Noise Permit @ the Ypsilanti District Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The Ypsilanti District Library (YDL) was so excited and grateful to have been one of the recipients of the YALSA and Dollar General Grant. The grant allowed the downtown branch to support a teen tech internship this summer for 3 teens at the Michigan Avenue branch of YDL.

The teen interns attended Digital Arts classes and were trained on Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Tablets using Adobe Photoshop and Premiere to produce marketing flyers and promotional videos. Additionally, they learned Ableton, an interface to create beats and perform audio engineering. The team was integral in helping produce an all teen outdoor-on-stage-musical performance called Noise Permit for the entire Ypsilanti community.

Noise Permit was an all-day, end-of-summer celebration of the arts, by Ypsilanti teens, for teens, that culminated in an early evening performance. The purpose of Noise Permit was to bring creative arts programming to the Ypsilanti teen and young adult population. The library has a strong relationship with the music and arts community in and around Ypsilanti, and drew on the rich resources of young, professional artists who mentored and led teens in multiple workshops which culminated in a live stage performance and community event.

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Holy Guacamole! – Northampton Area Public Library – Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Northampton Area Public Library was able to offer our teens a variety of programming encompassing the many areas of STEAM education.  One such program was our Chopped/Iron Chef competition.  And oh boy, did we have fun.

Being a lover of cooking shows and food, I decided to combine my two favorite shows “Chopped” and “Iron Chef” into a teen competition.  Not having the cooking facilities one would think you would need to have such a competition, we improvised and made it our own.  Hopefully other libraries like ours will be able to feel confident in offering such a program even though they may not have the facilities for cooking.

The premise was this – offer a variety of ingredients and have the teens create a dish with a particular theme in a limited amount of time.  Each dish is presented to judges (in this case, myself and 2 of my co-workers) and each judges fills out a score card with the following categories – taste, presentation, and creativity.  Scores are tallied and the “chopping” begins.

(This particular snack was – Triscuit with marshmallow fluff, pepperoni, and grape)

Our first round, we had 10 teens competing.  Their task was to create their most creative snack using any of the following items:  assorted crackers (triscuits, graham cracker, ritz crackers) peanut butter, cream cheese, marshamallow fluff, grapes, pepperoni, assorted cheeses, celery, peppers, raisins and olives.  They had 10 minutes to create, prepare and plate their dishes for judging.  Each contestant was then judged on taste, creativity and presentation.  Then we chopped the field in half.

In Round 2, our five remaining contestants were giving new ingredients such as, different types of bread, cold cuts, condiments, cheeses, chips, and assorted fresh vegetables.  Their task was to create their most tasty sandwich with the requirement that it had to have something crunchy in it.  They were given 15 minutes to make two sandwiches (to accommodate all the new judges).  Again, these recipes were judged on taste, presentation and creativity.  Those teens judging took their job very seriously and more chopping was completed to give us our final 3.

(Judging is serious business)

In the third and final round, we asked the finalist to make their best nachos with homemade guacamole.  Queso was ready in a crockpot and the avocados were fresh.  They had 15 minutes to create and plate their dishes.  After a quick guacamole tutorial, the contestants were working fast and furious.  Their nachos were judged and a winner was crowned.

(Winner, winner, nacho dinner!)

Holy Guacamole, what a day!

My name is Rachel Robinson and I have been the Young Adult Coordinator from the Northampton Area Public Library for the past 3 years.  I have been lucky enough to be able to growth with this position and vice versa.  It provides me with a much needed creative outlet and service to teens in our mostly rural community.

Summer Video Gaming Club @ South Lafourche Branch Library


The South Lafourche Branch of the Lafourche Parish Public Library is located in Cut Off, LA, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans.

Lafourche Parish is home to more than 96,000 people, and the South Lafourche Branch provides library services to residents in southern Lafourche Parish, many of whom rely on commercial fishing and jobs in the oil and gas industries for employment.

Our library received a YALSA Summer Learning Resources grant, which we used to enhance a planned summer video gaming club that we held during our 2017 Summer Reading Program. Our aim was to use gaming as a way to encourage reluctant or struggling readers to read during the summer.

We decided to host six gaming sessions throughout the summer – three in June and three in July, as well as host movie afternoons during which we’d show movies that related in some way to video games. We used our grant funds to purchase books related in some way to gaming that we would distribute to those who attending our video gaming sessions.

The rationale behind this was that if teens were interested in gaming, they might be interested in books related to gaming. Traditionally, our library has had some difficulty in attracting teens to participate in our summer reading program. We thought that by introducing a gaming club, we could interest more teens in our program.

The following is a list of books that we purchased with our grant funds, to be given to video gaming club attendees:

  • Minecraft: Diary of a Wimpy Zombie
  • Legendary Minecraft Diary: An Unofficial Minecraft Book
  • Pokemon Pocket Comics: Legendary Pokemon
  • Super Mario Adventures
  • Angry Birds Comics Volume 1: Welcome to the Flock
  • Angry Birds Movie: The Junior Novelization
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Archives, Vol. 0: The Beginning
  • Trapped in a Video Game, Books 1 and 2
  • Game On! 2017: All the Best Games: Awesome Facts and Coolest Secrets
  • Insert Coin to Continue
  • Guinness World Records 2017 Gamers’ Edition
  • History of Video Games
  • Slacker

In our selection of books, we included both fiction and nonfiction titles, as well as novels and graphic novels and comics. We wanted the books to not only be relevant to our program, but also appeal to participants with varying reading interests and abilities.

“I don’t want it.”

We soon learned that a few of our participants were not interested in reading at all, which we expected. After our first gaming session in June, we tried to hand a copy of Super Mario Adventures, a collection of comics inspired by the video game, to one teen participant, but he was adamant that he did not want the book.

Shaking his head, he said, “I don’t want it” several times. He was certain he wouldn’t read it.

We explained that it was a comic and that since he enjoyed the game, he might enjoy the book, but he was having none of it. His mother, however, was with him and encouraged him to take the book and give it a chance. This participant was one who attended most of our gaming sessions during the summer and, after his initial reluctance to give reading a chance, accepted every book he was given and was able to communicate effectively about them during later sessions. We consider this a win.

Throughout the summer, our gaming sessions attracted 24 teens and 44 tweens, with 37 adults accompanying their children to our gaming sessions. We also held two movie afternoons, showing Wreck-It Ralph and The Angry Birds Movie, which attracted another 4 teens, 10 children, and 11 adults. As sometimes happens, as the summer progressed, attendance at summer programs declined, as families were going on vacations, getting ready for the upcoming school year, and attending to a host of other things that kept them busy.

However, we believe that the participants who did show up to these programs during the summer really enjoyed them. Many were excited about receiving the free books and those who initially were not eventually came around.

This was a good program to introduce to our slate of summer reading offerings, and we believe it was successful in that we were able to get more teens to participate and more teens to read – particularly a few who would not have been reading otherwise.

Katina Gaudet is the area librarian at the South Lafourche Branch of the Lafourche Parish Public Library and oversees the operation of three library branches in southern Lafourche Parish. 


Summer Learning Resources @ Ozark Regional Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation graciously selected Ozark Regional Library as a recipient of the Summer Learning Resources Grant.  With this grant, we were able to supplement our Summer Reading Program with things we’ve never before been able to offer.  We used the funds for a collection development, prizes, and programming. 

Over the past few years, our Young Adult collection has not received a lot of attention.  Collection development funds were used elsewhere, so we didn’t have a ton of new material coming in.  Thanks to this grant, we were able to add some fiction and non-fiction to the YA shelves.  We ordered some popular fiction books as well as non-fiction that fit in with this summer’s theme of “Build a Better World.”  I noticed an increase in teens perusing the shelves this summer and I expect circulation statistics will show a rise in YA checkouts. 

