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Friday Finds: June 23, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Lead Pipe, aka on “Due Process” in Literature and Yes, Another Discussion of MOXIE

MakerSpace: DIY Fidget Spinners in Three Ways

Book Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer

#SJYALit: The X-Men and the social justice of diverse brains (Or, Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a hero), a guest post by Rachel Gold

Around the Web

In case you hadn’t heard…

9 Things Readers Do Better Than Anyone Else

High School Students Create Racial Literacy Text to Help Schools and Teens Learn to Talk About Race

9 Refugee Stories for Kids and Teens

We all know how this will affect the children we work with…

Handguns and other firearms cause the deaths of more children in the United States each year than the flu or asthma.

Turning Back the Clock on Hunger and Malnutrition


TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer

tpibEscape rooms and breakout rooms are a buzzworthy program in librarian world of late. I tried building my first escape room in the fall, and recently finished my second one! Here is my strategy:

Steps for Building an Escape Room

1. Pick a general theme! Murder Mystery? Based on a book? Science?

2. Who is your audience?

How many people are you expecting? How many people do you want to be able to go through the room at once? What kinds of stories might interest them? What is the age range? All of these factors will affect what choices you make when you design your escape room game.

Because I want to maximize participation I do not make teens sign up in advance for escape room events. I just block out a 2 hour chunk of time where I can run the game as many times as I need to. I also design my escape rooms to be adaptable so that they can be played by varying numbers of players in different time limits.

3. Storytime: Why are people locked in a room?

How can they escape? Is escaping their only goal? This part is important,  as when I was fielding suggestions from teens they had awesome ideas like “build the trash compactor from Star Wars.” But it doesn’t make a ton of sense that they would have to unravel clues in that situation. We ended up going with the room being an abandoned spaceship and their goal was to escape AND to get the coordinates for their destination.

4. Think about design.

What space are you going to use? A conference room or the whole library? What materials do you need to turn your library or conference room into this place? A coworker and I recently put together a box of supplies for escape room programs that will be shared systemwide. The most important material is different colors of masking tape! It is amazing what teens can design with just tape. There are also props for mystery and sci-fi theming in the box

5. Time to build the set!

Don’t worry about the clues at this point. Just give your TAB teens or volunteers all of the decorating supplies, tell them the theme and what the room is supposed to be, and set them loose. Anything they think up will be cooler than what you could make on your own.

6. Plan the clues, then plant the clues.

Base this on your answer to the story question. For inspiration look at Breakout EDU’s example games. It can be as simple as hiding keys and lock combos in various places. It can also be as complicated as hiding clues in VR environments, in Minecraft, or having multiple goals in order to escape the room. I recommend doing this after the space is decorated because you will have a better sense of where you can hide things, plus the decorators can still participate in the program because they don’t know what the clues are.

7. Write everything down!

If you get more than a few teens for your program you will want to run the escape room multiple times so having a record of where everything is hidden and what clues lead where is important! You can adapt Breakout EDU’s brainstorming worksheet for this purpose.

Here is my chart from my latest escape room:

Theme: Star Wars

Story: You are a team of rebels assigned to a mission on the planet Tatooine. Your mission has gone awry and Stormtroopers are chasing after you. You have found this abandoned rebel ship. To escape on this ship from Tatooine you must:

  1. Find location of closest rebel base.
  2. Find launch codes for primary, secondary, and tertiary control panels.
Purpose What Will They Do With It? Where Will it Lead?
Mini Safe with Combo(on top of utility shelf) Conceal location of closet rebel base Open it-(password hidden under random chair in room) Location of Yavin 4, closest rebel base (on flash drive)
Numeric Lock 1 Lock up box Open box-(key hidden underneath red lightsaber) Secondary systems control launch code
Numeric Lock 2 Lock up box Open box-(key inside Darth helmet) Primary systems control launch code
Alpha Lock 1 Lock up kitchen cabinet Unlock-Password hidden under safe (password set to DOAY, anagram of Yoda) Tertiary systems control launch code

See Also:

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an escape room program

TPiB: Escape Room The Game, a review

All About Escape Rooms | School Library Journal

Friday Finds: June 16, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Celebrating Six Years of TLT

MakerSpace: MakeDo Cardboard Construction Kits

Book Review: Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

Mini Book Review: Roar by Cora Carmack

#SJYALit Booklist: Environmental Dystopia, aka Cli-Fi

Let’s Talk about MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

Recently in book mail + giveaways

Around the Web

Jacqueline Woodson Honored by Lambda Literary

Chris Colfer To Celebrate The End of The Land of Stories Series With a Book Tour

New Analysis Finds Uninsured Rate for Kids Would Increase by 50% Under AHCA

Rollback of rules for For-Profit Colleges

A new study finds the challenges rural students face are “staggering” and still overlooked by policymakers – via NPR

It increasingly looks like Russian hackers may have affected actual vote totals.


