Summer Reading: Pandemic Version

Oh summer reading, what a unique time of year! This year’s is probably the most unique of all since so many libraries still aren’t open. Keep reading to find out how some of our libraries are adapting and handling it this year.


My two library districts are handling it very differently from each other. That is mostly because my large library district is now FULLY reopened (yes…that includes in person, in branch programming. No, I don’t want to talk about it.) Because the large district is open, we haven’t really had to change a whole lot other than delaying the start date initially by 2 weeks, not doing kick-off programs or special events/performances for it, and making more at-home friendly activity suggestions. Patrons are able to come in to redeem their prizes at any time through July 31st. We use Beanstack and they have 3 levels to complete, it’s pretty straightforward and easy to figure out.

For my smaller district, we are still only in curbside and have no set reopening date. This makes it a lot harder for patrons to redeem prizes because they can’t come inside the building. Right now we are testing out redeeming prizes by emailing families a list of prize books for them to choose from and then they come pick them up during curbside hours. This is just starting this week and it’s not being advertised, just if they call and inquire will we tell them about it for now. So we’ll see how it goes! This is also the first year we are using Beanstack as well so there are a lot of learning curves!


My library is still closed and we just started curbside yesterday. Because we didn’t even have a date for curbside when planning, I couldn’t plan any grab and go type things so my summer reading looks 100% different. Last year was my first year for scratch tickets and it was a rousing success but obviously that wasn’t going to work this year (as they can’t come in) so I switch to Bingo to match both our childrens and adult programs for this year. They submit their completed bingo lines via a google form (it’s all honor system). Each submission enters them to win gift cards that we will either grab and go or mail to them depending on where MA is in the process by the end of summer. Programming is all virtual. I have a successful Friday afternoon D&D program that’s continuing in the summer and then am doing four one shot Zoom programs, which so far have basically no sign ups. I suspected that this might happen which is part of the reason I only scheduled four all summer. It’s a different summer and I’ve come to terms with that!


Our library is now open for limited services; patrons are allowing in for 1 hour but no sitting/hanging around is allowed. Virtual programs have been a hit or miss with us, but we are still trying, especially with kids and adults. For teens, since we didn’t have a good core-group to start with, we’ve mainly been doing craft kits. These have been SUPER POPULAR and promise to talk more about them later this month. For the actual reading program, thankfully we didn’t have to change too much. Since we were already online we rolled with most of what we had. We did tweak our challenges a little, especially since we weren’t open to the public at first. Our biggest change is no prize pick up until August and unless something drastic happens that should still be able to happen as is. We’re are trying to create a prize catalog so patrons can look through that and pick rather than touching all the prizes! We’re going to have one pick up spot for all ages, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Jess G.

My library branch will not reopen until July 20th the earliest. Some branches in my library system are open to staff to do inventory and weeding. Seven branches will open to the public for very limited service (holds pick-up) next week. Many librarians are doing virtual programs with the most popular ones being story-time. We’re also doing chat reference and reader’s advisory daily. Our summer camp has just gone virtual. We will not be hiring any teens for the summer, but we might bring on a set of volunteers. In terms of summer reading, we frequently host live performances by musicians, singers, artists, etc. I just started a new virtual program for teens — jigsaw puzzles. I’m hoping patrons continue to stay engaged virtually even after all  branches eventually reopen!


I just came back to work this week, but staff has been back since the beginning of June. It has been interesting learning all of the new procedures – kind of like starting a new job! We have been open for curbside for several weeks. I was lucky enough to get a grant through the MA Board of Library Commissioners (via the CARES Act funding) to pay for 2 years of Beanstack. We had switched to scratch tickets and nothing online, which was great! But now I am going to start next week with an online Teen “Summer Challenge” with Beanstack. It took a while to figure out how I wanted it and how to set it up, but the Beanstack people are great and offer a lot of support. For the Summer Challenge, teens will complete activities to earn badges. If they earn a certain amount of badges, they will be entered into a drawing for a gift card (which I have not purchased yet.) I tried to have a little something for everyone and the activities include logging minutes, writing book reviews, reading certain types of books or books by certain kinds of authors, writing and reading poetry, short stories, starting a journal, doing something kind for someone else, taking a walk, doing yoga, etc. It reminds me a little of being in scouts and earning badges! I also created extra things like a fairy tale trivia quiz that is linked to the site and is an activity they can complete. One badge is all about finding out what kind of digital resources we offer on our website. Another badge can be earned by attending our virtual author event in August and they can only complete the badge by attending and receiving the secret password which they have to enter on Beanstack. Anyways, it has been fun learning the program and I am excited about all the other programs I can do for teens with Beanstack through the year!


