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.

Caramel Apples: A Teen Programming Success

image via

My first fall program -- caramel apple making -- was a mega hit this week, despite a few hiccups on the planning side of things. This program was very easy, inexpensive, and more than worthwhile. I had 25 teens show up for the one hour evening event. 

I picked up supplies the day before the event, except for the apples, which I picked up the morning of the event. They are as follows:

-- 2 bags of apples. I picked up red and green varieties, and there were roughly 20 in each of the bags. I bought smaller apples, as opposed to bigger ones. Because we don't do signups, I didn't know how many kids would show up. I figured in the worst case, the kids would each be able to have two or three. And even with 25 teens, there were enough for many of them to have two apples. The cost for the two bags was about $12. 

-- 3 or 4 tubs of caramel dip. They make pre-made dips in the fruit section, and I picked up four tubs. For 25 kids, I only needed three because I also decided to pick up one tub of chocolate dip and one tub of vanilla cream cheese dip. My thought was some kids will want to come and they don't like caramel. So, for all six tubs of dip, it was roughly $4 each, or $24. 

-- Popsicle sticks. I bought the bigger ones you get in the craft section, and they were roughly $2. 

-- M&Ms. They make mini M&Ms, and I ended up buying three bags, which was a little much. I didn't realize how many M&Ms came in the bags of minis, and I only ended up using one bag. That was about $3 for each (so my total cost was $9 or so, but for 25 kids, one bag was plenty). 

-- Sprinkles. We had leftovers from summer programming, so this was no cost to me. But for someone wanting to replicate, it'd be very inexpensive. 

Total cost for supplies: under $50.

We have napkins, forks, and plates in our programming room, so those might be extra costs. We also keep a supply of drinks, but I could see purchasing a couple of gallons of apple juice or apple cider, as well, and still keeping the cost low.

The set up for the program was simple. I wiped down each of the apples and de-stemmed them prior to the program. All of the apples were in good shape. 

We had two tables: the first had the apples, plates, napkins, drinks, and popsicle sticks. The second table had forks, the dips, and the toppings. While it would have been ideal to have spoons, we were out of them, so I improvised with forks. As the teens came in, they each helped themselves to an apple, put the stick through it (which was their favorite part, to the surprise of exactly no one), and then they had the choice of using a fork to spread the dips over the apples or putting the apple in the dip and turning it. Since they hadn't touched the apples beyond putting the stick through the center, there weren't germ concerns. 

After they put the dip on the apples, they could then top with sprinkles or M&Ms over their own plates. Some teens put the toppings right on their plates, as well as some extra dip, for when they got to the middle of the apple.

This was a little messy at cleanup -- the dip and toppings table especially -- but for 25 kids it was more than well-worth it. As the teens finished eating, they just hung out around the room with each other. Some played games, some of the girls had a blanket and just chilled with one another. For me, that's the definition of a successful program: your kids don't come only for the food. They come to socialize with one another, too. 

I'd debated bringing other topping choices for the event, but I am glad I stuck to what I did. It was more than enough, and, as I noted above, there were too many bags of M&Ms. I kept this event nut-free because I know allergies are always something to keep in mind. I didn't even want to touch it. 

Many kids ended up eating a second apple, and when the program ended, I had 2 full bags of mini M&Ms left, as well as one tub of caramel dip. Everything else was gone. 

Though the program went smoothly inside the room, there were some challenges outside the program that I think are going to change how I do things a little bit. Our security monitor came in to show me that a number of popsicle sticks had been found broken around the library (some of the teens were playing with them and I didn't realize they'd taken them out of the room). But the real downer was that he also found a caramel apple in the water fountain. As in, someone took it out of the room and put it there. Not cool.

So in response, I think I'm going to have to rethink my stance on in-and-out privileges to programs. There is a bathroom immediately across the hall from the room, so that's not a big deal. But once a teen leaves, I think it'll have to be the case that they're done with the program then. I don't like having to make rules like that, but I also don't like making work for other members of staff -- not to mention how disrespectful leaving program materials around the library is. I can write it off as teens being teens, but I also think it's my responsibility to make them learn how to be more responsible. 

