Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

2012: Planning Ahead

The end of the year is a busy time of year.  Hopefully you are working on putting together some good end of the year reports to share with your administration, staff and community showing how your teen services is helping everyone in the community.  Remember to show it, not say it: include pictures from programs and think infographics instead of static charts and graphs.  Here are some fun (and well designed) examples for you to look at.  And you will want to check out this infographic on the anatomy of a librarian. 

The other big task you will probably be thinking about is planning for the year 2012. Wait, 2012! How did that happen?  I am going to ignore the big elephant in the room that is summer reading programming for the moment and just highlight some other events that you may want to look into.


Make New Year’s Resolutions
Make a resolution with your teens to read more!  Set a personal goal for yourself, say 24 teen books for the year (that’s 2 a month). Totally doable.  Then, send out book reviews on your webpage, Twitter account or Facebook page.  As your teens to do the same.

21 through 24: ALA Midwinter
John Green is going to be at Midwinter.  I am going to be at Midwinter (look for me and say hi).  The Printz Award winner is going to be announced at Midwinter.  It’s always fun to meet with other teen librarians and to find out what others are thinking, reading, doing and more.  So sign up today to go.  (And no, I do not work for ALA.)


Library Lovers Month
Valentine’s Day

Invite teens in for V day crafts, or hold an anti-valentine’s day party with absolutely nothing being loved theme.  Put up a huge display and invite teens to tell you why they love their library.


4 through 10: Teen Tech Week
This year’s theme is Geek Out @ Your Library.  You can do gaming or set up a Teen Tech Lab and invite teens to Pimp their Facebook page, create Infographics of their lives (kind of a biography in infographic form), or learn some other technology skill.  Better yet, invite teens to come in and make book trailers or commercials for the library using a digital camera.

23: Hunger Games movie release
Without a doubt this movie should be BIG – so you’ll want to have a party before hand.  My previous blog post outlining activities is linked above.  Entertainment Weekly.com has a Hunger Games central that you will want to keep watching for movie stills, trivia and more to share with your teens.  Don’t forget to visit Hunger Games net for additional information.


National Poetry Month
26: Poem in Your Pocket Day

You can hold a poetry contest or poetry slam.  You can do some poetry writing.  And don’t forget on the 26th to put a poem in your pocket.  You can create your own magnetic poetry kits but cutting words out of discarded magazines and gluing them to magnet strips bought at craft stores.


5: Free Comic Book Day
The best thing I ever did for Free Comic Book Day (apart from giving away the free comic books of course) was hire a caricature artist who sat in the teen area for a couple of hours that day and drew caricatures of the teens.  It was a fun, laid back activity that kept the teen area hopping.  I recommend it.

What are some other events you are looking forward to in the first half of 2012?

Graphic Design for Teen Librarians (or any other non designer)

I am not a graphic design artist, but I play one on the Internet.  In fact almost all teen librarians are forced to play one at some time or another in their career as they make program flyers, teen area displays, and put stuff up online.  Over the years I have learned some basic design tips, primarily from my husband who was an art major (I don’t always appreciate the way the tips are delivered, but they do always make my final product look better).  And at one point I was even able to arrange for a local graphic design professor to come do some hands on training with some of our library staff.  If you have a local college or university, this is a great idea for some basic training.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will limit our discussion to the creation of flyers and posters, although many of them do also apply to displays or web pages.

Graphic Design 101

1.  Fonts and Colors

You want to limit the main scheme of your piece to 2 or 3 color and font choices.  They should be complimentary colors and readable fonts.  A lot of online sources says no more than 2, but sometimes you can make it work with 3.  It is important to choose legible font for what you are trying to do, some fonts only work well really big.

2.  Typography

Speaking of fonts, remember that your text is also a graphical element.  Headlines and text all need to be considered in the overall design process.  Typography is in fact considered quite the art form and there are whole texts written on the subject.  Here are 10 Common Typography Mistakes by Brian Hoff.

I love typography
Typography Daily

3.  Basic Layout

Americans read from left to right in a Z patterns, so you want to place your important content elements in the top left, middle right, then bottom left and back to the far right corner.  When someone approaches your work to visually scan it, their eyes will customarily focus on these locations just as if they were reading a text.

4.  Justify Your Text

One of the tips I learned that made a dramatic change in the quality of my flyers had to do with centering your text.  I think it is some type of novice instinct to center justify your text.  However, choosing to either left or right justify your text creates a crisper line and makes a better use of the space.  This one simple tip by our graphic design professor led training radically transformed all of our pieces.

5.  Symmetry is Not Cool

Part of the reason why center justification is not ideal is because artistically symmetry is a bad design goal.  While it is true that we tend to instinctively prefer symmetry when we look at faces, symmetry is not typically found in nature:  look at the treelines that you admire so much – yep, not symmetrical.  When you choose symmetry as a design lay out the eye doesn’t know what elements are important, your viewer doesn’t know where to focus.

6.  Size Really Does Matter

Thinking again of typography, differentiating text size helps your viewer understand the hierarchical importance of your headlines.  This is why a headline is bigger then the message.  Your headline grabs your readers attention.  Then your next element is slightly smaller to let them know what the next step is.  You can also help make these distinctions by consistently using different colored text throughout your document.

7.  White Space is Your Friend

White space are those graphically and textually blank places on your page, although they are not necessarily truly white.  The use of white space allows your readers to have a place to rest their eyes and avoid over design.  Having said that let me say this:  I think when dealing with teen viewers you can get away with less white space then you can with an adult audience.  Teens spend a lot of time engaging with visual media and are used to video games, graphic novels, and highly stylized magazines.  It took a while for white space and I to be friends, but I have learned to appreciate its value.

8.  Borders are Also Your Friend

At the end of your piece, a border helps wrap it up in a clean bow.  It presents a clean edge that again helps define your space and helps direct your viewers attention.  That sad, sometimes it looks cool to break the border.

9.  Verb Up Your Image

When writing your text, you should put a strong emphasis on verbs.  In fact, I previously wrote a blog post about this.  The bottom line is your viewer wants to know what is in it for them and you can make that message clear by starting your text with a verb.  As they read it there is an unspoken “You” or “You will” that begins the message:  Create exciting pieces of jewelry, Travel through the library after hours and see if you can survive.  It’s attention grabbing, exciting, and makes the reader put themselves into the action.

10.  If it Works for the Piece, Break the Rules

These are basic tips that I have learned over the years and generally apply to the pieces I create, but at some time or another I have broken them all with success.  If it works, do it.

Don’t forget to proofread!

Some Graphic Design Resources

Desktop Publishing 12 Most Common Mistakes
Graphic Design Blender

The Librarian’s Creed: Sharing

At TLT we (I) recognize that libraries everywhere are facing staff and budget cuts.  We want to help you provide quality service to your tween and teen patrons while recognizing that today’s teen librarians are short on time, short on staff, and short on money – but not short on passion.

At the blog site you will find professional and staff development resources in addition to a feature I like to call Teen Programs in a Box (TPIB).  Here I provide program outlines with a variety of options for you to choose.  You can then customize each individual program to meet your own space, time and money needs.  You can find the various TPIBs by looking through the archives.

The original post (includes Hunger Games programs)
Back to School with Style
Olympians Week
Pageturners: Save my spot!
CSI: Follow the Evidence
Art Through the Ages
Monster Fest
Once Upon a Time
All the World’s a Stage
Picture It parts 1, 3 and 4 (I’m not bad at counting, Art Through the Ages was part 2)

In addition to the blog, there is a TLT Facebook page which I try and update with various newsbits daily.  Some of the information includes marketing tips, pop culture news relevant to tweens and teens, fun craft or programming ideas I stumble across and various campaigns (such as anti-bullying campaigns) aimed at the teen audience.  Some of the information is for librarians, other information is fun for you to share with your teens on your library FB page (or Twitter or whatever).

I chose a FB account because it is the easiest way to create and share many of the graphic resources that I create as a part of the TLT mission.  There are a variety of bookmarks, RA posters, smaller signs, and contest examples for you to download and use freely.  I also have created a couple of basic library promotion signs in 18×24 and 11×17 sizes.  You can print them out; they print out quite nicely and I have used them to decorate 2 teen areas now.  I have received feedback from a wide variety of librarians who have used them in their libraries, too.  To print them I recommend using a 11×17 color printer and piecing the posters together.  Unless you are lucky enough to have poster size color printing available to you (in which case I am totally jealous).  The images download as a .jpeg so you can shrink them to meet your needs.  You can also feel free to share them on your web or social media pages or in booktalks in the classroom.  I create them because I enjoy doing them and I want to use my passion to promote teen reading.

Occasionally we have fun contests.  Everyone loves winning stuff, right?  I try to do with the TLT FB account the things that I recommend doing with your teen services FB account in my post Make the Most of Your Teen Services FB Account.  You’ll want to join us on Fridays for Friday Fill Ins where I ask you to fill in the blanks with your favorite titles, stories, needs, and more.

If you or one of your teens would like to write a guest blog post talking about your library experiences or sharing programming success stories, please feel free to contact me at kjensenmls@yahoo.com.  I particularly like hearing from teens what they want and need from us librarians.

What Programs Do You Use?

I frequently get emails asking what programs I use to create my various images and posters, so here is the answer . . .

