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TLT is Thankful for YOU: A Merit Press Giveaway

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I thought I would tell you how thankful I am for YOU – our readers. We could still do this if no one was reading, and I honestly probably would because I love it, but it sure is nice to have people reading and talking with us. So thank you! As an expression of our thanks, we’re giving away 5 titles generously donated by Merit Press. Just leave a comment down below to be entered to win, being sure we have a way to get in contact with you if your name is chosen out of the hat (like a Twitter handle). We’ll be accepting entries until the end of November at Midnight. And because this is a giveaway to say thanks to our readers, it’s open to every one.

Here are the Books

merit1Unlovely by Celeste Conway

If he falls for a beautiful dancer, does he risk his heart? Or his life?

• Unlovely is narrated in dark mystery wrapped around a world teens love, that of dancers and dancing.

• Bewitching writing, an eerie story, and a here-and-now thriller, combine for a captivating read of love, loyalty, and dark revenge

• Celeste Conway’s book The Melting Season was featured by the New York Public Library as among 2006’s best teen reads. She also has written two middle-grade novels and teaches writing at Berkley College

“A perfect combination of romance and horror with (dare I say this?) some culture thrown in.” –Lois Duncan, author of Stranger with My Face and Locked in Time

Accidents happen. But they happen more often when the beautiful ballet dancers return each summer to the island. When he hears the ruthless way that the loveliest dancer talks about boys getting what they deserve when they break girls’ hearts, Harley, home for the summer after his first year of college, wonders if he’s losing his mind. He knows for sure that he’s losing his heart to this girl…But then, strange incidents start happening all over the island and Harley is caught between desire and fear: could he also be in danger of losing his life?

merit2Perdita by Faith Gardner

Granted, Arielle has a vast, excitable imagination. But she’s not imagining how strange and out of control her life becomes after the death by drowning of her older sister’s best friend, Perdita. Not only does this death echo the death of Arielle’s own older brother, ten years before, it leads to dreams and visions in which Perdita seems to be reaching out to Arielle, asking for her help. The only other explanation—that Arielle’s high-strung emotions have finally caused her to break with reality—is even more terrifying. A story that builds to greater and greater heights of suspicion and fear, Perdita is also a multi-layered literary achievement that leaves no emotion untouched.

merit3The Yearbook by Carol Masciola

Misfit teen Lola Lundy falls asleep in a storage room in her high school library and wakes up to find herself 80 years in the past. The Fall Frolic dance is going full blast in the gym, and there she makes an instant connection with the brainy and provocative Peter Hemmings, class of ’24. His face is familiar, and she realizes she’s seen his senior portrait in a ragged old yearbook in the storage room. By the end of the dance, Lola begins to see a way out of her disastrous Twenty First Century life: She’ll make a new future for herself in the past. But major mental illness lies in Lola’s family background. Has she slipped through a crack in time, or into an elaborate, romantic hallucination based on the contents of an old yearbook?

Infinite Number BGcvr.inddAn Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay

As their senior year approaches, four diverse friends joined by their weekly Dungeons & Dragons game struggle to figure out real life. Archie’s trying to cope with the lingering effects of his parents’ divorce, Mari’s considering an opportunity to contact her biological mother, Dante’s working up the courage to come out to his friends, and Sam’s clinging to a failing relationship. The four eventually embark on a cross-country road trip in an attempt to solve–or to avoid–their problems.

Told in the narrative style of Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMAN, AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL UNIVERSES is at turns geeky, funny, and lyrical as it tells a story about that time in life when friends need each other to become more than just people that hang out.

merit5Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.

Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.

Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, Half in Love with Death is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

All book descriptions are the publisher’s descriptions. And a heartfelt thank you to Merit Press for these books to give away.

Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

RULESPublisher’s description:

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.

With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.


Amanda’s thoughts:

Rose’s mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease when Rose was 12. She’s now about to turn 18 and finds it hard to make any decisions or see any hope for her future when there’s a 50/50 chance that she, too, will develop the disease. To call her “skeptical” is too light of a term. She’s incredibly pessimistic and scared to pursue things she loves because of the potential loss and disappointment that could come should she carry the gene. She thinks of her life in terms of maybe only having x amount of healthy years left, a thought process that has been paralyzing her for a long time, but finally jars loose other ways of thinking and living…. eventually.


Set in and around Boston, Rose meets Caleb at a fundraiser for rare genes diseases and research. Caleb’s mother and two younger sisters have sickle cell, something Rose thinks of as “a walk in the park compared to Huntington’s. It doesn’t even kill you anymore.” They start to hang out at an incredibly unstable time in Rose’s life. She’s debating getting tested when she turns 18 so she can find out if she’ll develop Huntington’s. She’s looking at colleges both near home and all the way across the country—though how can she leave home and leave her father and grandmother to care for her mother alone? Suddenly everything is converging at once. Rose’s mother seems to be getting worse just as Rose, a dancer, gets the opportunity to audition for her dream school, where she could potentially earn a full-ride scholarship. But she can’t stop thinking of what the results of the genetic testing might be. It’s a lot to try to figure out, so you can’t exactly blame Rose for sometimes being insufferably self-centered, secretive, and not exactly forthcoming.


Prior to this, the only things I really knew about Huntington’s were from reading various things about Woody Guthrie’s life. Through Rose’s mother, we really get to see how truly devastating and unpredictable the degenative disease can be. It is not easy to watch her mother stutter, lash out, break things, fall, and seem to be slipping away.


McGovern’s story also deals in many small ways with race (as her guest post from today touches on). Lena, Rose’s best friend, is Chinese. Caleb is African-American. Rose talks about being half Jewish. The characters have many smallish conversations about race. Rose tells Caleb she doesn’t even think of him as black. Caleb laughs at this and says to her, “If you don’t see me as black, maybe you’re not seeing me as me. Because I am black.” Conversations like this crop up again and again.


There are a lot of smaller threads to this story that round out who Rose is and what her life is like. We see a lot of her life as a dancer, little of her life in school, and how narrow her life has become at home. It seems she’s always dealing with something with her mother or waiting for something to happen or worrying about it. It’s a wonky time in her life and everything is viewed through the lens of this disease. Eventually, Rose has to decide if it’s better to know your future or to just wait and see what happens. She has to decide if the risk of eventual loss is worth the risk of being happy right now. And she has to decide if what she thinks she wants is the same thing as what she actually wants. Rose seems to not yet have put together that life is always uncertain and we’re not guaranteed anything, disease or no disease. She has to learn that everything is always a risk. 


McGovern’s debut is a solid read. The unique details of the plot make it stand out from other books about teens dealing with various diseases. Caleb is far more patient with Rose than could reasonably be expected of him, but readers will cut the often frustrating Rose a break as they watch her deal with the current circumstance of her life. Strong families for both characters are a bonus. This should appeal widely to fans of contemporary YA who don’t want their romances too mushy or their sad books too dark. A smart and affecting look at the things we can and can’t control. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780374301583

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 11/24/2015

On Writing Interracial Relationships in YA, a guest post by Kate McGovern



I get this question a lot about Rules for 50/50 Chances: Why include “race stuff” in an already heavy book?


I understand the intention behind the question. In Rules, Rose, the main character, is dealing with her mother’s deteriorating health and the looming possibility that she might have inherited the same devastating illness. That’s a lot of ground to cover already. Why also throw in sometimes fraught conversations about race between Rose, who is white, and her boyfriend Caleb, who’s black?


But even if it’s unintentional, I worry about the implication that a book that isn’t, at its core, “about race” can’t feature racially diverse characters whose racial identities affect their perspectives—and who sometimes talk about race.


RULESThat Rose and Caleb are a mixed-race couple isn’t an accident. It’s a choice I made for a few reasons. First, it’s what I know. My partner is Indian American. My ex was Jamaican British. Over the years, I’ve dated white guys, black guys, Asian guys, mixed guys—okay, let’s not delve too much into my dating history, but long story short: in the cities where I’ve lived (New York, London, Boston), dating across racial lines is nothing unusual.


That’s true for more and more teens all over the country, too. But while we’re starting to see these relationships reflected in YA literature more routinely—one of my favorite debuts this fall, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, features a relationship between an African-American/Japanese girl and a white guy—I still don’t think we’re seeing them often enough.


