Author Archive

“Are You Crazy?” aka “A Library’s Journey into the Teen All Night Lock-In”

This week, we’re pleased to have a guest post from two wonderful librarians:

  • Justin Hoenke is the Teen Librarian for the Cape May County Library.
  • Melissa Brisbin is the Media Librarian for the Cape May County Library.

Thanks for sharing this with LG readers!  -PB

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Justin: I’ll start off by saying this. It’s been two weeks since our Teen Library Lock-In ended and I’m not sure if I’ve recovered yet. My brain is still a bit fuzzy and I still don’t think I’ve caught up on sleep. If I tend to ramble or get lost when I’m talking, we’ll just blame it on that. You got my back Melissa?

Melissa: I’ll watch your back if you watch mine. I’m still sort of in a sleep-induced coma.

The Initial Idea

Justin: My Teen Advisory Board kept on talking about how they wanted to spend the night in the library. I thought they were sort of crazy at first, but the longer I thought about it the more it seemed like a really great idea. And I had this feeling that the teens would freak out and love the program.

I did some research on how these types of events were structured. I must say that without the guidance of the teen librarians at both the Corvallis-Benton County Library and the Willingboro Public Library I wouldn’t have ever got our Library Lock-In off the ground. I borrowed bits and pieces from their lock-in programs and created an outline and a permission slip. With these two things in hand, I had something to give my directors.

Melissa: One of the biggest concerns we had when constructing the Cape May County Library Teen Lock-In was how to keep our participants entertained and out of trouble. We decided that the best way to go about this was to implement activities such as an Library Olympics and a scavenger hunt, combined with an ongoing marathon of Harry Potter movies, crafts, and computer access, as well as continuous usage of our video game systems, such as the Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox.

Justin: The idea was to start the lock in right after our weekly game night ended. The games would already be set up and I thought gaming, especially Rock Band, would be a good community building game where the kids could get to know one another. After the scheduled events such as the library Olympics and the scavenger hunt, things got a bit looser. We had one room dedicated to a Harry Potter movie marathon, the video games still set up, one room for tabletop gaming, and crafts in the children’s room. We wanted to have some structure to the program but at the same time let teens be teens and have some random (and very supervised) fun.

Planning

Justin: Once I got the OK from my directors to have the lock-in, I knew that I had to assemble a REALLY good team of librarians and library associates to help run the event. I sort of felt like I was putting together “The A-Team” of Library Lock In staff members. I knew I had to have the right blend of people who the teens could identify with and not feel intimidated by. I ended up with 7 (counting myself) chaperones for the thirty teens that had signed up. That’s roughly 4 teens to every chaperone, which is something I thought was manageable.

Making it all work

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Melissa: As an example of one of our planned activities, I will highlight the obstacle course, which like the scavenger hunt, was created to promote fun activities that would also reflect library usage. For instance in the obstacle course, all participants were told to carry a book on their head, paperback of course, and then proceed to the next activity. Teens had to carry a book on their head, walk with the book while wearing box shoes, crab walk with a book on their stomach, jump down an aisle while still carrying the book and find works written by a variety of author(s), and finally dig though a box filled with scrap paper in order to locate a library card that had a Teen sticker on it. All participants worked in teams and were timed. For the winners, we planned an award ceremony that was similar to the Olympics, complete with medals for first, second, and third place.

The Focus

Justin: Call me a hippy, but I’m all about good and positive vibrations. I always wanted to make sure that both the chaperones and the teens all respected each other and created a positive community.

Melissa: We also wanted to stress to teens the importance of good behavior, and how exceptional actions would be acknowledged and rewarded. We implemented a Good Behavior Chart. Teens were awarded stickers that they could post next to their name in order to win an array of prizes at the end of the night. I have to admit at first we were not sure if this idea would work, or if teens would see the idea as somewhat immature and childish. However, like teens have a tendency of doing, at least for me, they proved to be an exceptional group of young adults. They really went above and beyond to help out the librarians and each other. There was definitely on ongoing competition among the teens, but it was never malicious. They were all super positive and a lot of fun to hang out with.

The Actual Event

Justin: I got into work the day of the event at 4:30 and made sure all the loose ends were tied up by the time we started at 7pm. The first few hours were a bit hectic in getting all the teens together and in one place. Once that was done, we started off on the scheduled events. Some teens didn’t want to join in, so that was a bit difficult in explaining to them that they had to be there and once these things were done they’d have a bit more freedom.

Melissa: Once we were finished with the scheduled events, the Teens were allowed to be in either one of three rooms. They were great about telling us where they were going and we didn’t experience any problems with them disappearing. Most of teens just meandered between games, movies, crafts, and lots and lots of conversations.

Justin: We asked the teens at the beginning of the program to always tell at least one chaperone where they were going. We told them that this was one of the most important things they could do throughout the night. They were amazing

The Aftermath

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Justin: The alternate title for this section is “This is what we’ll do differently the next time around.”

We had one incident at the lock in that sounded the alarms. During a game of hide and seek/manhunt, two teens collided with each other. One had glasses on, so the other teen got quite a big gash on their head. It was big enough that stitches were needed. We had to call their parents at 1am and let them know what happened. They came to the library and we had to go to the Emergency Room. I accompanied the teen and the parent there, and 20 minutes later, the teen was all stitched up and ready to go. The parent let the teen come back to the library. I feel like I lucked out on this one. Incident reports had to be filled out and the overall mood of the lock-in really changed after that.

Melissa: Yes, everyone really mellowed out, such as a lot less horsing around, and became more interested in hanging out, talking to one another, and playing video games.

What We Have Learned and What the Teens Taught Us

Melissa: The overall of theme of the entire Lock-In was camaraderie. It was evident from the beginning that there was a relatively wide range of ages and maturity levels, as well as groups and interests. However, throughout the night, it became extremely evident that all the teens were just interested in hanging out with each other in an array of activities. The entire Teen Lock-In produced a fantastic sense of community atmosphere. In all, this event was A LOT OF FUN WITH A GREAT FLOW AND POSITIVE INTERACTION. It was a fantastic opportunity to librarians to get to the teens and vice versa. We have received a great response from teens, parents, and administration. We will definitely plan more Teen Lock-Ins for the future, using the knowledge and lessons we have learned from our initial experiences with this program.

Justin: I thought 30 teens would be manageable, but now that I think about it the next time around I’d limit it to 20, possibly 25 teens and maybe have it twice a year. I also may reconsider having any kind of hide and seek activities since we had a bit of a snafu this last time. But it worked so well and the teens loved it! Agh!

P.S. For those wondering where the title comes from…The most common response to “We’re having an all night sleepover at the library with 30 teens ages 12-18 was “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

P.P.S For more photos of the lock in, click here for our Flickr gallery

November 10, 2009 at 9:00 am 3 comments


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