“Have Book Will Travel” for Teens

With summer fast approaching, I’m sure everyone has been scouring the web, brainstorming with colleagues and studying the iREAD Resource Guide for inspiration.

We have come up with some fun ideas related to our summer theme that teens (hopefully) won’t find completely lame. Here are just a few things we have planned:

Image created by Terri Murphy for iRead 2013

  • Henna Artist & Program – Henna is always a hit, and it fits in beautifully with this summer’s theme.
  • International Game Night – table tennis, Mancala, Go, Chinese Checkers, and more.

We are also taking our book clubs “on the town,” and meeting at different places in the community.  We are continuing the summer theme with the titles that we’ve chosen as well.  My older teens will be reading John Green’s Paper Towns which is a roadtrip novel Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is set loosely in modern day Prague and Patricia McCormick’s Never Fall Down which set in the very real, war torn country of Cambodia.

How about your library?  What fabulously inventive programs do you have planned for “Have Book, Will Travel?”  I’m sure a few people might still be looking for ideas to round out their programming schedules.


Loosen that Programming Belt: Intergenerational Programs

When you are a teen librarian, you (hopefully) often accept accolades from adults about the awesomeness of your programs. Teen programs in libraries, whether given by the librarian or by an outside presenter, are often built around creativity. We focus on topics and ideas that are often pop culture and would fall into the new and current category because we’re giving teens what they want. But, what happens when teens aren’t the only people who want in on the fun? What happens when you have adults who ask, “Can I sign up, too?”

As an Adult and Teen Programming Librarian, this is awesome for me. I get to blend together the two sides of my job in a fairly fantastic way. I realize that this may not be as easy for everyone, as it involves coordination between people…departments…budgets. But, while the work may be a challenge, the reward is pretty great, too.

At our library, we’ve begun opening up programs classically marketed just to teens to both teens and adults. No matter what the topic may be: crafts, fitness classes or movies, we’ve got interest in the topics coming at us from all ages. At first, my immediate reaction was of the, “No way, no how,” feeling. How was I going to have our teens and adults in the same group without losing the exclusivity and freedom that being in a library could potentially provide my teens? Our area is one that has a very miniscule amount of teen participation. There are a few strikes against us: we live in a village that puts high value on sports and school-related activities, the library is in the downtown vicinity, so teens who are coming to the library have to actually be on their way here already…we don’t get much walk-in traffic. What I saw at first was the potential to have an attendance increase. What about older teens who might not come to something they feel is too young for their age group? I decided to give it a try.

The program that I first said yes to marketing to both teens and adults was a craft program. It was during the winter, and I was teaching about finger knitting and finger crochet. The idea wasn’t major in anyway; it was something cheap (we’d gotten a MASSIVE donation of yarn), and it was something I could teach myself to do (thank you Pinterest and YouTube)! As registration was going on, it became clear that there were going to be just about as many teens as there were adults.
We had so many interesting pairings in that room. I had a 19 year old guy chatting with a grandmotherly patron about the crocheting she was teaching her grandchildren. I had teens from one of our high schools helping the adults in the room! I was just so impressed to see that there were little pockets of conversation everywhere I turned.
Now, as I do what we now call the Just Wing It Craft Hour every month, I see more and more moms signing up just to get a night away. I see teens signing up as well. But, my personal favorite is that I often see mothers and daughters or mothers and sons coming in to do our craft for the evening because we’ve given them more than a program that teens can be “dropped off” to. Rather, we’ve given them something that they can do together. I get repeat faces of all kinds—teens are now coming and doing the craft alongside a family member. Even when mom or dad can’t come, an aunt or cousin is dragged in.

I realize now that it wasn’t so much about keeping adults and teens separate. We do that with our age specific programming already. What we’re doing now is building a new kind of community.

Pinterest…at Work?

While many of us know that Pinterest can be a fun distraction, we’ve also been finding more and more ways to use it in a professional manner at work.  Think about all of the people you know who are doing inspiring, creative programs both at your library and and beyond.  Many of those people are sharing their programs – from the planning, to booklists, to supplies, and even more – online.  Hidden among the mouthwatering recipes (and, yes, pictures of Ryan Gosling) are some wonderfully useful pins.  It’s wonderful to be part of such a collaborative and sharing library community.

Check out some of the boards that have inspired programs at my library lately:

Teen Programming in Libraries (a collaborative board)

National Craft Month 2013/Teen Summer Reading Program Jump Start

Fargo Library’s Book Crafts

STEM Programs

The above links are just a place to get started.  If you are looking for something – no matter how seemingly strange – odds are that you’ll find something to inspire a library program of your own.

Alternatively, another way to use Pinterest at work is to create public boards for your community to see what’s going on at the library.  Author visits? Programming pictures?  Booklists?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Here are some additional ways my library is using Pinterest to connect with our community:

Warren-Newport Public Library’s Pinterest Page

Have you used Pinterest to inspire programming at your library?  If so, we’d love to hear about your favorite boards.

Books to programs to books

Why fight it?  Books are libraries brand.  When programming, just go with it.

Programming revolving around books isn’t a new idea.  We’ve been doing it for years, they’re called book discussions.  Take it a step further by turning the content of a book into your program.  The following is a list of books and ideas for programming that go with it.  This list is in no way comprehensive as there is no limit to a librarian’s creativity.

100 Most Disgusting Things on the Planet (Claybourne)

Having trouble getting the boys into the library…fret no more!  The grosser the program the crazier the boys go for it. The book is divided into two sections: disgusting nature and disgusting humans.  Many of the topics from the disgusting nature section can be seen in nature documentaries and online videos.  Have a couple videos queued for display.  For instance the Tarantula Hawk Wasp is shown in this video attacking a tarantula, paralyzing it and dragging it into her hole where she will lay her eggs on it allowing her babies a fresh food supply when they hatch.  The spider is alive the whole time.  My favorite chapter in the disgusting humans section is on “Civet Coffee” (Kopi Luwak) which is made from the coffee beans of the fruit that the Civet Cat eats.  After passing the coffee beans they are collected and ground into coffee at the price of $160 a pound or up to $80 a cup in a cafe.  Ahh, to be rich and drink sh…  Do you know where your coffee comes from?

Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of the Sibling Smackdown (Wilson)

OK, so this program might be dangerous.  Correction, this program WILL be dangerous.  Packed with 126 attack, defense, counter-measures, and counter-counter measures, Bro-Jitsu is a survival guide for growing up a sibling.  Treat this class like you would a beginner Yoga class.  Make sure that each participant has their own space (you know, to avoid getting blood on the carpet).  Run them through some of the more fun moves and then release them upon their unsuspecting families.

miniweapons2There are cool books to get idea for programming and then there are awesome books that you just rip-off wholesale and do an entire years worth of programs.  The Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction is that series.  Our library had a huge hit with our Bad Boys Crafting Club in which we armed the youth of our town and send them on their way.  The projects range from catapults (from Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and clothes pins) to double-barrel rubber band shooters. After the teens have made the project set up an area with targets for shooting practice.  Be warned that some of these weapons work extremely well.

Good program gone bad

Today a program failed. I had all the elements: a recently released movie that should appeal to tweens and teens, marketing AND a raffle of a copy of the movie and the book it was based on, and snacks. The combination worked well last summer, and it was fine in the fall programming line-up too, but today it was a bust. After a half hour watching the movie in a big meeting room by myself I decided to pack it in and do something more useful, so I’m rewriting (again) this long overdue YASF blogpost.

Panic Button to summon an army of magical teen volunteers

All in all, despite some minor hardship and expense in getting the raffle items for today I consider this kind of failure to be almost a success. No presenters were harmed in the making of this program, no teens either. There are a lot of ways for a program to fail:

    • Fifteen minutes before your program starts and your star presenter is an hour away, stuck in traffic.
    • The presenter showed but your meeting room equipment is failing and they can’t project their multimedia presentation.
    • The presenter showed on time and everything works; but, for some reason the hundred teens you estimated turns into only four actual teens who show. Mostly likely half of those that showed are the volunteers who helped with set-up and are only staying to tear down.
    • What if too many kids show? Word of mouth got around and now anime or manga club gatherings need a staff of ten just to keep the peace, but there’s still just the one teen librarian to manage it.
    • You lost (misplaced, forgot to order, or didn’t get the right amount for) the honorarium check and now the presenter is refusing to present and is, in fact, storming out angrily.
    • Insert your horror stories in the comments, I know you’ve got at least one.

These are the times when it would be nice to have a panic button that would deploy a regiment teen volunteers that are trained and ready to turn your failing program into a success. But, as great as teen volunteers are (and they are really great) they aren’t magical. Maybe this is why I like planning programs like today’s movie. I also sigh with relief every time I schedule a crafting, video game, or book club program. These programs still require time, some expense, and effort on my part, of course; but for the most part, (barring the unforeseen failure of a free movie in the battle of free movie vs. a very nice day outside.) they are safe and reliable and we know what and who to expect. Best of all, I rarely or never need to bring in someone from outside the library to do these programs. Too bad they can’t all be craft programs. (No, they really can’t all be craft programs.) When they fail, they do so quietly and without fuss. The only damage done is to my ego. But the “safe” programs are just not enough. To let my programs thrive, I must bring in outside presenters.

If the solution to “Programmers Anxiety” is not to stick to the safe programs, what is it? Well, the first action is going to be a no-brainer; gain the experience all while expecting things to go wrong. Stress out about it if you must (I must.) Don’t be afraid to plan programs that are going to stress you out. The first author visit that I ever tried planning was a dismal failure compared to the second and so on. Experience also allows for that holy grail of programming: knowing your audience. I know that my audience is very big on writing workshop programs; so, my second author visit was a combo. One program was a standard author visit and then after about an hour break the author did a writing workshop. Many kids came to both, some came to just one or the other, but either way both programs went swimmingly.

Knowing my audience much better now means I have a better grasp on the kinds of programs that really do require sign-up, and what works better as a drop-in. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, I know. Our Children’s Department only does sign-up because they are expecting too many people, as do our adult computer programs. For my programs though, it is frequently the opposite. For some reason, if teens must sign up at my library, then they will come. This also allows me to cancel or reschedule programs where I’m not getting any interest.

Speaking of getting their interest; marketing is something we talk about at conferences and on blogs, but there is only so much advice that gets tossed around, and even less of that is applicable to any particular library setting. Using “word of mouth” is one of those things we get told a lot that is a mixed bag of usefulness. If the kids think to tell their friends and want them to come then word of mouth can be a great tool, but it doesn’t always work that way. Other advice is “take advantage of every marketing resource you have.” But, I don’t pull out the big guns of marketing on all my programs. I know the Anime Club is going to be well attended; I just have to let them know when it will be. But when I have a program I really want to do well then I push it on our website, social media sites, brochures, newsletter, electronic sign, and at every program I have leading up to the one I’m worried about, I’ll mention it. What do you do to ensure (as much as possible) successful (by whatever measure you deem success) programs?

Teen Cooking: Microwaves and Mugs

Teens love food.  Yes, we all know that but, did you also know that they are quite capable of cooking for themselves…either did their parents.  Cooking programs for teens can be wildly popular as long as you promise them samples at the end.  The problem with cooking programs is the cooking, unless you have a huge staff lounge that doubles as a meeting room (in which case carry on Rick Bayless Public Library).

In a previous post,Teen Programming with Food, we provided fun desserts to make that require no cooking.  This time we’ll explore some awesome options for cooking with that jack-of-all-trades, the microwave.  If your library’s microwave (and I know you have one) cannot be moved into your meeting space, then ask around and I’m willing to bet that someone has one collecting dust in their garage.  Below you’ll find some great microwave recipes that you can make with/for your teens.

