Gift Making Programs


A favorite program of my tweens, teens, and young adults has always been gift making programs. We’ve done bath salts, edible mixes, cocoa gifts, recipe starters and so forth, and they’ve loved not only that it’s customized for whomever they are making it, but also that they’re making it rather than getting it pre-made from a store. It doesn’t seem to matter when during the year I have it, they’re always needing a gift for SOMEONE and they’re always short on money. I always try to get my staff and coworkers to bring me various types of clean glass jars (spaghetti sauce jars, ice cream topping jars, etc.) so that we can use them for these and other types of programs. They’re extremely staff-friendly, extremely patron-friendly, and a great way to socialize as well. Put on a movie and go to town.


Holidays in the Workspace


Holidays are stressful enough on their own. We have our own families to balance–their wants and needs and desires–as well as societal and patron pressures. Having worked in Texas for a number of years, I learned very quickly which patrons would take offense to not being greeted with anything other than a “Merry Christmas” and those who didn’t celebrate anything and would rather just be treated as if any holidays didn’t exist. If you’ve been anywhere near the librarian side of social media you’ve seen annual discussions of trees, Santa, and decorations. Yet there’s not a lot of discussion about the staff side of things. Where do you fall with your coworkers and staff with the holidays, office celebrations, and holiday decorations in relation to diversity and the winter season?


Looking for A 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
  • 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 12/15/16.

Trend Alert: YA Adaptions

For the past several years, publishers have been releasing “Young Readers” editions of their most popular nonfiction titles. The first ones I remember purchasing for my middle school library collection were Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea(Remember that scandal?) Since then, it seem like any time a nonfiction title hits the bestseller list, an adapted version for young readers isn’t far behind (ahem, Mr. Chernow, my Hamilfans are waiting!). I’ve generally found these adapted editions to be a great way for my middle school readers to access compelling stories – like that of Louis Zamperini, told in Unbroken – while leaving out the strong language and violence and taking a less detailed dive into some of the more complex history, science or other academic content that makes the material more accessible. As a middle school librarian within a JK-12 school, I’ve particularly found these adaptations for younger readers helpful in opening up the possibilities for an all-school read. Nonfiction adaptations are old-hat.

But over the past few months there seems to be a new twist on the adaptations. Penguin Random House has released a “Classroom Edition” of Andy Weir’s sci-fi space survival tale, The Martian, and a “Young Adult” edition of Dan Brown’s 2003 hit The Da Vinci Code. From what I can gather on the internet, the response has been markedly negative. I haven’t read either, but Susan Ohanian’s review of the “classroom edition” of The Martian (with excerpts!) was enough to convince me that I’m not missing anything (though I did go ahead and buy a copy for my collection, which has yet to circ). And though I can’t seem to find anyone on the internet who has read the YA adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, this Bustle post pulls together the general public reaction to the publication announcement quite well. There is one Amazon review that, while 4-star, doesn’t show any indication that the reviewer actually read the book and isn’t terribly likely to drive sales.


I can’t imagine that Penguin Random House didn’t foresee these strong negative reactions. So why publish these editions? For The Martian, I can understand the desire for teachers and librarians to have an adaptation that eliminates the many (many, many) f-bombs that (quite understandably) are sprinkled generously throughout the novel as Mark Watney chronicles being left behind on Mars to fend for himself. I’ve had many teachers say to me that they loved the book and would encourage their students to read it – “if only the word f*ck wasn’t used so often.” I imagine that parents feel similarly. As for The Da Vinci Code, there’s a video in which author Dan Brown speaks to his personal desire to create an edition for younger readers:

I kind of get the feeling that he too was thinking about the market in schools and wanted to find an “in” that wouldn’t get his book splashed all over the media for parental protests that the book was included in the curriculum. And is it just me, or would it be less offensive if it was “adapted for younger readers” rather than “adapted for young adults”? It seems like the adaptation is geared more toward 5th-8th graders, not high schoolers.

For better or worse, I imagine that these fiction adaptations will find homes in middle school libraries and conservative high school libraries. Well meaning aunts and uncles are also likely to purchase these as gifts for their teenaged nieces and nephews. And it’ll pretty much stop there.

What’s your take?

Teen Podcasts! Back Like They Never Left.

The podcasting trend seemed to be HUGE a decade or so ago.  Librarians and teachers flocked to their Garage Band programs and instantly turned podcasting into the millennial version of the HAM radio frenzy of my youth.  For a while, I will admit that I scoffed at it.  It seemed like an outdated fad that would have no appeal to anyone under a certain age anymore.  And with so many things vying for their time and attention, I just knew my teens wouldn’t entertain the thought of a radio show.

