Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me. ‘ This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time. ‘ If I’m’ being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth. ‘ If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open. ‘ This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:


It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse). ‘ The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

Our cross-poster from ALSC’ today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

Tweens in the Summer

Most libraries, like my own, have a core group of kids know and love our programs and are super excited about libraries in general. ‘ But, especially in the summer, these kids are often accompanied by siblings in a group a bit more disconnected from library services: tweens. Tagging along with their siblings, tweens who are unfamiliar with our library programming often end up exposed to our summer offerings. What can we do to keep them coming back?

1)‘ Plan programming that interests everyone. Summer programming for teens in my library serves both middle school and high school students (we’re not large enough to divide it up). So we work hard to find programming ideas that will appeal to both age groups: crafts that older kids won’t find lame, cooking classes that 6-12th graders will all enjoy, a photobooth night where the kids can post to Instagram until they drop. We don’t have a lot of resources to work with, but if you’re not planning a program that will appeal to the wide swath of “teen” ages, you’re going to lose these kids. If your library is large enough to support separate middle school and high school programming, fantastic! Plan things that you know your middle schoolers love! Crafts! Minecraft! Book club! Ask them what they want to see and then provide it.

2)’ Talk to them about middle grade AND young adult. As soon as the kids in my town hit sixth grade, they want to books from the teen center where our YA collection is–on the other side of the library from juvenile fiction. And that’s fantastic! But I’ve had several conversations with some awesome middle schoolers about middle grade books, publisher’s age recommendations, and how I logistically can’t shelve MG in the teen center or double-buy titles. As soon as a 12-year-old sees the “Ages 10-14” note inside of a book, they give themselves permission to be in the children’s department again. ‘ Not only has this opened up more of the library’s collection for some of my younger readers, this is a great intro conversation for an ongoing readers’ advisory relationship!

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Reaching Tween Patrons

Tweens are always a hard audience to reach at my library. They are so busy and the library often ends up being a quick stop for our tweens. We wanted to make sure we offered programs for our school age patrons and we thought the best way to reach them would be to offer programming at multiple times to try and accommodate their busy schedules.

After brainstorming with my staff, we decided we had two audiences we wanted to reach-school age patrons and our ever growing home school population. So we came up with the idea to offer two programs that would repeat each month. We offer one program on a Saturday morning and another on the fourth’ Friday afternoon of the month. So far we’ve done a Crafternoon, old fashioned game day, and a sewing program based around the book’ Extra Yarn. This gives patrons two opportunities to attend our programs and we’re reaching a different audience need with each program while targeting the tween school age population that we want to bring into the library.

We don’t advertise the weekday afternoon program as’ just for home schoolers, but we know that’s a big part of our audience for those programs. And the public schools will often have an early dismissal on the afternoons of our programs, so we’re able to reach a wider audience.

So far it’s been a popular idea. Our patrons have appreciated having more options of times to attend a program and our home school patron base is excited that we are offering a program that they can attend with the whole family. We’re eager to keep this plan going in the Fall and continue to bring programming that offers something for our tweens.

Does your library offer a creative time slot to reach tweens or multiple programming opportunities to reach’ tweens? I’d love to know how other libraries are running programs for school age patrons!

Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?’  The’ YALSA Blog‘ and the’ ALSC Blog‘ both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.‘ 

Librarians in Literature

I love reading about librarians in books. Sometimes they are annoyingly stereotypical-the bun-wearning shushing types. But other times they are more true to the librarians I know-creative, energetic, and maybe with some secret powers!

I got excited when I saw an upcoming release,’ The Ninja Librarians’ by Jennifer Swan Downey. (Sourcebooks, April 2014) The book is ‘ “Just a little story about your average sword-swinging, karate-chopping, crime-fighting ninja librarians.” (from Goodreads) It got me thinking about a few of my other favorite librarians in literature.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians‘ by Brandon Sanderson

-Alcatraz must save the world from the most evil villain there is-librarians! They’re plotting to take over the world and Alcatraz must stop them.

Miss Brooks Loves Books! (And I Don’t)‘ by Barbara Bottner, illusrated by Michael Emberly

-Miss Brooks is a great librarian who won’t give up on reader’s advisory-even when she’s faced with the toughest critic.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

-Mr. Lemoncello isn’t a librarian, but he builds an amazing library and employs some great librarians-who happen to be inspired by real life librarians.

Who are your favorite fictional librarians?

Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?’  The’ YALSA Blog‘ and the’ ALSC Blog‘ both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.‘ 




Creative Displays

My office is actually a shared workspace with my staff. We have lots of storage for supplies and counter space to spread out and work on upcoming projects. And at the very front of the room is a large window-great for looking out and keeping an eye on the department, but not so great when you’re trying to work of desk and patrons can easily look in.

My staff and I are always trying to come up with creative ways to utilize the windows and they’ve become a prime display space. During the voting for our state picture book award, we hang up a large poster of all the nominees and set up a voting box in front of the windows. One of the activities for the Summer Reading Program is to send a postcard to the library, so our windows display the postcards we receive.

When we took a storytime break and created a Cookie Club’ (inspired by Marge Loch-Wouters’ brilliant Cookie Club!) our windows became a display space for the decorated paper cookies. When the kids visited the library, they got to decorate a cookie and place it in the window. The kids loved it and it also worked as extra promotion for the Cookie Club. People would walk in, see the windows, and ask about the Cookie Club.

cookie club‘ Credit: Sarah Bean Thompson

‘ In February, we asked our patrons why they loved the library. They filled out the answer on paper hearts and covered our windows in library love. Our teen department created a similar display on a bookshelf. It was so much fun to read all the answers and I was thrilled when one heart read “the helpful librarians.”

valentines‘ Credit: Sarah Bean Thompson

Even though there are times I wish our office area was arranged differently, we’ve made the best of it by creating a fun display space that offers library promotion-and lots of library love.

Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?’  The’ YALSA Blog‘ and the’ ALSC Blog‘ both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.‘ 


Measuring Program Success

Working with tweens can be fun and also frustrating. My branch will have a large after school crowd of tweens but they’re not at the library to attend a program or hang out. Instead they are at the library to meet with a tutor, work on homework, or grab a book quickly before they rush off to their extracurricular activities. No matter how much we advertise programs to this age group, our attendance can sometimes be low. Or at least it feels low when we’ve put a lot of effort into planning a program that we hope will be a big success.

It’s hard to get caught up in numbers and statistics when it comes to programming. It’s also hard not to compare programs with each other. Sometimes I think about how we can get a group of 30 or more toddlers for storytime but I’m lucky if I can get a few tweens for a program.

But I can’t get caught up in measuring program success by numbers. Instead I focus on the stories. Like the middle schooler who came to every single Hunger Games program we provided last year, won the movie tickets in the giveaway, and came to the library this year and said “thank you so much for having those programs about The Hunger Games! They were my favorite and I met my best friend-and we’re still friends today and we met at the library.”

Or the tween who attended a recent program and was excited to win a set of books she hadn’t read yet.

Or the tween who gets excited to meet someone else who shares their interests when they thought’  they were the only one who liked Doctor Who, or Origami Yoda, or Cupcake Club.

When I feel down about tween programs and wonder what we could do better to reach this age group, I remind myself of all that we have provided for tweens and that we are successful. We are providing a place for tweens to come, meet other tweens, and participate in a program just for them-and that’s a success.


Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?’  The YALSA Blog and the ALSC Blog both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.‘ 

Origami Yoda

The tweens at my library love the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. With so many fans, I knew this series would be great for a program. For’ my program inspiration, I used several of the activities in Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling. I was nervous about putting on an origami program, because I am not very skilled at origami myself.

I set up the room with origami paper and additional supplies we would need for drawing our own comics as well as print outs of how to do some of the more difficult origami folds. Nine tweens gathered on a Sunday afternoon at my library to learn how to do origami and talk about the series.

We started the program out by talking about the book series and why they liked it (it’s funny and they liked the drawings throughout). About half of the group had read the books, the other half were attending the program either for the Star Wars or origami aspect. I started the group out with the’ simple five fold Origami Yoda‘ that the author has posted to his website. This also gave me a good way to gauge how well the group could handle origami. Most of them had some trouble getting started but quickly figured it out. Once we made our Origami Yoda’s, we talked about the books some more and talked about favorite characters (Origami Yoda was the ultimate favorite character). While some of the origami was a bit complicated, the group stuck with it and they tried their hardest to complete Darth Paper and Origami R2-D2.’ In addition to origami, we made eraser Wookies and learned how to draw a simple Darth Vader helmet, both from the Art2-D2 book. Continue reading