You have the support of your library management, but you have no time, money, or space. How can you finally creating that teen space/center/area/room that you have been dreaming about?

Well it won’t be easy. As a matter of fact, it will be dusty and heavy and time-consuming. But all good things are worth the effort! Once you have secured approval from your boss the planning process can begin. Review the following ideas and mix-and-match to your heart’s content!

Idea #1: Ask the folks in Circulation for more shelf space for YA books. With their approval, shift adult books (or whatever is keeping you from expanding) away from the YA collection, giving yourself space to work with. Even if you don’t need the shelf space, you can use the more spread-out shelves to hold program flyers, set up book displays, hold bookmarks, display teen art work, and more. (Or perhaps the Director will walk through one day, notice the empty-ish shelves, and want to fill them? Or better yet, build you a Teen Center!)

If the idea of empty shelves scares you, ask a maintenance worker to help you take (some or all of) the actual shelves out of the shelving unit. Use that space to publicize events and put up larger displays.

Short on time?: Use volunteers! Teen volunteers are probably (hopefully?) the same teens that will be utilizing the Teen Space. Therefore, use them to help you shift. Offer volunteer/service hours or library card fine amnesty in return for their time.

Idea #2: Have a Teen Center that pops up wherever you have space. If you can’t have permanent space in your building, plan a weekly pop-up in your library’s meeting room or children’s storytime room. Bring TVs and gaming systems, laptop computers, a cart of new YA books, craft supplies, etc. Move the day and time around as it suites the needs of your teens, but try to do this on a regular basis.

Idea #3: Take that pop-up Teen Center to a local community center or school. Load up your car with all of the necessary equipment and set up shop in the non-library space. Plan this alongside a school’s afterschool tutoring program (maybe to begin immediately after tutoring sessions) and watch your attendance sky-rocket. While the teens play games, tell them about the library and invite them to visit and say hello to you next time they visit. *Have a special treat to give to the teens that do visit the library and seek you out. If possible, give them a teen-friendly tour of the branch and maybe even introduce them to a couple co-workers. Prove to them that they are welcome.

Idea #4: You know all those computers and comfy chairs in the adult area? Teens like those, too. Move a couple of each closer to the teen shelves. This encourages the teens to be comfortable in their own space, even if it’s a mere 20 feet from the adult area. Put a sign over the computers and chairs informing customers that they are for teens only (during non-school hours). *This will likely result in angry adult users once in a while. The “my tax dollars” fight will begin, but if you and the entire staff stand your ground this won’t continue forever.

Idea #5: If you have a bit of spare money (or receive a grant? Or win the lottery? Or acquire a millionaire benefactor?) purchase teen-friendly furniture and computers (Macs?) instead of just taking away from the adult area (a la idea #4). Put a plaque on the wall near all of this new stuff describing the area as a teen space and thanking those who supported it (Board, director, etc.). That way the teens and the adults who scope out the area know who it is for and why it is there. *Using private funds such as a donation or grant for these items will allow you to say, “These were not purchased with tax dollars,” which is a great way to put the kibosh on the ol’ “my tax dollars!” argument.

Idea #6: Display YA books and program flyers in the places where the teens are (i.e computer banks, study carrels, etc.). Maybe the teens don’t know you own entire shelves of YA books, magazines, and audio books. A sign pointing them in the right direction will not only inform them, it will inform your community that your library cares for teens and wants to provide services specifically for them. Be creative with your displays (tape arrows to the floor to literally guide them to the materials).

Idea #7: Even if you cannot shift books, set up a teen-only computer station, or buy comfy furniture to put near the teen stacks, you can make the teen stacks stand out. Cover the shelving units in bright colored paper. Have the teens make posters to tape to the shelves or hang from the ceiling over the shelves. The possibilities go on and on. Paint the walls nearest to the stacks, even! Delineate the teen center from the rest of the library.

Whatever you choose to do, try to do it with a few teen volunteers. Making them a part of the library gives what you do that much more meaning.
Previous YALSA bloggers have posted great articles on teen centers/spaces. For more inspiration, read these:

Whose Space is it? By Linda Braun

Trading Spaces: visiting each other’s libraries by Erin Daly and Gretchen Kolderup


Teens in your community may have the opportunity to take a fieldtrip to the nearest public library as a class or chaperone led group. Oftentimes they are there for a specific assignment they are researching but sometimes their instructor might bring them to the library for a general overview.