A majority of the posters I create in a combination of Microsoft Publisher and GIMP.  GIMP is freeware that you can download online and is similar to Photoshop; however, it is harder to learn to use than Publisher.  You can download a variety of free brushes to use with GIMP which is the major advantage to this program.  The brushes include things like angel wings, cloud effects, doodles, etc.  I usually create my background images in GIMP and then import them into Publisher as Publisher is easier for creating and manipulating text, although much more limited than what you can do with text in GIMP.  Powerpoint is also a good programming for creating images.
A lot of the photographs I use in my publications I take myself believe it or not using my iPhone.  There are a wide variety of fun and artistic iPhone apps that you can use to create amazing images.  Some of my favorites include WordFoto, Photoshake (which I use to make my bookmarks), ComicBook and Colorsplash.  You can read a previous post on iPhone apps to learn more about the apps I use.  Otherwise you just need a good basic digital camera and some photo editing software.  I carry mine with me always because you never know when you are going to stumble upon the right picture.
There is also a fun Photobooth app which I highly recommend both for artistic and programming purposes.  This app produces a fun 4 photo strip like you would receive in a photo booth and who doesn’t love a fun photo booth!
In the next few weeks I will be sharing a post about some basic graphic design tips I have learned.  And I hope to be announcing an exciting contest to add an amazing title to your professional book shelf.
If you have used any programs or images from TLT, I would love to hear from you.  Feedback is good, positive feedback is better.  Have a great day.

Thirteen Reasons Why: Teens and Suicide

“Why did you do it man, I thought you were stronger than that.”  That was the Facebook post last week that made me realize that something very horrible had happened to a young man who had spent several years coming to some of my teen programs at a previous library position.  A boy that had just graduated high school and was trying to find his way as a grown up in this world as a man.  Slowly through a series of FB posts I realized what I feared was true: he had committed suicide.

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teens and young adults.  Research by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center indicates that 1 in 5 teens have thought about suicide.  More than 1 in 12 teens actually attempt suicide.  In addition:

“Teen girls and boys are both at risk for suicide. Teen girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but teenage boys are four to five times more likely to die by suicide. Over half of teen suicide deaths are inflicted by guns.” (from teendepression.org)

In an attempt to deal with my own emotions regarding this young man’s suicide, I bought and re-read a copy of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  I then donated my copy to my library because all of ours are lost, a testament perhaps to the power of this book.

Thirteen Reasons Why begins with a young man named Clay receiving a box of 13 audio tapes.  You see, in the days before Hannah Baker committed suicide, she made 13 audio tapes explaining to 13 people why she took her life and the part that they played:

“I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”  – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

Clay is instructed by Hannah’s now eerie voice to listen to the tapes completely and then pass them on to the next person mentioned on the tapes.  Hannah assures them that there is a second copy of tapes and someone watching to make sure they all listen; if they fail to follow her instructions she will have them publicly released – which many of the 13 would not want. 

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.” – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

There is also a map that highlights different locations that Hannah wants the listeners to visit.  The story takes place over the course of one night as Clay listens to the tapes and visits the places indicated on the map.  In the course of this night Clay begins to understand who Hannah was, and wasn’t.  He begins to understand how each little event, some of which he witnessed, added together to make a horrible experience for Hannah.  And most importantly, Clay learns that the signs were there if they had simply paid attention; maybe someone could have helped her.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a beautiful but difficult story that reminds us all of the power of words.  It is also the story of how hard it is to truly know a person.  But most importantly, it is a reminder to us all about the difficulties of high school and the teenage years and the importance of approaching one another with kindness and grace.  It shows us how quickly a rumor can spiral out of control and how difficult it can be to undo the damage.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a powerful book for discussion.  There are a couple of places with discussion questions online:  The Book-ers, 13reasonswhy.com, and Goodreads.  You can also download a copy of the map at the book’s official website.

In the book itself there are some questions that author Jay Asher answers about writing this novel.

You can download and hear the Hannah Baker tapes at YouTube

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ushyNJhnrs]

At the official site for the book, it is revealed that the book is being made into a movie with Selena Gomez set to star.  The complete tapes for the books can also be found here.

As someone who works with teens, I encourage you to learn the warning signs of suicide.  The book mentions change in appearance as a sign in addition to withdrawal and a change in mood.  Most teens will display warning signs so it is important to be familiar with them.

If you see the warning signs in a teen, check with your library policy and director to find out how you should respond and who you may contact as most libraries have some policies in place regarding confidentiality laws.  If you have a good relationships with your schools you may be able to put a bug in their ear for the school counselor to follow up on.  If you are a school librarian this will be much easier for you to do.

For further reading, LibraryThing has a good list of teen fiction that deals with teen suicide.

For teens who have lost hope, there are various resources they can contact to help them find it:
We Can Help Us at ReachOut.com

The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

And it is an unconventional resource, often not safe for teens. but PostSecret.com has a strong mission to help prevent suicide.

Since we are in the information business, let’s make sure teens have the information they need to get help, or help a friend, if they need it.  Even though it has been more than a year since I have seen this young man that took his own life, it has left me reeling and it has left many of the teens I have served and loved devastated.  I don’t want to see another teen life wasted only to become a senseless statistic.

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

What Does Customer Service to Teens Look Like in the Library?

