Links of the Month – August 2016

Links of the Month

Every 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 August:

At WebJunction, Miriam Medow shares details and lessons learned about her Talking with Kids about Race and Racism at Oakland Public Library program.

Karen Jensen at Teen Librarian Toolbox writes about Things I Never Learned in Library School: Wrestling with Pronouns and some of the trickier considerations when dealing with teens and privacy in a public library.

And on a similar note, Amanda MacGregor, also at Teen Librarian Toolbox, shares some great resources on How to support and respect LGBTQIA+ students in school and library setttings.

Sarah at zen & the art of teen services writes about some of the Frustration she feels about dealing with the tough realities of her teens’ lives.

Joanna Nelson Rendón shares some of the ways her library approaches Tough Topics for Teens at Public Libraries Online.

At Public Libraries Online, Theresa Horn offers Five Tips for Planning Teen Spaces.

Mahnaz Dar recaps SLJTeen Live!: Panels on College Readiness; Snapchat, Instagram 101 for School Library Journal.

If you’re looking for ways to shake up your teen volunteer program, Alison McCarty writes about how Summer Volunteer Squad Offers Creative Options at Public Libraries Online.

At Mrs. ReaderPants, Leigh Collazo has lots of great advice for school librarians: In Charge of a Library Computer Lab?: 22 Tips to Save Your Sanity and New school librarian? 10 things you should do first….

We’ve got a couple maker space posts for you this month: Seven Surprising Benefits of Maker Spaces by Carrie Barron and Alton Barron at School Library Journal and Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace: Month 1 by Dawn Abron at Teen Services Depot.

The YALSAblog has a great series called Back to (After) School with all kinds of practical tips for after school programming in public library spaces:

And as always, a parcel of programming posts:

What have you read this month that’s been insightful, inspirational, or just plain interesting? Share in the comments!

Reader vs Reader: Drag Teen

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 , Andrea and Pam both read

Reader vs Reader: Drag Teen

Debut YA author Jeffery Self takes us on a road trip with an insecure high school senior who has one goal: to be the first in his family to leave Clearwater, Florida, and go to college. The problem is, he has zero means of paying for school -- until his friends convince him to compete in a drag teen competition for a college scholarship.

The Quick Reactions:

Pam: I neither disliked or liked this one. It was more meh for me. If felt like something I had read before.Andrea: I’m neither an up or down this time. It was enjoyable as fluff, but a little forgettable as well.


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


Ask an Agent: How Do You Get the Word Out about Teen Services?

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: Outreach: who are your best partners for programming, reaching teens and/or educating the public about teen services?


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.