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Trying something new– emailing those who opted in a brief newsletter about what is happening.


Fall Teen Programming Week 4


Gaming, arts, volunteer opportunities and a chance to totally rock Banned Books Week 2016.  What could be better?


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Fall Teen Programming Week 3


Busy week. Coding, spooky photos, paranormal investigations and a maker’s project.  Not bad for September.

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Teen Programming Week 2

girl reading spooky book

A little bit of a quiet week?

Study Break: LED Origami

I found directions for the origami lotus flower and frog from Adafruit HERE. I am not an origami genius.  I loved the idea of combining basic LED circuitry with a simple paper craft–though origami isn’t in my wheelhouse.

Once upon a time, I blamed my origami incompetence on my inability to cut straight lines resulting in imperfect squares. This time, I bought real origami paper, guaranteeing success with their perfect square symmetry. Or so I thought.

I did manage to figure out the lotus after doing it wrong a few times.  I never got the frog.  I read the directions, watched the videos etc. It just wasn’t happening.

I started the program by showing my lotus, explaining that if there were those brave enough to try the frog, more power to them, but I could only support the lotus builders. Flower creating was okay, but as a caution, apparently origami paper comes in various thicknesses.  Those who took the solid colored paper did much better than those who tried the prettier printed papers I bought– which I think must have had a little more weight to them.

I used our squishy circuit kit to illustrate the concepts of circuits and how they work before we added LEDs to our lotuses.  There were a few origami non-experts who did get a little frustrated, but in the end they left with a lotus.

Get Your Spooky On Pt: 1

spooky story contest

My branch is partnering with two other nearby branches to put on a “Get Your Spooky On” scary story writing contest for grades 4-12.  The winning entry from each branch will be published in our local paper (not the big city paper, but the local neighborhood paper).

To support this contest, we planned a series of programs with a spooky theme.  You will see them in the coming weeks.  Stories, some spooky, some funny were told.  Participants were given some time to brainstorm ideas and practiced a story where each person told a portion of the story.

I wasn’t sure how my “teens” would take a program like this, as the older they get, the more jaded they can be.  I was pleasantly surprised the next day to have one of my teens comment that he wasn’t sure he’d like being in the program,  “some of those stories were pretty good.”

This program was planned and presented by another branch’s manager.  I hadn’t worked with her much, so it was awesome watching a manager do storytime.  There is something magical about the way people who are natural storytellers apply their craft.I was inspired.


Teen Fall Programming Week 1

Taster’s Choice: Mug Cakes

As my first fall after school program, I offered a food program.  To get my teens interested in the topic, I posted pictures of over a dozen possible mug cakes, most of which I found through Pinterest. In the preceding week, I let the teens vote for their favorite three.  The winners were what we made. The voting opportunity gave me a great chance to talk to kids about the program, and also gave them a “buy-in” to come back for the program and see if their choice won.
Typically I have 5-8 kids at a program. I planned mugs for 12 and had 20 kids.  I had enough ingredients, but not enough
mugs.  We improvised by grabbing some from the break room.  Teens read recipes, measured ingredients and baked in our meeting room microwave.  Next time, knowing that this could be popular, more stations, more tools, and a better division of supplies are in order.  (I would say keep it simple with only 1 recipe, but I think kids really enjoyed picking their favorite and comparing how it turned out with others.)

The following recipes were the winners. Oreo Mug Cake:
This single serving cake is fluffy and sweet, with crushed Oreo pieces mixed throughout. So this is my Cookies and Cream Mug Cake 2.0. I previously
The Oreo was probably the favorite pick initially and lots of kids wanted to make it. However, our first few cakes didn’t turn out so good. I possibly went too light on adding the liquid, but we tweaked our tools and my measuring skills as we got a better idea of what it should look like before cooking.

