Tween Section, Yay or Nay?

Terminology is always growing and changing and libraries are no exception. Tween, short for tweenager, is a fairly recent term with multiple meanings. Some use Tween to describe 10-12 years, those in-between adolescents, and the teenage years. Others use it to describe middle schoolers (typically 6th-8th graders aged 11-14). 

Either way, many libraries have adopted the term and have used it for programming and/or collection development. For some libraries the question arises, should we have a separate collection for Tweens? Where should this section be located? Should tweens have their own area?

Some of us at Teen Services Underground are here to share with you the pros and cons we believe in when it comes to a Tween Section. Keep in mind it does ultimately come down to what works best for you and your library.

Some general Pros and Cons

Pro Con
Middle School Students can easily identify books that are geared towards them Middle School Students may be discouraged from reading books in the teen section, even if they are allowed to.
Parents can take comfort in knowing their child is reading a book that is geared towards them Teens may be discouraged from reading books labeled tween even if the book may interest them. This can include continuing to read authors/series they love as they venture into high school.
Creates a bridge for those not comfortable with teen books but too old/don’t want to be teased by reading Children’s books. As librarians when a book is geared towards middle and high school students we have to decide where to place it. The other option, if we should buy two copies if the budget allows.
There’s a big difference in maturity levels between middle schoolers and high schoolers, so having different sections is helpful to keep more mature/advanced titles together. Libraries have limited space and there can be space/logistical issues with splitting the collection.


Amanda’s Thoughts:

I say go for it. Even if your Tween books are just shelved at the beginning or end of your Teen books, it allows for a nice comfort zone. Maybe add some signage indicating they are for Tweens and Tweens at heart for those who still want to read Tween as they head to Teen. Also, you can’t go wrong with the word recommend. As in, these books are recommended for this age or grade range. I also suggest doing it for not just fiction, but graphic novels as well. While a totally separate space for tweens would be nice, I get it’s probably a long shot.

Cassandra’s Thoughts:

I used to manage a bookstore, so I come at this from both a retail and a library perspective. As it was an overstock & closeout bookstore, I normally had the final say as to where books ultimately belonged. When it came to dividing up books for kids, tweens, and teens, it was easy enough to either look on the back of the book or look it up online. Books in the age range we’re discussing fall under the age ranges 8-12, 10+, 10-14, and 12+. When libraries minimize categories to just Juvenile and YA, Juvenile can contain everything from the Magic Treehouse books to Percy Jackson.

To me, it isn’t so much a matter of separating out ‘tween’ books from YA as it is allowing them to safely get out of Juvenile without putting them straight into YA. I’m going to stick with using Rick Riordan’s books, since most of his books are marked as either being ages 10-14 or grades 5-9, and most of us are familiar with them. While some might argue as to some of the ‘controversial’ topics brought up in his books, they aren’t overly gory, filled with anything explicit, or swearing. But YA has become increasingly open to books that fit one or all of those categories, especially with books that might technically fall under the category of ‘New Adult’ being shelved there instead.

So where does poor Percy get shelved? It depends. Say it’s a library that doesn’t want to risk it, and everything in the 10-14 range is put into YA. Maybe this isn’t a big deal for some kids. Maybe their parents don’t care what they read, and they can go into YA and check out whatever they want. They’re good at finding what they’re interested in, because they’re familiar with the library. What about the kids with draconian parents? Or maybe Percy gets shelved in Juvenile, and instead, a teen gets to feel self-conscious amidst the chapter books.

I’ve sorted through thousands of books. At this point, I don’t have to look a book up to give a good approximation of where a book goes just by looking at the spine or cover. But that’s me, that’s not everyone. It’s easier to pick tween books out of Juvenile just by how ‘thick’ they might be, but decidedly more difficult in YA. In my experience, having books sorted out thusly works wonders: Chapter Books (the easier chapter books for kids who are just dipping their toes into reading something with fewer or sometimes no pictures). Juvenile/Tween – books that fall into the 8-12, 10+, and 10-14 ranges. Personally, I normally put in books that are 12+ as well. YA, then, was strictly for teen books. Tweens loved having books at their interest/reading level altogether. Teens loved not having to sort through for the ‘older’ books. Parents loved all the easy chapter books being sorted out. It’s not a perfect system, nothing can be when you’re separating books out, but it made things easier on browsers.

