Hot Sauce Challenge

My amazing co-worker came up with this idea and I immediately stole it. I will admit that it flopped at both branches, although, my co-worker is going to give it another chance this fall. We’re hoping it was just bad timing, especially since I was able to revive it at our local Boys and Girls Club where it was a big hit. 

Supplies Needed

  • Hot Sauce (we found a gift set at Target)
  • Chips
  • Plates
  • Score card

I prepped the bottles to be a blind  taste test by wrapping index cards around them and numbering them. I did give the teens an option to not do it that way, but they all preferred the mystery.  I had a small group, so I was able to pass out the hot sauce one by one. If you have a larger group, you may need to prep a bit before hand. 

Each teen was given a score card. Using 1-10 they rated each hot sauce based on taste and hotness. On the back I did include the Scoville scale, but we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on it. In a typical library setting, you could probably do proper presentation/talk about it.


After the teens were done, I revealed all the different flavors and where they were supposed to be on hotness. It was fun to hear the teens discuss which flavors they liked the best. Also, if I did this again, I may go out and buy a few of the hotter sauces as all the teens complained that none of them were hot! If taste test event work well at your library, I truly believe this would be an awesome one to try out.

Creating sub-collections in your school library

For most of us school librarians, school’s out for the summer! Even if we’re working summer school, the pace really changes and it can be a good time to think more about big-picture changes you’d like to make in your library. One summer project you might consider is highlighting special sections of your collection by creating targeted sub-collections based on a specific type of book or theme.

Some librarians, of course, choose to genrify their collections, which creates many avenues for sub-collections. We’ve chosen not to genrify in my library (a subject for another post, perhaps), but still have sub-collections for series books, picture books, everybody graphic novels, middle school quick picks, high school quick picks,  literary fiction, and books in Latin, French, Arabic, and Chinese (languages we teach at our school). We don’t have them yet, I’ve considered special collections for Ancient World and Mythology books since we are classical school. Below, I’ve outlined the whys, whens and hows of creating sub-collections.


Two great reasons to create sub-collections:

  1. To highlight certain resources that your community needs or uses frequently (ex. graphic novels or series books)
  2. To re-locate materials that need special care or don’t physically fit in their standard classification area (ex. school archival materials or oversized books)


Make a sub-collection when moving books from your standard classification system (in our case, the Dewey Decimal system) is truly more effective for finding the materials or truly needed for more effective preservation or organization. For example, if students always ask for books where an animal is the main character, it could make sense to shelve those books together in a sub-collection.


  1. In some cases, signage might be enough to point patrons in the right direction, so a special collection might not be needed. For now, we don’t have specific collections for the ancient world and mythology, though we do have special signs clarifying their Dewey Decimal numbers so that readers can find them.
  2. Be cautious about your own biases and the role they might play in identifying books for your sub-collection.


Choose criteria for the sub-collection.

In our library, we have a “Quick Picks” sub-collection for middle school and for high school, and the goal of the collection is to create a place where students who are reluctant or struggling readers can go to find a smaller, less intimidating collection where most of the books will be more appealing to them, while also appealing to all readers.  We decided that books for that section need to match one of the following criteria 1) on the YALSA “Quick Picks” list 2) high interest-low reading level book 3) a wait-time book like a joke book or a fast-facts book like Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Pick the best location to shelve it.

Self-explanatory, perhaps, but important. Location matters! One of the reasons for moving our graphic novels to a special collection, for example, was to provide more browsing space since the shelving in the 741.5 Dewey Decimal number area was relatively narrow and too crowded for the number of students who wanted to use the collection at the same time.

Create a spine label sticker and/ or call number.

Choose a special call number if you want the collection to be more permanent (ex. We use GN for graphic novels as many libraries do), but a spine label sticker indicating the shelving location could be enough and maintains a little more flexibility to relocate books if the sub-collection no longer meets your needs. In some cases, we use both. What you choose here could also depend on who does your reshelving. We found that our student shelvers struggle to get books in the right location more with spine label stickers, but do better with changed call numbers.

Adjust the cataloging if needed.

If you’ve changed the call number, it will be important to update the catalog, of course. But there are other ways to use cataloging to create We use sub-locations in Follett Destiny in lieu of a custom call number for our series collection, for example. This would make it easier to reorganize the collection if we decide to interfile series and general fiction again at some point in the future.

My Top 5 Priorities When Creating Book Displays

My Top 5 Priorities When Creating Book Displays

One of my favorite things to do in my school libraries is to set up book displays. When I first started my job, I had no idea what I was doing, but over the years, I’ve developed strong opinions about what does and doesn’t make a good book display. Today I’m sharing the five priorities that are important to me when I set up displays which I hope will inspire you in your display endeavors.

