MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Public Library’s Teen Advisory Board, the group of teens responsible for conducting teen programs and advising the library staff on programs and material purchases, has been awarded a Library Service Award from the New Jersey Library Association.

The award, one of three from the NJLA given for outstanding individual or group associated with library services, was accepted at the Atlantic City NJLA conference late in May by Teen Advisory Board (TAB) member Muthu Ganesh Arunachalam, secretary of TAB; Jeff Cupo, Young Adult & Community Services Librarian; and Library Director Allan Kleiman.

The TAB is open to kids in grades 6-12 and is led by elected officers, according to Cupo. He said TAB’s main projects for this school year were a Halloween “Lock-in” held in October and a Lunar New Year celebration, which the teens planned and carried out.

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“For the Lock-in, we filled up our maximum 20 kids and had a waiting list,” said co-president Enoch Joe. “We had a mummy contest in which you had to wrap a person in toilet paper, we had a cupcake decorating contest, we showed movies, and played Hide and Seek.”

The teens “slept” in the Pio Costa auditorium, with a divider screen set up between males and females, but Arunachalam said most kids were up all night. Cupo and other staff members provided supervision.

Co-president Aleksandar Dimoski said there was a lot of planning involved due to food and food allergies, purchasing of supplies, and accommodating those who wanted to sleep and those who wanted to stay awake.

The Lunar New Year celebration was held in February, and featured Chinese and Korean New Year traditions. The teens planned and staffed the stations, which included making mini kites and paper lanterns. (Read about the celebration here.)

“Each person contributed according to their strengths,” Joe said.

The TAB estimated that 100 people of all ages came to the event, Joe said.

The TAB interacts with the high school clubs – many are students there – and the community, Cupo wrote in his nomination. The TAB helps run the library’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programs, Board Game Club, Lego challenges, and the Chess Club, according to Cupo; they also help at the drop-in tech help desk. The high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance has brought film screenings and community discussions to the library, and the high school’s Earth Club has planted an organic garden at the library with the help of the TAB. Several programs at the library have been run solely by the TAB, such as the Chinese yo-yo class and K-Pop (Korean Pop) dance lessons, according to Cupo. Further, they provide input into the purchase of teen materials through a dedicated “deputy” who researches and provides a list of books requested by the teen community, he said. They even have a public relations team which spreads the word about the library’s programs and volunteer opportunities, according to Cupo.

Dimoski, who is graduating this year, said TAB has been a part of his life for about two years and he has enjoyed being able to create programs he likes.

Joe said that he liked that TAB gives teens a voice in library happenings. “It’s also my creative outlet. I have passions in life and I wanted to display them. TAB has become a place where I can learn from others and learn about myself as well. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone.” Joe was a member of TAB for about three years.

Deputy Book Reviewer Akif Patel said that TAB has become a place where he can help people join in library programs and influence and create programs that people want. He said he’s been with TAB about a year.

Arunachalam, who is a sophomore and has been with TAB for about two and a half years, said he thought TAB is a great way for teens to express themselves.

“It’s grown from just a few members to more than 40,” he said. “It’s a great way for teens to prove themselves, and it has taught me a lot of planning skills. I think that getting this award really demonstrates the exceptional service that the TAB has given to the community, and really motivates us to continue that great work.”

Cupo called both the Lock-in and the Lunar New Year events “ambitious, large-scale, and complex programs, highly valued by both the library and community.” He said he would treasure the library association award that resulted.

“Some of the best people I know are in TAB – not kids, but people,” he said. “They’re kind, compassionate, and they put so much work into [TAB]. They sincerely believe in it. It’s very fulfilling to work with them.”

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