Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 in review

This was a really interesting year in work for me. I'm part-time (by choice) and the bulk of my responsibility has been reference work, with a side of helping plan and run programs, as well as selecting teen fiction and non-fiction for the library.

With a retirement and with a co-worker leaving the library, things changed a lot. I worked the same amount of hours (around 12 or 15 a week), but I had a lot more responsibility. I was in charge of planning and running all of the teen programming -- which I do get help with from another person with my hours per week or so -- and I was put in charge of all ordering and selecting of teen materials. In short, I took on a full-time job with my very not full-time hours. And all of my work is done on our very busy reference desk. I don't get regular "off desk" time. Maybe I've had 10 or 15 hours off-desk this year.

It hasn't been an easy transition but I've tried to work with it. Now with the year wrapping up, I thought reflecting a bit on those changes was worthwhile.

Over the course of this year, I:

  • Wrote and developed a series of reader's advisory guides, as pictured above. Previously, there was no RA material specifically for the teen collection. Now there is. 
  • Increased our program offerings. Last year on my annual evaluation, the goal setting noted that I'd run one program a quarter for teens. Since May of this year, I've developed and ran at least three programs per month
  • Developed and ran the most successful teen program of my career, with over 40 teens. I also started a monthly club based on what my teens were begging me for, and the attendance for that has been great, as has the enthusiasm from those teens and from colleagues (I'll blog about it next month -- getting to that).
  • Wrote two mini-grants for teen collection development. 
  • Weeded all of the teen fiction and non-fiction. 
  • Reworked our audiobook shelving. Like most libraries, we shelved audiobooks separately from fiction and non-fiction, but because our audiobook collection isn't huge, I thought shelving them right along with the books would be beneficial. I haven't yet collected stats, since this change happened last month, but it's a change I'm really proud of and happy with. 
  • Expressed my dislike for those 50- to 100- page, library bound "non-fiction" works that cost way too much per unit and never circulate but which remain a dinosaur in a lot of libraries because they're "useful for teen research." In expressing that, I was given the okay that I don't have to buy them if I don't want. Seems small, but it's a big deal because it means the teen non-fiction collection can be a true browsing collection. Of course there are good books there for research and education but I don't feel the need to continue buying things I hate buying and that I don't think are worth buying for our collection.  
  • Created and displayed shelf talkers in the teen area to book talk titles passively to readers. I'm looking forward to swapping up which books are featured in the coming month. 
  • Saw engagement on our teen Facebook page. Not much -- but every little bit helps. The kids are getting a kick out of seeing their pictures used as our profile picture and they're enjoying seeing photos of themselves from events. 
  • Implemented passive programs and saw some of them actually be successful. 

Breaking it down and looking at it piece by piece makes me feel pretty good about 2014. It's less about adding more (because actually, I'm trying to shed some responsibilities) to increase numbers, but it's more about creating sustainable projects that go a little deeper/can be repeated and enjoyed. Some of my goals include:

  • Sustaining a teen book-to-film monthly program. We've already got the films picked out through the end of August. 
  • Building our monthly yu-gi-oh and game club. This is the one that teens asked for and have been so enthusiastic about. They bring their own cards and go to town. I give them a drink and a snack. I hope it continues to be popular and well-attended because it's such an easy program and it's one they love
  • Continuing to implement passive programming. I've been brainstorming monthly ideas and hope to do one or two a quarter, since monthly might be pushing it. 
  • See an increase in summer reading club participation. The programming was decently attended. But the program itself had such small numbers. I'm hoping because of more programming and more advertising and more getting-to-know the teens, we'll have more of them participating in the actual program. If I can hit 90 or 100 kids signed up with the club, I'd be over the moon. 
  • Engaging teens in a new quarterly book club. I'm so excited about trying this, and I am hopeful we get some participation. Teens who sign up get a free copy of the book and the discussion is held over a pizza dinner, so it seems like it should be a hit. Plus, we're talking great YA books. 
  • Weeding even more aggressively. I used a 2-to-3 year average to get started this year. I might go even harder and pull stuff that hasn't moved in a year and a half. We're tight on space. 

Of course, my other goal is to be a better blogger over here. I'd love to try to write up two posts a month talking programming and other library-related topics. I'd like to roundup great programming links, too. 

