Something’s Gotta Give: When The Workload Is Just Too Much

This past summer my work schedule changed. We went from being open Monday-Thursday during the week to Monday-Friday. At first, it wasn’t a huge deal because I was already working most Fridays. I had extra hours to work to make up my 40 total. So while I was technically at work, we weren’t open and I wasn’t dealing with the normal daily things, like working the circ desk or running programs or talking with patrons. I could actually get work DONE! It was kind of amazing! (sigh)

I added one or two programs on Fridays to kind of advertise that we were open. This meant extra planning. But Summer also means vacations, so often times we were a skeleton staff, which meant I was on the desk more. Then we had that silly thing known as SUMMER READING and since my office is in the Children’s Room, this meant we were SUPER BUSY ALL DAY.

I very quickly realized just how little work I was getting done. It was starting to pile up and my fall planning had barely been touched. A few years ago I would have done extra work at home to make up for it, but it isn’t much of an option these days since I have a 3-year-old at home. I had basically lost about 8 hours of actual work/planning time every week, plus I had the added stress of being “ON” for the public an extra 8 hours a week during our busiest time of the year with hardly any time to take a break.

The result? I was so stressed out that I managed to pull all the muscles in my neck, shoulders and upper back so badly that I could barely turn my head. I could barely sleep because of continuous muscle spasms. I’m still in physical therapy!

I had so many ideas for new fall programs for kids and teens, ideas to upgrade our website, school collaboration, etc. But I finally came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do it all. And I really shouldn’t be. Everyone has a different idea of work ethic, but I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic/perfectionist. and none of this pressure was coming from my director – it was all me! There are so many Youth Librarians out there that do amazing things at their libraries. This blog is proof of that! But as much as I want to be that librarian who does these incredible programs or volunteers on prestigious committees or blogs every day (as I tried to do years ago and maybe someday will again!) The truth is, I can’t. And I have to be OK with that.

So a lot of programs I wanted to do have gone to the land of “maybe someday” and I’m trying to keep things simple. At the moment, I am just working on my Teen Advisory Board monthly meetings which had a pretty low attendance last spring, and my first one after the summer break had 9 teens! I still do some storytimes, but I keep those pretty simple as well. Luckily I have an assistant who concentrates on the younger kids. Instead of adding a storytime or other program on Friday mornings like we did in the summer, I haven’t had any yet this fall. Though I did ask our monthly music and movement performer if she could switch to Fridays so we would have a program, but not one that I had to do myself. We still end up with a slim staff on Fridays, but we aren’t as busy as we were in the summer, so I can get a little more work done and I try to think of it as my “relaxed” work day. And no one has complained or probably even cares that we don’t have anything going on. We are open, so that needs to be enough right now! The good thing about being open on Fridays is that it’s actually a good day for teen activities because they don’t tend to have as many practices, or clubs, or other commitments after school, so it’s a better time for programs. I have also tried to do a little more delegating at work, even though sometimes it’s a real internal struggle to let things go! Attempting to be more organized is also kind of helping, as well as things like making flyer templates that can be reused on Canva or setting up checklists in Trello that I can use over and over.

Being a Youth Services Librarian is a tricky job and I think many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “prove” that we are necessary and vital to our library and community. And we are! But we also only work a certain number of hours a week and get paid a certain amount to do it. Plus there’s that whole “personal/family/home” thing that also exists. And we need to take care of ourselves too, which is something that we stress a lot on this blog too. I now have a standing monthly massage appointment that I make the time to go to. I can’t be an amazing librarian for my teens if I physically can’t move! So while I still feel like an underachiever most of the time, I think I’m really just doing the best I can right now. (If I just keep saying that over and over, it will be true!)

Please share any of your experiences (if only to make me feel better.) 😉

Retellings for Frankenstein’s Bicentennial

In case you hadn’t heard, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein turns 200 this year. Mary Wollstonecraft (later Shelley) was just eighteen years old when she spent the summer of 1816 vacationing with her fiance and George Gordon, Lord Byron, in Geneva. With the weather too poor to be outside, they spent the time reading ghost stories indoors until Byron challenged them each to see who could write the scariest ghost story of their own. Our girl Mary won the contest, and a classic was born. 200 years later, it’s still the perfect book for Halloween, and it’s spawned a veritable library of YA retellings and adaptations perfect for library display. Here are a few to get you started.

Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein: This graphic novel adaptation combines Grimly’s spooky, atmospheric illustrations with excerpts from Shelley’s original text. If you’re in too much of a hurry, or too intimidated by the original, it’s a great place to start.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White: Elizabeth Lavenza is brought to the home of the Frankenstein family and becomes fast friends with Victor. They become inseparable, and she an invaluable asset to his scientific experiments, but friendship with Victor Frankenstein comes at a high price.

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel: Victor Frankenstein is a normal boy, spending idyllic days with his beloved twin brother Konrad and their cousin Elizabeth at the family manor in Geneva. But when Konrad is stricken with a mysterious illness, Victor and Elizabeth venture to the one forbidden room in the house, the Biblioteka Obscura, in search of a cure, and strike a dangerous deal with Dr. John Polidori to brew the Elixir of Life to save him. Don’t miss the sequel, Such Wicked Intent.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron: Boy is the son of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, created from spare parts and raised in a theater under Times Square that houses a magical freak show of sorts. But Boy wants out, and his rebellious behavior leads him on a hilarious road trip with the daughters of Jekyll and Hyde, learning about love, diners, and life outside. Skovron follows up with another highly-readable novel, This Broken Wondrous World.

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee: In a steampunk, alternate historical world, mechanic Alistair uses clockwork pieces to bring his brother Oliver back from the dead, but the resurrection goes awry. The danger increases when the novel Frankenstein is published and people are searching the streets for the doctor and the monster.

Last Minute Programs for LGBT+ History Month

October is LGBT+ History Month, but that often gets forgotten about in the hustle of Halloween programs and everything else going on in the Fall. Many libraries offer programs and booklists for LGBT+ Pride Month in June, but LGBT+ History Month often gets forgotten about. It’s important for teens to not only celebrate diverse identities, but also understand the social justice movements that have brought us to today.

If LGBT+ History Month slipped your mind this Fall, there’s still time to throw together a quick program. Here’s some last minute ideas:

Booktalk LGBT+ YA books: I love booktalking programs (especially if you can visit your local high school to booktalk during lunch! Reach out to your teachers + school librarians, as some may be willing to offer students extra credit for attending) and this would be a great time to highlight both earlier LGBT+ YA books, like Annie On My Mind, as well as new ones like If I Was Your Girl, Autoboyography, Little & Lion, We Are the Ants, and Pulp, which isn’t out until November but is perfect for the theme.

Documentary screening: If you have movie licensing, there are tons of great documentaries out there about LGBT+ movements, including Paris Is Burning, United In AngerThe Celluloid Closet, The Last One, or Living In the Shadows of Exclusion.

Intergenerational social/oral history discussion: LGBTQ+ History Month is a great time to reach out to local community members who have been active in social movements in your area to come talk with teens. This program has a ton of options: a Q&A, a casual meet & greet, or a “human library” style event.

Flag learning: Most people are familiar with the rainbow flag, but there are also flags representing bisexual, nonbinary, agender, trans, pansexual, asexual, and many more gender identities, sexualities, and romantic attractions. For an easy passive program, try printing out each flag + a short paragraph explaining the history of it and what it represents to hang up in your teen room. The Advocate has a guide here to all the flags.

Paper quilt making: In October of 1987, during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed at the National Mall for the first time. This quilt was made to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS, which had heavily impacted LGBT+ people and people of color. This month is a great opportunity to teach teens about the quilt and have them decorate a paper square in honor of someone they know, about their own identity, or with their thoughts about LGBTQ+ History Month. Once you’re done, you can tape the squares together to make a paper quilt to display in your teen room. (And here‘s a schedule of where the AIDS quilt is on display.)

LGBT+ History Month Trivia: Create a trivia game using Kahoot about movements in LGBT+ history, important historical figures, or about LGBT+ activism today. Kahoot lets you create free, easy-to-use games that teens can play using their phones.

LGBT+ history timeline: Print out sheets of paper with different events in LGBT+ history. Break teens up into teams and give them a few minutes to put the events in the order they think they happened. When they’re done, you can give a prize to the team that was the closest, show them the real timeline, and use this as an opportunity to discuss the events.


Feel free to share any additional ideas in the comments!

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Did you know that October 7th- 13th is Mental Illness Awareness Week?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “1 in 5 American adults and children will experience a mental condition in their lifetime.” They also state that “75% of all mental health conditions begin by the age of 24.”
This year’s theme for Mental Illness Awareness Week is #curestigma. The goal is to change what people think of those with a mental condition as “Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment” according to the NAMI.
Below is a compiled list of books I’ve read that contain characters who are living their life with a mental illness. Each book contains a brief description and a note of the character who lives life with a mental condition and what that illness is. The character is either the main protagonist(s) or somebody close to them, where the mental illness affects the protagonist(s). By reading these books teens, and maybe even adults, will hopefully learn and understand what it means to live life with a mental illness and cure any stigma they may have.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
When a local billionaire disappears, sixteen year old Aza and her best friend Daisy, vow to find him and claim the reward. Part of the plan involves reconnecting with childhood friend Davis, as the missing man is his father. All the while Aza is dealing with obsessive fear of being infected with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”), which can be fatal.
Aza’s mental condition = Anxiety and OCD