Revenge of the Fifth Teen Lock-In By Michelle Biwer

I tried implementing our library’s first “Lock-In” this past fall as a way  to draw new teens to our events. The teens currently involved in my teen programs are usually high school-aged library volunteers. We hoped that Lock-Ins would serve as both fun activities for teen volunteers to plan and a new way to draw middle schoolers into the library’s teen program. We conceived of a two hour, teen-only event that would periodically take place on Friday evenings from 6-8pm, after the library has closed to the public.


A few months prior to our second Lock-In – a “Revenge of the Fifth”-themed “Star Wars” event – I had interested volunteers from my teen advisory board (TAB) make decorations, pitch station ideas, and of course make sure that we had enough fun activities for both middle and high schoolers. Thankfully, I did not have to purchase anything but food for this event, necessarily supplies came from the children’s department craft room and my brother’s extensive Star Wars memorabilia collection.

Who Is Flying This Thing?:

We had 3 librarians staff the event (one for each floor of our library) and 7 teen volunteers run the stations and sign attendees into the program. This ratio worked well: we had about 35 teens in attendance, including volunteers. The numbers were a bit lower than I’d hoped, but when AP exam season is factored in I was still pleased with the turn-out given the circumstances. We publicized the event through word of mouth at TAB and by getting it onto the morning announcements at some local schools.


The teen volunteers and I worked collaboratively to develop the following activities for the “Revenge of the Fifth” Lock-In.

  • escape room 1“Escape Tatooine!” Escape Room: This was the second time I built an escape room for a program, and it was definitely easier once I’d had some experience! It is quite the tall order to turn a library conference room into a spaceship. Thankfully, all I had to do was set a some TAB members loose with access to the children’s department craft closet for a few hours and they came up with this magnificent beast:


  • obstacle courseBB8 Obstacle Course: Our Sphero BB8 has to get past X-Wings, the Death Star, and even Darth Vader himself in order to escape! Originally, I wanted the teens to program BB8 to add some STEM into the evening, but the teen volunteer who lead the station was dead set on manually racing it, so alas. That robot, by the way, is the cutest thing in the whole world.



  • Trivia: using the wonderful phone-based Kahoot! System
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Wii Game: This was honestly supposed to be one of those “we have it in case we need it stations,” but it was SUPER popular).
  • Star Wars Lightsaber Cards: A genius coworker of mine also modified the design so that we did not have to purchase the lilypad switches, making this a cheap and educational activity!
  • Perler Bead Star Wars Creations
  • Scavenger Hunt: I teamed up with our local Escape Room Surelocked In and they created a Star Wars scavenger hunt for us that teens could complete during the lock-in. This was a perfect addition because it encouraged the teens to travel around to every station and appealed to the wide range of ages present. Plus, the presenter was awesome with the teens and an eager Star Wars fan himself.
  • photoboothStar Wars Photobooth (on right)
  • Final Group Activity: I like ending these big events with a final group activity where everyone works together. I had big and elaborate plans for an impressive “Destroy the Death Star” Game…but of course the Death Star was destroyed on the first try, within 5 seconds. Our backup activity was “Han Solo Freeze Tag” with the Star Wars soundtrack blaring in the background. The teens had a blast anyway!

I think the teens and library staff loved helping with this event and we are hoping to run something similar for next year’s May the Fourth!


Introducing Michelle!

Michelle is a Teen Services Librarian and Shelving Supervisor in Maryland. She received her MLIS from the University of​ Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016 and her BA in Sociology from the College of William and Mary. In her free time she loves attending musical theatre, listening to podcasts, and bingeing sci-fi TV shows.​


Friday Finds: June 9, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: I Did Not Succeed, but I Also Did Not Fail

TPiB: Wonder Woman Amazon Training Academy for Free Comic Book Day, a guest post by Liz Gotauco

Book Review: Internet Famous by Danika Stone

My Top Ten Internet Things (IRL), a guest post by Danika Stone

#SJYALit: Talking About the Right to Die with Dignity, a guest post by author Kelley York

Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources

Around the Web

Lauren Graham Picks Up YA Novel ‘Windfall’ And Will Adapt As Feature

How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business

Child Care a Crucial Component to Strengthening America’s Workforce

In Texas, Abstinence-Only Programs May Contribute To Teen Pregnancies

The Problem Isn’t Food Stamps, It’s Poverty


Friday Finds: June 2, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The Long Term Effects of Trauma and the Kids We Traumatize

MakerSpace Mondays: Making Wonder Woman Bracers/Cuffs

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Fall 2017 Showcase and Giveaway

TPiB: Soldering with teens: just like hot glue, but metal

Video Games Weekly: Magikarp Jump

Social Justice and Mental Health: Accessibility to Treatment in YA Literature, a guest post by Alyssa Chrisman

Around the Web

More Than One-Third of Teen Girls Have Experienced Depression, Study Finds

When Schools Meet Trauma With Understanding, Not Discipline

School might end, but free lunches don’t have to.

Why Did The Top Student Aid Official Under Betsy DeVos Resign?

Salt Lake City libraries do away with late fees

Montana confirms it: The resistance is working

Friday Finds: May 26, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Maker Mondays: How do you make those cool graphics for social media?

Resources: #MHYALit – Teens and Addiction Brochure

Book Review: Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager and Zoe More O’Ferrall

Blog Tour: Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag

Maker Spaces and Books: It’s Not Either Or, It’s Both And

Trickle Down Economics May Not Work, But Trickled Down Hate Surely Does

For your summer TBR: Backlist YA you don’t want to miss

Around the Web

The Emotional Labor of Librarianship

For these Philly librarians, drug tourists and overdose drills are part of the job

Texas May Soon Pass Horrific Anti-LGBTQ Laws

Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments

President Trump’s Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Cuts To Education

President Donald Trump’s FY2018 Budget Cuts Nearly All Funding for IMLS, NEA, NEH, CPB

Nearly 2 Million Kids May Lose After-School Care

How to Talk With Kids About the Ariana Grande Concert Attack

How Roger Ailes Degraded the Tone of Public Life in America

Blog Tour: Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag

blogtour (1)


From the publisher:

It is eight years after Colleen Cavanaugh’s home world was invaded by the Derichets, a tyrannical alien race bent on exploiting the planet’s mineral resources.

Most of her family died in the war, and she now lives alone in the city. Aside from her acquaintances at the factory where she toils for the Derichets, Colleen makes a single friend in Jann, a member of the violent group of rebels known as the Chromatti. One day Colleen receives shocking news: her niece Lucy is alive and in need of her help. Together, Colleen, Jann, and Lucy create their own tenuous family.

But Colleen must decide if it’s worth risking all of their survival to join a growing underground revolution against the Derichets … in Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag’s Shattered Warrior.

My thoughts:

Colleen lives in a world ravaged by war. The survivors are basically enslaved by the alien race and live in constant fear. She still lives in the half-ruined grand old mansion Avon, in which her family used to live, isolating themselves from the poorer families except for the annual parades when they would toss gold coins to the masses. Now she is one of the masses, struggling daily to earn enough money for food and avoid the notice of the Derichets, who regularly make people ‘disappear.’ This is what happened to her sister and niece, Lucy. When she is able to retrieve Lucy from the Derichets, her anger over what has happened, both to her sister and Lucy, but also to her world, motivates her to begin to resist the Derichets.

At first glance, this world seems so different from the one in which we live. Indeed, it is easy for me to avoid acknowledging this same world exists in places on our own planet. It is an effective and brilliantly written and illustrated way of introducing this world to those of us who are fortunate enough not to live in it, while saying to those who do, “I see you.” Even in our own country, there are young people who are basically enslaved by minimum wage, lack of child care, lack of access to medical care, etc. They live in constant fear, both of the authorities and of the criminals the authorities should be policing. They struggle daily just to provide food for their families and a safe place to live. One wrong step, one unfortunate circumstance, and it could all come crashing down around them.

In short, Shinn and Ostertag have done an amazing job in creating a classic science fiction narrative which both imagines new worlds and shows us the realities of the one in which we live. While I’d highly recommend this title for any collection serving teens in grades 7 and up, I’d also recommend it as a possible class read for a high school civics, modern history, or world cultures class as a way to introduce these concepts and foster discussion.



SharonShinnSharon Shinn has published more than twenty-five novels, one collection, and assorted pieces of short fiction since her first book came out in 1995. Among her books are the Twelve Houses series (Mystic and Rider and its sequels), the Samaria series (Archangel and its sequels), the Shifting Circle series, and the Elemental Blessings series. She lives in St. Louis, loves the Cardinals, watches as many movies as she possibly can, and still mourns the cancellation of “Firefly.”
MollyKnoxOstertagMolly Knox Ostertag grew up in the forests of upstate New York and read far too many fantasy books as a child. She studied cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys the beach year-round but misses good bagels. While at school she started drawing the award-winning webcomic Strong Female Protagonist, which continues to update and be published through Kickstarter and Top Shelf Comics. She draws comics about tough girls, sensitive boys, history, magic, kissing, superpowers, and feelings.

Friday Finds: May 19, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: It’s Hard to Get Out of a Town Like This

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and Sex Positive YA, a guest post by author Sandhya Menon and a GIVEAWAY

(Not so) Middle School Monday: In Which I Attend a State Library Conference

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA May 2017

#SJYALit: Author Victoria Scott Talks About Social Justice and YA Lit

May 2017 #ARCParty

A #FSYALit Take 5: A Faith That Bends and Stretches, but Does Not Break (Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit)

Around the Web



ASL: Writing a Visual Language Comments

Is ‘Internet Addiction’ Real?

6 Historical YA Novels in Which #ShePersisted

Teen Vogue FTW

For Families With Special Needs, Vouchers Bring Choices, Not Guarantees

Free tampons in school bathrooms? A 14-year-old girl made it happen

Teen magazines have always covered more than fashion. You just didn’t notice.


(Not so) Middle School Monday: In Which I Attend a State Library Conference

MSM1Dearest Readers,

In case you missed it, almost a year ago I moved from the School Library Media Specialist arena to that of Public Library Children’s Services. (I also moved two states up the east coast.) And I can honestly say I have never felt so valued in my professional life.

Several months ago I received an email congratulating me on being chosen to attend this year’s state library conference; I thought this was a little odd since I had not applied to attend, but I was assured that it was normal, and that the library system tries to send its new people. Cool, cool. Someone was going to pay for me to attend a library conference. After I picked myself up off the floor, I started to look through the schedule of events. Man, they had some neat preconferences – wish I could go to those! It turned out that I could. For the whole day, if I chose to. You can see where this is going, right? The library system paid for my registration for the conference and the preconferences, paid for my hotel room, organized carpools (I didn’t even have to drive), paid for my meals, and paid me for the time I was at the conference – including my travel time.

I know some of you are thinking, “this is not exactly groundbreaking.” Let me back up and explain the world in which I spent the previous 21 years of my professional librarian career. If I wanted to attend a library conference, I either had to present a session (to have my registration covered) or find a grant or pay for it myself. Ditto for the travel and hotel room (without the present a session option.) I did get a grant once to attend ALA which paid for my travel and food…but they chose me because I didn’t need housing. Unless the conference fell during a school break I often had to take some kind of leave to attend (the legality of this still eludes me.) If I didn’t take leave, the library would be closed for the days I was gone, because the school certainly wasn’t going to pay a substitute on its own dime.

So this was different. Really different.

Anyhow – on to the conference highlights!

If you ever have a chance to hear author Jason Reynolds speak in person, run, DO NOT WALK, to the event. He was lyrically eloquent and a truly beautiful human being. He spoke of his childhood and youth, and made me cry. He spoke of the chip on his shoulder that didn’t allow him to believe the people who said he couldn’t write (thank goodness.) He spoke of all of the other authors and publishing professionals who have mentored and guided him along the way, and made me cry again. It was stunning. And then I went to a smaller venue and heard him talk again, where he gave us highlights of his upcoming works – be excited, be very excited.

I attended two preconferences. One, Sensory Storytime and Beyond, provided a wealth of resources and ideas for serving your patron population who are on the spectrum. My favorite ideas had to do with holding a Teen Sensory Hangout. They set it up in centers where the teens can choose to interact or not with their peers. One of the centers is Wii gaming, but with the sound turned down low. Basicall everything was set up in such a way as to not be too stimulating, but to encourage the teens to make friends.

The second preconference I attended was Ukuleles in Storytime. The presenter was super engaging and funny. She said it should only take a month for me to build up calluses so I can actually play during storytime – we’ll see. Luckily, one of the handouts was a songbook with the chords for most of the common storytime songs.

I attended a variety of sessions, including my first Guerrilla Storytime, one on starting a robotics club, and one on starting a homework help center. Overall, it was the best conference experience I’ve ever had – including ALA. Have you had a similar conference experience? Hit me up in the comments.