Double Duty: Splitting Your Time Between Children’s & Teen Services

If your title is “Youth Services Librarian” or something similar, you probably are in charge of more than just Teens at your library.

If you are like me, and your official title is Assistant Director / Head of Youth Services – then like me, you may be currently in physical therapy after severely pulling (tearing!) all of the muscles in your neck and shoulders from stress! (true story!)

Regardless of how many titles you may or may not have, splitting your time can be difficult to manage. When it comes to spending precious work hours on programming, I have to admit that more of my time ends up going to Children’s services. This is probably for several reasons:

  1. Programming for children is easier – you may disagree, but I’ve been doing this for 15 years and for me, it’s true. Little kids are pretty much excited to do anything with a glue stick and older kids, while slightly more difficult, are still easy to please with games and fun crafts.
  2. Most libraries rely on program attendance numbers and as we know, it can be kind of hard (understatement) to get teens to come to programs.
  3. My office is in the Children’s Room. Not only that, but the Teen Space in my library is on a different floor. I don’t usually have a ton of time to spend in the Teen Space, especially when all my stuff is downstairs, plus there are times when I’m on the desk if we are short-staffed.
  4. To the kids at my library, I am “Miss Molly” and that comes with lots of hugs and smiles and instant emotional rewards. To the teens, I’m the teen librarian who thinks she’s younger than she is and also kind of a dork (in the best sense, of course.) Sometimes the most I get is an awkward smile.

Teen programming is hard. That’s why this blog exists! And that’s why we rely on this community to help brainstorm. Starting this school year, I am going to make a conscious effort to balance my time more evenly between the teens and kids. I am extremely lucky to have a Youth Services Assistant and she’s AMAZING. But I have a really hard time delegating and one of my “New School Year” resolutions is to pass off more of my workload to her because I know she can handle it. I am also going to try to carve out specific days and times during the week where I spend dedicated time to Teen programming, collection development, and my Teen Volunteer program. Ideally, I would like to take my laptop to the Teen Space and do my work there during a time when teens might be in so I can get to know more of them. This depends on staffing in the Children’s Room, but I feel like its really important for the teens to see me and associate me with the library, not just as the person who forwards them emails about programs. Lastly, I’ve been doing more with my Trello boards and I am hoping that a visual comparison of my programming for kids vs. teens will force me to work on more organized and balanced programming.

If you work with children and teens at your library, what strategies do you have in place for splitting your time effectively? Please share in the comments!

Backlist Fantasy You Should Know

So often, we are focused on what’s new, hot, and trending in YA lit that we might forget about older books, or at least not give them as much love as the shiny new ones. Granted, teen taste in literature can be more ephemeral than that of adults, but trends eventually circle back around again. Fantasy has always been a huge subset of teen reading, and so while your teens are waiting for Empire of Ashes to drop, get them started on one of these fantastic YA series from years past.

Sabriel is a total gem that has a loyal following but, in my opinion, not enough loud and raucous love. Kick-butt lady necromancers? Yes, please.

The Hollow Kingdom will delight teens who are into those new Disney tie-in novels for all of the princesses and villains, as well as any Labyrinth fans.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I adore this book. The main character is named Harry and she kicks butt. This is a timeless story and I desperately wish McKinley would return to Damar for a third book.

The Naming (Books of Pellinor) by Alison Croggon. This is a fantastic Aussie series that pits magical bards against a Sauron-esque villain. With treks across the continent, a fascinating sibling relationship, and the perfect romance, this will appeal to fans of epic fantasy.

Sorcery and Cecilia: Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. In an alternate 19th century England, magic is very real, but so is the pressure to get oneself a husband à la Austen. Besties Cecilia and Kate must navigate treacherous social situations and save England from a magical cabal hellbent on destruction.


Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

When wizard (and hot mess) Wayland North makes it rain in a parched village, they happily acquiesce to his request for the young weaver Sydelle as a traveling companion and apprentice. The land is in turmoil, and Sydelle has far greater powers than she had ever realized. Fans of The Darkest Minds will be interested in reading Bracken’s debut novel.






Cookies and Canvas Painting Party

For years, I’ve been hearing my adult friends talk about nights out attending paint-and-sip parties. I thought this would make a great teen program, and decided to bring the concept to my library this summer.