But part of me wonders if maybe what I want to say and share is better suited for tumblr, rather than a traditional blog. Or maybe crossposting is worthwhile. We shall see. 

December Teen Book Displays

Here's what I did for teen displays in December. I did two for the bulk of the month, and then I swapped one out this week because it was too good an opportunity not to.

When I Was a Teen...

I finished a huge weeding project in November, and after stumbling across so many memoirs for teens (often by those who were teens or just out of their teens themselves), I decided to pull them together into a display. 

Take A Trip

I think I mentioned that this winter has already been tough, and that inspired me to put together a display of books about road trips or set abroad. Wishful thinking, maybe. I was also inspired to pull it together since the weeding project reminded me of the SASS series, and I know it's one that would go out a lot more if it was more visible. 

Under the Mistletoe

I saw variations of this display popping up in my blog and tumblr reading, and I could not resist. I actually wish we had more kissing or near-kissing covers because I'd have really packed this display tight. 

December Passive Program for Teens: What's Your Favorite?

I'm a big believer in passive programming. But it's not always successful -- there are passive programs I've tried to absolutely no response from the teens. 

Then there are the passive programs which I've put together without much thought or planning and they've gone over very well. This is one of them.

I worked the weekend of Thanksgiving and it was quiet. I got thinking about how much I want to know what my teens like a little bit more, and I was thinking about how fun it would be if teens told each other what it is they like. Because it's been a rough winter here already, I thought encouraging thoughts of favorite and good things would be worthwhile. 

Enter: tell me your favorite. 

I grabbed a snowflake picture, pasted 4 to a sheet, and printed off a pile of them. I cut them into squares, then tossed them into a brochure holder, along with a bunch of small pencils. I did not write anything on the flakes at all. Instead, I made a sign that simply asked teens to write down their favorite things on a snowflake. It could be a movie, a television show, or a book, and it didn't need to be anything new. They didn't have to put their name or any identifying information. 

I used one of our display cubes which faces the seating area in the teen section to put the flakes and sign up, along with our raffle box for completed flakes to be put into. I printed out duplicate signs about the program and hung them around the teen area and stepped away. 

Every few days -- I only work 3 or so days a week -- I would check the box. The first week or so, there was nothing in there. I didn't get too worried though.

Then in the second week, my box of teen favorites exploded, and it hasn't stopped seeing flakes since. As I've gathered them up, I've cut them into circles and then taped them to the sides of the stacks. And I think by seeing those flakes on the stacks, teens not only feel like they're being heard and cared about, but they're encouraged to contribute, as well.

There are flakes on the ends of four of our shelves. After I took the photos, I noticed that there were a few more in the box to be hung, too.

One thing I worried about with the program is the thing you always have to worry about with a passive program and teenagers: would there be something inappropriate?

Of the 50 or so flakes I've had turned in, there was only one thing that couldn't be hung . . . and I almost hung it anyway to embarrass the teen who wrote "I like secks :)". Instead, I put it in my file folder at work to remember that teens will always make you laugh because of stuff like that. Since I'm the one collecting, reading, and hanging these guys up, it was no big deal at all. 

The program took about 15 to 20 minutes to pull together, and because it's been so well-received, I think I'll leave it up through the winter, even as I swap out the actual passive programs next month. In the summer, perhaps I'll do the same thing. The cost was a couple minutes of Google image searching, copying and pasting, some white paper and black ink (I didn't even print them in color), and time to cut and hang them up periodically. 

There are no incentives, no prizes, and no rewards for teens who do this. But the value is they see their voices being heard in the library and they get to see that this is really their space. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Revisiting and Revising a Teen Program: The Chocolate Wars

This week, I ran what was my most successful teen program event in my career. We had 40 teens show up on a Tuesday evening at the library. It was unbelievable. And awesome. And completely overwhelming and exhausting -- but in a good way.

I didn't do anything new to me for this event. Instead, I decided to rework an old program I did at a prior job a few years ago. You may remember my post about the chocolate olympics and death by chocolate. This time, I renamed it as "Chocolate Wars," and from my prior experience, as well as necessity due to program turnout, I made some modifications.

First, I should note that this is not an inexpensive program. We spent $100 on supplies. I had in my head that 25 kids would be a huge turn out, and I planned with that in mind. Fortunately, we did not lack for supplies at all. And in fact, when you break the cost down, it was quite an inexpensive program per attendee; I'd had in my mind that $4 a person for 25 teens would be a good average. Instead, the break down was just a little over $2 per attendee. Not too shabby.

