Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: Mission to Mars Escape Room

In today’s episode of Cindy Crushes Programming, Cindy Shutts shares with us how she hosted a Mission to Mars themed escape room with her teens.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT and online:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Stranger Things Themed Escape Room

Programming Librarian: Creating a DIY Escape Room for Your Library

Plot: Welcome to the Mars Space Station! Unfortunately, the station is losing oxygen and you have 45 minutes to find the key for the manual override to fix the oxygen levels. A former, disgruntled Space Station employee has hidden the clues to restart the system in the breakroom.


You could use the Breakout Edu Kit

  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  • Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes, one small and one large
  • Empty bag of Space Ice Cream
  • I hate Ares note
  • Books
  • Mythology Book
  • Breakroom supplies like plates, salt and pepper shakers, napkins, silverware
  • Mars Space Station Manual (See documents below)
  • Nasa Mars Posters (https://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/resources/mars-posters-explorers-wanted/)
  • Various images of Mars printed out to look like Mars is outside the window. I like using a porthole or making portholes with paper plates.

Instructions: I made sure I read the prompt, so everyone knew what was going on. I also let them know they had two hints. I am always prepared to add one more hint later on if they need it.

Room Set Up Instructions

Red Herrings:  I will have an empty bag of Space Ice Cream and a Tang Container.

Word Lock: This clue will be in the Space Station Manual. I have bolded the letters L A S E R in the document. This lock will be on the large box.

3 digit Lock: I will have a note on the table saying I hate Ares who is the god of war in Greek Mythology and Mars is the god of war in Roman Mythology.  I am going to bring a book about mythology and have a Roman numeral written in the book on the page about Ares that says 3 9 9 or III IV IV. This lock will be on the large box.

Key Lock: Key lock will be on the small black box. The key will be placed in the large box.

4 Digit Lock: 0319 On the break table, There will be 3 blue paperclips, 1 green paperclip, 9 yellow paper- clips. I will hide a note in the trashcan that has a picture of Clippy, the old Microsoft mascot.  This lock will be attached to the large box.

Final Thoughts: My teens were really on the ball and finished on the 30-minute mark. I would add a directional lock to make it harder next time. I am doing a Star Wars Escape Room in July and I plan on making it a little harder so it will take more time. All the teens were happy and liked the directions.  I was grateful to Nic Mitchel, a fellow teen librarian who helped me made the prompt punchier.

Take 5: Books on Creative Writing

A couple of months ago The Teen announced that she wanted to start her own creative writing group for her and her friends. She gave it a name- the coolest name ever! – and we talked about what she wanted and then I went online and I asked people on Twitter, including some of the authors I follow, for their tips and suggestions. They offered a lot of suggestions and some specific book recommendations, which we have added to our home library to help The Teen as she explores the art and craft of writing.

Many authors swear by On Writing by Stephen King, which seems to be the go to book on writing. And he does kind of have the career to back him up, so that’s now a part of her collection. Ironically, it is also the book she is required to read over the summer for her summer reading assignment, which worked out well for us.

Rip the Page was recommended by several Twitter followers and I like that it has prompts and experiments and places wrote in the book to write.

Spilling Ink was also highly recommended and we haven’t dived into it that much yet, but it got so many recommendations that I purchased it as well.

I’m a huge fan of Ally Carter’s books and we’ve seen her on several YA panels, so we purchased Dear Ally as well. As a bonus, the Dear Ally book is an answer to the questions that Ally Carter gets from teens themselves about the art and business of writing. It’s her attempt to answer and engage directly with teens, which I appreciate.

We already owned the Basher book on Creative Writing because we collect the Basher Books. They are mini encyclopedias on specific topics so it has less on the tips and tricks and writing prompts and more of the definitions and story structure components. It’s informative and fun, but less useful then some of the other titles.

Poemcrazy is a book I have owned and used for years in teen programming. It is hands down one of my favorite books on writing poetry and it includes a lot of fun, creative activities. The activities are fun, engaging and spark a lot of creative thinking and writing. If you are going to work with teens on anything poetry related, I highly recommend that you look at this book.