If you go to a place like Painting with a Twist, a teacher will show an entire class how to do the same painting. I’m no artist, and I thought if I tried to teach a group of teens how to do a painting, it wouldn’t go well. Luckily, there are tons of websites that offer traceable outlines for painting. I bought canvases, acrylic paint on sale from the craft store, and graphite transfer paper for tracing, picked up some snacks and juice boxes, and turned up the background music, and pretty soon I had a fantastic paint party on my hands!

I downloaded my traceables from The Art Sherpa; there are tons of free options on that site that range from nature scenes to pop culture icons like the TARDIS. In theory, you only need red, yellow, blue, black, and white paint, because every other color can be made from some combination of those. I hit a good sale at the craft store, though, and bought one tube of every color they carried. Having all those colors available cut way down on paint waste.

For room setup, I set up tables and chairs and put a canvas, pencil, two brushes, and a Solo cup of water at each place and a pile of traceables on each table. I put all the paints out like a buffet with paper plates to use as palettes and let the teens decide what colors they wanted to use, and told them that they could use the traceables or just do their own thing. Cookies and juice boxes were also available buffet style.

In all, 16 people attended my program, which was a great number considering we held it the night before the Fourth of July. Everyone had a great time, everyone made something beautiful, and I’d definitely do this program again.

Want to bring this program to your library? It’s easier than you think! Here’s my supply list:

  • Canvas boards (I bought these from Amazon)
  • Graphite transfer paper (I bought this from Amazon. Each sheet can be used more than once.)
  • Traceables (Tons are available for free online. I got mine from The Art Sherpa)
  • Pencils for tracing
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes (I used the basic ones that we have in our craft closet, both large and small. I initially put two at each place, but most of the teens used more than two and I just handed them out as needed.)
  • Cups or other containers to hold water for rinsing brushes
  • Cookies or other snacks
  • Juice boxes or other beverages
  • Background music

Have you tried this or something similar at your library? Tell us about it in the comments!

YA Books to Movies

Two teens wearing 3D glasses watching a movie in a theater.My library runs a Books to Movies club for our teens; each month, we choose a book to read, then at the end of the month we get together and watch the movie based on the book. The initial idea for this program had involved discussion of the book and movie, but the teens generally discuss the movie while it is playing and don’t often stick around afterwards. I never require the teens to have read the book to attend the program, but I do always make sure to have copies of the book (including audiobook and graphic novel adaptations where available) ready to be checked out.

This has been an especially good year for YA books made into movies. Here are some recently released and upcoming titles for you to consider:

Ophelia: This is Shakespeare’s Hamlet told from Ophelia’s perspective.

The Death Cure: The finale to the Maze Runner series. The teens in my library enjoyed mocking the Maze Runner movies more than actually watching them, but others may actually be interested in the story.

Every Day: Based on the book by David Levithan, this follows the story of A, a person who wakes up in a different body every day, and the girl A falls in love with.

Wrinkle in Time: This most recent adaptation of this story to film is better than its predecessors. The book is technically a tween or children’s book rather than a teen book, but most teens will have heard of it and may be interested in the movie anyway.

Love, Simon: This is one of very few teen books featuring LGBT characters that have been made into movies.

Midnight Sun: Similar to Everything, Everything, the main character has a medical condition that makes meeting other people (and falling in love) complicated.

Ready Player 1: Easily one of the most anticipated movies of the year; the book itself is a great discussion-starter.

The Darkest Minds: A recently released science fiction/dystopia with a slightly different angle from Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Coming to theaters August 17th.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Regardless of your opinion on the Johnny Depp situation, this title will be one your teens will talk about. Technically it’s not based on a book, since this story isn’t part of the Fantastic Beasts book and takes place long before the events in the Harry Potter series, but it would still count for the purposes of my program.

Ashes in the Snow: This is based on Ruta Sepetys’s novel, Between Shades of Gray. The title was changed to avoid confusion with another popular book-to-movie that is not young adult.

Dumplin‘: This is a body-positive story of a plus-sized teen who enters a beauty contest to spite her mother. The story includes a fantastic troupe of Dolly Parton drag queens; it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the film.

The Hate U Give: Another highly anticipated adaptation. Angie Thomas’s novel was nominated for numerous awards this year, including the Printz and the Coretta Scott King Award.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls: This is a fantasy/adventure story that will be suitable for younger teens and even tweens, but if you like to add variety to your lineup, this would be a good addition.

