Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: In Honor of Amber Clark

tltbutton5Earlier this week, I stopped by Buzzfeed news to see what was happening in the world and I was shocked and saddened to see the news that police had determined that librarian Amber Clark had been targeted and killed by a banned patron. A random act of violence is in itself horrific, but an act of vengeful retaliation for carrying out the duties of your job is terrifying. This is a stark reminder to us all that no matter how warm and fuzzy we feel about libraries and librarianship in general, there are real risks involved.

It immediately brought to mind the time I had to file a police report after being confronted twice by an angry patron I had banned from the library, once in the library and a second time when I stopped to get gas. Or the times that staff members wrote letters of complaint – repeatedly – to a library director because we felt unsafe with a particular patron. Or of the time a patron came charging at the desk because I told them they couldn’t check out a reference book and a coworker ran over and grabbed me by the back of my shirt, yanking me backwards to safety.

At one library, when my children were younger, I used to take them through the super secret staff entrance and up the super secret staff stairways into the children’s department, wanting to keep the fact that I had children and what they may have looked like from the general public. Everyone is welcome in a public library and I honor that foundational principle, but I don’t want all of that everyone to have access to my children, and for good cause.

The truth is, when you work with the public in any capacity, you put yourself at risk. Patrons get angry, they get violent, and they sometimes retaliate. Most often, it involves damage to personal property like motor vehicles; Tires get slashed or cars get keyed. But Amber Clark is a stark reminder that the risk and our fears about those risks are real and warranted. We often have those behind the scenes discussions about the patrons we fear and safety concerns we carry while working with the public and this story shakes librarians to the core not only because we lost one of our own, but because it reminds us that those fears are not completely unfounded.

There is a lot of discussion to be had surrounding the topics of public library safety, workplace safety, and library policies and procedures. There are discussions to be had about supporting our library staff as they enforce our policy and procedures. But today is not the day for those discussions. Today, my heart breaks for Amber Clark, for her family, and for her co-workers. I mourn with them their loss and offer my sincere condolences.

The Post in Which Operation BB Says Thank You!

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She did it! Operation BB began in late September/early October and at that time, Scout didn’t necessarily know what her vision for this “mission” was. Over time it has evolved and she set a goal of donating 100 backpacks before the end of the year – and with your help, she has done it!

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Today our last load of backpacks – 24 backpacks just for teens filled with 2 YA fiction titles each – is being delivered to a local youth advocacy group. That’s 24 teens who will have 2 books to call their own.

This means that in the last 3 months, this then 9 and now 10-year-old girl has donated 100 backpacks to tweens and teens in need. That’s 100 backpacks, 200 books, 100 coloring books, and 100 packages of colored pencils.

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While doing this she’s learned a bit about organization, goal setting, problem solving, marketing, and more. As her mom, I say thank you! As a librarian who cares about kids, I also say thank you! Each and every book was donated by generous donators like you and that is awesome. Sincerely, we thank you.

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We’re going to take a brief pause as we celebrate the holidays, and then we are going to set new goals and continue in 2019. She has found incredible joy in this project and I can assure you as her mom that she has learned and grown and it’s nice to see your kid thinking about ways that they can help make the world a better place. So please keep watching this space for new and exciting ways that you can help Scout get books into the hands of tweens and teens in 2019.

THANK YOU!!

MakerSpace: Paintpouring, chemistry in the art room

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Welcome to one of the messiest yet coolest art processes out there: paint pouring. Paint pouring involves, well, pouring paint and just kind of allowing art to happen. It’s a cool process because you don’t have strict control over the outcome. It creates a kind of marbled looking art piece. I have done this with kids and teens and it’s pretty cool. In fact, The Teen has a canvas she has done hanging in her room and you can see her end result at the end of this post.

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Supplies:

  • Acrylic paints (Michael’s sells multi-color packs for $8.00)
  • Pouring medium of your choice (we used good old fashioned glue)
  • Craft sticks
  • Plastic cups (and a lot of them)
  • Hair dryer
  • Tablecloth to protect your work surface
  • Pan, box, or other container to put your canvas in (I recommend aluminum baking pans)
  • Items to hold up your canvas for the pouring process (we used some of our plastic cups)
  • Trash bags (to dispose of your waste immediately)
  • A canvas, piece of wood or some other element that you are going to paint
  • Some people wear gloves (we were reckless rebels)

Additional Paint Pouring Resources

Acrylic Pouring for Beginners

13 Paint pouring hacks

Step 1: Prepare your work area

This is a messy, messy activity so the first thing you are going to want to do is prepare your work space. I recommend tablecloths on the floor and on the table. Put them everywhere! Cover everything. I mentioned it was messy, right?

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Then, set out your aluminum pans which will provide an additional layer of protection. These are essential because you are going to be literally pouring paint and you need something to catch the paint that runs off the canvas. You want something with high edges that you don’t mind throwing away. You can use extra plastic cups (or blocks of wood) to hold your canvas up inside the tray because you want to be able to pour your paint all over the canvas and allow it to run off. Your initial set up will look something like the picture above.

Step 2: Prepare your paint

You are going to use multiple cups for this process. This is also where your paint pouring medium comes in and I recommend reading this good discussion about pouring mediums before proceeding.

First, you will pour a single paint into a single cup and add a bit of your paint pouring medium (formula below). In this case we are using old fashioned liquid white glue to make this activity more cost effective because I’m working on a library budget. You can also buy something that is actually called a “pouring medium” at most craft stores. In these cups, you want to use a craft stick and mix your paint and pouring medium together really well.

Formula: You want a glue to paint ratio of about 50-50. So fill the cup 1/3 full with paint, 1/3 full with glue, and leave yourself 1/3 of the cup empty to have room to mix.

You don’t have to add any water, but you can add a few drops of water to help your mixture flow better if you would like. But very few drops. Spoiler alert: this is chemistry in action!

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After you have mixed your initial single paints, you will pour them all into one cup. This is called a “dirty pour” mixture. You can drag a craft stick through it, but don’t blend them together. This is just to get the paints to mingle a bit inside the cup.

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Step 3: Pouring your paint

Right after creating your dirty pour, flip your cup over onto the canvas. You can literally set the cup upside down on the canvas. When you remove the cup, the paint will then begin pouring down your canvas. You can gently kind of lift corners of the canvas to help direct the paint flow if you would like, but the idea is to let gravity do its thing and see what happens.

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Step 4: Releasing air bubbles

It is possible that you will have air bubbles, which is where the hair dryer comes in. A gently applied heat from a distance will help release those air bubbles. If you do so gently, you can also use the hair dryer to help get the paint flowing in certain directions as well.

This is what The Teen’s final canvas looked like:

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Step 5: Stand back, let it dry, and clean up your mess

This is a fun art project, but it’s messy and takes a while to dry. If you have the space to set canvases aside so that they can dry over night, then I definitely recommend this activity. No one is taking their project home on the day of this event if you do this in a library or makerspace.

When we were done I just threw everything into the trash, so this craft is by no means environmentally friendly. The one exception is that I did save the aluminum pans to be reused.

Taking your canvas to the next level

After you canvas has dried, and I would give it some solid days of dry time, you can do things like add letters cut with a vinyl cutter to put quotes to kind of embellish your canvas. This step is not necessary, however, because the final project is beautiful on its own.

We also used this process to decorate ornaments, so you are definitely not limited to using a canvas (which can be kind of expensive if you have to buy a lot of them).

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303 Best Acrylic Pouring Inspiration images in 2018

 

Take 5: Things I Learned at the Library Journal Directors’ Summit

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I had the honor last week of attending the Library Journal Directors’ Summit although I am not, in fact, a library director. I was invited to attend and speak about doing a collection diversity audit and I challenged the library directors in attendance to put some intentional effort into building equality in their collections by asking their staff in one way or another to engage in diversity audits. If we don’t audit our collections – or at a bare minimum our book orders – how do we know that we are in fact building inclusive collections? Far too often we rely on good will, gut feelings, and this idea that because we believe in diversity that we are doing the work. I would argue, and my own experience auditing my collection supports this belief, that even those of us with the best of intentions can find ourselves falling far short of our stated goals. In fact, because the state of children’s literature is so far from diverse, building inclusive collections takes a lot of very intentional work.

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Intentional equity was a big theme of this year’s Directors’ Summit, and it was inspiring to hear about what other libraries are doing to meet the needs of their local communities and to help make the world a better place. Here are just a few of the things that I heard talked about this past week.

San Francisco Pop Up Care Village

If you are engaged in the professional discussions in any way, you are probably aware that the city of San Francisco, like many cities, is struggling to meet the needs of a large homeless population. San Francisco began hosting pop up care events that includes inviting LavaMae mobile shower units to come provide free showers, inviting local barbers to come give free hair cuts, providing free food and more. What an amazing service this is and I was moved by the care in which participants talked about what they were doing and why to help serve their homeless population.

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Outreach to New Citizens, Immigrants and Refugees

Both the San Diego Public Library and the San Francisco Public Library shared stories about how they did outreach to immigrants and refugees in a variety of ways, including being present at citizenship graduations and swearing in ceremonies where they handed out free books and celebrated the new citizenship status of their patrons. Although there is a lot of divisive rhetoric happening in political discussions regarding refugees and immigration, both of these libraries have made it part of their mission to be sanctuaries to these marginalized groups and they are actively working to engage and meet the needs of immigrant and refugee families and their children in profoundly moving ways. You can get examples of the work they are doing here and here.

Narcan in the Library

I have personally been against the idea of asking or requiring staff to provide first aid measures of any sorts to patrons outside of calling 911 and handing out bandages. I felt very strongly when my library installed AED devices and required all staff to receive training. My argument has been simple: I purposefully chose to become a librarian as opposed to a first responder or nurse or other medical care provider because I didn’t want the high responsibility that came with it and, if we’re being honest, because I have the highest gag reflex you’ve ever seen. Michelle Jeske from Denver Public Library talked about libraries as first responders and how her libraries staff had saved 22 lives using Narcan in the past couple of years by administering this drug. One of the things I liked best about it was that staff were allowed to take the training if they wanted to, but they were in no way required to do so. She talked a lot about the realities of the opioid crisis, something that I have seen first hand working in public libraries in Ohio, and the emotional trauma of witnessing someone die in your library, something I have thankfully not experienced. The big point she mentioned is that whether we want to be or not, public libraries ARE in fact first responders and that has to change how we respond to community crisis. It was an interesting presentation that left me with a lot to think about regarding this issue.

A Seat at the Table and Emergency Response

One of the themes that came up repeatedly in the various discussions among those present was the idea of having a seat at the table in communities when it came to budgets, planning, and responding to crisis. Some libraries discussed how they were partnering with outside and city organizations to help make sure that they were assured a seat at those tables. Palm Beach County Library System is working with city organizations in crisis response, for example. When a crisis happens, library staff are sent to shelters to provide storytimes and information services. At the same time, other staff are sent to the response hub to help provide timely research regarding issues that come up and to archive data as it’s coming in. This was a creative way to network with outside agencies and meet the needs of a local community in crisis.

Going Fine Free

One of the sessions was specifically about the need for libraries to go fine free. There were three presenters and each of them talked about how they did the research and it showed that fines were keeping the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our socety, the very people who needed the library the most, from using the library. They crunched the numbers regarding the local service populations and blocked cards and found that the largest percentage of those blocked cards were from households living in poverty, where paying even a small fine would be a huge hurdle. This meant that those households weren’t using the library. But more than that, they had developed a negative view of the library. Each of the libraries stated that they first implemented automatic renewals to help alleviate this problem but eventually went to fine free. This resulted in many positive outcomes: staff were happier because they didn’t have to fight with patrons about small fines, circulation went up, the public had more positive feelings about the library, and the most vulnerable populations were once again able to use the library resources and services that they needed to. Going fine free helped these libraries better meet the library’s mission and goals. I am a big advocate for going fine free and hope that every library out there is seriously considering doing so moving forward.

There were a lot of other interesting things discussed at this event and I’ll be thinking about parts of it for a while. Since this event was geared towards library directors, it was interesting to get an inside glimpse of the types of things that directors are thinking about, talking about, and working towards. There was a lot of discussion of strategic planning, meeting goals, deciding what service populations were most under-served and how best to meet their needs, staff buy-in, and staff support and development. I also got to hear first hand a lot of the obstacles these directors face in trying to best serve their goals, including local politics and ordinances, budgets and, unsurprisingly, staff buy-in.

This was a very interesting event to get to glance behind the curtain and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do so. Don’t worry, I don’t suddenly want to be a library director, I feel genuinely called to be a YA Librarian. But it was nice to see a lot of good directors thinking and talking about a lot of the same things I hear my fellow YA Librarians discussing. I know that many of us don’t often feel supported by administration, but there are a lot of directors out there who are listening.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Light the Night with Fandom Themed Fairy Jars

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I love making crafts with the library teens and get ideas from a lot of sources. I recently saw a video about making lighted fairy jars on YouTube and recreated it with my library teens. It was very popular, but I had some issues. First, it was very expensive because I had to special order woodcut fairies. Second, the directions said to use superglue to glue the fairy in the jar, which meant many people glued their figures together. So I made some adjustments and found a program that works! The twist here is that we’re going to create “fairy light” jars that celebrate our favorite fandoms, so we’ve personalized this craft and taken it to the next level.

I realized while I liked the outcome, but I did not like the process. I have found my own process for making lighted jars.

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Supplies Needed:

  • Clear jars, clean and dry
  • Cardstock
  • A Silhouette Cameo is helpful though not necessary
  • Glue or glue dots
  • Glitter glue or Mod Podge
  • Small paint brush
  • Tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Embellishments such as string/yarn/ribbon, buttons, etc
  • LED lights or candles to place inside the jar (battery operated works best). Glow sticks also work.

Here are some instructions from another source for an overview

Step 1: Cut your shape to place inside the jar

I wanted to do this craft again but not with fairies. I was lucky my library had just purchased a cameo silhouette machine which allowed me to use cardstock and cut out different shapes I have found online. If you don’t have access to a Silhouette machine, you can cut out silhouettes using scissors or exacto knives.

My first lighted Fandom Jar was Beauty and the Beast. I use Pinterest and Google image search to find silhouettes that worked for my program.  I printed them off the cameo machine and that made life easier and you do not have to order silhouettes.

I believe in either using tape or glue dots to place the image in the jar as it makes things easier to fix for teens and teen librarians who make mistakes. I do not recommend using superglue; I lost a layer of skin that first time I tried it to fix the teens projects, plus it is just messy.

Karen’s Note: You can use the free software GIMP to turn a teen photo into a silhouette, which would be fun for this craft. There is also a free silhouette app that you can download for a mobile device.

Step 2: Cover the outside of the jar

I used tissue paper to cover the jar. I like to paint a layer of Elmer’s glue on the jar and the gently place the tissue paper around the jar. Trim off any extra. I am very careful about making sure the silhouette in the jar is not covered by the over fold of the tissue paper. I like to use as light a color of tissue paper as possible. Dark tissue paper will not work. I learned this when I tried to use golden tissue paper for my Hamilton lighted jars.  I then have the teens wait and add another layer of glue on top of the tissue paper. This helps smooth it out and makes it easier to see.

WikiHow: 4 Way to Make Faeries in a Jar

Step 3: Embellish your jar

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I let them pick out what the want to do next, whether they want toput a layer of glitter glue over it. Add accents. I enjoy tying a ribbon around the jars. I have a button box that I let them look through. I try to find objects that work with the theme such as I found rose buttons for Beauty and the beast or stars for Hamilton Jars.  I make it clear this is their jar they get the final say in what it looks like.

Things to Consider

I am very careful when getting the jars. I saved up coupons and also asked for jars as donations from staff and patrons. Spaghetti sauce jars work out very well as do some pickle jars. Couponing makes this craft affordable since I can use all the supplies the next time if I have leftovers.

Karen’s Note: To up the “making” quotient of this craft, you can make your own LED rope lights in a variety of ways. One set of instructions can be found here. This will significantly increase the cost of this activity.

Thoughts: This craft is always a winner and can be adjusted to different fandoms. As long as the jars are cheap this program works out nicely.

Book Review: What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards

whatyouhidePublisher’s Book Description

A new pulse-pounding romantic thriller from the author of We All Fall Down and Six Months Later 

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

Karen’s Thoughts

It’s interesting in the blurb above that this book is described as a “pulse-pounding romantic thriller” because as I read this, I was moved repeatedly by the way this book talks about a variety of current and pressing issues, including the opioid crisis, domestic violence and teen homelessness. Make no mistake, What You Hide is a thrilling read and there definitely is some budding romance, but I thought this book also did a sublime job of talking about real issues in meaningful ways in the context of this “pulse-pounding romantic thriller”.

As I was reading this book, I was actually working at a public library in the state of Ohio and we had a teen coming in daily that we knew was homeless. So this book was very real and pressing to me; it had a palpable urgency to me as I went home at night to read this book and then returned to work each day and talked to a teen that I knew had slept outside the library, tucked away in a corner trying to stay safe and unnoticed. I actually reached out to Richards and asked her some concrete ways to help this teen as I knew she must have learned things researching this novel and she was gracious enough to give me some leads. We did end up connecting this teen with several resources and I am thankful to be able to share with you that he also got a job. Working with homeless teens is always a horrific reminder of the various ways in which our society fails our children.

What You Hide also does a really good job of presenting some solid examples of domestic violence that is more psychologically than it is physically abusive, and I appreciated this important revelation. Tucked in here is also some hardcore truths about addiction and the current opioid crisis, which is hitting Ohio pretty hard so it seems fitting that the author included this in the context of this particular story as well. All of these issues are brought to light and revealed in authentic ways that don’t hit the reader over the head but also show the ways issues become tangled up in other issues and they feed upon and work with each other to bring a teen to the place where fear, desperation and a lack of options leads them to a life lived on the streets, or tucked inside a closed library.

One of the other things that I think that Richards does so well is present us with a variety of teens who are trying to figure out who they are and balance that with parental expectations and the stress that comes with trying, and often failing, to meet those expectations. This is made most clear in the story of Spencer, who is literally standing (well, lying) still because he can’t figure out how to move forward in healthy ways as who wants to be does not align with what he feels his parents want him to be. I loved the character of Spencer and felt that his dilemma was both poignant and all too real. This was the most spot on representation of one of the primary challenges of adolescence and I felt that every teen reading this book would be able to relate to and identify the conversations that these teens are having about growing up and trying to figure out what next steps to take.

What You Hide is a love letter to libraries and the feelings of acceptance and belonging they bring to a community, which is not surprising because Richards herself works in a library. Every nook and cranny of this library felt authentic, affirming, and inspiring. There are hidden places, local history, and the possibility of ghosts – and who doesn’t love the idea of a haunted library? I mean, I don’t want to work in a haunted library, but the setting makes for a great story.

Then there is Mallory, a strong, fierce, determined but lost young lady trying to convince her mom to leave a man that she sees as abusive who finds herself alone on the streets. She takes refuge in the library, hiding until it closes and hoping to find a few moments of warmth and safety. Even as Mallory reaches out and tries to find help in her situation, we see all the obstacles that minors trying to find a respite from a storm at home experience. There are rules and regulations that make finding help so very hard to do, and they leave Mallory in some of the most vulnerable situations. As her hunger grows and her desperation builds, we learn more and more about what life is like for a homeless teen and the desperation they feel. Mallory’s story will break your heart.

This is an interesting book because it presents itself as a thriller, but it asks you to think deeply by revealing harsh truths in the midst of this mystery. Unlike the problem novels of the 90s (yes, I’m that old) that hit you over the head with their after school special like messages, Richards peels back the layers on issues while entertaining with a thrilling mystery that may or may not be a ghost story set in a library that may or may not be haunted, and it is a satisfying read that leaves you thinking of the many challenges teens today are facing. It’s a bold move, a trusting one that respects teen readers and understands that a book can be many things at once. It also reminds us that teens are indeed facing a variety of hard pressing issues, almost always at the same time, and they are often ill equipped and unprepared to deal with them and the very systems that are there to support them are ham-stringed by rules and regulations that put the most vulnerable of them at further risk. Don’t let the cover or the marketing fool you, this is a deep, thoughtful novel that genuinely explores teen life.

I highly recommend this novel for teens and anyone who cares about teens. It’s more than an entertaining thriller, its a deeply contemplative exploration of teen life today that moves the reader.

Themes and topics covered: Homelessness, domestic violence, coming of age, addiction, poverty and socio-economic challenges, the U.S. opioid crisis

Published December 4 by Sourcefire Books

If You Buy It, Will It Circ? In Defense of Visual Merchandising and Why Public Libraries Should Do More of It

Straight out of college, where she majored in art, one of my best friend’s first job was as a merchandiser at Arhaus. She spent her days setting up displays, designing the flow of traffic through the store, and helping the store to sell merchandise. Her job was to set up the store in appealing and artistic ways that would get customers to buy the merchandise and they knew what they were doing when they trained her. Around that same time The Mr., also an art major, started going through management training at Kroger. Part of this training was in the fine art of merchandising. Although customers don’t think a lot about it when they walk through the store, stores are spending a lot of time, money and attention to detail to help make sure that we, the customer, spend as much money as possible before we walk out their doors. There is a science to why milk is placed where it’s placed and public libraries could learn a lot from the retail world.

Have you bought or sold a house lately? I was stunned when a friend was selling her house to learn that she had to put half of her life into boxes in storage. Her real estate agent then schooled her in the fine art of staging. This is when realtors set up houses to make them inviting and help them sell. Good real estate agents are also very much in the business and science of set up, display and design. We could learn a lot from them as well.

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The thing is, there is a lot of information out there about how to get customers buying merchandise, so why aren’t libraries using it? It’s true, we are a nonprofit community service based entity and we don’t talk about selling our merchandise, but we do want to be in the business of moving merchandise. In fact, it’s one of the most important things we do and one of the primary ways we measure our success: getting patrons to check out our materials. In fact, we spend so much time measuring and wringing our hands over circulation statistics, an issue I discuss here, and yet we spend so little time discussing better ways to help make that happen. Buying the right materials is only the most basic building blocks, it’s what we do with it next that helps get those materials circulating.

If you buy the right materials, we argue, our circulation statistics will be good. But just having an item on a shelf isn’t enough. And have you looked at our shelves lately (and yes, I know, not all shelves)? They are often too full, too overwhelming, and they don’t promote effective browsing. Sometimes, putting an item in our collection is the surest way to make sure that it gets lost.

Visual Merchandising – Applying Bookstore Insights to Public Library Collections

Have you ever worked retail? One of our daily tasks when I was a teenager working retail was to walk through my department hourly to fluff shelves, fill display holes, and face out merchandise. This was non-negotiable and clearly understood to be an important part of my job. And I was trained how to do it and given clear expectations. Retail stores do not come to play when it comes to merchandising, and libraries shouldn’t either.

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YA Displays and Merchandising 2017

All of this falls under the heading of merchandising. Many people use the terms marketing and merchandising in tandem, and in ways they are two parts of the same whole. They both share the same goals: to get people using or buying your produce or services. In the world of librarianship, merchandising is our attempt to get people checking out our items. Merchandising is whatever you do to help move merchandise inside your store, or in this case, inside the library. Putting up displays is merchandising. Facing out book titles is merchandising. The colors you choose, the locations you choose, and the products you put on display are all merchandising. You can find a very basic discussion of merchandising at Shopify.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way here: I am no merchandising expert. I am a librarian. And if I have learned one thing about librarianship, it is that it often requires me to become a quasi expert at a wide range of things. And in the course of my career, one of those things has been both marketing and merchandising. In my training and study of merchandising, it has been mind blowing to learn how much research is done and how much the retail world knows about merchandising, down to things like color science and traffic patterns and location, location, location. The science is out there, already done for us, so let’s use our research skills to find and implement them in our libraries.

One of the Tween's bookshelves of honor.

Trading Spaces: New Jersey Library Association

I’ve been thinking about merchandising a lot. I even tweeted last week that I thought one of the things that public libraries should do is to invite merchandising experts from local businesses to come in and do staff training. I think all staff should be trained in the fine art of merchandising; I think all staff should be given directives that involve staff training; and I think that all staff should be held accountable for merchandising. We should train our staff and make sure that they walk through the library several times a day to straighten the books on shelves, to fill display holes, and to make sure we have titles facing out. It’s what they do in retail business for a reason: it works.

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Just a few of the tips that I would suggest include:

1. Just Right Shelf Sizes and Face Out Titles

Weed, weed, weed so that your shelves are no more than half  to two-thirds full. At the end of each shelf that is at eye level, pull a book from that shelf and put it on face out display. Publishers put a lot of research into book covers, so let’s use what they know and do and use those book coves to get books circulating.

2. Contrasting Colors

When doing a display, unless you are doing a color specific display, put books with contrasting colors next to each other. For example, put a book with an orange cover on display next to a book with a blue cover. The contrast helps patrons visually distinguish between the books. This is harder said then done because a large number of books have black or blue covers. Visual artists know how to use color and contrast to draw the eye in and make it focus on what they want the eye to focus on; people who do graphic design do this as well. Let’s learn what we can from graphic designers, visual artists and visual merchandisers to create face out displays that will get books into the hands of our patrons.

3. The Book’s the Thing

Put the emphasis on the books as opposed to the display embellishments. You want to make it easy for the patrons to take a book off of a shelf or display and not feel like they are messing up someone’s time and efforts. In fact, if you can, include verbiage on your signage that lets patrons know that yes, these books are available to check out!

4. Rotate

Rotate displays and face out titles every 2 to 4 weeks. With displays and face out titles, we’re encouraging our patrons to check out materials via browsing, so it’s important that they always have something new to see. If you put a title on display and it doesn’t move, re-shelve it and give another title a chance.

5. Straighten

Make it a part of your daily practice to walk the library, or whatever your designated part of the library is, and keep things neat and straight. We’re all supposed to take 10,000 steps a day for health, so we might as well straighten while we’re doing it, right? Make it a part of every single person’s daily practice to merchandise the library and straighten the shelves.

There are so many other tips that are floating into my head now as I type this. We want to have balance, which is hard to achieve. A too full display and a too empty display both discourage browsing. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you want your display or shelves to be JUST RIGHT, but knowing what that looks like and how to achieve it is tricky business. And in all honesty, even with all the science and research, not everyone agrees, there are some best practices.

Here is some interesting research to help get us all started thinking about merchandising:

Retail Merchandising: Set Up Your Store for Retail Success

Visual Merchandising 101

Anything Libraries Visual Merchandising

6 Visual Merchandising Tricks to Boost Your Sales

10 Unique Visual Merchandising Tricks You Should Steal

I know that not every library out there is struggling with the concept of merchandising, so share your tips and tricks with us below in the comments. But if you are one of the many libraries that are, maybe contact some local businesses and ask them to do some training and help your staff establish some best practices.

The Cart is the Thing: Making a Magnetic Mobile MakerSpace Wall When You’re Short on Space

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I spend a lot of time visiting other libraries and talking to my fellow librarians. I like to see what other libraries are doing and find new and creative ways to provide services, organize spaces, decorate, merchandise and more. I recently was visiting a smaller branch where the librarian was talking about how they wanted to do a wide variety of things but they just didn’t have the space. And I had one of those light bulb moments.

In a previous library position, I had a mobile MakerSpace cart that I kept in a storage closet and rolled into the one and only meeting room for weekly maker activities. The trick was, I would still need space to spread out and allow participants to make. This branch does not have that luxury. So I suggested a Lego wall, but a brief look around the room revealed that there was zero wall space. So what, I thought, about a Lego wall cart?

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You would need a slender, metal booktruck cart with complete or fuller walls on the backside. Put strong – super strong – magnets on the back side of green Lego building plates. I would use E600 glue and give it a few days to dry. You then can put the magnetic Lego plates on the back of the booktruck cart with a small box of Legos on the shelves. Place the “Lego wall” at the end of the shelf and presto – you have a mobile Lego wall. I know that this idea will work because before we built our own Lego wall at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, we made a magnetic Lego wall on the side of one of the metal tool chests we had in the Teen Makerspace. The bonus is that a book cart is slender and takes up a little space as conceivably possible while still providing libraries with a way to get patrons making.

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But since we’re using magnets and our Lego plates are easily removable, we don’t have to limit ourselves to Lego walls. You can put out Magnatiles, magnetic poetry kits, Tumble Trax marble mazes, and more. Basically, whatever you can stick a magnet on and stick to a wall, you can stick onto the back of a book truck cart as long as you have enough backspace to do so. You’ll want to always be aware of safety issues, like choking hazards and location, and make sure you are using strong enough magnets to support the weight of the item you want to stick to the “wall”.

Collecting Comics: November and December 2018 Edition, featuring a Spider-man, a Squirrel Girl, fierce females and some polar bears, by Ally Watkins

Here are comics titles your teens and tweens will be clamoring for in November and December!

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Adaptation by Gary Whitta, illustrated by Michael Welsh (Marvel, November 6). In this adaptation of the film, the Resistance has located Luke Skywalker, but the First Order isn’t going down without a fight. Collects #1-#6 of the comic book series.

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Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen (First Second, November 6). A thought-provoking nonfiction graphic tale set in Rwanda before and after the genocide of the Tutsi people.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 9: Squirrels Fall Like Dominoes by Ryan North, illustrated by Erica Henderson (Marvel, November 27). In this ninth volume of Doreen Green’s squirrel-related antics continue. She and her best friend Nancy Whitehead decide to do an escape room adventure with their friends. Except this escape room might actually be lethal. Squirrel Girl to the rescue! Collects issues #32-#36 of the comic book series.

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Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Serena Blasco, based on the novel by Nancy Springer (IDW Publishing, November 27).  In this adaptation of Springer’s novel, Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister Enola wakes up on her 14th birthday to discover that her mother has disappeared. Determined not to be caught and packed off to boarding school, she escapes to London, determined to crack the case and make it on her own.

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Spidey: School’s Out by John Barber and Todd Nauck (Marvel, December 4). In this original graphic novel, Peter Parker has survived a year of being Spiderman and another year of high school. So obviously for his summer vacation he’s going to Camp Stark! He’s got to keep his camp and his identity safe while navigating the social and technological demands of camp: are both Spidey and Peter Parker up to the task?

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Lumberjanes Volume 10: Parents’ Day by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh, illustrated by Ayme Sotuyo (BOOM! Box, December 11). It’s parents’ day at the Lumberjanes camp and everyone is excited! Well…almost everyone. The Roanoke cabin wants to express to their families how much fun they’ve been having even though they might not understand the more supernatural elements of it. Soon they find themselves having to protect their parents from that very element. Collects issues #37-#40 of the comic book series.

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Giant Days: Early Registration by John Allison (BOOM! Box, December 18). Flashback to freshman year with Daisy, Esther, and Susan in these collected Giant Days bonus stories. Discover how they get to know one another and become friends!

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Science Comics: Polar Bears: Survival on Ice by Jason Viola, illustrated by by Zack Giallongo (First Second, December 31). In this latest installment of the nonfiction Science Comics series, we join two polar bear cubs as they hunt, play, and survive on the ice. With facts about polar bear biology and ecology, this fact-filled book will be a must for your nonfiction readers.

Take 5: Table Top Games Teens Will Love to Play

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The Teen, The Bestie, their friends and I are going through a big table tops game playing stage. And because everything I do somehow becomes about work, every new game we play is reviewed to determine whether or not it would be a good game to play in the library with teens. In fact, at my new library, at least at my branch, the teen room is in fact a separate room where game playing is very accessible and they even keep games out for teens to come in and grab off the shelf and play. So here’s a look at some of the games we’ve been playing.

1. Exploding Kittens

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Of all the games we’ve been playing, this is hands down one of our favorites. It’s a card game with an absurd premise, but there is also a lot of strategy involved. The goal is simple: get your opponents to draw an exploding kitten card so they are out and try to stay alive. You achieve this goal by taking their cards, shuffling the deck, and if all goes well – you get a coveted alter the future card so you can put the Exploding Kitten cards in strategic locations within the deck.

The cards themselves are absurd, which is part of the fun. They have asburd titles, fun illustrations and pretty weird directions. Be very careful, there is a Not Safe for Work (NSFW) pack that you do not want to put in the hands of teens. You will get fired!

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Like I said, this is a strategy game and you have to pay attention. Each player starts out with 1 defuse card which allows you to draw an exploding kitten and survive. So you have to pay attention to who has a defuse card and who doesn’t. Many of the cards allow you to draw a card from another player’s hand and you want to try and get the other player’s defuse cards, it’s a coveted card worth more than gold in this game. Pay attention to has played a defuse card and don’t draw from them. At the same time, you want to try and protect your defuse card from being picked by another player. During one game I had 2 defuse cards and I made sure that my hand stayed full of cards because I didn’t want other players to be able to draw a card from my hand and take my precious defuse cards. At one point I kept passing my turn and not playing any cards and the reason was simple: strategy. The more cards I had in my hand, the less likely it was that someone would draw the defuse card from me.

During another game, The Mr. blitzed me with every card he had to make me empty my hand of cards, then he put an exploding kitten card right where I would draw it and have no defense. I went out of that game quickly and yes, I’m still bitter. He’s still sleeping on the couch.

If you’re going to play this game with a large group of teens, I recommend buying the party pack, which is $30.00. I also recommend buying the two expansion packs – Imploding Kittens and Streaking Kittens – which ups your price by another $17.00 but adds even more fun nonsense cards and allows for an additional two more players. Like many games, this investment isn’t cheap, but if you have the budget for it then I recommend adding it to your game collection.

2. Imagine

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This game is a game of visual charades. You set up a circle of symbol cards provided and when it’s your turn, you can layer or use the cards in any way you like to try and get people to guess the word on your card. So it instead of acting out your clues as in charade or drawing your clues like in Pictionary, you can only use the images already provided. It’s challenging but fun.

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Take a look at some of our examples and tell me, what do you think they might be?

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This game is not easy! But it is fun. It also takes the most amount of table space because you have to set up the large circle of cards for players to see what’s available to make their pictures from.

3. Smash the Avocado

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This is a card game that combines the ideas behind War and Snap. All the cards are dealt and then one by one you go around the table and turn over your first card. Each player counts 1 through 15 as they turn over their card. So the first person would turn over their card and say, “1 avocado” and then the next player would do the same saying, “2 avocado”, etc. Whenever you turn over the same number as is being spoken aloud or whenever the same number is played twice in a row, you want to “smash” the avocado by putting your hand on top of the pile of cards. There are also cards that say “smash” and you once again smash the avocado when these cards come up as well. As in UNO, there are reverse cards that changes the direction of play AND you then have to start counting backwards from 15. The last person to put their hand in, the hand that is on top, has to take the pile of cards. In this case that’s bad, because the first person to go out of cards wins. This is a fast and fun game, but it’s loud because everyone is yelling smash and there is lots of laughing and yelling involved. However, this game is pretty inexpensive so that’s a plus. I highly recommend this game, but in more of a program setting in a remote meeting room space than in the general library space.

4. Skribble Head

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Head Skribbles combines the games Hedbandz and Pictionary. The person who is “it” draws a card with a word on it and their goal is to get someone to guess what that word is by drawing a picture that represents the word. The twist is that you are drawing your clues on a white board that is attached to your head – so you can’t see what you’re drawing and no matter how well you think you are doing, you’re really not because drawing at that weird angle without seeing what you’re doing produces nothing but hilarious results. By the way, that’s obviously a snowman up above.

5. Charades App

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Charades is an app that you can download onto a device, a smaller device like a phone works best, and basically play the game Hedbandz on. Once you start you hold the phone up to your head and the person you are playing with gives you clues to try and get you to guess the word on display. You are trying to guess as many words correctly as possible in the short amount of time to up your score. You can play in teams competing against one another or you can play with 2 people just for fun. I have busted out this quick game often when in a room with bored teens. It’s pretty fun to sit around playing and guessing without being competitive. And although this is a teen librarian blog, I feel the need to mention that this is a great way to distract kids in long car rides or waiting rooms as well. Really, it’s very multi-purpose. The best part is this app is FREE!!!

As I often do, I also think about inexpensive ways we can expand on the games we’re playing. For example, with the Imagine game you can make additional cards by using old overhead projector sheets cut to size and drawing additional cards to add to your ring of cards. You can use dry erase cards to make your own Exploding Kittens cards. For any of the games where you need to guess words it would be pretty easy to print, cut and add your own words to the deck. So in almost all of the games above, you can find ways to get teens adding and adapting the games to expand on the fun. You can find information about dry erase game cards and more in this post on DIY Games.

I highly recommend every one of these games. None of these games are quiet, so choose your play time and space accordingly. I have played them multiple times with teens and we’ve always had fun.