When the answer to “What’s for dinner?” is “Leftovers!” my response is not always the most favorable.
In library programming for teens, though, I don’t think we use our leftovers nearly enough. Often, a program is a one-and-done deal, a free-standing event where teens do an activity, craft a…craft, and that’s it. Kids take their projects home, or we display them in the library, or they are dismantled so their component parts can be reused. (The latter is not what I mean by leftovers.) Often this is due to the nature of public library programs. We don’t always have the same kids at subsequent events, so we can’t as easily build upon past programs.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Planning for ways that your programs can carry over, but without attendance required at both, can reap numerous benefits for your programs and attendees. Before getting into those, though, let me clarify what I’m talking about with some examples of ways we’ve used “leftovers” at my library.
Sometimes, using your leftovers can involve a teen creation staying in the library and being used for other programs. Teens made their own mood rings and programmed an Arduino for use in a mood ball at one program, which was then used for probably the coolest book display we’ve had, where teens could find titles to match their mood results.
Star Wars finger puppets made for a drop-in DIY craft were later repurposed movie special effects class, where teens learned to add their own light sabers, green screen backgrounds, and sound effects. While the raw footage could have been of teens or library staff, the fact that it used weird little puppets that the teens had made gave both the craft a longer life and made their finished movies really unique.
Where it seems we’ve used “leftovers” the most, though, has been with Inklings, our creative writing club. Since so much of creative writing is idea-generation, we’ve found numerous ways to turn their ideas into actualities. These include:
Inklings learned about script writing, and teens adapted their scripts nto short films at our “Let’s Make a Movie!” program
Inklings wrote funny captions for weird pictures while discussing humor, which were used in a Photoshop class on creating customized memes
Inklings will soon team with our anime club to write a “Choose Your Own Adventure” comic, which our breakers coding club will post online as a webcomic
An upcoming program will have teens creat sound effects and recording unique “found sounds,” which Inklings will use as inspiration for short stories, which in yet another program will be read and recorded as podcasts with their sound effect inspirations.
Using Inklings as an idea-generation factory has been endlessly beneficial. Having clear projects for the creative writing club lets the teens experiment with new styles and types of writing, gives clear projects for teens more interested in the production process (rather than the creative one) to work on, and the Inklings teens get to see their harebrained schemes turned into realities.
Having the output of one program being used in another gives so many more benefits beyond saving work time. It creates a sense of continuity across your services, even for teens that don’t come to each one. If they hear that something they are working with is a teen creation, it creates a sense of community and collaboration, even between people who’ve never met. It can also encourage teens to explore programs beyond their normal interests. We had many of the script writers attend the movie making program that wouldn’t have done so otherwise, just because they felt an ownership of what was happening. Using leftovers can give your teens’ ideas and creations longer lives, and they can see them morph beyond what they originally envisioned. It also allows for larger and more elaborate creations that couldn’t easily fit into a single program, but each step is enriching and worthwhile on its own.
Hopefully this article has inspired many of you to break out the library Tupperware and find creative uses for programming leftovers. (I fear this metaphor has gotten away from me.) I know several of you have had program overlaps and used your leftovers in creative ways. Please share them in the comments!
Evan Mather is the Young Adult Librarian at the Bloomingdale Public Library in Bloomingdale, IL. He loves working with teens and finding innovative ways to foster creativity, learning, and build community partnerships. You can find Evan shouting smart library thoughts and/or dumb jokes at the Internet on Twitter (@evan_mather).