Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Talkin'

It's that time again: high school book talks! As I've probably mentioned before, these are my favorite outreaches, since I get to hit so many teens at once. Not only that, but I get to promote our collection and events, and then the kids always come back to the library and say they remember me talking to their class. It's a great connection moment, and it doesn't try too hard.

This time, I ditched the powerpoint method of book talking and instead used Prezi (on the recommendation of Jackie). It was a lot of fun to put together and I think the teens will appreciate something a little more interactive. My only complaints about this method are that I can't link the video to the image, and I couldn't grab a good screen shot for a handout. The first I remedied by creating a playlist on YouTube and the second I decided to forgo completely. I can save the paper and direct the teens to our website, where I've posted the presentation, and my short-term plans for the teen services department is a book list of all the titles I've talked this year.

I've got a huge number of books this time, since I am going to continue the new method of talking different books to different classes. The fun part has been having the kids see a cover and beg me to talk about it, even if I planned to skip it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Simple programming for all ages: cupcakes!

Last week was spring break here, and we offered a program every day for area youth. Perhaps my favorite was the easiest program: cupcakes! This program works for all ages, and it is incredibly easy to replicate.

My program was inspired by one of my favorite books:

And named after one of the fun Austin food trucks I used to walk past going to UT regularly:

The idea was to offer the supplies for people to come in and make their own fantasy cupcakes. I offered no instructions. Instead, I laid out a wealth of supplies and let them have at it. Their own imaginations were enough fuel!

First up, purchase a supply of undecorated cupcakes. You can make them yourself, though cost-wise, it's probably about the same to have them made by a local bakery than to do them yourself. There's also the cost of free time if you do it yourself. For 150 cupcakes, my local bakery (located in a grocery store) said they would charge me .40 each cupcake. $60 for 150 cupcakes sounded great to me. But I got luckier: they only charged me $40.

I laid out the cupcakes -- chocolate and white -- at the head table and then set up two separate rows of tables. The first looked like this:

Chocolate, strawberry, lemon, buttercream, and vanilla frosting cans were laid out, along with plastic knives. Cost was about $20 for that plus some sprinkles. But we didn't buy many toppings since our staff kitchen was flush with cool topping items from gingerbread house making in December and other events. This was a nice time to clean house a bit.

So my second rows of tables looked like this:

Sprinkles, edible glitter, skittles, m&ms, gummy worms, teddy grahams, and gel topping galore. I put the loose candy on paper plates, but in the future, I'd use spoons or something to make communal sharing less of a problem.

When the patrons came in for the program, they grabbed a plate, a napkin, a cupcake (or two or three) and then were directed to have fun. Here are some of their great creations:

This program was fun and easy, and everyone thought the cupcakes were delicious. Although we did a set time for the program -- 3 to 4 pm -- this could easily be run as a day-long passive program. We had enough left over to use for a Friday program, as well, so we served far more than the 60+ who showed up the day of the program. It works for all ages, too, making this a fun and easy family program.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Teen Tech Week: We Went QR

Two weeks ago we kicked off Teen Tech Week at my library with a very innovative program for teens: a QR treasure hunt. For those who don't know what a QR code is, it's a small barcode like the one above that can be read via a free app on one's smart phone or, as in our case, an iPod touch with a camera on it (the newest ones).

I was extremely fortunate in setting up this program, since I collaborated with Drea, who works at a library a couple hours south of where I am. I'd been planning on doing a program like this since the fall, and when Drea said she was interested in something similar, we decided to plan it together since it's a bit of a huge undertaking.

Before I dive into the nuts and bolts, I want to say that doing something like this does not require quite what we did. Drea and I both are fortunate to have had some help from a few authors to make some of the clues happen, but this is by no means necessary. And for those who might be interested and do want videos like ours, the ones we got were name free and with permission from the authors, we may be able to share our clues with you.

Drea and I spent a few hours one night plotting out the potential clues for our program. We wanted to make sure that while teens participated in this event, they were also secretly learning something about the library (and qr codes). So, we brainstormed what we had in our respective teen departments and what we could pull from. We ended up with about 20 clues that led teens through not only videos from authors, but to our respective online catalogs, book lists, and even to the posters and furniture. We also talked about which authors we might be able to have help us out, and we were blown away to get the help of Melissa Walker, Blythe Woolston, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Melinda Metz, and Loretta Ellsworth. Each made us a short video (under a 1:30) wherein they were able to pitch their books and then drop a clue for teens to move through the hunt.

To begin this program, I had to make one large purchase: an iPod touch. This cost roughly $200. I decided to purchase this because in my area, teens do not have much access to smart phones. It seemed unfair to me to expect anyone to participate in a program without the expensive equipment. Fortunately for me, I received a donation from a local organization, and the money went toward this purchase. Additionally -- and this was the plan from the start -- I decided that teens who completed the treasure hunt would have the opportunity to win big for participating. The iPod would be the prize (restored to factory settings, of course, before they could pick it up). So, while this was a pricey start up, this ensured fair access to the equipment AND served as a prize/incentive for participation.

