I was one of the lucky few to win a Teen Tech Week grant this year! I am excited, but I have to say, my teens are even more excited than I am. Why? Because we’re starting a Let’s Play club!

‘Let’s Play’ is a web video genre in which people record themselves playing video games, and then post their creations online for others to view. Our teens will be involved in, and in many cases, in charge of, every aspect of the process – channel branding, game selection, set-up, digital and audio editing, uploading, creating metadata and captions, and social media marketing.

There are a lot of people creating Let’s Plays, and a lot of variety within the genre. Some use face-cams, others are just voice-over narration and commentary. Some play retro games, while others showcase games long before they’re released. Some play anything a fan will send in, while others ‘speed-run’ by taking advantage of glitches and expertise to finish a game as quickly as possible. Many Let’s Players also livestream for hours on Twitch.tv to live audiences of followers and paid subscribers, posting these to Youtube in addition to their normal content.

Below are some Let’s Players to check out if you’d like to learn more about this ever-growing genre of online video!


Felicia Day’s Co-Optitude was my introduction to Let’s Plays. Hosted on Geek & Sundry, Felicia plays mostly retro and indie games with her brother Ryon, generally very badly and to much hilarity. The production value is high – the set is remarkable and there is a lot of editing involved, including clever use of video game sounds to bleep any mature language.


Zach Drapala is GhostRobo, a Let’s Player who often gets early access to a variety of highly sought after games. His full walk-throughs are full of gratitude for his viewers, and he often gives away copies of the games he’s playing to lucky subscribers. His second channel, GhostRoboJr, focuses on games specifically for kids.


Holly Conrad is a professional cosplayer and special effects artist, appearing on the short-lived Syfy documentary series ‘Heroes of Cosplay’. As Commander Holly, her infectious sweetness seeps through as she plays a variety of games with friends. She also plays a lot of World of Warcraft, and posts the occasional real-life video featuring her cosplay and other creations.


The hankgames Youtube channel is the Let’s Play home of bestselling teen fiction author John Green. Once upon a time, his brother Hank created this channel and played a variety of games, with John occassionally joining him. In 2011, John began playing the yearly FIFA (a soccer league) game, and since that time, the channel has mostly featured this (Hank has an occasionally-updated channel now called GamesWithHank) Ever the storyteller, John has back stories for most of the players and continues to update viewers on their news, from the arrival of babies to marriages and more. He also answers a variety of questions, often passed on from donors to the annual Project for Awesome. Although originally he played as the Swindon Town ‘Swoodilypoopers,’ in 2014 he was ‘fired’ as their ‘manager’ and instead began playing as the AFC Wimbledon ‘Wimbly-Womblys’ (neither of these names are accurate). It’s a long and hilarious story (you can read more here), but John’s love of the actual AFC Wimbledon team in England has inspired him to give the proceeds of this Let’s Play channel to the team, most of which supports the youth team. There is now a Nerdfighteria billboard in the AFC Wimbledon stadium, and the Nerdfighteria logo is on the official team uniform.

Minecraft Let’s Players

As the audience for Minecraft tends to be younger, the majority of Let’s Players who play Minecraft tend to keep their channels clean of any mature language. These folks often have some of the largest audiences, with subscribers in the many millions.


Welcome to the Sky Army! Adam Dahlberg, otherwise known as Sky, specializes in Minecraft roleplay, creating and playing in specially created Minecraft environments (also known as ‘mods’) that look like superheroes, other video games, etc.


Dan Middleton is a British Let’s Player who also focuses on mods and other mini-games and challenges. In 2015 he received a Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award.

Mr Stampy Cat

Joseph Garrett is a Let’s Player from the UK who uploads “a bunch of different games, including a new Minecraft video, every single day.” Known mostly as Stampy, he often works with Let’s Player iBallisticSquid and recently published his first book, Stampy’s Lovely Book.


David Spencer, also from the UK, posts Minecraft Let’s Plays from both the XBox and PC versions. He often attempts to complete challenges created by his best friend, Stampy.  Together they have a joint channel, Magical Animal Club, where they post a variety of content including a series of videos on tough topics such as bullying, confidence, and online safety.


