Links of the Month: May 2017

Links of the MonthEvery month we’ll be rounding up some can’t miss online resources from the wide world of teen services and beyond. Here’s what we’ve been reading in May.

It’s been a big month for books on screen. The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why debuted last month with its fair share of controversy. The discussion continues as the show has been renewed for a second season. Publisher’s Weekly’s Cynthia Compton reports that in Indiana, one bookstore used the book and the series as a springboard for a community discussion. Amy Kaufman of the Los Angeles Times spoke to several educators about how the book and series affected their students.

Also on Netflix, Anne with an E, the latest adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, premiered this month. The Guardian’s Samantha Ellis wrote about the things she learned from Anne Shirley.

Meanwhile, Everything, Everything, the movie based on Nicola Yoon’s novel of the same title, hit the big screen this month. School Library Journal’s Kent Turner has a review.

And it’s not too early to start planning your watch list for next year! Ginny Mies at ScreenRant has a list of book-to-screen adaptations heading our way in 2018.

We talk often about diversity in books, but what about diversity in fandom and geek culture? Daniel Jose Ruiz of The Millions has thoughts.

Here are some great booklists that came out this month:

How about some program inspiration?

  • The New York Public Library now features Drag Queen Story Hour! Read the article from the New York Times.
  • Bring the best of the ‘80s to your next art program with Slinky painting form Shaunna Evans at Fantastic Fun and Learning.
  • Check out the cheap crafty potential of magazine beads from Red Ted Art.

And last but not least, just in time for the insanity of summer, Travis Bradberry of has ten ways to stay calm.

What have you been reading that’s been insightful, inspirational, or just plain interesting? Tell us about it in the comments!

Books to Look For Over the Summer

We all have our favorite books we’re looking forward to over the summer, just as our teens and tweens are begging us to give them first crack at copies of Sarah Dressen’s newest or Cassandra Clare’s. But are these on your watch list yet?


Ask An Agent: Using Snapchat to Promote Teen Programs?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question:  Snapchat: how do you use it to get info to teens and attract them to the library? (besides asking the teens to help set it up!) I’m struggling to 1) just USE it & work it, for goodness sake. and 2) how to promote library services, displays & programs effectively if what you post is only up for a very short time.


Ukulele Club for Tweens & Teens







This past school year, I have been attempting to find an assortment of workshops/presentations for teens. At first I wanted to just do the whole “Adulting 101” thing, which I think is great, but I decided to look around for anything that I thought could be remotely interesting.

Last year I signed up for a 4 week session beginners ukulele class at my town library. It was free for me, which was great AND my local library was able to borrow ukulele’s from other surrounding libraries and we could use them for the month. I had been wanting to try it out and this was an amazing opportunity! I really liked the class – 10 adults and one instructor.

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When I mentioned this to my TAB as a possible option for a program, they got really excited. Like, REALLY excited. Apparently half of them own their own ukes and they told me kids in the middle school bring them to school and play in the hallways between classes….who knew? So it just so happens that we have an in-house yoga instructor who also happens to play the ukulele in a band AND owns 10 ukuleles!! (When I say in-house, I mean that she teaches public yoga classes in our large meeting room and instead of paying to use the room, she does 2 free programs for us a month.)

She was totally up for it and we set it up for once a month. She charged me $25 per class. We are in the 4th month and attendance hasn’t been as good as I had hoped -we have 5 regulars that have attended most sessions. I was able to sit in on this month’s and play with the teens and I had a great time! They were really serious about learning and they are excited that they don’t have to pay for the sessions. A couple have their own instruments, but the rest borrow from the instructor’s collection. She’s super laid back and encouraging (probably has something to do with all the yoga) and the teens don’t feel pressured at all. We have just struck up a deal to switch out one of our free yoga programs for a monthly Uke Club session, so now we can keep going over the summer – hopefully getting more teens with school being out – and I don’t even have to pay for it. Sweet deal.

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FYI: I started out advertising the program for grades 7-12, mostly because a good portion of my TAB is 7th & 8th grade. We dropped the age because people said their tweens really wanted to do it, but it still didn’t help attendance. However, for the summer session, I am going to re-advertise and keep it “for tweens and teens,” which I do when I don’t really know who I am marketing to.

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I have also been toying with the idea of holding 2 or more sessions per month, one with the instructor and the others without her. It’s pretty easy to find ukulele tabs online to popular songs and since we started, I have ordered a few good books on playing the ukulele. Even if it’s just a hangout for teens with something in common, that’s good enough for me. I’ve used this site: to print out some songs for the group. Getting books and photocopying their sheet music works well too. I think it seems to help when you have a mix of songs you know/popular ones and simple songs that are easy to learn and help you practice playing and chord transitions. Definitely check out area libraries to see if they have ukulele’s to borrow. I’m actually considering applying for a local cultural council grant in the fall to purchase some for our collection. Tuner’s are easy to find on Amazon – I actually did buy a tuner for myself for a uke I borrowed from a friend. They are only around $10.00. Plus there are tons of YouTube videos you could show or even put on your teen website.

The moral of the story…? I’m not sure exactly, but something along the lines of “It’s OK to try something new,” and also maybe to “explore what people in your community have to offer.” Or “just keep talking to your teens to find out what they are into and go with it!”

And while I still don’t own my own ukulele, I plan to soon! If only to channel my inner Zooey….





When You Just Can’t Find the Answer

I’ll admit I’m a stat queen. I have several slightly elaborate spreadsheets for different areas of my teen department to keep track of how I’m doing. I do deep analyses whenever I can and love seeing what information they can give back. So, you would think when tech services started to send out monthly stat reports I would be thrilled!

At first, I was (and technically still am). However, I learned there can be a downside of stats as well. They don’t always help you solve the problem. No matter how you twist them or what you do, sometimes the answer can’t be found in numbers.

Let me explain a little: the reports that they’ve been sending cover basic circulation stats, turnover rates (how many times all your books go out), how dead/active your collection is, what percentage of your collection was checked out, & what percentage of the total checkouts you have. For most of the reports, I’m satisfied where my numbers land. All except one: basic circulation for teen fiction (novels and GNs).

You see, every month my circs drop. If it were a tiny drop, I would shrug it off, but we’re talking about 150-200 each month! That’s a lot! And it’s been something that’s been happening for a while, which is why I finally decided I needed to see if I could get to the bottom of it.

As for as how active vs dead my collection is, my numbers rock: 96% has gone out in the last 2 years with only .6% that hasn’t been checked out in 3 years. I know a lot of this has to do with my hardcore weeding, but I love that almost every book has been checked out! I’m even happy with carrying 6% of the total circulations, especially considering how small my collection is comparatively.

So, books are still being checked out, but why is there still a big drop? Honestly, I wish I knew! So far, I haven’t been able to figure out a definite answer.  I’ve looked at holds queues, how many books are being sent to other libraries vs. checked out at our location, the titles of all the books being requested/put on hold in a 3 month time period, the top 100 books checked out & how many books that were bought in the last year were never checked out. I was hoping at least one would give me a hint on what was happening, but so far nothing has come back with red flags. Even the amount of books that had never gone out was super low at only 23 books. UGH.

Right now, I’m at a bit of a loss for what to do. We do have a new book section, a small display area, & genre flipbooks. And I do think maybe those things are helping the drop from being even bigger, but not helping elevate the circulation. I do have a few more ideas such as playing with putting books on browse, meaning they can’t be placed on hold for more of those serendipitous moments. And one of my supervisor’s goals is for us to step up our RA game this summer, which will hopefully help. I’m also thinking about leaving out RA Surveys that teens can turn into us & I (or another staff) can email back with a list just for them.

I know that eventually, I may have to admit defeat and realize it’s not something I’m doing/that my collection has issues. However, I’m not quite there yet. In fact, I would love new suggestions as well! If any of you have suggestions/stories on how you got your own circulations, please leave me a comment!


Socializing Books with The Margin Project

How many times have you picked up a book and had so many feelings and reactions while reading it, that you just wanted to share them with the next reader? Look no further than The Margin Project! The Margin Project is something done at many public and school libraries, as well as being championed by writer Jen Malone (find out more about her here). The Margin Project is a great way to bring aspects of social media to reading, thus socializing books!

I and a co-worker started The Margin Project for the teens (& younger children) at our library. For the teens I selected 30 books, including fiction and nonfiction, to be a part of this collection. These books will be specifically labeled so readers know they are able to write in them! Each reader can write using their own pen color and/or symbol to distinguish themselves. From there the sky’s the limit!


Readers can underline their favorite quotes, draw and arrow and write “Pay attention to this!”, draw pictures, write questions, and so much more. I believe that this will also help other readers pick new books. If they enjoyed the opinion of a fellow participant in The Margin Project, they may look to see what other books they have read and written in.


Participants may also take pictures of and share their writings on social media. The Margin Project is prominent on Pinterest and the hashtag can be found on Instagram and Twitter. This passive program is a great way to bridge the gap between technology and books.

As found on Pinterest

Reader vs Reader: Nemesis

Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???).  Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically.  They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree.  RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance.  And maybe both.  

In May, Andrea and Pam both read Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Reader vs Reader: Nemesis

He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

The Quick Reactions:


Pam: Yep. I wanted to read it because it sounded like a cool premise with probably a government conspiracy but holy cats. It was just … everywhere. And nowhere?Andrea: While the premise was interesting, I dislike reading a 400+ book and having no idea what is happening at the end.

Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):


Ask an Agent: Newer Anime Title?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! This week we need YOUR help….

Question: What are your favorite (newish) anime titles available on DVD and appropriate for grades 6-12?




If you have a question about anything teen services related ask it here! Your question will be featured on the blog with answers from our agent volunteers or TSU team members. If you’d like to be a volunteer agent, please submit your info here.

Gaming Unplugged: Board Games, Card Games, and Party Games to use in Teen Programs

Sometimes I just want to keep things low-tech with my programming for teens. I’ve talked before about ready-made craft programs in Maker Kits. Today I have some quick ideas for low-tech gaming (with minimal set up and generally quick game play) if you want to do an “unplugged” game program.

  • Card Games: It’s pretty old school but I like having some standard decks of playing cards on hand for game programs. You can also have a book of solitaire games (and shock everyone when you reveal that yes, we used to play with real cards!) and books with basic card games (there’s The Card Game Bible and Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games if you’re looking for where to start). There are also novelty decks for specific games like Old Maid or Crazy Eights and more. You can also explain card counting with Black Jack. Then, of course, there’s the classic: Uno. If none of the games appeal, you can always have everyone try to build card houses.
  • 1,000 Blank White Cards: This game is about as low tech as it gets. All you need to start are some pens and note cards. Players make the deck as they go so teens can create cards in addition to some you made ahead of time (maybe with help from volunteers). The game can take any form depending on what cards are created. Most involve some kind of point value, an action, and an illustration. Want to know more before you get started? There’s a wiki for that.
  • Charades: I am on a crusade to make sure teens know how to play charades and let me tell you it’s been uphill at my library. Charades has players draw a word/phrase of some kind and pantomime the action or words within to get others to guess the answer. It can be played either individually or in teams. I suggest using a word generator or other strategy to create prompts ahead of time because when I had teens write them up it devolved into a lot of obscure video game characters. You may also have to explain the concept with some examples. I had prompts in one game for “Little Women” and “The Hunger Games” and teens tried to act out the entire story instead of just the title.
  • Codenames: This game has a couple of version. I’ve been using the Codenames Pictures version. The game can work with 2-8 players (or more in teams) so it’s great for larger groups as well. Codenames is a cross between “Guess Who?” and “Battleship” with Spymaster players who lay out the board and know the location of their own spies on the board. Spymasters then use clues based on picture tiles in the game to reveal those locations to the rest of their team (example: “1, game” would tell the other players to look for the one tile on the board that refers to a game, possibly a dice or a billiard ball) to uncover the spies. Whoever collects all of their spies off the board first wins.
  • Coup: Easily one of my favorite games, Coup is a bluffing game where players compete to wield the most influence and win the game. The game includes a deck of cards, coins, and some how-to/role cards and works with 2 to 6 players (or more if you do teams. I think of this game as extreme “Go Fish.” Every player starts with two hidden cards which can take on various roles. Players then have to take actions to draw currency and gather enough money to either assassinate the competition or unseat them in a coup (forcing them to reveal a card). Whoever ends the game with more influence (one or two cards still hidden) wins. I love it for programs because it can be as easy or as hard as teens want to make it.
  • Dominoes: Dominoes is about as basic as it gets for low-tech games. There are a variety of ways to play but essentially you are matching pips (dots) to remove them from your hand of dominoes. Winning can either be done by using all dominoes in your hand or by determining points at the end of the game depending on what works for your crowd. Dominoes come in a range of sets including Double 6 (the highest domino has 6 pips on each side) up to double 18. I would suggest going with at least a double 12 set if you are playing with teens to make the game more complex. Having a larger set also means there will also be more dominoes to play so it will work better for larger groups. There is also a variant called Squaremino if you’re into that.
  • Grifters: This game is a from the people behind Coup but a bit more complicated. In this deck building game, players are all in charge of a group of criminals with various skills in brain, speed, or brawn. Players build their deck of grifters to complete different jobs and earn coins. Whoever has earned the most after all jobs are completed wins. Grifters works for 2-4 players (or teams therein) and it’s a bit more complicated so play runs longer but if you have the time it’s a blast.
  • Jenga: Does this need any explanation? Probably not.
  • Mafia: I only heard about this game while searching for information to put in this post. It sounds a little complicated at first but I think with the right group of teens it could be a lot of fun. It seems like it could be a good ongoing game for a program with regular attendance like an advisory group or some kind of club.
  • Sushi Go: This pick and pass game works for 2 to 5 players and involves building various sets of sushi. Go Fish but with fish that you eat.
  • Who Wins?: You might have seen this book on YALSA’s 2017 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list. Who Wins? is an interactive book that pits various historical figures ranging from Nicola Tesla to Harriet Tubman in head-to-head competitions in everything from The Hunger Games to ping pong. If you act as moderator and raise questions about the various merits of each figure (“Would George Washington’s wealth–rated 10/10–be any help to catch Jack the Ripper?”) it can lead to some interesting discussions. Teens also had a great time setting up various competitions. I brought this along with several other games to a program but the book kept everyone occupied for the entire hour.
  • Yahtzee or Dice: Yahtzee is a counting game but instead of cards you’re working with dice to build various sequences. You can buy a kit or just get some dice and make your own scoring. You can also up the stakes with double dice.