Besides planning your escape route or quickly hiding under the desk, if you see 30 + teens that you weren’t expecting, coming your way, what do you do? Read More →

Finding new programming ideas for teens is tough, particularly when it comes to crafts.’  With them, the trends are changing so fast.’  I started to plan my Breaking Dawn party, only to find myself made fun of by most of my teens.’  Apparently, Twilight is over at my library.’  I was really excited to play Pin the Tail on Jacob, too.’  Then, I don’t know if this craft is good for boys and girls or if it’s too “babyish”.’  I have tried asking the kids for ideas, but, for the most part, I get the standard teen “I don’t know…” response.’  So what’s a teen librarian to do?’  Here are the options I have found.

  1. ‘ Listservs: are a godsend, especially YA-YAAC when it comes to programming and crafts.’ ‘  Someone on that list will have tried whatever you are thinking of and tell you how it worked out.’  All you librarians are a great sounding board for ideas and sometimes I check my email and think about how genius you all are.’  Plus, there is a circulating list of all the great YA programming sites, such as the4YA and Abby the Librarian (Not me, an even cooler Abby).
  2. ‘’  Most of you have already found this website, I’m sure.’  I am on this thing daily.’  It is chock-full of easy ways to make crafts and fun things to do to entertain yourself’  or your patrons.’  It puts all of your favorite ideas (and everyone else’s) on to one easy-to-use website, with links back to the original sites.’  It’s a beautiful thing.’  Plus, it’s great for stress relief, because lots of people “pin” pretty clothes and cute dogs, too.
  3. Design*Sponge:’  Mostly aimed at adults, this website has tons of awesome DIY that you can cater to your teens.’  I tried the clothespin mirror myself and it was really easy and really cheap.’  And again, lots of pretty other things to look at to de-stress.’  Or stress, because you can’t afford that gorgeous $300 blanket from Malaysia.

It is really amazing how much is out there, now that I have started looking.’  Again, I think you all are the best resources, so emailing each other for more websites (since I am sure there are quite a few I missed) and ideas will probably give you more crafts than you ever needed.

Whether you are in a school or public library, you have probably had to work with a patron that was required to visit the library. Sometimes they come in groups or sometimes they come alone. Sometimes they are happy to be there but often the fact that their presence in the library is a requirement makes them reluctant or resentful patrons. ‘ Here are some steps that I take to avoid making a tough situation worse and help make the patron feel at home in the library. ‘ I came to all of theses conclusions by trail and error–lots of errors.

  1. Be Prepared‘ In a perfect world the teacher who has required students to visit the library has told you that they are coming but my how to steps are designed for the real world. Teens often come to the library for ‘ a specific project or for generic library instruction. Have a brief (no more than 5-8min) introduction to the library and how to use the library in ready in your head. ‘ It helps to have pamphlets on hand to for these unexpected visits. ‘ The handouts will most likely end up in the trash (recycling bin if you are lucky) but it will help keep you on point. ‘ I have found that the best handout is generic enough that it helps with basic search tips’ and highlights your awesome gaming collection.
  2. Understand their Position I have had to sign sheets that confirm that a student has received library instruction and assistance on projects. ‘ If I feel like a parole officer, I can only imagine how they feel in this situation. ‘ One teen reported that this made her feel like a “child.” It is important than to remember to treat them as intelligent young adults. Show them that the library is a place that respects them.
  3. Lose the Librarian Talk and Be Natural‘ Nothing makes a resentful patron more resentful than strange vocabulary and being talked down too. ‘ This is so difficult to remember. My library is working on a list of words that we are trying not too use around patrons. We are thinking of making a donation jar–drop quarter when you say a bad librarian word! ‘ Along the same line, we are trying to be aware of how we speak to teens. When we started evaluating each other, we were shocked to find that we often asked questions like “Do you know what an abstract is?” Out of context, we were able to hear how condescending we sound. ‘ By evaluating each other, we have been able to help reduce how often we say these annoying phrases.
  4. Handle the Attitude and Sell the Library‘ This is especially tough when you are working with a group of teens who are required to listen to you. They don’t want to be there–they think libraries are outdated, unfriendly and that you are a total nerd (and not in a good way!). I find the best way to handle this is to start off by asking them what their impressions and feeling are about libraries. ‘ Encourage honesty and be prepared to hear horror stories. As they tell you how librarians are unfriendly, acknowledge their past experiences and ask them to give us another chance. ‘ Show them how technically advanced your library is and be prepared to show them the coolest aspect of your collection or something unique about your library. The teens may not want to be there but don’t lose the opportunity to win them over.
  5. Have Candy‘ I know this comes up all the time… but it works! Having candy can really help with that awkward moment when you have to scramble to get ready for the unexpected group .


If you’re like us at my library, you’re fairly limited in the software you’re allowed to use (ahem, Microsoft Office suite), and your in-house publicity is made with Publisher. If you’re in the habit of making signs or flyers for your programs, check to see if you’ve gotten into the clipart-gradient background-text rut. If this isn’t you, please please please help your fellow librarian who fits this description. If you’re thinking, But what’s wrong with my clipart?, I beg of you, please keep reading.