Jordan Maron, otherwise known as Captain Sparklez, plays a variety of games but mostly focuses on Minecraft and is well-known for his animated Minecraft videos that parody popular music. Minecraft Style was featured in a variety of tech publications. He also maintains a second channel where he posts his Minecraft livestreams.

You can’t really talk about Let’s Players without mentioning the big names: Rooster Teeth’s Achievement Hunter (their show Rage Quit is the epitome of what it’s like to be frustrated with games, and a personal favorite), Markiplier, PewDiePieDodger, Best Friends Play, and Game Grumps, to name just a few. Your teens are watching at least some of these gamers (and will probably debate the merits of their favorites), but I must stress that these are not channels you can watch as a group in a library setting. They are important names to know, but remember: the average age of a gamer is 35. These are adults creating things for themselves and mostly for other adults. If swearing in all cases and a lot of mature language and situations in most are not things you are comfortable with, stick with the channels I’ve highlighted above.

Sarah Amazing is the teen librarian at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library. She blogs at zen-teen.com and falls asleep almost every night to the sounds of Danny and Arin’s colorful commentary on Game Grumps.


Our program for Teen Tech Week 2016, “Read It, Review It!” will encourage teens to share what they have been reading with the community through video book reviews posted on the Dickinson County Library YouTube channel.  The teens will be directly involved in all aspects of the video creation process.  We will be encouraging them to read new books and then prepare a review of the title(s) they’ve read.  They will be in charge of lighting and directing their own videos, editing the footage, posting the final product to the Internet, and advertising these new reviews with their friends, family, and community.

Receiving the grant sponsored by Best Buy and YALSA is going to allow us to provide an amazing opportunity for our area teens.  We’ve already begun purchasing the equipment we will be using, including a new camera, tripod, microphone, lighting, backdrop, high capacity SD card, and carrying case.  We have also begun brainstorming on the various props we can make available for teens to use in their videos.  While we were prepared to run this program using a staff-loaned flip camera with an improvised shower curtain backdrop, we are so excited to be able to upgrade thanks to the $1000 Teen Tech Week grant!  Software is being installed as I type, and before long we will be ready to roll – literally!

In addition to being fun, the experiences the teens gain through these videos will promote confidence and development of public speaking skills that are beneficial in all aspects of their future – school, career, and general life situations.  The technology they will learn can be applied in many scenarios including: high school projects, college assignments, career preparations, and for fun personal uses.  This project will also promote teamwork, as they will be responsible for assisting each other with their personal videos, creating a sense of community.

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Wicomico Public Libraries are gearing up for Teen Tech Week 2016! Our Library System serves a diverse group of young adults with our Main Library Branch in a downtown urban area, a Branch in our regional shopping mall, and a Branch in a rural small town in our county. We were inspired by this year’s theme, Create It @ Your Library, and worked to design a program series that was as technologically creative as possible for all three locations.

Photo Credit: PLB Comics

Photo Credit: PLB Comics

I reached out to our local team of comic writers, PLB Comics, and arranged a Creating Comics event where these writers will share the process of comic book creation from inception to completion. They will discuss script writing and how current technology has changed how comics are created and how that relates to the comic creator. The second half of the program will have teens write a four-panel comic. Then attendees will switch and draw from another person’s script while constantly communicating and asking questions to help reinforce the collaborative nature of the comic creation process.

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Lexington Public Library’s “Create It at Your Library” Teen Tech Week program was designed to get kids between the ages of 11-18 interested in all aspects of STEAM learning  using JoyLabz MakeyMakeys, small circuit boards that allow anything that conducts electricity to become the arrow keys, space and click buttons on a computer.

Our first event was prepared in partnership with the local middle and high schools. We connected the MakeyMakeys to bananas that were then plugged into a computer running Super Mario Bros. We explained that electrical currents work in a circular pattern through a ground wire plugged into the MakeyMakey; this allows a current to run through the computer and conductive items, so the kids were able to control Mario by tapping bananas!