So what did we do this time and how did we do it? First, I'll share the events we had, and then I'll share how we ran it. I use we because my coworker helped with the event, as did an intern who got her first taste of teen programming at the library.

What We Did

Chocolate Pictionary


- Construction paper
- A few packages of dark chocolate Hershey bars
- A list of pictionary words

This is pretty self-explanatory. The person in charge of drawing could only use the chocolate bar to do the drawing. The rest of the teens had to guess what they were drawing. The person who got it right was the next to draw.

Stack & Sort Races


- 3 large bags of regular M&Ms
- 4 Oreo packages
- Ziplock bags

For the "sorting" part, each teen got a bag of 75 M&Ms and they had to sort them by color. First to do it and put their hands up won the event.

For the "stacking" part, well. It was a bust. I had them work as partners to create Oreo towers, but they weren't interested in listening to directions (more to come on this). So essentially, it became four rounds of opening up an Oreo package and letting them grab and eat. Which was fine.

Chocolate Shuffleboard


- Masking tape
- One package of mini chocolate bars

I pushed two tables together and created a shuffle board out of the tables and masking tape. There was a starting line with the rules written on it -- the teens had 5 chances to earn 40 points. Some of the shuffleboard spaces were negative points. Some were 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40. One was an automatic win.

Identify the Chocolate


- 10 to 15 different kinds of full-size chocolate bars
- Ziplock bags
- One half-sheet for teens to write their best guesses on

This was an overflow table and unstaffed. The teens would look at the bars and try to guess what it was they were.

Whopper Races


- Masking tape
- 2 boxes of Whoppers

Teens were split into four teams and had to race from one end of the room to the other pushing the Whopper with just their noses. Some teens were not into this idea AT ALL and chose to implement other means of getting the Whopper across the floor, including blowing on it. That was fine with me -- the key was the fact they had to crawl across the floor.

Hershey Kiss Races


- 2 bags of Hershey Kisses
- Masking tape
- A few pairs of oven mitts
- Plastic cups

Teens were split into four teams and had to walk from one end of the room to the other with their two kisses, then they had to unwrap them with the mitts on and place the unwrapped chocolate into one cup and the wrapper into another one. First team to complete won.

Worm Digging


- Pie crusts (graham cracker -- though we did frozen in a pinch)
- Chocolate pudding
- Gummy worms
- 2 plastic table cloths
- Plastic cups
- Napkins

We put together 11 chocolate pudding pies, each with 5 worms in them. Teens had to use only their mouths to dig out the worms from the chocolate pudding. They then deposited the worms into the plastic cups. The table cloths were used to cover the table and the floor. Let me tell you how easy cleanup was for that.

Miscellaneous supply need: Chocolate bars for prizes. We did the mini bars.

How We Did It

So the very first thing we did was wait 10 minutes before starting  the program. We scheduled it for 6, and we waited until 6:10. We made all of the kids sit on the floor -- at this point there were roughly 25 -- and we laid down hard and firm rules. You leave the room, you can't come back. You get too wild, we'll kick you out. Absolutely no chocolate leaves the room and enters the library, except at the very end when the teens could bring home their prizes.

In the past, I made all of these into station activities. But I knew it was not going to work this time. I decided instead to make the Whopper races and Hershey kiss races the first things we did, and we did them as a big group. We got the kids split into two teams, and then we were joined by 15 other kids. My coworker decided to take them out in the hall and give them the same speech we'd given to the kids already there, and she split them into teams for the second set of races.

This ended up working out okay. When the first round of teams were done doing the Kiss race (which we did first), they got a little antsy, but I kept them happy by giving them left over candy. We were then able to make the 40 kids get into 4 separate teams for the Whopper event.

After those two big team events concluded, we made all of the kids sit in the middle again for more instructions. We told them the rest of the program was fluid -- they could go between the Sort and Stack station, the Chocolate Shuffleboard, the Chocolate Guessing, and the Chocolate Pictionary events. And they did a great job of doing that. They listened and followed through. The problem came for me when they didn't want to listen to the instructions at the station I covered (the Sort and Stack) but I let it slide. I had to. Forty kids in one room is chaotic, and the kids had done a great job of listening over and over to new and changing instructions. I could let it go and I think they were happy for it. And so was I.