I was wrong.

Sometime while I was obviously asleep under a rock, podcasts had made a huge comeback.  Shows like Serial, The Read, FanBros, and others were starting to really pick up steam.  In a time where everyone is so addicted to convenience and customization, podcasts serve as the perfect replacement for traditional radio, with their theme-specific episodes and accessibility. As I started to get more hooked on them, I started to think of how cool it would be to give our teens a shot at creating their own.

So where to begin?

First, I put up flyers for an information meeting.  I recognized that many teens in our library may not actually know what a podcast is, or how they are formatted, so I figured this first meeting could explain it to them while also generating interest.  During the meeting, I played clips of teen-friendly episodes of other podcasts, and a portion of a teen podcast I found from another library.  While they enjoyed what they heard, the real appeal for my teens came from wanting to be better than what they heard.  They wanted to beat out the other shows and get other people listening to them.  Motivation through competition? Okay, I’ll take that.

the-silence-logoThe teens chose to name their show “The Silence”, and decided that the regulars would be called “The Quiet Storm”.  Together, we wrote out a rough structure.





Each episode would consist of the following:

  • An Intro
  • A booktalk by me
  • A Hot Topic Discussion decided on by them
  • Commercials for upcoming teen programs
  • A Game of the Month selection from our Gaming Alliance
  • A “Loose Logic” joke from our resident teen room funny guy
  • An outro

From my original group of about eight, my core group eventually dwindled down to two.  However, the two who stayed on had previously been teen girls who were too cool for just about every other club or program I’d held in the past.  They were the elusive teens we all have from time to time, who are in our spaces, but not fully involved in anything we have going on.  I’d been trying for at least a year to find ways to interest and motivate them.  Giving them this outlet allowed them to feel like they had some agency and ownership of teen services.  A few weeks after being involved in our newly formed podcast team, these girls became vocal and active participants in our teen room, and felt more comfortable speaking to staff.

My “regulars” editing and recording their intro script.

So what are the benefits of having a teen podcast?

  • Teens love to TEACH.  Having a podcast format that allows them to teach others something is awesome.
  • This is a great way for teens to get some skill building in script outlining, debate, and editing.
  • Readers Advisory: Since they “allowed” me to have a segment to share a book, I was able to get an already captive audience to listen to an impromptu book talk. Score!
  • Marketing! Use the podcast commercials to advertise upcoming teen events.
  • Provides an outlet for teens who feel like “others”.  For a teen who never felt he quite fit into the crowd, a special segment called Loose Logic allowed him to speak on things in his deadpan comical delivery that was often lost on others when he was in a program setting.
  • Special Guests!  Is there a cool teacher that all the kids love?  Consider inviting them to be a guest star on the podcast and let teens flex their interviewing skills.
  • Let them argue things out with you!  In the course of moderating, there will undoubtedly be times where you’ll have to address something that is inaccurate or that could fall against someone else’s beliefs.  While truly outrageous moments can be edited out later, use some of the minor ones as teachable moments and allow teens to flesh out their beliefs against yours.  You’d be surprise how many really pivotal moments can come from seemingly casual conversation.


  • iMovie
  • Garage Band
  • Audacity
  • A usb microphone
  • Canva

To record the shows, we used Audacity, a freeware program and a USB microphone on a Mac computer.  Others have used Garage Band also, so feel free!  When the teens were done with the preliminary edits of the show, I would drag and drop the clips into iMovie and line them up with segment visuals made in Canva .  This was my personal preference, but it’s perfectly fine to simply upload the finished episodes onto the teen page of your library website or social media page.

Things to remember/watch out for:

  • Set some ground rules! Ours were, no profanity, no innuendo, and everyone gets to participate.
  • Chat format.  It’s okay to just let them talk.  Bring them back around to the guidelines, and watch the magic happen.
  • LENGTH!  Remind them to remember their audience.  We did a really long episode because the conversations were so great, but in hindsight, I could and should have cut it.  Nobody is going to sit through a lengthy diatribe, no matter how interesting it was at the time.
  • Decide what you want teens to get out of the activity?  Is it for the STEM benefits?  If so, will you be teaching them editing, etc.?  Or is it primarily to provide an outlet?  Are you more focused on allowing them to chat and interact and you’ll handle the editing?  Either is fine, but give yourself some focus.
  • Watch for topics that your community isn’t comfortable with.  Cover yourself in the editing process.  If it’s a conversation that could cause an issue for you, steer clear.
  • If you broach a touch topic, have a goal in mind, (outlines help) for where to take the conversation back to for some redeeming qualities.
  • Moderate! Moderate! Moderate!  The conversations can veer off, but as the mentor, you are responsible for bringing it back around, OR use a teen who is good at it.
  • Let teens create pseudonyms, so that they feel more comfortable sharing.
  • I chose to use iMovie, because I found that it helped with editing and transitions because there were built in sound effects and transition images.
  • Learn from your mistakes.  It’s okay.  Really, it is.

Are you podcasting with your teens?  Tell us what’s working (or isn’t) in your neck of the woods!

Here’s a sample of our very first episode.

The Silence Episode 1 from Teen Territory on Vimeo.


Finding the Work/Life Balance

This topic has come up before on TSU, but it’s worth another discussion. And one, I’m sure, will come up again and again. I know how easy it is to let librarianship, especially teen services, take over your life. It happens without you knowing– or at least it did for me. Before I knew it all my reading, social media, and even lunch dates were all about work/libraries. At first it was completely invigorating, but now it feels a bit overwhelming.

Wait, wait, let me explain. I’m not saying any of these things are a bad things, but you need to have a balance.  I, personally, lost that balance. I felt like I had let work take over my life to the point there was little else but libraries going on.

Before I go too far, let me be clear that I am not talking about work-work. I stopped doing that at home within my first year of my professional job. I realized I wasn’t showing a proper workload/my worth by doing things at home. What I’m talking about is things that I needed to be a better librarian, which I admittedly did to myself.

Things like only reading YA books. I believed that if I wasn’t reading YA then who was! Since I was a slow reader I couldn’t waste time adding in adult books. I also dropped a lot of the genres I loved in exchange for those I hated for a variety of reasons. For example, I stopped reading a lot of fantasy books, which I love, because another co-worker reads them as well. I figured that we had that niche covered so I should do something else. This year it was mystery and thrillers, which I’ve discovered I hated, but it was genre few of us read. So, I continued to make myself read them until I got to the point that I barely wanted to read anymore.

I also started to realize that libraries was all I talked about. I had filled my time with committees and networking and looking for the next big idea, that I let take up all my free time. I found I rarely gamed or crafted or did any of my pre-librarian hobbies. I knew as burnt out took over I need to find my balance.

I’ll admit it took me a long time to finally say and commit to that statement. I had this overwhelming guilt that if I pulled back I’d be letting my teens down. I had to tell myself it was okay to remember that being a librarian was a job. That it was okay to call it quits when I clocked out for the day. It didn’t have to be my everything.

That’s not to say I don’t still network and talk about work when I’m not at work, but I’m trying to make a conscious effort to make more of a division. I’ve been picking books to read because I think I’ll like it, not because I think it’ll fill a RA hole. I’m allowing myself to not read at all if that’s what I want. Maybe instead I’ll spend it watching TV or playing games or something else. I try not to feel bad if I go a week without finishing a book. I know it’s going to be a while before my joy of reading comes back and, you know what, that’s okay.

At work, however, I do try to pay attention to social media, especially Twitter, and see what people are reading and enjoying. I look at blogs, edelweiss, and review journals to fill those gaps without doing the forced reading. I even try to do my networking more on work-time as well. I may not have it all balanced quite yet, but I’m working on it. Mostly, I’ve learned it’s okay to say no/pull back/take care of myself. In the end, the division will help me be happier as a person which will in turn make me a better librarian.  

Links of the Month – November 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 November:

Julie Crabb at Storytime Underground offers A Response to the election aftermath, which includes 10 small ways to incorporate social justice into your library practice. Though it’s children’s services-focused, it’s great inspiration to come up with your own ideas.

At YALSA’s The Hub, Molly Wetta shares Resources for Fostering Empathy in Your Community and Dawn Abron shares 20 Books to Inspire Social Change.

Karen Jensen Teen Librarian’s Toolbox ponders Now What? On Being a Librarian and a Book Lover After the 2016 Election.

The ALA Public Programs Office compiled ideas for displays in The Post-Election Library at the Programming Librarian.

Information literacy is as important as ever. At AASL’s Knowledge Quest, Sedley Abercrombie writes about Teaching Digital Citizenship in the School Library and Sara Stevenson writes about Information Literacy Lessons Crucial in a Post-Truth World.

Christina Vercelletto writes Struck by Tragedy, a NY High School Heals Through “Compassionate Making” at School Library Journal about incorporating a service mindset into a library maker space.

