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Sunday Reflections: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

We are very excited to share with you the first post by new TLT contributor Elliot in this Sunday Reflections. If you feel so inclined, please consider leaving them a comment below. Don’t know who Elliot is? Check out the bio at the end of this post. Elliot is a senior in high school who wants to major in journalism so they’re joining us here at TLT.


The holidays may be known as “the most wonderful time of the year,” however that statement is not true for everyone. People everywhere struggle with debt, abuse, depression and so much more during this time of the year. The issues surrounding this wintery time are often overlooked and I would like to bring them to light.

To start off with, there are a tremendous amount of unspoken “requirements” for people to have a good holiday. Most of what is expected of people during the holiday times require a mountainous amount of money. Houses in poverty often can’t afford extravagant decorations, a feast fit for a king, clothes to protect them from winter’s frosty bite, or the stacks of presents that this time of year is often associated with. While some families are buying a new Nintendo Switch or a fancy little Apple Watch, other families are worrying whether or not they’re going to be able to even afford their December rent and food let alone presents or decorations. Workers will take on a ridiculous workload in order to even just attempt to reach their holiday goals. The holidays focus far too greatly on money and gifts rather than truly having a happy holiday.


For some families, the gifts and the money are all just a disguise, an excuse to cover up the dark truth in their homes. Abuse doesn’t just magically vanish during these “happy holidays.” In fact, according to national domestic abuse studies, the recorded incidents of abuse actually spike during the holiday seasons. Some explanations for why abuse might worsen over the holidays is an increase in stress, increased alcohol consumption, and more time for the abuser to be home with the victim. Abusers often feel as though they can cover up their abuse with presents and saying “I do/get so much for you.” However, the holiday presents can never cover up the scars that abuse can leave.

The holidays are obviously not always as joyful as the cheesy T.V. commercials make them seem. This season is often the most difficult time of year for those with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Culturally, people are pressured to do a lot of work, go to a lot of parties, and be around a lot of people. All of these holiday activities leave people with very little alone time and very little opportunities for self care. This constant activity leaves people drained and unhappy. The holidays make it to where people are expected to be happy, so when people with depression can’t find joy during these times, they often start feeling worse because they aren’t fulfilling society’s expectations for happiness.. It becomes a loop that constantly makes those who suffer from depression feel worse and worse due to the unrealistic expectations of holiday cheer.

The holidays are not always the joyful image that you see in the movies or in magazines. Like everything else, there is a darker side to these joyful times that should be taken into consideration because you never know who is experience the sad side of Christmas.

Meet Elliot, the new regular contributor to TLT:

I am currently a student at [Name redacted for safety reasons] High School who wishes to pursue a career in journalism. I have been an avid writer and a human rights activist for as long as I can remember. My goal in life is to help other people and I believe that one of the best ways to help someone in a bad situation is to share their stories. Sometimes the only thing that a person needs is a voice; however, not everyone has the opportunity for their voice to be heard. I want my writing to be a voice for all of those who are kept silent and I want my writing to make a difference in our slowly declining world. Although times are tough, I believe that there is always hope: you just have to find it.

Meet Our New TEEN Contributor to TLT: Elliot

We are very excited to welcome Elliot as our first, full-time, regular TEEN contributor to Teen Librarian Toolbox. Read a bit about Elliot below and look for their posts in 2019.


I am currently a student at [Name redacted for safety reasons] High School who wishes to pursue a career in journalism. I have been an avid writer and a human rights activist for as long as I can remember. My goal in life is to help other people and I believe that one of the best ways to help someone in a bad situation is to share their stories. Sometimes the only thing that a person needs is a voice; however, not everyone has the opportunity for their voice to be heard. I want my writing to be a voice for all of those who are kept silent and I want my writing to make a difference in our slowly declining world. Although times are tough, I believe that there is always hope: you just have to find it.

Elliot is involved in theater, works as part of the yearbook staff, plays Dungeons and Dragons and is all around amazing, intelligent, kind and cool.

Stay Tuned

Please note, last week TLT was moved to a new server, or something technical that I don’t really understand. Several posts were lost and some TLTers are having difficulty logging in to make new posts. We are working out the technical issues and hope to return to normal posting ASAP.

Thank you for your patience.


Please note: Last week we migrated to a new server and some of our posts were lost. This post is partially restored. We are working on trying to fully restore this post and a few others. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you.

ReadForChange copy

GIVEAWAY ALERT: To celebrate the end of a remarkable year reading for change, we’re doing a very special giveaway package. Not only will the lucky winner get TWO signed mystery books (chosen from this year’s featured #ReadForChange novels), you’ll also get a signed copy of The Radius of Us and some great Novelly swag. Don’t know what Novelly swag is? Read on, readers for change! Giveaway info at the bottom of this post!

Looking Back, Moving Forward 

In January of this year, I partnered with Teen Librarian Toolbox to make a commitment: every month, I would find and share the best-of-the-best YA & MG books that bring attention to important issues and causes, and I’d connect readers with the incredible people who write them. It’s been an amazing year doing just that! We’ve read such great stories as Nic Stone’s Dear Martin and Ibi Zoboi’s American Street, that take an unflinching look at race and identity in the contemporary United States.  We’ve highlighted books like Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric and Joanne O’Sullivan’s Between Two Skies, both of which offer personal and gripping accounts of the real effects of climate change. We’ve had fabulous conversations with Lilliam Rivera and Ibi Zoboi about Pride, The Evolution of Margot Sanchez, and the effects of gentrification. We’ve looked with Alan Gratz and Jennie Liu at stories like Refugee and Girls on the Line, which bring our attention to the extraordinary obstacles faced by people on the move around the globe. And, we’ve had some unflinching real talk about what it means to be a feminist with Elana K. Arnold’s Damsel, Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, and Brendan Kieley’s Tradition. I hope you’ve all had as much fun as I have, learning from these remarkable authors about how they are working to change our world for the better. Each one of them has inspired me to take action, and for that I’m so grateful.

So, what’s next? I’m glad you asked! Yes, our year to read for change is coming to a close, but I’m absolutely thrilled to announce a new project that will keep the momentum going. Meet Anna Gabriella Casalme, the founder and executive director of Novelly. I’m honored to be a part of her group’s exciting new endeavor. Read on to learn all about it. 

“A mission to Spark the Changemaker in Every Young Person.”An Interview with Anna Gabriella Casalme 

MARIE: Tell us about Novelly! 

ANNA: Novelly is on a mission to spark the changemaker in every young person, one young adult (YA) novel at a time. With generous funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are currently developing an interactive YA reading app that aims to critically engage teenagers in complex issues such as gender inequality.
MARIE: Can you share a bit about yourself and your background?

ANNA: I’m the founder and executive director of Novelly. I was born and raised in Los Angeles by wonderful Filipino immigrant parents. My mother was both a stay-at-home mom and businesswoman who was passionate about education. She walked us to the library almost every day after school, instilling in us a lifelong love of reading and learning. I later went to Stanford University to study Human Biology and Education. Most recently, I graduated from the University of St. Andrews, where received my MSc in Childhood Studies. I am thrilled to now be working on Novelly full-time!

My founding team members include Claudia Pacheco and Caterina Casalme, who have been with Novelly since the beginning. Claudia is my great friend and former co-worker, who is now a Health Educator at Para Los Ninos in Los Angeles. Caterina (Catie) is my younger sister, an insanely avid reader and an English student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

MARIE: How did you get the idea for this project?

ANNASince I graduated in 2015, I have been possessed by a simple idea: reading young adult (YA) stories can spark empathy and critical thinking among young people with regards to complex issues such as gender inequality. This, combined with open spaces for dialogue and opportunities to take action for young people, can spark social change. This idea came from my undergraduate honors thesis, which found that Wonder by RJ Palacio, a middle-grade novel, can generate thoughtful discussions on disability among middle school students. Later, this would become a side project that I started with my friends, whereby we conducted workshops using popular YA books, such as 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, to talk about gender-based sexual violence and rape culture with high school students. I noticed how young people thoughtfully responded to the experiences of relatable YA characters, giving me immense hope and leading me to launch Novelly.

Want to learn more about Novelly and get involved? Anna has some great ideas:

As we start building our Novelly app, we need all the help we can get and we’d love for the #ReadforChange community to get involved!

Here are a few ways you can stay in touch:

If you’d like to join us, we are looking for:

  • Youth designers(give feedback throughout entire app development process)
  • Youth engagement officer(manage youth designers – leadership role)
  • Curriculum advisers(help develop curriculum for YA book on the app)
  • YA booklist advisers(choose YA books for app and Instagram)
  • Social media gurus(help manage Twitter, Instagram, and blog)

If any of these opportunities speak to you or if there’s another way you’d like to support us that we haven’t come up with yet, please get in touch and feel free to email me directly and annacasalme@gmail.com. 

Win our Novelly giveaway package!

I’m so thrilled to have been invited to work with Anna and her team as Novelly gets off the ground. To celebrate, I’m giving away TWO signed books from this year’s #ReadForChange lineup (which two will be a surprise!), my novel, The Radius of Us (signed, of course) and some great Novelly swag. Here’s a link to the giveaway. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt January 1!

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season. A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Cindy Crushes Programming with a Live Action Donner Dinner Party Game

Today, Cindy Shutts discusses how she played a live action Donner Dinner Party game with her teens.


My teens, like most teens, are very interested in true crime and mysteries.  Last year I made a life size board game version of the old classic video game of the Oregon Trail. It was very popular with the teens that had learned about the tabletop game version now available. This year I decided to do something different and a bit darker.  So I decided to do a program about the Donner Dinner Party.

First, I realized it had to be much harder than the Oregon Trail. I did some research in The Best Land Under Heaven by Michael Wallis and I had previously read the Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale about the actual events. I learned there were a lot more members of the Donner party than I had thought there were.  These sources gave me a lot of ideas.

Getting Started:

  • Set up a square game board on your floor with 40 spaces. Spaces are described below. You will want to use a large meeting room for this.
  • See resources at the end of this post for additional supplies discussed in the post.
  • Dice

Divide your teens into groups of 4. I made supply cards that included water, food, medicine, and spare parts (below in resources). Every team gets two of each supply cards to begin with.

The game board that is located on the floor includes forty spaces. The corner spaces of the board are tasks they have to accomplish and the General Store. Corner spaces are: General Store, Pick a Fish, Pick a Berry, Knot Tying

Players begin the game on the corner with the General Store. Teams will roll a dice to move from space to space on the board.

Every space on the board had a different card on them. Here are a few examples “Grandma died! Lose a turn as you bury her!” “Find an Empty Wagon, Take Parts card!” “Oops— Snake! Your oldest player has died! “The spaces get progressively worse for the player as the game continues much as the real Donner Dinner Party continued to go downhill. (See resources)

The teams’ first corner task is to pick a fish. I had a bunch of fish cut out and turned over. All they had to do was pick a fish and not a skeleton fish. If they picked a skeleton fish, they would lose a food card.

Another corner games space was pick a berry and see if it is it edible. I did research on different berries and had a picture of the berry on one side and the other side had the name of the plant and if it was edible or poisonous. If they picked a poison plant, one of the people in wagon passes away.

The final corner is knot tying. This gives teens a chance to learn a valuable skill.

After this game, we played one more Donner game. There is a game version of the Donner Dinner Party called Donner Dinner Party a Rowdy Gamer of Frontier Cannibalism. This is a fun mafia style game where you can either be a cannibal or a pioneer.  If you are a pioneer you try to successfully make it through a game round and get enough food to eat. If you are a cannibal, you try to ruin the pioneers’ attempts to gather food.

Thoughts: This program super fun and the teens loved it. They may have not survived, but they loved having an adventure and also learned about history.

Support Materials:

Donner Party Supply Cards

donner party fish

Donner Cards

Donner berry game


Rethinking I Kissed Dating Goodbye

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse and Violence are discussed in this post

ikisseddatinggoodbyeWhen I first began working with teens, both in the library and in the church, Josh Harris wrote a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. At the time, he was 21 years old and was deeply wrapped up in what is referred to as purity culture. Purity culture is a church movement that suggests that physical intimacy, when taken to the extreme even hand holding and kissing, should be avoided until marriage. It goes so far as to suggest that teens and young adults who engage in physical intimacy become soiled, used goods.

One of the more popular metaphors of this time involved young girls and chewed up gum. A virgin, you see, is like a shiny new stick of gum which you desire. But once she engages in physical intimacy, she is now a chewed up piece of gum, spit out in disgust and left on the ground. No one wants that piece of chewed up gum picked up off of the sidewalk. And yes, this metaphor was used primarily against girls. Men, as you may recall, are hardwired to desire sex and we can’t blame them or hold them accountable for their urges. I hope you read that sentence as dripping with the sarcasm in which it is intended.

Washington Post: ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ told me to stay pure until marriage. I still have a stain on my heart.

In the midst of the #MeToo movement, it’s worth noting that childhood sexual abuse and sexual abuse in general occurs at alarmingly high rates in the evangelical church, and many feel that purity culture are factors in this abuse. The hashtag #ChurchToo was adopted by survivors of sexual abuse in the church to discuss this specific issue. Purity culture, you see, stems in part not just from Christian views of chastity, but from complementarian views on the roles of men and women in the church. When women are viewed as less than and needing to be submissive to men, as the complementarian view holds, it’s easier to justify and look away as they are abused. Though complementarianism is certainly not the only issue involved here because people of all genders and all sexual orientations are abused at alarmingly high rates in churches all over the world. Authoritarianism, power structures and an unwillingness to talk openly and frankly about sex, sexual education and sexual violence are also contributors to this issue.

“I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.” Source: https://relevantmagazine.com/god/faith/josh-harris-is-kissing-i-kissed-dating-goodbye-goodbye/

Over the years, Josh Harris has begun to rethink his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In fact, he has recently asked his publisher to stop publishing new copies of the book and has worked with some others to produce a documentary on his book and how he came to understand that it was harmful. You can read his current statement on I Kissed Dating Goodbye here.

Josh Harris on why he renounces his book and previous dating advice

Today as I was driving into work, I listened to a story on NPR about this book. At the time of this book’s release, I was uncomfortable with the book’s message. I began working in public libraries at the age of 20 and as a survivor of sexual abuse and a recent teen myself, I found the book to be unrealistic. I began hearing people speak out in earnest against this book perhaps three or four years ago, with many of those speaking out against it talking about how the message had destroyed their self-esteem, had made them vulnerable to sexual abuse, and how it had caused them so much guilt and confusion about their own feelings at a formative time that it affected the ways they bonded and formed intimate relationships.

It’s been roughly 21 years since I Kissed Dating Goodbye was first published and we have a generation of people sharing with us now how much this book hurt them in their formative years. It’s a stark reminder of the power of books, both for good and for ill, to shape and influence our teens and young adults. The truth is, now just as we did then, if this book came out today we (YA librarians) would probably buy and add this book to our collection as long as there were not reviews stating that it was harmful or medically inaccurate. The other truth is that books about religious belief and teachings often get a pass that scientific writings do not. I say this as a Christian with a degree in youth ministry as well as a librarian, but a lot of people hide behind religion to espouse harmful beliefs and it is hard to question or challenge them because freedom of religion and that which we hold sacred and all of that. Faith and spirituality is a complicated realm and looking at the journey of the history of this book highlights the many complicated issues that we traverse as we try and provide access, respect beliefs, nurture our adolescents, and analyze quality, authority and bias in religious publications. It is not an easy issue for librarians to grapple with.

As I have followed this story over the last couple of years, I have thought often of the times a teen came in and asked for this book and I handed it to them. Was I complicit in their harm? What are the roles and limitations of librarianship as we come to learn that a book like this has been actively implicated in doing harm to the very people we are working so hard to serve? I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about this book and libraries, not a lot of reflections or reactions to this call to cease publication of it, perhaps in part because it’s old enough that most libraries no longer have it on their shelves. Though that may be the case, I think that the life cycle of I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a good case study for us to look at and consider. The journey of this book and the push back against it reminds us that putting a book in the hands of a teen can have lifelong implications, and they aren’t always positive.

Whatever we can learn from this story, please re-consider holding this book in your library collections. If the author no longer stands by this book, should we?

The Post in Which Operation BB Says Thank You!


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!


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.

bb5 bb2 bb7 bb3
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.


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.


MakerSpace: Paintpouring, chemistry in the art room


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.



  • 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?


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!


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.


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.


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:


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).

paintpouring6 paintpouring1

303 Best Acrylic Pouring Inspiration images in 2018


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.