That said, I highly recommend a program like this. My food events always draw the teens, and they are always thrilled to be involved with them. Is there anything better than teens asking when the next program is because they had so much fun? 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Program Success: A Low-key Zombie Night

The last post I shared was one about how I wasn't having a successful summer program, and I went ahead and followed it up by doing a successful program. The wills and ways of working with teens in the library.

I held a zombie event, but unlike a lot of the zombie proms or other zombie events I've seen, I kept mine incredibly low-key. The real reason behind that was because the actual big event of the program was watching Warm Bodies. But let me back up before I get to that.

Earlier in the year, I asked my teens what they were into. Zombies. Zombies all the time. They love The Walking Dead and did they ever tell me how much they were excited to see Warm Bodies.

This is why you ask your teens these things because they will hand your programming over to you.

To end summer reading club, I wanted to do a big finale. Watching Warm Bodies was a given, since they were enthusiastic about it from the start. But I didn't want to do just that. And given that my time at the library is limited -- I'm part-time -- I didn't want to invest too much time or money developing a program that had the potential to bomb out anyway (and that's not to say I wanted to be lazy, but it's why I decided against doing zombie makeup or having the kids learn the Thriller dance or doing a lock in sort of event).

So I decided I'd do an hour of programming and then show the movie, making the event a sort of two-part deal. Teens could come at 4:30 and do some zombie stuff, and then any teens who just wanted to see the movie could come at 5:30 and do that.

Most showed up at 4:30, and the few who weren't interested in the activities went out into the library and came back at 5:30. Not a big deal! I even had a couple girls come in full-out zombie dress. They told me they spent 4 hours getting the look down, and we were able to use them as zombies for a library campaign we're launching in the fall. . .which is awesome.

What I did

I set up four stations. Knowing how much my teens loved decorating cupcakes (which was another successful program I ran following my last post), I knew I wanted to do something with food. So we made zombie marshmallows:

I bought 2 bags of those super-sized marshmallows, along with food coloring markers (Americolor gourmet writer brand which worked well), red and black decorating gel, and eye-shaped sprinkles at the craft store (Hobby Lobby if you're wanting specifics). I purchased lollipop sticks and put out a small plate of light corn syrup which was used to attach the sprinkles. Everything was completely edible and the teens got creative here.

It was about $30 for all of the supplies and the teens loved this. I would do an entire program of marshmallow decorating, in fact.

The second station we did involved zombifying famous works of art. I printed out five or six classic works of art that would look awesome as zombie art, and I provided crayons. This is what the goal was, and my kids were pretty awesome about it:

Obviously, that was my model.

Cost to do zombie art? A few minutes Google searching famous art coloring sheets and printing them out. In other words $0.

My third station was one that wasn't quite as successful as I hoped, but frankly, since the other two were so popular already, it didn't matter. I pulled out our library's Zombigami book and put out paper and scissors for teens to make zombie origami.

Total cost: $0. I used paper we had already.

The fourth and final station had nothing to do with zombies at all. My very first program for the summer program was a duct tape crafts event. Since it was attended by only four kids, I had plenty of left over supplies, and since so many kids kept asking me when the program was happening after it happened, I figured why not? So I had out the duct tape and the kids went to town. Most of them covered themselves in duct tape (some pretty nifty Angry Birds duct tape suspenders were made) but I told them as long as they didn't hurt themselves or others, they could have at it.

(Spoiler: you give your teens freedom and most of the time they do not exploit it. We had no injuries at all here).

Total cost: $0, since the supplies were all recycled.  And guess what? The teens do not care if these things don't fit your theme.

After an hour with the stations, I called in the handful of kids who I knew weren't in the room but wanted to see the movie. I told them get comfortable however they wanted -- a chair, hanging at the tables doing activities, sitting on the floor. When I hit play on Warm Bodies, I left the room in the hands of my summer page and my co-worker and I went to Little Caesar's and bought 11 pizzas to feed them all dinner.

If you aren't taking advantage of a Little Caesar's in your area, which charges only $5 for a pizza when you want it, you should. I had a couple teens tell me they walked across town to see the movie and have dinner. I do not work in a small town.

I brought the pizzas in when the movie was about half over, meaning the kids had to hang tight while I went to get it and they weren't just there for the free food.

Total cost for the pizzas? $58. On top of the $30 or so for other supplies, the program ran for under $100 and it reached 30 very happy, very well-fed teens. Worth mentioning: we had our movie covered under our license. At the beginning of summer, it was not and we thought it would be an additional $100 to get the license. But luck fell on the right side this time.