In addition to collection development, we were able to purchase books to give away as prizes.  Every teen that completed the Summer Reading Club received a book.  This book also came with a bookmark that stated: “Congratulations on completing the Summer Reading Club!  You have received this book thanks to the generosity of YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation! Keep on Reading!”  Several teens expressed their excitement when getting to pick out their new book.  We decided to make this a part of the Summer Reading Program because our goal with this grant was to get books into the hands of teens.  Many of the families in our community are low income and can’t afford to have books in their homes.  This grant made it possible for teens to take home a book that they can keep for years to come. 

Another goal our library had for this grant was to provide programming that was educational and fun for teens.  We want the library to be a safe, air-conditioned place for the teens in our community to relax, learn, and have fun.  We had several different teen programs throughout the summer, but three were created due to the YALSA/Dollar General grant funds.  These programs were: Planning for the Future, Make Your Own Film Festival, and a Teen Carnival. 

Planning for the Future was a program created to help teens and young adults with college and career readiness.  College and career advisers from the community were brought in and made up a panel of experts.  Panelists included members from the local community college, a university extension office, the Missouri Job Center, and Mers/Goodwill.  These panelists talked about how to apply to college, financial aid, resume writing, interview skills, etc.  We offered the program at three of our locations, but sadly, attendance was low. 

The Make Your Own Film Festival took place on a Saturday and was run by a Branch Manager.  It was a four hour event and teens and even some adults attended.  The teens came in groups or were put into groups and were given the task of creating a 5-minute short film.  For the first hour, teens enjoyed coffee donated by a local coffee shop and brainstormed their film after hearing the theme.  They then had two hours to shoot and edit the film.  The last hour was spent eating popcorn and pizza donated by a local restaurant and watching the films.  The winning team was voted on by the teens and the winning team got to split a $25 iTunes gift card.  While the program went well, we will change some things in the future.  The editing software was not working properly and caused some difficulty.  We would also try to break the ages up some more because older teens seemed to be more successful than the younger teens.  Additional staff will be needed as well if the event continues to be well-attended.  However, since this was the first time we did a program like this, we definitely would call it a success.

The last event we had for teens this summer was a Teen Carnival and to my major disappointment, no teens came.  We had one child show up near the end and asked if she could participate.  We had planned fun things so I definitely thought were would have good attendance, but for some reason, we didn’t.  We hired a caricaturist and a face painter/balloon artist and had games, crafts, and refreshments.  We even advertised that the door prize winner would get to throw a pie in my face.  Since only one child showed up, she was automatically the lucky winner and she greatly enjoyed doing that.  We decided to attribute the lack of attendance to the weather.  Even though the carnival was held inside, it was 103 degrees that day and we feel like most teens were staying at home or were at the town pool.  It was disappointing because we advertised so heavily, but staff enjoyed the event (especially the caricaturist). 

Despite low attendance at some of the teen events, we had a great Summer Reading Program.  This grant allowed us to do things we’ve never been able to do and many teens and parents said that this was the best Summer Reading Program we’ve had in years.  Again, we would like to thank YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation for making it happen.


My name is Kelsey Fitzgerald and I am the Youth Librarian for Ozark Regional Library, headquartered in Ironton, Missouri.  I have been in this position for one year and have absolutely loved it!  After working in larger city libraries for several years, it is a wonderful change to be in a rural library system.  My passion is lifelong learning and with this job, I am able to instill a love of reading and learning into children at the very beginning of their lives.

