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Anti-Prom

New York Public Library
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Innovation Leader: H. Jack Martin, Assistant Director, Public Programs/Lifelong Learning (Children, Family and Teen Programs), hjmartin@nypl.org

Problem Statement

Even as schools, and societies, work to increase awareness and tolerance with respect to sexual orientation, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth still often experience displacement. LGBTQ teens are in need of resources as well as supportive social situations.

Innovation

The Library expanded outreach to LGBTQ teens with programs on relationships, HIV/AIDS prevention, and arts programs focusing on self expression in branches across Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Beginning in 2005, the Public Programs/Lifelong Learning Division, with essential input from the New York Public Library’s Teen Advisory Groups (TAGs), launched an annual Anti-Prom. The event provides an alternative, safe space for teens who may not feel welcome at official school proms or dances because of their sexual orientation, the way they dress, or any other form of “difference” that can lead to exclusion.

Teens from across New York convene at the Stephen A. Schwarzman building for a night of dancing. Not only is it fun, exciting and loud, at the decibel level appealing to many teens, it is also content-rich. In 2009, thanks to the suggestions and feedback from the TAG’s, the theme was “Vam-Prom.” Teens consulted NYPL’s Art & Architecture and Picture Collections to find inspiration for their vampire-themed costumes for the evening. Tim Gunn, host of Project Runway, met with the teens during the research and design process to offer input and feedback on the looks they created. Although not all Anti-Prom attendees could participate in the Project Library workshop, they all received books donated by publishers in their gift bags. Another instance of Project Library will be part of the upcoming 2010 Anti-Prom with the theme “Glam-Prom.”

In 2009, Anti-Prom entered the world of social media, using Facebook to promote the event and encourage fans to comment on posts.

Progress

Anti-Prom continues to grow in popularity, with over 500 teens attending in 2009. In addition, Anti-Prom reaches thousands of youth throughout the year via its Facebook page and videos which can be seen on nypl.org, YouTube and iTunes. The three Project Library videos produced as part of the 2009 Anti-Prom have almost 10,000 collective views on NYPL’s YouTube channel.

Recognized for excellence by the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association, the 2009 Anti-Prom received a rave review in VF Daily (Vanity Fair’s culture blog) and mentions in many culture, parenting and librarian blogs.