Summer Reading is looking a little different at my library this year. Teens aren’t coming in with their book review, talking about the book they read with a volunteer or staff member, and then spinning the prize wheel to see what they get. Nope. They are submitting their book reviews online via READSquarred. Instead of prizes, they are earning virtual badges. However, they are still going to be entered in raffles at the end of summer. These prizes just won’t be given to them at the end of the summer party. As for library work in general, we only started going back in this week in three-hour shifts. This will happen for two weeks and then we will start curbside services. When we do allow patrons in again, it will be limited. Programs are all still virtual but I think I came up with some the teens will like. I’m just hoping that with going back to the building, some of my teens will walk by so I can safely wave hello to them.

Looking for New Bloggers

Hey all!

The pandemic has been rough on us all and the TSU Team is looking for new agents to fill in some gaps. We’re cutting back on posting some, but we’d still like to intermix some new ideas. Ideally, we’re looking for people who can post at least once a month.

Interested? Fill out this google form. BIPOC or live in the south/west coast? Be sure to let us know in your application!



New Black LGBTQIA+ Picks for PRIDE Month

Genres: Diversity, Fantasy, Non-fiction, Realistic, Romance, Science Fiction, Verse

In honor of both PRIDE and the Black Lives Matter movement, here are seven YA books by Black writers that center Black LGBTQ+ voices.


Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people… In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance and Papi’s secrets, the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Felix Ever After


Felix Love, a transgender seventeen-year-old, attempts to get revenge by catfishing his anonymous bully, but lands in a quasi-love triangle with his former enemy and his best friend.

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After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother. But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880’s America. *Deathless Divide is the sequel to Dread Nation.

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Liz Lighty has always done her best to avoid the spotlight in her small, wealthy, and prom-obsessed Midwestern high school, after all, her family is black and rather poor, especially since her mother died; instead she has concentrated on her grades and her musical ability in the hopes that it will win her a scholarship to elite Pennington College and their famous orchestra where she plans to study medicine–but when that scholarship falls through she is forced to turn to her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen, which plunges her into the gauntlet of social media which she hates and leads her to discoveries about her own identity and the value of true friendships.

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In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.



Two yea42185079. sy475 rs ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art–and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does. Ellie’s–and humanity’s–fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution–thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.



Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican, but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough. As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs, and the Black Flamingo is born.



Working from Home…ish?

Oh man, what a wild but extremely boring at times the past 3 months have been. Like most states and other TSU members, my libraries shut down mid-March when Nevada was put on a 30 day stay at home directive. Naturally however, the 30 day directive was extended putting me home through mid-May. 

Working in two different library districts during such a crazy time has been very…interesting to say the least. I’ve learned a lot about how being part of a large, unionized district is quite different from a smaller, not unionized one in times of a crisis. Starting out, one of the districts had a pandemic plan ready to go and the other did not. The one that didn’t very quickly created one and had it passed by the board within a week. Having these plans in place ensured that all staff would be paid through the shut down. I will be forever grateful that I was paid by both jobs during this wild time as so many other library workers were laid off or furloughed in other districts.

Working from home for the large district:

  • I didn’t. 
  • They are unionized so unless you are part of the exempt staff you are not allowed to work from home. I’m considered non-exempt as a part-timer.
  • Set up a staff updates page so we were kept in the loop since we are not allowed access to our emails outside of the district.
  • Has to go through union to put any holds/pauses on pay increases and hiring freezes.
  • Full time staff returned first in mid-May to begin curbside services.
  • Two-ish weeks later (beginning of June), part-time staff returned to open the buildings.
  • Buildings opened to the public with restricted services (picking up holds, computers, closed stacks) and curbside still offered on June 4th when our state entered Phase 2 of its’ reopening.
  • All staff are working full hours in the branch.