Cinnamon roll:
This single serving microwave cinnamon roll mug cake has cinnamon swirls mixed throughout a fluffy cinnamon flavored cake. It’s cinnamon roll meets cake in
This recipe was definitely the most complex recipe, and took a bit more patience. It was better suited to my older kids.  I brought supplies for the icing, but we really didn’t have time to make it.  Instead we used some extra butter, cinnamon and sugar as a sweet glaze.

Brownie Mug Cake

Oh my. We’re doomed. My young friends Reilly and Alden just showed me how they make single serving brownies, in a mug, in a microwave. Takes 5 minutes.

This was hands down the best tasting of the lot among those who made it.  However, I learned a valuable lesson, as this is the only cake that “exploded” when baked.  The explosion only happened to one kid, who put the ingredients together, but didn’t read the whole recipe, especially the part that said STIR.  Teachable moment.

Although I hadn’t planned on this initially, I was really glad to discover that none of these recipes required egg– some do.

Make U Sculptures:

As a disclaimer, this program was part of our library system’s mobile art kits.  Essentially, a program in a box, all supplies, directions and tools included.  We borrow reserve and borrow these.  To make the sculpture, 4 holes were drilled int
o the 2×4 wooden base.  Wire was secured in the holes using glue guns.  Frames were covered in plastic wrap, then mod podge and tissue paper.  We talked about abstract art, and the importance of form. Kids had a good time, even if the power tools made me a little nervous.

Random Fandom

The concept was “mini-comic con,” though admittedly I have never been to one.  I wanted a forum where teens could feel free to express what they were passionate about, and share that with like minded individ
uals. I planned six themed tables 1) Fantastical Worlds (Harry Potter/ Lord of the Rings, etc.) 2) Werewolves, vampires and other dark creatures, 3) Turning Japanese (Manga, Pokémon, Anime and more) 4) Sci-Fi (Star Wars, Star Trek and more) 5) Comic Relief (Marvel, DC, etc.) 6) Miscellaneous.   I had chosen my topics based on feedback I received from my teens in previous conversation.

Learned that I could have done without the dark creatures and probably could have had a video game.  Also, learned a lot about various anime series that I otherwise was ignorant to.  I brought out the iPads and the smart board so teens could look up videos/ images, etc. if need be to share
what they were talking about. I ran the program in the teen area, and at the time there was a group of kids who weren’t regulars hanging out.  When initially invited to join in, they declined.  However, with the technology involved, several slowly came around as they wanted to show us what really interested them– free running. I had an activity (Foam Full Metal Alchemist pins) planned, though many participants chose to use the materials to create fan art featuring other anime favorites.

Are you ready for some football?

football-and-helmetsAs a conversation starter when working with teens, I have an ongoing web-based contest: Our Branch’s Football League.

I use google forms to create an online entry form: I select 10 total HS, college and NFL match ups for the week.  Teens enter their name, a username and the team they think will win each game.  The username is how winners are posted on the leader board each week. This can confuse kids at first, but I tell them it is to protect their anonymity a little. I also use the opportunity to discuss picking a username that will be unique, but not inappropriate.

On Monday (or Tuesday if there is a Monday night game), I use the spreadsheet to total up the weekly scores. A win earns one point, while a loss earns nothing.   For the week, I determine a cut-off based on how many people played and how they scored.  The top 50% make the leader board.  The leader board is listed in the teen area.  Once posted, teens can stop by the desk to claim a small prize — usually a small piece of candy.

Later in the season, around the NFL playoffs, we will have a competition based on your season long cumulative score.  Again, a top percentage make the playoffs. Even if you don’t win candy each week, if you play regularly, you should make the playoffs.  For the playoffs, I start with a  list of those who made the play offs.  Through the course of the week, I do random drawings to eliminate players, resulting in a final season champion who earns a small gift card.