And often when we do see them, they’re the central issue at play. I loved Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, in which an Orthodox Jewish girl and an African-American boy fall in love. Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly breaks my heart every time I re-read it. But I wanted to write a different kind of book—one that featured an interracial relationship in a context where it’s totally NBD that the two main characters aren’t the same race.


At the same time, I didn’t want to write a book where race never comes up. Mixed relationships come in all stripes, just like non-mixed relationships, and I’m sure there are some mixed couples who never mention race or talk about their differences. (I don’t think I know any of those couples, but hey, they’re probably out there.) I wanted race to be present in Rose and Caleb’s relationship—to be the catalyst for and the subject of some complicated, sometimes uncomfortable conversations between them. I wanted their racial identities to be what they are for most of us: pieces of who they are that do indeed affect their experiences of the world. But I didn’t want race to be the central problem of the story.


For me, that felt true. It’s been my truth, certainly—and a truth I don’t see reflected often enough on the page.


The publisher is offering a finished book giveaway to one of our readers (US only please). We’re using the hashtag #Rulesfor5050Chances if you’d like to share via social. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Want to read more? Check out the other stops on the blog tour:

11/16: Dear Teen Me

11/17: Stories & Sweeties

11/18: Love is Not a Triangle

11/19: Book Addict’s Guide

11/20: Once Upon a Twilight

11/23: Fiction Fare

11/24: Teen Librarian Toolbox


Meet Kate McGovern

Kate McGovern_credit Liz VidyarthiKate McGovern has written both fiction and nonfiction for the educational market, and has taught theatre, literacy, and creative writing to kids in Boston, New York, and London. She received her bachelor’s in American Studies from Yale. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit her online at or follow her on Twitter at @mskatemcg.

Middle School Monday – Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

MSMI will not leave you in suspense, dear reader, I am entirely thrilled with this, the fourth and last installment of Ms. Carriger’s Finishing School series. It is a delight. In fact, I am hard pressed to discover what details I can expose without spoiling your own experience of its pleasures.

The Picklemen are up to no good, again. Monique de Pelouse and Soap (as well as many other previously loved and/or hated minor characters) pop back up to add to the story and the carefully orchestrated denoument of the series. And Sophronia and her band of friends (sadly minus Sidheag) save the day, of course.

My favorite part, however, is that we as readers discover along with Sophronia, that many of the people in her life are much more than they seem in some of the most delightfully devious ways. But I will have to leave it to you to discover whom.

I could not be happier with the outcome of this series, along with its ties to her other books. Ms. Carriger is firmly down as one of my favorite authors. I strongly recommend this title, as well as every other one in the Finishing School series to any collection serving students in grades 6 and up.


Book Review: Other Broken Things by Christa Desir

otherbrokenthingsPublisher’s Book Description:

Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

5 Things I Loved About OTHER BROKEN THINGS:

1. Nat’s Voice

From the very first line – “I would cut a bitch for a cigarette” – I found Nat’s voice to be authentic and engaging. She rough around the edges in every way, but as you find out more about who she is and why you can’t help being drawn into her story.

2. Characters Engaged in Unconventional Activities

Nat is a boxer, a female boxer. I really enjoy reading stories that highlight teens being engaged in activities that we don’t often read about. And in this story, you feel Nat’s passion for her sport, a passion that she is being denied by people who care more about what other people think than honoring the autonomy and spirit of the person standing before you. Nat was being asked to deny who she was and so many teens can relate to that story.

3. Women Standing Up for Themselves

I can’t go too much into detail about this because it comes near the end of the book and it is an important part of Nat’s journey. However, Nat comes from a very patriarchal home and she is not the only one who is being squashed by the demands of others. An important turning point happens when an important figure in Nat’s life stands up not only for Nat, but for herself.