If I could change anything, I'd probably have erred on the side of getting more pepperoni pizza, since those went fast. I'd also maybe do a more involved station at the beginning of the program for the teens who didn't want to do the stuff we had (maybe some sort of game -- I'd eyed picking up Zombie Dice or Zombie Fluxx but didn't because of time issues).

When the teens left, they asked when we'd be doing this again, and they were thrilled to hear we'd be having a Hunger Games showing the night before Catching Fire hits the big screen.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Professional Envy, Programming, & Summer Reading Club

It's been a challenging summer.

Part of it is simply trying to do a lot of things with not a lot of time at work. But another part -- maybe the bigger part -- is still wondering whether and how librarianship is still the right place for me to be in a career.

Don't get me wrong. I love what I do. I love working with teens. I love working with adults. I love working with kids who come in and spend 30 minutes asking me to look up every single horror movie they can think of so they can discover them for the first time (yes, it's sometimes a test of patience, but those kids want my undivided attention and I enjoy giving it to them).

It's been a hard summer, and it's been really hard not to beat myself up for not being good enough or not doing enough every minute that I am there. Being part time and having the responsibility for virtually all of the teen stuff -- programming, collection development, the summer reading club, and so forth -- I've had to make choices and let things go. And there are days where I'm on the reference desk for a three hour shift and don't get to sit and take care of pressing issues (like the inbox of urgent messages, for one). There are shifts when I do have a minute to breathe on desk, and I can't force myself to actually do the work I need to do. I need to just sit and wrap my brain around everything.

Coming off ALA, I felt refreshed and ready to head back to work with a clear head. I'd just spent days with people I admire and respect and felt their enthusiasm wholly.


I keep coming back to the same questions I have been wrestling with all summer long: am I doing enough? Why do my programs keep failing? What is failure anyway? Why can't I accept than six teens showing up for movie and a pizza is a good turn out? How could I reach more teens? What can I do differently in the fall to make it work? If I give up some responsibilities will it be better? Will I feel like I'm a quitter if I give up those responsibilities? How can I draw the sharp line between work time and me time, and how do I enforce it?

For some reason, I doubt anyone doesn't struggle with the same questions at some point.

But I think it's really easy to get mired with the idea you're not good enough because you're seeing people you respect and admire doing so much. I see such amazing programs being put on by people I know and know well. It makes me so happy for them. It thrills me to see great people achieving -- and not just achieving, but then sharing those things so others can achieve too.

It's not to say I'm not doing what I can with what I have. I think I am. I see my book displays emptied days after I fill them up. The box for teens to share what they read this summer as part of summer reading club is stuffed to the brim. Teens are not just filling out their small forms with the title of the book and the author; they're also telling me why they read the book. I convinced a 13-year-old girl to sign up for the reading club after she asked me about the third book in the Gallagher Girls series, and then she gave me an impassioned talk about the differences between that series and the Heist Society series and why she prefers one over the other.

On program days, though, I spend all morning fretting about whether it's going to be another failure. About what I did or did not do enough of to make it work or not work. And whatever enthusiasm I had, I've lost and I drown in a sea of self-doubt and . . . envy.

Envy for people who do it so well.

It's not easy to talk about nor admit. But I think on some level, we all feel it. A friend or colleague runs a creative program and has 20, 30, 50 people attend the event. Meanwhile, you put on a program your teens have been asking for and face a near-empty room. The three or four kids who attend have a good time, and while you try to hold on to that being the point, it's hard not to feel down.

It's also hard not to feel like you're phoning it in when things you've talked about yourself -- passive programming, for example -- continue to fail when you try them in your place of work. Logically, I know it's something that takes time and consistency to make work. Realistically, I'm impatient.

I'm not sure there is an answer to professional envy nor professional self-doubt. I'm not sure there are answers to the questions I think about all the time, either.

The number of people who've mentioned to me that they've been feeling that pang of envy lately -- and maybe it is summer when it is worst because we are all just stretched so thin, so close to the breaking point -- you're not alone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teen Summer Reading -- The Plan!