Jenna’s Thoughts:

I work in a library that has an established Tween section – and I love it! The library where I previously worked did not have a Tween section. My collection maintenance of the Teen section there was to keep it on the mature/advanced side. Everything middle grade was placed in Juvenile Fiction. This meant that books for elementary-age kids and middle schoolers were in the same section. There was no room for a Tween section, though I would have loved that! Tweens aren’t kids anymore, but they’re not teens yet either – they should get their own space.

Most of the crowd that I worked with were middle-schoolers, and we’d constantly be running back and forth between Teen and Juvenile. Since it wasn’t practical to create a Tween section, I preferred having the middle-grade books in with Juvenile fiction – as it feels like a better choice for an 8-year-old to stumble upon a book aimed at 12-year-olds than a 12-year-old stumbling upon a book for a 17-year-old. (Not that I’d slap that book out of anyone’s hands, mind you!)

Have Fun – Beyond the Numbers in 2020

While 2020 has been a divisive year, I think we can all agree on the fact that nothing’s normal—and that includes our statistics for program attendance. Sometimes it’s up (at my small rural library, we gave away 373 Grab & Go’s in August alone), but frequently our numbers are down. People are simultaneously wanting something to do and burnt out on the enormous variety of online options being offered. What we want, the opportunity to socialize in person (and this coming from a die-hard introvert), is just not on the table right now. And for those of us (myself included) whose jobs revolve around creating, advertising, and hosting events, this sucks.

What is our job when the main part of what we do is off the table? Online events and take-homes are major options, but enthusiasm for the former can die down even if you start strong, and there’s only so much budget for take-home activities. Not to say “don’t do them” or “don’t try,” but remember there’s something else you can do as well.

Libraries are here to provide what the community needs, and right now beyond the essentials, everyone could use a laugh. A fun, bright moment in the midst of chaos and anxiety. You can’t count smiles, you can’t add them to a neat little tracking sheet, but finding ways to make your patrons smile right now makes a difference.

So what are some ideas to keep up spirits in 2020? It really depends where your library is in the opening process, but here are some fun ideas:

Picture of a bookshelf endcap with a poster that reads, "Social distancing library edition: stay two bookshelves apart." and shows the silhouettes of 2 people with 2 bookshelves between them. Below the poster is the printout of a meme with 4 pictures of a black cat, three of which are wearing a mask wrong with the word "NO" on the picture, and one wearing it right with the word, "YES".

  • Print out memes/comics and stick them to your end-caps/empty wall space. Switch them out after a few weeks!
  • Create a funny display.
  • Design or print fun bookmarks and stick them in books during checkout.
  • Make an outside game.
  • Provide sidewalk chalk (make sure you’ve a way to sanitize between uses).
  • Create amusing flyers for the door & in the library.
  • Decorate your drop box, since it’s getting extra use anyways. What about a monster’s mouth? A wormhole? Something else!
  • Make a word cloud out of the most popular authors to share.
  • Create a pixel artwork in post-its/index cards/construction paper squares in a window.
  • Post amusing pictures on Instagram.
  • Make a stop motion video—you can do it in PowerPoint!

Honestly, the options are endless and just depend on your time and resources. Do what you can for your numbers, but don’t get lost in them. Take moments to find laughter and share those moments with your patrons.

And something that costs no time or money? If you have the energy for it, don’t forget to smile! It seems so stupid and small. Definitely trite. But it’s so easy to forget or get lost in your head. I’ve certainly been there. You’re at work, things are stressful, you’re just not thinking. As someone who’s worked retail, though, smiling can become a habit. And ok, you’re wearing a mask right now (I hope). But I can still tell when someone’s in a good mood or not, even if they’re wearing a mask. If nothing else, smiling can trigger the customer service orientated mindset! Seriously, though, I can’t tell you how many times just smiling at a customer/patron has not only helped me, but helped them.