4. The Depiction of Addiction and the Age of Consent

At the end of the day, Other Broken Things is about brokenness and addiction. I have worked with author Christa Desir for a couple of years now on the #SVYALit Project so I am familiar with her training as a rape victim advocate and her opinion of rape and consent. Nat is a 17-year-old girl struggling with addiction. She is court mandated to go to AA meetings, where she meets a much older man that she connects with. Eventually, that relationship because more than a sponsor relationship. It is fundamentally important that there are several people in this story who tell Nat that she is just replacing one unhealthy addiction – alcohol – with another – a codependent relationship. And there are several people in the story who point out that the age difference is not only a problem, but possibly illegal. I have read a lot of YA literature that has romanticized the teenage girl/older guy relationship and appreciated that this book does not. Desir is the queen of dysfunctional relationships and she excels at making sure that young readers who are now just navigating the relationship waters at least has some counter viewpoints in the story that suggest that this, dear readers, is not a healthy relationship to be idealized and romanticized.

At the same time, Desir gives a strong look into the world of addiction, emphasizing that the addictive personality that underlays addiction can express that addiction in many, many ways. Nat’s addiction is not just alcohol, it’s just that her addiction to alcohol is what got her caught and into the therapy that she desperately needs.

5. Pregnancy Loss

There is a subplot in this story that I really appreciated involving pregnancy loss from both the female and male point of view. Desir gives a male character a strong voice in expressing the loss that he feels regarding a pregnancy loss. As someone who has written multiple times about the lack of miscarriage and pregnancy loss in YA literature, because it does happen and it does have emotional consequences, I appreciated how Desir handled this topic.

Final Thoughts

I thought this was a strong, powerful story that was engaging and moving. The characters had depth, authentic voices, and I know that many of my teens would find them completely authentic and relateable. Highly recommended.

Comes out in January 2016 from Simon Pulse.



Sunday Reflections: Behold the Power of Books

selection2“No, No, No,” I heard The Teen scream from the living room, so I went running to see what was happening. She was sitting in the chair that we all call “the reading chair” yelling at her book. I have done this. This I understand.

Suddenly, she started crying. Not the silent tears streaming down your face crying but the wild, air gulping sobs of someone who has just watched their puppy get kicked. This one brought The Mr. running from the other room to see what was happening. It was distressing to see her so upset.

The book? Book 2 in the Selection series by Kiera Cass, The Elite. Her favorite character, she explained, was being brutally beaten and it was awful to read. “It’s just a book,” her father said in an effort to comfort her. “But this really happens to people,” she reminded him, “people get beaten and abused.”

She continued reading and crying and it was clearly making her dad uncomfortable. “Why don’t you stop reading for a while,” he said, “so you’ll stop crying, we have to go to karate in a few minutes and you don’t want to look like you have been crying.”

“I don’t care about that!,” she yelled. And she kept reading. And she kept crying.

It lasted for a good solid twenty minutes, this crying and reading, reading and crying.

As she got into the car with me to go to karate she proclaimed, “I’m so glad I’m going to karate, I need to punch something. I feel so emotional.” She was really focused in karate that night, not gonna lie.selection1

The next day I drove by her bus stop taking her little sister to school. As the other teens stood around talking she was sitting on the corner reading the book. I’m not gonna lie, I was a little bit proud.

That evening she told me about how some of the characters were calling another character a whore, so we talked about slut shaming. It turns out that even though I talk a lot about slut shaming in my work with teens, I had never talked to my daughter about it. So we did, we had a talk where I reminded her that I hoped she would make the decision to wait much later in life to have sex, partly because of our religious beliefs but also because I want her to choose education and find herself on solid ground before she potentially finds herself in sexual relationships. But I also told her that even though we made those choices for ourselves, that we respected other people’s rights to make other choices for themselves and that we shouldn’t shame or judge them for them. Not for the way they choose to dress. Not for how and when they may choose to be sexually active. Shame and judgment, I reminded her, can be harmful. And I reminded her that in our Bible, our God clearly tells us that we are not to judge others because we ourselves are in no way perfect.

It was a good conversation, one of many good conversations I have had with my daughter. Another example of a conversation that I hadn’t really thought to have with her but was prompted to do so by a book. Books are good spring boards for conversations. They help us ask questions we never thought to ask.

selection3The next day she walked through the door after school and went to her room to finish reading. She was so close to being done and she was ravenous to know what happened. And since I was doing some Cybils reading of my own, I laid down in bed next to her reading my own book. There we were, the two of us reading our own books when she suddenly sat up and leaned on her elbow, turning to me. “This man,” she said, “is willing to destroy his own country because he is so hungry for power. This caste system is horrible. Those people in the lower caste have horrible lives.” Again, this led to a great discussion about power and politics. This time, I mostly listened as she was processing what she was reading and sharing her thoughts with me. I was struck by how smart she was, how compassionate, how thoughtful.