I usually run the program on a mobile smart board, but occasionally have tried to use laptops and iPads too.  When I kicked off the program, I was sure to display some football themed titles near where the leader board would be posted.   For example:

Football Champ by Tim Green:7ba01177bd-2440-4404-8706-f6723436339c7dimg100

Twelve-year-old Troy’s uncanny gift for predicting football plays proves a powerful secret weapon for the Atlanta Falcons, but a seedy reporter with a vendetta suspects something is going on and sets out to shred the reputations of Troy and star linebacker Seth Halloway.

Gutless by Carl 519izqzupylDeuker

With both good speed and good hands, wide receiver Brock Ripley should be a natural for the varsity team, but he shies from physical contact. When his issues get him cut from varsity, he also loses his friendship with star quarterback Hunter Gates. Now a target for bullying, Brock struggles to overcome his fears and discover that, in his own way, he is brave enough”– Provided by publisher.

Hit Count: by Chris Lynch25605963-_uy200_

Arlo Brodie loves being at the heart of the action on the football field, and while his dad cheers him on, his mother quotes head injury statistics and refuses to watch, but Arlo’s winning plays, the cheering crowds, and the adrenaline rush are enough to convince him that everything is OK, in spite of the pain, the pounding, the dizziness, and the confusion.

It seems like a very simple program, but really offers a great opportunity to talk start conversations and build relationships.


Summer Programming Recap

sunglasses on book at beach
I meant to post about my summer programs as they happened. That did not happen.

Instead, here is a rundown of what I did and how it went.  If you want more details, please leave comments and I will get those out.

Bright ideas: We made LED popsicle stick flashlights like I found on instructables:  Initial program went well but very low attendance.  I recycled this project for a childcare group that came in weekly for “maker” projects as well (look for a future post on this!)

0007-42Choose your own adventure:  Teens voted each week between two craft projects. I made supplies and instructions available the following week.  They were just left out.  I had several kids who looked forward to having something to make in the teen center.  I would love to have a maker cart in their for them—though I think they liked the idea of it being a specific project.  Some struggled with the projects and I wished I had more time to sit and do the project with them.

For what its worth, they voted for a duct tape bracelet, a sharpie lightbulb (I also provided switch plates/ outlet covers to sharpie after learning that this was a pinterest FAIL),  a fairy jar, and  a paint chip mobile.

DIY Ice Cream Social: I was going to have my teens do the make your own ice cream in a Ziploc bag.  However, I heard too many horror stories from veteran librarians. I have a new building and chickened out. Don’t judge me.  Instead, I supplied ice cream and a variety of cookies so they could make their own DIY Ice Cream Sandwich.  I then supplied a variety of “roll ins” – crushed candies, sprinkles, etc. to customize their creation.  For those who registered, I had preprinted tickets and they were first in line.  Any one else who showed/ I recruited received the next numbers, so I could control traffic at the table.  I did have nuts/ Reese’s pieces but was adamant that once you touched those containers, you couldn’t double back in line.  This program was a big success and one of my most attended.

3D M7ugeopeuaker.  I held two different tinkercad ( for creating objects for
our 3d printer.  I used a class set of laptops and learned a lot about trouble shooting our IT departments lock-down on the laptops. (Between tinkercad and the lockdown, it is hard to simply save your object where and how you want it). I also learned that kids need to be 13+ for their own account—which meant lots of trouble shooting on the fly in the first class.  In class 1, we made keychains that spelled out their name.  In class 2, we embedded SVG image files onto tags in tinkercad.  I then printed what the kids created.  Both classes took longer than intended, but the second was far smoother than the first.


Ready, Set, Code I also held two sessions of this class.  Code was marketed to, and drew a slightly younger crowd.  We used laptops and had an option for iPads, but the kids generally went with the laptops.  In the first class we did some “on paper” coding and talked about the importance of good directions.  Then I let the kids play with scratch. We took 2 breaks to walk around the room and see what everyone was doing so that we could share our knowledge.  Most did basic motion/ scenes.  One kid coded an etch-a-sketch style program. I did have a printout available for suggested programing to make, but most kids preferred to just sandbox in scratch.

