Putting Yourself Out There – Getting the Courage to Apply for Professional Awards and Leadership Positions

Putting Yourself Out ThereWe all get the emails.  You know, the ones asking for nominations for professional awards or recognition.  Or the ones from professional development or networking groups practically begging for new members to apply for the leadership team.  How many end up in our trash?

We all have our reasons.

We aren’t sure that we’re known enough in a large-scale or longstanding group like YALSA or our state organizations to make an impact, or to win over other “more-deserving” candidates.

We don’t think we have the experience required to do a good enough job, or that we haven’t been in the profession long enough to have “earned” recognition.

We feel like we don’t have the time to commit.

Well what if I told you, that while those are all valid concerns, they shouldn’t be enough to stop you from stepping out of your comfort zone?

The coolest thing about library work, especially teen services,  is how our knowledge comes equally from both training and experience. What’s even cooler, is that we all can have vastly different experiences, at very different points in our careers.  Your everyday, could be ridiculously eye-opening and beneficial to someone else.  Taking a key position in professional networking groups allows you to not only share those experiences, but tilt the direction of teen services.

This past year, I finally mustered up the courage to accept a position in one of the local networking groups in my area.  While my nerves got the better of me going into the meetings, I soon found that my perspective, as the lone teen services person, was not only welcome but seriously needed.  My role was to plan the programming for our bi-monthly meetings.  Knowing what I would have wanted to see as a new teen librarian in our group’s service area, I could immediately see an opportunity for more teen-focused topics on the calendar.

This year, as I start my second year as part of the leadership team, I’m glad to see more teen services librarians are looking to attend our meetings.  I truly believe that by enlarging the range of our programming topics last year, to include more that addressed tweens and teens, I’ve helped to open that door and show others that the group serves our demographic also.  I’m hopeful that when it’s time for us to get new members this year, we can expect to see other teen librarians step up.

So what about those award nominations?

Most librarians are humble by nature.  We really like what we do, and often don’t really take a lot of time to pat ourselves on the back, or just acknowledge how much work we’re accomplishing on a day-to-day basis in the lives of our patrons.  As teen librarians, we have the unique advantage of affecting young people at a very pivotal point in their development.  Our programs and listening ears help enrich youth in ways that are different from teachers and parents because for many teens, we’re the only adult they know whose sole purpose is to build on their interests.

A couple years ago around this time, I learned that I’d received an award from my state organization for my work with teens.  When the call for nominations first circulated, I had all the thoughts mentioned above.  Armed with my doubts, I too deleted the email and wished good luck to whomever would surely win.  When I learned that others had nominated me, I was shocked that they didn’t share my concerns.  I’d thought at the very least, I was simply doing what all other teen librarians were doing.  To learn that others thought I was going beyond that scope, was humbling.

Could the same be said of you?

Are you taking it for granted that your work in this field isn’t notable and deserving of recognition?  If you are, I encourage you to step out on faith and confidence.  What you feel is “no big deal” could be important for another teen librarian who is questioning his or her impact, to see.

Mobile Makerspaces

makerspace graphic a

Libraries and “makerspaces” have gone hand-in-hand since libraries have had programming. “Crafternoons,” DIY programs, DYI programs, “deconstruction” programs, crafts, STEM, art:  any type of “creation” program that a library holds is a “makerspace” program. The only difference between then and now is that we’re now getting attention and hopefully funding for these types of programs. While we all tend to crave a huge space filled with the shiniest tech and newest materials, within the limitations of library land and teen services, that might well be the last option we get. More often, we get the option of mobile makerspaces. But what works for mobile makerspaces, what doesn’t, and what can actually be done with them? In reality a whole lot, but it takes some forethought and planning.


When My Heart Was Wicked

22749511 When My Heart Was Wicked by Tricia Stirling

Published February 24, 2015 by Scholastic Press

Hardcover, 192 pages

Find it on Goodreads

A magical and haunting story that will leave you in wonder, WHEN MY HEART WAS WICKED is Tricia Stirling’s debut novel.

