Use the Force: How One Mass. Librarian is Using Star Wars to Get Teens Engaged

Peter StruzzieroAs schools and non-profit organizations struggle to improve national youth reading achievement levels, one Massachusetts librarian has devised a way to convert teenagers into active members of their local libraries: Get them excited about Star Wars.

Librarian Peter Struzziero, 29, has hosted the “Stars Wars Symposium”—a workshop program that he created (along with a school teacher) that encourages teens to dress up in their favorite costumes from the Star Wars films to play educational games and trivia about the series—at library branches across the state for the past two years. As part of the program, teens learn about the science behind Star Wars and discuss characters from the films. Prizes are awarded to attendees with the best costumes (Struzziero prefers to dress up as Obi-Wan Kenobi).

In all, Struzziero, who is based in Scituate, Mass., estimates that he has lead more than 50 workshops at local libraries across the state. He says that he works to give voice to teens and let them know that they’re a valued member of the community.

“I think teens are a misunderstood group of patrons,” Struzziero, adding that teens get more excited about the program than many expect. “The kids show up with more effort in their costumes than I put into mine.”

The program has received support from libraries because the Symposium helps teens to develop motor skills all while encouraging participants to read books about the films. Struzziero says that that the program is having a positive effect on the teens who participate. One library’s participant survey revealed that 43 percent of teens reported increased positive feelings about the library and 72 percent reported increased knowledge of the film series.

So far, the workshops have been well-received by teens across the state. At one September workshop in Abington, Mass., more than 100 participants came to the library excited to learn about the films and the book series, making the event the highest circulation for a Saturday event in the library’s history.

In addition to bringing teens into libraries, much of the program’s success has been due to the film’s multi-generational appeal to attendees of all ages, including children, teens, parents and grandparents.

“Parents come to the events because they liked Star Wars 35 years ago,” said Struzziero. “The words Star Wars do all the advertising you’ll ever need as they have infinite marketability to parents who grew up with these films. [The program] not only helps introduce the saga to a new generation, but encourages already established young fans.”

Struzziero hopes to provide state libraries with more services that appeal to teens and young members of the community in the future.

“I want to make teens feel strong and let them know that they’re a cool member of the community,” he said.

To learn more about Struzziero, visit his film review website at The Big Brown Chair orfollow him on Twitter at @BigBrownChair.

Jazzy Wright is the Press Officer of the American Library Association's Washington Office. Email her at jwright@alawash.org.

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