In a little over a week and a half she read the first three books in the series. She raged. She cried. She thought. She talked. We bonded. We grew. And I feel like she is just a little bit better to live in this world.

And that is the power of books.

Friday Finds – November 20, 2015

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Talking to My Teen About Terrorism

#FSYALit: Faith, Kindness and the YA Community, by Ally Watkins

Middle School Monday – The TBR Stack

Take 5: School Violence

Post It Note Reviews by The Teen: November Edition

Video Games Weekly: Black Friday Wishlist

MakerSpace: The Proposal Stage

TAB Book Discussion: THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp

Around the Web

US is world leader in child poverty

The Suicide Clusters at Palo Alto High Schools – The Atlantic

Recommendations for your Hunger Games fans.

Tay-Tay donates books to NYC schools.

Predicting the next big movie franchise.

How To Reverse-Engineer The Perfect YA Lit Adaptation

I have questions.

Kwame Alexander aims to win readers who are at the age he hated books

TAB Book Discussion: THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp

tiwie9 I have a secret: I have never been able to succeffully host a teen book discussion group at any of the libraries I have worked at. At most I ever got 3 people to attend, so I eventually gave it up and moved on to more successful programming. But I was contacted by Sourcebooks and given the opportunity to host a book discussion of the upcoming January release THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp and I jumped at the chance. The main difference this time? I was going to be hosting it in my house with the TLT Teen Advisory Board.

So on Thursday, November 12th 4 TLT TAB members and a couple of their friends met at my house to discuss THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS. We had 6 teens all together and they had all read and loved the book. Discussion kits were sent to me a few weeks earlier by Sourcebooks to help us prepare for our discussion. At the end I asked each teen to share a short review of the book and we asked each teen to share visually their overall impression of the book. That information follows the Publisher’s Book Description.

Here are our TLT TAB members getting ready to discuss THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

Here are our TLT TAB members getting ready to discuss THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

Publisher’s Book Description

thisiswhereitends10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.



The Teens’ Reactions


Melanie, 12th grade


“In the debut novel by Marieke Nijkemp, it displays an ever growing situation that is being an everyday problem. The author utilizes literary devices to portray an event told by different perspectives. It moved readers and changed the way we viewed things.”

Lexi, 12th grade


“This book swept the rug out from underneath my feet. I felt every death, felt every pain these deaths caused, felt the devastation these twins faced. This book ripped me apart and only when I lost all hope did it stitch me back together.”

Kris, 11th grade


“This book kept me wondering and always on the edge of my seat. I always [wanted] to know more and was always changing how I felt about characters. It was constantly having my emotions played with. Great read had me hooked from the first few pages.”

The Teen, 7th grade


“This book captured the pure horror of an event and beautifully told the story of many people. It also created the image of people who change and how they turn into what they are. Just perfect.”

Cat, 7th grade


“Unexpected and captures the true terror of the people inside the school and outside. Tells of people’s life and how each of them contribute to Tyler’s story. beautifully written, it’s a story of a school shooting. I understand how people react to the shooting and how your life is at risk. Also, if my loved one’s died I would die inside.”

The Bestie, 7th grade


“Unexpected and suspenseful in so many ways. No changes are needed to make this one of the best book’s ever. I’m in love with the mind-blowing ending and the twists and turns of a crazy high school experience.”

The Discussion

This is a really powerful book for a book discussion. There were a lot of characters to discuss, a lot of events, and of course the teens had a lot to say about the topic of school violence and even gun control. The three older teens all go to a magnet school and it was interesting to note that they all felt safe there. They said there was almost no bullying and they thought it may be in part because each student there chose to go to that school. In comparison, the three younger teens all talked about the bullying and fighting in their school. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago there was an incident where someone in the local high school had made threats and had been arrested.