Lucy wasn’t always the good girl. She didn’t always wear cute clothes and smile at strangers on the street. When Lucy is forced to move downstate to Chico with her mother, who was recently released from prison, everything about her life changes. Lucy must face the darkness in her mother, and within herself.

With strong, concise writing and well-developed characters, WICKED is a pleasure to read. The prose is delightful, twisting and winding around the plot to move the story forward in the most interesting and fantastical ways. I loved the descriptions of nature, the intricate spell-castings and clever balance between reality and fantasy that Lucy is constantly struggling to maintain. Is Lucy’s mother crazy for believing in the magic, or is it all real? I think it’s clear that there is magic in Lucy’s world, but another reader could make an entirely different interpretation, and I might believe them. Is it magical realism, or urban fantasy? The answer is up to the reader, and if uncertainty leaves you irritated, then this might not be the book for you.

I wanted nothing more from this story. Everything is contained in less than 200 pages, and that is a result of Stirling’s skilled writing. Every word matters, every sentence was carefully constructed, and every adjective could have several meanings. The complex yet concise writing lends a depth to the story that you wouldn’t expect from such a small book.

Highly recommended for those looking for a complex and haunting story of self-discovery and coping with change, WHEN MY HEART WAS WICKED is a strong, nuanced debut.

Ask an Agent: Good Craft Projects for Large Groups

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:  Do you have any craft ideas that are really good for large groups? And that take a while to do – by a while I mean about an hour.


Life Hacks

Everyone is busy– especially today’s teens. Many teens are pulled thin between school, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, families, and friends. It can be hard to keep up. Life hacks can help. What are life hacks, you ask? Life hacks are little ways to make our lives easier. These simple, low- to no- cost tips and tricks can help you organize your life, de-clutter your space, prolong and preserve your material possessions, and easily teach you something that you did not know before.


The key to life hacks is that by making small changes, or hacks, in our lives we can make them easier, better, and more enjoyable. Basically, it focuses on the concept of “work smarter, not harder” which is a concept that everyone, especially teens, needs to learn. You can find life hsmarter not harderacks for everything under the sun. Do you want to know the best way to eat a burger? There is a life hack for that. Lose your iPhone speaker and want to share some tunes with your friends? There’s a hack for that. Does your room stink and you ran out of air freshener? Hack it. From useful hacks to totally cool hacks, you can find whatever you are looking for. With summer coming to a close and school rearing its dreaded head, let’s focus on some life hacks to make back to school a breeze.


Summer gave us late nights and sleeping in. Early morning wakeups to make the bus on time can be tough! Life hacks to the rescue! When setting your alarm, don’t put it next to your bed. If you place your alarm across the room, it will force you to get up out of bed to turn it off. Once you are up, there is no sense getting back in bed. Another hack to help get you up and going relates to what you wake up to. If you are using a phone as your alarm, set your alarm to wake you up to your favorite song or some upbeat music. Something that gets you excited and feeling good in the morning will set you up for a good day.


Using music is also a life hack that can help get you out of the house on time. If you usually find yourself running late no matter how early you wake up, make a playlist that is exactly as long as you have to get ready. When the last song plays, get yourself out the door. The music will keep you going and you will know how much time you have. No more running after the bus or sheepishly asking Mom and Dad to give you a ride to school!


A new school year always brings new challenges. First of all, it can be harrowing to try to remember your new schedule. Hack it! Take a picture of your schedule and make it the lock screen for your phone. You will see it every time you look atschool-hacks-schedule-phone-lock-screen-hackthe phone and it will be easier to remember.  Secondly, organization can be a problem. In order to make it easier to find what you need in your backpack, try color coordination. By using a marker to color the tops of your notebooks, you can easily find what you are looking for in your bag.



