Run your own March Madness Bracket: YA Character Smackdown.

Last year in the lull of cold wintertime, I  decided to create a march madness bracket between YA lit characters. After realizing the scale of work I was undertaking I offered up the program to four other branches in our district.  With them on board we were able to launch our passive program that started in the last week of February and finished up that same week of the NCAA National Championship.

All the files I created are uploaded into google drive and most can be opened with Microsoft publisher.

I started the process in mid January and it was a sprint to gather up everything for the event but there were few things that were helpful.


  1. I gathered characters for the brackets from multiple teen librarians across our system.
  2. I was able to get funding for a Grand Prize (Kindle fires were on sale for that week)
  3. I did a lot of hand sells in week one, tempting kids two win the grand prize.
  4. After the initial voting period I also got another prize for kids to enter into a prize drawing.  Every time they submitted a ballot their name was entered into the drawing.  This helped kids who arrived late or made (terrible) Choices (no Jackson Artemis Fowl is not going to go all the way.) that kept them out of winning in the later rounds.


So for this bracket use the google drive.

  1. Create your list of Characters
  2. Print off a Giant Poster with the Brackets and dates. I divided up the regions with some silliness.
  3. Print off your ballots
  4. Print off the Brochures. there are ones for each region. If you add new characters replace and create a new bio.
  5. Print off a leader board. Points for founds increased each round. Round 1 a right answer is worth 1 pt, Round 2=2pts, Round 3=4pts, Round 4=8points, Round 5=16 points…etc
  6. Set out new ballots every week, and watch a harry potter character win…I mean err… Well probably a Harry Potter Character will win?

Overall this was a great passive program and with most the ground work done with a little printing a prize (even if it’s just bragging rights) you can set this up in your branch fairly quickly.


Starting a Young Adult/College Collection

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed an increased number of teen books where the protagonist is out of high school. I never minded the ones that took place during the first year of college, but suddenly the books were going even beyond that. Books that had a 19-year-old dating someone who was dating 23+, or where they were dealing with adult things that had very little to do with college.  Even books that do deal with college, but still follow them into the upper twenties range. Considering my teen department serves those who are in grades 7-12, I started to question if these books belonged in my teen collection. After all, this age group would not be allowed to attend my teen programming or be allowed to sit in the teen area.

While I completely and utterly see the need for these books,  they didn’t feel like they belonged in the teen department. On the other hand, it felt like they would be lost in the adult department as well. I’ve been talking about this for a while on social media, but most seemed to be in the same predicament. Finally, in late 2018 I was able to sit down and talk with both my Technical Services manager and Deputy Director about creating a Young Adult collection: books that focused on characters that were roughly 18-24.

As luck would have it, both agreed that this would be a great collection to try out for a year. Since the collection would be on the smaller side, it would be housed on a rolling display cart that would allow us to move around and see where it circulated best. I would be in charge of ordering the books and would mainly focus on the books that were being pushed as teen, but hopefully, would expand to the ones being marketed as adult as well. I would also only add fiction and graphic novels at first. As for labeling, since my main collection was labeled “Teen,” adding the “Young Adult” label and collection code was easy.

The collection debuted in mid-December so it’s a bit too early to call it a success or failure yet. However, as of the end of January, the collection had 54 books between two buildings. This includes both older and recently published items. In January, there were 35 circs and 30% of the collection had been checked out. I’m hoping those numbers will only increase as the collection continues to grow.

Let me know if you’ve started a YA/College collection as well. I’d love to hear how others are doing it as well!

Beyond the Pixels: Oxygen Not Included

Back in September I posted about a game called RimWorld, a science fiction colony simulation game.  Around that time I heard about a game called Oxygen Not Included, often mentioned in the same breath as RimWorld.  While both games are part of the same genre, Oxygen Not Included is different in almost every respect. After sinking hundreds of hours into RimWorld I decided to give it a break and try out Oxygen Not Included, a game created by the same developers as Don’t Starve and Mark of the Ninja.  Another few hundred hours of gameplay later and I’m ready to tell you all about it! (Note: if you like simulation games, this WILL hook you. You have been warned.)

Oxygen Not Included, or ONI for short, has your team of colonist Duplicants (or Dupes) attempting to build a base and survive inside an asteroid.  It turns out this isn’t particularly easy (who would’ve thought?!) as Dupes need oxygen and food, both of which can be difficult to manage in a sustainable way with scarce resources.  You also have to consider germs from toilet use, food poisoning, and other biohazards, as well as the morale of your Dupes and even the temperature of your base. Growing food can be difficult if the environment is too hot or cold!

Dupes are all unique with their own positive and negative traits and skill levels at various base functions, such as Cooking, Tinkering, Supplying, and more.  This is similar in many ways to RimWorld, but in ONI Dupes can be assigned specific jobs in order to raise their skill levels, and the job gives them abilities other Dupes don’t have unless they are also in that job or have mastered it previously.

While RimWorld provided a top-down, world map view, ONI instead goes for the ant farm approach where you view your base from the side.  This gives you a lot of great art to look at, and I cannot praise the art style in ONI enough. Everything is distinct and vibrant, and the animations are both goofy and informative.  Buildings and ore are easily discernible, allowing you to identify at a quick glance what’s what.

ONI has you managing your base in a much more granular way than RimWorld does – namely, you have to control gases, water, power, and temperature in much more precise ways.  Dupes can survive by holding their breath in non-oxygen environments for a period of time, but you may not want chlorine or carbon dioxide filling most of your base. You can pipe it elsewhere or dispose of it, but you’ll want to ensure you’re replenishing your oxygen and managing the heat of scrubbing carbon dioxide!  There’s precious little unpolluted water in this asteroid, so you’ll need to find ways to re-use what you can and clean the polluted water into something that your Dupes can drink and shower with. Fossil fuels are useful for electricity, but what do you do when they run out?

All matter in this game has freezing, evaporation, and melting temperatures, weight, and more, meaning you can watch physics happen in real time – gamified.  It’s an incredible learning opportunity and a great way to demonstrate things such as fluid dynamics. You can watch as carbon dioxide sinks to the bottom of your base and hydrogen rises to the top provided there’s enough room for airflow, and observe superheated crude oil turn into petroleum – and if you heat it too much, it’ll go from oil to petroleum to sour gas!

I’ve created over a dozen bases in ONI and I’m finally happy enough with one to have gone over 300 days in game time.  It takes a while to really learn the game and realize what you have and haven’t done wrong, and part of the fun is restarting and creating a better colony from scratch.  There’s quite a bit of end-game content to strive for, such as building rockets and surviving on the surface of the asteroid, if you can manage to create a sustainable colony earlier on and want more of a challenge.

Have you played Oxygen Not Included?  Have you incorporated it into any programs or plan to do so in the future?  Let us know what you think in the comments!

Excited about How to Train Your Dragon 3?

by alison goodman, christopher paolini, genevieve cogman, julie kagawa, rachel hartman
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance

If (like me) you and your patrons are super excited for the release of How to Train Your Dragon 3 on February 22, you could use some great dragon YA books to help hold you over!! Also to help you through your HtTYD withdrawal once you’ve seen it! Here are some titles that I think Toothless would wholeheartedly approve of:

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

“Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders?”

Book one in The Inheritance Cycle this is a fan favorite, this one is a great re-read, as well as a wonderful introduction to YA or dragons! If you have read this one (and the rest of the series already), be sure to check out the newest collection of short stories The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm.


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

“Mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages.”

The first book in a duology, Seraphina brings a whole new take on dragons. Readers of historical fiction and fantasy will both enjoy this one, as well as those that are looking for unique world building. The winner of the Morris Award, it won’t take you long to see why readers love this world of dragons.


Talon by Julie Kagawa

“To take her rightful place in the Talon organization, young dragon Ember Hill must prove she can hide her true nature and blend in with humans.”

If you are looking for a dragon book with a romantic twist, look no further than the talon series. Julie Kagawa is a true dragon expert, and even makes adorable polymer dragons in her spare time! This book will have you clamoring for the rest of the series.


The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

“Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London.”

This is a wonderful adult science fiction/fantasy novel that will appeal to teens! In this unique world dragons walk among people, but you never know who might be one. As they vary from world to world, you might not expect what type of dragon you’ll meet. Along with other supernatural creatures, this book is a fantasy lover’s dream.


Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

“Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kinds of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye–an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. ”

In this world where girls are forbidden to practice Dragon Magic, a young girl must risk everything in order to achieve her dream. A beautifully imagined, original novel, this has characters and dragons that will have readers avidly turning the pages.


(All quotes from


What are some of your favorite dragon reads?

Harry Potter Yule Ball – After Hours Program

What’s better than Harry Potter? Honestly, not a whole lot in my opinion. To try make it even better though, we made it a dress up party after hours for our teens and they LOVED IT. We had 38 of the 43 registered attend!!

This was the second year that we did a Harry Potter dedicated after hours event. I’m the resident HP expert in the branch and so I was over the moon when it was a success and my department wanted to do it again. This year though, we thought it would be way more fun to make it the Yule Ball so that our teens could get all dressed up for the night if they wanted to. And dress up they did! With the exception of all but maybe 4, everyone dressed up in either fandom garb or actual fancy dress. My coworkers and I also wore fancy dress – we kept it very cheap and went to the thrift stores to find some hidden gems for a great price (Check out the lovely glitter raindrops on my dress).

We started advertising our event a few months before it was to happen so that our teens had plenty of time to register, get their outfits figured out, and to spread the word. We also had so many teens that have never come to programs before, show up. There were several 16/17 year olds in attendance as well, which was fantastic because our core group of teens is usually 10-14. The older teens really seemed to enjoy themselves and got really into the dressing up.

Planning the activities was so much fun and rather easy, as we used many from the year before. Our activities included:

  • Sorting – we made pins of all 4 houses and stuck them in our Sorting Hat. We then had all the teens line up, then I would pick a pin out of the hat and shout out their House. After everyone was sorted, they could swap out their pins for their respective houses if they got one they didn’t like/identify with.
  • Wand Making – we used chopsticks that we collected from restaurants, hot glue guns (yes we trust our teens!), and brown paint. We had two tables for this – one for the hot glue part, and the second table for painting and drying.

  • Pin the Scar on Harry Potter – we printed out Harry’s face and scar and laminated it. Then we printed red lightning bolts and threw some double sided tape on them. I wrote each teen’s name on the scars before they stuck it up so that we knew which belonged to which person. We blindfolded them and spun them a few times and then they would stick up their scar.


  • Bean Boozled – You can’t do a HP party without Bertie Botts! We luckily found party packs that contained 25 individual small bags each (at Ross of all places) so it was really easy to divvy out!
  • Scavenger Hunt – We created golden snitches using gold Christmas ornaments, glitter, and wings. We then hung them up all over the library. 8 of them had letters on them to spell out HOGWARTS. We created a list of clues that our teens had to figure out so that they could find all the letters. They loved this! Their prize for finishing was a piece of gum. Sadly some of our teens couldn’t eat it (braces/dietary restrictions) so next year we are going to find a better prize that isn’t food related.
  • Raffle – towards the end of the program, we passed out raffle tickets. Our items included 3D printed items like the castle, deathly hallows symbol and a snitch. We also had two copies of Cursed Child and one of Tales of Beedle the Bard that were donated.

  • Food – we can’t have a party without food! We got an assortment of items and gave them all names from the books/movies: butterbeer (cream soda/soda), hufflepuffs (cheetos), broomsticks (pretzels), ice mice (marshmallows), chocolate (dementor’s kisses), and chips (crisps). We let the teens each go through once to get food, then the rest was just up for grabs. As expected, they devoured all of it.


Last year’s activities also included:

  • Quidditch – we set up carts with hula hoops on them and had many small balls for them to use. We had a bouncy ball that someone would throw in at random to serve as the snitch. We started out with a set list of rules, but the teens took over and made it into their own game and they loved it. We didn’t keep it this year because of the formal dress, we knew it wouldn’t be doable.
  • Scarves – we had printed out blank scarves on card stock for them to color. Most found this boring so we didn’t repeat it.
  • Lightning Bolt Tattoos- we ordered these from Oriental Trading. They also weren’t too thrilled with this, so we didn’t bring it back. We are considering using them as the prize for the scavenger hung next year instead of food.

Have you ever done a Harry Potter party? Do you have ideas that would be awesome for one? Let us know in the comments!