Working from home for the small district:

  • We have total access to our email and got vpn logins to access our work computers for files on the work server.
  • Had some work from home assignments to do through quarantine or at least get a start on.
  • Weekly virtual department meetings starting in April.
  • Planning virtual programs to film upon staff return.
  • District can decide themselves about any holds/pauses on pay increases and hiring freezes.
  • All staff returned to buildings week of May 18th.
  • Began curbside services June 1st, building currently closed to public – opening date still pending.
  • Currently doing a work from home/in branch hybrid!
    • I work about 12 hours in branch and 7 hours from home

Working with two totally different timelines and policies has been challenging at times. It’s a lot to remember and keep straight in my head. Since our governor has not given library-specific guidance things have, can and likely will continue to change moving forward. So far, I mostly just show up and hope for the best because I literally never know what patrons are going to do and say. I get some that are really nice and happy we’re offering services again and then on the flip side I get patrons who tell me the virus is a hoax and mock us for wearing masks. So, good luck to everyone and may the odds be ever in your favor!

And as a bonus, here’s me while working curbside! (my mask is attached to my headband using safety pins because most masks are too big to fit me…)

Full-Time Momming while Full-Time Librarianing

I feel incredibly privileged to be writing this post from the comfort of my home, knowing I’m safe from this crazy virus, my son is safe sleeping in the next room, and I’ve been able to keep my job while many of my coworkers were less fortunate. I’ve been working from home since March 16th, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Due to a health issue, I am considered “high risk” for developing complications if I contract COVID, so though my coworkers are now back in the building offering curbside service, my HR department and supervisors made a plan for me to continue to work from home full time.

All of our jobs have changed dramatically. I work at a mid-sized suburban library in Boulder County, Colorado. A few weeks ago, our entire circulation department was laid off—only the department head remains, and the two most senior circ employees were furloughed through the end of September. We didn’t have a large staff to begin with, so this means that there are only 14 of us left running the show. When staff are in the building, my colleagues are now working on circ duties (check ins, check outs, pulling holds, etc) for most of the day.

While I’m at home, the IT department routed all of the library’s phone calls to my cell phone, so I spend most of the day placing holds for people, scheduling curbside pick up appointments, and helping with reference questions like Libby issues, RA, and database use. I’m at home with my 9 month old son, so this is all done while also caring for him full-time. He was 6 months old in March when this all began, and it’s wild to me to think that this has been ⅓ of his life.

Me with my new officemate!

After 8 years as a full-time Teen Services Librarian, It’s strange to be so removed from my work with teens. I spend my days reading board books, playing peekaboo, and changing diapers, in between helping adults on the phone. I have no idea what’s going on in the world of teen pop culture—is Roblox still the number one thing? I’m guessing it’s still a big deal, but I have not been able to communicate with any of my teens so I have no clue! My library never collected contact information from teens, and most of my program regulars are middle school boys who walk to the library after school. During this time I’ve had no way to reach my regulars, or really, any teens for that matter. We have an okay Facebook presence, but I’m only able to reach a handful of parents that way.

As we move to an online-only programming plan, I’m struggling to figure out what my teens might want, and what I might be able to provide remotely while balancing childcare. Pre-COVID, I offered 4 programs a month: a Teen Advisory Group meeting, Snark Attack, Anime Club, and a craft program. I can try to move TAG meetings to Zoom, and I can probably work out crafts using our curbside service, but with movie/TV streaming is a lot more complicated as I know many other Teen Services Librarians have learned. Even if I could figure out a platform that might work well for us, because I’m home with a baby, scheduling is pretty impossible. There’s really no way I could spend 2 hours watching a movie online without interruption. I’m going to try to have a virtual TAG meeting this summer to see if I can get some ideas from teens, but at this point my school year programming plan is a big question mark.

I’m beyond grateful for my privileges during this crazy time. I have my job and my health, and the ability to work from home and watch my son grow during this important time in his life has been so rewarding. But I really miss my teens, and I know that many of them are struggling with this new normal.

If anyone else is struggling with being a full-time parent and a full-time teen librarian, please share any words of wisdom in the comments! I want to be there for all my kids (biological or otherwise!) but it has certainly not been easy.