Bringing Teens Back to the Library

Stoughton Public library hosts numerous unique events and activities angled towards Stoughton’s teens—and you’re invited

The Stoughton Public Library is an integral part of the Stoughton community. People are often exposed to the wonders libraries possess at a young age, but many people lose touch with libraries throughout the years. Busy school and work lives often pull people away from the books and other resources libraries provide to communities. Many adults will eventually return to the library, but what about that awkward in-between? Where did the teens go?
Cynthia Schlegel wants to write a clear answer to that question: teens go to the library. Schlegel, who works in adult and teen services at the Stoughton Public Library, has taken steps to increase teen presence in the library. She wants Stoughton teens to see that “there is a spot for [them] at the library. [It’s] not just little kids. It’s not just adults. There’s this niche.”
Schlegel oversees the multiple programs and activities the library hosts for teens, and in doing so, she began the weekly tradition of hosting teen programs at the library five years ago. In an attempt to raise money for library renovations, Schlegel gath- ered some teens and put on a play. They did another one the following year, fueled by the positive feedback they received the year prior. This caused Schlegel to reach a conclusion: “We need to do something not just once a year. Can we do once a month? Now can we do twice a month? Now can we do it every week? [It] slowly developed into more and more programming,” Schlegel says.

Schlegel is also responsible for purchasing books for the teen section, which is located on the top floor of the library. On the counter near the window there is a selection of free books for teens to pick up. (madison luick)

With the help of their Stoughton Teen Advisory Board (STAB), the library has hosted many programs for Stoughton Teens. From painting to pancakes to zombie apocalypses to disco ball making, Schlegel makes it all happen.
“I love having teens in the library,” Schlegel says. “I love when we can be active and loud and fun and engaged.”
Freshman Siri Vienneau has attended many teen library events throughout the years. She says the events have been a big part of her life.
“I have been on the teen library board since I was about 12,” she says. “It helped me meet new people and make new friends.” Another member of STAB gives praises to many exciting after hours events they have participated in, including an Edgar Allan Poe themed murder mystery party, a late night hide and seek, and a masquerade themed murder mystery party. They share similar sentiments to Vienneau, stating, “there are many fun activities held through the library that allow you to meet new people and try new things. The programs are also very fun events that are great for after school or during the summer.”
Through these programs, Schlegel feels that she has made valuable connections with Stoughton’s youth. “I love when I start to get to know [teens] at 11, and then I still know them when they have their driver’s license. The one-on-one interaction with the teens is the best part of the whole entire job,” Schlegel says. The programs usually happen each Thursday after school, are open to 11 to 17 year olds and are free to attend. For those looking for activities to do on the days without an event, Schlegel put together an “Art Cart,” a bright green toolbox full of various art supplies available for teens to use. “The Art Cart is often available. I always tell people if you want it out, and it’s not out, just tell me,” Schlegel says.
Unfortunately, libraries oftentimes become mixed up in twisted, negative stereotypes when really, libraries are artistic and social places full of culture and clearly, activity. Schlegel hopes that the accessibility of these teen library programs and teen resources will bring more teens to the library and help break through this stereotype.
“How do we get them back, to stay here?” Schlegel asks. “I feel like we rely on a lot of volunteers and a lot of donations, and those come from adults. We need to [figure] out how to have lifelong library users from story time to adult, but let’s get in here as a teen.”
Schlegel wants to bring teens together through the programs she hosts at the library and through the opportunities for teens there, hence why she is very excited about upcoming programs, which include taste testing chocolate covered foods on April 21 and planting some propagated plants in hand painted pots on April 14.
“I try as hard as I can to be like, yes, we have teenagers in the library. They’re not necessarily here to sit quietly. They want to be involved and engaged in libraries, our community spaces. Teens are part of our community and they should be heard and accepted and have [a] space they can have ownership of,” Schlegel says.
Schlegel encourages teens to check out the library teen Instagram page @stoteens and the library’s website for more information on upcoming teen events hosted by the library.
“Teens have a voice in the community, and they definitely have a voice in the library. And my job is to amplify teen voices,” Schlegel says.