches, or sports medicine providers to participate in Q&A sessions at your library. This is a sure way to attract the student-athletes and diehard sports fans. It will also expose them to a side of their favorite hobby that they may not be familiar with from playing on their school team or watching sports on TV.
  • Offering craft classes led by local artists. Artistic teens will love this opportunity to create, and they can learn more about a potential career path that interests them as well.
  • Hosting a YA book club that features books about social issues, like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This will give teens a safe space to talk about the challenges they face in their everyday lives.
  • Providing service-driven teens with an opportunity to make a difference through a mentorship program. The best part of offering this sort of program is that you can mold the activities to fit individual interests. For instance, teens who love babysitting can read to younger kids during storytime, and the science-minded can help coordinate your library’s STEM programs. Be sure to remind them that these volunteer opportunities are great resume-builders for future jobs and colleges!

3.   Keep Your Audience in Mind When Planning Promotions

Once you’ve developed the type of programming that’s sure to win over this audience, you’ve got to promote it. To be sure to reach your target audience, choose the incentives that teens are most likely to find appealing for attending your events and programs, and highlight those in your promotional materials.

For instance, while health-conscious adults may like to hear about the impact that a healthy cooking demo can have on their overall well-being, teens may be more intrigued by the promise of free samples of dishes prepared during the demo. Let the free food take the lead on your flyers and in your posts about the event. Likewise, if you are promoting a book club or a craft program, you might want to highlight the social aspects of the event on your promotional pieces. The key is to remember to promote the benefits teens are most interested in, and you’ll be sure to capture their attention.

4.   Reach Out to Community Partners

Just as your partnerships with local schools are invaluable when promoting your summer reading program, some of those same partnerships can help you expand your teen outreach as well. Connect with local high school English teachers and faculty sponsors of extracurricular clubs to see how you can support each other. Offer to support their curricula or programs, while they plug your library’s teen resources and programming. You may even be able to offer programs that coincide with current areas of study, creating opportunities for both your library and the school. It’s a win-win!

5.   Leverage Social Media and Technology

When teens are not at school — and even sometimes when they are — you’re likely to find them on a mobile device of some sort. According to Pew Research Center, the majority of teens in the U.S. have access to a smartphone, and 45% are online on a near constant basis. This presents a great opportunity for your library to promote your teen programming on your social media, where teens are most likely to see it.

It’s also a chance to provide a more meaningful way for teens to spend online time, as 57% say they’re trying to cut back on social media. Try positioning a brain fitness tool like BrainHQ as an alternative for these teens. This software from Posit Science features scientifically proven, game-like exercises designed to help people of all ages think faster, focus better, and remember more. For teens specifically, the results from using BrainHQ can even be life-saving: Online brain-training exercises can help teens focus and avoid the distractions that factor into 58% of at-fault car accidents for their age group.

In addition to BrainHQ, Demco Software offers a full range of tools that can help you reach your target audience and drive awareness of your programming. Contact us today to learn more.


“A Day in the Life,” Office of Adolescent Health

“Teens Need Libraries,” American Library Association

Kayla Fargo

As Demco Software's Marketing Director, Kayla champions our efforts to educate public libraries on the need for a robust community engagement strategy. She works alongside our other teams to ensure that Demco Software's solutions effectively complement and amplify libraries' community engagement efforts.