The following is an interview with KATHRYN KANIA, Head of Teen Services at Robbins Library in Arlington, MA.
What is the title of your program?
Queer Teen Drop-in
Program or outreach description:
Providing a monthly casual hang out with snacks, books, and a small craft for LGBTQIA teens and allies.
Describe the planning and promotion you did to bring this program or outreach from an idea to reality.
This program is something I’ve done at other libraries and was actually already in place here. Programs like this are good for both areas where schools might not be as open to GSA clubs and where GSA clubs are prominent. It can give teens a space to get to know teens outside of just their school and they get to see that the library supports them. I’ve created flyers, advertised through the high school and middle school GSA/QSA and the libraries, we’ve done a few local news PR spots, as well as just spreading it through word of mouth.
Who were your stakeholders and how did you create buy-in?
The teens, the schools’ GSA clubs, the library. It’s important to point out to administration how the teen population, or Gen Z whatever you want to call them, are increasing their understanding of LGBTQIA issues and they are central to how they are growing up. In a 2016 study, less that 50% of teens identified as exclusively heterosexual. So not serving queer teens is ignoring 50% of your demographic. And ignoring teens is ignoring your future library Friends, Trustees, and voting population. You don’t want to do that.
What was your program/event/outreach budget? Was funding a help or a hindrance?
Funding comes out of my programming fund. I spend about $20-$50 depending on the craft. It would always be nice to have more funding but for such a casual program, money hasn’t been a huge issue. In fact, the more home-brewed, the better. The teens feel more connected when they get to help me figure out how to, say, make a friendship bracelet.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting your event together?
Space, for sure. It’s important to have a space outside of the general teen space for those that are unsure or uncomfortable in front of their peers. It needs to be a space teens can feel comfy talking, eating, and socializing while also, possibly, outing themselves to each other.
What’s next for you? Do you have anything new in the works?
It’s almost time for me to start planning our annual Pride Prom! I’m interested in creating (stealing) a workshop that the Boston Public Library just put on in regards to Drag vs AI facial recognition, as well. How cool is it to think about drag through the lens of privacy and rebellion??
What advice do you have for those seeking to start GLBTQ+ programming/advocacy in their libraries?
Be confident! There will be detractors but you will find many more supporters than those who will try and shout you down. Make sure you get the teens on your side because they can always lift your spirits when you feel like giving up. Teens are amazing and queer teens are always so grateful when you give them space to be themselves.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
If you’re interested in our Pride Prom check out: