Chieu Nguyen, a librarian at San Jose Public Library’s Tully Community Branch, leads a group of wonderful teens. She currently has about 70 teens contributing to the library’s teensReach program. They regularly meet once a month and help run several programs at the library including monthly book sales, a homework center, one-on-one computer and job application help, and a reading buddies program. They also put together a weekly Friday Fun for other teens with movies, board games, crafts and video games. Chieu offered to answer some questions and share her experience managing a successful teen volunteer group.
How long has the TeensReach program been at your library?
The library opened in January 2005 and the teensReach program was established soon after that. I took over Tully Library’s teensReach program in October 2005.
How do you recruit new volunteers?
I talked to the local high school by going to their PTA, Back to School Night, or Freshman Orientation. Every month before my training and meeting (on Third Wednesday) I email the flyers to the activity coordinators and teachers who are in charge of student’s community service hours.
Do you have any tips for keeping teens interested?
Some of the teens are just interested to just finish 15 hours of community services to graduate; however, I have lots of teens that stay active for years. Some of the staying teens would like to perform leadership duties as an officer. We have President, Vice president, Treasurer, and Secretary in our leader group and each officer is responsible for a set of duties. They work hard sorting the donated items every week and on every first Saturday of the month they have a booksale. All the money goes to a fund to help the library in organizing programs for youths. They like to do it because it makes them feel good helping us and being a source of money for library’s programs.
In addition to the officers other staying teens are staying because it is fun to volunteer and also because their friends are staying. During the booksale time it is also a chance for them to get together, socialize, and have fun. Every meeting we play games and talk about volunteer opportunities. During Teen Social Night that happens right after the meeting, they play Wii or sing Karaoke or play board games.
How have the teen volunteers made an impact on your library and community?
The teens gather to booksort and then sell the donated books on every first Saturday. All the money goes to free programs that benefit the community. There are performance programs like magicians, juggling, music, yo-yo, etc. that are paid by the booksale’s money. In additions to on-going reading promotion programs, craft activities, contests, and tournaments that we organize very often, there are special programs like Halloween Festival, Carnival, Easter Egg Hunt, etc. are paid for every year by booksale’s money.
Do you have any advice for other librarians starting volunteer programs?
The teens do like to be recognized. They have fun doing what they are doing but make sure to let them know that you are appreciative for their contribution. In addition to the two that I do formally every year in May and in August I recognize as often as I can. I do monthly recognition during the meeting by highlighting the successful outcome of programs that we can’t do without volunteers. I buy food and refreshments for them very often during the booksale and meeting. I let them know the staff’s appreciation; it doesn’t have to be big. For example, if an officer comes on time for their booksorting shift and works until all the books are sorted, I recognize that officer during the meeting. If volunteers show up to help shelving after the holiday, I would recognize those volunteers through the Yahoo! Group Email (Yahoo! Group Email is what we use to communicate with each other. We are currently having 177 teensReachers subscribing to the group). Just random examples but really want to stress they really enjoy being recognized and from that the work harder and stay longer.
Chieu would like to recognize her group’s current officers:
Jenny Huynh – President
Lisa Le – Vice President
Danny Dinh – Vice President
Secretary – Wendy Nguyen
Treasurer – Kathy Pham
Thanks for sharing, Chieu!
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