Things To Do at a TAB Meeting #1: Make a Book Display!

You’ve worked hard to get teens interested in coming to your Teen Advisory meetings and they’re finally here!

Now what???

One of my go-to activities for my TAB meetings – after snacks, of course – is to have them do monthly book display and/or decorate for various holidays. Since we usually have meetings once a month, this works out pretty well. I’ve found that when I don’t have a specific agenda (or haven’t had time to plan one) this seems to really engage them, regardless of age or gender. I usually try to research 2 or 3 ideas for displays, typically from Pinterest, and print pictures of them so they have an idea of where to start. Sometimes they try to copy one, or make their own. It usually becomes a scavenger hunt for books that fit the display theme, whether it’s by a word in the title or the color of the cover. It can even be a STEM activity if you try to build a book tree!

Here are a few reasons why this is such a great activity to do with your TAB:

  1. It requires a sneaky form of teamwork
  2. It makes the teens feel more at home in the library
  3. It makes the teen space THEIR space
  4. They become more familiar with the collection
  5. As I mentioned before, teens of all ages, genders, backgrounds, etc. can usually get into it and have fun!

Here are a few pictures of my TAB creating some amazing displays! Check out my Pinterest boards for some ideas!



No Separate Teen Space?

I know many of us are lucky enough to have our own separate teen space for the teens to hang out. Some of us are doubly lucky and have a desk in our teen space. And some of us have none.

I’m closest to the none. I share a desk with the rest of Youth Services and usually get the computer facing towards our YA section, but it’s more of a large alcove than anything, with a giant pillar in the middle which obstructs my view of a good portion of the section. We have couches across from it near the desk but all their sitting space on the floor and such has been filled in by furniture (not my choice). The YA area itself has two high top tables tucked in the back with three high chairs each.

It’s a great space for the collection as far as shelving and is the perfect size for what our collection should be, for the most part (I’d like a few more shelves for a small nonfiction section and/or putting the YA audiobooks there, but I’ll still take it). However, since I’m also on the desk for all patrons there, it’s hard sometimes to even spot my teens as they come in. My usual suspects I can often spot far enough ahead I can say hi as they pass the desk. I try sometimes to approach teens in the area (when I can see them) but not only is it not really in my personality (flaw, I know) but I’m usually busy and can’t get away to say hi or see if they need something.

The best I’ve managed is to try and at least give them all a smile and a hello, with a name if I know it, but it’s definitely a work in progress that might never fully pan out as well as I’d like.

How can we still create an environment for our teens that is inviting and gives them the space that they need when we don’t physically have a space devoted to them that hits their needs? Many of us have picked a space somewhere in the library to designate as a teen gathering space, and many use signs to keep other age patrons away during the primo teen times (Afterschool, weekends, vacations, etc.).

We all try and help teach our coworkers why teens are important and not to overreact at their slightest behavior and let them rest wherever they want. We also open our program room on non-program afternoons to any kids wanting to do homework from middle school and up and word of it seems to be spreading as we had more kids than usual in the last month before the end of school.

I also make it a point to learn names as soon as possible. I’ve discovered I’m great at the names of people under 18 so I’ve made that my goal in life. To remember them after the first or second time I meet them. It definitely seems to pull in the kids, even though our hang out space isn’t great.

And, of course, we try and lure them back with programs that they want, which is why basically everything I do is Advisory Board suggested.

What other things do all of you do to get teens in the door to stay, hang out, feel comfortable approaching you for help and feel safe in the library when you don’t have a dedicated teen space and/or desk?

Getting Teens Involved in Summer Programming

When I started making the myriad reading logs necessary for our summer reading program (SRP), I knew I’d need a zillion copies of the kids’ log, probably several hundred of the log for the adults, but it was hard to figure out how many teen logs I’d need. The teen sign ups are never anywhere near the amount of sign-ups for the children, but I even had more adults signed up for SRP than I did teens. How can we get more teens involved in the summer reading program? 