Another hack that relies on color will help with your memory. Did you know that you are more likely to remember something that you write in blue ink than in black ink? So stock up on blue pens! HoweverExtra_gum_Walmart-1024x1024, if you just can’t give up your black pens, another memory booster hack relies on your senses of smell and taste. If you chew a flavor of gum that you don’t normally chew while you are studying and then you chew the same flavor of gum while taking a test, it will enhance your recall.Whatever hacks you choose, everyone can use a tip to help them with their memory and recall! I know I can.



These final hacks are general hacks that will help in all areas of learning and school. First, when studying, don’t try to pull an all-nighter or squeeze everything in without taking breaks. Studying for 30 to 50 minutes at a time with 10 minute breaks is the most effective way to retain information. Secondly, stop using when searching for information. Instead, use as it will give you more relevant information right way. Lastly, have you ever had a word on the tip of your tongue but you just couldn’t recall it? Use the website to find those words that you can’t think of but you can describe.


These simple changes and ideas are ways to help make your school year start a little easier. There are books, blogs, and websites dedicated to hacking any number of topics. If there is a problem, there is a way to life hack it. If you found this interesting, you might want to check out or the Hack My Life TV show at .


Do you have any favorite life hacks that make your life just a bit easier?

Craft Tips I Wish I Had known When I Became a Teen Services Librarian

Today we have a guest post from Cindy (White Oak Library District) talking about craft tips that every teen librarian should know.

Craft Tips I Wish I Had known When I Became a Teen Services Librarian

  1. Never buy off brand Perler beads. They melt at a different rate and that makes it more difficult to get a clear image.
  2. When you have glue always watch the teens carefully. You might think teens can handle glue successfully and some can, but you will see teens glue themselves together, eat glue and also try to sniff the glue that smells funny.
  3. You are going to burn yourself and that is way better than having a teen burn themselves. I have invested in heavy duty oven mitts, because I had a toaster oven door fall open and it gave me a second degree burn.
  4. Make sure you have a first aid kit. Mistakes in crafts happen and you want to be prepared. Teen will get burns, cuts and all sorts of mishaps.
  5. Pinterest fails can and will happen. It looks so wonderful in the picture and now you and the teens have made the ugliest craft in the world. That is part of the fun of crafting. The teens are getting to hang out and have a shared experience.
  6. Some teens are just terrible at crafts. You will have teens that try and then constantly break or make the worst crafts. Sometimes you can help, but remember it is their craft not yours.
  7. Sometimes teens do not finish the craft and that is okay. Not every craft is going to be finished. Every teen has a different skills level.
  8. The craft is not always the reason teens come. Teens know that the program is a place that they can hang out and talk with their friends. If I notice a teen is not doing the craft, sometimes I will ask them if they plan on doing the craft and if not, can I have their supplies to give to anther patron. I am really lucky I have a big enough programming room that having extra people hanging out is always okay.
  9. Not everyone is going to sign up. Some communities are used to signing up ahead of time. I encourage teens to sign up, so I will have enough craft supplies. I did fairy jars in May. I had 30 people show up when only 5 had signed up. I had to close the doors because that was all the supplies I had.
  10. Messy is okay but plan for it. I love glitter so much. But I know I have to be ready to vacuum and wipe down the table and tell custodial staff about the program. I have learned that letting know custodial know about the craft beforehand makes everyone’s life better, if it is a messy one.

Mental Health Resources for Teens

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 teens or young adults live with a mental health condition. Because teens seek mental health information online, as librarians we should be prepared to refer them to the best information.

Below I’ve posted some sites and services that teens in my community have found helpful. Since working with teens on mental health issues requires sensitivity and professional care, I want to offer a bit of guidance on the best use of this information as well. Here are a few guidelines and tips. 

