Easy to do Programs over Zoom

Are you still doing virtual programs at your library? Are you looking for ideas of what you can do easily over Zoom (or whatever platform you use)? Well here are some easy and free suggestions that you may or may not have been doing.


Drawing Club

One of my most popular programs is our virtual drawing club. Now, I am not that skilled but I find some easy to do drawings online and in books and first teach myself. I then instruct the teens in 3-4 of these drawings each month. I have Zoom set up on my laptop so I can see them, but I also set up Zoom on my phone so I can spotlight that screen with what I am drawing. It helps to have a phone holder to do this program and that’s really the only expense unless you want to provide the teens with sketchbooks. I always ask the teens what they would like to learn to draw and do my best to teach that what they request. In the past, we have done Kawaii-style milk and cookies, a chicken, Among Us characters, a llama, a fox, and Baby Yoda.

Virtual Bingo

This site allows you to create your own virtual bingo cards you can send out to your teens and play with them over Zoom. Whether you are using traditional numbers, book titles, or something else, you can easily import what you are doing and it will generate individual cards for you. When a teen calls bingo, you can easily check and see if they won.

Catch That Phrase/Rebus Puzzle Challenge

I previously posted about this program here. This can be easily recreated over Zoom by putting the images in a presentation and sharing your screen. For this challenge, you can have them submit their answers in messenger where you or a helper can keep track. Points can be awarded either for the first person (or top three) who respond(s) correctly, or everyone who responds correctly gets a point. 

Name That Tune

This was also previously posted here but I found a way to adapt it for Zoom. You will still need to make a playlist on Spotify or where ever you make your playlists. Like with the program above you can have teens share their answers in the chat. Just make sure you have somebody keeping score. What to make it more fun? Put the song titles on Bingo boards (see above) and have them not only have to figure out the tune but see if they can get Bingo as well.

Zoomed In

This program is best done using presentation software or a website such as Powerpoint of Canva Presentation. Find an image of an animal or object and put it on a slide. You can also do this with book covers. Copy the image onto another slide and crop it and zoom in so you can’t exactly tell what it is. Copy the second image and zoom in more so it’s even tricker. Do this for several images. When you show them in your program, you start with the most Zoomed in the image. Have them share their guess however you like. For the teens who can’t guess it, show the less zoomed-in image and have them guess. When I did this with my teens I gave 2 points if they guessed correctly on the first image, and one if they guessed it on the second. Be sure to show the final image so everyone can see what it was.





What’s great about all these programs is that they are at little to no cost. They are also easy to make and have in your back pocket if needed.

Using Padlet to Connect with your Library Teens

Like many other librarians, when my library closed for the pandemic last year, I found myself exploring different online tools I could use to connect with my patrons. One of the many tools I tried out and enjoyed is Padlet. These interactive cloud-based boards allow users to share a variety of content. Padlet is web-based and also has apps for smartphones and tablets. The company self-describes padlets by saying, “From your hobby to your career, your class notes to your final exam, your mood board to your runway show, padlets help you organize your life.” Think of Padlet as a cork board with infinite space – and infinite possibilities.

I enjoy Padlet for its use of being both informational as well as interactive. Padlets are simple to use and easily customizable. There is so much potential for using Padlet in your library! I’m going to share five ways that I’ve used Padlet in my library over the past year. 


We have hosted ongoing Manga-drawing classes for teens and tweens, led by a talented teen volunteer. Since these classes were virtual, the instructor couldn’t see the student’s work unless they held it up to the screen – which she quickly found wasn’t the best way to evaluate the drawing! I created a padlet for the class to upload their works-in-progress and final pieces. This way, the instructor could see and even comment on the artwork! As a bonus, the students in the class could see each other’s work. Padlet has made this virtual art class feel a little less distant. The instructor also uploaded reference pieces for the students to draw from – which turned out to be a lot easier than trying to upload/download a file through Zoom! Using Padlet in this way ended up preserving a beautiful art gallery and snapshot of this drawing class that the students can revisit anytime they want.

Modify it for your library: Because each padlet’s settings can be customized and restricted as to who is allowed to upload/view/comment, you can use Padlet for any program! You can post photos, links, notes, handouts, PDFs, etc. You can also customize the link to the individual padlet to make it unique to your program.


Does your library have any clubs? Mine has a ton (but that’s a topic for another post!), and they all do so many wonderful things – even in virtual space. We created a padlet for club members to post photos and snippets of text to describe what they’ve done. It’s a wonderful and simple way to share ideas among members, showcase club initiatives, and preserve memories that might otherwise be forgotten.

