Virtual Youth Services Summit

Oh COVID-19, still around and still disrupting what would’ve been in-person all day conferences! Every year at one of my library districts, we have an all day Youth Services Summit which is like staff day, but specifically for the YS staff. We have speakers/presenters, various trainings, and the opportunity to see and mingle with staff from other branches.

This year was my 3rd summit but it was very, very different from past years. Usually it’s hosted on the first Wednesday of December and we sign up a few months in advance for the trainings we want to take. We usually attend 3 or 4 different ones throughout the afternoon with all group things in the morning. One year we had Steve Spangler speak/present and it was so cool!!

However because of our old pal COVID, things looked nothing at all the same. My district uses this cool training website called BizLibrary where there are TONS of trainings and where they can upload and assign their own videos as well. So this year they assigned every YS person four different trainings/recorded webinars to watch and take a quiz on.

They were:

  • Simple Interactions for Youth Library Staff by the Fred Rogers Institute
  • Tackling Racism in Classic Children’s Literature by Nashville Public Library
  • Robot Race: Coding Challenge by Discovery Children’s Museum
  • Discovery Children’s Museum presents Tinkercad Training

The first two on the list were webinars that had been recorded and that we were able to view, with each being around 1 hour.

I had taken a previous training at an in person summit that had briefly gone over what the simple interactions were so it wasn’t completely new to me. If you go to this link: you can learn more about them. Towards the bottom of that page is “The Difference We Make” and that’ll take you to the actual video that I watched. It had some interesting information in but there were a lot of pauses for “thinking about your answer” that made me get really distracted. Overall it has good information though and talks about scaffolding and helping others.

The Tackling Racism one was pretty fascinating! It wasn’t just a laundry list of problematic books and the reasons why. They talked about a handful of them, the way their district took on tackling some of these things, and gave guidance for having these conversations. Here is a link to their blog posts about it:

And here is a link to the webinar itself:

Great job and shout out to Lindsey and Klem-Mari on presenting this information and sharing it with us all!

The other two videos are STEAM related videos that our local children’s museum here in Vegas created. We are partnered with them and check-out 4 pack family passes to the museum so it was cool to see them presenting stuff! I liked the TinkerCAD one and think it could be a fun one to implement in a teen program one day. They walk you through basic steps of how to use it and it’s easy to follow along to. I couldn’t find a link to the Robot Race one but it was neat and could make for a fun program as well if you can get the robots!

Link to TinkerCAD video:

Have you had a Youth Services training day before? What sort of webinars/training have you taken during COVID? Let us know in the comments!

20 YA Books About Activists

Features the book covers of titles mentioned in this blog post

One of my favorite things about teenagers is their passion. They feel and believe things deeply, which often results in actions based on those feelings and beliefs. With the evolution of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, I’ve seen teens take to the streets, seeking justice and equality. Eighteen-year-old Greta Thunberg has become famous for fighting climate change. The brave students who survived the devastating Parkland high school shooting became activists for gun control. Famous or not, teens everywhere make their voices heard in their classrooms and on social media every day. Here are 20 fiction and nonfiction books that are sure to encourage the young activists in your library.

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall
The ongoing struggle for women’s rights has spanned human history, touched nearly every culture on Earth, and encompassed a wide range of issues, such as the right to vote, work, get an education, own property, exercise bodily autonomy, and beyond.

Banned Book Club by Hyun Sook Kim
The autobiography of a South Korean woman’s student days under an authoritarian regime, and how she defied state censorship.

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph
Frederick Joseph calls up race-related anecdotes from his past, explaining why they were hurtful and how he might handle things now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as a conversation starter, tool kit, and an invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need.

Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety by Michelle Roehm McCann
Explores the complexities of gun violence in America by explaining the myths, facts, causes, and obstacles surrounding the issue, and provides resources for students to get involved in gun safety activism.

Go with the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann
High school students embark on a crash course of friendship, female empowerment, and women’s health issues.

In Good Hands: Remarkable Female Politicians from Around the World Who Showed Up, Spoke Out and Made Change by Stephanie MacKendrick
Shares the inspiring stories of 18 women role models behind recent political activism, counseling prospective young activists on the qualities of leadership and the necessary steps for organizing an effective campaign.

Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States by Marke Bieschke
Prominently featured photos, artwork, and other visual elements will guide young adult readers through this lively, informative exploration of significant protests, sit-ins, and collective acts of resistance throughout US history.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
An Iranian youth who hides his sexual orientation from his family, an openly gay photographer and an aspiring fashion designer with an HIV-positive uncle fall in love and find their voices as activists during the height of the AIDS crisis in New York City.

Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Falling for an activist during an open-mic party, plus-sized Nala tells increasingly complicated lies about how much she shares her crush’s interests, before learning unanticipated lessons in radical love and self-love.

One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao
This nonfiction book for teens profiles twenty environmental defenders of color from around the world. Their individual stories show that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset to protecting our planet. Illustrated with photos of each of the people profiled.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic. One of the good ones. Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind, why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed? Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected, one that will change everything all over again.

The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce by Angie Manfredi
A crossover anthology for teens and activists shares essays, prose, fashion tips, and art to offer strategies for overcoming today’s narrow definitions of beauty and styling oneself in accordance with body positivity and acceptance of all sizes.

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott
Inspired by the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName campaign and the work of such notables as Lucille Clifton and Nikki Giovanni, a collection of poems stands as a tribute to Black Lives Matter activists and victims of police brutality.

Shout: A Poetry Memoir by Laurie Halse Anderson
A poetic memoir and urgent call-to-action by the award-winning author of Speak blends free-verse reflections with deeply personal stories from her life to rally today’s young people to stand up and fight the abuses, censorship, and hatred of today’s world.

The Suffragist Playbook: Your Guide to Changing the World by Lucinda Robb and Rebecca Boggs Roberts
A look at some of the prominent women behind the suffragist movement in the U.S. offers readers an eye-opening look at the tactics and strategies employed in one of the largest, longest, and least well-known movements in American history, as well as a clear-eyed view of some of the movement’s key figures, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul and many more.

Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance edited by Bethany C. Morrow
An anthology of young adult stories and poems conveys acts of resistance by people marginalized by racism, discrimination, and hatred, offering contributions by diverse literary masters ranging from Jason Reynolds and Samira Ahmed to Laura Silverman and Sofia Quintero.

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.

This Is My America by Kim Johnson
Sending weekly letters to an organization she hopes will save her innocent father from death row, 17-year-old Tracy uncovers racist community secrets when her track star brother is wrongly accused of murder.

The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus
In small-town Florida in 1968, four teens who bond over music and their objection to the Vietnam War decide to take a stand against the U.S. government and violent racism.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
This is the story of how the movement that started with a hashtag–#BlackLivesMatter–spread across the nation and then across the world and the journey that led one of its co-founders, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, to this moment.

The Remote Manager Dilemma

As I write this, I am sitting at my kitchen table-turned school/work desk while my daughter is in her kindergarten zoom meeting and the teacher is telling someone to please keep his shirt on during zoom class. My husband is on a zoom call for work in his office down the hall that we can hear through the closed door. The cats have chosen this time to wrestle on the floor and make strange growling noises. My St. Bernard is pawing at me to go outside. There’s dog drool on my laptop. I’m taking a break from updating my library’s website to write this post. Needless to say, my concentration level is somewhere near “cranky toddler”.

In case you haven’t read my other manager-type posts: I am the Assistant Director and the Youth Services Director at my library. I usually leave off the first part when telling people what I do, because I feel like my main job is really Youth Services. Of course, this technically means I have 3 jobs if you consider the fact that “Youth Services” covers both Children’s and Teen Services. I have an assistant who helps me with Children’s Services. As the Youth Services Director, I directly manage 2 full-time staff members in the Children’s Room, and usually a part-time page. Most of the time I fake it to make it, and I suspect many of us do the same.