  1. I am not a mental health professional, and online health information is not a substitute for professional help when it is needed.  If teens who are struggling reach out to you, encourage them to consult with their school mental health team or other local mental health professionals and trusted adults or family members. Talking to experts in mental health can also help you understand your role in supporting teens with mental health concerns. In my school, I work with our school counselors to ensure students get the support they need.
  2. Be clear about your legal and ethical responsibilities in talking with teens about mental health. In your position, you may be a mandated reporter and be legally required to report certain teen mental health issues such as abuse to your supervisor or another official. Your workplace may also have policies to guide you in your support of teens and mental health. 
  3. Consider ways to allow teens to access mental health information passively and privately. Though teens may not come directly to you with mental health concerns, they may use resource lists or links offered online as a starting point for getting further help. Of course, as mentioned above, provide references to local professionals and services so teens can reach out.

Mental Health Resources for Teens

Teens’ Health — Site that offers accounts and advice about a wide range of mental, emotional, relational health topics, including body image, friendship, depression, cutting, anxiety and more. — Department of Health and Human Services resource that gives information about symptoms that may indicate a teen should reach out for help with mental health. 

National Alliance on Mental Illness— Site that provides general mental health information and includes helpful graphics that could be offered as teen handouts or posted in the library as part of a mental health themed display.

Crisis Text Line — Service that allows teens to reach out by text message to receive help.

Ok2Talk — Moderated Tumblr that allows teens to have a safe space to share their personal stories and mental health challenges. It also offers a 24/7 helpline for teens in need.

Ask an Agent: Convincing the Board to Create a Teen Space

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:  The Board is reluctant to agree to building a teen space because (among other reasons) “setting aside a space just for teens is restricting access to a part of the library, and is wasting library space.” I mention teens’ unique developmental needs for a space of their own, the use of the space for homeschooling teen groups that now meet in the kids’ area, use of the space for teen programs, that we will allow anyone in to browse books (so as not to “restrict access” to materials), but they can’t stay and “hang out” unless they are 12-18, YALSA guidelines, safety from creepy people, the small but steady attendance at programs I have now, YA circulation & teen patron stats. I’m working with the TAG members to talk to the board, too. All the Trustees can picture is spending money on a space that will remain empty for most of each day. It is not like I’m overrun with teens in general, but I think they’d hang out more if we DID have a space for them. They also want to know how I will “track use of the space to justify it.” Aside from tracking program stats and having the reference staff check off any time a teen goes in. …What else can I say or do to address these two main concerns by the Board? (track use, and “wasted space/restricting access.” What have I missed? My director is supportive, but the relationship between the Board and the director is not warm and trusting. It is all on me to persuade them, and I want to be sure I’m not missing any line of reasoning.


Perler Bead Art – Not Just for Kids!

Do you know what Perler beads are?  They’re also called fuse beads, or Fun Fusion beads, melty beads…you get the point.  If not, don’t be alarmed – I didn’t know what they were until two years ago.  However, I was informed that I must have had a deprived childhood since nearly everyone I knew used these as children to make fun and interesting melted plastic designs.


While the craft itself would more accurately be referred to as fuse beads, Perler is a brand name that is well known amongst those that make things out of these beads (including yours truly), so we’ll call it Perler beads for the sake of simplicity.  Prepare yourselves, because I’ve written nearly everything you need to know (and acquire) for a Perler bead craft program in the paragraphs that follow.  There are links for most of the supplies I’d recommend.

If you would prefer a video tutorial, there is one linked right here and again at the end of the post:

Perler beads are small, plastic beads that you put on pegboards to create a design.  Some pegboards are already in the shape of a design, such as a dolphin, heart, or star, so you can just pick some bead colors and fill it in.  However, some of the most unique and fun pieces are made by creating your own designs on the square pegboards.  Many, many different creations can be made on these boards – super heroes, video game and T.V. show characters, sports logos, and more!  Check out the photo below for a good sample of the kinds of ones I’ve done in the past.


I’ve found that this is by far the most popular teen craft I’ve ran at our library.  In fact, the first time I did Perler beads as a teen craft program the teens demanded that I do it every month.  We negotiated and settled on every other month as I wanted to ensure that they could try other things too, but every time we do Perler beads I get between 10 and 20 teenagers that show up to the program, ready to make a Deadpool, Mario, or Black Widow keychain or magnet.  It’s insane.