Modify it for your library: If your library has a book club, you can use padlet to upload the book covers of each book you discuss. It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve done so you don’t repeat a book. And it can be helpful for new members who want to see what kinds of books the club has read in the past!


If your library teens are anything like mine, they’re always looking for suggestions on what to read. Have them recommend books to each other! I’ve used Padlet to create boards for teens to list the best books they’ve been reading. They don’t even need to upload a cover – just text of the title. You can comment and share the location of where you can find the book in the library.

Modify it for your library: You can source all sorts of information with Padlet! Have a burning question for your teens? Make it the topic of the padlet and ask them to answer it there. This can be used for fun questions, simply to keep them engaged. Come up with a new question each week or two and watch the answers roll in. Ask them their favorite candy, song of the day, show they’re streaming right now, etc.


One of my virtual volunteer opportunities is for teens to draw a picture and send it to me so I can send it along to the Senior Center to brighten the day of senior citizens. I also had them upload the same image to the padlet so we could ALL see the artwork and have our days brightened! 

Modify it for your library: If you’re offering virtual volunteer service, take a look at your offerings and see what can be safely translated to Padlet. If it’s something like sharing artwork, it would be awesome to create a gallery for everyone to see! I find that this creates a sense of community so the teens can see what others are doing – and that they aren’t doing this alone. 


Do you present at conferences or webinars? Even once these things are back to being done in-person instead of online, Padlet is a great way to share resources! This is better than sharing a handout or a PDF, because a padlet is a link that can be bookmarked, saved, revisited, shared, etc. And since a padlet is a “living document,” which can be edited, modified, and added to, you don’t have to worry about forgetting a source you meant to add – because you can update it afterwards! I used Padlet a few weeks ago when I presented at my state’s librarian conference, and in the midst of the presentation a librarian commented in the chat that she already shared the link to my resource list padlet with one of her colleagues! You can also open the padlet to comments and suggestions, so those who attended can interact with you even when the presentation is over.

Modify it for your library: Even if you don’t present at conferences, maybe you do school visits. Padlet is a great thing to share with teachers and school librarians so they can pass this along to students! It’s an excellent way to reinforce what you went over in your visit, and students can revisit anything they want to learn more about. Don’t forget to put your contact info on the padlet so students can reach out to you for more info!

There are endless ways to use Padlet in your library and I still haven’t unlocked all of the potential for what it can do and ways it can be used. If you’ve used Padlet to connect with your teens, I’d love to hear what you’ve done!

Tails & Tales of Woe (and Hope)

At my rural library, teens come to events looking for fun and socialization. There’s not much else to do in town (when I was in high school, I’d hear about people going to hang out at Walmart for “fun”), so I try to provide as much entertainment as possible at my events. This past year has been hard on my teens–many of them hang out digitally already; they weren’t really looking for more virtual options. And I missed being with my teens in person too. So finally being able to provide events in-person again, albeit outside, was exciting.

So…of course the first day scheduled for an outdoor event was overcast.

It will be fine, I assured myself. The hourly weather report said what little rain there was would be over with an hour to spare. Yes, I had a rain date, but we always have better attendance on the originally scheduled day. It’s the first event, don’t cancel, it will be fine, have faith…

So, of course, it started raining right as the program was to start.

On the schedule was Werewolf, an in-person party game that is a precursor to Among Us. Another version’s called Mafia, but we’re sticking with the Tails & Tales theme this year so Werewolf sounded fun.

So here I was, with a game that recommended about 6-7 people minimum, rain on the horizon, and too late to easily cancel with people driving 15-30 minutes to get here.

I did what I feel most of you are probably experienced with now–I improvised and adapted. I had a fun card game (Selfish) ready as backup. With the amount of people I anticipated (at this point, less than ten), I made the executive decision to clear out the kids’ area to make enough room for a large, spaced-out circle of chairs and stuck my mask back on to model the behavior I wanted to see from them (since we’re not allowed to tell people to wear masks anymore). Most importantly, I kept a positive spin on things as teens trickled in.

We ended up with seven teens, four regulars, a younger sibling that was finally old enough to join in, and her two friends. Just enough for our originally scheduled program, which ended up being a lot of fun! Afterwards, they discussed ideas for new roles that would be fun to include in the future now that they are familiar with the game, and expressed an interest in doing it again.

