Okay, okay, I know I may be a little late to the game on this, but I have utterly and completely fallen for Kahoot. A couple of weeks ago, it was mentioned on our Facebook page and I immediately went to try it out. My, oh my, am I ever glad I did! I incorporate a lot of trivia into my different programs, but Kahoot works especially well for my Name That Tune program coming up in September. I can finally say goodbye to the Jeopardy slides and the buzzers that make it hard to hear who came in first.

So, how does it work? It’s honestly pretty simple. Once you start a new quiz & put in the basic information, you’ll be prompted to add a question. Here you’ll enter the following: your question, two – four possible answers, & how long the teens have to answer (5-120 seconds).

You can also add in media, which is really what won me over! For my Name That Tune game, I’m using YouTube videos & narrowing it down to a certain part of each video. Once you’re done, just hit next.


Each question does go into its own little option. On the home screen, you can easily change the answer time, duplicate, & delete. You can also drag question into an earlier/later position in the list if you’d like. A feature, I’ve been very thankful for as I changed songs from one category to another. Just be sure to hit save on this screen or you’ll lose all your unsaved work. (As someone who did that more than once, it’s less than fun!)

Now, play is very simple as well, but I would like to point out some different options that you can do. The first decision is whether you want everyone to battle it out alone or if you want teams. If you choose teams, there will be a 5-second “team talk” added to each question. If you’re playing a video, it will restart after the 5 seconds are up, so that can be annoying. The other options to highly consider are the streak bonus, randomizing questions and/or answers, autoplay, and showing the podium at the end of the game. I use the randomizing answers for sure as it made it easier for me when creating questions. I didn’t have to move the answers around each time; I could make the correct answer the first option and know that it would be randomized for me during play.


The best thing about Kahoot is the likelihood your teens already know and love it are pretty high. Every teen I’ve mentioned it to got super excited because they use it in school and adore it. (I’ve even had a couple tell me they create their own quizzes to play with their friends for fun!) Now, teens do need a device to play. Whether it’s a phone, tablet or computer. I plan to have some extra iPads and laptops available for those who don’t have their phone or don’t want to use it.

True Crime for Teens

True crime is one of my favorite genres, and I find it’s a great gateway to nonfiction for teens, especially those who like mysteries and TV shows like Sherlock, CSI, Bull, and NCIS. Here are a few of my favorite true crime reads for teens. Don’t see yours on the list? Tell me about it in the comments!

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb (2013): Following World War II, Adolf Eichmann, mastermind of Hitler’s final solution and the Nazi death camps, escaped into hiding in Argentina. In this YALSA Nonfiction Award Winner, Bascomb weaves a thrilling tale of how a team of Holocaust survivors and agents from Israel’s Mossad intelligence service tracked Eichmann down and brought him to justice for his crimes.

The Year We Disappeared by Cylin and John Busby (2008): When Cylin Busby was nine years old, her father, John, a Massachusetts police officer, was brutally shot by a gangster. Their family’s life was forever changed, and after a period of being under armed guard, needing police escorts to attend school, and not being allowed contact with friends, the family entered the Witness Protection Program. In alternating chapters, father and daughter tell the story of the shooting and its impact on their lives.

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller (2016): You may know the rhyme, “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks…” But did she really? Miller examines what really happened in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892, sorting fact from fiction through trial reports and sensationalized newspaper articles, leaving the reader to decide whether America’s best-know axe murderess was guilty or innocent.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin (2013): In October of 1875, the Secret Service arrested counterfeiter Ben Boyd. His henchmen came up with an audacious plot to steal President Abraham Lincoln’s body, hide it, and hold it in exchange for a $200,000 cash ransom plus Boyd’s release. From Boyd’s arrest to the final showdown at Lincoln’s grave on Election Night, 1876, Sheinkin’s account will keep readers turning the pages.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (2017): Sasha was a white teenager in a private school. Richard was a black teenager who attended a large public high school. Each day, their paths intercepted on the 57 bus in Oakland, California. One day, Richard lit a lighter and Sasha’s skirt ignited, leaving her with severe burns and him charged with hate crimes and facing a lifetime of imprisonment. Releasing in October, journalist Slater’s nonfiction debut is a must-read for true crime fans interested in social justice themes.

The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson (2013): In this YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist, Swanson brings the reader to the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Minute by minute, he follows the President and First Lady to Dealey Plaza, also tracking the movements of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Swanson also details the aftermath of the assassination, including Kennedy’s funeral and Oswald’s murder, then unpacks some of the many conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination.

A Girl’s Life Online by Katherine Tarbox (2005): Tarbox wrote this memoir when she was just seventeen years old, first publishing it in 2000 under the title At age 13, Tarbox befriended a boy online, but when they met in person, he turned out to be a much older man who assaulted her. Tarbox subsequently became the first person to prosecute an internet predator. Part harrowing memoir and part cautionary tale, Tarbox’s story is a great read for today’s teens who grow up in an increasingly virtual world.

Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till by Simeon Wright (2010): The abduction and lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi was a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. Twelve years old at the time, Wright, Till’s cousin, witnessed the entire thing from the moment Till whistled at a white woman in a grocery store; he was sharing a bed with Till when he was abducted, and he attended the trial. Wright’s eyewitness account of the crime and the persecution and blame the Wright and Till families endured is an eye-opening read for anyone, especially those with a passion for social justice.

Seeking New Agent

TSU is seeking a new agent. The requirements are pretty easy. Here is what we’re looking for

  • A teen services librarian or someone who has teen services experience. We would prefer a school librarian to fill the spot of the agent leaving, but all will be considered.
  • Ability to post 1-2 posts a month
  • Be able to do a variety of posts (RA, programming, pep talks, etc)

Pretty easy right? If you’re interested, please send an email to [email protected] and answer the following questions

  1. Why do you want to be an agent?
  2. Tell us a bit about yourself. What can you bring to the group?
  3. Can you commit to 1-2 blog posts a month?
  4. Give us some sample of things you’d talk about! If you have sample posts, even better.

All submissions need to be sent in by 8/31/17.

Escape the Basement!

If you had a building with an extremely creepy basement, complete with random cages made of chicken wire (I know, right???), props for Haunted Library, and two super creative coworkers, doing an escape the basement program is basically a no-brainer.


Librarian Scooter Hayes and Library Associate Mo Weinman, two of my coworkers at the New Hanover County Public Library, came up with a fantastic idea for an escape room. Since I had already run one, I was there to help them walk through the ideas and figure out the puzzles. I ended up being cast as one half of a split personality!


One of the things that made this program so successful is that Scooter really played up the ambiance of the basement, which has this industrial feel to it. The Main Library is a former Belk department store, and the basement is all concrete and funky storage. There is also a very interesting sump pump that could double as the entrance to the netherworld. We created a story that would explain why the teens were locked in, as well as move them along in their quest to escape. Taking inspiration from The Ring, Mo and I dressed in black wigs and hospital gowns. The overarching theme of the room was “Don’t let her out!” Was Mo the sane one and I the dangerous one? Or were they really supposed to let me out of my cage to succeed? Oh, decisions!


To enter the basement, teens had to descend a creepy stairwell and walk down a brightly lit corridor that could have been straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They did a short puzzle to get the key to the main basement and had the opportunity to collect flashlight pieces. \

Only one group successfully found all the flashlight bits and bobs, but everyone finished within the given time period. Having a little side quest that would help, but whose non-completion would not hinder, was a fun addition.


Once inside the basement, teens had to unlock an iPad, finding clues in a very dark space with strobe lights and glow sticks. Mo snuck around and periodically scared the metaphorical pants off of the kids, while I hid behind some boxes and only revealed myself as they neared the completion of their tasks. Some of the puzzles included using a black light to find numbers, finding the odd one out in a maze of stacked books, and figuring out which letter the chairs on the floor represented.

Teams that worked together and delegated tasks finished faster than those who tried to stay split along I-know-you-but-not-her-or-him lines. At the end, we had a photo-op for all of the teens, and they each got a piece of candy. And yes, the teens chose those awesome names.





Here’s a link to our Facebook album for more pics:

Yesterday, 4 groups of brave teens took to the basement of the Main Library for NHCPL’s own Escape Room. Teens were…

Posted by New Hanover County Public Library on Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To run the escape room, we did several walkthroughs, including one with staff, and booked the room the entire day. There were four sessions with one hour in between each, giving us ample time to reset (although the teens really didn’t disturb much of the setup). Each team was capped at 6, so it was easy to keep track of them and ensure everyone was safe. We notified attendees that this experience was intense and scary.


