Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: BZRK by Michael Grant

Front Cover Blurb: In this war, there are only two outcomes: victory or madness

A young man sits in a room in a mental hospital, occasionally he will utter a few words, including the word berserk, over and over again.  His brother, Noah, can't believe what has happened to him - and so quickly.

A young lady, Sadie, looks at her watch in a stadium as she wonders when the longest date ever will end.  In one of the most jaw dropping action scenes I have read in a while, Sadie sits while an airplane crashes onto the field and kills almost everyone in attendance.  Sadie survives, but this is the catalyst that changes her life forever.

They both are about to go berserk.

Monday, January 30, 2012

ALA Midwinter Highlights, The ARCs (March 2012)

Although ARCs (advanced reader's copies) are not the main point of ALA (there is so much to see and learn there, see my previous post), it is interesting to get a look firsthand at some of the books being released in the upcoming year for teens.  Many of us are operating on limited budgets (I know I am) and need to make every dollar spent count.  We are looking for popular but well written titles that will get teens reading and keep them coming back for more. We are also looking to develop a balanced collection that meets the very wide variety of needs and interests out there.  Here is a look at some of the books set for March 2012 release dates that I learned about at ALA. This does not, in any way, cover all the titles coming to you in March, and I will be reviewing some of the titles more fully for you throughout the course of the year.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Girl Meets Boy Blog Tour - and Contest!

I am very excited to introduce you to this creative and interesting work of short stories edited by Kelly Milner Halls.  Every story has two sides, right?  So what happened when Kelly Milner Halls asked 12 authors to write short stories that each told one side of parallel stories?  You get Girl Meets Boy. Learn how you can win a sopy signed by all 12 authors after the jump.

Friday, January 27, 2012

TPIB: Project Fashion

True confessions: I am a fan of Project Runway and have been watching it for yours exclaiming - this would be a great teen program, except for the part about the sewing.  But I have mulled over in my head for years and kept thinking someday, maybe.  Then they produced Project Accessory, which suddenly becomes a much more realistic program goal.

The first question we ask ourselves when designing a program is what should it look like; although I certainly think you could have this as a one time program, I think it would work better as a series.  The benefit to having a program series is that you capture and keep teen interests over a period of time, keep your library programming out in the public eye, and you get time to try and build relationships with teens for the future.

In my mind, I see this as a series of 4 events with each event ending in a fashion show.  You could determine a winner at that time or broaden your audience by taking pictures and allowing online voting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The 2012 Printz Award Winners

Sometime this week I think they announced the Oscar nominees, but what is even more important is that Monday at ALA Midwinter they announced the Michael L. Printz Award winners.  The Printz Award is awarded yearly for excellence in young adult literature.  These are the best of the best as chosen by a committee of young adult librarians who spend the year reading everything.  This year there was one main award winner and four honor books chosen.  You can get complete information about the titles at the ALA Youth Media Awards website.

This year's winner is Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.  This is his first novel and he is also the winner of the William C. Morris award which honors the work of an author previously unpublished.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ALA Midwinter Highlights: The ARCs (January and February)

On Monday I shared with you things I loved and learned at the ALA Midwinter exhibits. Today, I share with you the best part of ALA - the ARCs (Advanced Reader's Copy).  So this is not the world's longest blog post ever, today we will cover titles set to be released in January or February of 2012.  Other attendees got different arcs (Pandemonium *cough cough*) because it depends on what time of day you visit and other factors so I recommend that you visit other blogs throughout the year to get reviews of upcoming titles.  The February 2012 edition of VOYA has a list of recommended blogs so that is a good place to start.  Some that you will definitely want to keep an eye on include Girls in the Stacks and the YA Bookshelf.  Stay tuned here, too, because I will be reviewing my ARCs in order of release date (and bringing you updates about teen issues, programming, marketing and more.)  These next few posts will just be an overview of the ARCs I received for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teen Issues: Having a Child with a Chronic Health Issue

In the February 2012 edition of VOYA, I write an article about food allergies and teens. In it I share that my passion for this topic began because I am the mother of a toddler with severe food allergies that cause her chronic health issues.  One of her symptoms is chronic, silent reflux.  Silent reflux is GERD disease, she basically has heartburn so severe that she can't sleep through the night.  Sometimes she can't even run down the street.  There is another side to this for me when I think of teens: it's not just about teens that have food allergies, but what about teen parents who suddenly find themselves parents to a baby, infant or toddler who has some type of severe or chronic health issue.  Not just a food issue, but any health issue.