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Lexington High School Students playing Super Mario Bros. using bananas and JoyLabz MakeyMakeys. Credit: Joanna Cox

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IMG_1082The Putnam County Library System – headquartered in Palatka, FL – will be celebrating the theme of “Create it at your Library” with an Invention and Creativity Convention March 4-12, 2016. Called Create Con, this competition is meant to showcase and award teen talent and encourages research, creativity, experimentation, and innovation. The Putnam County competition will start on March 4th at the Melrose Branch and conclude March 11th at Interlachen Branch Library. One talented teen (ages 13-18) will win the First Place Prize for the System: a 7” Kindle Fire and a $50 gift card. There is a also Tri-County (Putnam, Alachua, and Levy counties) competition that takes place at the Alachua County Library District Headquarters on Saturday, March 12th. The Grand Prize (awarded to the top teen from all three counties) includes a 3Doodler Pen and a $100 gift card. There will also be a school age division (ages 6-12) held locally with special prizes including a Makey Makey Kit.

IMG_1081There are many ways to compete including 1) creating a prototype or drawing of an original invention, 2) writing a research paper on a famous inventor or invention, or 3) a showing a creative project (artwork, website, app, game, etc.). Competitors are expected to showcase their work on a tri-fold display board. Create Con applications and guidebooks can be picked up at the library. Applicants are encouraged to contact Jeremy Yates, Special Projects Coordinator, at the Headquarters Library.

IMG_1078Area youth are also encouraged to attend monthly “Technology Petting Zoos” at each of the five branches of the Library System. They are so named because participants are encouraged to touch, play, and experiment with maker space equipment including 3D printers, robots, electronics, kits, video and audio equipment, and more. The library has also started hosting Maker Boot Camps at the Headquarters Palatka Library. These 1-2 hour courses will cover these like 3D Design, Basic Circuitry, and Intro to Robotics. They will make their way to the branch libraries this summer. In the meantime, maker kits are being assembled for patrons to check out at the Circulation Desk for use inside the library. These will include Snap Circuits and simple robot kits.

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When we think of teens today, we imagine a young adult glued to their cell phone, speaking in a foreign text speech slang, and Facebooking people halfway around the world. But for me, the phrase “can’t see the forest for the trees” comes to mind.

Our teens can certainly text, take a selfie, and play their favorite games online; but when I suggest they copy & paste a Google image, find an app for that, or read a book online, I get the most incredulous looks I’ve seen since high-school drama club. Statistics say that 40% of households in Lafourche Parish have no access to wi-fi. That students might get a maximum of 30 minutes in a computer class at school a week. I’m not the only one guilty of forgetting this and assuming every teen has a Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram account. They are considered the agents of technical suave. The reality, of course, is that for many of our teens, the library is their only digital touchstone. These teens might be Generation Y, but Y2K happened when they were infants. When I try to get them to read a popular book series or do a craft program, I get mixed results.

So I told them they would be building a website and doing photo/video editing for Teen Tech Week this year.

Oh my. Christmas has come early! Along with every other gift-giving celebration for many years to come.

“We can really do this? In the library?”


“For  free?”


“And we can actually do the stuff? Not just sit and listen to you?”

“Well I’m not going to make it for you.’

Shock! Awe! Horror (that they didn’t know about this sooner, why oh why didn’t they sign up for a news alert?) Can they really believe that I will allow, nay insist, that they touch the computers? Well, yes. As well as the tablet, video camera, and printer. I was quite serious about not doing the work for them.  A digital storytelling platform made by teens for teens. And that description hasn’t fit me for a while.

They have no idea that I might be more excited about this project than they are.

Kristen Angelette works with teens at the Lockport Public Library, part of the Lafourche Parish Public Library System in Lockport Louisiana.


The Haskett and Ponderosa Joint-Use Library, in Anaheim, California, are excited to launch the Teen Tech Week festivities!  Throughout the week, youth are encouraged to visit the library and partake in both passive and interactive programs. Teens will have the opportunity to learn how to convert everyday items such as fruits, vegetables, and kitchen utensils into a functional piano, keyboard, or other musical instruments using a Makey Makey. The Makey Makey’s have arrived and are currently being tested.

Students from the Fullerton College Robotics Team will also be visiting the library and leading a hands-on demonstration, exploring basic robotic mechanics.  Our hope is for the youth of Anaheim to have the opportunity to explore, create and innovate.

Our library staff members have been promoting upcoming Teen Tech Week activities at the local schools and after-school centers.  The library also has a TeenSpace Center and all youth are encouraged to attend scheduled programs. Also, the library has a large number of teen volunteers and all are invited to join us for the planned activities.