The coworker I split teen responsibilities with is leaving the library before summer starts -- it's good for her and her family but I'm going to miss her because our minds were in the same place on a lot of things and, after working in 2 libraries where I was the only person doing teen services, it was so nice to share the job with someone else.

With that, we had to hash out summer reading programs quickly this year since, well, I'll be going it alone.

And I'm really excited about what we're offering. If you're still thinking or plotting or worrying, you're welcome to steal away. I'm not writing up lengthy descriptions or how-tos just yet, since I prefer to reflect upon after the fact, as opposed to plan it out.

Kickoff -- Duct Tape Creations

The teens keep asking, so I am providing. I'm lucky I know how to do a handful of things (wallets, hats, flip flops, and purses) but I told a couple of very eager and enthusiastic teens they have to come and show off their skills. Which I don't think will be an issue.

Pizza and a Movie

I'm feeding the kids pizza, and I'm going to show them Tremors. Because hello campy "beneath the surface" horror fun.

Book Discussion -- Rotters 

One of my goals after my 90 day evaluation at work was to run a summer book club for teens. There is a very active book discussion group at the high school, and they have been wanting something to supplement it during the summer. Enter the library!

I angsted about what book to do for a long time, then I realized that doing a true horror story about, well, things beneath the surface was the way to go. I haven't read Daniel Kraus's Rotters, but I have a feeling we'll have a lot to talk about and I am looking forward to it.

Pizza and a Movie 

Another round of pizza being served and a movie being watched. I haven't decided yet if we're going to show Jaws or The Sixth Sense. I asked on our teen Facebook page but they haven't weighed in with me here. So I'll pull a librarian's choice.

Cupcake Wars

I guess you can call this one right on the surface, as opposed to beneath it. I did a cupcake decorating event as part of my Mardi Gras party and the kids liked it a lot. So this time it's even bigger -- and I haven't decided yet if it will really be competitive or not.

Book Discussion -- Cinder

Another book discussion, and this time we're taking on cyborgs. I haven't read this one but am so excited to and I think it'll lead to a great discussion, too.

Summer Wrap Up: Zombie Party

I'm running a zombie party. And I am so excited about the things I have in mind for it. In addition to the party aspect, I'm going to show Warm Bodies. I'm completely unsold on the movie and don't want to see it, but my teens were raving about it and how cool it'd be if we could show it when it came out.

I aim to serve.

I'm still sussing out what I want to do in terms of passing programming and in terms of reader's advisory/displays, but I have a list of ideas in mind. I figure if I have them planned out now, I can be much more effective in implementing them during the summer.

I'm pretty excited about the plans. I get to thinking sometimes I'm not doing a lot that's super innovative or mind-blowing, but then I remember that these are the things teens want to do and love coming to. And that's what matters.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March teen displays

I'm really pleased with my (finished) displays for March. I add finished since one of them isn't yet -- we've been so busy, I never got to fully flesh it out. And then I noticed some of the books I did get onto it were gone, meaning it needs a refill again (which is awesome and not a complaint).

So this month, I went with three very different themes.

First: Arts and Crafts. March is Youth Art Month and also National Craft Month, so I pulled out a few of our teen craft guides. This is my half-finished display, as my intention was to also pull out a number of fictional titles featuring artistic/crafty teens.

Second: Get Lucky. No, not like that. The sign actually reads "Get lucky with a green book," and the display is filled with books that have green covers. As easy as it sounds, it was surprisingly hard to pull together enough books with entirely green covers. But I did it, and it really brightened up the display space.

Finally: Women's history month. That's pictured above. But rather than a "historical girls" display -- which is quite limited -- I played with the idea of strong female characters instead. So the poster says "Like a strong female character?" and I pulled together books across genres featuring strong leading ladies. I think this might be my favorite display to date, as it includes so many different types of female characters and so many different genres. And since putting it up, some of those books have gone.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Beneath the Surface" Scary Movie Marathon

Are your teens fans of scary movies? Mine are. And what could be more "beneath the surface" than the things that scare us in horror movies?

One of the programs you could do to incorporate this with the "Beneath the Surface" theme for summer is running a horror movie marathon. But rather than show off the latest and greatest, why not show some of the classic and/or campy horror movies out there? These are the kinds of things that aren't lame to teens. You could do a marathon in a day, showing 2 or 3 films at once, or you could make it a program that happens once a week on the same day and at the same time.

