Northland Library's Teen Thursday program tries to engage local students

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The staff of the Northland Public Library wants North Hills teenagers to know that the library isn't just for toddlers and senior citizens.

A drop-in program called Teen Thursdays that started in the fall brings teens and 'tweens to the McCandless library each week and keeps them busy with activities such as decorating mannequin heads, playing Wii games and making candy sushi.

“The main focus of the program is to get the kids to understand that they're important to the library,” said Mary Menk, Northland's young-adult librarian. “It's not just about little kids and story time”

Menk started Teen Thursdays in September and said about 15 youths in the sixth through 11th grades have attended regularly.

Northland regularly had teens hanging out in the library, but Teen Thursdays is the library's first organized program for them, said, Menk, 43, of Mt. Lebanon.

A group of teenagers spent the afternoon of Jan. 23 snacking and chatting, while working to cut the heads of toothbrushes off.

Once they removed the brushes, the teens attached them to tiny motors to make racing robots called “bristle bots.”

“We just made electric toothbrushes,” joked North Allegheny Intermediate High School student Cecilia Groom, 15, of Franklin Park.

After racing their robots, the teens also tried to sink some persistently buoyant marshmallows in glasses of water before playing “Chubby Bunny,” a game in which players put as many marshmallows into their mouths as they can while saying “Chubby bunny.”

“It's just fun and I hang out with my friends,” said Eli Karp, 15, of Marshall Township, who attends North Allegheny Intermediate High School. “If I weren't here, I wouldn't know most of these people.”

Menk also formed a Teen Advisory Group for teens who want to help organize programming for Teen Thursdays and plan activities for library events, such as National Free Comic Book Day, which is in May.

She said she hopes that making a place for teens at the library will encourage young people to value libraries.

“It gives them a great appreciation for the library, which hopefully helps us get funding further down the road,” Menk said.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at or at 724-772-6353.

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