Although the teens were overwhelmingly positive about the reading experience, there was some heated discussion about characters, motivation and, as I mentioned, gun control. One of the teens felt that the book was perhaps propaganda for gun control because they didn’t really present another viewpoint. Although in the end she was still really enjoyed the book and her reading experience. I’m not sure that I agree with her about the gun control issue because it doesn’t really come up one way or the other in the book; because it is a book about a school shooting it of course must show someone using a gun for a negative purpose. Towards the end there are multiple police present so it could be argued that both sides are shown. But like I said, it was an interesting and at times intense discussion.

Our primary discussion revolved around the characters. It was interesting to note that all 6 of the teens had a different favorite character. It was also interesting to note how sympathetic they felt towards various characters and why. THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS presents a diverse cast of characters, which I appreciated

As you can probably tell, this was a great book. I think intense is a really good word for it. Be sure to check out Amanda’s recent Take 5 on some newer titles dealing with school violence.

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp will be published in January of 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire. ISBN: 978-1-4926-2246-8

MakerSpace: The Proposal Stage

I have spent most of the second half of 2015 working with my Assistant Director and co-workers to turn the Teen Space into a MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). Below I will share with you the most recent version of our project outline, which has gone through a variety of stages.

makerspaceThe process began with a simple email. I was blown away after visiting the Maker Space at the Cincinnati Public Library and I half-heartedly sent an email saying let’s do that. But we didn’t have a space that would work and like all libraries, budget is a huge concern. But I kept thinking about it and began doing a lot of research. And I mean a lot. I stayed up late at night researching. I took webinars, including a fabulous one hosted by LittleBits and School Library Journal. And then I got serious and wrote the first draft of my proposal, which, although it wasn’t enthusiastically accepted, was taken seriously. So then we started having real conversations: Could we do this? Should we do this? And, most importantly, WHERE would we do this?

Working with the Space You Have

The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio has a fabulous Teen Space. It is a small but enclosed space that is right across from the Circulation Desk. At first I hated the idea of giving this space up for my teens, but I couldn’t resist the thought that kept coming up in my mind that this was, in fact, the most ideal location for our MakerSpace. And the truth is, it would still primarily be our teen patrons that used the MakerSpace. In fact, they are our target demographic in creating the space, though it will be open to patrons grades 6 and up including adults.


In order to use this space, I had to get people on board with making a few other collections smaller so we had a new place to house Teen Fiction. Although I love the idea of the MakerSpace, teen fiction is very important – it’s a core teen service. So we asked a lot of questions, did a lot of measuring and talking, weeded, weeded, weeded, and we were able to come up with the space we needed to move Teen Fiction so that we had the room for a MakerSpace.

Working with the Budget You Have

Once we had figured out a way to work with the space that we had, we had to figure out what to do about a budget. We were in a fortunate position in that we had a lot of tools on hand in storage that could easily be moved into our version of a MakerSpace. And I will get to that our version part in a moment. In fact, we had enough on hand that we could start without a lot of initial investment and give ourselves to evaluate and add pieces as time went on. To be honest, we are still in the evaluating and adding stuff phase. We have some parts we’re getting ready to move into the space, and we have some other parts we would like to add next year.


The big thing for me in discussing budget is to remember that a lot of these components can be used multiple times in multiple ways for multiple programs. For example, I can do a regular craft program – which we all know can have a high price tag – once, or I can use iPads to teach people how to create artwork multiple times. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but it’s important to remember that buying technology may have a high initial price tag but it can be used multiple times in multiple ways, often making it more cost effective over the long run.

Creating a Local Vision

Once we embraced the idea of creating a Maker Space in our library, we realized that we had to take what we need and take our wish list to create a localized vision that worked for our space. As I mentioned, our space is small so we can’t have things like laser printers and vinyl cutters like we have seen in a lot of the bigger libraries we have visited. So we took the idea of a maker space and created local goals that worked for us, which meant finding technology tools that didn’t take a lot of space but had a lot of flexibility in use. This is part of the reason why our MakerSpace is focusing on iPads, though they are not our sole element. The benefit to iPads, for us, is that you can do a lot of different types of things with them, from making movies to enhancing photos to learning to code. We can have them in our space and then take them down into the meeting room to do a larger program. You can also use them with things like Sphero and Dot and Dash, which are both some basic robots.

