Milton Librarian Reaches Out to Teens Through the Screen | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Milton Librarian Reaches Out to Teens Through the Screen


Published April 16, 2020 at 11:17 a.m.

Milton Public Library Teen Space Coordinator Michelle Desranleau
  • Milton Public Library Teen Space Coordinator Michelle Desranleau
One surefire way to reach teenagers? Making chocolate pancakes. This month, Milton Public Library’s Teen Space Coordinator, Michelle Desranleau, recorded a cooking show for an adolescent audience. The six-minute video stars Desranleau in her home kitchen, explaining how to prepare batter, cook the pancakes and arrange the treat on a plate, topped with whipped cream, crumbled Oreo cookies and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Filmed by her adult daughter, the YouTube video can be viewed on the library’s Facebook page. Another video made by Desranleau demonstrates how to convert an old T-shirt into a bag. That project was conceived, filmed and edited by her 13-year-old grandson, Zeb Wilcox.

When the library is open, Desranleau heads up the library’s teen program on Monday afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m. She draws in middle and high schoolers — a notoriously challenging demographic to coax through library doors —with crafts, cooking, games and occasional movies. Her most popular teen program was a Saturday morning gathering, Bagels and Brushes, which featured a two-hour painting lesson and breakfast. Nearly two dozen teens snacked on bagels while creating their own unique artwork to take home.

Her virtual programming reflects that same light-hearted approach, using materials adolescents are likely to have at home. An upcoming recording shows how to melt crayons with a hair dryer to make a piece of art.

Virtual programming, Desranleau says, forces her to be more creative. In these recorded sessions, teens aren’t present to ask questions, so she’s careful to explain each step of the project. While assembling pancake batter, she gently talks to her online audience, acknowledging the isolation of social distancing while encouraging students to keep up with their schoolwork.

Once the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order is lifted, Desranleau thinks that virtual programming might still be used to reach people who aren’t able to get to the library. Her teen patrons, for instance, often play school sports such as football and basketball, so attendance is lower during certain seasons.

During this housebound time, Desranleau says she’s curious about what her teen patrons are doing to stay engaged in schoolwork. She's started preparing for the library’s summer reading program — planning for non-virtual events and hoping that the world will be a little closer to normal when warmer months arrive. She misses the kids.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.