The library is also hosting a Tech Week “Technology Art Contest”. The contest is open to youth, ages 13-18, who are invited to create and submit an original drawing of their idea, meaning or interpretation of Technology. We want youth to have fun and be creative.

Wishing everyone a successful Teen Tech Week, hope all of your activities are well attended but most importantly we can make a difference in the life of the youth we serve.

This post is authored by Guadalupe Gomez, Branch Manager of the Haskett and Ponderosa Joint-Use Library. Gomez has been in the library field for over 15 years and continues to search for programming activities supporting youth in the Anaheim community.

Gilroy Library was fortunate enough to receive a YALSA & Best Buy Teen Tech Week grant.  This wonderful news has meant that I have the means to realize a fully-fledged TTW program for my library.

The dilemma with planning for TTW this year was not about what ‘could’ we do, but what couldn’t we!  With so many great activities to choose from it was hard to narrow down what we could feasibly offer to our teens for our TTW programming.

Working with this year’s theme ‘Create it at your library’ I decided to mix things up a little. I wanted to provide a variety of activities that focus on different skill sets.  After a lot of deliberation (and online shopping!), I was able to experience the joy of opening delivery boxes full of creative goodness.

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As a Teen Services Coordinator in rural Oregon, I know that my teens face a unique set of challenges. Our town, The Dalles, is a small one, with a population of 15,000. And like many small towns with limited resources, our students are struggling. 65% of our middle schoolers and 45% of our high schoolers are eligible for free lunch. In 2014, 36% of our high school students did not graduate on time – one of the worst graduation rates in the entire state of Oregon. So my goal going when applying for YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Grant was simple: I wanted to create exciting, engaging programs that would get our teens thinking about their futures.

Teen Tech Week @ The Dalles-Wasco County Library

Tinker Tuesday

Tinker Tuesday

Image by Derek Wiley

For Tinker Tuesday, we’ll be partnering with The Dalles High School’s competitive robotics team, The Bazinga Bots. The team will talk about what it’s like to build robots, participate in competitions, and discuss potential career opportunities. Afterwards, the teens will be able to “test drive” the competition robots, as well as build simple robots of their own.


Wired-In Wednesday

Wired in Wednesday

Image by M.A. Hoak

For Wired-In Wednesday, we’ll be partnering with Hage Electric: a local company. They’ll be speaking with the teens about what it’s like to work as an electrician and what certifications they would need to pursue a career in the electrical field. Afterwards, the teens will be able to create “make and take” neon light signs for their rooms with electroluminescent wire.


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Explore. Create. Compete. is our goal for Teen Tech Week. We will celebrate with a variety of activities – there’s something for everyone!

Recognizing the need for teens to be able to explore new technologies and tools is a vital part of the Arlington Public Library’s philosophy when serving teens. Youth Technology Centers (YTC) in two branch locations are working with under-served populations.  We currently offer programs and opportunities for teens to explore technology in a welcoming environment.

This year, the Library is hosting our very first Maker Competition that will bring together teams of teens that will work to complete challenges using various maker materials, such as Makey Makey, Lego Mindstorm, and Littlebits kits; art and crafting supplies; coding instructions; and digital media arts such as short film and music.  Teens will have to problem solve and think outside the box in order to complete and create projects given the materials and a set of challenges around a theme. What they make and how they make it will be completely up to them. Entries will be judged by a panel and awards will be given for most creative, most marketable, and best use of technology.  Judges will either have experience, expertise or careers related to STEAM.

The goal of the maker competition is to allow teens to develop team work and leadership skills and to engage their creativity.  As an added benefit, they may be exposed to new career paths, hobbies and skills they didn’t realize existed! Mastering the challenges will give teens a sense of confidence, independence, and faith in the concept that STEAM activities can parlay into a marketable skill or career.

In the months leading up to Teen Tech Week, the YTCs will provide opportunities for teens to explore the various maker ‘tracks’ and allow time for teams to ‘train’ for the competition. We will reach out to neighboring schools that may have maker clubs or to recruit students that are new library/YTC users.

Stacy Garcia is the Library Service Manager for the Arlington Public Library (Arlington, TX.).