This entry is submitted by teen services librarian Joyce Brown from the Murrieta Public Library.
An Unstructured Teenage Activity! You ask, “Will it work?” YES!
As I started brainstorming the idea of an “Own the Night” Teen Party as part of the Murrieta Public Library’s 2012 Summer Reading Program activities for our middle and high school patrons, I wanted to provide an unstructured social event that left room for teens to enjoy music, to have the opportunity to participate in some activities, and to hang out with old friends and possibly make new ones. I mentioned this idea to our Library’s Teen Advisory Council and they liked it. We talked about the event and decided to have music, food, and a couple of activities. We scheduled it on a Tuesday evening, June 19 from 6 to 9 p.m., so that we would have the longest amount of daylight possible.
Our Library is blessed with an enclosed area right outside the Community Room that is named the Garden of Verses. Yes, we have engraved quotes for people to read as they stroll around the garden. One of the members of our Friends of the Murrieta Library recently replaced the decomposed granite areas with concrete. The Friends also purchased patio furniture for the Garden making it a very welcoming place to host the music and social portions of the event.
Okay, I had a place to hold the event. Now, how was I going to find local garage bands? I contacted the School District/Library liaison. She provided me with the names and e-mail addresses for the music and band instructors of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District. This netted me one contact. I needed more. At the next Teen Advisory Council meeting, I asked the teens to help me find garage bands. I struck gold! One of the members knew several garage bands. She talked to them and gave them my contact information. Three bands contacted me and two ended up playing that night. Both bands set up their equipment and took turns providing the music.
On the spur of the moment at the beginning of the evening, one of the staff members brought in some board games. They were a hit. Groups of teens were playing games in the Community Room and at the patio tables in the Garden of Verses.
In addition to the option to sit around and talk, I wanted to provide an opportunity for the teens to participate in planned activities. One of our Youth Services staff members loves to line dance. So, I had the bright idea to ask her to teach a few basic line dances. She agreed and selected some dance routines and music. However, when I invited the teens in attendance to come dance, no one accepted the invitation. Wii games were also an option, but we never hooked them up. The teens were too busy talking, listening to the music, and playing board games.
Food is always an important element of a successful teen party. We were having pizza at our Grand Finale Party in July, so we decided to have sub sandwiches along with chips, crackers, cheese, dips, cookies, cream puffs, éclairs, and chocolate covered banana bites. We set up tables out in the Garden for the teens to help themselves. I created a detailed list of what food was to be served at half hour intervals. The frozen dessert items appeared during the last hour of the party. I wanted to keep the variety of food fresh, interesting, and tempting.
We keep statistics, so we had the teens sign-in when they arrived and gave each of them a lime green wristband to wear. In our publicity, we asked the parents to pick up their teens by 9:10 p.m.
We had several Summer Reading Program teen volunteers help with set-up, registration, food preparation and serving, and clean-up. One of the Teen Advisory Council volunteers also circulated with platters of dessert goodies.
Was this party a success? YES! We had teens that had never come to our other activities come to this one. We plan to have another teen party in June 2013 with music, food, board games, and socializing but I would make a few changes. I would skip the dancing and Wii games. I would have a brief ice breaker at the beginning of the party to stimulate new friendships. I would provide a greater variety of board games.
I declare this activity a winner!