The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, no matter how much you have prepared for a program. No matter how much you promoted it. No matter how excited you are…no one shows up.

It makes you question your teen librarian skills. Are you still cool? Still hip? Still with it?

I had a program like that this past week: Silent Card Castles.

The premise of the program is super easy. Over the course of an hour, teens use index cards to free build structures however they want to. There are no building rules beyond build a thing. Cards can be bent and mutilated beyond repair, ripped in half, stacked however they want. And, occasionally, (every 10-15 minutes) you throw out a challenge to them that they have to complete. Things like:

  • connect your structure to at least 1 other person’s creation
  • everyone stop building and spin around 3 times, then switch places with another builder
  • 30 second dance break
  • lights off, build in the dark
  • destroy those creations Godzilla style, then pick up all the cards

And throughout the hour teens are supposed to remain silent. It is meant to help recharge their brains thinking of ways to communicate without words, help them Zen out a bit with the creative but simple task of building things, and have an almost nostalgic kind of fun where they are completely unplugged for just a little bit. All you need to run this program is a room, a bunch of index cards, and some teenagers.

…..I had 2 of those 3 things on Wednesday.

In the past, when I’ve done this program I have had stellar attendance for something that is not food or tech related. My teens have found the fun in the simplicity of it all. Quietly groaning over the challenges I threw at them. Abandoning the silence rule and laughing hysterically when they smashed everything to the ground at the end.

But even with my promotion in the schools before summer break, even with social media and remind blasts, even with JTAB and TAB members telling other teens that they have come to to this is the past and that “it’s more fun than it sounds”. I was alone in a room until I admitted defeat and closed the program.

I had to enter a 0 in the attendance record and let my manager know that this time, not one teenager came to my program. I felt like I failed as a teen librarian. Like I failed my kids in providing them something fun and educational during the summer months when I am actually able to give them more varied programming. And in my little moment of professional self doubt, I threw the world’s smallest pity party.

But after taking a deep breath and utilizing the same skills I had hoped to foster in teens during the program. I reminded myself that even when a program fails. Even if a program falls of the rails with no hope of getting back on track. Even if in the middle of it all it turns into a dumpster fire. As long as I keep trying to engage teens, advocate for their wants/needs, and continue to grow with them. I am still a good teen librarian.

So when you have a program fail like mine did, take a deep breath, pick yourself back up, make yourself a s’more using that dumpster fire, and try again. Cause you are still a good teen librarian and you got this!

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