  1. Visit their schools to promote summer reading. Perhaps you set up a table in the cafeteria or in the hallway before school. Perhaps you catch them by visiting their English classes. Whatever you do, make sure you visit them at school where you have a captive audience and can reach the kids who may not stop by the library on a regular basis.
  2. Allow them to register early. Maybe you can even do this while you’re at their school. If you can work with the librarian or the teachers, you could arrange for teens to sign up in their classes. Some teachers may even give their students extra credit for doing this, or for bringing in a completed log at the end of summer.
  3. Emphasize the things that count for your program. I make sure to tell teens that the time they spend reading the required summer list from school counts for our program, too, as does listening to audiobooks, reading to younger siblings, reading articles or fan fiction or gaming magazines. Some teens think that only reading novels will count, so they automatically assume that SRP is not for them. Dispel that rumor early and often.
  4. Make the prizes appealing. If you hand out prizes, make sure at least some of them are teen-friendly. Gift cards work really well for this. My teens also appreciate fandom-related items and food, so a basket containing a movie theater pass, a POP figure, and some candy will go a long way in motivating teens to be involved.
  5. Get teens involved in the planning. I ask our teen advisory board what types of programs they would like to have in the summer, and I make sure we do have at least one of their requested events. If possible, I have the teens themselves do the planning and run the program. When they take ownership, they are more likely to show up and also to invite their friends.
  6. Count volunteer hours. Our reading log has squares for time spent reading, but also squares for doing different activities, and one of the suggested activities is volunteering. I always emphasize to my teens that they can come help me at a program and count that toward finishing their log. This benefits both of us: I get extra hands to help me out, and they get to finish their log faster.

What types of things do you do to keep teens involved in your summer programming?

Beat the Heat: 8 Summer Stories To Take You Away

Summer is officially underway! Whether you’re hitting the beach, hanging poolside, traveling, or just trying to keep cool as you work the day away, reading is an excellent way to fill those bonus hours of daylight. Chock full of camp, first love, exploring new places and, of course, the beach, there’s sure to be something on this list perfect for your summer reading list.

  The Living by Matt de la Pena

Shy takes a summer job on a cruise ship in hopes of having a little fun while making some money. Before they even get out to sea things start to go awry, when a wealthy man goes overboard. Then an earthquake hits and the vessel is rocked by tsunami waves. Shy fights to survive on the sea after the ship sinks, but coming ashore may not hold the safety he seeks.

 Once And For All by SarahDessen

It wouldn’t be summer without Sarah Dessen! Louna has given up on love, but her summer job at her family’s wedding planning business requires her to help brides plan their perfect day. Enter Ambrose, a boy who’s determined to win Louna over and will stop at nothing to change her mind about love.

 Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

It’s the summer of 1977 and disco is hot! Tension is high is New York City, which is suffering from economic downturn, a rash of arsons, endless heat, a citywide blackout and a serial killer they’re calling Son of Sam, who preys on young couples. Nora just wants to escape it all, to dance with friends and have a summer romance with the cute boy at the deli where she works, but danger lurks around every corner.

 When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

It’s the summer before Dimple is set to head off to Stanford University and she can’t wait to escape her traditional Indian parents for a few weeks at a camp for future web developers, so that she can get a head start on her future. Little does she know, Rishi will be there too, and he’s thinking about the future too – a future where he and Dimple are married. Unbeknownst to Dimple, her parents and Rishi’s parents have already begun to put wheels into motion for an arranged marriage.

 Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Sierra Santiago’s summer plans for hanging with friends and making art are put on hold when a corpse crashes the first party of summer.  Then she notices the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep and fade. She soon discovers that her family are shadowshapers – creatives who infuse magic into their art – and finds herself the heir to a legacy that she must save from the forces that seek to destroy it.

 Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

These twelve short stories from popular YA authors including Tim Federle, Jennifer A. Smith, Jon Skovron and Nina Lacour will put you in full-on summer romance mode. Sunset strolls, shared ice cream cones and the thrill of first love await. Put on your bathing suit and head to your nearest beach or pool with this in tow.

 This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Every summer, friends Rose and Windy reunite at the lake and are as inseparable as sisters. This summer, however, things are different. Townie drama and secrets absorb their attention as they explore new-found adolescence. They’re growing up, and seemingly apart.

 Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

Thrash looks back at a pivotal summer at Camp Bellflower, the sleep-away camp where she spent the summers of her youth. Amid her obsession with the Backstreet Boys and the solace she found at the rifle range, Thrash also discovers her forbidden attraction to a female counselor.

Ask An Agent: We Need YOU

Ask an Agent has been going strong for over 2 years now! However, we’re about to run out of questions! We would love to continue this feature, but that means we need new questions. You can see what has been previously asked  before submitting a question. No question is too big/small, but it shouldn’t be something that is time sensitive.

We also need new volunteer agents. We all know that life is busy for a teen librarian and most questions have been going unanswered. I’m hoping by adding new agents to the pool we can get more questions answered. Interested? Sign up here!