Monday, January 23, 2012

ALA Exhibits Highlights, part 1

This past Saturday I got to spend the day in the librarian version of heaven - the ALA Midwinter exhibits hall.  Here I mingled with my fellow geeks and ran into people I have known for years online, learned about some new products and services and picked up a ton of ARCs (which will be subject of my next post).  AND - I got to touch an ARC for Pandemonium, the sequel to Delirium by Lauren Oliver (sadly, they did not understand our need to possess it and they were not giving them out so I had to make do with just touching it).  So here are some of the highlights from Saturday . . .

Friday, January 20, 2012

The 2012 Project: Update January 20th 2012

First, I have to give a huge thank you to VOYA Magazine, School Library Journal and Capstone Press.  They each have done a great job of supporting the project and helping me get the word out.  And special thanks also go to Harlequin Teen and others that have retweeted the message out.  You can follow the project on Facebook or @TLT16, #the2012project on Twitter.  Lots of teen librarians have been sharing pics and they are so amazing to see.  Libraries everywhere are doing creative, innovative programming for teens and yes - teens still do read!

You can see the project photo album on the TLT Facebook page.

I used some of the images submitted to create a new promotional poster for the project, because I have been getting some really fun, innovative and just creative pics.  Please feel free to download and share the poster electronically or via your various online resources.

I also have used some of the submitted pics to create some general library promotional posters, which you should also feel free to use.  I think they make the statement we are going for: teens still love (and use) their libraries and they still are reading.

Check back here next week to learn how you can be a part of a creative Valentine's day themed The 2012 Project picture drive AND win a copy of Boy Meets Girl edited by Kelly Milner Halls and signed by all 12 authors that contributed short stories. More information coming soon, contest will begin January 29th.  Until then enjoy the book trailer, this is a book all your teens will want to read!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

As far as first lines go, there is no denying that the first line of The Scorpio Races draws you in - and it never lets go.

I am a huge fan of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, but was not necessarily incredibly interested in reading this book because, well, horses have never been my thing.  But I kept hearing so many raves about this books and it IS written by Maggie Stiefvater, so I put it at the top of my to read pile.  It turns out, I am so glad that I did.

The Scorpio Races takes place on an isolated island where every November there is an annual horse race; but it is not your typical horse race because once a year water horses (capall uisce) come from the sea.  These horses are stronger, faster, and fiercer - and full of a blood lust for the other horses and their riders.  Every year someone truly does die.

Told in alternating points of view, the Scorpio Races is primarily about 2 orphans who need desperately to win this year's race in order to keep their home (in the case of young female Puck) or to buy their freedom and favorite horse (in the case of Sean). Failure is not an option for either.

Puck is fierce, determined, and head strong.  She lives with her two brothers and they are about to lose everything.  For her, the only option is to be the first female to enter the race - and win!  Puck is drawn to the island and the way the island is written, it becomes a character of its own.  As far as literature heroines go, Puck is amazing, and a strong role model.  As I read I look for these, I call it the anti-Bella effect. Puck is real, honest, flawed - and yet she has characteristics that you hope readers will see and think, I want to be more Puckish in my life.

The character of Sean is fiercely determined; he is a young man who has set for himself a goal and is working hard to meet it.  And yet, as he works towards that goal, he meets young Puck and he is able to let her into his life and work out a plan that will benefit them both. Of course the best laid plans and all that.

The Scorpio Races is also a moody, atmospheric love story which reminds me of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights for teens.  In one scene Puck and Sean go riding on a cappall uisce together and never has horse riding been presented as such a sensual experience.  As the capall uisce come running out of the sea and the sea foams with blood, the reader is transported to the beach itself in all its heavy weight.  Without a doubt, Stiefvater can turn a phrase.

There are a wide variety of interesting and well-developed characters that round out this novel.  Characters who provide wisdom and guidance, or serve as an archnemesis (you just don't get to use the word archnemesis enough in life it seems.)

In the end, The Scorpio Races is not a traditional horse story.  No, it is a complex, moving, well written fantasy and love story that tells the tale of two young orphans trying to survive in a harsh world.  It is, in fact, amazingly well written.  In informal polls many have tossed this title around as their choice to win the 2012 Printz Award. It gets my vote, too.

"The Scorpio drums pound a ragged heartbeat as I wind my way through the crowds that fill the streets of Skarmouth.  The cold air smarts as I breath it in; the wind carries all sorts of foreign scents.  Food that's only made during the race season.  Perfume only women from the mainland wear.  Hot pitch, burning rubbish, beer spilled on the stones.  This Skarmouth is raw and hungry, striving and unknowable.  everything the races make me feel on the inside is bleeding up through the seams in the street tonight." (The Scorpio Races, p 178)

Here you can find a recipe for November cakes which are mentioned in The Scorpio Races.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Be Inspired

 "There's a group of teens outside writing on the building wall."

That's how I met Tony, one of my favorite teens ever.  It obviously didn't start off well.  You see Tony was part of a group of teens who were vandalizing our library building one afternoon.  When we officially met he was sitting in a chair outside the director's office as we discussed whether or not we were going to call the police and press charges.  Tony was the only teen we caught, the others had all ran away.  In the end, it was decided that we would not call the police and he was going to come back the next day and clean it all up, which he did.

That next day, as he washed the library walls, Tony and I struck up a conversation - it would be the first of many over a period of years.  In fact, Tony soon would become one of my favorite library patrons and biggest teen programming supporters.  That summer, he came to every single teen library SRC program and when he was the only one who showed up, he pulled out his cell phone and texted his friends to come.  And come they did.

I saw Tony date and break up with girls, get his driver's license, and eventually get a job.  He was a master at Guitar Hero; he could play so well that he often played with the guitar behind his back.  He was the guy everyone wanted to beat after school at the Tuesday TCH (Teen CoffeeHouse, where there was ironically never any coffee served).  It turned out that he was a teen with strong leadership qualities; teens wanted to go where he was and do what he was doing.  He was a good teen to have as an advocate for the library.  To be honest, despite that first misstep, he turned out to be a good guy all around.

In May of 2011 Tony graduated from high school and I friended him on Facebook now that he was a legal adult and I was moving to a different state.  I had grown to care about the young man that he was becoming and wanted to keep in contact with him.  It's fun to hear him post updates about writing English papers and how hard college is.  And it's nice to know that in some small way, I helped him become the young man that he is: I at least gave him some tools to help him know how to write those English papers I hope.

What does this all have to do with MLK day?  MLK was definitely a man of inspiration who challenged us all to see people differently and to make a difference in our world.  On that afternoon - we all chose to see Tony differently and gave him the opportunity to make a difference, and it certainly paid off.  If you allow yourself the opportunity, you can have a Tony or two in your professional life and know that together, you made a difference.  That's all I can ask for as a teen services librarian.

As I honor and respect MLK's dream, I have a dream of my own: That I can be a strong advocate for teens and library services to teens.  That by introducing teens to a wide variety of amazing reads, they will find the 1 book that speaks to them and challenges them to step boldly into the world and follow the examples of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and truly make a difference.  Sometimes a spark is all you need.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The 2012 Project: January 12th update

The 2012 Project began because I had read yet another article bemoaning the death of libraries, sure that soon we will have no need for them whatsoever.  And as a Teen Services Librarian in a public or school library, you know that we face funding challenges, staffing challenges, and sometimes - well, people just don't seem to like teenagers.  (I don't know why, teens are pretty amazing.)  So I thought, let's change their mind and remind them that libraries rock and so do teens! The charge is simple: we want to collect 2,012 pictures of teens reading and using their libraries to make a visual statement - teens still read, libraries are thriving, and teen librarians everywhere are providing amazing programming and services that help our teens and our communities.  If you would like to participate, simply upload your pictures of teens reading or in your library.  You can share them on Twitter (@TLT16, #the2012project) or share them on the TLT Facebook wall.  They are completely anonymous to preserve privacy issues, no names or locations are given unless you choose to do so.  And periodically I collect them and share them to help make that strong visual statement.  In just 12 days we have collected a little over 40 pictures.  This is what a library in 2012 looks like.  It's not dying, it's not irrelevant . . . In fact, libraries today are thriving and teens are walking through our doors every day to read and learn and play and use computers and study and so much more.

This week The Fault in Our Stars by John Green came out and teens rushed to the library to get their copy.
Inspired by the popularity of Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry and zombie love everywhere - many libraries are having zombie themed programs.  Even mine.
The 2012 Project runs throughout all of 2012, help us reach our goal of 2,012 pics.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Today John Green’s newest title, The Fault in Our Stars, was released.  If you have not read anything by John Green, I highly recommend that you do so.  Now.  Seriously. John Green writes realistic fiction with an authentic and gripping teen voice.  His earlier work, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Printz Award.  It also is amazing and I suggest you check it out if you haven't already. (Some circles suggest that the film is supposed to be released in 2013, which would be completely cool.)

TFiOS is the story of Hazel Grace, who has a terminal case of thyroid cancer that seems to keep always just on the verge.  It begins with her mother’s admonition that she needs to attend a cancer support group because she “seems depressed.”  Here she meets one Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor and amputee.  A certified "hot guy" who is witty and charming and lives his life metaphorically.  Together the two of them go on a journey to try and meet the author of their favorite book and find answers to those nagging unanswered questions, but their journey is really a journey to find love and self in the midst of great odds. 

On the surface it seems a simple love story, but the power of John Green is the way in which he writes.  Here he presents teens as deep, thoughtful, articulate creatures struggling with what it means to live – and die.  (And yes, there are actually many deep, thoughtful, articulate teens which is part of what makes my job so amazing.)  For me, this was a 5 star read.  The characters are fully fleshed out and developed; they are compelling and you care about them.  You want to spend time with them and are sad when the story comes to an end.  And the way that Mr. Green can turn a phrase is awesome and inspiring; don’t just take my word for it, read it and discover for yourself.  This is the type of book that leaves you with a book buzz: when you are done reading it you want to shove it into the hands of every teen you encounter and say read this. Right. Now.  It is the type of books that reminds you to live an awe inspiring life.  And it makes you want to memorize words and phrases and quote them again and again.  It reminds you that “The universe wants to be noticed” (John Green, The Fault in Our Stars).

Hear John Green read Chapter 1 of The Fault in Our Stars here.

See the booktrailer for The Fault in Our stars here.

For more John Green fun, be sure to check out his Vlogs and the Nerdfighters.

So this is me saying go read this book. Right. Now.

If you like this book, you may also like If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and anything by Sarah Dessen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Using Social Media to Engage Teens, including contests

I always blog wearing a tiara :)
Contests: They are simple and fun ways to keep your teens engaged.  They generate repeat business.  They help you appeal to a wide variety of interests.  In short, they work for teen librarians.  Last week we discussed why I love them and I shared one of my favorite ones, the teen TSRC artwork contest.  And as I mentioned, I spent many years making contest sheets and doing contests once every 2 weeks.  The turn over helped keep a steady flow of interest.  Now a days, you can use social media sites to keep teens engaged daily. 

You can do the simplest of things, and it allows you the opportunity to be spontaneous.  Have an idea?  You can just throw it up on your Facebook page or Twitter and run with it.  Social media affords us all the opportunity to embrace creativity or respond to a suddenly popular trend.  You can throw out book quotes and ask teens to guess the book.  Or, you can throw out some pictures and ask teens to guess what the picture is from or depicting.

When discussing marketing you hear the term branding come up frequently.  You can create some regular features as a part of your social media site and they become a type of brand; something that your teen patrons come to look forward to and immediately associate with your library.  For example, on Fridays, we have "Friday Fill-Ins" on the Teen Librarian's Toolbox Facebook page.  This is a regular feature where I write a sentence and ask my audience to fill in the blanks.  It is a way of engaging your audience and getting feedback from them.  Other sites have things like Funny Fridays (at the Leaky Boob, a breastfeeding support site) where the audience is invited to share their funny stories.  As another example, the Delaware County District Library has a regular feature on their Facebook page called What Am I Wednesday where they gives some hints and ask their fans to identify what they are describing:

My largest city ranks among the world’s busiest ports.
I am the only U.S. state that calls my counties parishes.
I was influenced by both French and Spanish settlers.
Tourists know me for my jazz and annual Mardi Gras celebration.
What state am I?
The answer: Louisiana
(Delaware County District Library Facebook page, January 4, 2012)

By creating these types of regular features on your library's social media pages, you develop a relationship with your teen patrons.  They know that you are inviting them to participate and creating opportunities for destination events.  They know that on Thursday nights they can watch The Vampire Diaries on the CW and on Friday mornings they can expect a fun post for their favorite teen services librarian.

Just as you have to spend time with your teens in the library and build a rapport, you need to spend time with your teens online and cultivate that same type of rapport.  Teens spend a lot of time online using social media sites, so we need to meet them where they are and use the tools effectively.  We need to be willing to have fun with it and reveal a little bit of ourselves while still remaining appropriate levels of privacy.  So don't be afraid to get online and be whimsical, spirited, passionate - be engaging.

For a good example of someone who uses Twitter well, check out Sarah Dessen.  She is funny and personable and really connects with her followers.  Over the weekend she started a Twitter feed for her rooster, Foghorn, and overnight he received over 500 followers.  There are a wide variety of authors using Twitter, and many bloggers as well.  Here are some things you should know about Twitter:

1)  It is addictive (much like Pinterest)
2) If you follow the right feeds, it CAN be a good source of news and information.  Many publishers, authors and news channels have feeds and link you to up to date articles and information.  I found a variety of sources that I did not previously know about that have proven useful.
3) Sarah Dessen is hysterical.  As is her rooster.
4) John Green is just as awesome as you would imagine.
5) You can follow the Teen Librarian's Toolbox @TLT16
6) Most of the professional journals you use have feeds and they provide supplemental information
7) You can use Twitter to host a chat or discussion, or watch a show with your teens and comment about it that way.
8) Many readers like to post quotes as they are reading.
9) Mtv talks a lot about Jersey Shore in their feed. It is as annoying as you think it would be.
10) If you search #the2012project you will see pictures of teens reading and using their libraries and it is wicked cool.

A couple of words of caution about using social media:
I recommend you set up a library page attached to your library e-mail account or a dummy e-mail account as opposed to your personal e-mail account.  One, this creates appropriate boundaries between your work and personal accounts.  Two, if you leave to take another position they can maintain access to these accounts and keep the fan base.

I also recommend you set up your Facebook account as a page and don't deal with friend requests.  Your teens can choose to follow your Facebook page by "liking" it and you don't get access to their FB page and they don't get access to yours.  I think there are some appropriate boundaries you want to keep when working with teens.

Next blog post, I will share with you a contest that you can use on your social media site already packaged for you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What if? . . .

So I have a 3-year-old with some mild but chronic health issues and we have spent some time here and there in Children's Hospital.  So last night when I was awake at like 2 a.m. I started thinking (because what else is there to do at 2 a.m. except think and read):  What if Children's Hospitals across the country had small branches of libraries inside their walls?  Then, the children and teens who were there could go to the library and check out books to read.  We could do storytimes for the younger kids and some fabulous teen programming for the teens.  We could have a basic resource center for the parents and teens as they learned more about navigating what was going on with them.  They could have a moment of normalcy after dropping through the rabbit hole of health issues.

Which then got me thinking about the Kohl's Cares for Kids project.  Kohl's sells children's books for $5.00 each - which as you know is a great price - and the net proceeds go to support your local children's hospital.  I always buy these books (they change quarterly I believe) in part because I want the books, but also because I want to support my local children's hospital.  The books are usually a series of 4 books by the same author and they also have stuffed animals from the stories for $5.00.  The stuffed animals are great to put on display in your children's area or give away as prizes.  But what if they included a couple of teen titles for $5.00 each?  In fact, if you work for Kohl's and have stumbled across this blog post please consider adding teen books to your Kohl's Cares for Kids line.  Teens suffer from health issues too, and they need books!  How fun would it be to go to Kohl's and get a series of John Green or Meg Cabot or whoever books for $5.00 each!  Plus it would send a great message to teens in Kohl's searching for the latest Candies or Sketchers wear: Reading matters to teens, too!

The fact that Kohl's doesn't include teens just highlights what an uphill battle us teen librarian's have in fighting with a culture that on the surface often doesn't appear to support teens or encourage teen reading.  Everyone knows that children need books - but we often forget that teens need them, too.  They need access, they need modeling, they need encouragement.  Especially teenage boys.  There is without a doubt a large amount of fabulous teen titles being published today for teens, but at $15.00 a pop that can impede access in poorer communities.  And in pop culture there are tons of examples of teens striving for stardom, but not many examples of teens reading and striving for academic excellence or scientific innovation.  So let's change the culture.  Let's send a different message: reading is the norm, reading is fun, reading is everything.

I recently read about a community where the police officers hand out free ice cream coupons to kids they saw wearing a helmet while riding their bikes.  What if communities gave out free food coupons to teens that they saw walking down the street and carrying a book, or sitting in the park reading one?  That would send an amazing message: we value reading.

Books can be the spark that bring about innovation and change.  Books can be the tool that help a teen cope with a life situation, such as a serious health matter.  In fact, the upcoming John Green title The Fault in Our Stars deals with teens can cancer (so how appropriate would it be for it to be a part of the Kohl's Cares for Kids project, see).  You can see the exclusive book trailer at ew.com.  I read a preview chapter on the Kindle and it is, as always, amazing - I can't wait to finish it.

That is part of what I want to try and accomplish with the2012project.  But it is only 1 step.  To change a culture, we need a lot of baby steps.  See what happens when I don't get any sleep, I get all revolutionary.  Plus, you know, I was up reading the John Green sample and that is uber inspiring.  So this day, let me thank all my fellow teen librarians for fighting the good fight.  You rock.  And thanks to all the amazing teen authors out there, you make our job easier and fun.

Also, to be a part of the revolution you can sign up to give out books on World Book Night, which is April 23rd.  Thankfully some of the books being distributed include popular teen books like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Can't get much cooler than that.

Have a happy but revolutionary Friday!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Draw It: Teen Summer Reading Challenge art contest

Teen librarians are always trying to find a way to get teen involvement.  The 40 developmental assets tell us that having teens involved in the planning and creation of activities geared towards them helps self-esteem and decreases their participation in risk taking activities.  We also know that since teens are so peer oriented, having teens involved increases teen buy-in and participation.  That is why I decided to hold an annual conference to let teens produce the artwork for my teen summer reading challenge.

The way the contest works is this:

In February I put together my promotional materials.  This includes a contest entry sheet with very specific guidelines and a letter to all my area art teachers asking them to help promote the contest.  I also secure a good prize; typically a $50.00 prepaid gift card.

In March I distribute all my entry forms in the schools, in-house and online.  This give teens the entire month of March to come up with their artwork.  In order to get the best artwork possible, I do not limit the number of times a teen can enter.

In April we pick a winner.  You can do with with a teen advisory board or upload your top 5 choices and have teens vote online.  I always make sure and pick my winner by middle April so that I have plenty of time to create my posters, flyers, and entry forms.  The artwork is depicted on every piece of promotion materials that we put out with the winners name, grade and school.

In May I launch full blown publicity for my TSRC.  Teens are always excited to see that the artwork for the program was done by one of their own.

Entry Guidelines:
All artwork must be original (and I have teens sign certifying that this is the case).
No copyrighted images can be included without proper authorization.
Digital or hand drawn artwork is accepted.
You must use 4 colors, one of which should be black.
The artwork must include whatever that year's slogan is: Get a Clue @ Your Library, for example.
The artwork must somehow clearly represent the year's slogan.

The benefits to doing this type of a contest are many:
By promoting the TSRC in the art contest, you are generating some good pre-publicity.  It's like a presale.
By allowing teens to generate the artwork, you are generating teen buy-in into your programming and giving teens an opportunity to express themselves creatively.
By involving the school art programs, you are building networking and community partnership opportunities.
By getting the contest into the press, you are generating good publicity for the library and demonstrating that the library is a positive force in the community and in the lives of teens.

You will need access to a scanner to scan your winning image into your computer system to use in your publicity materials.  After the first time you will have all your information formatted so all you will have to do each year is upload and change the image and the dates on all your materials.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Self Directed Porgramming (formerly Contests! Everyone is winning)

Although I now live in Texas, I spent the first 18 years of my teen librarian career in a cold state where everyone hibernates during the months of January and February.  Programming is hard as it is - but add in winter storms and it becomes downright unpredictable. Doing a variety of contests can be a fun way to keep teens involved while catering to the elements, and to the busy schedules of teens.

In the past, I always referred to contests as "passive programming", which gave it a negative connotation that I despised.  But at a webinar last year (and I'm sorry, I can't remember what it was), one of the speakers referred to contests as "self-directed programming".  Genius!  This title, I think, captures the true spirit of why contests work and are valued by teens.  And if you read my previous post about the value of hanging out, you know that teens need and thrive with self-directed opportunities.

When doing a traditional library program, teens have to commit to a certain time and place.  So you have the best Hunger Games program (ever!) planned for Monday night at 7 pm.  But that day the history teacher assigns an entire chapter to read with the promise of a quiz, teens have to do 5 pages of calculus homework and then, to top it all off, 300 inches of snow is predicted.  Suddenly, the 40 teens that signed up to come has translated into 5 teens at your door that evening.  Life happens and there is a lot of competition for teens time and attention.  Contests, however, allow teens the opportunity to participate in the library on a broader timetable.  They also help keep the library out there, actively in the forefront of the teen brain, by having a more continual presence.  And, if done correctly, they allow you to be a strong Web presence, which is so important to the teen audience.

And it shouldn't be overlooked: Contests have value because they help promote the library and they demonstrate the wide variety of ways that the library can be involved in the lives of teens.  Contests don't have to be limited to books, they can tap into any part of teen culture and demonstrate what a well rounded information resource the library is.  If you plan them correctly, they also help teens learn how to use the library catalog and various library resources within the library.

Contests are a good supplement to traditional library programming: they keep the library presence out there, they meet the needs of a wider variety of your audience, and they allow teens to explore the library and its resources or express themselves creatively - but on a broader timetable.

In the past, I have done variations of 1 or 2 contests a month.  Like display windows, it is good to have turnover.  By creating a regular, predictable pattern teens know to keep coming and you build a steady audience.  You can do a static contest where teens pick up or print of a contest sheet and fill it out to enter or you can do an ongoing contest where you reveal one part of the contest per day via your library web or social media page. (Check out the previous post Making the Most of Your Teen Services FB Page for more.)  If you follow the TLT on Facebook you know that this week we are doing this type of contest using pictographs of popular classic children's stories.  This type of contest ensures that you have steady content to share with your teens via their social media page and you meet them where they are most often.

Make a pictogram a day and ask teens to decipher your message via Twitter or FB

Can you name these classic children's stories?
If you are having a contest, it is good to have prizes (although sometimes the fun can be a prize in and of itself - especially online).  Prizes don't have to be extravagant: you can put together a movie themed contest and your prize can be a popular dvd, box of popcorn and a 2 liter of soda, for example.  Or you could see if you could get a local business to sponsor you monthly contest (community partnership for the win!) and it could be the Monthly Fluffy Bunny Pizza Contest at Fluffy Bunny Community Library.  (As far as I know I totally just made that up).  Good ole gift certificates and gas cards also work, teens love $5.00 to the Taco Factory and gas is not cheap these days so every little bit helps.  You can also use this as an opportunity to hand out the arcs you receive.

Contests allow you, as a programmer, to be creative.  Think outside the box.  You can create a wide variety of contests including word scrambles, book title scrambles, quotes, and more.  They can be word puzzles or visual puzzles.

Some of my past contests have included:
Visual is good.  And this taps into popular culture and promotes your library magazine collection.

This month long contest promoted a wide variety of library assets.

Using popular games as a model is a good way to generate contest ideas.

You can use Discovery Puzzlemaker to make quick and easy contests.

You can get contest ideas by looking around online.  Also, the American Girl publishers have a variety of puzzle books that provide good inspiration for contest ideas.

Next blog post: A teen drawing contest that allows teens to be creative and provides an opportunity for teen input in your Summer Reading Challenge.