Our initial "Maker" Cart

Our initial “Maker” Cart

Narrowing our focus and setting some more specific goals allowed us to better discuss what we would include in the space. We decided that we wanted to incorporate both high and low tech items. We decided that we wanted solo and group tools. We decided that we wanted things that we could temporarily move out of the space to do larger programs in our programming room. We decided that we wanted to be able to rotate some of our stations so that it wouldn’t be a static place.

Everything AND the Kitchen Sink

As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of bits and pieces throughout the building. For example, we have Legos and a button makers. The problem is, we don’t have a lot of storage. That’s when my assistant director came up with the idea that our MakerSpace was a sort of dynamic storage: everything would be in one place, but instead of being tucked away in a closet somewhere until we had a program, our patrons could use them. And then, when we needed, we could basically “check” the items “out” and take them to another location to do a more specific library program.

We need more storage!!

We need more storage!!

This idea was further expanded on when I took the LittleBits and School Library Journal Maker Workshop that I previously mentioned. One of the presenters, and I don’t remember which one I’m sorry to say, talked about the idea of libraries as kitchens versus grocery stores (and he was quoted someone else). In the past, he said, libraries were grocery stores: you went there to get the basic ingredients – in our case, primarily books. Today, he said, libraries are kitchens, where people come to work – and LEARN – together in a hands on environment, often in groups. The kitchen, he reminded us, is the warm center of the home, and libraries as kitchens can be the warm centers of our communities.

These two ideas together – dynamic storage and the library as kitchen – became the vision for us for our MakerSpace. We had previously started a Maker Collection and Circulating Maker Kits, which have proven to be extremely popular, and we decided to make our MakerSpace basically maker central for our library. After we move all our items into the space, including our Maker Collection and the Circulating Maker Kits, patrons will be able to find all our maker stuff in one location in the library.

Asking Questions Along the Way and Being Open to Change

As I mentioned, our plans went through a variety of stages along the way. I went in thinking I knew what I wanted, how I wanted it to look, and what we needed to do, but I am not the sole person working in my library. I had to learn to be open to the thoughts and opinions of others. My coworkers asked a lot of good questions that helped make both the process and the final plan better. Plus, because we were open to discussing the details, it made it more of a community experience which always helps with staff buy-in.

Circulating Maker Kits

Circulating Maker Kits

In the end we had to agree to say that this is a work in progress that we will refine along the way. We have a starting plan and vision, but we’re open to evaluating things as we go along and making adjustments as needed. I don’t have answers for every specific question my co-workers have asked, sometimes we have had to agree to be open to working them out as we go along in the process. Being open to change, even midstream, has proven to be very important to the process. I’m not going to lie, stuff has come up later in the process that we didn’t think about and it has made it necessary to swerve. Also, my implementation timeline has proven to be overly simplistic and idealistic, we are in fact already slightly behind schedule, but that’s okay too. The end goal is in sight and we are excited about what we are going to be able to offer to our patrons. Our MakerSpace doesn’t replace our regular offerings, it enhances them.

So as I mentioned, I am sharing my project proposal and outline with you below. It’s just one example because every library is different. We have different spaces, different budgets, and we serve different communities.

[Read more…]

Video Games Weekly: Black Friday Wishlist

videogamesweeklyAs you all probably already know, I work for a public library. My library system has a solid video games budget but like most librarians, I’m looking to get the best deal on video games. Since I won’t be posting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I decided to create a “Black Friday Wish List” of suggestions for you! Black Friday is a great day to go video game shopping, especially at places like Target, Walmart, or Amazon. I’ve found video games on sale for as low as $35 each, when they’re normally $60!

I understand that many libraries can’t afford every game that I judged to be a “primary” purchase, so you can ask me questions on Twitter or comment below. Also, I have to work on Black Friday and will be using #BlackFridayLibrarian on Twitter.

Finally, if you’re looking to upgrade your consoles for Game Nights, now is a good time if you’re dedicated to go out on Black Friday. I’ve seen Black Friday prices for Wii U for about $250.00; Xbox One 500G for $300; and PS4 bundles for $300. They’re pretty decent prices, especially if you can manage to get a bundle.

In order to not drive myself (or Karen) crazy, I had to make a Google Doc Spreadsheet instead of free writing it here. Here’s the link!

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian