Starting up a group
Why have a Junior Friends of the Library Group?
Murrindindi Junior Friends of the Library (Victoria), established in 1991, is one of the country’s most successful junior groups. The group has undertaken a wide range of activities, including: literacy promotion, collection improvement, children’s theatre, workshops and events and sponsored many visiting authors. One of the main ideas behind the Junior Friends is that teenagers need meaningful participation in the community and feel connected and proud when their ideas are accepted.
Why have a Junior Group?
- Intergenerational sustainability for the library and the community
- Mentoring opportunities between library staff and community elders
- Imparting administrative and meeting skills to young people
- Expands the knowledge and love of books and literature
- Introduced young people to the library community and its many benefits
- Provided the library with a vibrant shot to the arm of young people’s ideas and energy
- Keeps staff aware of current trends and attitudes in youth culture
- Provides a regular and consistent calendar of events throughout each and every year
Key Factors to our Success
- Passionate committed staff to steer activities
- Consistency of staff, same staff have been involved since inception
- Staff are willing to connect on a personal level with participants
- We live in a small community, we know the families
- Wee have feeder groups Storytime and 4F, an after school group
- JFOL is one of the new non sport opportunities for youth in our community
- JFOL is mentored and supported by the adult Friends of the Library Group
- Library management support JFOL with staff time and grants/funds for activities
How to establish and maintain a junior group
- Keep to a meeting structure. Juniors warm to a planned meeting when they see that it has potential for controlling unruly elements, keeping things moving, and giving everyone a say
- Create a yearly plan that allows kids to suggest their own events and activities, and allows them ownership of the whole program - often the theme will be across all library activities
- Activities, expectations and programs needs tend to evolve with each bunch of kids. The current group is into running events for a wider age group, especially music and circus events
- Bear in mind not everyone will participate. Strengths of the groups will vary; some may be into writing reviews, organizing events, designing a web page, making radio ads, suggesting titles, or sitting quietly looking at their fingernails. Go with the flow of the group, keeping the library as the focus. Utilise the talents and interests of the individuals
- Promote the group with photos, newsletters and a comments board or READ THIS board within the library
- Establishing positions of authority and responsibility in the group appealed directly to some of the young members
- NEVER NEVER cancel. The essence of the program may need to be altered, but the event must go on. Kids love to plan and look forward to events. They put in energy convincing their parents to bring them along, don’t disappoint them.
"The main thing we have accomplished as Junior Friends is the ability to create new friends while helping the library. The Murrindindi Junior Friends of the Library has changed our lives and when we look back, we can all agree that teenagers from even a small country town can make a difference." Junior Friends, APLIS 11(3) September 1998
Contributed by Libby Kotschet, Murrindindi Library and the catalyst for the JFOL over the past 20 years - FOLA Editor.