My coworker and I got worried about the Worm digging event since we only had 11 pies. We held off on figuring out a plan until the VERY end of the program, when our numbers dropped considerably. About 10 minutes before the end of the program -- which ran for an hour and a half -- we noticed we had roughly 20 kids left. So we told them they could do one last event, but only 11 could do it. We explained what it was and fortunately, ONLY 11 kids were interested (it's messy and kind of gross, so that made sense). We had them race in teams of 3 (and for the last one, 2). After they raced for the worms, we gave those kids spoons to eat the pudding if they wished to.

In the mean time, the other kids who didn't race? They had a BLAST taking photos and rooting for their friends. No one was bored.

Local Media Attention

Prior to the event, one of the newspapers got in touch with me to ask about the program. We got a really nice writeup about this event, as well as some of our forthcoming ones. I suspect that helped with some of the teens showing up.

But even better than that, a photographer came out the night of the event and shot pictures, too. Two of my teens got a nice picture in the print edition of the paper on Wednesday morning -- aside from being a nice boost to us, I suspect that will make them feel really good, too.

I took a lot of photos of the event, and I took a video of the Whopper race, and posted them on our teen Facebook page. The kids were talking about how they'd wanted to have some photos for their own Facebook pages, so I thought this would be a nice way for them to get them if they wanted.

Last Thoughts

I'd do this again, and I'd do it in a pretty similar fashion, but I would maybe have to do signups or limit the number of participants. I dislike doing that, but 40 kids, even with 3 adults, is a LOT of kids. It's a lot of hyper energy.

They did an excellent job of listening though, and when we said that if they left the room they were done and finished, they listened. They did not make a mess outside the programming room, and we only had to kick 2 kids out. They weren't being "bad," but they were being disruptive enough to merit the kicking out. Both were kicked out near the end of the event.

We had no leftover supplies, as the kids who stuck around were able to scoop up any remainders they wished to, including the chocolate guessing chocolates. We went over the answers to those in our final "sit on the floor and listen" session, prior to the worm digging event.

"Winners" for the stations, in theory, won a small chocolate bar. But because we were so busy, we never gave them to the kids. And you know . . . they never asked. They had plenty to eat and enjoy. All remaining Kisses and Whoppers were doled out as events ended, and we threw out the mini bars to the kids as we read the chocolate guessing answers.

Forty kids for me is amazing. We had a GREAT turnout at our zombie party this summer, but in no way did I expect this kind of turnout during the school year for an event. What a nice treat after feeling like I didn't know what I was doing with programming -- though it certainly has made me reconsider how to best approach programming again (in terms of numbers, cost, time budgeted to plan, and so forth -- I was lucky I'd done this before so the planning step wasn't too complicated).

I already had teens asking about what we were doing next.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Displays

I've got two big programs for teens in October -- I consider "Teen Read Week" to be a month-long celebration for a variety of time and energy related reasons -- and I'll write about them when they're over. But in the mean time, I thought I'd share the displays I've got in the teen department for October.

The last week of September, I put up my banned books week display. Except I don't like calling it banned books week, so I noted instead that reading these books was about celebrating the freedom to read them. Simon and Schuster sent me the poster I've got taped on the display cube, and they sent me an extra one, which I put on the teen department bulletin board.

I've refilled this guy once already, and since banned books week is over, chances are when the other books disappear, I'll swap it out for another display. I'll likely go with horror or zombies since both are perennial favorites.

This is one of the displays I've been eager to do for a while, and I finally got around to it -- these are all books by authors who have Wisconsin ties or they're books set in Wisconsin. Author Molly Backes is doing a program for our teens and adults later this month, and it tied in too perfectly. When I checked the display later, a large number of the books had disappeared. In fact, as soon as I'd gotten the display set up, people were looking at it.

My middle cube is devoted to a raffle for the teens. I was lucky enough to meet Veronica Roth this summer, who signed a copy of Insurgent for me, and because the third book in the series releases this month, I thought a perfect giveaway for teen read month would be the entire set of books, including the super special signed copy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Unexpected Finds: Passive Reader's Advisory

I love doing displays. I love passive reader's advisory. Any sort of passive programming I can implement into my teen department is a positive thing for me -- being part-time and juggling my responsibilities for teen stuff with being on the reference desk is a challenge. Through passive stuff, it's possible to do a little more with a little less.