Here’s the rundown on how it works.  Get a few different colors of beads (I separate them in bowls or cups in my programs), a pegboard, and a pair of sewing or craft tweezers.  Grab beads with the tweezers and put them on the pegboard, whether it’s by a pre-made pattern, a photo, or your own design.  Many photos of creations, as well as pre-made patterns, are available online.

Once you’ve completed your pattern, instead of ironing the pattern ON the pegboard as many people do, use masking tape to tape it to the pegboard.  This is different from how many people do this craft, but this step is done to preserve the life of the pegboards.  Some teens are just fine with taping their own pattern to the pegboard, but others have had it go horribly, horribly wrong and want my assistance with taping it.  Once the pattern is taped to the pegboard (make sure to press the tape firmly to the beads to ensure a good stick), take another pegboard and line it up, pegs down, with the one the beads are taped to.  Push hard on the top pegboard to break holes in the masking tape, essentially creating a sandwich of the beads.  This way, when you iron the pattern, the heat is not trapped between the parchment paper and the tape and won’t cause a blowout.  A blowout is when a bead won’t melt properly as the heat has nowhere to go.

Once the pattern has been taped to the pegboard and holes poked in the masking tape for each bead, take the pattern off the pegboard and cut off the excess tape.  If beads weren’t pressed hard enough to the tape you may have some fall off at this point, but they should be easy enough to place back into the pattern with tweezers.  Place the pattern tape side down on a table and place parchment paper (NOT wax paper) on top of it.  Warm up an iron and iron slowly and evenly at a medium to high heat across the entire piece.  I prefer to go for a flat melt on only one side where all of the beads are fully melted with no open holes, but some people prefer to melt both sides lightly.  This will be entirely up to you, and it takes practice to get good at knowing when the piece is fully melted.

Once you’re done ironing your pattern, place a heavy book on top of the parchment paper and pattern.  The Perler beads will want to curl slightly at the edge of the pattern and this will prevent that.  I usually try to leave patterns underneath a book for 24 hours at home, but if a teen wants something right away I’ll usually leave it under a book for 30 minutes or so and then give it to them.  More often than not, though, teens will be okay with picking up the item the next day or in a few days, since I may not have time to iron all of their patterns right then and there and will need to do it after the program during downtime.  I personally never let the teens do the ironing just to prevent any possibility of injury.

So what supplies do you need, and where should you get them?  Buy a bunch of beads from Perler’s website (, as it’s by far the cheapest way to get them – especially if you can time it with a 25% off sale, which used to happen more frequently in the past.  Perler beads are also very uniform and melt more evenly than any other brand I’ve tried, so I really, really recommend that you pick up Perler brand beads if you decide to do this craft with your teens.  Try and get a variety of colors, and ALWAYS GET MORE BLACK THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED.  Seriously, black, white, and red beads are nearly always the first ones to run out.  Buying in bulk is always cheapest with Perler beads, but rarely used colors will last a long time, so make sure you have some place to store all these materials.  I store opened bags of beads in Ziplock baggies with a piece of masking tape on the outside that states what color the beads are.

Acquire at least one square pegboard per teenager.  Pegboards can be purchased in a pack of 4 from the Perler website.  These pegboards can be interlocked in case a teen wants to make larger pieces.  Getting the different shapes of pegboards can also be a good idea as plenty of teens that I work with have made fun patterns and designs with the heart, hexagonal, and star shaped pegboards.  I also recommend acquiring multiple pairs of craft or sewing tweezers as fingers are often just too big and clunky to place beads on pegboards effectively.


Tweezers link:


A good iron that provides even heat to the entire surface its melting is a necessity.  I’ve tried making Perler bead art with a regular clothing iron, and while it did work, it wasn’t as uniform as patterns I’ve done with a wax iron.  The Swix iron has been perfect for me and I’ve been using my personal one for about two years on my own patterns with no issues.


