Library establishes teen council
New this fall to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System is the establishment of a Teen Library Council. The council is open to all teens and seeks to increase teen participation at Heights Libraries, strengthen teen library programming and give teens an opportunity to positively impact the community.
The council first met on Sept. 6 and meets the first and third Wednesday of every month, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at the Lee Road Library’s Levey Room. Council meetings are open to all teens, and participation can count toward volunteer requirements students may need to graduate.
The council hit the ground running in its first three meetings. Though primarily focused on coordinating hurricane relief efforts, it also planned a number of teen library programs and is organizing a food and clothing drive for local homeless shelters. It has also worked to establish a Black fiction section in the Teen Room of the Lee Road Library.
Payton Meeks, circulation assistant, and Becca Fisher, youth services associate, are the driving forces behind this project. Motivated by a desire to increase teen involvement at Heights Libraries, and correct what they see as an unfair perception of teens as irresponsible and unruly, they came together last spring to brainstorm solutions. The result was the establishment of the Teen Library Council.
“I’m very glad and proud at the opportunity to start a Teen Library Council,” said Meeks, who has a history of involvement in service projects. “It’s important for teens to have a connection and relationship with the community.” Meeks and Fisher are thrilled by the accomplishments made by council members so far, and see Heights Libraries as an excellent place to begin improving teen-community relations on a larger scale.
“I’ve been amazed by the amount of compassion and commitment these teens are showing,” Fisher said. “They’re all so full of ideas and really want to make a difference.” When asked about her and Meeks' role in facilitating council meetings, she explained, “We will act as suppliers and they’ll be the go-getters.”
Both Meeks and Fisher stressed the welcoming, open-ended nature of Teen Library Council meetings. Meetings operate on an “Open Door, Open Floor” policy, meaning any teen is encouraged to attend and share ideas. This approach creates a unique space where teens are able to let their voices be heard and feel trusted and represented in the library and community. They also hope these meetings will educate library staff about the kinds of services and programs teens need to flourish.
Teens interested in joining the Teen Library Council can contact Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org or Meeks at email@example.com, or simply attend a meeting. Upcoming meetings are Wednesday, Nov. 1, and Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Jay Rosen is communications coordinator at Heights Libraries.