A challenge with scary movies is, of course, ratings. Which is why going back to the classic and campy horror is perfect. Many of the good ones are rated PG or PG-13. Here's a short list to get your mind cranking:

And two of my teens' favorites which are also in the appropriate rating category:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Passive programming ideas for "Beneath the Surface"

Passive programming is something I think a lot about. I've talked about it before at ALA, which included a lengthy list of ideas for passive programming. It's something I want to continue thinking about and implementing because the more opportunities you provide passive programming for your teens, the more they will engage in and with it.

While thinking about what programs I want to offer this summer to my teens, I've also kept a separate list of passive programs I want to implement. There are the obvious passive reader's advisory ideas, including book displays on mermaid books, on other worlds, on zombies, and on intergenerational stories (because our personal histories lie beneath our surfaces). Then there are a few others on my mind.

If you're looking for some easy passive programs to implement this summer, here are some of the ones I'm considering:

  • Scratch art. Make up a bunch of homemade scratch boards, leave them out in your teen area, and ask the teens to make their own art. Yes, this will require some cleanup, but leave garbage cans in the area for the teens to do some of the cleanup themselves. Then display the art in the teen area. If you want to, you could employ some of your teens to make publicity out of their scratch art for other programs. 
  • Black out poetry. But rather than use newspapers or magazines (which you can), why not rip apart some of those ARCs gathering dust on your shelves? Then if they happen to wander off, no one loses anything here. Leave out (or have a sign for where teens can ask for) markers, colored pencils, and crayons. Then display the art. Again, maybe some of your crafty teens can help you make some publicity for other programs through their own black out poetry. 
  • You know the incredibly popular "Blind Date with a Book" display going around the internet right now? Take a spin on it. Cover your books with paper bags or construction paper, and in addition to the short description you might include to entice readers to check out the book, ask them to design a brand new cover for the book ON the blank paper. Display those covers. Put them on your social media, and hang them in your teen area. You could make an entire gallery of new covers for older books. This is the perfect way to also move some of those books that are still great but have dated covers. It's sort of like peer reviews, but instead of writing reviews, the teens are offering peer cover designs. 
  • Something else that is "beneath the surface" is personality. How many of your teens know their Myers Briggs type? Pull together a bunch of personality tests in print or digitally and let the teens go to town. Let them share what their type is. Of course, provide information about what that means. There are great infographics floating around you could display in the teen area or share via your social media. 
  • Origami. Do I need to elaborate? Leave instructions for how to make anything that might be "beneath the surface." Put out paper. Let them go to town.
  • Trivia challenges. Let the teens answer a series of questions (and let them cheat, if they want to). Have them submit the answers and pick a winner or two every couple of weeks. Prizes could range from ARCs to earning extra points toward whatever the summer reading goals are or the chance to create a display of their favorite books or it could be just the sweet feeling of being victorious. 
  • Haiku contests. Pick a topic. Tell the teens they have x-amount of time (a week, two weeks) to submit their best haiku on the subject. Display the best. Or, display them all and let the teens vote on the best ones. Good topics for haiku trivia this summer include the outdoors, zombies, anything under the ocean, and so forth.
  • Post Secret. I introduced this to some of my teens a couple years ago and they loved it. They each made their own secrets using old magazines and pre-cut post card sized cardstock. Either let the teens do their own Post Secrets or give them a topic they have to do it on (you're a mermaid -- what's your biggest secret). 

This is a very small sampling of ideas. I plan on spending some time reading Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist and Phil Hansen's Tattoo a Banana to mine new ideas or flesh out some thoughts I've had which haven't come to fruition just yet. 

Do you have other suggestions for passive programs to try this summer that go along with the theme? Or which don't go along with it at all? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Program success: Mardi Gras Party

I am very anti Anti-Valentine's Day parties. It's not that I'm against what the programs are, but I'm very against the terminology. Alternative Valentine's Day or other such titles? They're great. But anti makes Valentine's Day something to be against. Which is silly.

Rather than doing a party in that style this year, though, I decided to offer the teens a Mardi Gras party instead. It was a hit!

Here's what I did:

I set up the program station-style, offering the teens a few options for activities. I had a station for cupcake decorating. My co-worker ordered 3 dozen unfrosted cupcakes from a local bakery, then she purchased green, gold, and purple frosting (the squeeze kind for maximum decoration ability), gold spray frosting, and sprinkles. I provided napkins and plates.