I’m not going to lie, seven is low for our teen summer reading program. We’d gotten to where we were comfortably between 10-20 on most teen summer reading programs. This knocked us back to, well, still better than we were when I started a few years ago, but not by much. I don’t know if that was part weather, or part trying to get back to the swing of business as usual. But while numbers are important, I think we’re going to be ok. As teen librarians, I believe we’re better prepared for working our way to normal than most other programming librarians assigned to other age groups. We’re used to doing the programming equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. We’re used to improvising.

The saying goes: build it, and they will come. For teen librarians, at least, that is a lie. It takes time and trust to build a relationship with teens that will keep them coming back for more. My personal goal with teen programs is to have fun. To get my hands dirty right there with them. It’s what I’ve built my “brand” on as a teen librarian. Make yourself a place for reliable entertainment and understanding, trial and error without pressure to succeed, sympathy and guidance (when asked for), and your teens will keep coming back–and they’ll bring their friends! As most of us are working our way back up from the hit we’ve taken, don’t worry about the numbers. Be patient. We’ve gotten there before, and we’ll get there again.

Tonight is Jeopardy (with an animal theme, of course). Next week is a water balloon extravaganza. July I’m going to provide quirky games and Budget Busters (my tabletop RPG to teach budgeting, which THEY have requested to repeat multiple times as soon as in-person is possible). This fall, I’m going to work on bringing TAB back to full membership numbers and work with my local school librarian to spread the word about my programs. I’ve got authors and teachers lined up for writing workshops as soon as we have the go-ahead, plans for new riddle quests, and for rebuilding our teen Homeschool Hangouts program. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. And so will y’all. Just give yourself time.

Five Fantastic YA Fathers

The approach of Father’s Day has got me thinking about dads in literature. You’ve got your classics like Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. But what about dads in contemporary YA? Here’s a short list of some of my favorite fathers in teen literature.

The First Part LastBobby from The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Maybe this book isn’t the most contemporary novel (it came out in 2003), but Bobby is one of the most fabulous fathers in YA, and I’d argue, in all of literature. This book was revelatory when it was released, not just because it was about a single teen parent, but because it was told from the father’s perspective. The book depicts Bobby’s life before and after the birth of his daughter, and does so without stigma. His incredibly moving relationship with his daughter is at the fore. 

Mav from Concrete Rose and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Speaking of fantastic teen fathers, let’s talk about Mav from Concrete Rose and The Hate U Give. In Concrete Rose, prequel to The Hate U Give, Mav discovers that he’s going to be a father not once but twice in the course of one school year! Despite his mistakes, like Bobby, Mav does everything he can to be the best father he can be. In The Hate U Give, we get to see Mav as an adult, still doing the best he can for his family.

Arthur in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Another well meaning but flawed father is Arthur Avery in Fangirl. Despite his struggles with Bipolar Disorder, he clearly still very much loves and cared for his daughters, Cath and Wren. I particularly love the thoughtful and authentic way Rowell depicts his relationship with Cath.

Dan Covey in To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

Dr. Dan Covey is another of my favorite YA dads. He manages to be supportive of each of his daughters as individuals, but also helps push them to care for each other as sisters. I especially love all he does to keep his late wife’s Korean heritage alive by doing things like cooking Korean food for them and spending time with their extended family.

Sam Quintana in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Sam Quintana, like most of the characters in this book, is so gosh darn charming! Librarians are probably predisposed to be fans of his since he’s an English teacher too. Sam and his son Dante have a warm relationship, and they can talk to each other openly and with ease. Ari observes how different his relationship is with his own father. I love watching how Sam’s relationship with Ari changes through the course of the book–he’s almost like a second father to Ari.

Guest Post: Get to Know Your Library Among Us Lesson Plan

Today we have a guest post from Abby Hargreaves, a teen librarian at DC Public Library in Washington.

Ensuring that library users know the full power of their library is one of the primary struggles of library staff. For students who use the library both for entertainment and education, it can be especially difficult to capture their interest long enough to discuss the features and functions of a library. Whether you’re a school librarian or a public librarian, this lesson plan can help generate and maintain excitement around the library and what it has to offer. Be sure to make adjustments as are appropriate for your unique situation.


Get to Know Your Library: Live Action Among Us


Introduction: Many students are unfamiliar with their libraries and what their libraries offer. This lesson will enable students to experience the library through a live version of a popular game (Among Us). Find the original desktop game and links to the mobile versions here.


