Blogging: How to Start and Maintain a Youth Services Blog

So, you want to start a blog related to librarianship? Great! Here are some thing to keep in mind as you get started.

Choose your platform.

You’ll need to decide what platform you want to use for your blog. Blogger and WordPress are two popular options, but there are scores of others, and if you’re handy at coding, you could even create your very own platform. Figure out what platform you want to use and become familiar with the different aspects of writing posts, scheduling them, and formatting the look of your blog.

Choose your focus.

Readers come to your blog for information, and they will stick around if you give them more information, but it helps if you have a particular focus. Do you want to post reviews of books you’ve read? Do you want to write about programs you’ve done at the library or ideas you have for future programs? Will your focus be more specific – reviews of a particular genre of book or details about one type of program you do?

Choose your schedule.

I was selected for one of my previous library jobs specifically because I had a blog that was up to date and showed that I was aware of what was going on in the library world. If you start a blog, it is essential that you keep it going. You may want to think ahead about how often you can reasonably write posts. For a while I was able to post something five days a week, but at this busy point in my life I have cut back to once a week. Once a week may not seem like much, but that does mean that your content will be kept current, which will satisfy your readers and impress potential employers.

Preset some posts.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Write 3-4 weeks’ worth of posts (or more) and get them preset on your blog before you go live. It will take time to get used to having another item on your already full to-do list, so make sure there are posts preset as a buffer between you and the next needed post. When I am able, I try to set up as many as two months’ worth of posts in advance. This way when things get busy, my blog stays alive and active. If I find something timely that I want to write about and publish, I can always bump another post to a later date. But do have posts preset before your blog goes live.

Promote, promote, promote!

Tell your colleagues. Tell your friends. Post links in relevant Facebook groups. Tweet about it. Make sure your voice is heard. You will probably not get thousands of hits immediately, but it is important to promote your blog so that people know it’s there. Add tags to your posts to help you find them again so you can link to relevant posts when needed.

Don’t be afraid of change.

I used to teach middle school. My blog started out as funny stories from my students, but morphed into book reviews as I left teaching behind, and then became more program-oriented as I started working as a youth services librarian. I always had a focus on my blog, but the focus itself, and the frequency of the posts, changed as my life, priorities, and other duties changed. And that’s okay. I still read as much as I used to, but I don’t take as much time to write reviews, which is why I now post more on the programming aspects of my job than I used to.

Do you have a blog already? Is there a library blog that you regularly follow? Let us know in the comments!

Reader vs Reader: The Valiant

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 The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Reader vs Reader: The Valiant

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

The Quick Reactions:

thumbs up
thumbs up
Pam: I liked it. It was silly in some parts and the romance was improbable, but I thought it was fluffy (or as fluffy as people killing each other for the sport of the Romans can be) and a quick read. i would totally read the next one in the series.

I also really liked the emphasis on female friendships and sisterhood over all else.

Andrea:I’m a thumbs up as well. While there were parts, especially at the beginning where I doubted, I was totally pulled into the world and loved the general story. I was so happy to see this one was a series!



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


Ask an Agent: Determining What’s Appropriate for Social Media Account?

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:  How do you run a successful YA library social media account? Specifically, how do you know what is appropriate to post and what is not (especially right now in the wake of all that is going on in the world). I want the teens to be informed, but I also don’t want to alienate anyone, or have it feel like it’s my soapbox because it isn’t, it’s theirs. It certainly wouldn’t be all politics. There would be pop culture, book culture, etc… I’m not sure my Teen Advisory Board would be up to the task, but I will ask them about this. Also, what are the best YA library social media account to follow? Advice from others would be greatly appreciated.


Self Directed Programming for Spring

Welcome to Spring! It may not feel like it yet where you’re at, but according to the calendar, Monday was the first official day of Spring, so someday soon we’ll all be enjoying warmer weather in shorter sleeves. While you’re finishing putting the last-minute touches on your summer programming or starting to put in the funding requests for your fall ideas, I’ve pulled together some easy and last-minute self-directed programming ideas for the spring months that your tweens and teens will enjoy.


Summer is Coming!

