Getting the Word Out About Online Resources


How does your library promote its online databases, content services, and educational offerings like classes and test prep programs? Most of the time it’s just a link on the website, and maybe a brochure or bookmark sitting on a desk somewhere.

For teens to really benefit from these resources we have to go a step further and do some targeted marketing.  Let’s look at five examples of online resources and identify one obvious promotion opportunity and one that is a little more targeted.

Language Learning 

Yes, the foreign language teachers might be interested in these, but so might the youth minister in your community that plans international mission trips.

Online Tutoring

You’ve got the word out to parents,  but what about the coaches? They have access to kids who need to keep their academics at a certain level but are very busy and are often not the kids you see in the library after school.

Test Prep 

You’ve sent information to the high school guidance office, but don’t forget organizations like the Urban League that do college tours and might welcome you to do a quick introduction or at least pass out materials.

Content Delivery (Overdrive, Hoopla, etc.)

I’m not sure we promote this stuff enough to teens other than trying to get them assigned reading when all the physical books are checked out. Maybe we think they already know?

Think about times when teens travel or might be away from the library for a while like Spring Break and summer vacation.  I would have loved access to library ebooks and magazines those nights when it was my turn for cabin duty working summer camp, and I bet teens spending a couple weeks at Grandma’s might too.

Classes (GaleCourses, Lynda etc.)

It seems obvious that homeschooled or other teens in non-traditional schooling might take advantage of these courses. However,  the beginning of summer might be a great time to promote these to all teens, especially those that are too young for a job.

What Next?

Make a list of five specific resources that would be useful to teens in your community and brainstorm a couple potential audiences for each one.

Links of the Month – February 2017

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 February:

Elissa Malespina talks about the importance of making your library an inviting space in An Open Letter to School Librarians: Silence Is not Golden at School Library Journal.

If you haven’t seen the amazing multilingual Libraries are for Everyone graphics by Rebecca McCorkindale aka Hafuboti, check those out immediately. You can even get a printable activity sheet for something more interactive thanks to Laura Luker remixing the open source art: Libraries Are For Everyone Because…

Think about ways to build management skills in Paving Your Career Path by Krissy Wick at the ALSC Blog.

For resources to help teach media literacy, check out School Library Journal’s News Literacy Pinterest page, curated by Jen Thomas, media and educational technology specialist at West Bridgewater (MA) Middle Senior High School.

At the ALSC Blog, Kathia Ibacache writes about serving Special Needs Teens in our Summer @ Your Library.

Read about Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 1 and Part 2 by Kylie Peters in the YALSAblog’s Middle School Mondays series.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) just launched its new Teen Book Finder Database, which includes information about books that have won YALSA awards or appear on selected lists.

Learn how to mix pop culture and reader’s advisory with Pokemon Readers’ Advisory by Jenni Frencham at from the Biblio Files.

At Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, check out two ideas for passive programming: It’s All About the Memes by Robin Willis and #MakerSpace: Typewriter Fun by Karen Jensen.

Pick up some programming inspiration:

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

Planet Coaster (Beyond the Pixels)

Were you a fan of RollerCoaster Tycoon 1, 2, and/or 3? Do you enjoy making beautifully landscaped and thematic theme parks, creating insane roller coasters, and watching from your park visitor’s point of view as they ride rides and navigate your park? Look no further than Planet Coaster, created by Frontier – the same company that brought us RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (RCT3).

While RCT3 was a pretty big change from what made RCT1 and RCT2 great, it was still a generally well regarded theme park simulator. However, RCT3 was published all the way back in 2004 and computer games have done a lot of evolving since then. The tycoon craze wore off and theme park and roller coaster building games died off with it, much to the dismay of the roller coaster building enthusiasts – including yours truly.

Then, recently, a few theme park games started generating buzz – Roller Coaster World (created by Atari), Parkitect, and Planet Coaster. While Roller Coaster World has generally been regarded as a complete flop and money grab, and Parkitect is a fairly low budget indie project, Planet Coaster has made huge waves and has been met with high praise from most reviewers.