The next session I did again started with a “manual” coding challenge; as a team they had to “code” directions to get me around an obstacle to reach their team.  We talked about precise language.  We then went to hour of code and I let the kids pick a challenge to work on.  I also let them explore several books I had and a few chose to go back to scratch.  One made a simple pac man style game.

Whole Latte Fun

The concept was me, my Krupp’s espresso machine, and open ended whatever goes.  I was hoping to get some book discussion going, which we did, to an extent.  During our first session, we also had the chose your own adventure, so I pulled the craft of the week in.  The second occurred on a rainy summer day, so few takers, but we talked Pokémon go, and some kids showed others some tips.  I wasn’t at the third, but we tried floats, some kids improved a coffee float, which they loved.

Gamer’s Lounge: Bring out the games and let the playing begin.  It’s not a complex program but provides a good opportunity to mingle and get to know kids, in theory.  That said, I had some very intense Minecraft players, which meant the room stayed pretty hush.

Filmmaker’s Society: Our first session was a huge hit.  I reserved several of the branch’s cameras.  We talked about the cameras, brainstormed some film ideas, created teams and set them lose.  Unfortunately, not enough time to edit, so hoped we could do that next session.  Lots of enthusiasm and kids talking parents into letting them check out a camera.  Next session was 1 month away, and very few kids came back to learn to edit, so that was a little bit sad.

Thursday Night Experience:

In an effort to try giving teens something to come to the branch for on a regular basis, I started the Thursday Night Experience—A series of otherwise pretty random niche programs.  Through this, I think I built a small core of regulars.

Wreck this journal: Last summer, our library system had library logo-ed journals as a Summer Reading prize. This summer, we changed our logo, devaluing those journals.  I provided duct tape, fabric stickers, etc. so teens could create a unique journal cover.  I then provided library borrowed copies of Wreck this Journal and a Q and A journal, so participants could borrow some of these page ideas and create their own journal.  I was excited that this was slated for 1 hr, and was going strong after an hour and a half.  The kids who came were really in to it.

Vive La Bibliotheque: Once upon a time, I taught French. So what does one do on July 14th?  One creates a Bastille Day program.  I had several different activities, because I really wasn’t sure what kids would like.  I had some bread and Bree to sample.  I premade crepes and had some Nutella to go with them.  The food went well. I had a few art projects—a Monet inspired water garden project, pointillism using cotton swabs and a decoupage project with various “French “ labels for the container.  The teens surprisingly were big into the painting projects.  I also made a French bingo and brought some French games (I own Life in French). We didn’t get to these as I may have over planned a bit.

Custom Hardware: I called this one custom hardware, because I didn’t want to call it anything with the word “Jewelry” in the thin hope of appealing to a wider audience. No such luck, but I tried.  Teens could paint metal washers using nail polish.  They could use metal stamps on jewelry blanks to make necklaces/ charms etc.  I also had a wire wrapping so they could try their hand at making various designs.  Lots of fun had by participants.  I am glad there was a variety of activities because otherwise there would have been a lot of time waiting to try something.

Cupcake Wars: I didn’t know what to expect on turn out for this, but was really glad to see a few guys willing to participate in this one.  I supplied cupcakes, canned frosting and an assortment of cookies/ candies to decorate.  I first had them decorate a cupcake based on a book. Then they could do a freestyle cupcake.  I am glad I had circulation do the judging.  They voted on various categories including “true to book,” “creativity” and “yummiest appearance.”


Marvelous Marble Coasters: This was a drop in program.  I purchased a space rails kit that teens could work on.  It was a bit intimidating for my regular crowd and we never seemed to quite work out the bugs in the loop.   Although it fit nicely with a daycare group I worked with that week, for the cost, maybe something else with more opportunity to design on your own.
Sew Easy: I brought my sewing machine and we made small “Doodelephants” muslin elephants that they drew designs on before sewing and stuffing.  They turned out very cute, but it would have gone smoother with more than one machine.  Also, some of the tight turns and curves might have been challenging for beginning sewers.