I was recently asked an interesting question:  what should customer service to teens look like in the library?

The truth is that customer service to teens should look the same as customer service to any other library patron looks.  Every library patron who walks through the library door should get the same high quality and friendly service regardless of race, gender, disability and yes, age.  Your library should have one and only one approach to customer service and it should apply to every one.  Anything less then consistent, quality customer service to all patrons is both discriminatory and bad for business.

Hopefully your library has a strong emphasis on customer service and provides routine training.  If it doesn’t, discuss putting some training in place with your administration.  And as your library’s teen services representative, make sure you are a part of the planning and decision making in your library to make ensure teen teen interests are represented in the discussion.  Some library policies, like obtaining library cards and Internet use, can be more complicated with the teen audience.  You want to make that the unique challenge of teenagers are at least considered in the discussion.

So, what should good costumer service to teens look like?

It should be friendly and approachable

Every patron that walks through your library doors wants to feel welcomed and valued.  Staff should be friendly and approachable.  Smile.  Interact with patrons in a professional and courteous manner.  As part of your training have staff think about their positive and negative customer services experiences.  Ask them what made those experiences stand out in their minds.  As you discuss and outline these experiences you will come up with positive and negative examples of costumer experiences.  By having staff reflect on their own experiences, it will help them realize the hallmarks of good customer service.  The golden rule of life applies to customer service: treat others as you would want to be treated.

Remind staff the importance of good customer service because customer service is PR.  Patrons are much more likely to go out and share their negative experiences with 7 to 10 people.  This type of negative PR is very hard to counteract and your best defense is a good offense; make sure patrons walk out of your library with nothing but good experiences to share.  Today it is easier then ever to share one’s experiences.  Many teens have Facebook or Twitter accounts and all it takes is for a teen to get online and share with their 200+ friends that “Generic Public Library HATES teens”.  But we can also use this to our advantage by giving them reasons to share their positive library experiences with 200+ friends.

It should be consistent

A good starting point for customer service is to make sure your library has policies and procedures in place letting staff know how to handle a wide variety of patron interactions and ensure high quality, consistent services to all patrons.  The consistent implementation of policies and procedures helps both staff and patrons understand expectations and decreases the hostility that can arise from miscommunication.  Consistent policies and procedures also help ensure that the patron’s experience will be the same regardless of what staff member they are interacting with; when they come in on Friday and see staff member A they will get the same experience as when the see staff member B on Tuesday.  In addition, they will see the patrons around them being given the same high quality service and being asked to meet the same patron responsibilities.  The fastest way to create negative patron experiences is for the patron to see other patrons being given service that they are not.  Patrons – including teen patrons – like to have clearly defined expectations from behavior in the library to Internet use.

It should be informed

Helping staff understand teen development and your teen services goals can help to decrease staff anxiety about teens in the library.  As with all things regarding staff attitudes, communication and team building can help break down barriers and make staff feel more comfortable in serving the teen audience.  Make sure you have a clearly outlined teen services program with a mission statement, goals, and appropriate evaluation measures.  I encourage you to communicate with staff on a regular basis making sure they know about upcoming programs, new and popular books and readalikes, trends in teen literature and pop culture, etc.  With some basic information, some basic tools, in their belt staff will feel more confident when teens approach the public service desk.

To help develop your teen services and communication model with staff check out these previous posts:

The “Be”-Attitudes of Communicating with Staff
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff, Part 1
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff: A Teen Services Plan Example

YALSA has put together a helpful presentation on Guidelines for Library Services to Teens Ages 12-18.  I recommend consulting it as you help put together your library’s customer service model and training packet.

Reshaping Our Experiences

So often when we walk away from a patron service desk we walk into a back office and begin sharing a story about the horrible customer interaction that we just had, forgetting that there were 90 other completely routine ones.  But those negative ones stay with us and we need to process them, to process the stress of it and state our case.  There is a catharsis in getting it out and sharing.  But what if, after we discussed our negative experience, we made it our goal to always follow the negative with a positive.  To make sure, for ourselves and others, that we share ourpositive interactions and remind ourselves that it is more often good then bad.  As I discuss in one of the above mentioned blog posts, part of your regular communication with staff should be an emphasis on positive experiences between teens and the library.  Report statistics, positive feedback, and those stories when I teen came back and told you that they loved the book you recommended.

Reshaping Our View of Teens

When you understand teen development, it is easier to understand why they do the things they do.  Brain research shows that they literally don’t have the biological mechanisms in place to make the same types of decisions that adults do. Again, some of this is discussed in one of the previous posts shared above. When we understand behavior, it is easier to deal with it.  I also recommend making yourself and staff familiar with the 40 Developmental Assets and your library’s role in helping teens obtain assets and grow in healthy ways.  By reshaping the way we see teens, staff can be more comfortable when the clock strikes 3 and you get the after school rush.