Little things, little moments, make a difference. See how many differences you can make today!

Books for Black Joy

When I was younger, I craved books about people who looked like me going on adventures, falling in love, and just living life. They were hard to find. I remember when I stumbled upon Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor in high school. Finally! A Black girl with magic who was the main character in her own book! More and more books by Black authors featuring Black main characters are being published and it makes my heart sing. We still have a long way to go but I think progress is being made. I created a booklist of some titles I wish existed when I was a teen. Enjoy!


Setting Boundaries With Teens While Working From Home (and Beyond!)

When my library closed to the public in mid-March as a response to the pandemic, no one knew how long it would last. (I remember hoping it would last at least a full week!) Once we realized that the days of working from home would stretch out ahead of us to some unknown time into the future, I dealt with some trial and error as I figured out how to navigate my work days. Even during the previous times, I’d struggled with knowing when to back away and stop doing extra work when I wasn’t getting paid. Over the past few months, I learned a lot about how to fine-tune my work habits and balancing self-care. But the single-most important thing I learned during the pandemic is how to set boundaries with teens while working from home. 

Various communication methods can be a double-edged sword.

There are a few different ways I stay in contact with my library teens — our email newsletter (it used to be monthly, but it’s now weekly), Remind, FB Messenger, Instagram DMs, Slack, Discord, etc. The great thing about having so many methods to reach them is that teens are always accessible! The downside of having so many methods is that … I’m always accessible!

Never give out your cell phone number. 

This is the first piece of advice that every Teen Librarian should get on their first day on the job. Once a teen has your cell phone number, there’s no taking it back. Be wary of making this rookie move. Never let a teen have your personal number. Don’t do it. It’s a mistake!

Instead, if you absolutely have to share a cell phone number, get a Google Voice number. It’s free, and it’s connected to your Google account (it’s a good idea to get a separate Google account JUST for your library work – don’t let your personal life and work life mix!) 

I keep my Google Voice phone line on Do Not Disturb at all times. If someone tries to call me, my phone never rings and the call goes directly to voicemail. And I never check the voicemail. #sorrynotsorry 

Texts come through to the Google Voice app, but I have those notifications turned off — so I only see them when I consciously check the app.

Auto-response emails aren’t just for vacation anymore.

I can’t tell you how many times a coworker has forwarded me an email from a frantic teen, sent to the library’s general email box or through our live-chat service, that says something along the lines of, “I emailed Jenna five days ago and she hasn’t responded yet, omg!!!” And it turns out that they sent an email late at night before a holiday weekend and I hadn’t even checked my email yet. 

Teens don’t really understand the concept of weekends/holidays/time off for us as librarians. This has become even more of an issue during these work-from-home times, because they know I’m at home and surely I must be sitting around and waiting for their email (or text or DM or … etc.), right??

My solution is to set up an auto-response email anytime I’ll be away from email for more than one day. (Yes, even for weekends.) It goes something like this: 

Welcome to my auto-response email! I’ll see your email when I return to my inbox on [date]. 

If you’re writing to ask me about volunteering, please refer to the volunteering FAQ on our website to see if your question might be answered there. If your question is about attending a teen program, please visit our events calendar for more info on a specific program.

If you have any other questions or need an immediate, please contact the Youth Services Department. If your question is for me personally, please wait and I’ll read your email in the order it was received. You don’t need to resend your email! 

Please be aware that I only read email during the hours the library is open!

This auto-response email has been a huge help to keep teens calm when they don’t hear from me for a couple days. They no longer think I’m ignoring them; and I no longer feel the need to check my email at all hours just to make sure they’re okay.

Speaking of which …

I finally learned to stop checking my email at all hours.

I had to wean myself off the Outlook app. The first thing I did was turn off notifications. We all know how nice it is not to be bothered by these pesky notifications, especially when it’s completely unimportant. (First I set it to only show notifications from VIP senders, but that didn’t last long.) Once I turned off notifications, I only checked my email when I was ready to read email. 