PRIORITY #1: Feature Diverse Books
If I’m doing a display and all the books I have to fit that topic are void of any diversity, I don’t do that display. I have a Word document full of book lists, which is where I get my display ideas. Some of those lists have been there for years, and those are the lists that probably don’t have too many diverse books listed. Thankfully, publishing seems to be embracing more and more diverse voices, but that hasn’t always been the case, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. All the displays I do must feature diverse books, or I won’t do them. It’s essential that my students see themselves reflected in the books I choose to highlight.

PRIORITY #2: Feature Backlist Titles
When doing displays, my first instinct is to showcase all of the new books. That’s important, but what’s equally important to me is remembering to show off backlist titles. Sometimes I’ll run a report to see what books haven’t checked out in a year or two and choose books from that list that I’m confident students will enjoy. I love seeing a book that hasn’t circulated in a while get checked out right away all because it ended up in a display.

PRIORITY #3: Make Good Graphics
Preparing and setting up displays can be time-consuming. It’s tempting to open Word, type up a quick sign, and hit print. But if you want your displays to get noticed, you’ve got to include good graphics. Thankfully, sites like Canva and Adobe Spark make it easy. If you’re going to add photos to your display, check out Unsplash and Pexels for beautiful, free photography. Making quality signage will take a few minutes longer than quickly typing something and moving on, but it’s worth it. Not only does good signage increase the likelihood of someone paying attention to your display, but it also looks more professional.

PRIORITY #4: Feature a Wide Variety of Topics
I work in two different schools, and in one of them, there’s a lot of room for displays. This space is a blessing, of course, but it can also be overwhelming sometimes because I have to come up with several different display ideas each month. When I’m deciding what themes and books to feature, I make sure I have a good balance, which means that I like to have a mixture of serious and less serious topics. I might have displays on mental health and immigration and balance those more serious topics with displays on comics or funny essay collections. I don’t want all serious or all light-hearted issues because neither of those represents all readers.

PRIORITY #5: Track What Works and What Doesn’t
There have been times when I thought that a display I’d created was a piece of art and that students would flock to check out the beautiful books that I set out. Imagine my disappointment when those books didn’t get touched. Other times, I’ve done displays I was unsure about and wondered if anyone at all would be interested in the topic. In one case, I had to keep putting out new books regularly because the display was so popular. To get a better understanding of what does and doesn’t work in your school or public library, keep track of what ideas work and what ones don’t. You don’t have to keep detailed statistics, but keeping brief notes will be helpful as you decide what displays to do in the future. I wish I would have started doing this sooner.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your priorities when setting up book displays? What resources do you turn to for ideas? Leave a comment below and share your display wisdom!

More 2019 Releases to Have on Your Radar

Can you believe it’s already June? Summer can be super busy for teen librarians, whether you’re a public librarian juggling Summer Reading or a school librarian winding down the school year and getting ready for the next one. It’s a hectic time, but we have so many upcoming YA releases to look forward to! Back in January, I shared a post about the must-know YA releases for the first half of 2019; now that we’re starting the second half of the year (already!), I’m excited to share the must-know releases for you to keep on your radar for the remainder of 2019.

Click on the title to visit the book’s Goodreads page; all titles in order by release date.

There’s tons of other exciting books coming out this year, so check the bottom of this post for some resources to help you keep up to date on all of them.





  • Immunity (Contagion #2) by Erin Bowman; July 2 from HarperTeen
  • Maybe This Time by Kasie West; July 9 from Point
  • The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee; August 13 from Putnam
  • The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert; August 20 from Little, Brown
  • Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicles #3) by Jay Kristoff; September 3 from Thomas Dunne Books
  • The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young; September 3 from Wednesday Books
  • Eclipse the Skies (Ignite the Stars #2) by Maura Milan; September 3 from Albert Whitman & Company
  • Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) by Kerri Maniscalco; September 10 from James Patterson Presents
  • A Dream So Dark (A Blade so Black #2) by L.L. McKinney; September 24 from Imprint
  • Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2) by Rainbow Rowell; September 24 from Wednesday Books
  • Rebel (Legend #4) by Marie Lu; October 1 from Roaring Book Press
  • Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chau; October 15 from Simon Pulse
  • Jackpot by Nic Stone; October 15 from Crown Books
  • Light It Up by Kekla Magoon; October 22 from Henry Holt and Co.
  • Supernova (Renegades #3) by Marissa Meyer; November 5 from Feiwel & Friends
  • Toll (Arc of a Scythe #3) by Neal Shusterman; November 5 from Simon & Schuster
  • Girls of Storm and Shadow (Girls of Paper and Fire #2) by Natasha Ngan; November 5 from James Patterson Presents
  • The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black; November 19 from Little, Brown
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha #2) by Tomi Adeyemi; December 3 from Henry Holt and Co.







