Coming up with ideas for programs can be a daunting task, especially to a new teen programmer. Coming up with cheap programs is even harder. I’m going to share some tips on how to accomplish effective and inexpensive teen programs.

The main thing that will help you out with programming is to know your resources. One of your most valuable resources is your children’s librarian- they are notorious hoarders. If you have an idea but don’t know how to convince your manager to pay for the supplies, check with your children’s librarian. She will happy to share those toilet paper rolls she has been storing for the past ten years “just in case.” She will also have great suggestions on how to make your program more successful. If you don’t have an idea for a program, look through her stash- you might find some great treasures there.

If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas for programs, go online and check out what other libraries are doing. You’ll be able to find something you think has potential and adapt using the things you already have available to you. There are also some really great websites for cheap crafts. You may have to think creatively to figure out how to adapt things to work with what you already have or to make it appropriate for you audience.

Another thing that can make it easier to do cheap teen programs is to pick a theme and stick with it for a month or a quarter or whatever time period you like. Summer Reading is always so great for programs because we are given a theme and it is so easy to come up with program ideas based on a theme.

Another great resource is to use your co-workers, friends and family. If you need supplies for a program, put an email out asking for help. I have about 20 soda bottles and empty chip bags because I needed them for programs this summer and sent an email to my co-workers. People are glad to help out.

You can also check with your community to see who is willing to come and do free programs. I have had NASA come and do a program. I have also worked with local universities to have them come and do workshops on gaming and science. I have had the police department and fire department come do demonstrations geared towards teens. One time the bomb squad came out with a robot they use to check out bombs- it was very cool. I have had local authors come and do programs for free. You might be surprised how many people are willing to help out the library for free. And it never hurts to ask- the worse that can happen is that you’ll be told no, leaving you in the same place you are now.

But, your most important resource is yourself. In August I did a middle school program with a caveman theme. One of my co-workers came up with idea to make pet rocks. The kids LOVED it. The reason they loved it is because my co-worker and I had so much fun with it. We were cracking jokes about how our rocks had different personalities and how expensive it was going to be to feed them and made other stupid commentary about the rocks. All of the kids created two or three “pets” using markers to make faces on the rocks.

This just goes to show that you don’t have to have $100 worth of supplies to have a successful program. You just have to use the resources you have, be creative and a good attitude and you’ll be golden.