Iron link:


Make sure to also get wide masking tape and a good pair of adhesive scissors to cut the excess tape off of a pattern.  You’ll also need parchment paper to put on top of the completed pattern before you iron it.  Bowls or cups to dump beads into and share with your table are also a good idea.

While just the finished pattern is a good craft in its own right, a lot of the teens I work with make them into magnets or keychains to put on backpacks or in their lockers.  I’d recommend picking up keychains, magnets, and E-6000.  I’ve found that two pairs of needle nose pliers work best for the jump rings with keychains.


Keychains link:

Magnets link:


While some patterns and pictures of previously made pieces are available on the Internet, you can also create your own patterns with a free program called GraphicsGale.  This program is a animation graphics editor, but conveniently allows for the creation of grid-based pixel artwork.  I’ve created many, many patterns using this software and RGB color values that approximate different bead colors.  Making a pixel pattern to go off of makes it easier for multiple teens to make the same thing without having to look up a picture of an item over and over.  I also make a color key off to the side of the pattern and write in what colors were used so teens know how to re-create the pattern exactly as the image shows.


GraphicsGale link:

RGB color values link: (all different bead brands, created by LThanda)


While this is a craft that requires a bit of staff involvement and time, I’ve found that teens love the opportunity to make whatever they want.  This is another way to celebrate their favorite fandoms and exercise some creativity without requiring the ability to draw, color, paint, or even cut well.  If you have other questions about Perler bead art, don’t hesitate to contact me!


Bead sprites tutorial: (using masking tape)

The “Insurance Question”

My Young Adult Advisory Board is really good at coming up with program suggestions. They have the most amazing ideas. However, a lot of them, especially at the beginning, were less than practical. Beyond that, many would have probably resulted in hospital visits. Or, at the very least, burning the library to the ground. My challenge was to harness the enthusiasm (can you tell my Advisory Board has never had a problem with speaking up?) into something productive and channel their energy into suggests that were feasible.

I’ve tackled this in two ways. The first way was less than intentional, but has worked surprisingly well. We refer to it as the “Insurance Question”. Before they share a suggestion, I encourage them to ponder the Insurance Question. Would this potential program require the library to have insurance against personal or property injury? If the answer is yes, then save your energy for another suggestion. If the answer is no or maybe, go ahead and share it. Many of the maybes get my response of: Yes, that is an Insurance Question. But just as many do not.

Is this the best question I would have liked to create a little self-reflection? Probably not. Is it effective? Shockingly so. Within a meeting, not only were kids asking less of the completely impossible questions, but when a newbie came, they would explain the rule to them as well. Now, over a year since I first asked the question, it’s rare that we need it. And usually only for our most enthusiastic of newbies.

Just Friday there was a post about having a Teen Advisory Code of Conduct. While I don’t think it’s always necessary, having a similar rule to my Insurance Question is not a bad idea to curb some of the enthusiasm and put a certain level on productivity.

Last meeting I asked for suggestions for Fall and Winter Programming and got almost two dozen workable programs, which is really more than I can use. My summer schedule this year has been a huge hit and every single program has come from my young adults.

Second has required being able to translate the wild ideas they shout out into something manageable to accomplish in a one hour to 90 minute time block. Sometimes this takes some creative thinking and back and forth and not everything ends up being possible. For example, my kids want us to show movies but we don’t own a movie license so that one is out. They wanted a full fledged comic con. I have done (and am constantly doing) research on that and have convinced them to scale it back, at least for a first one, following the example of many other libraries. We’ll probably do something next spring.

All this is to say: Depending on your age, you might get a lot of impractical ideas. Not all might seem as impossible as they first sound – if they’re like mine, they blurt out the first thing that comes into their minds – so see what you can distill it down to. And having a rule about keeping things reasonable. Feel free to steal mine!