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Teen Leadership Project

Greensboro Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Steve Sumerford, Assistant Director, steve.sumerford@greensboro-nc.gov

Problem Statement

In 2008, the Greensboro Public Library contracted with a consultant to analyze its services to teens at the McGirt-Horton branch. Through multiple focus groups and surveys, she found that the teens within walking distance of this branch were underserved because the library wasn’t providing the programs and opportunities that meet the informational and creative self-expression needs of the teens. Teens in this low-income area have very limited opportunities for meaningful out-of-school/afterschool experiences. They receive very little encouragement to creatively express themselves and have limited opportunities to prepare for 21st Century careers. Some of them do not have, as one teen told us during the planning grant process, “a place in the community where we feel that we are important to anyone.”

Innovation

Since 1991, GPL has used a “magnet school” type approach with our six branches. Each branch has a special theme or focus that not only meets the needs of the immediate neighborhood, but also is a magnet for people from throughout the county. Based on the findings from our planning grant, we decided that when the new McGirt-Horton facility, when it opened in 2010, would become a teen services magnet . We would design programs based on the expressed needs of the teens, but rather than just offering programs in the traditional fashion, we would use a team approach. Teen programs would include a Digital Media Team, a spoken word poetry team, a teen leadership program and a series of career exploration presentations.

Progress

Since we opened in July, there has been a 50% increase in the number of teens participating in programs The list of accomplishments achieved by the teams thus far: the Digital Media Team completed three DVDs that aired on Guilford County Schools Television and Greensboro Community Television; the team entered a video in the ALA Teen Video Contest(Why I Need My Library). The Poetry Team has performed monthly at the library and at community sites. It is preparing to enter Brave New Voices , a national slam poetry contest; they performed original poetry at the 2010 Teen Summit. More than 300 high schools students have participated in our poetry outreach component. Over 75 teens have attended Career Exploration sessions, and over 15 students participated in weekly book discussions during the summer.In summary, the teens are actively engaged in the branch; they are learning skills which will enhance their resumes and job applications; and, most importantly, teens now report that they feel important at the McGirt-Horton library.