Program Idea: Teen Exam Cram Week

Erin M. Schadt /

We love hearing about successful program ideas from public libraries. Back in December we asked Crossroads readers if there was a program or initiative that they were particularly proud of from 2015, and Brigid Day, Adult Programming Coordinator at The Brentwood Library (TN), contacted us to let us know about a new Teen Exam Cram Week program that was a big success.

The Brentwood Library is located in Brentwood, Tennessee, about a dozen miles south of Nashville, and serves about 39,000 people. In February 2015, the library held a strategic planning retreat, and a teen who attended—Kassie Dooley-Smith—suggested a "Teen Exam Week" that would provide extended library hours for students to have space to study. The library's School Committee that partners with local schools on their needs "ran with the idea not knowing if we would have 20, 30 or 60 kids. Boy, did we underestimate!" exclaims Day.

In fact the weeklong program saw about 300 students on each day, Monday through Wednesday, and about 175 on Thursday. No wonder with the amenities and activities that Brentwood provided. "We stayed open two hours past our normal closing hours and tried to have a different activity or treat for each night," says Day. "We had pizza, giveaways, Starbucks and cookies every night, and smoothies one night." The smoothies were donated through a partnership with Smoothie King, and Day says when they do this program again they hope to add more sponsorships.

"We set up extra tables and chairs and reserved large rooms for study rooms," says Day. "We had staff available to answer any questions. And even provided surge protectors for people to plug in their laptops. Our teen programmer put up motivational rip-off slips of paper with fun sayings, words of wisdom, encouragement and good luck."

They also closed off one room for part of the evening and a local shelter brought four dogs for students to play with for a stress-relieving study break. As might be expected, the puppies were very popular. "Many of the students report to school at 7:20am, took exams all day, then came straight to the library to prepare for the next day. These study breaks were well received and well deserved!"

Because the Teen Exam Cram Week was so popular for winter finals, they plan to hold cram weeks in the spring and next winter as well.

"We plan to set up quiet zones for next time," explains Day. "We would ideally like to set up tutor zones and place people in the various areas of the library to keep them quiet as to not disturb the other patrons so much. No one was particularly rowdy, but 300 extra people did not go unnoticed."

Day also hopes to have more pizza donated and they plan to have the shelter bring puppies for all three nights in the spring.

If your library is considering a similar program, Day suggests surveying the students during the night to get an idea of what they liked or didn’t enjoy. She also advises "Have some quiet zones. LOTS of pizza. The raffles may not be needed. The students liked winning, but they felt the food, coffee, puppies and place to study was the draw."



Top: The Brentwood Public Library exterior at night.

Middle: Motivational posters were displayed around the library; design borrowed from a Facebook-shared template.

Bottom: Teens take a well-deserved study break to give shelter dogs some love. All photos courtesy The Brentwood Library (TN).