Ideas for Downtime

The week between Christmas and New Years is a really quiet time at my branch. I know that’s not the case at every library, but in our community, most of the parents are working this week and kids are staying with family or in daycares, or families are taking vacations. We don’t have much in the way of regular programming, but there are a few kids who wander in looking for something to do. Unfortunately, we’re also short-staffed this week, so I’m looking for fun ways to serve my kid patrons and also keep all three of our desks staffed. I’m going to be pulling out all the fun do-it-yourself activities this week:

  • Butcher Paper Art!

So the younger kids are going to love this, but as the tweens and teens see how much fun it is just to go absolutely nuts with the crayons, you’ll have a crowd around those tables. And at the end of the day, be sure to cut out your most creative art to decorate your department!

  • Wii Dance

So, when my part-time employee comes in in the afternoons, we’re pulling out the Wii. I mainly just want someone in the department to make sure that the remotes don’t get flung across the room in excitement, but this one also runs itself. And the kids LOVE it. Put it on contest mode and throw in something from your prize cabinet as a reward and watch out for blood.

Continue reading Ideas for Downtime

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.

App of the Week: Cargo-Bot

Title: Cargo-Bot
Platforms: iOS
Cost: Free

cargo-bot logo Learning to code is a big topic of conversation these days with a lot of discussion about the importance of teaching young people coding and programming skills. Why is this such a big topic of conversation? Because when anyone learns to code/program they have the chance to spend time critically thinking, problem solving, and troubleshooting. All important skills to have in the 21st century.

Acquiring these skills is definitely a part of Cargo-Bot, an app that uses game-play to teach the ideas behind coding and programming. Playing Cargo-Bot requires programming each game in order to achieve a a particular goal. All goals require moving boxes of cargo across or down the screen. And, while the first goals are pretty simple it doesn’t take too long for the game to become more complex and require that players think about not just left, right, up, and down but the order of those moves, looping moves, and specifying when and when not to actually make a move.
Continue reading App of the Week: Cargo-Bot

YALSA Board Midwinter Update: Draft Programming Guidelines

Have you ever wondered if programs you’re planning, creating and leading for teens in your library are like those that other libraries are offering? Have you ever been asked to justify or build support for the programs you’re offering or want to offer?

At the YALSA Board’s Midwinter meeting, we discussed the Draft Programming Guidelines that the Programming Guidelines Development Task Force created.

The group will continue to refine these guidelines based on Board feedback, which included the value of adding a section on outcomes and connections to YALSA’s new report, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action

What are your thoughts about this draft document? How else can YALSA make this document as relevant as possible to your work with teens?

Virtual Road Trip: Idaho

The Idaho Commission for Libraries developed a pilot project in early 2013 to implement makerspaces in public libraries across Idaho and had a successful and exciting first year.idaho2 We worked with five libraries including Ada Community Library, Community Library Network, Gooding Public Library, Meridian District Library, and Snake River School Community Library to embrace “making” and push the boundaries of programming with tweens and teens.Idaho Each library exceeded every expectation, and demonstrated innovation, creativity, and drive in the implementation of the project. These successes made us even more excited to open up the opportunity to libraries for a second year.

We were overwhelmed to receive eleven applications representing libraries from many regions across the state. After careful review, we are pleased to announce that the following libraries have been invited to participate in the second year of the project:

* Aberdeen District Library
* Buhl Public Library
* East Bonner County District Library
* Jerome Public Library
* Portneuf District Library
* Twin Falls Public Library

Each of the libraries has committed two staff to participate in the year-long project. The first workshop will take place on February 24-25 at the Commission, and will focus on developing a foundational understanding of the maker culture and the design process. Participants will also develop skills in building with FischerTechnikâ„¢ manipulatives to explore construction, simple machines, engineering, and architecture. A second two-day training in May will focus on Robotics, and a final two-and-a-half day training in November will cover 3d design, 3D printing, and e-textiles.

Libraries from the first year of the project have also committed one new staff member to participate in the second year of the project in order to broaden their base of support and expand programming in their libraries. We are excited to welcome all of the libraries and new staff to the project and look forward to watching the learning, the making, and the creativity start to happen.

If you would like to read more about what we are doing in Idaho, please visit us at:
To follow our progress please *LIKE* our Facebook page:

This project has been made possible through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.imls

Submitted by Erica Compton, Idaho Commission for Libraries

STEM Made Easy: Gathering Ideas for Next Summer’s Cooperative Reading Theme

I didn’t know much about STEM programming before this post – or at least I thought I didn’t. Then I did some research. Turns out, I’ve been doing STEM programming without realizing it.

Those marshmallow catapults for The Homework Machine book club and the Rube Goldberg machines both for 4th and 5th graders were STEM programs. Those bottle rockets and the lava lamps for teens were STEM programs. Best of all, they were all super fun and the kids and teens had a blast!