This program was a fantastic success, and I’m planning on another escape the basement program in December. The teens thought it was really fun and engaging and scary (I think the scariness was key!) and all of them said they would do another program like it. Mr. Scooter’s flair for the dramatic really made this program stand out.

Life Size Oregon Trail

Today we have a guest post from Cindy Shutts and Jaci Kohn at White Oak Library about their Life Size Oregon Trail Event.

Since the release of the tabletop game version of Oregon Trail, our teens and tweens at the library have been very excited about playing the game at all of our gaming events.  We have had success doing life- sized games at the library before, so we knew we wanted to do something unique over the summer. In June, we had life-size Hungry, Hungry Hippos, so we thought doing a life-size board game version of Oregon Trail would be popular.

We used our largest meeting room. We marked up forty spaces and on the corners we had different stations. We started with a general store where we gave out supplies. We used the cards from the board games. We did have to combine the library copy and Cindy’s copy from home to have enough supply cards.  We had teams of four or less because that is all we could fit in the spaces. Each team received Spare Parts, Medicine, and Food. We placed extra cards in the middle of some squares. We gave each player a wheel to hold to make their wagon roll. We had poop emoji printed out for illness. Rocks for damage to the wagon, and snakes for snake bite. If they did not have a card for each of these accidents, one person in the wagon would die.   We had them roll a die and the person with the lowest score would die.  We also had a skull and cross bones space which made everyone in the wagon die.  The skull and cross bone spots were only placed toward the end of the game. We had sections covered in blue paper that the teens and tweens would have to jump over.  If you did not make it over, you drowned. There was a lot of death in the game.

Cindy was nervous that there would be too much death, but Cindy found the old video game version and played it to help fill any mental holes Cindy had in her memory about the game. Cindy put her coworkers in the online wagon and they all died. So she realized that no amount of death was too much.

The first station the team made it to (if they all survived) was the hunting station. Here we used a beanbag toss for hunting. We taped pictures of different animals above each hole in the beanbag toss game. There were six animals to choose from. Two out of three team members had to make it into a hole to receive a food card. Next, the teams made their way to the knot typing station. Jaci provided each team member with yarn to act as a rope. She then demonstrated how to type a simple slipknot. She learned this skill during her many years of working with horses. The kids had to try to replicate her knot. Again two out of three kids had to tie the knot. The third station was a fishing stop. We made fishing poles out of sticks, string, and magnets. We then printed out several different pictures of fish and put magnets on the back of some but not all. Then the kids had two attempts to catch a fish. If they did not all catch a fish, they would receive no food and would die if they had lost their food card. The final station was the finish line, where if they survived they got first choice on the snack. Dried fruit and beef jerky were available.

This game was very enjoyable. We had two teen volunteers helping, but they wanted to play, too. We loved this program, but recommend playing the card game with your tweens and teens first, so they become familiar with the game. Parents will know about Oregon Trail, but teens might not. We had a built in audience when the teens and tweens were familiar with the card game.


Cindy Shutts is the Teen Librarian of the Romeoville Branch of the White Oak lIbrary District. She enjoys hanging out with her cocker spaniel Harry Winston.

Jaci Kohn is the senior children’s librarian at the Romeoville branch of the White Oak Library District. She loves spending time with her horses and dog. She is currently listening to Hamilton on repeat.

Meet the TSU Agent: Emma

We’re starting a new monthly feature called Meet the TSU Agent. We realize you guys have been reading the blog for a couple of years now, but may not really know us. This will also be a way to get to know new agents as the come onboard. Without further ado, let’s meet this month’s Agent: Emma.

  1. What’s your favorite type of library program?
    I really love craft or maker programs. Some of my favorites are duct tape crafts, blackout poetry, and button making.
  2. Why do you enjoy working with teens?
    I like that teens are old enough that they are really their own people with their own personalities. It lets me have a more even exchange with them about programs, books, or just what’s going on in the world. I also love being able to see teens who come to the library a lot get more comfortable using the space and talking to all of the librarians. And, of course, YA Lit is in my favorite too so that’s a plus.
  3. What kinds of things do you do when you’re not at work?
    When I’m not at work I can be found working on my book blog Miss Print. I also walk around the city and visit museums (and play Pokemon Go). I like to bake and I am always trying to get the hang of new cooking recipes too.
  4.  Craziest thing you’ve done as a teen librarian?
    I haven’t done anything too crazy. The weirdest thing was telling fortunes for the Harry Potter birthday party my coworker organized last summer. I made a deck of Major Arcana tarot cards to use as props and everything.
  5.  If you suddenly had extra money in your budget to buy one thing you’ve always wanted for your teens/library, what would it be?
    Although I work in a big youth department, our dedicated teen space is pretty small. I’d love to be able to buy some new furniture and installation pieces to make the space more inviting. Failing that a lot more video games to get my teens to stop playing Smash Bros every single week.
  6. What is something you struggle with the most?
    It’s hard to remind myself that I don’t have to take all of my professional development home with me. Specifically I don’t have to spend all of my free time reading books with an eye toward reader’s advisory or collection development or professional reviewing. Sometimes it’s refreshing to be able to turn those things off.
  7.  If you could build your dream teen area what would it look like?
    I would love to have more walls in my teen area! We have lovely big windows but it means that I have almost no display space except for one free-standing table. I’d also like to have a more approachable and practical reference desk (the current one in our teen space is an enormous monster that is not utilized well).
  8. If you have a desk do you decorate/what does it look like?
    I have a metal desk with a hutch and drawers. I have a lot of magnets and paper artwork on the hutch along with things like my monthly work/program calendar and volunteer schedules. I also have a lot of figurines on top of my desk including some Disney Funkos from friends and a Katniss Everdeen funko too. Next to those I have a pretty sweet collection of Tokidoki unicorn figurines and My Little Ponies from mystery boxes. My actual desk has a pencils cup, 3D printed rhino, and a couple of small stuff toys (a dragon and a Pikachu).
  9.  Tips/Tricks that help you manage it all?
    Remember it’s not rocket science, it’s library science! While a lot of things in this profession have pressing deadlines and a lot of moving parts, almost nothing in day-to-day library stuff is life or death. Just take everything one step at a time and do you best along the way.
  10.  If you had to work in a department other than teen, what would it be and why?
    This is a tough question! I would have to go back to grad school for it, but I would love to work in a museum library if I wasn’t in teen services. More realistically I’d probably just shift to children since I always have a good time when I get to do story times or other programs for the younger kids.
  11.  What was the first YA book you remember reading?
    It was probably one of those books that can cross over between middle grade and YA. Maybe Sabriel by Garth Nix, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, or The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (three of my favorite books to this day!).
  12.  If you could have a fictional pet/fantasy animal, what would it be?
    I want to say unicorn but I feel like they would just take up way too much space and not be happy in a small city apartment. Maybe a miniature dragon?
  13.  What’s your Oreo preference?
    Oreo Thins
  14.  Your dream vacation?
    Disney World. I’m not a big traveler and don’t have an ounce of wanderlust in my being. But my Mom and I love Disney World and I’d love to go back.
  15.  Cat or dog? 
    Dogs. Always dogs.

Arab Teens in YA Literature and Nonfiction

April is Arab-American History Month, and it’s August! But there’s no better time to promote diverse books than ALL THE TIME!, so here’s a list of eight great titles featuring Arab teens. Some are Muslim; some aren’t. Included in the list are a memoir, graphic novel, short stories and fiction. Something for everyone!

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (2017)

Janna is a hijab-wearing teen with a secular Indian father and a Muslim mother. Her whole life is torn between two worlds. She competes in the Islamic Quiz Bowl, but crushes hard on non-Muslim Jeremy. And she knows the terrible truth about the “model” Muslim boy, admired by her community, who memorizes the Qur’an but is really a monster.

Ronit & Jamil by Pamela Laskin (2017)

In this verse retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Ronit is an Israeli girl who falls for a Palestinian boy, Jamil. Though their fathers do business together, their relationship is strictly professional, and they wouldn’t dream of their children becoming friends, let alone falling in love. Though they inhabit different worlds on either side of the concrete barrier that divides them, the two are drawn to one another.

Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat (2016)

This memoir picks up where Barakat’s first, Tasting the Sky, leaves off. As the title notes, Barakat grew up in Palestine (she now lives in Missouri) in the 70s and 80s, a politically tumultuous time. Against the backdrop of this turmoil, Barakat writes about her day-to-day life and dreams of becoming a writer.

Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian (2013)

The resettlement of Somali refugees to the mostly white residents of Enniston, ME is causing conflict. Residents complain that their tax dollars are going to foreigners. Tom, the captain of the soccer team, has seen some of the teenaged refugees kicking the ball around. All he sees is potential – to recruit the new students and build a better team. What seemed like a great idea is starting to cause problems with players and spectators alike, fueling ill feelings toward the new residents. Inspired by the true story of a town in Maine.

A Game For Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached (2012)

1981: Lebanon. A civil war rages. Beirut is divided in two. Zeina lives with her family on the Christian side of the city. After visiting the other side of the city, Zeina’s parents fail to return home, and she and her brother must fend for themselves, with the help of some caring neighbors, unsure sure of the fate of their mom and dad.

Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories About Teens in the Arab World by Elsa Marston (2008)

Though an older title, this one makes the list because it includes short stories set throughout the Arab world, including Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Palestine, giving the reader a sense of the variety of Arab cultures. Marston has studied and traveled extensively in the Middle East, partly due to her personal interest, but also because her late husband was a Lebanese political scientist whose work centered on Arab cultures.

The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter (2008)

Amani has always dreamed of becoming a shepherd, like her grandfather. When she learns that the Israelis are planning to build a settlement on the family land in Palestine she is devastated. Her father and brother are prepared for a militant response, but help may just come from the most unexpected of places.

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (2003)

You’ve probably heard of this one, as it seems to make every list of YA fiction featuring Muslim or Arab characters, but I figured the list wouldn’t be complete without it. Sixteen-year-old Australian teen Amal, who is Muslim and whose family comes from Palestine, decides to begin wearing the hijab full-time – and everyone seems to have an opinion about it. In turns serious and humorous, it is a refreshingly honest look at a contemporary teen dealing with questions about her identity and whether one can stay true to her values and make it through high school.

Amazing Race Programs

One of the things I love most about summer programming for teens in my small town is that I can allow them to run amok if I so choose. The town is small enough and safe enough that groups of teens can complete scavenger hunts or other activities that take them outside the library. If you need to keep your programming inside the library, you could easily adapt this program to be an after-hours program where teens would have the run of the entire library.

For a program styled after the television show The Amazing Race, I knew I’d need a few things. First, I’d need locations for the teens to reach. Second, I’d need a task or puzzle for them to do at each location. Finally, I’d need clues to lead them to each location.

I chose five locations in town, one of which was the library (of course), and created challenges for each location. In one location, they had to assemble a puzzle (which was an 8×10 picture mounted on cardboard and cut apart). In another, they had to find a penny on the ground and then do a special knock on a door. In some places, such as the local cemetary, they had to answer a question (the name on the oldest grave) and would receive the next clue when they got the correct answer. At each location the teens were given a different colored beaded necklace. They needed to collect all five colors before they could return to the library’s program space, and the first group back received a prize.

One thing this event requires that most teen events don’t is volunteers. I needed adults (or other teens) who were willing to stand at each location and answer questions, give hints, and keep track of the teens. I was lucky to have a few parents who were willing to help out, as well as a couple of tweens and some staff members. Our teens love working together to solve puzzles, and the added element of being allowed to run around town to find the puzzles made this a winning program.

Are you able to have programs where the teens can leave the library and run around town? What programs like this have worked well for your group? Let us know in the comments!

Starting from Scratch: A Primer on Building a Teen Services Program

You did it!  You’ve gotten your master’s degree and you’re starting as a Teen Services Librarian on Monday.  The public library hasn’t had a Teen Services Librarian in 6 months, or maybe they never had one.  You took a class or two on Teen Services, you’ve read a lot of YA fiction…but how do you actually get started?  You might be thinking, “What programs should I start off with?  Who should I contact in the community to build partnerships with?  How do I find teens?  I mean, really – where ARE they, and WHY aren’t they at the library already?!  What about bibliographies?  A well-rounded collection?  AHHHHH!”

Right now, you should probably take a deep breath.  I’m going to try and explore a lot of these subjects, and remember – you don’t have to do EVERYTHING on day one!  If you’ve already been a Teen Services Librarian for awhile, a lot of this may seem old hat, but hopefully you can take something from this too.

I’m going to break this article up into three parts: Programming, Outreach, and Collection Development.  This won’t be a comprehensive guide, but hopefully it’ll be enough to get you started.

Part 1: Programming

While you can’t have well attended programming without teens, you definitely won’t get many teens in without programs.  Some may come in and check out books, but unless your office is right next to the YA collection you’ll likely miss them.  Four things that you need to know before planning any programming are what your budget is, what time frame you can run programs, what space you’re going to run them in, and what program you want to run.

Budget and space are completely dependent on the library, but the timing of the program is going to depend on your local teens.  How can you find out when would be good to run a program if you don’t have any teens to ask?  One way would be to check the local school schedules and see when they get out for the day.  Make sure to budget time for travel to the library, and consider that many teens likely have after school activities.  Some communities may have more after school activities on certain days of the week, such as church youth groups or football games, and you can contact school administrators, churches, and other local organizations to find out when you could run programming that maximizes chances of attendance.  Keep in mind that local schools will also have special events on occasion, so don’t schedule any major programs to overlap those!  Older teens may also have part-time jobs, making weekend programs less possible for them, but you may find that weekend programs work better for younger teens.  Part of this will be trial and error, but you can try to minimize potential failings by doing a little research before creating a schedule.

Individual programs can be as in-depth or hands off as you want, but I recommend running some easy, scalable programs early on in creating a new teen services program.  Gaming programs, whether it’s video games, board games, or both, scale easily from just a couple of teens to 20.  Movie nights also work well, and Throwback Thursday Movie Nights (think 1980’s and even 1990’s) have always been a sure win for me.  Craft programs can be a little tricky early on since you’re not sure how many teens to plan for, but if you make sure that the materials are reusable in the future you can always rerun the program when you have higher attendance.  Coloring/drawing programs can work well, and writing workshops can be a hit with only a couple of teens and some fun writing prompts.  Snacks and soda are always a good way to get teens interested, too.  Have you ever met a teen that isn’t hungry, especially right after school?  Neither have I.

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to stick to what you had planned for the program, either!  If teens aren’t too interested in the activity and just want to chat and hang out, that can be perfect for getting to know them and for them to get to know you.  When you have a thriving teen services program you may need to do more policing and ensure teens focus a bit more to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves (no talking during the movie, please!), but early on this won’t be as much of a problem and can facilitate rapport building.  Word of mouth is going to be one of your biggest drivers of attendance, after all, so getting to know your teens and them getting to know you is vital.

Something else to remember is that if no one shows up for your program, don’t freak out or get upset with yourself!  Libraries that have been doing programs for years and have great teen attendance sometimes strike out, and you’re just getting started.  It’s going to happen, maybe frequently, right at the start, and it’s not necessarily something you did wrong.  Think critically about why no one showed up.  When did you run it?  What was the program about?  How many teens have been coming recently (if any)?  You may be able to think of a reason or two that teens may not have come to the program, and there may not be any reason at all.  Don’t worry too much about it – it happens.  You didn’t fail.

Part 2: Outreach

So, we’ve got some programming in place.  Perhaps you’ve scheduled a couple of game days and a couple of movie nights for next month, but since you don’t have any teens coming in right now how do you let them know?  Outreach can be one of the hardest parts, especially if you’re new to the community, because you don’t know where teens hang out!  Should you make flyers?  Create a commercial?  Rent a billboard?  Do some skywriting?

Okay, maybe some of that is extreme, but flyers have always been one of my go-tos.  Outreach isn’t just something you do outside of the library, and strategically placed flyers inside the library can get teens’ attention if they’re obvious enough.  Tables near the YA section, space on the reference or circulation desks, or even an endcap of a shelf could work if you’re pressed for space elsewhere.  If you have a poster printer, printing a flyer with poster dimensions and putting it up on the wall in the YA section is guaranteed to get some visibility.  Encourage parents to take flyers home to show their teenage children and ask your other staff members to do the same.  Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to teens that you see in the library!  I ask individuals that look like they’re somewhere between 13 and 18 how old they are and then explain that we’ve got tons of teen programs that we’d love to see them at and give them a flyer.

Make sure that the flyer isn’t too cluttered and that it’s easily readable.  I personally recommend Canva for making flyers, and libraries can get free Canva for Work accounts, giving you access to a whole bunch of different features.  I don’t claim to be a great graphic designer, but below is an example of one I made for this month in Canva.

Outreach outside of the library can take a ton of different forms, but that flyer can still come in handy!  Earlier I mentioned contacting school administrators, churches, and individuals at other local organizations to find out when they run programs or special events, but you can also let them know what you’ve got going on at the library.  Ask them if they’d be willing to post a flyer for your programs at their organization or if they’d be willing to have extra on hand to give to teens that want a copy.  I recommend offering to print them out and bring them over.  This gives you the opportunity to meet other professionals in your community and start to build relationships that can be beneficial for unique programming possibilities in the future.  Perhaps you can get in contact with the middle school and high school librarians and schedule a meet and greet, or create a crossover program during Teen Read Week.  The local Boys and Girls Club (or similar community organizations) may like to have you out to do book talks and inform teens on what all the library can do for them.  Churches often have teen youth groups, and church leaders may be willing to provide flyers or promote events during these meetings as well.  Video game and board game stores may be fine with you posting a flyer in their window, and may even donate games to your library!  Local coffee shops, fast food restaurants…anywhere you think or know teens congregate, ask if you can put up a flyer!  Eventually teens will see enough of them around town and finally decide to try out a program.

Creating a commercial may have seemed a bit out there, but don’t completely discount the concept.  Some cities have local channels that may allow you to post a slide with your flyer, and while teens are not likely to see them, parents and grandparents may notice and mention the programs to their teenage children and grandchildren.  Local city channels often need content, and this is a low effort way to get your flyer in front of more faces.  Additionally, contacting your local newspaper and asking them about publishing your upcoming teen events in the relevant section of the newspaper could also get some adult attention!

Another outreach possibility (and outreach possibilities are endless!) is local conventions and expos.  All over the nation there are a staggering number of conventions for all kinds of fandoms, including anime & manga, comics, board games and video games, and more.  Asking conventions if you could have a booth spot at a discount to help promote the local library is worth a shot, and even if you need to pay for a booth you may find that the cost was worth it.  Teens and new adults are some of the most common attendees at these conventions, and these populations are some of the ones that libraries have the hardest time getting into the library.  As an example, I’m currently working on the logistics of creating a Manga Reading Lounge at a Japanese pop culture convention in my town for October after a staff member of the convention reached out to our library about a possible partnership.  Be willing to try new things and adapt, and don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you!

Part 3: Collection Development

I’m not going to go too in depth regarding collection development, but I do have a few tips.  Presumably you’ve taken a Collections Development course, and something you should do early on at a new library is familiarize yourself with your new library’s collection.  Is it leaning heavily on fantasy and science fiction but skimping in other areas?  Does it have way, way too many romance books?  Is the collection browsable, or could it use a good weeding?  Have the graphic novels been completely ignored for the last year?  Do you have manga?  From what I’ve seen, manga and graphic novels are universal teen lures.  These are some things to consider pretty early on in your new position.  Make sure to have a well rounded collection, but also keep in mind what the current trends are in young adult and ensure you’re on top of it.

However, something that isn’t always considered is how easily teens can find what they’re looking for in your collection.  Is your OPAC really good at finding relevant titles by subject?  Are teens comfortable using the OPAC, and if not, are they comfortable coming up to reference librarians to ask questions?  Simply put, the OPAC and reference librarians should not be the only way teens can find what they’re looking for in your library.  Some subjects are going to be too sensitive for teens to ask about (think abortion, GLBTQIA fiction, rape, etc.), and often OPACs are not particularly stellar at being user friendly and retrieving the best results.  Looking up this information on their own devices may be dangerous for them, especially if parents are monitoring their internet usage.

How can you solve this?  Create relevant bibliographies and keep them updated!  Put them on display in your teen area and make sure there are extras on a table for teens to pick up and look at or keep.  This seems like a simple solution, but when I explained it to the teens I work with they thought it was a brilliant idea and it hadn’t occurred to them that ‘old school’ ways of doing things could still be relevant.  Some of them hadn’t felt comfortable with asking librarians for suggestions for books on touchy subjects and believed that if a bibliography had been close at hand that they would pick it up and use it.  You can create laminated bookmarks, pamphlets, and more with any subject that a teen may want to look into without having to ask you about it first.

