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DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Library tries to lure teens with XTreme adventure



Published: Tue, September 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



We've had extreme football, extreme skateboarding, and even extreme sandboarding. Now, we're about to have extreme library.

Impossible, you say? Not if, Linda Kucalaba, Cindy Beach and Bev Chearno have anything to do with it.

As Mahoning County librarians, the three women have been charged with developing, launching and maintaining the library system's TeenXTreme program -- a new project aimed at bringing seventh-to 12th-graders back to the stacks.

"It's hard to get kids into the library in this age group," said Janet Loew, library communications and public relations director. "We've got them when they're little kids and they come again when they're in college, but not these guys."

Armed with a survey of 300 teens, and the advice of its teen advisory board, the XTreme team has been busy deciding what teens want. "We also bounce our ideas off our 14-year-old daughters," Kucalaba said.

Attractions: TeenXTreme will feature a cool pizza-shaped Web site, a focus on music, and, if its board has anything to do with it, neon-lighted teen areas in the libraries, stuffed with comfy seating as well as young adult fiction and nonfiction. Monthly programs also will be geared to the age group, Beach said.

"Each branch will have its own programs," Kucalaba said. The fact that the advisory board members are, as yet, still under the age of 16, may account for the current theme ideas: "Come as a rock star," baby-sitting clinics and karate. Music and trivia nights may appeal to older teens, though. Prizes from coupons to flashlights will most likely be offered for a variety of contests that will be offered regularly.

Beach, Kucalaba and Chearno are working busily to beat an Oct. 14 deadline. They hope to launch TeenXTreme as the American Library Association Teen Read Week begins. ALA's Lord of the Rings theme, in turn, coincides with the promotions for the "Lord of the Rings" movie to be released this winter.

They hope intense radio advertising will lure kids to a big Teen Read Week opening celebration at the Boardman library Oct. 13. "A WHOT Radio DJ will be on hand for the kick off event, doing a live remote, and possibly one from KISS-WAKZ Radio," Loew said. "We'll have contests and will be encouraging kids to sign up for free computer classes and to get library cards and Internet access." There will even be a contest to prompt kids to "talk to a librarian."

Contests: Beach said writing and art contests, revolving around their "Make reading a Hobbit" theme, will be available in schools before the kick off event. It is hoped upwards of 500 teen-agers will attend. "We'll have a tent with tables and chairs for the DJ and people. We'll have music and prizes," she said.

The TeenXTreme Web site, at www.TeenXtremeOnline.org, will soon feature an illustration of a pizza with each slice being a link to other activities. In the "fun" slice, kids are directed to a perpetual bubble wrap site and another that mimics an Etcha Sketch. The "Creative Corner" slice will allow kids to publish their own writing. Slices also lead to homework help, teen issues, techie stuff (computer links, that is), and college and career links.

"We know they're very Web oriented," Loew said.

Kucalaba added, "It will be a place for them to submit poetry, reviews, enter contests, check out our music holdings... We wanted the Web site to meet all their varied needs. Actually, after the Web site gets rolling, we're going to be updating it regularly and looking at the e-mails teens send to get ideas. We're hoping to have new, innovative ideas to drawn [teens] in."

"If we do this right they will come," Kucalaba said.

murphy@vindy.com




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