This year’s Teen Tech Week theme, “Libraries are for Creating,” highlights how teens can combine technology and creativity to create some truly unique products.  The ideas and resources here make for great program activities this Teen Tech Week and any time of the year.

Paper Circuits

This low-tech, low-cost project integrates art into an activity that is perfect for teaching how circuits work.  The main supplies are copper tape, a 3-volt coin cell battery, and a basic LED. MIT’s High-Low Tech features a tutorial and templates, and Sparkfun has a list of projects.  If money is not a barrier, take it a step further with LED stickers from Chibitronics.


Sewable Circuits / Wearable Electronics

Sewable circuits similar to paper circuits, only instead of copper wire, electrical current is conducted through conductive thread.  Create a circuit with the thread, an LED, a battery holder, and metal snaps.  The sewing is fairly basic, so sewing newbies should be able to participate, but teens without an existing understanding of circuits might do better starting with paper circuits.  One draw of sewable circuits is that teens can create a functioning and (possibly) fashionable product in a relatively short amount of time. MIT has an excellent lesson plan here, or this Instructables project is a good starting point.


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At ALA Annual this year, YALSA held information sessions on how to get involved with the organization, both as a new volunteer and as someone seeking leadership opportunities.  Here’s a recap of the event.

If you’re just starting out, volunteering for one of YALSA’s committees is an excellent first step.  All YALSA members are encouraged to fill out the Committee Volunteer Form once a year. Here is a list of committees and the link to the form. Read More →

Chicago offers a smorgasbord of delicious food options, even to those with dietary restrictions. While you should be able to find at least one option that fits your diet at most restaurants, a great thing about the city is that there are all kinds of people and we have restaurants for every taste. Here are some restaurants that specialize in vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, Kosher, or Halal options.  In addition to names and addresses, I’ve listed each restaurant’s distance on foot from McCormick Place.

Eleven City Diner, 1112 S. Wabash, 1.7 miles – Kosher

This Jewish deli serves up corned beef, pastrami, beef brisket, and lox.  For breakfast, try the Eleven City French Toast.  They also have several vegan/vegetarian options.

Chicago Curry House, 899 S. Plymouth Court, 2 miles – Halal

Chicago Curry House offers Nepalese and Indian cuisine, including a full buffet.  Try the momo and naan.  They also offer a large selection of vegetarian meals.

Jason’s Deli, 1258 S Canal St, 2.2 miles – Gluten-free, Vegan/vegetarian

This health food deli has both a vegetarian and a gluten-sensitive menu.  Their website also include a Special Diets Wizard that allows you to search for items without the common allergens of your choice. Read More →

Heading to Chicago for ALA? Bring your appetite!  It would be impossible to create an objective list of the best food in Chicago, so this post will focus on two categories: food near the McCormick Place convention center, and a small selection of some of the most iconic, representative, or renowned restaurants within reasonable distance of McCormick Place.  Be sure to ask other Chicagoans for recommendations when you’re here; you’re sure to hear something different from everyone!


Near McCormick Place

Unfortunately, McCormick Place isn’t in a great location.  Food choices near there are sparser than in many other parts of the city.  (Chinatown, one mile away, is a noteworthy exception.)  Still, there are some great options if you know where to look.  Below I’ve listed recommended restaurant names, addresses, and distance on foot from McCormick Place.

Baderbräu, 2515 S Wabash Ave, 0.7 miles

A large taproom and 11 beers brewed on-site.

Reggie’s Chicago, 2105 S State St, 0.8 miles

Live music, lots of beers, and tasty inexpensive pub food just a 15 minute walk from McCormick Place.

Acadia, 1639 S Wabash Ave, 1 mile   

This well-respected upscale restaurant serves contemporary American cuisine, including an excellent burger.  It’s a pricier option, but beloved of foodies.

Café Bionda, 1924 S State St, 1 mile

You can’t go wrong with Italian food, and Café Bionda is just a 20-minute walk from McCormick Place.

Harold’s Chicken Shack, 612 S Wabash Ave, 1 mile

This local fried chicken chain is known for their delicious selection of sauces.

MingHin Cuisine, 2168 S Archer Ave, 1 mile

The dim sum and pork dishes are highlights of this Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown.

Opart Thai House Restaurant, 1906 S State St, 1 mile

This family-owned restaurant serves authentic Thai food.  When I asked some friends their favorite restaurants in the city, this place came highly recommended, and it’s only a mile from McCormick Place.

Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling, 2002 S Wentworth Ave, 1.4 miles

Dumplings including a huge variety of meats, with vegetarian options too.  The lamb is especially liked by customers.

Bongo Room, 1152 S Wabash Ave, 1.5 miles

Bongo Room is the place to go for breakfast and brunch.  Try the White Chocolate and Caramel Pretzel Pancakes or the Chocolate Tower French Toast.

