Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Legos! The one tool every makerspace needs?


I maintain that a genuine staple of a good MakerSpace can be found in Legos. Make no mistake, Legos are not cheap, but they have a versatility about them. And you can get around the cost of Legos by buying random bulk packages off of Amazon. You have no idea what kinds of pieces you will get, but they are significantly cheaper. And occasionally you can find a good sale. Wal Mart, for example, occasionally has a case of 500+ Legos for around $30.00. It’s a good starting place. You can start small and keep adding to your collection over time. You need a good amount of standard bricks, but you also need unique pieces to really build a variety of projects. Some libraries successfully get donations from the community, but I have tried at two different libraries and have found that people really like to hang on to their Legos.

In addition to just doing regular Lego builds, you can combine Legos with things like LittleBits and a Hummingbird Robotics Kit to take your Lego creations to the next level. If you are really advanced, you can even combine them with a Raspberry Pi to make a remote control car. Below we adapted the idea behind brushbots to make vibrating Lego cars. All you need is a vibrating motor, a coin battery and an adhesive to attach it to your Lego car.


Here are some of the ways we use Legos in our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County.

The Lego Wall

Inspired by all the great Lego walls we kept seeing online, we too wanted to created a Lego wall, but we simply didn’t have the wall space in our area. So we made a portable Lego wall using a piece of plywood and 4 10×10 Lego plates. We can set the Lego wall in one of our windows and take it out whenever we would like. We can also take it with us on a stand for outreach events.


This is a Lego maze that was built by multiple teens on our Lego wall. One teen started it and as teens come in they continue to make it grow. At this point about 4 teens have had a hand in building this maze.

The Daily Lego Challenge

We put out a daily Lego challenge as one of our regular Teen MakerSpace stations. A large number of our ideas come from the book 365 Things to Do with Lego Bricks.


Lego Challenge Cards

There are a variety of Lego challenge cards that you can find online by doing a Google search. We have a deck of cards – laminated for longevity – that we keep out and teens can randomly choose a card and take the challenge.


The Lego Challenge Game

We took the idea of the Lego challenge cards one step further and created a Lego challenge game. Again, this idea was inspired by things I found online. I created a numbered game sheet and a teen created our dice using Sculpey clay. You simply roll the dice and complete the challenge that matches the number you rolled. You can make multiple game boards and rotate them out to keep it interesting.



Rube Goldberg Machines

A Rube Goldberg Machine is a type of chain reaction machine where one action leads to another. You can make one using Legos. In fact, there is even a book about it called Lego Chain Reaction. After teens get the concept down, it’s fun to challenge them to make a design of their own.


Stop Motion Animation

We regularly use Legos in our Stop Motion Animation station. The minifigurines are great cast members and you can build your own sets.


Lego Books

We have a HUGE collection of Lego books in our Teen MakerSpace and they are some of our highest circulating items. No Starch Press has a great collection of Lego books.


Although our books are always available for check out, we do keep the Legos locked up when no staff is in the room to help prevent theft.

And no, Lego didn’t pay me to write this post. I have just really found Legos to be a useful MakerSpace tool.

Sunday Reflections: Who are we marketing YA lit to?

tltbutton5This past week I sat down with The Teen to binge watch Veronica Mars, and I was excited to share what is arguably one of the best teen shows ever created with her. But after a couple of episodes The Teen got up and went to her room. It’s not that she hated it, it just didn’t feel like it was for her. It didn’t speak to her the way it spoke to me. It felt dated.

She has also watched things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which she loves), Gilmore Girls (which she tolerated), and a few other shows that people in their 30s and 40s speak about reverently. She didn’t finish Firefly. She can’t stand any iteration of Star Trek.

In fact, the only show I have found that we have a mutual love for is Daria.

I thought of that this morning when I saw a list go through my Twitter feed that said If You Love Veronica Mars you’ll love these books. And I was immediately interested in the list. But then I thought about The Teen’s reaction to this show and wondered: Who is this list marketing these YA titles to? It’s an important question.

Now make no mistake, I myself have done this very thing. If you search through TLT you will find lists for people who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who and Sherlock. Although Doctor Who and Sherlock are both currently popular shows with my teens so I will argue that this is somewhat different then using an older show that is no longer on the air.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended in the early 2000s. I remember watching the last episode when The Teen was around 1.

Freaks and Geeks ended in the year 2000.

Veronica Mars ended in the year 2007.

My So Called Life ended in the year 1995.

John Hughes movies all took place in the 1980s.

And yes, SOME teens have access to these shows and movies. But not all.

Some of our go to marketing comparisons for YA literature are simply not relevant to today’s teen readers. Yes, there are always outliers. But if we want to reach a wider teen audience, I would argue we need to use more up to date and relevant comparisons.

For example, instead of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we could use Shadowhunters. It’s both a hugely popular book series and tv series. My teens watch it quite faithfully.

When I raised the issue this morning on Twitter, many people responded that these comparisons work on book sellers and librarians, and they do. I have less problems with a review journal that says this book is a great read for Buffy fans, but that means something to me. I have more issues with the tagline on the cover of a book that reads Buffy meets The Breakfast Club, because that seems to indicate you are marketing your book to people in their 30s and 40s as opposed to current day teen readers. And as a teen services librarian, I care very much about this. I have no problem with adults reading YA literature, I am an adult who reads YA literature. But I have a huge problem with the way that YA has become increasingly about adult readers as opposed to teen readers. Teen readers deserve to have literature written about and for them – and marketed to them in ways that help them connect with those books.

I also understand that authors want to sell as many books as possible, as do their publishers. Numbers matter and I get that. I really do. Being able to afford to feed my children is one of my most important life goals. But as someone who also genuinely advocates for teens and who has to work hard to connect teen readers with books, maybe we can take a second look at how, exactly, we are marketing those books.

I am a huge advocate for YA literature. I think it is high quality writing and that everyone can and should be reading it. But at the end of the day, I am also an advocate for teens. Teens need and benefit from that high quality literature being ultimately targeted to them. There is nothing more validating then a good YA book that speaks to where a teen is at life and let’s them know that they are not alone in what they are thinking, feeling, and going through. We can help teen readers find those books by marketing them in ways that speak to them, not their elders.

I’ll read every book that says if you like Buffy read this. But The Teen, to her that just means its a book for her mother, not her. But if I say Percy Jackson or John Green or Shadowhunters or Pretty Little Liars or something that is currently popular with teens, they will jump right on that.

Anyhow, that’s what I’m thinking about today. I don’t have good answers, just random reflections. Because it’s Sunday.

Friday Finds: July 28, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The Day I Did Everything Wrong

MakerSpace: How to turn a photo into a silhouette – and make it into a book page button of course!

Book Review: The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

Video Games Weekly: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

July #ARCParty: A look at some late summer and early fall 2017 YA lit titles

#SJYALit: Time For Confrontation: Moving Forward in the Diversity Conversation, a guest post by S. K. Ali

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Education Is a Political Act by Donalyn Miller

#SJYALit: Time For Confrontation: Moving Forward in the Diversity Conversation, a guest post by S. K. Ali

sjyalitThe first time I saw myself, I got scared. I was twelve and I’d brought my plate of lentils and rice into the living room in order to sit beside my dad as he watched the news. And there she was: a girl like me. On television.

The girl had on a blue hijab exactly like the one I wore to school. But this girl wasn’t going to school. She was getting bombed — by “our” side.

I remember the scene vividly; remember how my chewing slowed and how my father shook his head and how I felt a profound sense of disruption, of dissonance.

I mean I’d never seen people who looked like me on TV before. And this first time wasn’t fun TV like my favorite show, The Facts of Life.

This was my earliest memory — a searing one — of seeing myself represented, or rather, myself presented to me. I wish I could say that things got better but of course they didn’t. Due to the subsequent Gulf Wars and the North American media coverage of them, as well as books and films set abroad featuring the Sad Plight of Muslim Girls, I only saw Muslim women who were either to be hated or pitied.

Growing up, looking in the mirror meant seeing the negativity surrounding my Muslim identity reflected back, almost web-like over my real self.

Viewing yourself as others have misconstrued you either silences you or enrages you. Both these outcomes are detrimental — at the individual as well as societal level.

And here, I pause to present my privilege. I hope when you’re reading it, you think of those without this privilege and the depth of internalized pain carried around as a result.

When I think of the girl sitting beside her father, eating lentils and rice, watching the news, I also see the bookshelves lining the walls behind her.

I was fortunate to live in a home housing knowledge that challenged this negative view of myself — my father’s library had hundreds of books on Islam and Muslims that told another story — and so I was able to see through the web disfiguring me.

Yet still, the knowledge of self that I gleaned from my family, our home library, the mosque, and Muslim events stayed on a parallel course, a far one, from the “knowledge” about Muslims served daily on the news and at school by teachers who talked about “them” while one of “them” was sitting right there in her hijab.

The two streams of knowledge never met because to merge them would mean confrontation and I hated confrontation.

But then one more frustrating, negative news story about people like me led me to a decision at seventeen: I would tear at the web strands that disguised who I truly was. If it meant challenging things publicly – in classrooms, on the streets, writing to newspapers, so be it. If it meant confrontation, so be it.

Much of my University years were spent fighting Islamophobia, including undertaking a yearlong research paper surveying the depiction of Muslim women in popular culture.

This thesis, written over twenty years ago, documented the negativity surrounding Muslim identity, in particular female Muslim identity. It pains me to say that so very little has changed.

With one exciting exception.

The exception is a result of an intersection of sorts, a confrontational intersection.

The point at which real, dynamic change occurs. Where real stories, real characters, real art emerges.

The intersection happens when the authentic knowledge we hold about ourselves as we truly are, as members of marginalized communities, confronts the knowledge about us that has been in circulation for years, or, in many cases, centuries.

To have these streams of knowledge run parallel to each other, never meeting, has proven to be dangerous. The increase in hate crimes and policies affecting certain communities disproportionally provides that proof.

Old, untrue narratives hurt, internally and externally. They’re also same-old, same-old boring.

But now, we’re seeing an increase in stories arising that challenge the old. The exciting exception.

Ali - Saints and MisfitsOver the past few years, the invaluable work of diversity advocates like WNDB brought the important task of changing the publishing landscape to the fore. The #ownvoices movement sharpened the focus and asked us to consider the important question: who gets to tell “diverse” stories?

Earlier this year, #MuslimShelfSpace asked readers to reflect on whether they were making space for Muslim-authored content in the face of increased Islamophobia.

Who gets to tell stories featuring Muslims? I say it’s the children who grew up — who are growing up still — unable to see themselves clearly when they look in the mirror.

They’re the ones with the stories you’ve probably never heard. They’re the ones who’ll confront the same-old.

They’re the ones with Art to share.

Meet S.K. Ali

SKAliPicPrintS.K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits. She has written on Muslim culture and life for various media.





Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

July #ARCParty: A look at some late summer and early fall 2017 YA lit titles


July #ARCParty: A Look at Some Late Summer/Fall 2017 YA Lit titles// Today The Teen and The Bestie are taking a look at a few more upcoming titles. They added a lot to their TBR list.

July #ARCParty: A Look at Some Late Summer/Fall 2017 YA Lit titles

  1. Best friendship tested by long distance relationships as they start college #ARCParty sept

    Best friendship tested by long distance relationships as they start college #ARCParty sept

    They gave this one a thumbs up

  2. Secret love, "cursed ranch" The Teen: That sounds good #ARCParty oct

    Secret love, “cursed ranch”

    The Teen: That sounds good #ARCParty oct

  3. Mia's life spirals out of control in this coming of age story #ARCParty Sept

    Mia’s life spirals out of control in this coming of age story #ARCParty Sept
    They also both said yes to this

  4. HS student learns she has demon fighting skills, which might make getting into an Ivy League school a little harder. I am reading this now, fun read for Buffy fans. Includes Chinese folklore. #ARCParty August

    HS student learns she has demon fighting skills, which might make getting into an Ivy League school a little harder.

    The Teen: So, it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    I am reading this now, fun read for Buffy fans. Includes Chinese folklore.
    #ARCParty August

  5. Teens who witness a violent act in Mexico are now wanted and try to cross the border for safety #ARCParty Sept

    Teens who witness a violent act in Mexico are now wanted and try to cross the border for safety #ARCParty Sept

     This sounds really good.

  6. Told in a series of letters and journals, what happens when you try to pursue love in unconventional ways?

    Told in a series of letters and journals, what happens when you try to pursue love in unconventional ways?

  7. A sophomore thinks her life doesn't compare to a YA novel until she starts writing down everything that happens in her life #ARCParty

    A sophomore thinks her life doesn’t compare to a YA novel until she starts writing down everything that happens in her life
    This sounds really interesting.

  8. A girl is run out of town after accusing others of gang rape and the girls decide to stand beside her to get justice #ARCParty

    A girl is run out of town after accusing others of gang rape and the girls decide to stand beside her to get justice


     The Teen is very excited to read this and noted that it would be a good companion novel with Moxie.

  9. "She refuses to be the person she once was"

    “She refuses to be the person she once was”
    Both teens agreed this sounds really interesting.

Video Games Weekly: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy


The first video game that I played and loved back in the mid-90s was Crash Bandicoot.  I wrote all about how awesome it was in my very first VGW post for TLT, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned the creators of Crash Bandicoot came out with a remastered version (which includes three games in one) this summer!

YouTube Trailer:


The difference between a remastered game and a new game is the remastered version is the exact same game but with updated HD graphics.  Remastered games get a lot of criticism in the gaming community because it seems like a cheap way for game developers to make a ton of money without doing a lot of work.  How do I feel about remastered games? I’m not sure. On one hand, I love that I can go back and play all of these old games on my new system, especially because I don’t own a PlayStation 1 anymore. But, it does seem like a lot to charge $60 for this game when it isn’t exactly new…but look at the graphics!


Rated: E10+

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Storyline: The main character is a bandicoot named Crash, who was a creature designed by an evil doctor named Neo Cortex.  Crash lives with his sister and a floating mask named Aku Aku on an island near Australia. Neo Cortex wants to destroy Crash and conquer the world, and it’s up to the player to defeat Neo Cortex to save the world.  This is the basic premise for all three games, but Neo Cortex has different minions in each game.

Gameplay:  Crash Bandicoot is a 3D platform jumper where on some levels Crash has to run left to right and some are bottom to top.  While players can simply beat the levels, each level has bonus items like gems for completing unique challenges like destroying all of the boxes in one life or a relic for beating the level under a time limit.  I have forgotten how insanely difficult this game is, especially the first one!  My favorite game in the trilogy is Crash Bandicoot Warped (the third one), because it adds more moves like double jump, belly flops, and BAZOOKAS.

They also added a secret level in this remastered version that originally wasn’t included in the first rendition of Crash Bandicoot because the creators thought it was too hard. As if the original levels weren’t hard enough…

Controls: The remastered version gives you two control options: you can use the + button to move just like in the original games, or you can use the joystick to move around. Personally, I hated the joystick because it wasn’t as accurate as the + buttons.  You don’t have to change the controls in the options menu, which was a nice feature.  Still, it took some adjusting because the majority of modern games on the PS4 use the joystick.

Audience:  This game is great for kids around 8+, families, and teens. I also think this game is great for grown ups like me who played the original in the 90s!

Verdict: Snag a copy of this game for your circulating collections, but only when it’s on sale. There’s no way it is worth $60 because it isn’t a brand new game, just a remastered version.

Pricing: $40 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Crash-Bandicoot-N-Sane-Trilogy-PlayStation/dp/B01NAGTKX3/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1500851018&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=crash+bandicoot&psc=1

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Book Review: The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

Publisher’s description

ra6A funny, bracing, poignant YA romance and coming-of-age for fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and The Beginning of Everything

lake effect | n.
1. The effect of any lake, especially the Great Lakes, in modifying the weather in nearby areas
2. The effect of elderly ladies, mysterious girls, and countless funerals, in upending your life, one summer at the beach

It’s the summer after senior year, and Briggs Henry is out the door. He’s leaving behind his ex-girlfriend and his parents’ money troubles for Lake Michigan and its miles of sandy beaches, working a summer job as a personal assistant, and living in a gorgeous Victorian on the shore. It’s the kind of house Briggs plans to buy his parents one day when he’s a multi-millionaire. But then he gets there. And his eighty-four-year-old boss tells him to put on a suit for her funeral.

So begins a summer of social gaffes, stomach cramps, fraught beach volleyball games, moonlit epiphanies, and a drawer full of funeral programs. Add to this Abigail, the mystifying girl next door on whom Briggs’s charms just won’t work, and “the lake effect” is taking on a whole new meaning.

Smart, funny, and honest, The Lake Effect is about realizing that playing along is playing it safe, and that you can only become who you truly are if you’re willing to take the risk.


Amanda’s thoughts

lake effectI’ve said it a million times here, but I’ll say it again: if I enjoy the characters, I will read anything. I don’t care at all about plot, whether there is one at all or not, really. The plot of “I am a person learning, growing, and figuring myself out” is big enough for me. I mean, it’s the biggest plot, right? And the most relatable. Present compelling characters, reel me in with an engaging voice that is clever, snarky, and self-deprecating (but not too much of any of those things), and I’m yours. Actually, that’s pretty much how it works for me in real life, too. And with this book, I was hooked on page one.

Briggs, the main character, is charming. Mothers love him. Years of a family that expects success and achievement and of working in a country club have taught him how to fake carefree pleasantness. Briggs is at the top of his class, class president, a star baseball player, and going to college on a full-ride scholarship. In other hands, this ultra-charming boy would be so insufferably charming that I would hate him. But here, he’s wonderful. He’s far more complicated than his accomplishments would make him seem. He has depth. His mother is into lists and schedules and his father is a total hardass, never impressed by Briggs’ achievements or proud of him because he’s just doing what is expected of him. His dad loves to remind him that failure is not an option. Unsurprisingly, Briggs has frequent stomachaches from stress and has taken a summer job an hour away from home. He’ll live with Mrs. B, a funny and quirky Serbian American 84-year-old who enjoys going to strangers’ funerals and lying on her floor. I want her to be my neighbor and friend. Briggs will spend the summer driving her around, painting (and repainting) her rooms, and fixing things. Simple, right? Except, of course, it’s not. He meets Abigail, the enigmatic neighbor girl who seems to be either suffering from or recovering from an illness and doesn’t have time for a boyfriend—which is perfect, because Briggs certainly doesn’t have time for a girlfriend. They have chemistry—like the real good kind, the full of quick banter kind. They both begin to reveal more of who they really are to each other, even though both are wary of where this relationship could possibly go. Briggs also meets other new friends (and repeatedly embarrasses himself in front of them and pisses them off), but no one is as important as Abigail or Mrs. B. Both help him see things about his life, his family, and his future that he hadn’t been able to see before.


This is a great summer romance story that’s light on the romance and heavy on the friendship and self-discovery. Mrs. B. totally wins the Best Elderly Character in a YA Novel 2017 award. If you like your characters smart, funny, and open to (maybe reluctantly) embracing change, this book is for you. It’s the perfect read-in-one-sitting-by-the-pool book, too. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780803740525

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 07/11/2017

MakerSpace: How to turn a photo into a silhouette – and make it into a book page button of course!


Arguably one of the most complicated buttons I have ever made involved learning how to use GIMP to turn a portrait into a silhouette PNG which I could then use for other types of art. To be fair, I set out to make this button because I wanted to learn how to cut a person out of a picture and turn that image into a silhouette. This was 100% about trying to learn a new skill so that I could teach it to teens in the Teen MakerSpace. The cool button was just a bonus.


Part 1: Making Your Silhouette

Instructions can be found here but the basics of it are this . . .

Step 1: Installing GIMP

First, you have to download GIMP if you don’t already have it installed. GIMP is a free online resource that you can use to manipulate photos or do graphic design. It is a really advanced program that I have yet to master, so I don’t use it often. You can also do this in Adobe Photoshop, but that program is pretty expensive.

Step 2: Opening Your Photo

You will then use GIMP to open the photo you want to turn into a silhouette. Here’s the photo we’ll be working with.


Today Teen MakerSpace Assistant Morgan will be our model. Thank you Morgan!

You’ll want to start with a really clean image that has a solid figure in the foreground. If possible, have your subject stand in front of a green screen or white wall. A blank background is not necessary, but incredibly helpful.

Step 3: Selecting the Figure

After you have loaded your image, you then need to select the figure you want to cut out of your picture. You will use the intelligent scissors to do this. Under the tools menu, choose selection tools and then choose intelligent scissors at the bottom of your list.

Tools – Selection Tools – Intelligent Scissors


You will then begin outlining your picture by clicking at various spots along the figure. Start at one location and go completely around your figure until you return to your original starting point. Each time you click, you will see a small white circle which indicates a kind of an anchor for your scissors. This shows you the area that is going to be cut out. You want to be as precise as possible to get clean lines.


When you have gone fully around your figure you will double click on your first circle, your starting point, and the circles will disappear and a dash line will appear around your figure. Your figure is now the foreground and it is separated from the background.


Step 4: Removing the Background

Right now, your figure and background are separated by your dash line and you are working on the foreground, your figure. If you clicked delete right now, it would remove your figure, so you have to let the program know that it is the background and not the figure (the foreground) that you want to remove. You need to invert your image. To do this, go under the select menu and choose invert. Invert lets you toggle between the foreground (the figure) and the background. You can now hit delete and it will delete your background. If you accidentally delete your figure just hit CTRL Z to undo it and invert again to select the right object to delete.

Select – Invert – Delete


Step 5: Selecting the Figure to Transform It

Because you have inverted, you are now working on the background image. So to continue working on the figure, you need to repeat the invert step to let the program now that you are once again working on the figure.

Select – Invert


At this point, you have a full color cut out of your figure. If you want, you can technically save your image here. But if you want to create a silhouette, carry on.

Step 6: Making the Silhouette

Your figure is now selected and you want to fill it with a solid black color to turn it into a silhouette. To do this, go to the tools menu and select paint tools and then select bucket fill. A bucket fill side window will open and you need to pay attention to this window. For one, you will want to make sure that the fill color selected is black. Under the section titled “Fill Area” you’ll also want to make sure that fill whole selection is chosen. You are filling the foreground so it would be FG color fill under the fill type. You’ll then move your mouse onto the figure and click enter to fill it. This should turn your figure into a black silhouette.

Tools – Paint Tools – Bucket Fill

silhouettetutorial4 silhouettetutorial5

You don’t have to use black, you can use any color you would like.

Step 7: Saving Your Silhouette

Your final step is to export and save your image. You’ll want to export your image as a .png to maintain the transparent background so that you can overlay your silhouette over another image if you would like. To do this you will go under the file menu and choose export as, making sure that you export your image as a png.

File – Export As – PNG

silhouettefinalYou now have a silhouette png that you can use in a variety of ways. For example, you can make a cameo if you so choose. For our button making purposes, we overlay the silhouette over a book page. You can do this in two ways.

Part 2: Making Your Button

The low tech way: Print off your silhouette and use small, precise scissors to cut out your silhouette. Cut the page out of a discarded book to your button size. Simply place the cut out silhouette over the circle and button it! Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your silhouette picture is sized to your button size before printing.

The high tech way: You could do this right there in GIMP, but my GIMP skills are not that advanced, so I do this part in Publisher. Save a picture of a book page. You can take a photo, download it, and upload it into Publisher. Or simply do a Google image search for a copyright free book page. Insert a circle shape and fill it with the picture. You can then insert your silhouette as a separate image and lay it on top of your filled circle.


The breakdown:

1. Open Publisher

2. Insert Shape-Circle

3. Size circle

4. Fill circle shape with picture of book page


5. Insert a separate image and choose your silhouette

6. Use drag points to size image so that it lays right over your book page circle


7. Print

8. Cut out your circle insert

9. Button it!


Here I took an image of Thing 2 and did all of the above steps and turned it into multiple different art forms. I have also demonstrated the cut out image before and after I turned it into a silhouette, making a button out of both forms. I also printed off a full size page and framed it – it makes good art.

As I have mentioned, for me this is hands down the most complicated button I have made. It is also the most personal and perhaps my most favorite. I made copies of this button and gave it to family members for Christmas. It took me several attempts to learn how to do it, but now with practice I can sometimes even do it without looking at the instructions again. But only sometimes.

Sunday Reflections: The Day I Did Everything Wrong

tltbutton5Setting the Scene:

It was a T-shirt Monday. This meant that we would be spending the next six hours in the Teen MakerSpace making t-shirts with any teen who walked into the space, working straight through the traditional dinner hour. It had become our custom on these nights that someone would take our order and run out and buy us food, if we didn’t just order pizza. Mondays are glorious days of chaos and teens and being so busy you hardly have time to eat. Food would soon become our nemesis.

The Precipitating Event:

One of the teens in the space, a super regular that we had closer ties with, overheard us taking orders to go to Wendy’s. They asked if they gave us $5.00 could we bring them back some baconator fries from Wendy’s. I hesitated oh so briefly – this was new territory and I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it – and then I said sure. I didn’t listen to my gut and that will bite you in the bum every time.

The Drop Off:

So our person went and picked up food on their way to an offsite meeting. They texted from the parking lot that they were there and another person was sent outside quickly for the hand off. Food was eaten. T-shirts were made.

What Happened Next:

There are several teens in the room, though not the teen with the baconator fries. The fries have been eaten, the t-shirt made, and in the chaos that teen has now left the building. Suddenly another teen, we’ll call this teen Y, says to me, in an angry voice, “You know, baconator fries only cost $2.00 and X gave you a $5.00 and you owe X $3.00 in change.” To which I reply, “Okay, we’ll make sure that is taken care of.” And I keep helping someone make a shirt. But Y is angry, wants to confront me about the $3.00, so I finally look at Y and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable talking to you about this. It’s not a situation you are involved in. X and I will work it out.”

The Fallout:

X comes back into the space. I ask X to come speak with me in private and explain the drop off to them and tell X that I will get change asap. Here it is revealed that X asked other teen to ask me about the change, so I try to gently tell X that in the future please come directly to me, I am happy to work things out with them, I didn’t know how much the fries cost or that they were even owed change. It had all just happened so quickly and we were all so busy.

And Then:

We step back into the space and Y starts yelling at me – in front of everyone – because Y apparently volunteered to help X because we were trying to steal X’s money. Y is inserting himself, again, into a situation that he shouldn’t be involved in, and he is doing so very publicly. It’s an uncomfortable situation all around. I admit it, my feelings were hurt. We have spent days upon days upon days with these teens. They know us. We know them. They share their triumph and struggles. We listen with intent and care about them. And here they were publicly accusing us of harm over a misunderstanding about change in the middle of a chaotic day.

So I stop and say, in the middle of a crowded room full of busy teens, we will no longer be talking about this publicly, it is not okay that this is happening right now. And then I say, “In the future, we will not do things like this for you. No library staff will be allowed to take any money from you or get you any food, so do not ask.”

And Then the Knife Goes In:

So then Y says, “That’s okay, we don’t trust you anymore anyway.”

I’m not going to lie. That. Hurt. A lot.

X then flees the room.

The Apologies:

I eventually find X sitting outside with Y. I ask Y to please let me speak privately with X. At first Y refuses to leave, claims he is protecting X. But X keeps asking Y to leave and eventually he does.

The first thing I say to X is, “We were fine before this and we’re going to be fine after this. But let’s talk about what is happening.”

X says they can’t talk about it because they have anxiety and are prone to panic attacks. So I share that I also have anxiety and sometimes have panic attacks. X starts crying. We sit in silence for a while. Then we talk. We talk about what exactly happened, how I didn’t know how much the fries were and that there should have been change, about the quick drop off in the parking lot, and about how all of this could have been avoided with a bit better communication. We talked about how to handle conflict. I admitted that the lack of trust hurt my feelings, as did the fact that X didn’t come right to me to ask about the change. And about how the situation was made so much worse by who X had chosen as an emissary and they way that everyone had treated everyone and in such public spaces.

I talked to Y about how he had talked to the staff and how it wasn’t fair to anyone involved for him to insert himself into a discussion that he really shouldn’t have been a part of.

The Aftermath:

X came in the following day and everything was fine between us all.

It took Y several more days before he came back, but he did come back.

I sent a recap of the event to my staff with a reminder of what our library policies were regarding the events that had happened with an apology for the day. After discussion with my assistant director, we re-affirmed with the staff that they should not take any money from the teens or give them food outside of a library sponsored event that served food. We talked about appropriate boundaries, professionalism, and reminded staff that they represent the library at all times. It was a reminder that the library had rules regarding situations exactly like this and that we had gotten too casual with our teens and lax in enforcing them. So we went back to following the rules to protect everyone involved, including the library itself.

The Wrap-Up:

This was a hard day for me. It was emotionally exhausting, gut wrenching, and soul crushing. I had been moved by compassion because I know that most of my teens come to the library and stay for hours – often 6 or more – with no food because they don’t have money or transportation. My heart was in the right place, but the event did not play out in ways that I expected. I am not going to lie, I was stunned by the lack of trust expressed.

At one point, one of the teens in the space remarked, “What’s the big deal? It’s only $3.00.” This is when I explained privilege to this teen and explained that for many people, $3.00 was in fact life or death. It could be a meal. Or enough gas to get to work. But that it was very much a big deal and even if it wasn’t, it was still their money and they had a right to ask about it.

It wasn’t the asking about the change that was an issue, it was the how of it. And the who of it. And the when of it. It was just the perfect firestorm of events that combusted at the exact wrong time in the exact wrong ways.

And I know the title of this post says that I did everything wrong, but I didn’t. I worked hard to resolve this issue with all parties involved. I felt good about how I approached X and said, “We were fine before this and we’re going to be fine after this,” trying to re-assure this teen that I wasn’t angry and they weren’t in trouble and I was sorry and we were going to be okay, they were going to be okay. And in the end, everything was okay. Getting there was just hard.

The truth is, as a manager, I would have been upset if my staff had done this. It breaks the barriers put in place by our institution and I am a big fan of those barriers which protect patrons, staff and the library itself. But I broke those barriers and learned some valuable lessons. I just learned them the hard way.

That was the day I did everything wrong but in the end, we worked it out. And that’s important to0. Mistakes can be fixed, relationships can be mended, wrongs can be righted, and a bad day can turn around.

Also, baconator fries only cost $2.00. Knowing that ahead of time would have saved me a lot of troubles. So now you know.

Friday Finds: July 21, 2017

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