Reshaping Our Staff

As we share our knowledge of teens and teen services, we invite co-workers to be a part of our teen services program.  To be a part of the team.  Teambuilding is important because as staff become a part of the team, they become vested partners in providing quality customer service to teens.  It’s no longer you providing customer services to teens, but the library providing quality service to teens.

You often hear teen librarians making a case for teen services by saying that “teens are our future.”  The truth is, teens are also our here and now.  Teens are members of our community with information, education and recreation needs.  They are making important decisions about who they are and who they want to become.  They are forming foundational opinions about the library and its role in their life.  They are deciding whether or not they will be library users and supporters.  If teens walk away from the library today, it will be hard to get them back later.  Today more than ever there is a lot of competition in programming, services, and informational needs.  If we fail to capture and keep our teen patrons today, it is unlikely that we will be able to do so later; make sure your teens feel welcomed and served by every staff member in your building.  And use the powerful force of social media by creating loyal teen customers that will spread positive words about your library.

More About Good Customer Service:
8 Rules of Good Customer Service at About.com
The 10 Commandments of Good Customer Service at About.com
Authentic Promotion: Giving Customers What They Really Want
How to Create a Customer Service Plan
What Do We Mean by “Customer Service” Anyway?

Other tools for you to use:
Visit YALSA.  They have a large variety of tools including some on advocacy and a bibliography of current teen related research.
VOYA, an essential teen librarian tool, often has teen pop culture quizzes that you can use with staff.
Frontline on PBS did a good report Inside the Teenage Brain that you may want to check out.

A Letter to Teens About Bullying

When I was in the 5th grade, there was a girl at my bus stop that hated me.  I don’t know why.  I had the wrong clothes or the wrong hair or whatever.  As if those things really matter.  As if somehow what you put on the outside of your body is more important then who you are on the inside.  One day, this girl brought a needle from home and stabbed me repeatedly with it.  Her mother was a nurse.  I spent the rest of the 5th grade walking to school; sneaking off on my way to the bus stop and walking to school under freeway overpasses and over passed out drunks just to avoid her wrath.  Either option sucked.  Either option put me at risk.  But this girl felt the need to go out of her way to make my life miserable.  She could have just left me alone. 

We don’t all like each other – that is fine.  We have different personalities, different beliefs, different opinions.  That is actually all good.  Each one of us has an important role to play on this Earth.  I could never be a doctor, but I will often need one.  I could never paint a painting or build a bridge or cook a meal (well, not a good one).  Each of us being different and unique is what gives us so many options.  Each of us is an important piece of the bigger puzzle.  When we destroy one piece of the puzzle, none of it works.  The picture never comes together.

If you are being bullied, it is not your fault.  As long as you always do your best and strive to live in harmony with the world around you you are fulfilling your mission.  That someone harasses you is their issue, not yours.  And it is not okay.  Please tell someone and get help.  Don’t let them break your spirit or tear you down.  Visit Your Life, Your Voice to find out more and get help.

If you are a bully, well – you should get help too.  Find an adult in your life to talk to about your anger issues.  Find peaceful ways of conflict resolution.  Find things to like about yourself so that you will stop tearing others down to make yourself feel good.  If you are being bullied or abused, as bullies sometimes are, tell someone.  Whatever you need to do to find a way to live at peace with the world around you, do it.  Sometimes we are a bully and we don’t realize it.  You can take a self assessment quiz at pbs.org.

A message was recently going around Facebook and it went like this:

Every day please make the choice to spread kindness instead of cruelty.  When you see someone being bullied, step in and stop it if you can do so safely or go find an adult to intervene.  Reach out to those who are left on the outside, everyone needs a friend.  Treat each other with kindness and respect.  This is your world, you make the choices that determine if it will be a world that values kindness or endorses cruelty.

To learn more about the impact of bullying, please read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  And then keep reading.  Librarian Naomi Bates has a booklist of titles dealing with bullying that you may want to read.  You can also visit the Pacer Center Against Bullying which is made by teens, for teens.

Teachers and administrators may want to look into Rachel’s Challenge.  And you can find more resources in a previous post I made about bullying.

You see, last night I learned that a teen who had come to my library and participated in my program for years; a teen that I had the honor to talk with and laugh with and share with – he took his own life.  He felt that he couldn’t take what was happening to him, or he believed the venomous lies that those that torment try to inflict on you.  Each hurtful word or action is an arrow.  If we sling too many arrows, we eventually take our target out.  Now everyone who knew and loved this young man will never get to hear any more laughs, see any more smiles, or make any more memories.  He doesn’t get to fulfill his purpose and the world is left with one less puzzle piece.  What happened to him is not okay.  Don’t let it be in vain.  Choose today to live your life differently.