Rube Goldberg Machine
A machine built at Otis Library

The theme for next summer’s collaborative reading program is all about science: Fizz, Boom, Read! (for kids or as general theme for the entire library) or Spark a Reaction for teens. Both of these themes can easily support a wide range of STEM programs. Continue reading STEM Made Easy: Gathering Ideas for Next Summer’s Cooperative Reading Theme

“Welcome to Battle School”: Ender’s Game Party

by Mirele Davis and’ Elizabeth Savopoulos

In order to spark more interest in recreational reading, our school library decided to throw an Ender’s Game party in anticipation of the release of the Ender’s Game movie. Our library at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School had never had an event like this in its history, and we were proud to be the pioneers. ‘ The goal, we decided, was to stimulate student interest in reading the book and in reading for pleasure in general. ‘ We began preparing a month in advance, posting announcements on our website, putting up flyers around the school, and making special announcements during lunch-time and advisory meetings.

Mirele and Liz_2

We selected a student who was enthusiastic about the project to take on a formal participatory role in planning the event. He attended planning meetings, helped with advertising, and contributed to the overall vision and goals of the event. We advertised a space-themed party that would include neon snacks, space-themed video games, a spaceship Lego building contest, and a simulated laser-tag battle based on the tournaments in Ender’s Game. Continue reading “Welcome to Battle School”: Ender’s Game Party

Five Tips For Organizing Your First Library Teen Festival

by Eleanor Guldbeck

Have you been running teen events for years at your library but want to try something bigger? Would you love to see hundreds of teens invade your library? Are you ready to shake up your library a bit and have a completely new event? Do you want an excuse to have a rock band play at your library, have a zombie walk, and have a karaoke contest on the same day?’  Young adult librarians all have experience putting together fun, quirky and amazing programs for teens. The trick is to bundle these activities together on one day, make them bigger, better, and louder and add a few extra special events.

As Young Adult Librarians know, there aren’t many places teens can hang out, much less attend a safe and fun all-day festivals. There are many Family Festivals out there but very few festivals just for teens. The Miami–Dade Public Library System has been attracting over 1,000 teens to the Teen Zone Festival for the past five years. Over the years we have featured teen rock bands, speed haiku, video gaming tournaments, manga giveaways, Hunger Game Crafts, book discussions, Cosplay contests, story slams, Steampunk crafts, zombie walks and more.

I want to share with you some of the tips we have learned over the years.

Prepare a Timeline

You already know that you are better off planning this event months in advance.’  There are a lot of decisions that you will need to make right away, like the date, the location, the budget, and the staffing level.’  Plus, there may be many deadlines that you can’t control such as ‘ marketing, permits, contacting authors or booking a local band.’ ‘  Continue reading Five Tips For Organizing Your First Library Teen Festival

MAE Award Seeks to Recognize Outstanding Reading or Literature Programming for Young Adults

On behalf of the MAE Award Jury

Do you run a spectacular teen book club that engages underserved audiences? Did your summer reading program or literature festival connect teens with literature in an innovative way? Have you connected teens to literature or helped them gain literacy skills via some other exciting means? If so, you could win $500 for yourself and an additional $500 for your library by applying for award. Individual library branches may apply.

YALSA members who have run an exceptional reading or literature program in the 12 months leading up to Dec. 1, 2013 are eligible to apply for the MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens, which recognizes an outstanding reading or literature program for young adults.

The MAE Award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust. Applications and additional information about the award are available online. Applications must be submitted online by Dec. 1, 2013. For questions about the award, please contact the jury chair, Laurie Amster-Burton. The winner will be announced the week of Feb. 9, 2014.

Not a member of YALSA yet? It’s not too late to join so you can be eligible for this award. You can do so by contacting YALSA’s Membership Marketing Specialist, Letitia Smith, at or (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390.

Recognize the great work you are doing to bring teens together with literature and apply today

Seeing It From the Other Side: Programming

As you might recall from my blog post last month, I recently switched gears in my professional life. After seven years of working with teens in public libraries, I am now an elementary school librarian in a large, urban public school.’  I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about how the two jobs intersect. This month I’m discussing programming and how it relates to what I do in my current job.

When I was a teen services librarian, I had a love/hate relationship with programming. The thrilling highs when tons of happy faces exited the library after a successful venture didn’t always make up for the crushing lows when nobody showed up for the program I’d spent time and taxpayer dollars on.

Still, I had supportive management who let me try lots of different things and tailor my programming to whatever teens were asking for.’  When I sat down to figure out what I’d be offering in the coming months, I was only bound by my own imagination and what I knew would appeal to teens.’  Whatever worked I was free to continue, and whatever tanked, I was free to abandon. If the program served only to entertain teens, that was okay. There didn’t need to be an educational angle or goal to guide the program. Continue reading Seeing It From the Other Side: Programming