Now you know some of my favorite “unplugged” games to use with teens. Do you know of any other games I might have missed or have anything else to recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Spanning the Spectrum: 8 Books With Protagonists on the Autism Spectrum

Genres: Diversity, Non-fiction, Realistic

April was Autism Awareness Month. Even though it’s May, there’s no reason why we can’t highlight books written by (#ownvoices) and about characters with autism and other spectrum disorders. Here’s a sampling of some titles for a range of YA readers.


Younger YA/Middle School

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Jason Blake, an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world, finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird-her name is Rebecca-could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is. Winner of the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award.

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and find it hard to make friends. Feeling misunderstood, she turns to “Mr. Internet” for answers and looks to her hero, Rogue from the X-Men, as a role model. When a new boy moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is more complicated than Mr. Internet could ever explain, and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power. Like Kiara, Miller-Lachmann has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism. Temple’s doctor recommended institutionalizing her, but her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead. Today, Dr. Temple Grandin, a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, is an autism advocate and her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. This compelling biography and Temple’s personal photos take us inside her extraordinary mind and open the door to a broader understanding of autism.

Mindblind by Jennifer Roy

Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel Clark lives in two worlds—the outside world of his family and friends and his own, special, inside Aspie world, where he’s not forced to interact with people or worry about wearing his clothes right-side out. Nathaniel read that true geniuses must make a contribution to the world, and he sets out to do just that. Nathan’s character was inspired by Roy’s own autistic son.


High School/Older YA

Wild Orchid by Beverly Brenna

Eighteen-year-old Taylor Jane Simon, sheltered most of her life because of an autistic condition, sees new possibilities opening up for her when she goes to spend the summer in Prince Albert National Park where her mother has taken a job working in a pizza restaurant. (The third book in the Taylor Jane Simon trilogy, White Bicycle, was a 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor book.


Episodes: Scenes From Life, Love, and Autism (hardcover edition titled Episodes: My Life As I See It) by Blaze Ginsburg

Blaze Ginsberg offers a unique perspective on his life as a highly functioning autistic twenty-one-year-old. Inspired by the format of the Internet Movie Database, Blaze organizes his life events as a collection of episodes. Some episodes are still running, some are in syndication, and some have sadly come to an end. With an innovative style and approach that is all its own, Episodes reinvents the traditional memoir; and it will inspire young readers to see the world as they’ve never seen it before.

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller

Colin Fischer cannot stand to be touched. He does not like the color blue. He needs index cards to recognize facial expressions. When a gun is found in the school cafeteria, Colin decides It’s up to him to prove that the school bully is innocent and solve the case, Sherlock Holmes-style.



Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear — part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer . . . to join “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file a picture of a girl with half a face that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.