COVID-19 brought some interesting challenges for me personally, as it did for everyone. The hardest of these is how to coordinate remote kindergarten for my 6-year-old daughter while also working full-time. I work remotely 2 days a week so I can do school. Even though I still go to work 3 days a week (plus extra hours on Saturday to make up for some of my time at home) I have a hard time feeling like a “manager”. I feel split between my home life and my work life, even more so than usual. My daughter is home ALL THE TIME and is very good at calling me at work on her tablet while my husband is working and pretending not to notice. When I am at work, I feel guilty for not being home, and vice versa. I feel guilty because I “get to work from home” but it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be!

At the moment, my library is closed for browsing but our lobby is open for pickup. We are used to a busy children’s room with programs going on and lots of patrons running around. While we are doing a steady circ between patron book orders, kid’s curbside bags, and teen book boxes, my staff is still looking for projects to make the long quiet hours go by (the one light rock radio station that plays the same songs at the same time of day isn’t helping.) Of course, I have plenty of work to do between a current re-design of our website, managing an LSTA grant for a new play space (ironic, I know), and inventing new “programs” for kids and teens, and families to do at home. I have never been the best at delegating.

My staff is great at finding things to keep busy but in this strange time of “library limbo”, having meaningful tasks seem more important somehow. With this in mind, I am trying to be more inclusive with my staff. Not that I have ever purposely excluded them, but sometimes I have trouble getting out of my own head! I delegate more work to my circulation clerk, especially filling our new Reading Request google forms. I try to make my work a little more of a group effort, trying to include my staff more on ideas for the new website design and asking them what they think about grant purchases I’m considering. When I am working from home, we try to keep a running group text going throughout the day. Not continuously, but it’s just a way to connect us when I’m not there, even if it’s just to send a funny meme or mention that a crazy patron came in that we haven’t seen since pre-covid times. Which seems like FOREVER ago.

It’s not perfect and I’m really not perfect but I’m doing the best I can, as we all are.

Cheers, and stay safe!


Mistakes Were Made: Audiobooks Featuring Lovable Screw-Ups

Pondering the best audiobooks I’d listened to lately, I realized that they all shared a common thread: Protagonists with a lot of heart who’d made some major mistakes. Check out these listens featuring vivid characters dealing with very different, very tough circumstances. 


Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

When I heard Angie Thomas was writing Concrete Rose, a prequel of sorts to The Hate U Give featuring Starr’s father, Maverick Carter, I had my doubts. How could it possibly live up to THUG, and how could the audiobook live up to Bahni Turpin’s magnificent performance? My friends, I’m happy to report that both Angie Thomas and narrator Dion Graham absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one. 

Seventeen year old Maverick’s world gets turned upside down when he finds out he’s a father as a result of a one night stand. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse for Mav and his family, tragedy strikes. A series of setbacks forces Mav to grapple with conflicting messages about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a father, and what it means to have someone’s back. 

Dion Graham imbues Maverick with so much heart, you can’t help but love him despite all the mistakes he makes. All of Thomas’s characters are distinctive, and Graham masterfully brings each one to life. The dialogue is fantastic, and the setting is vivid. The 90s slang and references were pure nostalgic joy for me. This is a story that’s meant to be heard.

You Know I’m No Good by Jessie Ann Foley

Mia is a self-identified “Troubled Teen.” She drinks, does drugs, has casual sex, and gets in terrible fights with her parents. Things come to a head when a particularly nasty fight with her stepmom gets her shipped off to Red Oak Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for girls with “issues.” Mia is forced to confront the tragedies in her past that led her to her misbehavior, and ultimately, the problematic way the world tends to treat young vulnerable women.

Narrator Hayden Bishop does a fantastic job of depicting Mia’s anger and edginess, but also her vulnerability and deep sadness. She distinctly portrays the quirky group of classmates Mia befriends at Red Oak, making them easy to love and empathize with. This is a beautiful story that asks important questions about self-worth, consent, and privilege. Hand it to fans of Foley’s other books, or those looking for something like Speak with an acerbic edge.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

In France in 1714, Addie LaRue makes a desperate Faustian bargain in order to escape being trapped in a loveless marriage. Too late she realizes she made a bargain with the wrong magical being: He gets her out of her marriage, but dooms her to live forever in isolation, never to be remembered by anyone she meets. 300 years later, she comes across another of the devil’s cursed victims. Can they work together to break the curses? 

Julia Whelan, narrator extraordinaire, pulls out another superb performance. Spanning 300 years, and moving back and forth between the past and present, Whelan varies her tone and rhythm to match the different settings of Addie’s story so the reader never feels lost. Whelan capture’s young Addie’s naïveté and longing, as well as present day Addie’s remorse, fatigue, jadedness, and ultimately, her hopefulness. This genre-defying tale manages to be both a suspenseful thriller, a romance, and a philosophical rumination on human nature, art, storytelling and memory. Though this book was technically published for adults, teens cannot stop raving about it. 


Reverse Scavenger Hunt

In a time of virtual programming, we often find ourselves looking for fun and engaging programs we can do with our teens on whatever video platform we use. One program I had success with is a Reverse Scavenger Hunt. This was something I had hoped to do in person but easily adapted it for virtual programming. Unless you want to buy prizes, this program is completely free.

What is a Reverse Scavenger Hunt?
In a typical scavenger hunt, you provide participants with a list of items that they need to seek. Whether it’s physically obtaining the object, taking a picture, or recording a video. With a reverse scavenger hunt, you are still creating a list of items, but your participants are hunting for these items blindly before the program. Inside of setting your teens off where you can’t see them, you have them with you the entire time.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create a list of various items. It may sound like a lot but if you plan to have an hour program, I recommend doing 40 – 50 items.
  • Instruct participants to gather items prior to the start of the program. This can be in a bag, box, another container, or just a pile.
  • For the program, make sure the teens have their items with them wherever they are with their device
  • Inform them that while they don’t need to be on camera, they will need to have the camera on at least when they are showing the items
  • Start going down your list and see if they scavenged the items you have on it. If the teens have the item, or can easily obtain it nearby, have them show it on camera. Teens shouldn’t be getting up and moving around too much but if they can grab it from where they are sitting it’s fair game.
  • Markdown a point for participants who have that item and then move on to the next item.
  • In the end, add up the points and announce the winner/rankings.

Optional Things:

  • Create bonus points for items. For example, let’s say one of the items on your list is a book. The bonus point can be if it is a library book. If the teen has a book, they get one point, if it’s a library book they get two.
  • Prizes are optional and what they are can be what works for you.

List ideas:

  • A pen: bonus point if ink that isn’t black or blue
  • A box of cereal: bonus point if family size
  • A roll of toilet paper: bonus point if wrapped
  • A t-shirt: bonus point if from the library or their school
  • A sneaker: bonus point if the left one
  • A bottle of nail polish: bonus point if it’s a shade of blue
  • A cd: bonus point if it’s a soundtrack
  • A crayon: bonus point if a primary color
  • A piece of fruit: bonus point if an apple
  • A rubber duck: bonus point if it’s not yellow

You can also let them get creative:
One of your scavenger hunt items can be say, a picture of a library staff member (bonus point if you). Teens likely won’t have a picture but they can maybe take one with a second device. They could also draw one if they have paper and something to draw with.

Last thing
This program can also be done as an in-person program when your library has those again. In that case, teens would have to bring the items to the library instead of just having access to them at home. You can either allow teens to bring them in whatever they want or provide them with a container when they register. The only downside with in person is that it doesn’t exactly allow for last-minute sign-up/participation.