If you’re not a librarian, and specifically one who works with teens and/or younger, that might not have the same doom laden feeling that ‘Winter is Coming’ evokes. Not to mention the lack of death and destruction… Still, there’s no denying that summer is usually our busiest time. Second only, maybe, to the lead up to it! All the prep and time. Either way, I suspect most, if not all of us, are in the midst of summer planning. Maybe we’re deep in the middle, maybe we’re just starting (me!) or maybe we’re almost done (I’m envious!) but there’s no denying it’s a large part of our jobs.

As we head into another summer, let me offer a round up of some of our previous summer reading related posts that might help you get through your planning and the summer itself:


Promoting Summer Reading to the Middle Schoolers

Novice vs. Experienced (and how to handle it)

Say YASSSS – preping yourself

Surviving Summer Reading (some more self-care and inspiration)

Here’s the main takeaways:

You can do this! It seems daunting now but you can. We all can. And we’ve got your back. There are more summer related posts that I didn’t link to and plenty of great support in the Facebook group.

Make sure to self-care! Take time for yourself, both now during the prep period and again during summer itself. Do things you love to do outside the library. Keep library work at the library.

Summer is coming! Go forth and be awesome! We have faith in you!

The Teens Are Coming! Creating Empathy Through Staff Training

One of the first questions I was asked as a professional was, “Do you like teens?” I responded in the affirmative, and heard, “Oh, thank goodness” with an audible sigh of relief. I wondered why so many people I spoke with not only avoided working with teens, but seemed to fear it. Teens are not radioactive. You can’t contract Teenageritis as a sort of communicable disease. In fact, despite all of the stress of those years, I kind of miss the elasticity that my brain had.

So what are people so afraid of?

Our collective social consciousness has branded teens as rebels, hooligans, troublemakers, and sex fiends since the teen years were really defined in the 1950s.

GASP! Rebel youth! Girls in pants! Pompadours! THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION!

In society, teens are seen as lazy, tired, sloppy, drug-dealing, sex-having, completely unpredictable creatures. I remember being afraid of teenagers as a sort of remote monolith when I was a kid. To me, all teens had knives and drugs and were liable to commit random acts of violence at any moment. No one explicitly told me this–I internalized it from what I saw on TV and how I saw other people acting.

But look, ma! Now I love working with teens! So what changed? What do we need to change in our staff–coworkers, reports, and administration–in order to best serve our teens?

We need to teach and demonstrate empathy. Don’t just appeal to the fact that everyone was once a teenager. While factually true, the experience of being a teen today compared to even five years ago is very different. Most adults have no idea what teens go through on a daily basis, not only from their peers, but also from authority figures and their own self-doubts and criticism.

In response to difficulties at my library regarding teen behavior and how staff reacted to that behavior, I created a training on providing great customer service to teens. This consisted of a short YouTube segment, a presentation, and an interactive activity. The training only takes about 50 minutes to complete, and staff responded very positively to the sessions that I held.

First, I showed this video on teen brain development to demonstrate that a lot of this behavior has a biological component, and they literally cannot help being loudly enthusiastic or stunningly surly sometimes. We don’t expect anything more or less of our teen patrons than we do of any others–they need to follow library rules. What may differ is how often we need to enforce the rules and the strategies we use to do so.

For example, during storytime, the library is generally very busy due to a combination of lots of people and the fact that most of those people are small, with low impulse control and loud voices. Patrons who come in during those times are generally aware that the library is not going to be silent. Similarly, after school, larger people with low impulse control and loud voices come into the library. While their volume should never be at a point where they are distracting others, we should consider that after school, they are hungry and full of pent-up energy. Plus, teens usually have to talk over tons of other people in order to be heard, so their volume level is naturally higher.

In developing your training, consider what issues are specific to your teens and their behavior in the library. For me, it was running, loud talking, and swearing. You might have some very … romantic teens. Or hungry teens. Whatever it is, make sure those issues are discussed in the training and that participants have a change to discuss how they would respond to those behaviors and why.

Finally, always be positive. Remind staff that teens deserve as high of a level of customer service as any other patron, and that they are our future library stakeholders.
Happy training!

Ask an Agent: Advice for Job Searching?

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: I’m about to get my MLS. I’ve been working part time as a Youth Services Coordinator for the past two years but I am going to start looking for a Full-Time, big kid library job. Any advice?


Pokemon Terrariums

Gotta catch them all and then make them a cute adorable little home! A few weeks ago, I posted the photo above
on our TSU Facebook page and because of the great response, I’m giving you all the details here on how to make them!


