Adults in the Teen Space

It’s one of those awkward issues we deal with as Teen Librarians: adults hanging out in the Teen section. Depending on how your library is set up, this may or may not be an issue. It was for me.

Some background: When I first started at my library, they were just finishing a huge addition to the old building. I was excited because I was coming from a VERY small library and now I was getting my own office in the Children’s Room that also had a separate Storytime Room! Amazing! So I was psyched to see what they had planned for the teen section…. The “Teen Section” was 2 low shelves DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE ADULT CIRCULATION DESK. Obviously there were some major trust issues going on. I was dumbfounded. This multi-million dollar addition did not include any separate space for teens at all.

Fast forward a couple of years and those 2 shelves were bursting. The adult floor consisted of a Reference section with 2 study rooms, then the circulation desk in the middle, the teen shelves and then the adult collection. I had heard about some libraries starting to integrate reference into non-fiction, so I told my director I was taking over Reference and she was all for it! We now have a much larger area for the Teen/Young Adult collection, which is awesome. However, it is not an enclosed area and adults who were used to sitting at the tables and using the computers in this space seemed to have no idea that anything had changed. The Tuesday night scrabble club continued to use one of the long tables for their “meetings” which scared away the teens. And adults continued to use the computers here instead of the ones in the adult section.

So even though the Young Adult collection was here, Adults still treated the space like it was part of the Adult area, which was understandable because it still kind of was. There were no walls or doors. There were plenty of tables, comfy chairs and computers in the Adult area to use, but you know how adults can get set in their ways! We had one rather interesting gentleman who used our long computer table in the Teen section as his private office. He would yell at the teens sitting on the other side of the room if they were talking. And then one day a teen told me he had been using a computer and a weird guy yelled at him and made him get off, stating it was “his” computer. That was the last straw for me.

I went to my director and told her that while adults were perfectly welcome and encouraged to browse and borrow from the YA collection, the tables, chairs and computers in that space should be reserved for teens only. I wanted our teens to not only feel like they had their own space, but that we cared about them as much as we care about our adult and children patrons. My director was completely supportive. I was worried about how some of the adults would react and I was worried about the adult staff taking the heat. Since my office is downstairs in the Children’s Room, I would be out of the line of fire. I told them and my director that if any adult patron had a problem, then I would speak to that person personally.

Then I made these signs:


At first people didn’t get it, but after a bit of explaining we got the message across and no one seemed overly upset about it. I think a few adults may have taken offense to the No Adult Parking signs, but they were really there for the teens and meant to be amusing. (My sense of humor doesn’t always translate….) We also recently painted the section a slightly different color (not many colors would match with the decor of the adult section) and we have a small decorating committee from TAB working on ideas. We leave the signs out all the time, even during school hours. We don’t usually kick out the stray adult who settles at a table when no other teens are there, but we steer any adults who ask about tables and computers to the adult area.

And all the teens in the library were happy. The end.


~I moved the Scrabble Club’s table to one in the adult section. They complained because they are now farther away from the Kuerig coffee machine. But the adult staff was really happy because they were kind of a rowdy group of old ladies!

~Crazy computer guy ignored the signs until we had to tell him he needed to move. He was actually completely fine about it. Sadly, he no longer visits our library anymore after getting in a fight with another patron, threatening to sue us, and getting kicked out. He then was kicked out of the library in the next town. He already had a restraining order from the library in his home town. Sometimes things really do work out for the best. 😉


Ask an Agent: Good YA Authors to Work With?

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: My library does an annual Teen Writing Contest where, in conclusion, we host a large gala for all the participants. For the last 3 galas, we have invited a YA author to speak at/host the reception. This seems to get a very positive response from all the teens and I would like to keep this tradition going. So my question is, what are some YA authors you have worked with in the past? And, what ways have you found are best in locating/contacting an author?


Creating a Cheap and Easy Program for ANY Fandom

It’s likely that the teens who frequent your library and are the most active participants have particular books series, television shows or movies with which they are obsessed. While the focus of the fandom may vary from year to year or even within your group of teens, I’ve found that for most any fandom there are several cheap and programs that you can employ that will satisfy their craving for fandom-specific programming. The following ideas can be combined to create one full evening of events or used separately for shorter after school programs.


This one is obvious, but there are a few different directions that you can take, depending on your group.

Jeopardy!: Several years ago, I created a Jeopardy! style game for Hunger Games using a PowerPoint template that I found online. It took me a few hours to come up with categories and questions that increased in difficulty for each topic, but once the game was set (including Double and Final Jeopardy!) I had myself a board that I brought out annually for 5 consecutive years. It never failed. They loved it. I had a few kids who even came back year after year who would get stumped on the same questions. I made a few updates over time if I thought of a better question to throw in, but otherwise it required no additional work.

Kahoot!: More recently, I’ve been using Kahoot! to take trivia to the next level. You can create your own quiz OR just hunt around and find a good one that’s already been created. Set up a computer and projector to show the questions. Participants log into your game via a smartphone or computer (no additional sign up required on their part), and off you go. Kahoot! keeps track of points and gives a bonus for the speed with which one answers. My teens go crazy.

Trivia Books/Games: These are great for just picking up and asking questions from a random card or page, but can also be used for a more structured competition. I like to use Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit and some trivia books for Harry Potter and Star Wars. They also make a Dr. Who Trivial Pursuit. Andrews UK publishes a variety of trivia books. Questions vary in difficulty, so there’s usually something for everyone (unless, like some of my teens, they’ve memorized the entire Trivial Pursuit game). If all else fails, have teens create their own questions!

Twenty Questions

If I have to pick a favorite, I think this one is it. I tried this first with Harry Potter and it worked so well, I’ve used it with Hunger Games and Star Wars. Any fandom with a lot of characters will work well for this game. All you do is get a whole bunch of nametag stickers or even post-its. On each, write the name of one character (human, animal, droid or otherwise). Each participant gets a post-it/nametag stuck on his/her back and must run around asking yes/no questions to discover who they are. For Harry Potter, we first drank “Polyjuice Potion” (lemon-lime soda + lime sherbet) and the schtick was that you has to figure out who it turned you into. For Star Wars, your memory is erased by a Jedi mind trick and you don’t know who you are. You get the idea. Once you figure out who you are, you run back and get another nametag. You can make it a competition (person who figures out the most identities wins) or just do it for fun. I thought this would be a silly activity that just filled time. I was wrong. They love this so much they’ll just turn in used nametags to have them redistributed to the next person so that they can keep playing, which makes it kinda cool if you wind up being the same character twice.

Cupcake Decorating

Aside from trivia, this is my go-to. It’s an active/creative activity, snack, and competition in one! Buy (or bake) enough un-iced cupcakes so that each participant gets two. Put out a couple of tubs of chocolate and vanilla icing. In bowls with spoons, provide a variety of toppings, from basic sprinkles, to googly eyes, to mini-marshmallows, mini-M&Ms, and the fancy shaped and colored sprinkles. Purchase a couple of colors of icing for detail work and lettering. Give the instruction to decorate the cupcakes around the fandom theme. Teens submit one of their cupcakes into the competition and eat the other. Teens or adults can be the judges of whose is best and award fandom related prizes. The competition cupcakes can be brought home at the end. Or, more likely, consumed almost immediately after the judging is finished.

Dodgeball & Capture The Flag/Stuff

Everyone loves these games and knows the rules because they’ve been playing them since they were little. If you have a gymnasium or other large open room, you can divide it in half and make these games happen. For Harry Potter, one dodgeball team becomes the Death Eaters and the other is Dumbledore’s Army, fighting in the Battle for Hogwarts. For Star Wars, it’s the Rebel Alliance v. the Empire. You get the picture. Be sure to use the soft, squishy foam balls; NOT bouncy playground balls. Trust me. For Capture the Stuff, it’s the same deal, but the “stuff” is horcruxes (Harry Potter) or supplies from the Cornucopia (Hunger Games).

The great thing about these programs is that they don’t cost much to create and many of the supplies can be reused in the future for other activities. Best of all, your teens will get to engage in different ways: creative, athletic, and mental, so there’s something for everyone.

Beyond the YMAs

You know the Caldecotts and Alex’s, and Stonewalls and Belpres’. Carnegies’ and Morris’ and King, Printz, and Newberys. But do you recall- any list that didn’t make the celebration brouhaha…(sung loosely to the first 30 seconds of  of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)?

We love the YMAs because we love celebrating the best books, and typically the Youth Media Awards at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting does that. Yet for all the awards that are celebrated at the YMAs there are more lists and awards that go unheralded, ones that are equally deserving of being placed in our collections- perhaps even more so because a lot of these books and lists are created by groups whose voices are marginalized within the youth and publishing community. Take some time to check out these lists and award winners, and add them to your collections:


How (and Why) I Went All Digital With My Organization: My Alternative to a Bullet Journal

I have been struggling to reconcile paper and digital organization for years. As someone who likes to write things down and take notes, I always felt like I should favor paper organization. In 2015 I went so far as trying to actively make myself into a notebook person. I read up on bullet journaling. I bought a refillable traveler’s journal with a pencil case, a lined notebook, and a calendar. I made lists, I took notes while I read about the KonMari method, I had planner stickers to track tasks completed. By mid-2016 it was time to admit that my notebook life hadn’t accomplished anything more than duplicating my work and adding a significant amount of weight to my bag.

There had to be a better way.

So I decided to experiment with going digital.

Getting Started: What Information Do You Need? Where Do You Need It?

If you are in love with Bullet Journaling but want to go digital, you can find numerous ways to set up apps as a digital bullet journal including guides from reddit, makeuseof, and more. Trello might also be a good option if you’re a fan of a visual grid layout. I found the BuJo process restrictive and tedious, so I didn’t worry too much about following similar guidelines.

If I was a fan of Google I could have used a lot of their applications and had them sync on my phone as well as wherever else I logged in. Some third party apps like Evernote offer options to sync across multiple devices as well as on a web platform. Others like Wunderlist start free but provide expansion options to paid users.

To avoid buying new things or creating new accounts, I decided to try to use all of the native apps on my iPhone. I also decided to go ahead and use my phone as a “base of operations” since I always have it with me instead of worrying about accessing information from multiple devices.

What I Changed: Calendar

Migrating my calendar was the easiest. I already used my phone’s calendar app to track my daily work schedule. When I took a closer look at my habits I realized that I tracked things more minutely on a paper calendar I kept at work. I still keep that for easy reference but when I update the calendar each month I also transcribe everything so it’s on my phone calendar. I made separate color-coded calendars for things I knew I would be doing often (work, fun, blog stuff, etc.). Then I just started entering everything into one place including my work hours, programs, reviews to cross post, etc.

How It Worked: Since consolidating all of my scheduling on my phone I have been much less likely to accidentally miss something or double book myself. As I got used to checking the phone calendar I also found it was a helpful way to get ready for the day and see my week plotted out.

What I Changed: Reminders

The one thing I really liked from trying out a notebook was that I could make checklists. Crossing items off to do lists was satisfying and offered tangible proof of my progress. But it also got messy.

That’s where the Reminders app came in. Instead of having one monstrously long to do list, I used the app to create multiple lists which I named and color coded to match my calendars (green for work, orange for blogging, blue for miscellaneous, etc.). I also arranged the lists according to the color spectrum but that’s definitely just a bonus.

How It Worked: Reminders have changed my life! The multiple lists have been incredibly helpful to keep a running tab of groceries to buy, and things to do. I’ve even started using it when I need to remember things like my last ATM withdrawal or postage fees. I have a separate list for committee work with deadlines and items to cover as I prepare training materials, a standard list for work items (book ordering, readers’ advisory lists, displays), a list for posts I need to write for TSU, and a rather long one of book reviews I need to finish. I get the satisfaction of crossing things off but they also disappear once completed so I am not left with a cluttered list. I can edit as I go if things change. Best of all I can add reminder alerts so I will get a notification if any tasks come due (or overdue). It’s great.

What I Changed: Notes

Notes were probably the biggest change for me. It felt like taking any kind of notes or doing extended writing on my phone would be inherently unproductive even though I knew from experience that I wasn’t going to pull out a notebook in the middle of the street or on the subway. So I finally decided to lean in and embrace my phone. It turns out that the iPhone Notes app offers a lot of versatility. I can make checklist bullet points for long running items that might not fit anywhere else, I can take notes while reading review books, jot down ideas, and keep things I need to reference regularly (this often includes the weight of packages I need to mail or hashtags I copy and paste for instagram posts).

How It Worked: This has been going better than expected. I’m writing more things down (and remembering more of what I need to) and making use of the option to take notes much more. Because the Notes app is an entity unto itself, I’m also taking more time to back up things on my computer and transfer relevant items where they need to be. For instance, moving notes for reviews to post drafts or the like.

What Happened When I Went All Digital

So now you know how I went all digital and why. What happened? Well, I decided to consolidate my organization digitally in October of 2016 and so far I’m still going strong. I feel more efficient and like I have a better grasp of the tools at my disposal and what I have on my plate both at work and at home at any given time. My biggest advice if you’re trying to reorganize your life is to take some time to think about how you process information. After examining your habits it is a lot easier to come up with a new strategy and find something that will work for you whether that means analog paper methods or hi-tech digital tools!

Have you tried Bullet Journaling? Are you a fan? What digital tools help you keep your life in order?

Ask an Agent: Partnering with Sheriff’s Department?

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: The local sheriff’s department approached about getting more involved with the teens in our community and they acknowledged and appreciate the work we (at the library) do with them. We’re very excited for this opportunity so that we may be able to help forge a more positive relationship between law enforcement and our teens.
However, we also don’t want to scare our teens off. Does anyone have any experience with this kind of partnership and/or can give advice on how to proceed with this?


Wreck This Stuff! Frankentoys and Stuffed Animal Taxidermy

Let your teens bring out their inner Sid by giving them permission to do something they’ve always wanted to do: take apart their old toys and put them back together in different combinations.

Supplies: old toys, preferably ones with easily removable parts like dolls, vehicles, action figures, etc. Stuffed animals will also work well for this. Either ask for donations or pick some toys up at a secondhand store or a dollar store. You will also need hot glue and hot glue guns, sewing materials, duct tape, and possibly superglue for holding the things together once they’re pulled apart, as well as pliers, scissors, and other tools for taking things apart. While I don’t usually supply the children at my library with sharp scissors, hot glue guns, needles, etc., it wasn’t a problem when I let the teens use them. If necessary, you can clarify with the teens important things like, “Hot glue guns are hot and can burn you.”

Process: Teens take apart toys and glue them back together in unusual combinations. For the stuffed animal taxidermy, I provided wooden plaques for teens to glue animal heads (or other parts) to. They can also sew stuffed animal parts together to make unusual new animals. Teens will happily spend an hour or more creating their new “friends.” You can even hand out prizes for the most creepy, most unusual, most cuddly, etc.

For this program, I set out the materials on a separate table, and the teens played a quick game to determine who would have first access to the items. You could also choose based on age, trivia questions, or just the kids you like best. After the teens grab what they need, I just circulate and answer questions, take pictures, and make appreciative comments regarding their lovely creations. When I did this program I had one teen ask for red paint, which I supplied because of her request, but I didn’t plan initially to have paint sitting out.

One final note: if the room where you hold this program is also used for children’s programming, you may want to be efficient about clean-up so that the children coming in for storytime don’t see the leftover stuffed animal and toy bits.


The teens at my library who missed this program were extremely disappointed once they saw the results and were begging me to host it again. I am adding it to our regular list of popular programs, along with duct tape crafts and Minute to Win It style games.

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!