Mowgli: This is a movie based off of The Jungle Book, but it is not an animated, child-friendly version. This version claims to focus on the darker aspects of the story.

Five Feet Apart: The book will be released in November, and the movie is slated to hit theaters in March. Two teens, each with cystic fibrosis, fall in love but must stay at least “five feet apart” as one awaits a lung transplant.

This has been a great year for books being adapted into film. Is there a movie we missed that you think teens would love? Let us know in the comments!

Active Engagement > Passive Management

So in my 3 years into library world there is a certain theme with many librarians to be more on the passive thoughtful side of things.  We absolutely have a few staff members who have met this thing called confrontation and not run away screaming “I HAVE SOMETHING TO SHELVE! SAVE YOURSELVES!”

I know it seems way easier to let a difficult situation just play out and let it go away on it’s on accord.

And there are some librarians who have really good excuses

“I am not a shush librarian.  I once was shushed in a library as a four year old and I still remember it to this day. In fact I still remember that Librarians name it was Gretchen.  And I decided to become a librarian simply so that no other poor innocent four year olds would be shushed by the Gretchens of the world. Ok, her name wasn’t actually Gretchen, it was Melinda but that name is too pretty for something so awful as a shush.”

Now unless you working in an academic library the standard shush is a maneuver most of you don’t employ on a daily basis.  If you’re library is like mine, often you have those in the older generation freaking out because of the utter lack of shushing. They come to the desk and “whisper in all caps” like “WHERE IS THE SHUSHING! THESE KIDS ARE TOO LOUD! THERE SHOULD BE SHUSHING THIS IS A LIBRARY!”

Shushing aside confrontation is something that often is handled in two ways.  Active engagement or Passive management.

When I explain passive management I am referring to the idea that a disturbance in the library is not a problem until someone complains or the disturbance has escalated to an inescapable level of “THIS MUST BE DEALT WITH OR WE WILL DIE!”

It’s when you see an adult patron asleep laid across a pile of bean bags in the kids area and instead of waking him up and being like “He’s probably just really tired and might be a grumpus if he wakes up, I’ll just wait until a patron complains.”

Now that certainly is an approach to handling a problem and the good news is you haven’t had to be confrontational so hey that’s win for you right?….Right?

But here’s the problem you’re not seeing.  If a mom and her kids walk back to the kids area and there in snoring glory is this man passed out on bean bags they may decide to avoid the area all together.  They might complain.  They might also decide we don’t like this library because “vagrants” are sleeping in the kids area. Now she might be wrong in assuming he’s a vagrant but their experience at he library has been tarnished in part due to your inaction.

Active engagement works in real time to prevent problems.  This is where if you notice an adult loitering in the kids area it may make sense to ask if they need help with finding a title.  When you see an adult piling bean bags together it’s time to step in a say something to the effect of “Sir i know this bean bags seem really comfortable but they are meant for your youngest patrons.  Can I direct you towards our quiet reading room where they are more comfy chairs for reading.” If you see a patron who is yawning and drooping their eyes engage and ask “Have they’ve seen the coffee station in the commons room or how they are doing today.” Encourage them to go for a walk if they are looking tired.  If they fall asleep, just remind them of the policy but if you’ve been actively engaging it’s not something that requires this huge step like waking up the sleeping giant.

This is also important in confronting misbehaving teens.  If you are waiting for a complaint before talking to a group of loud teenagers disturbing the library they may be at a point where they see their only exit as being even more disruptive.

When a group of teens walk in actively engage them.  A simple “hello, how are you all doing today” establishes hey you are in my space.  Introduce yourself and If you can press a little further, ask if they are working on a group project or just looking to hang out.  Seek to engage and ask about what they are reading, what video games they are playing.  If the noise starts to increase or name calling begins to happen and/or you see tension building don’t wait but engage.

If you can know their names let them know hey the energy is getting a little high and we need to bring it down a little bit.  If that doesn’t work divide and conquer.  Split one off from the group and ask how school is going, distract and redirect. Ask him to bring the noise down.  The point is you are actively engaging in order to prevent escalating behaviors.

Now this may be the most stressful concept and that’s ok.  It’s ok to say you know what I hate confrontations and I don’t want to do them.  But confrontations and confrontation technique will only get easier the more you work at it.

You may say something that really messes things up but remember it’s a whole lot easier to douse a match than it is a house fire.