A lot of libraries host teen creative writing workshops of some kind or another, which I told The Teen we could look for. However, she wanted to start her own group without adult influence or control. She wants it to be entirely teen led and adult free. However, she’s glad to have the books and is diving right in. Her vision is that they will just write, get together and share what they write, and repeat.

Do you have any tips, tricks or titles to recommend? Leave them in the comments.

When Pride is Said and Done: Teen Contributor Elliott Shares Their Post Pride Thoughts

It’s been a couple of months because Teen Contributor Elliott was busy graduating from high school, but today Elliott is back to share their post-pride thoughts.

Trigger Warning: Suicide, abuse

As Pride Month comes to an end, many people are hit with the realization that although they have a month where they can feel free and openly themselves, the world is still not a perfect place. Even just one day after pride month, corporations stop showing their support, harassment and attacks against the LGBT+ community continue to happen, and people are forced back into silence. I want to take this opportunity to shed light on some hardships AND prosperity in the LGBT+ community that often go overlooked.

Being in the closet during Pride Month can be extremely frustrating for some people who dream of being open about who they are. But for others, being in the closet can be the safest, yet most dangerous situation at the same time. Someone’s environment may not make it safe for them to come out for fear of abuse, abandonment, or death, but the closet can also be a prison that denies someone access to try to figure out their identity. This can make the person confused and insecure about whether or not they are truly part of the LGBT+ community. While I would never suggest for someone to force themselves out of the closet in the hopes of figuring themselves out, the situation they are in could be compared to being trapped on a bus in a zombie apocalypse. While that person is safe from the hoards of zombies outside, they are starving, confused, and left alone on the bus and either way death is imminent. So their options are to starve on the bus- be confused and drowning in self hatred in the closet, or risk it with the zombies in the hopes to find other survivors- come out of the closet and find other members of the LGBT+ community who can help them figure out their identity and help them live their life. There is also a third, and overlooked option- stay in the bus and wait for the zombies to leave and then learn to survive on your own. In other words, stay in the closet until you feel safe and instead of getting help, figure out your identity by yourself. All three of these options are completely valid; however, they often go overlooked because they don’t project the happy point of view that society likes to display.

The LGBT+ community may literally be full of rainbows, but it isn’t always the most happy, rainbow-filled community. Often times coming out to others and being part of the LGBT+ community can be dangerous, not because of homophobic people outside of the community, but because of gatekeepers who identify as LGBT+ themselves. A bisexual woman is accused of not being “bisexual enough” by a lesbian because she’s in a relationship with a man; a trans male is accused of not being “trans enough” by a gay man because he happens to like wearing makeup (despite the fact that the gay man wears makeup himself and is sternly asserts that he is indeed a male); an asexual nonbinary individual is accused of not being nonbinary by other trans folk because they’re too feminine and they can’t be asexual because they’ve kissed somebody. All of these stories are true stories and I would know because they’re stories from people I know…and the last story is mine. Gatekeeping in the LGBT+ community is so incredibly toxic. Dealing with homophobia and transphobia from cishet people is already difficult enough, but to face the same discrimination within the community can make it feel like there is no safe place. I know that for me, it made me question my identity and made me hate what I identified as for the longest time. The LGBT+ community should be just that, a community. A community where we are here to lift each other up and help fight against the oppression that all of us face instead of adding more fire to the flame. But right now, that’s simply not the reality.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the hidden darkness of the LGBT+ community. However, there are good things in the community that often go overlooked as well and I want to spend just as much time bringing those truths to light.

One of the most common coming out stories that I hear often goes unnoticed because there’s no drama or extreme message behind it. Someone who hasn’t had many struggles with their identity tells their parents casually in a normal conversation that they’re LGBT+ and their parent is simply okay with it. Nothing grand, nothing drastic, nothing dangerous- just stating a fact and the fact being accepted. I just want to say that there’s nothing wrong with this story! This story is just as beautiful and just as powerful as someone with a tragic backstory or a less than ideal coming out story. Sharing such an intimate part of yourself with the world is such a beautiful, powerful thing to do, even if there were no obstacles of hardships in the way.