A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stomp on it and really mess it up, but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty it was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said… they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

TPIB: All the World’s a Stage

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,” – William Shakespeare

If all the world’s a stage, you can help teens play their part with some fun, theater themed programming.  Right after Halloween your local stores will be putting all their make-up and costumes on clearance, so now is a good time to stock up for a theater themed program.  You can choose from the activities below and do a one-time, one-hour workshop or you can do a series of theater themed workshops.  You can work alone or contact your local high school drama teacher or local theater to do some networking.

Head Gear: Costuming from the Neck Up

The theme for the 2011 OLC Conference was “Use Your Head”.  As part of the table decorations for the event, they thematically decorated a variety of styrofoam wig heads.  It made a cool visual impact, and is a fun, creative way to get teens involved in costuming as part of our program.  You can buy the styrofoam heads in bulk from Amazon.com.  Right after Halloween, when everything is 50 to 75% off is a great time of year to buy the costuming displays.  Because you are working with heads, you want to focus on hats, hair, and head gear.  Teens can visit your stockpile to decorate (costume) their head.  It can be done casually and just for fun, or in various types of mini challenges (think Project Runway with only the head).  You can ask them to do genre themed heads, for example.

You can let teens take their heads home, or, better yet, use them to decorate your teen area or in a display case.  Be sure to take pictures to share online.

Face Time: Stage Make-Up

There are a variety of sites online that show you how to do various types of face make-up.  You can do glam or focus on scary.  You can also make your own body/face glitter or simply do face painting.  Recent reports indicate that some Halloween and face painting materials are tainted with lead so you may want to consider making your own face paint.  And here are some face painting tips.  There are a wide variety of YouTube tutorials for all kinds of face make-up and face painting.

Dress Up Time

No costuming is complete without, well, an actual costume.  So visit a local thrift store (or,if you are anything like me, clean out your closet) and get together a wide variety of different costume options.  Again, this is a great activity to purchase various costumes on clearance at your local stores.

You can divide teens into teams and have them create a full head-to-toe costume for one of the team members.  Again, think Project Runway.  You can give them various challenges like: 70s or other decades fashion, specific genres, or ask them to create a character from a novel.

You can also do dress up relay races.

Don’t forget to take pictures!  These would be fun to use in promotional and RA materials, share online and teens are going to want the mementos because they will be having so much fun.

The Show Must Go On

You can do the above activities as a one-time program, or do them as part of a larger theater themed series of workshops.  Teens can then put together mini-plays to perform for younger audiences; they can be more complete productions with staging or you can simplify it and do some reader’s theater.  This is a great way to have fun programming for teens and give them service opportunities to perform for your younger patrons – it’s win/win for everyone.

Now For a Word From Our Sponsors: Booktrailers

A movie trailer is designed to make you want to go see a movie.  If they do it right, they show you just enough of the movie to get you interested so you’ll shell out your $14 bucks on opening night. A booktrailer is the same thing, except for books.  If you search online you can find booktrailers for a wide variety of books; some of them are made by publishers but many others are fan, and librarian, made.

You can use booktrailers in a wide variety of ways:
Put them online in your blog, websites and more to help stir interest in the books,
Push them to your FB fans by sharing them on your teen services pages,
Download them and loop them in your teen area,
Use them when visiting schools or in programming to supplement booktalks

Booktrailers are also a great way to get teens involved in learning about technology tools while learning creative ways to do book reports and presentations if you get them involved in the creation process.

Also, you can use all the information below to make trailers (or commercials) for your library, teen area, or teen programs.  Use your teen patrons or tab members as your focal point and then you get teen generated marketing and as we have discussed before, it really increases interest and personalizes the library.  I have made a couple of TSRC ads using photos of my teens in the past and they really respond positively to it.

So How Do You Make a Booktrailer?

Naomi Bates is a school librarian from Texas and she has an emphasis on making and sharing booktrailers.  She has put together a tutorial which she has shared at ALA for you to refer to.  Her blog, YA Books and More, is a great place to find book reviews and booktrailers.  Bates also has a Prezi presentation available that you may want to check out.

Other booktrailer creation resources:
Teacher/Librarian Michelle Harclerode shares a tutorial of her own at Book Trailers for Readers.
Author Nathan Bransford has a guest blog post at his page with an informative tutorial.
Wanda Richards has a youtube tutorial that you may also find helpful.
Joy Millam also shares information on how she makes booktrailers at Booktalks and More.
Judith Graves also has a discussion of booktrailers at Booktrailers to Die For.
Idaho libraries has also done a good book trailer project and you can get information from it.

Finally, here is an online book trailer manual by Dary Pattison that you don’t want to miss.  This site is chock full of tips and refers you to a ton of other good resources.  If you want to really look into booktrailers you must visit here.

And it is always helpful to have someone tell you what NOT to do, which they do at YA Book Shelf.

What Can You Use to Make a Booktrailer?