2017 Summer Learning @ the Henry Carter Hull Library in Clinton, Connecticut

The Henry Carter Hull Library in Clinton Connecticut was excited to be a recipient of a 2017 Summer Learning Grant generously funded by Dollar General Store.   A recent survey revealed the youth population in our community speaks a total of eight different languages and supported  the fact our library has a growing ELL population. This statistic also points to a steady increase in students who are struggling socially and emotionally with the cultural transition. Because of this dynamic, the focus of our Summer Learning program had four components:  develop daily activities that build strong peer to peer relationships, foster respect for diversity, integrate teens new to the community, and provide quality summer learning STEAM oriented programs that foster connected learning.  Of course we wanted to accomplish all this while promoting the library as a place to have fun and meet new friends.  With multiple objectives I decided to offer a different activity every day of the week for 9 weeks with the hope of attracting teens with diverse interests and experiences into the library.   Here is an overview of some of the different programs we hosted this summer. 

We had great success with our Make It Monday program which was super fun and interactive. Some of the activities offered in this weekly program provided an opportunity to discuss the science behind our creations, such as our slime and bath bomb projects.  Other Make It activities, such as the sharpie sneakers, upcycled tee shirt tote, and tie-dye tee allowed teens to express their creative side and have fun together. 

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STEM Summer Programs @ Dorr Township Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were very excited when we found out that we won the YALSA/Dollar General grant! As soon as I found out we won the grant, I knew for sure what one of the programs had to be (it was geodes). We used this grant to fund 4 STEM programs for our Summer Reading Program: make your own Solar Induction oven, 2 Eclipse classes to get ready for the eclipse and a Geode program where participants could have their geode broken open for them and then take home!

Participants of the solar ovens had a great time coming up with food ideas to cook in their oven. We had ideas of s’mores, toast, chips and cheese, and one participant even suggested steak! We were very fortunate to have a local quick stop donate the pizza boxes and with the grant, we were able to supply the rest of the materials for participants. Here is the finished product. 


Since there is a Solar Eclipse on August 21, we thought we should get people ready for the Eclipse by having a few activities. In our first Countdown to the Eclipse program, we talked about how the moon can cover the sun because the moon is so far away. Then the participants made and tested out their UV detector bracelets (did you know that you can buy UV color changing pony beads on Amazon? I didn’t. They are AWESOME!). 


For the second program, we talked about the Sun, how the Sun worked and how far the Sun is from the Earth. We also discussed how the photons that form from the fusion of Hydrogen into Helium take tens of thousands of years to travel from the core to the surface of the sun. Participants then made themselves tasty treats by making a model of the surface Sun in a sugar cookie. We had enough cookies for everyone to make two. Yum!

Our last program funded by the YALSA grant was our Geodes program with speaker Steve Tchozeski from Great Lakes Geoscience. He had spoken once before at our library and he is great with all age groups. He brought many samples of quartz, agate and geodes for the participants to look and touch.  He talked with our participants about what made something a mineral, different types and colors of quartz and how geodes are formed. He then explained how he goes out to find the geodes and how he takes his “whomping” hammer and “whomps” the geodes open to reveal the quartz crystals inside. Then he allowed the participants to pick a geode and he then broke it open for them and told them what type or types of quartz were present in it. Everyone had a great time!  Continue reading

Teen Fun Day @ Whiting Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to YALSA and Dollar General the teens at the Whiting Public Library had a BLAST this year – and so did the staff! 

The grant that we received this year made it possible for us to offer our teens a variety of fun activities.  They got to experience building and playing with Little Bits, Makey Makeys, coding with robots, as well as making their own robots and much, much, more.  Our teens had a summer full of fun activities with tools that they had either never seen or played with.   

Every Thursday was Teen Fun Day at the Whiting Public Library.   We offered a variety of different activities – some low key and some more technical, and while I stressed about our teens having fun, they always enjoyed themselves.  Our first program of the summer started with both Shrinky Dinks and Makey Makeys.   None of our teens had ever used Makey Makeys, but once I started playing with the laptops and the Makey Makeys and showing them the basics, they couldn’t wait to take over. Soon every laptop was taken! It was the first time that I have seen them walking away from Shrinky Dinks! The following week we had a Scavenger Hunt which tested our teens’ library skills, and they had a blast.   After we finished our Scavenger Hunt, we moved to our activity room to make our BristleBots.  None of our teens had ever heard of them and I think that they were a little hesitant, but once we got started building them they loved them and we had no free table tops as they came up with different ways to race them. But the fun didn’t stop there.

