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Teens unite to create library fun

The front room of the Jonesborough Library came alive last week as teenagers arrived dressed in pirate and princess costumes for a February program, aptly titled “Pirates & Princesses.”
Eighteen teenagers in all participated in the program, some first-timers. The event kicked off with a costume contest, which was then followed by a 30-question trivia game about pirates and princesses. The kids also enjoyed snacks and drinks inspired by the theme.
This Feb. 24 party was part of the “teens planning for teens” program that has been going on at the Jonesborough Library for nearly 10 years now.
Dorothy Linton, Jonesborough Library branch manager, said the Teen Program got its start in October 2005 when kids attending an initial meeting were recruited to be members of a new Teen Advisory Group. The group held its first meeting in January 2006.
Members of the group meet once a month and discuss ideas about what kind of programs they would like to see at the library.
To become a member of TAG, teens must fill out an application and submit it with a parent’s signature. Members have to be at least in either 6th grade or 12 years old to join. A rising 6th- grade student can also become a TAG member over the summer. The cut-off age is 18 years old, or a senior in high school.
Senior Alan McCumber of David Crockett High School has been an active member of TAG since his sixth-grade year. He said he got involved because it was a way to get out of the house while clocking some volunteer hours.
Now in his seventh year, McCumber has earned more than 100 volunteer hours. Some of those hours were earned from the monthly TAG meetings, an Earth Day event, At Home with Santa program, children’s programs and the Halloween Haunts and Happenings program.
“They are really great about volunteering in the community,” Linton said. “There are a lot of chances to get volunteer hours.”
Linton keeps track of the hours the TAG members’ clock in a spreadsheet. She can provide a letter stating how many hours a student has clocked upon request.
“I have wonderful volunteers,” she said.
Payton Garland, 16, also a student at David Crockett High School, got involved after McCumber told her about TAG.
“I love being involved in the library,” she said. And the group’s emphasis on reading and fun is great because “it really does get kids involved.”
Garland, as well as McCumber, meet on the second Monday of the month to plan the teen programs with other members. The programs are held on the fourth Monday of the month.
“We come here at 6:30, sit around a table and come up with ideas for four months or more,” McCumber said.
Linton provides TAG members with an agenda that they can write on and take home from the meeting. She said the teens discuss what activities they want to see at the library every month, as well as what kind of food and prizes they would like to go along with their chosen theme.
“I really enjoy being with them,” Linton said.
Garland said she enjoys TAG because it gives teens and kids a bigger voice than what they normally would have.
A Marvel Program will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 24, and Mystery Murder Night will be held sometime in April. Although a date has not been set for the April program, Linton said it will be held at 6:30 p.m. and feature pizza and an ice cream bar.
“It’s awesome. Always the biggest turnout,” Garland said about the Mystery Murder Night program.
Over the last few months, teenagers have shown an interest in the various programs offered through the Teen Program.
Twenty-seven kids attended the Halloween program, 17 for the Christmas party and 14 for Coffee Night in January.
“There is an amazing amount of kids that are coming to the Jonesborough program. I’m so thrilled about it,” Linton said.
A Teen Program was also started at the Gray Library. Although the participation is not as high as Jonesborough, a core group of kids attend the TAG meetings on the second Tuesday of the month and the program on the fourth Tuesday of the month.
TAG also gets involved with the six-week summer reading program by providing input on some of the programs.
“They are a really good sounding board for me,” Linton said. “If the teens don’t show an interest in it, there is no need to do it.”
The funding for the free Teen Program is provided by the Friends of the Library.