One station was my bead station. I went to Mardi Gras a few years ago and had about 15 pounds of real deal beads. I let the kids have at them. I thought they'd want to take a lot more than they did, but the kids were conservative in their taking. Even if you had to buy the beads, they are quite cheap to acquire.

I also had a mask making station. Do not underestimate how much teenagers love unrestricted access to glitter, gems, and feathers. I provided card stock, colored paper, and markers, crayons, and pencils, as well as scissors, glue and popsicle sticks. The mask above is the one I made, but the teens were super creative. I printed out about 6 different templates in the event the teens wanted them. A few did, but not all. Some went to town on their own.

To show off the face masks, my coworker brought in an old frame and I took digital photos of the teens posing behind it (faces obscured for obvious reasons, but you can see the tips of their masks):

The teens loved this, and I think there could be an entire fun program in doing photos using various frames, costumes, and teen-designed creations. The opportunities then to play with those images digitally, too, could offer even more.

The final event I did for the teens was a scavenger hunt so I could name a King and Queen of Mardi Gras. I did it early in the program and wish I'd waited because it was such a hit. I hid 45 chocolate coins in the programming room, and I told the teens the person who found the most would be King and the second most would be Queen. When one of the girls had the most chocolate, I told her she could pick to be King OR Queen and she wanted to be Queen. So I let her.

I wanted to give the winners a baby (since that's what's traditionally hidden in King Cake) but we couldn't locate any babies. So instead, I gave the winners my big Troth Parade pendants. They totally loved it (the kid in the photo about on the left has one of them).

Of course, in the background of the event, I was playing some Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I asked if they wanted the music louder than it was, and did they ever.

I had the program at 4 pm, which was an ideal time to do this. The teen area was PACKED with kids at 4, so I wandered over there, told them there was a program with food, and they came. And they didn't just come for the cupcakes -- they stayed. We even had a visit from the local paper who took photos. I'm eager to see how those turn out.

The total cost of this program was minimal: cupcakes and decorations, as well as whatever supplies you may need for mask making. The music came from our collection, the frame from a coworker, and that is all. This was such a great opportunity for me to get to know our teens (since this was my first program at my new job) and I got to pick their brains for ideas for future programs. I talked to them about the books, movies, tv, and music they liked and didn't like. Not only did I get to pick their brains, I loved spending time talking with them while they were making masks and finding out what it is they love doing. The girl above? Duct tape fiend. Her brother ended up showing me one of her creations which was so impressive, I made him email me the photo so I could post it on the library's Facebook to her credit.

I would do this program again in a heartbeat. I might add another station or two, but really, the kids came to hang out and eat. I can't complain about that.

Next up for us? We're doing a Fan Art Night as part of Teen Tech Week. I already heard some of the kids talking about how excited they were to do it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Program Idea: Rock Out

This year's summer reading theme for the CSLP teen program is "Beneath the Surface." It can be interpreted so many different ways which is kind of nice but it also lends itself to some, well, really lame sounding programs. But in the midst of thinking about how some of the program ideas I've seen popping up sound like the kind of things teens might never be interested in, I had an idea.

A "rock out" party.

I've seen a million program ideas for decorating rocks. You could use colored pencils on pebbles and protect the designs with sealant of some sort. You could also provide sharpies, white out pens, and other tools to make rocks that look like this.

Teenagers want more than a pet rock, I think. So take this a step further and play off the "Beneath the Surface" idea of doing rock art take the notion of "rock" a little further.

How about rock music playing in the background when you're making your rocks? Or maybe have a game of "Rock Star" or "Guitar Hero" for the kids and the rock decorating is part of the waiting time activity?

And of course...

You'd serve your teens pop rocks during the program.

This could be a cheap program -- the cost of pop rocks, as well as the cost of whatever supplies you provide for the decoration. The rocks are free. So is the music, if it's just pulled from the stacks. Since most libraries have gaming systems or access to them, that's also no cost.

I'm positive there are other ways to spin the idea of a "rock out" party. Rather than just make cool looking rocks, make it even more worth your attendees' while with other activities to do.

Keep your eye here. I plan on offering up some more program ideas for summer reading as the planning time gears up.