Another thing to consider is the creation of special collections for the YA department.  This isn’t something you need to focus on right when you start, but it can be something to look forward to in the future.  Perhaps a ukulele could make for an interesting addition to your collection!  Maybe you could check out board games or video games?  Special collections can help set a library apart and get a lot of buzz.  When you encounter something new in your personal life, take a moment and think, “Could I use this in the library?  How would it be beneficial to the teens I work with?”  Special collections take a significant amount of work as you need to consider new policies and procedures, how to acquire the items, how to train staff on proper handling, etc.  You may require that items be checked out and used only inside the library, similar to many libraries’ policies on reference items, especially when the special collection first launches.  Ultimately, it comes down to how much effort you and your administration want to put into a new collection.  Don’t feel like you need to do this right away, but it can be fun to think about in between all of your other work!

I hope that this quick primer for a new Teen Services Librarian is helpful in some way to you!  This can be one of the most rewarding positions in a library if you can weather the initial rough starts and occasional setbacks.  Teens are at that amazing age where many avenues are open to them, and you get to help them explore those potential futures!  If you have other suggestions for new Teen Services Librarians, please leave them below in the comments.

A Quistory Lesson with Sarah Prager!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was when I opened an email a few months ago from Sarah Prager, asking if she could come speak at my library. This is a first for me – usually I am the one asking! Of course I said YES and we planned a visit. (I got lucky – her family lives nearby!) I had only recently become aware of her new YA book Queer, There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World, published by HarperCollins on May 23rd.

After more googling, I discovered Sarah was the creator of Quist, a free LGBTQ history app, and has some pretty amazing accomplishments under her belt, such as working with Apple and Google to be more inclusive of bisexual terms and being invited to the White House to speak, not to mention all the articles, committees, and public appearances….all in a day’s work for this girl!

But the book…..seriously, I think my coworkers are sick of me talking about it. I’m not typically one to pick up a nonfiction book, but this is not a typical nonfiction book. I was hooked on the first page – she had me at “Quick question: Was George Washington straight? Um…yeah?”  Nailed that first line! And after that, Sarah somehow manages to give an historical overview of queer language and terms, and a general history spanning a millennia of empires, countries and cultures in a simple, smart voice, while making you completely forget you are not reading a nonfiction history book and leaving you completely amazed that you have never even heard about most of it. And that is just the first 17 pages!

The rest of the book is made up of individual biographies in chronological order that read like mini stories. They are full of great info and are fun to read. This book should be in every library, in every school. It should be read by LGBT teens, straight teens, LGBT adults, straight adults and everyone in between. IT SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING/PART OF THE CURRICULUM IN HIGH SCHOOLS!

There is some incredible LGBT YA fiction out there that I can recommend to LGBT teens when they come to my library, and I am so thankful I have such a wide selection of great books to choose from. But Sarah’s book is unique in that the people in her book are REAL. They are queer people who commanded armies, ruled countries, and led revolutions. Another aspect of the book I found incredibly helpful was the history of queer language/terminology, as well as the glossary of terms at the end. Not only was it interesting, but it helped me to feel better about using terms correctly and confidently when discussing LGBT topics. I think that how we use terms, especially in a public library with teens, is so important. Words have power and it’s helpful to know the right way to use them.

Having the chance to meet Sarah and hear her speak was awesome. (I also got to meet her beautiful and incredibly well-behaved daughter!) As with most of my library author events, this one didn’t have a huge turnout – c’mon people! – but it was a great group of patrons who were all really excited about the book for a variety of reasons.  Because I have an MFA in Writing for Children, I always find it interesting to hear about an author’s experience working with publishers and editors. Sarah told the group that she was advised to read lots of YA books to get a feel for the “voice” she needed for the book, as the initial drafts were a bit dry. When I asked if she had found any favorites while doing her YA voice research, she said Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (one of mine too!) and she also loved the writing of Jandy Nelson.  We were also curious about the still-living people she writes about, the most well-known of these being George Takei. As of then, she had not heard directly from him about his appearance as a hero in her book, but hoped to someday!











Queer, There and Everywhere is such an important (and much overdue) resource to have as a teen librarian. And while it may be technically geared towards teens, it’s also a great read for adults. I want to buy a bunch of copies and leave them in random public places on the off-chance that someone who needs it will find it! Have you read it? What did you think?

Cheers! – Molly