Planet Coaster makes you the park owner and manager of a theme park and it’s all on you to make it successful. There are challenge modes where you must fix up a park and complete specific objectives, like a certain number of rides or park visitors, and there is a sandbox mode where you can do whatever you please with your own fresh park. You can build gentle, calm rides such as the Rocktopus, the Teacups, or the Whirlygig, or move into thrill-seeking rides like the Cube or the Forge. There are shops for burgers and drinks, toilets, information kiosks, and more. Scenery options are fairly extensive and leave a lot of room for creativity, and the hope is that more and more scenic elements are released as downloadable content.

Can you guess what the picture below is?

This game is on the Steam platform and gives access to the Steam Workshop as well, so other players have created their own blueprints of parks, buildings, and coasters. This means that there’s always beautiful scenery, parks, and crazy coasters that you can download and use in your own park. So, if you guessed that someone recreated Hogwarts and Hogsmeade in that picture above, you’d be correct. The community has taken this game to amazing heights.

You can even ride the rides you create! Below is a picture of a track ride that goes through an underground kraken lair.  The pirates are fighting off a tentacle through that cave mouth you’re about to ride through.

The game really shines when it comes to coaster building. Multiple types of coasters are available, from inverted to wooden to power launchers and tons more. You can make your own hills and drops, loops, inversions, set up dueling coasters, and do so much more that I can’t even begin to describe it all here. Check out tutorials or playthroughs on YouTube for more information, because there are a ton of ways to build incredible coasters.

So, how does this apply to teen programming? Well, the physics engine in regards to coaster building is pretty slick and can help teach teens about the forces generated on roller coasters. G-forces, speed, and airtime are calculated based on the design of your coaster and help influence the coasters ratings for excitement, nausea, and fear, which affect how many patrons are willing to ride it. If it’s too intense or dangerous, no one will ride it. If it’s too tame, only small children may have any interest in it, and then it may not generate the income your park needs.

The management portion of the game is fairly light but still requires some thought put into it. This game can help teens learn how to manage finances as there are multiple financial responsibilities they have to watch out for. They need to make sure that their park staff are paid well enough, manage prices for food and drink stalls, and price their rides to get the maximum profit from each guest without being off-putting to potential customers because of the high price. Players even have to conduct research for new rides and craft marketing campaigns to increase their park’s popularity!

Besides those educational bits, the game is just plain fun. It’s a nice change from the yearly re-hash of the most popular genres of games, and brings back a popular, niche game in a big way.

If you’ve played Planet Coaster and have any thoughts on it, let me know in the comments!

YA SMACKDOWN February 2017 Round-up

Welcome to our YA Smackdown Round-Up! For those of you who haven’t heard about it, YA Smackdown is an informal, guerrilla-style idea-sharing activity for teen library service professionals. It’s always fun and there’s something to learn for everyone.

You can join in on a Smackdown at various professional events, start your own with our handy downloadable kit, or join in on a TSU-hosted challenge on social media every Wednesday! (Find us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.)

After each month, we’ll post a collection of some of the more noteworthy responses. We hope you’ll all join in every week!


Favorite way to work de-stress?

“Work out!!! 💪💪 Followed by wine and chocolate. 😄 “- Dolly G.

“Play with the dog, then dive into a book while enjoying an adult beverage.” –Denise F.

“Before work, workout (yoga for a day expected to be EXTRA stressful.) At work, tea and accomplishing something finite and tangible, followed by work on a pet project (like LGBTQ outreach.) After work, beer (or gin, depending on the day,) cooking, and kisses.” – Hannah R


Favorite Anime videos to show?

“Bananya. Just watch it–it’s adorbs!” –Kelsey P.

“Little Witch Academia! As close to anime Harry Potter as we’ll ever get.” – David K

“Yuri on Ice!!! Want to get the teens squealing with joy? That’s the one. Also we’ve had a lot of fun watching Sakamoto Desu Ga! It’s hilarious.” – Lyndey C.

“Donyatsu is fun, bizarre, and short.” – Flannery C. 


Adulting 101

How to adult?! Many of us on Facebook have written posts either asking about or sharing ideas for “adulting” classes for teens. There are so many amazing ideas out there that I’ve added them all here as a way for you to easily search and snag! Plus your titles were fantastic; “Life Hacks” and “#LifeSkills” and just straight to it “How to Adult.” You guys are all amazing.

Apartment Hunting 101
All Things Cars- From changing a tire, to checking your oil, filling up window washer fluid, and changing a headlight
Budgeting 101
Checking Accounts & Savings Accounts
CPR & First Aid
College 101- Invite local college students or representatives to present
College Applications
Getting Around Town w/out a Car
Healthy Eating on a Budget
How to Fill out a Job Application
How to Get a Summer Job
Laundry Basics
Nail that Interview
Resume Tips
Scholarships and How to Get One
Sewing 101
Stress Relief
Tool Kit
Your First Credit Card

Be sure to check around your community to see who you could bring in to present!

One thing I will add is that these programs may not have teens knocking down your doors to get into. When I did them at my library, the most popular ones were cooking and CPR. In times like these, I like to remind myself that it’s about quality not quantity. Offering a program like this can help change the lives of those two or three teens that attend and that’s what we’re striving for!

Cooking Club

Today we have a guest post from Lisa AF Barefield and she’ll be talking about her cooking club

In working to create a series of programming under the umbrella Adulting 101 I started a basic cooking program. Our library meeting room does have a kitchen, but not one patrons have access to, so recipe options were limited. However, the point of the program was to introduce basic (dorm room style) cooking skills.

For the first meeting I picked quesadillas because it gave the teens options (and partially because I had access to an electric quesadilla maker that I could have the group use to cook their final products); they could make themselves a plain cheese one, or they could add various vegetables and/or chicken (cold, but pre-cooked, so there was no fear of food poisoning from undercooked meat), I even had a recipe for guacamole ready for those who were really ambitious. This first meeting had a respectable turn out, I don’t think it broke into double digits, but it was enough that I scheduled another one.

For the second round of cooking club I picked personal pizzas, with the same thought as the quesadillas, first time “chefs” could make the basic cheese version and those who were more adventurous could add toppings.

For each of the cooking clubs I demonstrated the basic recipe, walked them through cutting the vegetables (and went over basic safety guidelines) and then let the group go to work on their own creations; I was available to help and then as they were finishing up I manned the quesadilla maker and the microwave to finish off the “cooking” process.

By and large the groups went for the basic recipes. For many this was their first foray into cooking and they weren’t comfortable dicing peppers or hacking into an avocado. However, each time I had a few participants who just went for it (in the case of the avocado they ended up needing a bit of direction) and made multiple variations to try.

Things I learned: I assumed the teens coming to cooking club would have some cooking experience, overall, not so much. A few were decently experienced, however most were curious, but had never so much as chopped a vegetable. The teens were mostly novices, so simple was better. That being said, since most of them went with making a basic cheese quesadilla or pizza they were finished pretty quickly, and I either need to spend more time teaching a specific cooking technique or have another cooking activity planned (like a quick dessert, because who doesn’t like dessert?).

Things to consider: Since we don’t have a full kitchen available anything that needed warming or melting needed to be done in the (one) microwave, so nothing could take too long or they would be a back up. Everything I used could be eaten as is (not necessarily in terms of taste, but in terms of safety.

I will definitely try this program again and based on teens’ suggestions (of dips and desserts) I might plan an appetizers and desserts themed one this summer.

Tailoring Collection Development to Your Patrons

If you buy them, they will circulate. If only this were true for all of our books. Sometimes our carefully curated collections fly off the shelves, but still there are sections where the dust gathers and the books just don’t move. How can we curate collections that will please our patrons?

Look at the Statistics

Check the statistics for your particular library. What books have the highest circulation? Can you order more by that same author or in that same genre? Can you see a trend developing – books about vampires, or mermaids or romance or whatnot? If you can, check the statistics for other similar-sized libraries in your system. It could be that the books your patrons would like aren’t on your shelves yet.

Look at Shelving Carts and Hold Shelves

Check the shelving carts periodically. Check the hold shelves. You may see the same title(s) more than once. This will also help you see what items your patrons would check out if they could find them on your shelves.

Ask Your Staff

If you don’t work the circulation desk with any regularity, talk to the staff who do. Talk to the pages. They will know which books are constantly circulating, which authors they can’t keep on the shelves, and which ones they never see leave the library.

Ask the Patrons

If you have a teen advisory board or a teen book club, ask them what types of things they’d like to read. You may have to ask more than once in order to get an answer more helpful than, “Books with words in them,” which is what one of my teens told me when I asked. Ask them for their favorite authors or genres or series, and make sure to have more of those books on hand. Teens are very willing to give advice on what books to buy if they know they are going to be taken seriously.

Continue to Collect Diverse Titles

The titles with LGBT characters do not circulate much at my library. Books with nonwhite main characters are the same way. This does not mean that I will stop buying diverse books for my library, but that does mean that I need to work harder to get those books into the hands of patrons, perhaps by finding ways that those books intersect with their interests. Fantasy books are popular with my teens, so I might not convince them to pick up a Bret Hartinger novel, but I can probably get them to read something by Malinda Lo.

Reader vs Reader: Allegedly

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 Faythe both read Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Reader vs Reader: Allegedly

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

The Quick Reactions:

thumbs up
thumbs up
Faythe: Thumbs up for the most part.I really liked the journey.  How life was for her in the group home.  The struggle to get adults to give her a chance. All the ones who think she’s stupid just because she was in jail.Andrea: Thumbs up. I overall enjoyed the story. I think there’s something to be said about an author who can make you sympathize and root for a baby killer. However, there were some things I found problematic and the ending really frustrated me as well.


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


Fandom Debates

My kids are always asking for Fandom related things, but there are rarely enough fans of any given fandom to reach critical mass for a party or event about a specific party (Harry Potter is a notable exception). So I try sometimes to do general fandom programs that could reach a wider audience. Fandom debates were a suggestion from my Advisory Board. They wanted to debate various hot button topics from a variety of fandoms. They wanted pros and cons and people to argue them against. They didn’t give me any specific examples but I managed to sort at least an idea of what they wanted.

So last summer, I planned it. I came up with a main debate: Was Snape good or bad? figuring it might be a draw because of the continued popularity of Harry and also might help explain the idea behind the program. I asked kids to bring their own but also came up with a few from major fandoms as well. I later realized upon talking to some of the other kids and some of the kids who came that not as many tweens and teens are familiar with the term ‘fandom’ as I, and most of my Advisory Board are, so I’m now looking into alternate wording for Fandom programs.

At the program itself, I got three kids (two sisters), which is low for summer and less than I was hoping, but it turned out we had a blast. It also turned into a slightly different program. One of them had not read Harry Potter and the three of them as a whole had basically no fandoms in common. However, they loved the concept and debated about a host of topics. After the non-Harry reader didn’t care about spoilers, we did talk about Snape and a few other things, but we also talked about what makes a book good and why and why one of the kids liked horror and another couldn’t stand it. The trio ended up exchanging book suggestions, are now friends and are program regulars.

In all, I consider it a success, even if not quite the way I meant. However, I’ve incorporated ideas of it into other programs and in my upcoming three fandom program (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter), I’ll be offering up some things for debate among fans of each.

It was also super simple to set up. I offered some basic snacks and drinks but other than that there was no cost. I knew debate topics for most of the major fandoms out there, but did a bit of research just to make sure I had a few lesser known and also a couple more generic questions (which is what got the kids started on what makes a book good and other ideas). Knowing how to debate topics politely is actually a really good skill to have and it’s not a bad thing to teach kids in an indirect way such as this.

Favorite Fantasy Book

Today we have a guest post from Jennifer Rummel at Cragin Memorial Library. She’s talking about her favorite fantasy books.

One of my favorite genres to read is high fantasy – where the girls kick serious butt. Luckily for me, the YA world tends to agree with me and we have tons of books to choose from. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

Alanna by Tamora Pierce
On the way to their respective schools, Alanna, who craves adventure, switches places with her brother who would rather learn magic. Alanna begins her training as a page. Her days are terribly hard. She’s’ desperate to keep her identity a secret, deal with all the homework, and forge friendships that will last.


Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
After a rain storm in their village, which hasn’t seen rain in ten years, a wizard appears, taking credit. The chief offers the wizard, Wayland North, a reward. The wizard demands his daughter Sydelle. Wayland believes he can stop the upcoming war with Sydelle’s help. Together, they set out across the country to deliver their information. But he’s keeping secrets from Sydelle, secrets that will change everything once she learns the truth.


Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Serafina’s big day has finally arrived. By the end of the day, she will have shown her court her strength as their next leader and be betrothed to Prince Mahdi. That morning, she wakes late from a terrible nightmare. As she readies herself for the day, rumors swirl around her: about her betrothed, about herself, and about unrest in the kingdom. Her moment of triumph is ruined when an arrow slices through the water and hits her mother. The nightmare wasn’t something to dismiss, Sera knows that she must find the other mermaids from her dream. Together they have the power to save the realm – if they’re not captured first.

Eon by Alison Goodman
Eon and his master have been training for years. They hope that Eon will be chosen as a Dragoneye – an apprentice to dragons. But Eon has two strikes against him. He’s crippled, making it harder for him to train and making him untrustworthy in people’s minds. But he’s also in disguise; he’s really Eona, a sixteen year old girl posing as a 12 year old boy. When Eona isn’t chosen as the dragoneye, everything seems lost until an ancient dragon thought to be lost forever, chooses Eona. Females are forbidden to use dragon magic and no one can discover Eona’s secret. But with the council divided, Lord Eon becomes a ray of hope for the Emperor and his supporters. Her secrets might be her downfall and the downfall of those who support her.

Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Jacinda has a deep dark secret; she’s a draki – a descendant of dragons who can portray themselves as humans. Jacinda can breathe fire, a rare gift. In order to escape the attentions of the prince, whom she has no interest in, she escapes in the dead of night along with her mother and her sister. They travel to the desert, where they will blend into the human world. The heat from the desert threatens to kill her draki form – which is part of her mother’s intention. Jacinda feels trapped. She hates her life. Then she meets Will. She feels drawn towards him and even though she knows she should stay away from him, she can’t. Will she remain in human form or will her struggle with her draki side force her to take action in saving herself?

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Rebelling against her uncle, the king, Katsa and others have created a council to secretly rescue people like herself. During a rescue mission, she meets a prince. He challenges her in more ways than one. He’s searching for his grandfather’s kidnappers. As friendship grows between Katsa and Po, she can’t bear the thought of him leaving her behind. So she travels with him. Their path is as dangerous as their enemies. Can they survive the journey and face the truth about the threat of the seven kingdoms?

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Ismae’s scar is a mark that the god of Death claims her. She’s brought to a covenant where she learns that she’s an instrument of Death. They will train her to become an assassin. After years, a man almost interferes with her first two assignments. He’s the half brother of the queen. He’s trying to uncover information of treason, but Ismae keeps killing the men responsible without interrogating them first. They must work together to uncover the mastermind behind the evil

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs
Grace has always known she was adopted, but she never knew that she had sisters, that she was part of a set of triplets. She meets her sister by chance. It’s her sister who explains they are descendants from Medusa and they must guard the gateway. Only they can stop the monsters from taking over the world.


Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Becoming the King’s assassin is the only way for Celaena Sardothien to earn her freedom. But what do you do when that king is a monster and your life is in danger?



Touch of Frost
by Jennifer Estep
After a deadly accident changed her life, Gwen’s attending the private Mythos Academy where the students are all deadly warriors -all of them except her. Mythos Academy is the training ground for the deadly battle of good vs. evil. When a student dies, the rest of the student body moves on – quickly. Gwen’s determined to figure out what happened even if it means putting her life on the line.


A few A/YA Books:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Yelena’s offered a choice: become the food taster for the Commander of Ixia or be executed for the crime she committed. Yelena chooses to live. On her first day, the chief of security deliberately poisons her, leaving her needing the antidote daily, keeping her loyal to him in theory. Plots arise to overthrow the Commander and Yelena will have to use all her new training if she wants to keep her head.


Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
In the world of Renthia, the Queen rules all, from the humans to the malevolent spirits. But this Queen, even with her strength, can’t seem to control all the spirits. When Daleina’s village is attacked by spirits and destroyed, she has some power to stop them. Because of that power, she takes the test of the academy. When she passes, she gives up everything she knows to train for the chance to become Queen. Deleina isn’t the best nor the most skilled student, but she works hard to make up for it. She rarely sees her family. When a disgraced champion comes looking for a student to train, they chose each other. Can two outcasts change the world?

And so many great looking ones are coming out this year that I can’t wait to read.