To begin a simple approach, you can try using Animoto.com.  You can sign up for a free account to make a quick, short video trailer, but the free account provides you with minimal choices.  If you find that you like Animoto, you may want to consider paying for an upgrade account.  In the past I have made a few of my own booktrailers in Animoto using the basic free account and they definitely get the job done and are a good starting place, but they are nowhere near the quality of many of the booktrailers that you find being produced by others online.  Also, Animito is limited to using still photography as opposed to video photography but it is a good place to start.

Many creators of booktrailers use Windows Movie Maker.  A free online project called JayCut can also be used.  A Flip camera is a great tool for making booktrailers.  And if you have an iPhone you can use iMovie or one of several Super 8 apps.  Some other resources used include Photo Story and Masher.

You want to apply they same tips of booktalking to making booktrailers.  And you never, ever want to give away the ending.  Your goal is to hook readers!

A Note About Design (and Rights)

When making trailers of your own, you’ll want to keep in mind some basic design tips.  You want to create a unified, consistent look throughout your trailer.  You want to choose a color scheme (no more than 2 to 3 main colors), font scheme (again, no more than 2 to 3 fonts) and an image type to weave the images together and make a whole.  Too much, or an inconsistent palette, is jarring and takes the viewer out of the moment and spoils your effect.  Remember that a movie trailer is typically 30 to 60 seconds; you don’t want to make it too long or give away too much information.

The right music is key to making a good trailer, but you want to be very careful about copyrights.  Animoto, for example, provides you with choices of music and has the rights built in.  When making a trailer on your own in formats such as Movie Maker, you want to make sure you search free music sites or clear any music rights necessary.  Many of these sites will tell you specifically how they want to be acknowledged in your piece so be sure to read and follow those instructions.  You can look at sites such as Freesoundtrackmusic.com, freeplaymusic.com, and creativecommons.org.

The other key element in creating good trailers is having good images, which are also subject to copyright.  The best way to avoid this issue is to create your own images using your own digital camera.  Be sure to check out TLT’s previous post on using iPhone apps to create some powerful images.  If you feel you can’t create the images you need for your trailer, you can also search online for free or pay the fee to use a wide variety of images at places like 123rf.com.  As with the music, you’ll want to make sure to read the terms and include any proper citations.

iPhone Hipstamatic + Word Foto

Where Can You Find Good Booktrailers?

Doing a simple search for “teen fiction (or young adult) booktrailers” at YouTube will produce some results.  You want to make sure when looking at the trailers to see who produced the work; as mentioned earlier some of them are fan produced so you’ll want to make sure to review them for quality and content just as you would the work it is representing.

Many author and publisher pages have booktrailers for their books so if you have a book in mind you can go online to see if there is a trailer to go with it.  Amazon.com also has booktrailers with some of their book listings.

At YA Book Shelf they have a recurring feature called Book Trailer TalksHere you can find a post about the 5 best animated booktrailers.  They briefly discuss the trailer for Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala, hands down one of the most amazing trailers I have ever seen.  This blog is both a good source of book trailer info and book trailers to share.

Booktrailer channels:
Bonner Springs City Library
Booktrailers for All (lots of links to other booktrailer sites)
HarperTeen channel
No Wicki Productions
ScholasticTeen channel
TrailerSpy Young Adult Trailers Page
2011 Teens and Technology Booktrailers by libraries.idaho.gov
YALSA 2010 Teens Top Ten Nomination Booktrailers

And a little bit of research for you:
Cool Kids Read – Recruiting Young Readers with Book Trailers
ALA10: Lights! Cameras! Booktrailers!
The Book Trailer: Engaging Teens through Technology

If you find you enjoy making booktrailers, you may want to consider creating your own YouTube channel to share them on.  Teen librarians are always looking for good booktrailers to share with their teens so make sure you make them easy to find with thorough and accurate labelling.

Please share in the comments your favorite booktrailers, booktrailer channels, and booktrailer creation tips.

Game On @ Your Library

You can download the poster at

November 12th is National Gaming Day @ Your Library.  For several years now there has been a huge increase in libraries that offer gaming programs as a way to get teens into the library.  Many libraries are building teen areas with an emphasis on technology and gaming in hopes that teens will come to play but leave with a book.

Like many librarians, I have used gaming as a way to get teens into the library and overall have found it to be quite successful.  In fact, of all the programming I have engaged in, video games have in fact had the largest draw with high attendance numbers and repeat participants.  And yes, they often do eventually end up checking out books.  In comparison, craft programs, which often have a large cost associated with them, have lower turn out as do a lot of speakers.  The only programming I have had with larger turn out has been large, one time events such as a Harry Potter program or Meet the Team night.  In comparison, gaming has a large start up cost (you have to purchase a system and games) but over time it pays itself off in spades.

In the last few years there has also been some acknowledgement that gaming programs don’t always have to be technology based.  You can invite teens in to play board games, card games, and life size games.  Card games can include trading card based games like Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments, or whatever is popular at the moment.

