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Teen Summit 2011 presented by the Gwinnett County Public Library
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Innovation SummaryPartnering with community organizations, businesses, and education specialists, Gwinnett County Public Library presented the Teen Summit, a day-long conference-style event designed to generate positive youth empowerment by bringing together middle and high school aged teens, parents, and mentors to explore social issues and topics of interest to Gwinnett’s young adults.
“What challenges are teens facing that keep them from being as spectacular as each of them is meant to be?” This compelling question, asked by the library’s Executive Director, was the impetus for creating the Teen Summit, a program dedicated to generating positive empowerment for all youth in an environment both entertaining and educational. Gwinnett County has the highest public school enrollment in Georgia (and 15th nationwide) and overall teen programming attendance at the library grew 23 percent from the previous fiscal year. The library’s FY10-12 Strategic Plan anticipated the growth of the teen population and the compelling need for enhanced teen services by integrating distinctive programs that recognize both the diversity and commonality of local teens. The 2011 Teen Summit would become, along with Teen Summer Reading, Teen Tech and Teen Read Weeks, a signature annual event, one that addressed the information needs of Gwinnett teens in a format they would respond to. Teens and parents could explore personal development, social awareness, and healthier living in a neutral environment allowing for a free exchange of ideas and information, helping teens, parents, and mentors become more aware of the resources available in the community. The library’s Community Partnership Coordinator would cultivate partnerships with local community organizations who worked with teens—organizations that were social, educational, and entertaining. The Teen Summit would enhance the library’s credibility with this often challenging population; teenagers have significant expectations for their library, both educational and recreational, and the library’s challenge would be to create an atmosphere they could embrace—one that would be informative, relevant, and fun.
The Teen Summit was a free event all about teens and their lives, created and implemented by GCPL’s Teen Activity/Youth Advisory Council (populated with teens and library staff), along with a library committee of five, and overseen by the Events and Outreach Manager. A centrally-located venue was secured and Teen Summit attendees chose from more than a dozen concurrent workshops and interactive discussion groups exploring relevant themes and issues such as safe dating behavior, cyber privacy, depression, drugs, bullying, distracted driving, gangs, financial literacy, first jobs, and the environment. The conference-style event also included activity workshops featuring self-defense, yoga, and karate, encouraging movement and exercise among the attendees.
Workshop expertise and facilitation were provided by representatives from organizations such as the Georgia Credit Union, Partnership Against Domestic Violence, the Gwinnett County Police Department, World Yoshukai Karate, VOX teen magazine, and the Gwinnett Advancement Program at Gwinnett Technical College. Exhibitors were on hand to provide outreach and information on education, drug prevention, the environment, and homelessness and included GUIDE (Gwinnett United in Drug Education) and the Georgia Meth Project, county-based drug prevention agencies, the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation, the Boys and Girls Club of Gwinnett, and Project Safe Place (the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter). Entertainment was provided by Laughing Matters, Atlanta’s leading interactive comedy group, offering improvisational comedy with audience participation on the topics of conflict resolution and peer pressure.
Eleven partners donated prizes and services, including gift certificates for rock climbing, laser tag, bowling, miniature golf, skateboards, pizza, and ice cream. The Summit lasted 6.5 hours and a staff of twenty was onsite, representing branch staff, the library board, the Aurora Theater (the Summit venue) and TVGwinnett, the library’s audio/visual partner.
Print and online attendee surveys yielded some notable event ratings and observations:
-Total Attendance: 215 (Teens: 183 / Adults, Mentors, Education Specialists: 32)
-Willingness to return in 2012 : high
-Favorite sessions: self-defense, cyber privacy, gang awareness
-2012 session request: spirituality, zumba, school issues, teen sexuality
-Marketing: attendees heard about the event mostly through the library flyers, a friend, or a parent; school and social media were infrequently cited
The library solicited partnerships from a breadth of organizations with expertise on teen issues and partner-driven marketing efforts played a key role in reaching targeted audiences. Non-traditional marketing efforts included targeting public gathering places such as festivals, churches, skate parks, comic book stores, coffee shops, public transportation, community shelters and shopping malls. Email blasts were sent to the library Events list, PTAs, public school teachers, and media specialists. A two minute video public service announcement was featured on both the library and public schools and this generated a great deal of interest. Information was also posted on GCPL’s teen webpage, blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages, enhancing our commitment to social media and strengthening the library’s viability with this challenging tech-savvy demographic.
-Surveys indicated that there is still considerable value in print marketing, even for teens
-Giveaways and coupons played a significant role in attendance
-Consider scheduling the anticipated popular sessions more than once
-Entertainment—like the improv comedy group—is crucial in a schedule that could erroneously be perceived as “too educational”
-6.5 hours is too long for teens—four hours would be better received.
Ultimately, the event exceeded expectations because of the library’s careful attention to four essentials: partnerships, dynamic marketing, sensible scheduling, and the selection of relevant topics.