Mexi-licious Egg Mug (from Hungry Girl)


  • 2 tbsp. chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters Original)
  • 1/4 cup fat-free refried beans
  • 2 tbsp. canned diced green chilies (not drained)
  • One 6-inch corn tortilla, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 wedge The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese
  • Optional topping: fat-free sour cream


  • Spray a large microwave-safe mug with nonstick spray. Add onion and microwave for 1 minute, until slightly softened and warm.
  • Pat dry to remove excess moisture. Add egg substitute and gently stir. Microwave for 1 minute.
  • Gently stir. Microwave for 30 seconds, until scramble is mostly set.
  • Gently stir in beans, chilies, tortilla, and cheese wedge, breaking cheese into pieces as you add it.
  • Microwave for about 45 seconds, until hot. Gently stir and, if you like, top with sour cream. Enjoy!



Microwave Cake in a Mug


  • 1 large coffee mug
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour (do not use self-rising)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
  • Small splash of vanilla
  • chocolate syrup (optional)
  • whipped topping (optional)


  • Add dry ingredients to mug, & mix well .
  • Add egg & mix thoroughly.
  • Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
  • Add chocolate chips (if using), vanilla, mix again.
  • Set mug in the microwave & cook for 2½ to 3 min (1,000 watts microwave). Cake will rise over the top of the mug.
  • Remove from microwave and allow cake to cool a little, then tip out onto a plate, or leave in mug.
  • Drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with whipped topping, if desired!

Finals Service

YA Librarians are always trying to figure out how to get high school patrons into the library and actively participating in programming.  At Hinsdale Public Library, we decided to stop trying to develop the perfect program to bring teens into the library and instead we developed a program around the times they are already here.  It didn’t take us long to realize that the time they are in the library the most is during finals.

Finals Service didn’t happen overnight.  We started small.  Some snacks and opening the large meeting room for group study.  We got a couple hundred kids over five days.  Every semester the Finals Service program has grown a little bit.  Every time we add to the program, we get more students.  Now, we can guarantee at least 1,000 teens over five days.

These are a few things that have worked for us:

1) Make sure the whole staff is ready to pitch in!

There are going to be a lot of teens coming into your library. Most of them don’t know a Young Adult Librarian from a book cart.  They’ll ask anyone for help if they need something.  So, everyone needs to play nicely.  We made a step-by-step internal PR guide to help people know what to do if they come across a kid with a bucket of fried chicken or two teens taking a “study break” under the OPACs.  Every department monitors the Large Meeting Room, answering questions and refilling snack bowls and every department keeps track of statistics and head-counts.  To sweeten the pot, we made it worth the staff’s time.  We had snacks available in the break room and got approval from the board to wear jeans throughout finals service. Once we did something for the staff, we stopped hearing how AWFUL the teens were.

2) FOOD!

There are teens that will arrive at the library when the doors open and stay until the doors close.  They need something to eat.  We started by just buying food in bulk from a Wholesale store.   You can’t go wrong with rice krispies treats, fruit snacks, pretzels and granola bars.  Go with the small bottles of water and recycling bins so you’re not throwing away ½ full bottles of water all week long.  As the program has progressed, we’ve been able to use our teen numbers and statistics to get local sponsorship to cover almost all of the cost of snacks and water.

3) A Little Somthin’ Somethin’

For three years, we have given away a pen/highlighter combo at every Finals Service.  They’re cheap, you buy them in bulk and they’re awesome advertising and promotion for the library.   We have them printed with our logo, phone number and website.  The teens go to school with their pen, their friends ask them where they got it and we see new faces at the library the next day.  Not because they want the pens, but because talk of pens leads to talk of snacks, study rooms and who else was at the library the day before.  This year we were able to find pens that were eco-friendly so we could feel better about the thousands of pens we give away every year.


Maybe what works for us, won’t work for you.  Maybe you just have one day or one weekend.  Perhaps you team up with the local high school and do a program at the school or the staff from the high school comes and helps you at the library.  Whatever you do, try to do something.  Teens are a difficult group to grab and you wouldn’t want to let this opportunity pass you by!


Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about Finals Service or starting a program at your library.  (bboland@hinsdalelibrary.info)