As I mentioned before, thanks to the grant that we received, we were able to purchase a number of things for our teen programs, including Lit

tle Bits.  Our teens had never seen Little Bits before and it was a lot of fun showing them how they work.  We did a number of activities from the Little Bits site and once I felt everyone was comfortable seen how the Little Bits circuits worked, I let them get creative.  I put out a few things for them to use such as cups, paper tubes, LEGOS, markers, pipe cleaners, etc… It was a lot of fun watching them come up with ways to use the Little Bits and helping them figure out how to get something to work.   But we didn’t stop there – we also made our own operation games and our own board games. Both programs were a lot of fun and our teens were very excited about their creations. 

I can’t forget our LED pop-up cards which were a lot of fun to create.  We had a few problems with using copper tape correctly, but it was a great program and the teens had a lot of fun adding LED lights to their projects we had both regular LED lights in different sizes and had Chibitronics LED sticker lights which are really great.   Also this summer we were inspired to create our own book covers. We let our inner Harry Potter out and created our very own Spells and Potions books.  It was a little messy, but our teens got creative and they were happy with their final projects. 

At our last Teen Fun Thursday, our teens wanted to know what we would be doing next year, because they enjoyed themselves so much and they also made some wonderful friends.   Thank you YALSA and Dollar General from the Whiting Public Library!


My name is Montserrat Inglada and I am the Youth Services Librarian at the Whiting Public Library in Whiting, IN.   Books and kids have always been my passion, but I didn’t start off as a librarian.   I first went to Art School to become a Children’s Book Illustrator and ended up getting a degree in Graphic Design and later I went back to school and I obtain my teaching degree, but while trying to find a teaching job I came across and opening for a Youths Services Librarian and to my surprise I got the job and again I went back to school and obtained my degree in Library Science and I have been at the Whiting Public Library ever since. 

I love working with kids and coming up with ideas for programs.   Every year my staff asks me to slow down, as we always seems to have a crazy amount of programs for the kids and teens, especially in the Summer and I always promise that I will not go so crazy the following year, but I get excited about new ideas and every year ends up being crazy, but at least it’s never boring and I love it and most importantly I think the kids enjoy it too!

Droids Invade the Putnam County Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

The theme for this year’s Summer Reading Program was “Build a Better World”. I think it is safe to say that in the world of the future, robots will be doing most of the building. I once heard someone say, “There will be two types of jobs in the future…telling a computer what to do, and being told by a computer what to do”. With that in mind, the Putnam County Library hosted a three part robotics programming workshop for kids and teens during the Summer Reading Program. We want to lead the way for our community to be on the side of telling the computers what to do. With such a focus on STEM learning nowadays, and with the 2017 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant that we received this year, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to host a programming workshop and it would be the ideal way to steer our community in this direction.

This entire program came about with a partnership with Cummins Filtration, an engineering corporation with a distribution center and offices located here in Cookeville, TN. Cummins provided much needed volunteers (robotics mentors), while the funding for the robots was provided by a generous summer reading grant from Dollar General and YALSA, as well as a donation from Cummins. The idea was to get kids interested in robotics and programming. The more they get interested when they are younger, the more this should translate to a desire for learning eventually leading to future engineers and programmers. So, using the grant money from DG and the donation from Cummins we bought our very first robots. They are Star Wars BB-8 droids made by Sphero and they are magnificent. Through an app we are able to manually control these droids as well as program them to run autonomously. The plan was to have kids program these droids to run a maze. So we set up the program, created a curriculum, collaborated with our Cummins volunteers, invited kids, and crossed our fingers.