When I got the iPod, I charged it, as well as loaded a free QR app onto it. I taught staff how to use the equipment by encouraging them to run through the hunt so they could answer questions that might arise. In addition, I made all of the books involved in the hunt non-circulating; this was done in the event one of our codes would check out. Fortunately, we're part of a big enough system that kids interested in checking out these books would be able to get them in a day or two from another library.

There were few instructions for my hunt. The teens were given a small handout with problem solving tips (answering things about what to do if they lost the qr app while going through the hunt or wanted to exit a video). They were allowed to borrow the iPod for the program with a library card or student id, and they were led to the first clue seen above. That qr code led them to a video produced by one of Drea's teens that explained how the program worked. She also dropped them to their first clue -- a book about a Violet who walks a runway by an author with the last name Walker. Easy enough!

On the back of the book was the qr code. After snapping that clue, they were led to their first author video:

Cool, right?

I won't show off the entire hunt, but Melissa's clue took them to one of our reference desks (I made sure to put the same qr code on both desks to cover my bases).

And from there, they were led to a few other places, including:

A poster in the teen area. This qr code actually linked up to the catalog record for Beautiful Creatures, wherein Kami and Margaret talked about libraries and led them to the final clue.

Besides just static things, I also made the kids work for their clues with puzzles:

And then there was the book list clue. At my library, we don't have a reader's advisory program set up yet in the teen area (something I am working on), but this was a great opportunity to get one book list out on tech books. I noticed later that some of those lists were actually being used and left in places that weren't the holder -- a sign that the kids were using them!

One of my favorite clues was the QR code that led from the reference desk to a post on my library's blog. I talked about award winning books -- the Morris, the Printz, and the Cybils -- and then asked the teens to find the Morris winner. And how cool they got to hear from Blythe herself about what an honor it was to win the award!

Another clue led kids to crawl on the floor and look beneath the big chair in the teen department.

Our final clue was to the book Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (yes, this was purposeful). When kids snapped that code, they were led to a Google form to fill out and be entered for the grand prize.

The form asked them for the basics -- name, phone, grade -- as well as asked them to name three books or authors they heard from. I did this in the event one of the kids got lost in the hunt and skipped clues. The last question was whether they'd do something like that again. Every entry said yes (woo hoo!).

This program, while it took a bit of set up, was easy to run. It required staff involvement only in the iPod loaning process, and we're extremely fortunate that our teen area was close enough to the reference desk that we didn't have to worry about the iPod walking away. We also had identification for the user and informed them that the iPod had a tracking device on it (which it did). We had no problems at all.

The biggest issues we had coming out of the program was some confusion on the part of the teens in figuring out how to use the device. It's a time-consuming program, as a program with such a huge prize should be. One of my regular teens said it took him over an hour to do, but he enjoyed it a lot. I think the fact the teens got frustrated at times is important, as it's a lesson for them that not everything will come easy to them. But this was a safe environment to try things out and learn, and they got to try something with equipment that they didn't have to worry about breaking.

I would do this program again in a heartbeat and I recommend something similar to other libraries looking for a way to incorporate technology and reading. As someone who'd never used a qr code myself, I thought this was such a cool introduction to the power they have, and it really encouraged me to think about how I could incorporate these things into my work. I even wrote a grant application in hopes of a little funding to try using them as part of our teen summer reading program.

One big frustration I had with the program -- and one you should be wary of -- is that our wireless network did not play nicely with the iPod. The pop-up we have that requires guest wireless users to agree to behave on the network would not come up on the iPod, and we were unable to access the wireless. To resolve this problem, we chose to allow the iPod onto the staff wireless network, and staff members who lent out the iPod logged the teens onto the network. We had no problems doing it this way. I also locked down the iPod to ensure no additional apps could be installed, since those purchases would come on my credit card. Again, we had no problems. Teens are good people -- and they were way more interested in doing the program than trying to cause problems with the iPod.

Ever tried something similar or heard of something similar? Tell me about it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book talking: Middle School

My favorite part of the job, no doubt, is getting the books into the hands of kids. For me, there's no better way than through book talking.

I've been book talking all day to the 7th grade at our local middle school. In 6 hours, I reach 200 kids by doing nothing but talking about a cool mix of books and showing off book trailers.

This time, I mixed things up. I usually only talk 7 or 8 titles all day. Today, though, I decided to put up 20 titles and play it by ear. I'm just talking and showing what I feel like, and I an gauging it on the kids, too.

Top picks so far? The kids LOVE the trailer for The True Meaning of Smekday. My most requested titles so far are Trapped, The Chosen One, and Dirty Little Secrets. They're also feeling Meanwhile.

Favorite moment so far, though, has been hearing the kids share their own 6-word memoirs, as well as letting one kid do the book talk for Chasing Lincoln's Killer for me. If you don't let your kids do the talking once in a while, well, you're missing out. Sometimes, they sell the books to their peers even better than you.

Here are today's books. Ever talked these? I'd be happy to share my tips and suggestions if you want to get started.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bulletin board switch up

Remember when I made that Cybils bulletin board? Yep. I just got around to changing it, months later. I didn't do anything spectacular, but I like it. There are a couple things I plan on tweaking, but here it is. The theme? What's going on in the teen department now and what's coming up soon (this is because our teens are participating in a teen tech week program in the department for the next two weeks, and this will give them a heads up -- and keep your eyes here for more on that program soon):

That's the middle of the board -- we call our teen area "18 & Under @ APL" and since that's the motto I'm using on one of the summer reading promotional items. I am such a huge fan of the teen tech week poster this year, too. The bright green and the robot (!!!) totally speak to teens. That will be sticking around for a while.

There's a more head-on shot. The font's ganked from, and I printed each letter at 300 point.

And to the left, a feature on my high school book club. That image? One of my teens made that as the club's mascot, so I laminated it and popped it up to highlight it. Font again yanked from and blown up. Here's some more of that side of the board:

Some of the photos of our meetings, as well as one of our teen's cover redesigns (isn't it amazing?) and pictures of the books we've read.

So then on the other side of the poster are photos of past events (like our masquerade ball) and images for our upcoming events.

I want to jazz up this side a little bit more, which I plan on doing with photos from the teen tech week event as soon as it's over.

Now for the (somewhat) full effect:

I'll probably leave this up until summer reading, which I've got some ideas cooked up for already. I don't think the background will be black forever.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Birthday Storytime!

The story time I've been doing this month has been one of my most successful, and I must give a big thanks to Dr. Seuss himself for it. This month's theme was birthday, and I was lucky enough to get to do two of the bigger groups on March 2, just in time to celebrate one of kidlit's most famous authors.

I started this story time with a song. I had all of the kids stand and pretend they were preparing for a party and we needed to sing a song. They loved this one.

(Make hands into a bowl)
Jelly in a bowl,
Jelly in a bowl,
Wiggle Waggle
Wiggle Waggle
Jelly in a bowl.

(Make hands into a jar)
-- I had the kids guess what we'd be bringing next.
Cookies in a jar,
Cookies in a jar,
Shake 'em up,
Shake 'em up,
Cookies in a jar.

(Make all 10 fingers into candles)
-- I asked the kids what went on top of a cake.
Candles on the cake,
Candles on the cake,
Blow them out,
Blow them out,
Candles on the cake.

After our song, I shared three stories:

I Want Two Birthdays by Tony Ross: This is a story about a girl who thinks she should have a birthday every day. I began by asking the kids if they wanted two birthdays (and strangely, most said they did -- their real one and the one they have their birthday party on). But by the end, the kids didn't want two birthdays anymore.

Happy Birthday, Monster by Scott Beck: This one's about a dinosaur that makes a birthday cake for his friend, who happens to be a monster (a dragon, actually). This one's a tough one to read aloud because there's a lot of hilarious dialog. I did end up reading the dialog to the kids who appreciated it. But it was a little annoying for me as a reader, so by the third time I read the story, I decided instead to just have the kids tell me what the weird creatures were doing. I also asked some questions about the pictures (such as, would the ghost be good at jump rope?). They liked it a lot both ways.

Don't Spill the Beans by Ian Schoenherr: I didn't care for this one as much as I thought I did. The story isn't obvious enough, and I was prepared to swap it out but my replacement book went MIA the morning of story time. Alas. I asked the kids if they knew what it meant to not spill the beans, and then I explained it to them. But their answers were better; one said it was a game he had at home and another said it meant (completely serious) not to spill the beans!

After stories, we sang another song -- we had to! How could you share a birthday story time without singing Happy Birthday? The first day, we sang it to "everyone," but then we were lucky and got to sing it to Dr. Seuss.

As I've mentioned before, the "Little Mouse" game is one of my favorite story time activities. It's an easy guessing game, and it helps the kids work on their color recognition skills. Well, I promised my favorite group (more on them in a second!) I'd switch it up this week. So instead of "Little Mouse" we had...

"Little Snake!" Naturally, he hid beneath a birthday cake.

This was extremely simple to create -- both the snake and the cakes were in my Word clip art, so I didn't even have to look hard for them. I then covered them in contact paper and stuck sandpaper squares on the back, and wham! I now have a new go-to game, and the kids were in LOVE with it. My favorite group has the most ridiculous (cute) habit, which is to beg to see the "little" friend every time I visit them. Why? Well, each and every one of them gives him a hug and a kiss good bye! This time, not only did the snake get his good bye, but each of the cakes also got recognition. Too sweet.

For the craft groups, we made our own sprinkled birthday cake:

A Google image search will give you twelve billion coloring page options for cake, but I liked this one because it let me add the key part of the craft: the glitter. I let each kid color the sheets and pick out 4 to 5 sequins for the inside of their cakes. Although mine had a cotton ball on top for the whipped cream, I didn't end up bringing that with for the kids.

While they colored, I came by each kid with a glue stick and glitter shaker. I let them pick where to put the glitter -- and I let them but it anywhere in any amount -- and then I glittered for them. It kept it less messy, and we didn't need a box lid to catch the excess.

This was a hit of a craft. Super simple and customizable, and each kid's product came out completely different. A real winner of a story time!