Mini Pokémon– You can search for “Mini Pokémon” and get tons of results. We chose the “72 pieces for $14.99” because we used them for another programs as well.

Plastic Jars– For 12 jars these came out to be about $1.30 a piece. You can also use mason jars or check out your local thrift store for some cool ones. You will want to make sure that they’re clear so you can see your adorable Eevee!

Moss– For our terrariums we used the fake stuff and bought moss on clearance at Michael’s Craft Store. Michael’s almost always has coupons available online and in store as well!

Rocks– Rocks are really important in the making of your terrarium because they’re the platform for the Pokémon. I picked these up a Michael’s but there’s always your back yard too 😉

Cute Extras- I had some extra cute little “fairy garden” accessories that the teens were able to add in such as these mushrooms that one of our staff members donated. Fairy Gardens are very popular right now, so finding extras is easy. However, if your budget doesn’t allow them, don’t feel obligated.

Glue Gun or tack glue

Dirt/Sand- Optional

Project Total: $65.00 or $3.25 per teen (20 teens)


First thing’s first! Flip that container upside down! Some teens chose to use dirt and fill their container, but we loved the way the terrariums looked when the lid was used as the base as well!

You’ll want to glue those rocks down first as a platform for the Pokémon. I recommend hot glue, only because it takes a shorter time to set. As always, though, hot glue can be, well, hot! You know best on whether or not your teens can handle the hot glue or if a staff member will be in charge of it.

After gluing the rocks down, we then placed the moss around and added some dirt to the bottom. We used tacky glue and spread the dirt on top. Then we stuffed the moss around the rocks and used glue where needed to. Finally, we hot glued the Pokémon on top and added some extras. Once we screwed the lid on, tada! A Pokémon home was built!

I had about 20 teens making terrariums. The hardest part was choosing Pokémon. When everyone came in, they all got a random number. This decided what order they would go in to pick and then we reversed the order when they got to choose a second.

Finally, what’s so great about this program was that I had teens of every age attend. I had a few 6th graders but I also has all the way up to 11th grade creating along side!

Bonus: If you do a Google Search for “Pokémon Terrariums” you’ll also get a ton of other great ideas! Check out a few inspirations below!

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

Questions? Comments? Let us know below!

Program Planning

Today we have a guest post from Lisa AF Barefield talking about program planning

Planning programs is an essential part of being a teen librarian and one of the things I love most about my job. The actual scheduling of the programs requires its own amount of planning though. In my library we put together our program schedule almost six months in advance (it’s January and I’m working on my June, July, and August programs). So right now I’m running my winter programs, working on my spring programs, which have already been scheduled (although this usually means ignoring them until my big winter ones are done) and getting summer programs on the calendar. Generally this works out just fine; I have some regular programs, some outside speakers/teachers, and then try a few new things each session. My hang up though, is when I want to try something new and bigger and then I hesitate and because I hesitate it takes way longer than it should to put it into place. I hesitate because I don’t want to commit to something new and big before I have a better idea of what I want, but then I run out of time to flesh out the idea before programs need to be submitted for our newsletter and it gets pushed out for at least another three months. This usually goes on until I bite the bullet, put it in the newsletter and plan it when I’m working on the rest of that sessions programs.

I’m trying to get better about this. I read the book Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo, which I quite honestly found to be a little cringey and trying too hard with motivational type interjections (including conversation tips for talking to someone in an elevator – I have no desire to strike up a conversation with a stranger in an elevator), but it did get me to start making lists before I finished the book so it might not be a bad read (or maybe just check out her blog instead). I love the idea of planners and lists (both paper and apps); my problem is with the follow through. I start off all excited, fill things out diligently for weeks, and then I miss a day, and the next time I check the planner or app it has been two months and every item listed is out of date. The best luck I’ve had personally is with apps that you can have email you reminders (Google Calendar is the only things I’ve kept up with because of this feature), because apparently remembering to look at something every freaking day is too hard for me. The other one I’ve kind of been able to implement is at the end of each work day writing down 6 items I want to work on the next day on a post it – helps in giving myself direction when I start work and I don’t have to keep the same planner or notebook on hand at all times.

What do you use to make sure your program planning stays on track?

Some of my favorite apps/websites:
Google Calendar

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
  • 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 03/15/16.