Denver Public Library's Teen Outreach
[Note: You can read the full report and see the vibrant layout by downloading the PDF file from DPL's website. Go to https://www.denverlibrary.org/content/facts-figures.html.]
It's a drizzly Saturday afternoon in early August, when sounds of "Save Ginny Weasley" and a bass guitar waft from the B2 Conference Center at the Denver Central Library. Upwards of 250 kids, teens and even some adults are rocking to Harry and the Potters, a band that travels around the country performing original songs based on the famous series of books. Wearing Hogwarts "uniforms" and with shaggy haircuts, the band members combine rock 'n' roll with encouraging kids to read. And, on this day, it is cool to be at the Library.
"AWESOME!" shrieks one giddy 14-year-old girl, practically swooning over Draco and the Malfoys, the opening band. Senior children's librarian and event organizer Emily Dagg is all smiles too. "I love seeing so many kids at the library," Dagg shouts over the blasting music.
"Serving children has always been high on the list at the Denver Public Library," says City Librarian Shirley Amore. "In 2006, it became a strategic priority." "At the beginning of the year, we resolved to focus on the educational and developmental needs of youth," adds Susan Kotarba, manager of children's services.
To that end, the Library stepped up children's outreach services, storytimes and programming. The results of our efforts delighted us. An astonishing number of kids and teens — 26,755 — registered for Summer of Reading, the ten-week program designed to help students improve and maintain their reading skills over the summer. Supported by contributions from individuals, philanthropic organizations, local businesses and corporations, Summer of Reading was an overwhelming success. Overall, participation was up 14 percent in the 2006 Summer of Reading program over 2005, as a new generation discovered the magic of reading. The number of children and teens attending Summer of Reading programs offered at DPL locations increased by a whopping 47 percent in 2006. We also continued the tradition of collaborating with Denver Public Schools. Library staff conducted 876 promotional visits to DPS classrooms and assemblies, reaching more than 42,000 students. In addition, we expanded our community partnerships in 2006 by working with the Denver Zoo, Denver Parks and Recreation and the DPS Summer Scholars program.
It wasn't just the numbers that pleased us, but also the impact. Seventy-two percent of kids who responded to a survey about the Library's Summer of Reading program said they "liked to read a lot." Eighty-five percent of parents who responded believed the program had increased their child's interest in reading "a little" or "a lot." And programs didn't end with summer. The Library hosted 10,271 programs throughout the year, including storytimes, After School is Cool and Super Saturdays, with more than 230,000 people attending.
"Having programs is a way to get kids and families to the Library who don't normally come here," explains Dagg. "And once they are here, we can introduce them to the many services we offer." Dagg recalls that on the day of the Harry and the Potters concert —in addition to announcing that the Library would distribute free earplugs —she reminded the audience about our teen web site, eVolver. "Many of the kids did not even realize we have a teen web site," says Dagg. "And they thought we really were cool when I announced that we would have an interview with the band available as a podcast." According to Michelle Jeske, manager of web information services, there was a definite increase in the number of views to the web site the day following the concert.
"To reach teens," Jeske says, "you have to communicate the way they do." Hello, YouTube and MySpace. The Library not only has a presence on MySpace, but also offers a YouTube contest for teens. "We want to give teens a new idea of what the library is and what the library can do for them," says Angela Sigg, teen site content developer for the Library.
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