End of Summer Celebration: With over 40 volunteens helping with Summer Reading Challenge, I felt they had earned an end of summer celebration.  I invited all volunteens and any teen who had read 1000+ points (2/3 completed the challenge). There was pizza and soda.  Since the summer theme was sports based, our party had lots of mini-sports to try: Floor hockey, waste paper basketball, folded paper field goal flicking, a mini putt-putt course through the books, and beach ball volleyball over the bookcases.  I was surprised how much the teens loved it. I hope to bring some of these games out again during the school year.





Digital Drop Ins


At my first branch, I had a steady stream of regulars  to keep busy.  I had to have something for them to do on a daily basis. They responded well to instant gratification; a small candy or prize from the “prize bucket.”

At the new location, my regulars aren’t so regular.  Since I am not on the floor as often, I still want a way for them to engage with the library.  They will wait for a bigger, less instant reward, entries for a gift card drawing, for example.

In both situations, my response has been a daily drop in digital game.  I harness the power of our free standing touch screen computer.  It has the “cool” technology factor.  I then use google forms to create a simple game they can participate in.

At my first location, it was a weekly sports picks competition.  I listed several games using a google form.  After games were played, I entered a 1 for a win, zero for a loss.  Kids who earned the most points made the leader board (a powerpoint slide shown in our tech center.).  This was a great way to learn names of the regulars since the smartboard was located near the reference station.

The game evolved into a “question of the day.” Write the answer to the question– usually an opinion, or would you rather style question.  I asked the kids to write a minimum of two sentences giving their answer and justification.  This was another great opportunity to initiate conversations with participants– to get to know a little about how they thought, how their day was going, etc.

In my new location, I have started with a “who am I?” game.  We did a who am I scavenger hunt in the children’s area of my previous location.  It was a weekly drop in game where kids searched for 6 hidden clues and figured out the mystery person for a prize.  In digital form, all the clues are given on a google form to flip through, with digital entry at the end. I score the spreadsheet– 1 for correct 0= incorrect.  I will then do a random drawing to determine the winner of a small gift card at the end of the month.

This has shown to be a great way to get kids who come to the library something ELSE to do. An inroad for them to rethink what the library has been for them in the past, and what it could be… That we can, and now DO offer something just for them.  Because my regulars aren’t daily regulars, I change the person midweek.

For what it is worth, I typically use a tinyurl shortening of the google form. For example Who am I? can be found at where oreg represents my library and waif= who am I form.  Initially, I had used a separate slide show for clues and form for entry. That was too much navigation.





Teen Hang Out: Recruiting Envolvement

Co-workers keep asking how much I like my new position.  I tbest_in_miniature_trainsruly do, but I keep commenting on just how different it is.  At the old place, I was busy all day helping patrons log into their email, use the fax machine, and other fairly simple questions.  Here, the patrons in general are much more self-sufficient. I am not so busy, but when I get a questions it is far more in-depth.  Just yesterday, I spent 45 minutes helping someone track down replacement cost for his model train engines.

The biggest difference has been in tween/ teen traffic. The old location was part of a neighborhood.  I had kids who spent 3-4 hours there after school, many because they couldn’t go home.  I had a captive audience, and could get them to do about anything.  Here, not so much.  A few after school kids, here until their parents pick them up, within an hour.  A few on a mission to pick up a new read, etc.

I inherited a program called the “Teen Hang Out” designed to be a drop in time once a week for the librarian to interact with the teen crowd. Perhaps break out a game, or craft, or whatever they were interested in.  The first week, I had iPads.  That didn’t really impress these kids, since many have their own at home or from school. I engaged with 2 kids, one who flatly told me that the end of his book was far more exciting than my iPads were.