To find out more about YA & MG authors debuting in 2019, visit Class of 2k19 Books and Novel Nineteens.

Tale Out Loud also has an awesome calendar of 2019 debuts that you can easily add on to your digital calendar in order to keep track of release dates.

Rec It Rachel has an incredible detailed YA release spreadsheet that allows you to sort 2019 YA releases by author, title, release date, or publisher. I’ve already gotten so much use out of this resource and am beyond grateful to Rachel for sharing it!

Goodreads 2019 YA release lists can also be super handy! Just remember that since other Goodreads users can add/vote on these lists, they may not always be accurate (for example, you may find an adult or MG title mixed in, or a book in the wrong month), but they are great for getting a rough idea of what’s coming up.


Tabletop RPGs: End of the World

There’s a lot of variety to tabletop role-playing games (RPGs).  Not everything is Dungeons & Dragons – you’ve also got Pathfinder, Vampire: the Masquerade, Mouseguard, Dresden Files RPG, etc.  Not all of them use the same system of play, either, and that’s definitely true of our topic today. The End of the World RPG books, published by Fantasy Flight Games, are very different from the majority of tabletop RPGs I’ve played.  Why?

Because you play as yourself.

That’s right – the character you create and play in the game is *you*, reimagined in the easy ruleset written into the books.  In the game fiction, you have just sat down to play a tabletop RPG with your friends when the end of the world begins…talk about meta, right?  The End of the World RPG books provide a variety of ways for the world to end, from general theme (zombies, alien attacks) down to specific scenarios (plague zombies, rise from the dead zombies, etc.).

Character creation is as easy as assigning values to offensive/defensive physical, mental, and social statistics up to a point value, and then giving yourself positive and negative traits that may affect things in game.  After that, an interesting part of character creation begins – everyone secretly votes on whether you gave yourself too high or low of a score in a particular stat area (physical/mental/social). You then adjust your stats accordingly and give yourself extra positive/negative traits depending on how the other players voted.

The last two steps of character creation are trauma and equipment.  If you are currently dealing with a trauma (and if you’re willing to disclose it), you can be realistic and put it down on the sheet.  For instance, if you’ve just gone through a bad breakup or broke your arm, those could affect your social and physical dice rolls, respectively.  The equipment you mark down is literally whatever you currently have on you! Your phone, keys, wallet, are all part of your equipment – down to your % charge remaining on your phone and the amount of cash in your wallet.  I’ll be you wish you had your pack from your Boy/Girl Scouts days on you now, huh?

As every player at the table is playing as though they were themselves, you’re unlikely to solve the apocalyptic scenario you’re in…trying to survive will be hard enough.  Scavenging for supplies, dealing with other survivors, handling whatever the apocalypse is throwing at you, and finding shelter are likely to be the main concerns in any End of the World campaign.  If you survive long enough, you may even get to the post-apocalypse scenario, which is an imagined future after the apocalypse has ran on for some time.

Every attack – whether physical, mental, or social – can have dice added to either the negative or positive dice pool.  Negative dice cancel out positive dice (say, rolling a 1 on positive and a 1 on negative then cancels out both dice), and any dice remaining affects the outcome of the roll.  Uncancelled negative dice deal stress (similar to hit points in other games), and positive dice under your ability score for that characteristic give you success on whatever happened.  This leads to scenarios where you can succeed at something, like attacking a zombie, but still take stress/damage for doing so. It’s an interesting mechanic and allows for great roleplay!

We ran a couple versions of the zombie apocalypse End of the World book with the teens at my library instead of Dungeons & Dragons, and neither of the campaigns lasted more than three sessions due to choices made by the players.  They also didn’t get further than a day into the campaign, but the teens said that they thought it was cool to play a fictional version of themselves where they got to actually act out an apocalyptic scenario. They wanted fairly early combat, but that led to early player deaths, so I’d encourage building up the world and the scenario a bit more before unloading an enemy against them.  We’ve moved back to Dungeons & Dragons since then, but I’ll definitely be breaking this out for another go if we need a break at some point.

Have you tried the End of the World books?  What has the response been from your teens? Sound off in the comments below!