Go 4 Food, 212 W 23rd St, 1.5 miles

Delicious Chinese-fusion food at great prices in Chinatown.


Worth a Trip

These restaurants will require a longer commute, but they’re well worth it!  If you want to venture out and experience some of the best Chicago has to offer, give these a try.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, 805 S. State Street, 2 miles

If you try one local dish in Chicago, make it the deep dish pizza.  There’s a lot of debate about where to get the best pie, but Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is one great option not too far from McCormick Place.

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, 1141 S Jefferson St, 2.3 miles

President Obama is a fan of this Jewish Deli serving gigantic corned beef sandwiches.

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As much as I love conferences, you have to admit that they can get a little grueling. If you’re coming to Chicago for the ALA Annual Conference this year, make sure you take some time to enjoy the city! If you’re looking for entertainment, here are some places to check out.


Oriental Theatre by Mike is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Chicago has an incredible Off-Broadway scene, with o  rnate theatres and world-class shows.  Enter your available dates on this site to find shows playing.  There are still a few tickets for Hamilton at the PrivateBank Theatre, but be prepared to spend upward of $200 for a not-so-great seat.  Disney’s Aladdin at the beautiful Cadillac Palace Theatre has tickets starting at $45.  Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I is playing at the Oriental Theatre.  Even seats in the back of these shows can be pricey.  While it’s always cool to be in front, if you can only drop the cash for one of the nosebleed seats, it’s still well worth the price.

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Last Monday, I talked about the benefits of a middle school collection in a public library, and how we chose a name, chose a collection size, and gathered feedback for my Library’s new Middle Ground.  Our next steps were to get into the specifics of what exactly belonged in the Middle Ground versus the Juvenile and Young Adult Collections.

As I said in my last post, the way you structure and build your collection is going to depend on your community.  I’m providing an account of how I did it as an example, to give you some things to think about while creating your own collection.  For more guidance, check out YALSA’s Collections and Content Curation wiki page.


We learned through surveying that many of our middle school patrons were interested in nonfiction and graphic novels.  Nonfiction and graphic titles tend to appeal to a wider age range of readers than fiction.  In Middle Ground Fiction we were collecting books that spoke directly to middle schoolers, but such books are few in nonfiction and graphic novels.  We wanted to include these collections in the Middle Ground, but chose to tweak the rules a bit for them.

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Are you visiting Chicago for ALA Annual? Make some time to visit at least one of our historic, world-class museums.  If you’re going to multiple museums and attractions, consider purchasing a CityPass for a discount and the chance to skip lines at some locations.

The conference venue, McCormick Place, is conveniently located right next to the Museum Campus.  This patch of the lake shore is home to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium.

If you’re strapped for time and can only make it to one museum, I recommend the Field Museum, both for its high quality and its convenient location.  The star of this world-class natural history museum is Sue, the best-preserved, largest, and most complete T-rex fossil ever discovered.  You’ll also find mummies, rare gems, artifacts from the ancient Americas, and a pioneering collection of taxidermy. (That last one is, frankly, not my favorite.)

Field Museum of Natural History by Joe Ravi is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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A year and a half ago, I was tasked with creating a collection of reading materials aimed at middle schoolers for my public library.  These types of collections—sometimes called junior high or tween collections—are becoming more popular in response to growing demand from patrons, but creating them poses some unique challenges.  In my next two blog posts, I’ll share some information on my Library’s process: we did, why we did it, what we learned, what, and how you might begin your own process of creating such a collection.  This can only serve as a guideline.  You will need to develop your own methods to build a collection that meets the specific needs of your community.

In this post, I will discuss reasons for having a middle school collection in the public library and first steps to creating one.  The next post will be about selection guidelines for the collection, and how to use those selection guidelines.

I will use the term “middle school collection” to refer to any collection designed to serve readers in the range of ages 10-14.

This is my library’s Middle Ground collection as it currently appears. We are working on expanding it to some additional shelving.

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Last month at the YALSA Symposium in Pittsburgh, I caught myself in a disturbing thought. The conference featured discussion and idea sharing about all kinds of diversity, especially racial diversity. There was advice about building inclusive collections, providing vital services to underserved populations, and making the library a safe space for people of all races to express themselves and feel valued. On the last day of the Symposium, sitting in one of many sessions that touched on this topic, I thought, “This is so great. I wish I worked in a community where I could do this stuff.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that this thought was very, very wrong.

I work in an upper-middle class, mostly white, mostly Christian suburban community. Being near a large city, we have access to a lot of diversity around us, but our community itself is commonly referred to as a “bubble.”

Libraries are here to pop those bubbles. Read More →