Sometimes I noticed I would open the Outlook app when I didn’t even mean to, likely because of muscle memory, when I was casually using my phone. So I started deleting the Outlook app from my phone on Friday afternoons and re-downloading it on Monday mornings. That helped keep my weekends free and clear of “accidentally” stumbling into my work email account. Eventually, I learned to break up with the Outlook app entirely, so now I only check my email when I’m on my computer. Which is how it should be, really.

Sometimes you just have to ignore them.

I know. We adore our teens and we want to support them at all times. But we can’t. Not only should we not be doing work outside of our working hours, but we’re also conveying the message to our teens that it’s totally fine to interrupt us and we’ll respond immediately. Doing extra work beyond our scheduled and paid work hours is bad enough — but it’s even worse when it involves another person. It trains them to think it’s okay to bother us whenever they want (I’ve gotten Google Voice texts time-stamped after midnight). And letting them bother us whenever they want leads to them devaluing our time. Which is no good, because eventually that will cause us burnout and resentment. Those feelings are not welcome, so protect your off-time by drawing boundaries. And stick to them.

Be open with teens.

It’s a rare teen that understands, without me explaining it first, that my job as a librarian is, well, my JOB. I completely get it. They have so much fun at the library that it doesn’t immediately register that what I do at the library is the same as what their working grown-up(s) in their lives do. I also understand that since they’ve had oodles of down-time over the past several months, it must be difficult for them to get that I’m a worker on a schedule, so I will not respond immediately to their messages. 

Once I explain to them that being their Teen Librarian is something that I do on a schedule and not in my leisure time, then it clicks for them. Don’t underestimate their capacity for understanding this — but don’t expect them to just know this automatically either. Be open with them about your schedule (in fact, my email signature now has the dates/times I check my email, as a constant reminder) and let them know in advance of any extended periods you’ll be away so they don’t have high expectations. They don’t have to know the personal details about what you do on your own time — they just need to know that you do, in fact, have your own time.

How to Set-up Discord for Teen Programming

by Bethany Dietrich

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this pandemic (anyone else hiding under said rock to avoid election drama?), you may have heard references to Discord as a virtual platform where you can do teen programming. New social media can be daunting, though, when you aren’t already using it, so I’m here to guide you through setting up a Discord server in a safe, secure, privacy-friendly manner! 


What Is Discord?

According to Discord’s landing page, “Whether you’re part of a school club, gaming group, worldwide art community, or just a handful of friends that want to spend time together, Discord makes it easy to talk every day and hang out more often.” 


So, how do libraries and teen programs fit into this? Think of it like a Facebook group: participants join the group “server” or micro-community that they want to be a part of, then they can chat–  either via “text channel,” where everything is typed, or via “voice channel,” where participants connect their microphones (and video cameras if they’d like) and talk in real time. 


The text channels are synchronous and asynchronous simultaneously because sometimes teens will respond right away and sometimes they’ll come back and respond when they have time. The voice channels are synchronous because they have to be turned on/made live. The voice channel is where you host your program, whereas the text channels can be more for general announcements, refrigerator-like showcases where they can share what they’ve created, or have other asynchronous discussions or prompts. 



  1. Go to and download for your computer. (If you’re on a work computer, you  may need IT’s permission to download.) 
  2. Create your account.
  3. After you verify your email, click the green plus sign on the left.
    Choose Create  a Server. 
  4. I suggest naming your server [Your Library Name] Library Teens. And click the blue Create button. (Don’t worry about your invite link at this point. I’ll tell you where to find it later.)
  5. Click Create Your First Channel and choose Text Channel. Name it “Welcome.”
  6. Click the gray plus sign next to Text Channels to create another text channel.

