Teen librarian develops dynamite plans

Pescinski tells state convention how to turn everyday items into library programs
Lynn Zaffrann

Cathy Pescinski, Shawano Public Library’s teen librarian, completed a special presentation about Teen Programming at the annual convention of the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries on May 11-13 in Pewaukee.

This was Pescinski’s first presentation at the conference.

“We’ve had staff go to conferences and we’ve presented at some,” said Kristie Hauer, library director. “It’s a way for us to collect ideas from other libraries to use here and also to share the things that we’re doing. Cathy and I started talking about this last fall, because programming and collections specific to teens is a little bit newer.”

Pescinski’s presentation was on the Dynamite Dozen, an idea where, by having 12 basic, inexpensive items on hand, librarians can create more than 50 different programs easily out of those items.

“The most versatile things in the Dynamite Dozen are Solo cups and pingpong balls,” Pescinski said. “There are any number of ways you can combine these for different fun games.”

She told the attendees that sometimes teens need to burn off energy, and giving them something active to do, without interfering with other library patrons, is definitely possible.

“We do things like stack Solo cups in various ways, or bounce pingpong balls into them,” Pescinski said. “I did warn attendees that it may look a little bit like beer pong, so they need to determine if that’s appropriate in their own communities.”

She showed the audience how to arrange things from the Dynamite Dozen into specific games, to have immediately on hand.

“If it’s a snow day and everyone shows up in the afternoon, because it’s Wisconsin and the streets will be plowed by then, you can literally go to your shelf and pull down a program and put it right down in front of the teens and they can have at it,” Pescinski said.

Hauer supported the value of attending the conference.

“One of the really cool things for librarians is that we are all so on board with sharing information. We are huge believers in not reinventing the wheel,” she said. “If someone’s done something before, to share those ideas and to share as much of the resources, so that people can just grab stuff and be ready to go is valuable. Because we are all short on time and budget, this can help each other out.”

Pulling teens into the library is a million-dollar challenge, according to Pescinski.

“They are probably the most challenging demographic to get in to the library,” she said. “A lot of the younger teens come in for our programming. Even older teens do use the library a lot. They are very stealthy on the way they do it. They’ll go onto InfoSoup on their phones, put things on hold, come in to the hold shelf, use self-check, then go out the door. You see these little teen blurs going back and forth.”

“One of the nice adaptions that Cathy has done in recent years is to implement things that are available when the library is open,” Hauer noted. “Teens can come in at times that work for them and still participate in the programs. She also has kits that she’s put together that teens can take home to do.”

“I want people to know how many things we have here that are specifically for teens. There is a space, just for teens. And there will always be something here for them to just sit and play with, and they don’t have to come only to get books,” Pescinski shared. “I think that this is something that is unique in this town. There aren’t necessarily a lot of spaces and a lot of organizations that are just for teens.”

The teen area will be a focus, according to Hauer, in future planning for library renovation, or building a new facility.

“Having a teen area that’s more suitable to today’s teens, with built-in technology,” she said. “We are not a very strict ‘Shh!’ library here. Providing space where we know that they won’t be whispering all the time is kind of our goal overall.”

Expenditures not included in the approved county annual operating budget, such as the special teen programming designed by Pescinski, are funded by the Friends of the Shawano County Libraries, Inc.

“Cathy recently submitted a proposal to give her presentation at the annual national conference of the Association of Rural and Small Libraries,” Hauer said.

News about her proposal is pending, but she also plans to do a presentation for the other libraries in the Shawano County system.

“I think that maybe the library isn’t what people have a stoic notion of, that it is just a silent building with a bunch of books,” Pescinski said. “It’s lively, it’s active, it’s a community-grounding space where you can come in and not be expected to spend any money. You can come to us and you can get resources, you can ask questions, you can participate in programs. We have all of these things available for you, it’s such a great resource where you aren’t expected to spend any money and we’re not just this old notion of what a library used to be, it’s a very active and lively space.”