The results were better than expected. In the first session, we had 17 kids ranging in age from 6-16 (and a few parents that wanted to participate). Many of them stayed for the entire 3 program event and others came on board later. In the first event, we taught everyone what robots were, why we use/program them, and the fundamentals of programming. Next we went through some simple programs with our droids and found out just how difficult it can be to correctly program a robot and account for all the variables. Finally, in our last session, we programmed our droids to run the maze. And they did it! Our programs worked! The droids raced through the mazes to reach the end!

With the success of this program comes the inception of even more robotics programming. We are still working on the specifics and logistics of future programs, but rest assured that more droids will be invading the Putnam County Library soon.


Written by Phil SchallerWith a BA in History from the University of Florida and a MLIS degree from Valdosta State University, I currently work as the Assistant Director/Adult Services Librarian of the Putnam County Library System in Cookeville, TN. This position is also in charge of collection development and programming for the young adult part of the library. I have a love of gaming of all kinds and have recently gamified our SRP with the result of having a much increased buy-in from teens and adults patrons.

Robotics at Oneonta Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

What a Summer! Oneonta Public Library experienced everything from robotics to bees, from bubbles to modified stuffed animals, and all things in between during Build a Better World 2017. Oneonta Public Library is a relatively small library with a staff of 5 full-time employees and 2 part-time employees. This means that all of our employees wear many hats throughout the year but especially during the summer.

We do not have a teen services librarian, per se, but the staff here at Oneonta Public Library is filled with people willing to jump in and help with whatever comes up. Since this year’s theme was Build a Better World, we could think of no better way to decorate the teen area than with Minecraft. Here is what it looked like:

I am not a teen, but this was amazing. Cassandra, our programs coordinator, spent hours planning and assembling each block of this scene.

For a variety of different reasons, it sometimes seems like teen services and programs are an afterthought. We feel that if we provide books for teens, we are doing our jobs. According to the YALSA Futures report (2014), “The library is no longer simply a quiet place to connect to physical content. It is instead a place, physical and virtual, to learn how to connect and use resources of all types from physical books to apps to experts in a local, regional, or national community.” We wanted to make sure that we brought our teens to the forefront of Build a Better World 2017 by writing a grant to bring a robotics-type program to the teens, so they could experience the library as a place where teens can learn about things they are interested in. After weeks and weeks of scouring the internet for experts, looking at different technologies to develop a plan, and many hours in the office typing away at the keyboard, we submitted and won a YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant.

This allowed us to spend $1,000 on a single teen program. To say the least, there were fireworks and cake to celebrate (not really but it felt that way). We decided to purchase Cubelets, 2 Makey Makeys, and a WonderWorks Dash Bot.

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Apply Now for the Libraries Ready to Code Grant!

Libraries Ready to Code

The application for Phase III of the Libraries Ready to Code Grant is open now through August 31, 2017.

The grant program, sponsored generously by Google, will fund a cohort of school and public libraries to design computational thinking and computer science programs for and with youth, including underrepresented youth. A total of 25-50 grants up to $25,000 each are available.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Public or school library (you do not need to be an ALA member to apply, but members will be given preference during the review process)
  • Library must be located in the United States or U.S. Territories
  • Program must be focused on computational thinking or computer science
  • Program must be completely free of cost to youth and their families, including deposits
  • Program must serve youth (anywhere on the Pre-K to grade 12 spectrum)
  • Must have prior approval from your library administration to implement the program (if grant funds are provided). Verification may be required upon request

Please note, you must meet all of the above eligibility requirements in order to apply for the grant. If you do not, your application will be disqualified.

A virtual information session about the grant program and application process will be held on Aug. 1 at 2:30pm EST. Reserve your seat here.  The recording of the session will be made available to those who can’t attend it live.  Additionally, before submitting an application, we encourage you to read the Request for Proposal and use it as a guide to filling out the application).  In addition, an FAQ, and list of resources including sample programs are on the Libraries Ready to Code site to inform your work as you prepare your grant application. Questions? Contact us.

Apply now through August 31, 2017.