There is a lot of research based evidence to support the idea of gaming in the library.  In fact, there is a library gaming lab that runs out of Syracuse.  Scott Nicholson began the Library Game Lab in Syracuse as a way to explore games in libraries.  At the lab’s website he offers an introductory video.

ALA also has a lot of offerings regarding support materials and research on gaming in libraries.  Here you can find access to research based evidence in support of gaming in libraries as well as some good how to information.

You’ll also want to visit the http://ngd.ala.org/ website for information, posters and a press kit.

Not all gaming need be technology based.  I believe it is important occasionally to unplug our teens and get them gathered around a table to relate to each other on a more personal level.  So spend some money buying a collection of popular board games and get teens playing.  Some favorites include Apples to Apples, Risk, Balderdash, Scattegories, Chess and Battleship.  Some libraries work with their local schools to have a chess club.

Board games don’t have to be played around a table with little pawns, you can bring the board games to life and make it a large, interactive program.  The October 2011 edition of VOYA has a discussion of playing life size CandyLand.  Here are some more resources for putting together a life size version of various games:
Recreation Guy: How to Put Together a Life Size Candyland
Live Clue by RoseMary Honnold
Human Battleship (there are various resources for this)
How to Make a Big as Life Board Game blog post
ALSC: Life Size Candyland

I would love for you to share if you have information about other life size games and how to put them together.  Also, what are your teens favorite video and board games to play?  I find it is always helpful to know what others are having success with.

Whatever you decide to do with gaming at your library, don’t make it a one time event.  It really can be a great tool to get new audiences (and guys!) into your library and create repeat business so that you can build relationships with your teens can get them reading as well as playing.

SLJ: Meet the New Board, Board Games in the Library
The Role of Gaming in the Library: Taking the Pulse
Games @ the GT Library
The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming
Youth Services Corner: Five Boardgames for Teen Library Programs
Bringing Games (and Gamers) into Your Library: 100 Tips
Gaming Success: A Library Best Practices Wiki

The Soundtrack of Your Books: When Music and Books Collide

I recently finished reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (which I loved and totally recommend).  The title is a play on the famous (and awesome) song Tiny Dancer by Elton John.  In fact, every chapter title in the book is a musical reference.  This book has a built in playlist, and it is not the only one.

Music is often a huge influence on literature.  When music and teen fiction intersect, and when they do it well, it is an enriching experience.  I’m not just talking about books where the protagonist is trying to be a singer or sings in the shower, but books in which the author has thought about the music and builds the work around a playlist in their minds.  As you read the book, a soundtrack unfolds much like a movie soundtrack.

The soundtrack can be real songs, or those created by the author.  In Where She Went by Gayle Forman, each chapter begins with a reference to lyrics from the album Collateral Damage which is not a real album, but one created for the purposes of propelling the narrative forward.  The lyrics highlight the hurt and anger and healing journey that Adam and Mia take one night in New York.  If You Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman are also excellent, moving reads that I highly recommend you read.

For an excellent example of a book playlist look no further then Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chybosky.

Just Listen is the story of Annabelle Greene.  Annabelle was raped and has lost everything, including her best friend Sophie.  When she meets brutally honest Owen, his love of music leads her on a healing journey.  The playlist plays an important part in helping to create the mood of Dessen’s novel and help to tell the story.  At her blog, Sarah Dessen talks about her playlist and why she choose the songs that she choose.  It’s a fascinating look into the mind of an author as she invites you in to this part of her writing process.
In The Perks of Being a Wallflower (coming soon to a theater near you), “Charlie” is a melancholy soul haunted by pain and secrets. Perks is a highly controversial book because of some of its content and subject matter, and it is one of the most frequently stolen book at my old library, but it is a moving story and it speaks to teens.  If you google it, you will find tons of fan art inspired by the book.  And like Just Listen, Perks has a built in playlist which teens discuss and share online.  The playlist helps bring the reader into the story and provides a platform for continuing the discussion.  You can find the playlist for download at playlist.com.

Playlist is a place for teens, any music lover actually, to build an online playlist and share it with others.  It is the Internet version of the mix tape.  Although the methodology has changed, the message is still the same: music is a powerful force and we like to share what moves us with others.  When authors create a playlist in their books, they are building a soundtrack to their story.  Some readers go beyond the page and actually put the soundtrack together and continue the story.

For another example of an amazing intersection of music and books, look no further then Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

A book doesn’t have to have a built in playlist for a reader to create a playlist.  Some songs may remind you of a story or the mood of a piece or personality of a character and you can create your own playlist.  I have always thought that this would be a fun activity for teens to challenge them to create a playlist of their favorite books and invite them to share them online.

More about book playlists and books and music
There is a list of books with playlists at YALSA
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga playlist can be found here
And just for fun, here is a list of songs inspired by books.  It can go both ways
The Hold Me Closer, Necromancer playlist with videos at Just Your Typical Book Blog
Music related teen fiction booklist from Newport Beach
Reading Rants: Deadheads and moshpits – books about being in a band