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Violet and Finch meet on top of the school’s bell tower. When they become partners for a school assignment to see the wonders of their home state, it becomes so much more.
Finch’s mental condition = Bipolar disorder

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Esther Sole is part of a family that is cursed to die from their greatest fear. She tries to avoid having a fear but does a list of semi-definitive worst nightmares with the number one spot left intentionally blank. After reconnecting with her childhood friend Jonah, he discovers the list accidentally. Together they decide to face each of the fears on Esther’s list counting down to number one, in hopes to face death and break the curse. Jonah documents each adventure, which involve (among other things) graveyards, heights and lobsters. As the two grow closer and Esther starts to trust Jonah, something happens that will challenge that trust.
Various mental conditions are present in this book among multiple characters.

Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
Adam Petrazelli refuses to answer his therapists questions. Instead he writes down his answers and feelings in a journal for his therapists to read during their sessions. His reason for seeing the therapists is to be monitored while being a part of a new drug trial for his Schizophrenia. Over the ten months of the trial, Adam shares his ups and downs of starting over in a new school with the secret of his mental illness, living with a stepfather who now seems afraid of him, and seeing all his “imaginary friends”.
Adam’s mental condition = Schizophrenia

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Aysel has plans to take her own life but doesn’t think she can do it alone. She decides to go on a website to find a suicide partner. While she finds one in Roman, she makes new discoveries as the two spend time together.
-Aysel and Roman’s mental conditions = Depression

Breathless by Jessica Warman
Fifteen year old Katie has been sent to boarding school after her schizophrenic brother, Will, attempts suicide. She finds solace in the school’s swim team, as she feels her most self in the water. When a misunderstanding about Will surfaces at school, Katie lies and says her older brother has actually died. Between keeping this secret, worrying about her brother, and dealing with her own daily struggles, Katie’s swimming starts to suffer.
Will’s mental condition = Schizophrenia

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Solomon has not left his house in years after a panic attack caused an embarrassing scene with a water fountain outside school. Lisa needs to write a college essay that will help her stand out. She decides to try and help Solomon and write about the experience.
Solomon’s mental condition = Agoraphobia

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder
Best friends Hannah and Zoey leave their small town and head out on a road trip to have new experiences and chase the intangibles – happiness, audacity, lust – that their lives have been missing.
Zoey’s mental condition = Bipolar disorder

Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu
Five teens, each battling their own mental illness, are sent to a four week therapy camp. As they work on their separate circumstances, they bond over their likes and dislikes and have their progress tested when tragedy strikes.
-Clarissa’s mental condition = OCD; Ben’s mental condition = Dissociation; Mason’s mental condition = Narcissism; Andrew’s mental condition Anorexia; Stella mental condition = Depression

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
For Eliza there are two kinds of monsters. There are the ones in the viral webcomic she writes under an alias and then there are the monsters better known as her anxiety and depression.
-Eliza’s mental condition = Depression

For more information on Mental Illness Awareness Week visit

Blind Date with a Book!

Every library has those low-circing books that NO ONE wants to check out. It might be because the cover is just terrible, it might be a bit dated, or it’s just ignored for something near it that’s more popular. Whatever the reason, these books still need love too.

One way to get them out there and into the hands of our teens, is to do a blind-date set up! The way we do this is we run a report in our ILS for books that haven’t checked out in the last year or so. We then go and gather several of them up, as long as they are still actually on our shelves (this is also a great way to find out if things have gone missing).

After we have them gathered, we have our circulation department make duplicate barcodes for us to put on the wrapping. If you aren’t in a library that does this, you can find a way to either leave your barcode visible, or just write it on there and they can physically type it in at check out.

Next, we look for either some sort of tagline for them, or short description that is interesting and grabs your attention. You want your teens to stop and look at what they say, otherwise they will never get checked out. Once we’ve gotten all the info to put on them, we wrap them up as if they were presents. We just use old wrapping paper that we have sitting around and flip it to the blank side. You could also use butcher paper, but we have found that the wrapping paper is easier as it’s meant for that. And now that the holidays are coming up it’s going to be a lot easier to get cheap rolls of it.

Once they are wrapped up we hand write the taglines/descriptions in colorful markers and place them on stands among our YA stacks! If you have the time and want to make them more eye-catching, you could certainly create a nice and colorful tag to attach to the front instead. We just find that me handwriting them is easier and quicker for us to get them out. They usually don’t last long on our shelves once we put them out.

We’ve discovered that teens like a mystery and are sometimes more likely to just check the book out when they can’t see the cover. Whether they like the book or not, it will at least help to get your low circulating books out there!