Flyers and signs should be eye-catching, especially when you’re competing for the short attention span of teens, and it all starts with your background. It shouldn’t be just any color, or a color at all. The background you choose can determine what images you use, as well as the type and color of your font. If you choose a plain background, you’d better have an image that pops, and your font color should be a high contrast. On the other hand, if your background is an image, use other pictures or clipart sparingly (if at all), and consider a “washout” effect, essentially increasing the brightness and lowering the contrast. You want the text to be readable from a distance, and an image background can obscure readability.

Images’ ‘ ‘ 

Think about cropping an image in a neat way to only use part of it. Instead of a floating ninja head, put that same head with the chin cropped off at the bottom of the flyer to make it look like it is looking over something. If you’re looking for something fresh, try searching through Google Images, Flickr, or other photo sites. Remember to keep copyright in mind, though, and look for images licensed through Creative Commons instead, which is often easier to use and understand.


The last important element is the font. Even if your IT department protests every time you try to install something new, that doesn’t mean you can’t use special fonts. For a Halloween program, use a Friday the 13th-esque font or some other font that embodies your gruesome theme. Having a spa program for girls? Use a super girly font with a lot of flourishes. You can even try to match the font from a book cover (think Hunger Games). Here’s the trick: download the font, unzip it if required, and save the TrueType file to your desktop. Open the file, and like magic, the font becomes available when creating WordArt in Publisher. As long as the font file is open while your Publisher file is open, the font is available and will show up properly (Side note: even if you save the Publisher file, the font will revert back to a standard font if the downloaded font file is not open. To avoid this, save the file as a .jpg). Fonts can come from a number of sources, but my usual choice is

The most important thing is don’t forget to have fun with this! What tricks have you learned along the way to keep your publicity from getting boring? Leave your answer in the comments.


I’m cheating a little because I haven’t actually played Minecraft with teens on the brand new multiplayer server space I just rented. ‘ But I do play a lot of Minecraft with my friends, I have talked a lot about it with teens, and I am going to offer the game as a regular teen program starting next week.’  Here’s what I’m doing to bring Minecraft to the library, and links to some interesting ideas about things you might do with it.

But first, what is Minecraft?

Minecraft is a game where you roam a landscape full of different sorts of blocks that you can move around to build anything you want.’  You can dig deep to find different resources, and explore to find a variety of environments.’  At night, zombies and other monsters come out, so you need to protect yourself.’  The game was created by Swedish programmer Markus Persson, and is being developed by his company Mojang.’  It’s still in beta,’  so there are new updates all the time.’  Minecraft is getting prettier and more involved with each new permutation.

I love this game because it demands creativity.’  You have a world, and you can do anything.’  It’s even more fun with friends, where in building your world you find yourselves cooperating by sharing resources,’  planning building projects,’  helping each other and showing off for each other.’  I can’t wait to see what happens when I turn my group of teens loose in their new world.

Here’s a video for you to take a look at Minecraft.

Click through for more.
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Every librarian has experienced it.’  The heady rush of the weeks leading up to Teen Read Week where you promote the theme to patrons and staff, excitedly pull items for display, unleash your creative genius with promotion, and plan well-attended programming.’  Wait.’  Programming?

*Record needle screech*

Actually programming seems to be an aspect many librarians say does not come as easily as other aspects of the job, possibly because when it comes time to put people in the seats, putting ourselves on the line with the money or time investment in a program can be downright intimidating.

The first law of programming is Know Your Audience.’  YALSA and other librarians can give seven thousand great suggestions, but you are the one best equipped to determine what is going to fly in your library.’  You could read about an amazing anime tie-in to the Teen Read Week theme of Picture It @ Your Library, but if your patron group doesn’t know anime from animals and are all NASCAR fans, this is not going to work and, even worse, you’ve lost their trust because now they believe you have no idea what they like.’  Not good.

But those same patrons might be enthralled with a technology tutorial on Photoshop Elements where they “Picture It” by creating the car design for their favorite driver, right?’  Now you are a technology god or goddess who can name the top ten drivers and who even encourages them to send a copy of their design in a fan email to their hero.’  You know your audience and you have their respect and trust.’  Congratulations.

With your font of wisdom bubbling behind you, you may wish to consider these ideas as possible options for your fabulous audience.