My former co-worker and I had an idea back last December to implement a little more passive reader's advisory into the teen department but with a lot of changes happening in the workplace, it was impossible to get it done right away. And then with summer reading club, it became even more challenging to implement.

But finally, ten months after the fact, I got the project done and I am thrilled with the results:

I'm going to talk a little bit more about this over on STACKED later this month (we're doing an entire week of reader's advisory posts) but the project was to make shelf talkers for YA books. 

We purchased these holders from Gaylord, and there are ten in a package. I think that was the perfect number for our collection size and layout. My co-worker and I had written our book descriptions out, and I had the chance finally to format them and print them out. 

I sent an email to the rest of the adult services department after I got the talkers up, and I didn't think a whole lot about the value those talkers would have to the staff. I'd mentioned that if they had read anything in the YA department and wanted to write a talker, to type up 3 or 4 sentences at most and shoot it my way so I could do the formatting, printing, and displaying. But I got a wealth of thank yous because it helps make their jobs a little easier too -- it's a starting point for those teens who want a good book to read but approach a staff member who might not be as familiar with the YA books. 

The element of surprise for YA readers to discover these while browsing is what maybe excites me the most.

My goal is to swap out the titles every other month or so. I'd like to do it monthly, but time and other projects might make it hard, unless I do get flooded with contributions from other staffers -- and I have a feeling I'll see some more contributions, too.  

Recently Displayed in the Teen Section

I've done a number of displays in the teen department over the last few months and failed to post them over here! I've been taking pictures and popping them onto my tumblr, but I figured for those of you who read this and don't want to head over there, I'd share here, too.

September Displays:

Sometimes, you don't even have to be creative to make a successful display. This one is just a display of recent new books. Yes, we have an entire new books section, but I figured pulling some out to display would get them even more exposure, in a different area of the teen department. And I was right -- this has required refilling numerous times. I love "having" to keep refill my displays because it means books are moving. The sign for it just says "Try A New Book" and it's an image of an old ferris wheel because why not?

On my other lower display cube, I put up boarding school books. It, too, has been wildly popular. I've had to refill it once and . . . at this point I'm kind of out of books to put on the display, so there are only 4 or 5 on it now.

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, and I wanted to honor that with what our collection had in terms of stories and authors which showcase or who are of Hispanic heritage. This one hasn't moved quite the same way as the other two displays, but stuff has definitely been checked out. More importantly, though, I think even when your displays aren't as successful, showcasing what your collection has is really important -- especially when it comes to showcasing multicultural titles. We do serve a sizable Hispanic population, as well.

Because banned books week is this month and our library is doing a series of "Big Read" events around it, I plan on switching one of the displays out to show off banned books (I think I'm going to frame it as intellectual freedom, as opposed to banned books, maybe).

August Displays:

The most popular books teens read this summer (according to summer reading club entries) were written by Ellen Hopkins. So to sate the interests of those readers, I did a read alike display, which was wildly successful. I think I'm going to end up making a post of some sort to put in the teen area to give read alikes to some of the really popular authors.

I did a display of short stories for August, as well. Though some of the books went out, it wasn't the most popular display I've done. I think that speaks to the popularity of short stories with teen readers, to be honest. Some love them, but most of our titles don't circulate very well.

This idea I took from another tumblr user, who developed a reading list for fans of Supernatural. I made it a display and it did very well. I think I might replicate this sort of display in October, but this time for fans waiting for The Walking Dead. Yep, it would be yet another zombie display (I think my third in a year?) but those books go like crazy, and I don't see why replicating popular displays is a bad thing, especially if you're changing up the how of your display -- in other words, not always simple "zombie books!" but in this case, it'd be a tie in to the show's return in mid-October. My kids are rabid about zombies, and I want to keep 'em happy. 

They are rabid enough that they even helped make a poster for our library card sign up month campaign, dressed as zombies

July Displays:

Like I said. I think in July I refilled this display almost every time I came to work -- and sometimes, there weren't any books to add to it.

I also did a display of books with either time travel or which took place in parallel worlds in July. This was a fun and a tough one -- but it got some books circulating that hadn't gone out in a long time.