Youth advisory groups draw teens into the library

Upstairs aisle at Pape and Danforth Public Library.
Upstairs aisle at Pape and Danforth Public Library. (Library Books)

When you think of things teens like to do, you think of listening to music, watching videos, playing games, and hanging out with friends. The Toronto Public Library’s Youth Advisory Group program wants to add another activity to that list: reading.

As his responsibilities grew, Eli Banaby’s, 21, involvement in his local youth advisory group began to slowly decrease. But, it still didn’t take away from all the good it had done him. He joined the program at the Barbara Frum Library branch, the same place his mother works. It gave him the opportunity to work on his leadership skills and not be afraid to voice his opinion during meetings about teen readership and youth advocacy in the library.

“We mostly suggested popular books that teens nowadays read, in order to bring more teens into the library and get them interested and involved as well,” Eli said.

Marie Belanger, co-facilitator of the Kennedy and Eglinton library branch youth advisory group, talked about how the groups throughout Toronto focus on making the library a welcoming place for youth. In return, they open up and explore different reading materials for leisure.

“We were all teens once, and teens like to read. Teens like to read even though they’re a bit shy about telling us,” she said. “They sometimes need a little affirmation of their reading selections and of their reading habits.”

The program uses student volunteers who are passionate or even interested in the opportunities that the library services can offer and are willing to take the extra step to share them with their fellow teens who may not frequent the facility as much.

Belanger, 54, also pointed out the group’s overall input has helped them succeed in getting more teens to read at over thirty-five Toronto Public Library branches and it’s services are continuing to grow. The program promotes a multitude of book championing events such as Word Out, the online interactive Summer Reading Club and simply encourages youth to make the library a place they can always support and feel connected to.

“The Youth Advisory Groups are incarnated slightly differently based on the type of youth who go to that library and the facilitator of the program,” she said. “I was always a library user…. If the YAG had existed when I was a teen, it would have been the place for me to create my networks, make the right friends, enrich me with awareness in both literary and artistic ventures and be mentored by adult allies.”