How We Run Our Teen Advisory Groups

There are so many ways to run a teen advisory group. Do you wing it? Have an agenda? Officers? How much do you allow them to do? Here are how some of the TSU Agents run their group.

Andrea: My TAG is pretty laid back. No officers or anything like that. I usually come in with an agenda and try to get through what we can, which is usually most of it. The things I bring to them are program ideas, social media, books I’m on the fence about ordering, and Summer Reading. I also throw out any new ideas for the department to make sure it’s worthwhile. Essentially, I use them as my sounding boards and allow them to share any ideas or thoughts that they have about the library as a whole.

Molly: My Teen Advisory Board seems to be changing all the time, and I’ve learned to just roll with it. I’m kind of at the mercy of their schedules and after-school activities, not to mention whether or not they have a ride. We are in a rural area and it’s difficult for some kids to get to the library. One thing I recently started doing is giving teens community service hours for attending meetings. They can also earn hours for attending other teen programs if they are members of TAB, as a “perk” of membership. This has helped get more teens in the door and I have no problem “paying” them with service hours if it means I have teens at my programs! As for what we do at meetings, I usually have an agenda of some kind that I try to post online beforehand, which usually includes talking to them about programs they want, books, displays in the teen space, etc. I try to have a few back-up plans like an activity or a game. We always have some kind of snack, too!

Casey: My Advisory Board is a mix of Molly and Andrea. No officers and mostly planning programs, but some other things, we do a lot about summer. I do offer community service hours but most of the teens don’t need it. All of my programs really are from them at this point and it definitely helps with attendance at most programs. We meet once a month generally on the third Wednesday but at a later time than programs usually are. I generally get the same kids most months.

Links of the Month – June 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 June:

Curious about the 13 Reasons Why television adaptation and talking about it with teens in your library? Read How a Teen Librarian Addressed “13 Reasons Why” in Her Community by Robin Brenner in School Library Journal.

Demonstrate the impact of your library with an annual report. Elizabeth at Tales from a Loud Librarian talks about her process in Creating a Library Annual Report to Share with Stakeholders.

The American Association of School Librarians released its 2017 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning, which are fantastic resources to use in both school and public library settings.

At the YALSAblog, Abigail Phillips writes about why librarians should utilize makerspaces in Transforming Teen Services: Making in the Library While Learning to Fail. And at AASL’s Knowledgequest, Mica Johnson talks about lessons learned in Makerspaces: Updating Our Vision.

Speaking of makerspaces, Heather Booth offers some hands-on tips for Soldering with teens: just like hot glue, but metal at Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.

Still need some ideas for summer reading? Check out “Building a Better World” with City Building Games: Ideas for Summer Reading by John Pappas at WebJunction News for board game suggestions that can also be used year-round.

While Pride month is over, there’s no reason not to incorporate LGBTQIA resources into your everyday library work. Get some ideas over at the YALSAblog from Deborah Takahashi: Celebrate Pride Through Advocacy and Awareness @ Your Library.

And finally, some programming inspiration:

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

Great ALA Finds

Since ALA annual was local to me this year, I got the opportunity to go up to the exhibit hall for the day. I had hoped to talk to a lot of publisher reps about what they were pushing, excited about, or thought were the underdogs, but sadly the chaos surround most of the booths stopped that from happening. I had planned to talk about those books, but the best laid plans sometimes get changed. Instead, I’m going to highlight some of the books I got, saw, or heard about from others that I think people should have on their radar.


Refugee by Alan Gratz
Published: July 2017

JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

Why it’s on my list: This one may be a bit obvious, but with the refugee topic being such a hot-button issue this is a much needed book. I’m hoping it’ll give a look into what refugees are going through and help people understand the dire consequences most are in.


I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn
Published: September 2017

Dear Best Friend,

I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.


Ava Helmer

(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.

Stop crying.


So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

Why it’s on my list: Ugh, just reading the description tugged at my heartstrings. As someone who has moved a lot, I feel like this is totally relatable on so many levels, but it’s especially hard that first year of college when you’re starting that “next chapter”.


Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Published: October 2017

Taja Brown lives with her parents and older brother and younger sister, in Houston, Texas. Taja has always known what the expectations of her conservative and tightly knit African American family are—do well in school, go to church every Sunday, no intimacy before marriage. But Taja is trying to keep up with friends as they get their first kisses, first boyfriends, first everythings. And she’s tired of cheering for her athletic younger sister and an older brother who has more freedom just because he’s a boy. Taja dreams of going to college and forging her own relationship with the world and with God, but when she falls in love for the first time, those dreams are suddenly in danger of evaporating.