Bryce opens a new post series at Bryce Don’t Play with Accessibility Series: Definitions and 5 Quick Tips. If you don’t have this blog on your radar, you definitely should!

At Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, Robin Willis shares how she uses grants and other funding sources to stock her library with diverse books in Middle School Monday: Finding, Funding, and Flooding.

Robin Brenner offers YALSA’s 2016 Young Adult Services Symposium: A Recap at School Library Journal.

Also at School Library Journal, Karen Jensen shares 11 Lessons from a Maker Space­­, One Year In.

Helen Adams explains the details of Limitless Libraries: A Collaborative Partnership that Supports At-Risk Students at AASL’s Knowledge Quest.

Becky at RA for All stresses the value of re-visiting past reads in What I Was Reading in October of 2007 and Why It’s Useful to Your RA Work to Walk Down Memory Lane.

Best books of the year lists are already rolling out:

At In the Library with the Lead Pipe Jennifer Thoegersen writes an in-depth overview of Library Lockdown: An escape room by kids for the community.

A couple of programming ideas this month:

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

Ask an Agent: Favorite Websites/Newsletters for YA Reads?

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: What are your favorite websites or newsletters for new YA reads? Bonus points for recommendations that are easy to print and post on the teen bulletin board!


LED Bookmarks with Sew Electric


I got this idea from the book Sew Electric by Leah Buechley &Kanjun Qiu.


It’s a bookmark! It’s sewing! It’s circuitry!

Ok, so I may be a little more than excited by these bookmarks. I love that they not only allow for creativity but that they also are easy enough for someone like me to troubleshoot. I’ll admit it, I’m really not the greatest when it comes to all this STEM stuff. Ardunio? What’s that do?
But this book made it soooo much easier. Directions were clear and had illustrations to go along with them. They even had troubleshooting and explanations on how/why everything works. A must, for someone like me!

The only downside to this project? It can be a bit pricey. Their website ( has all the materials you need for purchase or if you want to shop around there is always that option as well!

According to the instructions, here’s what you’re going to need:

Coin cell batteries – Run about $6.00 for a pack of 10

Conductive thread– $12.95 for a 60ft bobbin

Coin cell battery holder– $3.95 each w/out switch. $4.95 with switch.

LilyPad LED– $3.95 for a pack of five from the Arduino Store USA

Chalk or pencil for marking fabric- $3.00 pack of 16

Felt– Assorted 44 pieces for $7.88

Tacky glue– $2.79

Large-eyed Needle– $3.99 pack of 12


Paper and pencils for designing your sketch.

Total is about $70.00 for everything (except the scissors and paper and pencils) for a group of 10. The coin cell battery holders are where the cost is going to get you. However, what’s nice about the LilyPad battery holder is that it has an on and off switch for your LED light and holes to sew the battery holder onto the felt which is vital for the circuitry to work! You don’t necessarily have to have the on and off switch, though, because you could just take the battery out of the holder when you aren’t using it.

The site’s kit costs $40 for:
2 coin cell battery holders

3 coin cell batteries

1 LilyTiny

1 spool of conductive thread

5 LilyPad LEDs

4 snaps

1 set of needles


Tips and Tricks!
Create a plan first! I highly recommend having teens design their bookmark before the cutting and sewing begins. Going in “blind” without first drawing everything out, makes it so much trickier.

Our program lasted 1.5 hours but really it should have been a 2 hour program with the troubleshooting and design process.

I also recommend limiting your program to 10-15 teens, depending on how comfortable you feel with circuitry and sewing. My teens needed the most help with threading and sewing their battery holder onto their felt. I had them try to troubleshoot any issues they had with the circuitry themselves first and then would troubleshoot with them as needed.

Finally, this was seriously so much fun. I had a teen who decided to make the Statue of Liberty on his entire bookmark and then have her torch light up. The creativity that comes of them always amazes me!


Alas, because I was helping so much and “oohing” and “awing” over projects, I totally forgot to take photos. D’oh! However! I did find a picture on Sew Electric’s Facebook page from a “Creative Coding” program at MSU in Denver to give you an idea of the possibilities!


Image credit: Sew Electric,


How to Keep a Public Face During the Holidays



We’ve all had times where we’ve had to shove difficult feelings aside and put on a public face to go out and deal with… well, the public, in all forms, whether it’s the actual public on the work floor, our co-workers, or others that we just don’t want to deal with. Holidays can be especially tense and fraught with emotion, and can be overwhelming at the best of times. There are some ways that you can try to make the best of the worst situations, without losing sight of yourself.