Fast forward a week, and what have we learned? Try something else.  On Monday, I began advertising for the Teen Hang Out for this week, featuring Chocolate Chow Mein, featuring the recipe. I talked the program up to teens in the branch.

The next day, chocolate_chow_meinsix kids ready to participate.  Right in the teen section, we made the snack.  When asked, shouldn’t we do this somewhere else? Isn’t it going to make a mess? I swiftly replied,”Yes, it is, and that’s OK.”  They had fun cooking.  We snagged a few more kids for the eating portion.  They snacked and played on the computer and seemed to have a good time.  We talked about music, and I plugged some of the upcoming summer programming.

We will be repeating next week, making floats.  I told them all to bring friends.








Improving the Teen Hang Out

My first program was called the “Teen Hang Out.”  The concept was to offer a time and space for teens to gather.  There wasn’t a set activity planned, but teens could gather and suggest what to do, materials would be provided.
I should mention that this was an inherited program in progress when I began the position.

During my first week, I brought a kit  iPads and thought we could explore the preselected apps from out tech committee.  That week, I had an attendance of zero teens for the hang out, despite going around the library and personally inviting teens.

Obviously, something had to change.  My husband pointed out that no self-respecting teen would be caught at something called the “teen hang out;” to an extent, he had a point.

During the following week, I thought of what typically worked to motivate most of my high school students and teens from other library programs– food.  I turned the hang out into a “foodie” event.

chocolate_chow_meinThe following week we made “chocolate chow mein.”

Chocolate Chow Mein Microwave 1/4 cup each peanut butter, chocolate chips and butter until melted. Put 3 cups each chow mein noodles and Chex cereal, and 1/2 cup each chopped peanuts and raisins in a resealable plastic bag; add the chocolate mixture and shake to coat. Add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and shake again.

Originally appeared on a Food Network article about 50 afterschool snacks

I advertised by leaving the recipe floating around the tables in the teen area. We made the mix right in the teen area.  I was asked by a teen “Are you sure we can do this? Won’t we make a mess?”  My response was, “Yes, and that’s okay. This is your space.”

Moderate success: 6 kids participated.

The following week, we made coke floats.  Nothing complicated or too expensive.  I talked it up to our regulars as I saw them, as well as kids I met during my outreach efforts to the branches.  More success : 10 kids.Mains dishes

Yesterday, we held our jam session.  I am a sucker for puns. We listened to music; I polled kids as I saw them, and also tried a post-it response wall, asking what songs to include on a teen section spotify playlist.

So we listened to music and also made a simple freezer jam using Instant pectin. Here’s How:


For every 2 (8 oz) half pints, you will need: Instant Jam
Strawberries – Wash, hull, then crush one layer at a time 1 2/3 cups
Ball® RealFruit™ Instant Pectin 2 Tbsp
Granulated sugar or Splenda® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated 2/3 cup


  1. STIR sugar and Ball® RealFruit™ Instant Pectin in a bowl.
  2. ADD fruit. Stir 3 minutes.
  3. LADLE jam into clean jars and let stand 30 minutes. Enjoy immediately, refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. When filling jars, leave 1/2 inch headspace to allow for food expansion during freezing.

For what it is worth, Instant Pectin can be found in most grocery stores with the canning supplies. I used small cups with lids to send some home with kids, plus we had a loaf of fresh bread to taste test in the library. Several of the kids were surprised when I pulled out the materials for the jam. “Oh, you were really serious about making jam?”

Further success 12 kids, 2 adults.  More importantly, the teen space was starting to feel like a teen space.  There were multiple groups of teens “hanging out” during the hang out time frame.  There was talking, laughing, gaming and studying.  There was music and a hum of an active space that previously had been lacking.

I also learned that when it comes to teens, you don’t have to be “cool.”  You don’t have to know their language or be completely conversant in all of the fashion trends.  Instead, do things you love, and be willing to share.  Learn from them and give them the chance to experience something new.