  • The book to movie connection is a natural tie-in to Picture It programming, so what about a poll of the best adaptation?’  It can be either paper or posted on your library website using your blog software, a Google Docs form, or a service like Surveymonkey.’  The culmination can be a Saturday night viewing of the movie that won, with a discussion afterward about whether the film managed to convey the emotion of the book.
  • Poetry and writing groups can find inspiration in using images to inspire their work.’  Whether its encouraging them to bring in their own original artwork or photos, pulling those glossy color art books off the shelf, or using a cool service like PicLit, showing the connection between writing and images can get creative juices flowing.
  • Book trailers are another natural tie-in to this year’s TRW theme.’  Actually teaching movie making software is certainly an option, but using super easy sites like Animoto and Glogster are also great ways to showcase the teen vision of a specific book, with far more instant gratification.’  If there aren’t enough computers to go around for your patrons, what about just having a viewing of book trailers, maybe recent releases?’  A discussion about which elements make readers want to pick up the book in question could be a great jumping off point for understanding reader tastes in your library.
  • Book to Picture is a quick way to get your readers looking at themselves (younger audiences love this).’  Have readers pose with the favorite book and print or post the image in a collage near your library entrance. This is a popular programming idea for schools, particularly when faculty can be coaxed to pose with a recent read (even better if it’s actually a YA book).’  You’d be amazed at how many previously reticent students will run up to a teacher with the breathless comment, “You really read the Vampire Academy series?”
  • The now-defunct Borders bookstore used to have a promotion where they would “catch” you reading a book you hadn’t bought yet and give you a 10% off coupon.’  Genius!’  Make your own coupons for prizes, food or otherwise, or partner with your local movie theater for free concessions or ticket vouchers.’  Maybe your local art museum would offer a few free admission tickets when you tell them your theme?’  Just the food reward of a cookie for getting caught reading is enough to get someone to flip open a book or magazine and you’ve captured a moment as a librarian where you can talk to them about their likes and dislikes.’  It’s golden collection development time that no survey can extract.

Even better than knowing your audience is asking them.’  Hopefully you have a great Library Advisory Board who can brainstorm ideas best suited for your library, but feel free to use some of these as a jumping off point for programming.’  And don’t forget to post your good ideas on the Teen Read Week wiki so others can benefit from them!’  Then we can all enjoy Picturing It @ Your Library.

Many thanks to the Library Advisory Board of Wyoming Seminary’s Upper School for some of the great programming ideas in this article. To paraphrase author John Green, LAB members are full of awesome.

Last week, we talked about evaluating your library’s policies and determining whether they were appropriate and reasonable for teens. If you concluded that some changes are needed, it’s time to think about how to make those changes.

  • ‘ You will want to proceed carefully and thoughtfully. Policies are not written in a vacuum, and there will have been reasons behind every policy or procedure. If possible, find out what those reasons are. Find out the background of the policies—is this a new policy, or a time-honored one? Read More →

Image by flickr user benessere

Teens can feel (and genuinely be) pretty marginalized in their communities and in their own lives. Part of what we can do as librarians is to empower teens and to advocate for them within our institutions and our communities. This kind of advocacy is also one of the evaluation criteria YALSA provides in its Teen Services Evaluation Tool. Today, I’ll be providing some ideas on how to be an advocate for teens.
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I’ve been doing a lot of outreach lately. We recently had a contest at my library specifically aimed at teens to promote a new virtual reference service we’re offering. To get the word out, my coworkers and I went to quite a few back to school nights and talked to a lot of teens. Here’s what I learned:

1. Stick to a simple message. Having the contest to promote really helped us to have a clear, concise message to share with the teens. We came up with a sound bite that we could quickly say to people who stopped by the table. Most of the time, parents and teens at back to school nights are in a hurry. We wanted to keep it quick. Of course, if the teens wanted to talk with us more, we could share more about what the library did, but promoting a specific event helped us have a short, effective message.

2. Bring candy. I’ve said this before in relation to school visits, and it definitely worked. Having a bowl of candy at the table kept us approachable and we had quite a few parents and kids stop by, grab a piece of candy, and say hi.

3. Bring materials to share. We had bookmarks and flyers promoting the contest and the new service. Giving people something concrete to take with them is helpful. We also had some pens and notepads leftover from old programs that we brought along—people loved grabbing the free stuff and it gave them another excuse to stop by our table.

4. Get other teens on your side. At most of the back to school nights we went to, we just had a table in the hall. There were usually teen ambassadors who were directing parents and teens to where they needed to go. Making friends with those teens was invaluable. They would steer other kids to our table to hear about the contest and say hi.

5. Have fun! I’ll admit that going to back to school nights almost constantly could become tiring. However, getting to talk to teens and tell them about the cool things the library is doing is such a privilege that I always ended up having a blast. Whenever I felt tired or drained, I’d just keep in mind how much fun the visit would be and it always was. That let me joke around and have a blast meeting teens and introducing them to what the library has to offer.