Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Staff Development: When RA training and diversity training meet

Earlier this year, my immediate supervisor Kathryn King and I were asked to do some RA training for youth services staff across multiple branches at the Fort Worth Public Library system and we got to envision what that would look like. We did some brainstorming and decided that we wanted to make an intentional effort to focus on diversity and inclusion. We have now done two sessions and it has been a very personally and professionally rewarding experience. Here’s an outline of what this training looks like.

As I mentioned, we decided that we wanted to focus on diversity and inclusion, but we were also asked to specifically do traditional booktalks to help staff do RA with patrons at the public service desks. In the month of January we focused on African American literature and in the month of March we focused on Asian American literature. We will be doing some additional sessions on Latinx literature, Native American literature, and LGBTQ literature to finish out the year 2019.

Each training session is organized as follows.

The Foundations

Lee and Low have a good resource to help librarians understand the Diversity Gap in Children’s Litearature http://blog.leeandlow.com/2017/03/30/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-book-publishing-2017/

When we initially began this project, we began by discussing current diversity stats in children’s and YA lit. You can find these stats from the CBC and Lee and Low. It is disheartening to see how truly under-represented many people groups are. We shared these stats with staff because we wanted them to understand that with this type of under representation, it meant that we all had to work that much harder to make sure we are being inclusive in the books we share, promote and highlight with our communities.

Owning Our Limitations

As a cisgender white woman, it’s important for me to do some thorough background research and admit my limitations and acknowledge that I go in with implicit bias. Even with the best of intentions, it’s important for me to be aware that except for my extensive knowledge of the collection, I am not culturally the best person to be leading this training. For example, culturally we are taught to assume a white default and I have been working very, very hard to dismantle this default and change my language when training staff. It’s a process.

An Introduction and an Overview

We begin each session by outlining some basic information about the various people groups we are talking about. For example, before discussing Asian American in children’s and YA literature, we did a lot of research to make sure we understood what we were talking about. This proved to be very important because it turns out that when we say Asia and Asian American, this encompasses more than I ever imagined. We outlined countries, demographics, religions and more. I’ve never personally loved history or geography and was truly mortified to find out how narrow my understanding was and how little I truly knew about Asia.

This in depth research portion has been personally very informative and rewarding. I feel more knowledgeable about the world in general and better able to serve my patrons. I also want to serve my co-workers by being as thorough, respectful and informative as possible. I may be a white woman but not all my co-workers are and I don’t want to misspeak or cause harm while training my peers about middle grade and YA lit.

Tropes, Stereotypes and Harmful Representation

In the next part of our discussion, we use a variety of resources such as TV Tropes and multiple professional discussions to make staff aware of tropes, stereotypes and harmful representation to look for when considering using books in programming or displays. We have discussed things like a white savior narrative, bury your gays, and the tendency to focus on one type of narrative. For example, when talking about books featuring African Americans, we remind staff that we want current stories for our kids that highlight children of color engaged in every day activities because not every story needs to be a story about slavery or civil rights.

Re-Examining Old Favorites

We then go on to talk about classics and favorites that many adults and librarians use that should be reconsidered because they have problematic or outright racist elements. We have, for example, discussed the recent research regarding racism in Dr. Seuss. And before we booktalk any title at the end, we research each title to make sure that isn’t any surrounding controversy that we may not yet be aware of.

An Own Voices Authors List

We then do exhaustive research and share with staff an Own Voices author list that we hope will help staff develop a richer knowledge of the collection. For example, when we did the presentation on Asian Americans in Kidlit, we tried to research specifically each author identified with. Our hope is that we are developing as inclusive as possible collections and recommendations for our patrons. It’s important to note that no Own Voices will ever be exhaustive or thorough because authors gets to decide if, when and how they identify as own voices, but having some own voices authors and titles to discuss is better than none.


We then go on to booktalk some of our favorites. I love talking about the books I love, so this is one of my favorite parts. For example, for the upcoming LGBTQIA+ presentation, I am hoping to highlight titles that aren’t just generally LGBTQ, but that fall under each letter so that our staff can better help patrons who may more specifically ask for a book that features a bi-sexual or asexual main character. This one is still in development.

For me, this has been about getting to have a richer, more complex understanding of the collection and knowing how to better serve patrons through this knowledge. I have personally learned a lot. I have professionally learned a lot. It’s challenging and rewarding. Yes, it is taking an investment in time to do the research and make sure we are doing a good job with the subject matter, but our patrons deserve good, accurate information.

Where do younger teen readers fit in?

One of the Teen’s bookshelves of honor.

If you work with teens and ya literature, you’ve probably found yourself wondering about the ages of YA lit. In theory, YA lit has traditionally been for readers ages 12-18. It’s even defined by YALSA this way. However, as a new generation of adults have grown up reading YA, they are sticking around and some people argue that this new development has led to an aging up of YA lit. If you’ve read enough TLT or follow me on Twitter, you are probably aware that I am one of those people.

I will say this. Many, many librarians, teachers & authors have been talking for a while now about how actual teen readers are being pushed out of the YA market as it becomes increasingly focused on adults. This is not about— Teen Librarian Toolbox (rocks!) (@TLT16) April 8, 2019


Last week, discussions broke out again on Twitter from several channels and once again many YA librarians, readers and authors were asking: where do younger teen readers fit in. Andrea Sower posted a Tweet that highlighted an informal survey she had done of upcoming titles and sure enough, given a quick inventory of several titles it became clear that YA literature is definitely skewing older.

And I’m not just talking here about content, because that’s not the case. There has been a push, for example, for YA that features young adults in college. I’ve also read an increase in books being published that feature teens in their senior year or right after graduation. In and of itself, none of this is a problem. What does seem to be the problem, however, that is highlighted by the statistics Drea shared in the tweet linked above, is that younger teen readers aren’t being well represented in the current YA market.

Another trend I see as a reader is characters that I am told are teen on the page, but that show an emotional maturity and complexity that is clearly more adult. It’s interesting to note that when I stated this last week on Twitter, many authors sent me private messages and told me that they wrote their books for adults but were told by publishers to make the characters teen so it could be sold as YA because that’s what is selling. Nothing else really was changed, just the ages of the characters. This highlights the fact that not all YA is being written with teen readers in mind.

I have definitely seen a growth in the middle grade market, and feel this is in part to compensate for the age shift up in YA. But even looking at middle grade, it’s still not really telling stories that center 13, 14 and 15 year olds. Most books set in middle school seem to feature 11 and 12 years olds. And Freshman and Sophomores don’t seem to be featured in enough stories to even make a dent in the market.

All of this can, of course, be tied in some ways back to data released several years ago that suggest that 55% or more of YA books are bought by adults. What this statistic doesn’t tell us is who is reading YA. I know many adult readers who read YA, and not all of them for professional reasons. I am an adult who reads YA, but I do so for professional reasons. I am also an adult who buys YA, but I buy it for teenagers, and I don’t just mean in the library. I am raising a teen who reads YA and I buy books for her and her friends on a regular basis.

I also attend teen book festivals pretty regularly, both professionally and personally because I am taking The Teen and her friends and I am here to tell you, there are a lot of teen readers attending these festivals and connecting with authors and books. I asked The Teen and her friends recently if they felt like YA belonged to them and they mostly said yes, now that they’re older. The Teen admitted that it was harder in middle school and early high school to find books to read because everything felt too young or too old, but now she’s a pretty happy YA reader. But again, she’s 16 almost 17 and she’s pretty well represented by YA lit today. And she is, of course, just one voice among many. Which brings me back to the stats that Drea shared.

And in the end, I am reminded by some recent PEW data why it is teen librarians like me do what we do and why we keep talking about our concerns regarding younger teens not being served well by the current publishing market:

In the early 90s, libraries began a big push for YA/Teen services. People like me were hired by libraries everywhere to serve teens. We built collections. We did programs. YALSA & professional journals started advocating for teens & teen services in libraries. pic.twitter.com/NybJhCZrEo— Teen Librarian Toolbox (rocks!) (@TLT16) April 11, 2019

Whatever is happening with current publishing trends, I hope that one way or another, we will soon see more books being published for older middle school and younger high school readers. There is a really good conversation happening on Twitter and we would love to hear your thoughts here in the comments.

DIY Neon Signs, Part 2

After figuring out how to make DIY Neon Signs (see the initial posts and instructions here), I recently hosted a Teen Makerspace night where we put the program outline into practice. As you may recall, the first DIY Neon Sign The Teen and I made did not have a background and it was just kind of a wire word, and although it works and is up in Thing 2’s room, we just felt it needed a little something something. So we modified our plans and added a wooden background, which helps it hold its shape better and gives it a bit of stability that it was missing.

I have a carpenter friend who helps me with the Teen MakerSpace programs and he came with pre-cut wood, nails, hammers and wire cutters to help with background. You will recall the other supplies you need are EL wire and batteries. In the neon sign we made with no background, we originally attached the EL lights to wire using zip ties to help it hold its shape. With a background, this step proved unnecessary.

So here’s what we did.

Step 1: Write your word on a piece of paper in cursive writing. You need one continuous word for the project to be successful and it’s simply easier. The Teen provided the excellent penmanship here.

Step 2: Following the outline of the word, hammer nails into your board along the shape of the word to hold the EL wire in place. Think of it as doing string art, but with EL wire instead of string.

Step 3: You will then wrap the wire around the nails to create the word in EL wire.

The trick is to use enough nails and get the placement right to hold it all in place. If you would like, you can use glue like e600 glue to adhere the wire to the wooden background. We wrapped the remaining wire and power source around the back and held it in place with zip ties and nails. You then just tear out all the background paper and you have a pretty awesome neon sign.

This is a pretty cool project and we all really liked the final results. There is a part of me that wishes I would have pre-painted the background wood white or black, but the natural wood color is attractive as well. The big thing is that the tweens and teens in attendance all thought this was really cool.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Wizard of OZ Necklaces


Our library had a series of programs that were themed around the Wizard of Oz. I worked on coming up with craft I could make when I saw my friend, Andrea Sowers, post on her Twitter account a necklace craft she had made. That’s when I realized that what I wanted to do was to make a pendant necklace.

I talked to my coworkers who loved jewelry making and asked Andrea a couple questions about how she made her necklace. I then combined everyone’s contributions to make my own process, which I have outlined below.

Step 1: Print out small images that you want to use in the pendants. Remember they need to be able to be cut in a one-inch circle.

Step Two: If you want to have glitter glue in the image, make sure to tell the teens to use very little because you want the glitter glue to dry before you attach the round cabochon. I used a tiny bit of red glitter glue for the Ruby Red Slippers. Others used silver for Glinda’s wand or green for the Emerald City. I used a toothpick to make sure that I made the glitter glue attach well.

Step three: Take the round cabochon and put a layer of diamond crystal on it and attach the image. Use a toothpick to smooth it out. Roll the toothpick on the back of your picture like a rolling pin to release any air and help it stay flat. Wait for it to dry before staring the next step.

Step four: Use the e6000 glue and put it on the front of the pendant tray. You will want to put your dried round cabochon with the image attached on the tray. I would press it gently. Let it dry completely before wearing.

Final Thoughts: This craft turned out great. I really enjoyed it and I am doing a Disney pendant craft in April. I would have gotten longer necklace cords, because people have different neck sizes and not everyone likes having a tight necklace.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS


Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

What are the biggest challenges in teen services in the library today?

Last week, I asked other YA/Teen Services Librarians what they thought was the biggest challenges to teen services. You can see the entire thread of responses here:

I was not surprised to see what my fellow librarians were saying in the response as it mirrored a lot of my own experiences. I think the challenges can be summed up in the following ways:


Teens today are over-programmed. School, extra-curricular activities, jobs and more – there are a lot of people making demands on teens. So it seems like when teens have a free moment to spare, they want down time to decompress. They also want the freedom to choose how they are going to spend that time. So over and over again what we see is that it is hard to get teens into the library at specific times for specific programs. And it looks like a lot of the most successful programs are those that emphasize fun, socialization, and the opportunity for teens to engage in some self directed behaviors.

The other side of the time coin is that a lot of librarian respondents didn’t feel that they had enough time to work with teens.


Related to demands on time, today’s teens are overwhelmingly stressed out.Couples with the demands on their time, it’s a stark reminder that teens today don’t have the free time or often the emotional energy to engage in free time the ways that many adults think that they are – or should be. Most of our teens aren’t looking for more programs to make more demands on their time. They are, however, looking for spaces where they can just be, whether alone or with friends.

Administrative Support

For as long as their has been teen services in public libraries, one of the greatest challenges has often been administrative support. Many respondents said that their administration didn’t support teen services because of a lack of understanding of adolescent development or perceived problem behaviors. But this lack of support can also mean not enough space, time or money to effectively engage in teen services. A lot of teen librarians are facing high demands for turn out with out the tools necessary to produce effective results.


Many respondents stated that space was their biggest challenge. Simply put, they don’t have enough dedicated teen space for the number of teens coming into their libraries. On the one hand, this is a good problem to have because it means that teens ARE coming into the library, on the other hand, it can be the hardest to address because space is often a finite resource and adding space or redesigning space is often a high dollar challenge.


There are a lot of people out there competing with libraries for their time and attention. From video games and social media to after school activities and jobs, school and public libraries are not the only entities trying to get the time and attention of teens. Many libraries find that they just can’t compete, this is especially true for smaller libraries that have more limited budgets, staff and time.

In taking this informal survey it was interesting to me to find that the challenges we are discussing today are basically they same challenges teen librarians have been discussing for at least 25 years. Don’t get me wrong, some of those challenges are more nuanced. Social media, for example, adds new layers to many of the challenges discussed above. It’s also interesting to me that the issue of marketing didn’t really come up and I personally find this to be one of the ongoing challenges that most libraries and most teen librarians face.

What are the challenges you are feeling most in teen librarianship right now? And more importantly, what are your approaches to trying to meet them head on. Come talk with us in the comments.

Digital Media: Using Photo Apps to Create a Glitch Effects

It’s been a while since I talked about photo apps. In fact, it’s been so long you probably thought I had lost my love for digital media and photo apps. You would be wrong. I simply hadn’t found anything new that I really loved and thought did something different. However, if you follow teen TLTer Elliot on Twitter, then you would know that they take a lot of cool photos and lately, a lot of their photos have this cool rainbow tilt effect. So I asked Elliot how they did that effect. If you ever want to know how to do something cool with tech, ask a teen.

The effect I am seeking to create is this rainbow effect that you see in the picture below. It is called a glitch effect. You know how in the movie Wreck It Ralph Vanellope keeps glitching in and out? That’s the effect I’m trying to create on my photos.

Elliot shared with me several apps that they use to create this effect and then I found a few additional ones. I should point out that all of these apps are initially free, but they require in app purchases to unlock additional features. I went with just the free versions because they allowed me to create the effect that I wanted. The two apps I liked best were Instabit and Glitch Studio. Elliot’s apps of choice are Vaporcam, Glitch Effect and Rad VHS.

Using the Glitch Studio app, I created this Old TV effect pic. You can’t see it in the picture, but it also produces a wavy gif effect like a TV screen going in and out of reception if you want to use the image as a gif.

I used the Instabit app to create the next two pictures.

As you can see from the screenshots, there are a lot of features that are locked because I didn’t choose to pay to unlock them. In fact, the Instabit app has a cool VHS style camera feature you can use to shoot old school looking video which I did not try out because at this time I’m simply looking at creating cool photos.

As someone who creates a lot of publicity for teen oriented events who also understands copyright and enjoys digital media, I like creating my own pictures and uploading them to feature in promotional flyers and on social media. I also use pictures in a lot of crafts and programs, because digital media is about the extent of my artistic capabilities. These are a couple of cool tools that I am adding to my extensive collection of photo apps for the specific and very cool effects that they create.

Although I barely touched the surface of what you can do with these apps because I was seeking to create a very specific effect, I recommend them. To create the effects that I wanted there was no cost and they were both incredibly easy to use.

Want to know about more of my favorite photo apps and the effects that I use them for? Check out this post or click on the apps tag below.

Audio Review: Spin by Lamar Giles

Now that I have a super long commute, I listen to a lot of audio books. I recently listened to Spin by Lamar Giles, which The Teen is currently reading. Here’s what I thought.

spinPublisher’s Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Paris Secord’s (aka DJ ParSec) career–and life–has come to an untimely end, and the local music scene is reeling. No one is feeling the pain more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and Paris’s chief groupie, Fuse. But suspicion trumps grief, and since each suspects the other of Paris’s murder, they’re locked in a high-stakes game of public accusations and sabotage.

Everyone in the ParSec Nation (DJ ParSec’s local media base)–including the killer–is content to watch it play out, until Kya and Fuse discover a secret: Paris was on the verge of major deal that would’ve catapulted her to superstar status on a national level, leaving her old life (and old friends) behind. With the new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that shows its deadly side. As Kya and Fuse come closer to the twisted truth, the killer’s no longer amused. But murdering Paris was simple enough, so getting rid of her nobody-friends shouldn’t be an issue…

Karen’s Thoughts

This was a really intriguing mystery with a great example of female friendship. The opening grabs your immediate attention and it just keeps you hooked page after page. I loved how the formal rivals for ParSec’s affection became friends as they worked together to clear their name. There’s also a lot of fascinating discussion about music, family, school, identity and the power of social media. So many rich details in between the mystery to reflect on.

Also, bonus points, there is a strong female character engaged in STEM which is essential to the story and there are several strong yet vulnerable and self-aware female characters from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds that just add some additional layers to this story. It’s a mystery, but the character development is on point.

The audio was engaging and well narrated. I was invested and wanted to know who did what, but I enjoyed spending time with the characters along the way.

Highly recommended.

Conversation Snapshots: Let’s Talk YA Lit Titles & YA Programming Success


YA Lit Suggestions

Although I do a lot of blogging here, sometimes good conversations happen on Twitter. Last Sunday, I wrote a post about updating YA titles that are discussed in media discussions and then I asked people on Twitter to recommend books for those updated discussions. Follow the tweet and you will see some of the recommended titles.

There were several recommendations for Scythe by Neal Shusterman, One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. All great recommendations.

I keep thinking about how odd it is in retrospect that all these articles that talk about older YA don’t mention two of the first really popular – like word of mouth and all the teens come in asking for them popular titles: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. What titles – old or new – do you think need to be included in the conversation? Please let us know in the comments.

Teen Programming Success!

The second question I asked this past week was about popular YA/Teen programming. What, I asked, is the most popular program you have ever hosted past or present? You’ll get lots of great programming ideas by reading through this thread. Many have them have been and continue to be popular for me and some of them are completely new ideas that I am looking forward to trying out.

Have some other teen programming success stories that you would like to share? Drop us a comment.

Sunday Reflections: How the Language of Deconstructing One’s Faith Helped Me Understand Adolescence


In the award-winning novel Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, the main character, Xiomara Batista, spends a lot of time questioning and challenging the very deep Catholic faith that she was raised in. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she believes; she’s trying to make sense of her parent’s faith and find a faith that she can believe in for herself. She is deconstructing her faith.

poet X

To be clear, this is a pretty normal part of adolescence. In fact, it is one of the primary tasks, to move into a more independent sense of self and figure out who you are, who you want to be, what you believe, and how you will move through this world. One of the most fundamental tasks of adolescence is to figure out a self-identity. And often, this involves the deconstruction of faith.

Deconstruction is quite literally a critical analysis. Metaphorically, it takes the pieces of something apart and takes the time to evaluate them each individually and then figure out how they fit together, or don’t, in the scope of one’s own life and belief system. And to parents, it can be terrifying in no small part because religion, matters of faith and devotion, are so incredibly personal and fraught. In the end, when you start talking about matters of belief, you are often talking about literal matters of life and death, and what happens to one’s mortal soul after death. It’s not an easy topic by any means.

In the book Heretic’s Anonymous by Katie Henry, we meet a group of teens from a variety of faiths who are at different stages of belief. Some are devout, some are questioning, some are atheist, and some are deconstructing. It’s not so much that they don’t believe, it’s that they don’t believe in it all the way the adults in their lives want them to believe so they engage in critical analysis to determine what it is the do believe and how they can incorporate that into their life. One of the main characters, perhaps my favorite, is a teen girl who very much loves her Catholic faith but is also a feminist. There’s a lot of tension in many faiths when it comes to embracing and upholding feminist ideals.


Although I have been aware for a while that millennial and teens – and today’s teens ARE NOT millennials – have been leaving the church, I have only recently become aware of the concept of and language of deconstructing one’s faith. There are discussions online using hasthags like #exvangelical (which is about moving away from fundamentalist Christianity, with some choosing atheism and others just choosing a more progressive faith), #emptythepews (which specifically calls for an exodus out of the church), and a variety of other discussions about what it means to deconstruct one’s faith. I read and follow these discussions for a variety of reasons, both professional and personal.

Many teens (and millennials) are leaving the church because they do not find that the church practices what it preaches. They will argue that the church preaches that God loves all but then actively preach hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. The teens that I have talked to see an underlying greed and corruption in the church, and they are angry at the way that the church has turned their back on both the Earth and their future by engaging in climate change denial. And as news breaks out that more and more denominations have spent decades covering up childhood abuse to protect their name and the adults around them at the expense of children, they are finding it harder and harder to feel that church cares about them at all.

In the book The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, the main character is wrestling with her continued participation in a youth group when the very teen who has sexually assaulted her continues to be embraced and lauded by her friends and family. She feels lost, lonely, rejected, terrified and unsupported. She finds herself in the wilderness metaphorically and quite literally as she wrestles with her truth at church camp. She is a proxy for every child, teen or adult harmed by the church who is trying to figure out where they still fit in at a church that wants to deny the truth of what has happened to them, leaving them vulnerable and alone. She is deconstructing her faith.

distancebetween_final cover_4_1.indd

As the mother of a teenage daughter, I have the opportunity to have a lot of hard and important conversations with my teen. And because we are a family that goes to a Christian church together, a lot of these conversations revolve around the Bible, the church and lately, a lot about LGBTQ+ issues. I have found that this generation of teens is the most accepting and open about their and other people’s sexual and gender identities and the topic is very important to them. We also happen to be United Methodist and our denomination recently voted to uphold traditional views of gender and sexuality and to prohibit same sex couples from marrying or being ordained. This is a topic that my teen was very aware of and chose to follow on her own. And she came to me heartbroken when the church voted to hold people she loves outside of the full fellowship of the church. If given a choice, I’m sure that she would not currently choose to keep attending church.

She also has spent time with me in my work with teens in various spaces. She has seen me love, embrace and support transgender teens, gay teens, queer teens, questioning teens . . . And she always seems surprised when I talk about how sometimes it is still hard for me to totally shake off what I have been taught for literal years by the church regarding LGBTQ+ issues. You see, deconstructing your faith isn’t easy and it isn’t a one time process. I feel like I’m always challenging, learning, and growing. But when we talk about it I tell her that I have one huge thing that I am always trying to keep in mind: I never want to harm a fellow human being. Which is not the same thing as saying that I never do, because I have, I do and I will continue to do so because that’s part of being human. I have chosen to be honest, vulnerable and open in my parenting in part because I want her to know that she doesn’t have to have all the answers right now. I know that I certainly don’t, and I’m 46.

It’s important to note that deconstructing faith doesn’t have to mean walking away from it entirely. It’s just a process of questioning and challenging what you are taught. If done correctly, it usually involves asking for spiritual guidance to help with things like discernment and guidance. It often involve letting one’s faith evolve and represent the more complex thinking that we develop in adolescence. It’s moving from black and white thinking to recognizes the various shades of grey that inhabit the reality of the world we live in. It’s taking the pieces apart, but putting them back together again in ways that make sense and affirm both the foundations of your belief system and full dignity and rights of your fellow humans.

To be honest, I think much of adolescence can be understood in the context of deconstructing. Teens are constantly in the process of deconstructing and then reconstructing who they are, what they think and feel, what they believe, and how they want to live in the world. Although it’s easy to look at a word like deconstructing and have negative thoughts, I think it really embodies many of the processes of adolescence. And remember, deconstructing almost always results in reconstructing, whether that be of faith or self. Deconstructing isn’t something we should fear, because in the end, it almost always results in a more honest, thoughtful, and healthy reconstruction of self.

Part of what I do as a librarian who serves teen is to provide them access to the tools and resources that can help them in this process. I believe in the power of story and words to help us explore the world around us and the world inside of us so that we can deconstruct and then reconstruct our understanding. The power of story helps build compassion. Words enlighten, motivate, encourage, challenge, affirm and more. There are teens that I have had the opportunity to sit and talk with, teens I have watched grow from year to year, but there are also teens who have walked into my library that I have never seen and the simple act of providing the book that they needed when they needed it has helped them become the person they are today. It’s a responsibility I do not take lightly.

Cindy Crushes Programming: The Road to Wrestlemania


Every year, I do a program during the week leading up to WrestleMania and I call it Road to WrestleMania. I started doing this program when I realized that many of my teens were wrestling fans. I do this program for all ages so families can come together.

Quick History of Pro-Wrestling according to Cindy:  Professional wrestling was a carnival sport where the outcomes where predetermined. Wrestling used to be divided into territories before it was changed into two major competing companies, WCW and WWF. There was also a small major company, ECW, which was known for hardcore wrestling. ECW went bankrupt and was bought by the WWF. WCW was sold to WWF after the Time Warner AOL merger. The WWF changed their name to World Wrestling Entertainment after losing a lawsuit with the World Wildlife Foundation. Professional wrestlers are now referred to as sports entertainers.  Other independent competitors have made this the Golden Age of Independent Wrestling. AEW, Ring of Honor, Shimmer, and Rise are making a strong impact on the wrestling world.  Pro-wrestling does have a long problematic history with race and how women’s wrestling has been treated. This year will be the first time a women’s wrestling match has headlined WrestleMania. This was announced on Monday, March 25, 2019.

I come dressed to impress.  I always dress up as a pro-wrestler and try to do their unique entrance. The entrance of a professional wrestler tells you a lot about the character they are portraying.

wrestlemania2Cindy as Becky Lynch

wrestlemania3Cindy as the Undertaker

The first activity I do is wrestling trivia. I like to do the following categories–Matches, Women Superstars, Male Superstars, Classic Wrestling, and Name that Wrestler.  This is done in the style of the Jeopardy game show.

Fun Fact: The first time I ran these programs, women were referred to as Divas and now they refer to them as Superstars, which is the same title that they use for men. They also now have a new women’s tag team titles.

Next I do promo class. Promos are when the wrestler expresses their thoughts and feelings. It is usually a what, who, where, when, and how. I am really excited because in the past it has been hard to get teens to feel confident enough to participate. I have a new game that I think will help make the experience easier and more fun. I learned about this at a wrestling convention. It is called SmackTalk Showdown.


There are three types of cards.

Name cards– you will need two to make your wrestlers name.


Segment cards that are about where and when the promo takes place.


Smack: This will tell the player what their wrestler is doing during their promo.The game is similar to Superfight where one person judges the players when they performer their actions. The judge is referred to as the producer or they add more smack cards to wrestler’s segments. At the end of the game the winner is the first to have three winning segments.

wrestlemania9Pick the Winner:

I find scorecards online, which I print out for the teens to write down who do they think is winning.  I found one on Squared Circle on Reddit. This is usually posted the week of WrestleMania. This one from last year was made by user,  u/THEGRANDEMPEROR


If I cannot find a scorecard, I will make one myself by looking at what matches I know are going to happen based on the day of the program. What matches are going to happen is determined by time interests and injuries. I have heard this year will be the longest WrestleMania ever.


Final Thoughts: This is a program I love to do and the teens really enjoy it. I think it is so interesting to see how the world of Pro Wrestling has changed since I started this program.  Women would only have five-minute matches, but now they are main eventing.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS


Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.