    Name this one “rules of conduct” or something similar. This is where you’ll share expectations and all that jazz.
  7. Create a third text channel and name it “general” or “teen talk” or whatever you’d like. This is where your teens can just chat, where you can post announcements, etc. Think of this as the common room where there’s a little bit of everything. 
  8. We’re going to go back, now, and add content to our text channels. 
  9. Leave the Welcome channel blank for now. We’ll come back to it in a bit.
  10. Rules of conduct: muy importante! Here are the rules Angela Flock from Couer d’Alene  Public Library in Idaho shared in the TSU Facebook group. Adjust according to your library’s rules and policies. 

[Name] Public Library uses social media (such as this Discord server) to maintain a welcoming online presence where people can learn about, share, find out about library events, hang out online in a safe space, and discuss library-related topics with staff and other users.

In order to encourage a safe, online community, please abide by these rules of conduct:

1) Be polite and respectful of each other, yourself, and the Young Adult Librarian.

2) No trolling, spamming, bullying, or hate speech of any sort will be tolerated.

3) Refrain from “callouts” or personal attacks.

4) Avoid controversial political or religious topics. Agree to disagree should a difference of opinions erupt.

5) Protect your privacy and the privacy of others.

6) Keep things PG. Do not post graphic content, including explicit language, sexual content, gore, or inappropriate jokes.

7) Do not post advertisements or try to sell anything. If you are doing a fundraiser and you’d like [librarian] to purchase something, come talk to her in person at the library or call the library at [phone number].

8) Do not conduct or encourage illegal activity.

9) Use an appropriate name and avatar.

You are responsible for your actions on our server.

You cannot hold the library responsible for anything that happens on this server.

The Young Adult Librarian reserves the right to delete any comments or mute or kick or ban any member from the server should these rules be ignored.

While we are practicing social distancing, teens 13-17 are invited to join us for Virtual Teen Thursdays! We’ll meet here at the Discord server to play some Jackbox games, chat, and catch-up on Thursdays from 4:45-6:15pm. 



Everyone in your server is assigned a role. This helps keep your teens’ privacy intact and makes your server more secure from randoms reading what the teens share. For Discord’s purpose, Roles “organize your server members and customize their permissions.”

  1. Click on your server’s name in the top left-hand side. A pull-down menu should appear. Choose Server Settings.
  2. Click on Roles and click on the small gray plus sign next to Roles.

  3. Name it Teens. Assign a color, if you’d like.
    1. Toggle the buttons so they show green next to the following options:
      1. Display role members separately from online members
      2. Send TTS messages
      3. Embed links
      4. Read message history
      5. Use external emojis
      6. Add reactions
      7. Connect
      8. Speak
      9. Video
      10. Use voice activity  
  4. Go back to the main Roles page and Add Role to create an Admin Role. (You’ll assign  this to yourself.) 
    1. Toggle the buttons so they show green for the following:
      1. Administrator
      2. View audit log
      3. Manage server
      4. Manage roles
      5. Manage channels
      6. Kick members
      7. Ban members
      8. Create invite
      9. Change nickname
      10. Manage nicknames
      11. Manage emojis
      12. Manage webhooks
      13. Rea text channels and see voice channels
      14. Send messages
      15. Send TTS messages
      16. Manage messages
      17. Embed links
      18. Attach files
      19. Read message history
      20. Mention @everyone, @here, and all roles
      21. Connect
      22. Speak
      23. Video
      24. Mute members
      25. Deafen members
      26. Move members
      27. Use voice activity 