Objectives: By the end of the lesson, students will be able to

  • Find an item in the library using the catalog
  • Find a read-alike using NoveList Plus
  • Ask the librarian a reference question
  • Use the program calendar to find event information
  • Sign up for a public computer
  • Check out an ebook
  • Find the most recent post on the teen blog


Materials: – Index cards labeled “crewmate” and “impostor” (enough for one per each student)

  • Index cards labeled with the list of tasks (enough for one per each student)
  • Restaurant notification buzzer system (may be substituted with a group text and personal devices for each student or a pot with a spoon to make a sound loud enough to alert students across the space to return to the designated meeting location)
  • Access to library materials/computers
  • Sticky notes
  • Bracelets (a string of yarn is sufficient)
  • Scrap paper and writing utensils for students to record necessary tasks
  • Library cards for each student (if necessary for computer access, etc.)


Duration: Approximately one hour total


Activity and Lesson Flow: This lesson will occur in three major parts.

  • The librarian will introduce themselves. They will then offer a brief overview of the library and its offerings. The librarian will explain the group will be playing a live action version of the popular multiplayer game Among Us and that the tasks will be activities to be completed in the library. The librarian will then briefly explain how to complete each task (the objectives listed above) and encourage note-taking so students may refer back to their notes as they complete tasks.
  • The librarian will then prepare the students for the game. This guide on live action Among Us will serve as a basic and flexible guide to running this activity. In short, students will receive a card that identifies them as either a “crewmate” or an “impostor.” The number of students present will roughly determine the ratio of impostors to crewmates. There should be approximately two impostors for every eight crewmates. Students should keep their identity a secret. Crewmates will receive a list of tasks to complete (objectives listed above; the item in the first task should be pre-determined by the librarian and there should be a different item for each crewmate). The crewmates will win by finishing all of their tasks (and reporting to the librarian when they have done so) before the impostor(s) “kill” them or by identifying and voting off the impostors. Impostors will win by successfully avoiding identification by the crewmates and “killing” crewmates until the number of remaining crewmates is equal to the number of remaining impostors. To “kill” a player, an impostor will tag a crewmate and show the crewmate their identity card. The crewmate will then sit or lie down and wear a bright sticky note visible to passers-by until either another player locates them and calls a meeting or until a meeting is called. “Dead” players will be reported by a restaurant buzzer system by “living” players. At the meeting, players will have a chance to discuss who they suspect is the impostor for two minutes with an additional thirty seconds to cast votes for the player each player suspects as being the impostor. Players who are killed or voted off will continue in ghost form, to be indicated by a bracelet by the ghost player. Ghosts should continue to complete tasks and report to the librarian when the tasks are complete. Time allowing, the game may be played multiple times, especially to allow players who served as impostors to complete the tasks (and thus the lesson objectives).
  • After the game, the librarian will gather the group to conclude the lesson. Students will be asked to share their favorite tasks, discuss what they learned about the library, and ask questions.

Success Criteria: Students will demonstrate at the time of reporting the completion of tasks to the librarian that they have done so correctly. Task-specific criteria includes:

  • Find an item in the library using the catalog: The student will have retrieved the correct item as assigned by the librarian.
  • Find a read-alike using NoveList Plus: The student will write down and share the title of a book that is similar to a book of their choice; the librarian will replicate the search to confirm.
  • Ask the librarian a reference question: The student will have asked the librarian an assigned question (to be a timely/relevant question regarding anything from current events to library offerings).
  • Use the program calendar to find event information: The student will write down and share two upcoming events on the calendar.
  • Sign up for a public computer: The student will use the digital system to sign up for a computer session. The librarian will confirm this by checking the registration system.
  • Check out an ebook: The student will use either their personal device or a public computer to check out an ebook from OverDrive or Libby. The librarian will confirm this by seeing the item checked out to the student on their account.
  • Find the most recent post on the teen blog: The student will write down the title of the most recent blog post and share it with the librarian.

Additional success criteria will include increased interest in the library and increased comfort in the library.


Evaluation: Students will fill out brief anonymous feedback forms to assess whether they feel they know more and are more confident in their abilities to make the most of the library than they did prior to the lesson. The librarian will also use the task work and success criteria listed above to assess whether there is hard data to support evidence of increased knowledge. The librarian may wish to issue a questionnaire prior to the lesson to assess the starting knowledge point to compare with the evaluation, time allowing.


Additional Notes: The gamification of this lesson by means of a popular game for this age group is likely to cultivate a great amount of interest and excitement. Therefore, “classroom management” skills may be especially helpful in the course of this lesson. Among Us is intended for a digital environment and so players and administrators may expect some hiccups in the transition to a live action take on the game. Students may have questions about game features such as “sabotaging.” The librarian should feel comfortable explaining that due to the game environment, the game may not be an exact replica of the digital version, but should also feel free to make adjustments as they are comfortable doing so.