Told in fifty-four short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, Calling My Name follows Taja on her journey from middle school to high school.

Why it’s on my list:  This is one a rep recommended, but also that description sounds so good.


Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Published: October 2017


Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In that media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

Why it’s on my list: This one was already getting a bit of buzz, but just from the description I can tell why. I have a feeling this will be one of those powerful books we’ll all be talking about.


The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
Published: October 2017

One teenager in a skirt.

One teenager with a lighter.

One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.

Why it’s on my list: This is another one a rep booktalked. I always feel I’m a bit weak on non-fiction and love when I can add new titles to my wheelhouse. The author interviewed both sides and I’ve got my fingers crossed it’s told respectfully (the rep assured me it was).


Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Published: September 2017

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Why it’s on my list: I’m a sucker for fairytale retellings, but also this was one the rep was really excited for.  Also, I’ve already heard a lot of good buzz about it!


The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Published: October 2017

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Why it’s on my list: Beyond the buzz/love this one is getting, I just really love fantasy. I love dragons and kick butt girls and this one just seems like it’s going to be much talked about fantasy book.


The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Published: February 2018

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Why it’s on my list: Okay, technically this was on my list before ALA, but it still counts, right? First the cover is gorgeous, the description sounds amazing, and there’s already TONS of buzz. This one seems like a total hit in the making.

YA SMACKDOWN June 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!


Most Sought After SRP Prize by Your Teens So Far?

A Lego Mindstorms EV3 starter kit purchased with grant funds, a “Swag Bag” with fidget spinners and a donated limo ride to get ice cream, and (as always) a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card! – Rachel M.

Polaroid Snap Touch Instant/Digital Camera. – Donna B.

The prize for us is getting to hang out with me all summer  Haha! Our system did away with grand prizes this summer and we aren’t really feeling an impact on program or circ numbers. In fact, we were able to put more money into free books for the kids/teens that inquired about summer reading and it also left more money for programming supplies. So, win for us!- Amy M.


Favorite 2017 LGBTQAI+ book/GN?

Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is SO good. It is everything I never knew I needed. – Kevin K.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee. – Jenny Z.

It’s fluffy but Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde! – Kathleen H.



Photo Scavenger Hunts

One of the things I love about summer programming in a small town is that I can do programs that involve the teens running around the neighborhood. Anything that gets them out and about (and wears them out) is a good thing, and if I can incorporate something they already use all the time – their phones – then I’m golden.

I remember doing photo scavenger hunts back in the olden days when I was a teen. Our scavenger hunts involved Polaroid cameras, which you could still use if you wanted to, but aren’t completely necessary. All you really need is some willing teens, some fully charged devices, and a list of items to take pictures of.

I warned my teens in advance that they would want a phone, tablet, camera, or other picture-taking item to use. Really, it’s only necessary to have one device per group, and since the internet wasn’t needed for this project, I didn’t mind asking them to bring their phones. The teens met with me in our programming room, I explained the time limits, the rules, and the list of items, and I sent them on their way. When time was up, we looked through all the pictures, calculated the points, and declared a winner. Afterward, when the winners had been announced and snacks had been acquired, the teens were more than happy to chat with each other and look at their silly pictures from the night.

Pictures: There are dozens upon dozens of scavenger hunt lists online. I took one and whittled it down to include a reasonable list of items that gives enough variety and also provides a challenge to our teens. Some lists include various levels of points – pictures that are worth fifty points, others worth one hundred points, etc. etc. I kept it simple and left the point level for all pictures the same. I omitted any picture ideas that involved things that were dangerous or mocked other people; it’s completely possible for the teens to have a good time without making fun of others or putting themselves in danger.

Rules: I know my teens can act like reasonable human beings, but just like adults, teens occasionally need reminders about what that looks like. I did not allow them to drive for this scavenger hunt, and I specifically mentioned not doing anything illegal, not stepping on other people’s property without permission, and not causing disturbances in any businesses. For example, if they wanted to do the picture involving Burger King crowns, I didn’t mind if one of them quietly went in and asked for a couple of crowns and left, but I didn’t want them to bother the employees of the store.

Adjustments: Can’t let the teens run around the neighborhood? Could you do this as an after-hours program in the library itself? Could you have a meetup at a local park or mall and do the activity there? There are lots of ways to work around the idea of running about a small town, and the teens will love that you gave them an opportunity to do what they already like to do – take silly pictures and share them with each other.