  1. Click on your server’s name in the top left-hand side. A pull-down menu should appear. Choose Server Settings.
  2. Click on Moderation in the left-hand column and choose the verification level your library deems most appropriate. I chose Low because I don’t assume all my teens had a Discord prior to them asking to join the library’s server and Scan media content from all members. Exit out of server settings.
  3. For your channels, you want to make it so that only the teens you’ve added to the server can view the content. Click on the little gear next to the General text channel 
  4. Choose permissions and click the little plus sign next to Roles/Members.
  5. Add Teens. 
    1. Click the checkmarks next to the following options:
      1. Read messages
      2. Send messages
      3. Send TTS messages
      4. Add reactions
      5. Embed links
      6. Attach files
      7. Read message history
      8. Use external emojis
      9. Add reactions
    2. Click the x next to the following options:
      1. Manage permissions
      2. Manage messages
  6. Go back to the plus sign next to Roles/Members and add Admin. 
    1. Click the checkmarks next to the following options:
      1. Manage channel
      2. Manage permissions
      3. Read messages
      4. Send messages
      5. Send TTS messages
      6. Manage messages
      7. Embed links
      8. Attach files
      9. Read message history
      10. Mention @everyone, @here, and All roles
      11. Add reactions
  7. Go back to the Roles/Members and click on @everyone. 
    1. Click the x next to all of the options so that those who aren’t assigned the Teen (and Admin) Role can’t view what’s being said. 
  8. We’re going to repeat this for the General voice channel. Hover over the General voice channel, and click on the little gear that shows up. 
  9. Click permissions.
  10. Add the Teen Role.
    1. Click the checkmarks for the following options:
      1. View channel
      2. Connect
      3. Speak
      4. Video
      5. Deafen members
      6. Use voice activity
    2. Click the x’s for the following options:
      1. Create invite
      2. Manage channel
      3. Manage permissions
      4. Manage webhooks
      5. Mute members
      6. Move members
      7. Priority speaker
  11. Add the Admin Role and checkmark all of them except for Create Invite. 
  12. For @everyone, click the x next to all of the options.


Assigning Roles

  1. Click on your server’s name in the top left-hand side. A pull-down menu should appear. Choose Server Settings.
  2. Click on Members (under User Management). 
  3. Click the little plus sign next to your profile and assign yourself the Admin Role. 
  4. To get teens to join your server, you have to share your invite link. 
    1. To access the invite link, click the downward arrow next to [Name] Library Teens on your main page. 
    2. Click Invite People.
    3. Copy-and-paste the invite link in whatever manner you’re sharing it (email, Facebook, Remind, etc.). 
  5. Go back to the main page of your server. Click on the downward arrow next to [Name] Library Teens and choose Server Settings. 
  6. On the Overview page, scroll down until you see System Messages Channel. Change the drop-down box to Welcome Text Channels. This allows you to see what users are trying to join the server.

  7. Click on their username, then the plus sign under Role, and assign them to Teen. They can now see and participate in the “locked” channels.


A note about vetting teens. Every library will vet their teens differently, and you’ll want to make sure you have your supervisor/higher-ups on-board with how you do it. Some libraries have teens complete a Google Form (like Angela Flock at Coeur d’Alene Public Library) asking name, Discord username, grade/age, etc. before they receive the Discord invite link. According to Angela, the Google Form “covered a lot of the [privacy] issues [and legal steps] of making sure teens were applying (and not adults), parent permission is partially on the honor system through the Google Form, and we were also covered by a phrase on our library card application that re-emphasizes a guardian’s responsibility over what their teen accesses online through the library (which is also why a library card is required).” 


I don’t have as many hoops to jump through. I’ve put the invite link on our Facebook and Teen Instagram (sans geolocation tag and hashtags). Then when new users show up in the Welcome channel, I send them a private message and ask them the vetting questions there. I’m able to do this because we are a fairly rural community, so we don’t get teens from other communities coming across the link. 


Other Helpful Hints

Discord policy requires users be 13 years old, so it makes it really easy to deny those middle schoolers who aren’t quite old enough to be in the teen programs yet (our program is for 13-17 year olds). 


Some libraries utilize bots to help them monitor their server. Personally, I’ve not chosen that route because I haven’t had time to look into it and because I want to foster a sense of trust in my teens. That said, these bots were recommended by other teen librarians from a March 23 post in the TSU Facebook group:

  1. Dyno
  2. “20 Cool Discord Bots to Enhance Your Server”


It took a long while until my regular teens made their own to our Discord channel. I set it up in late March/early April, and it wasn’t until late May that we had enough teens present to actually do anything, so don’t give up too quickly.


Last but not least, if you need any help, here’s the Beginner’s Guide to Discord. And Angela also shared with me that there is a Teen Librarians Using Discord group–  they can also provide answers if you need extra help. Good luck!