Pride Month is beautiful and the fact that there is a month where LGBT+ identities, struggles, and victories are brought to light, this month is also a call-to-action. The community still faces hardships left and right. Identities and stories are still being hidden. And, although pride month is over, LGBT+ pride should never end. The steps we are taking to make the world a better place should not stop after June. Pride is forever and our fight is not over.

The Weight of Our Words: Reflections on how we talk about mental health and why it matters

Trigger Warning: Please note, mental illness and suicide are discussed in the following post.

Before you begin reading this post I wanted to let you know that I have The Teen’s full permission to share this with you.

As I walk up to my teenage daughter to pick her up from her Sunday School class, I can immediately see that she is upset. She has what I like to call her angry posture: Her arms are crossed across her body. She is rigid. She is closed off. Her face is a mask. When I ask her what’s wrong, she kind of tilts her head to the door and mouth’s the words “in the car” to me. I know whatever happens next is not going to be good.

Her feelings pour out of her as soon as she closes the door. “X (the youth leader) said that mental illness is caused by demons. She basically just told me that I’m possessed by demons and I am so angry.” We continued to talk on the drive home and she explains to me that today’s Sunday school lessons was about demons – or maybe it was about mental illness, I’m not sure how it all started – and that the youth leader kept implying that the underlying cause of mental illness was demons and demon possession. The underlying cause, she emphasized, was demons.

This is how the rest of our day and night went. I would ask The Teen a question, say “what do you want for lunch?” And she would reply with her answer followed by, “but what do I know, I’m possessed by demons.” Any statement she made would be followed up by a dismissal, “but what do I know, I’m possessed by demons.” It was heartbreaking and angering to witness. I was angry. I was heartbroken. I was in full parental damage control.

You see, for several years now my teenage daughter has been in counseling for an anxiety disorder. She comes by it rightfully, regular TLT readers know that I have shared very openly my own struggles with depression and anxiety. Genetics is a bitch sometimes and you will never experience worse mom guilt than realizing that you have passed down the very worst parts of you and have to watch your child struggling with the very things that have haunted you for a lifetime. I have worked hard to protect my child from the very thing that had just happened.

The Teen had her first panic attack in the 7th grade, ironically at another church youth event. She sat in a chair listening to a sermon as the boy behind her reached out and started stroking her hair. She fled to the bathroom where she experienced what would turn out to be her first panic attack. Later that night she came home and told me that she thinks she had a panic attack and as we discussed what she experienced as I told her that yes, it sounded like she had and we would keep an eye on things to see what happens. And yes, we also talked about how it was not okay that this boy had touched her without her permission.

Over time, she would have a couple more panic attacks and we started doing the work that we needed to do to help her with her anxiety. At night I would go into my room and cry because I was heartbroken to realize that my beloved child had gotten the very worst parts of my broken brain. During the day, we talked and worked on getting the help she needed to live a life with a generalized anxiety disorder.

So when this youth leader spent the morning talking about people with mental illnesses being possessed by demons, it was personal and painful for her. We’ve done a lot of work in my house to erase the stigma associated with mental illness. I do that work because I want people to not feel shame about mental illness so that they will reach out and ask for and receive the help they need. I do that work because I have lost far too many people to mental illness and suicide. I do that work because I know how close my own children have come to losing their mother several times in the last decade. I do that work for me. I do that work for my daughter. I do that work for the 1 in 4 people who struggle with mental illness.

And in the course of one brief Sunday School lesson, that work was being undone by someone that I had entrusted my daughter’s spiritual and emotional well being with. And I was angry. No, I was livid.

One of my first difficult encounters in the library dealing with mental illness occurred in my very early twenties. I was working as a YA paraprofessional in a public library while working on my degree in youth ministry at a local conservative Christian college. Yes, it’s true, I have a degree in youth ministry from a conservative Christian college. My faith is very important to me. I had arrived at work and soon a young man came in, agitated. He told me he thought he was possessed by demons and that he wanted books that told him how to get the demons out of him.

I was in way over my head here. This was a young man clearly struggling with mental health issues and I was young and naive. I found what I could find in the collection about the topic he had asked for, I gave him a Bible, and I also gave him information about local mental health services hoping that he would seek and find the help that he needed. I talked to my supervisor and we explored what we could legally say and do to help this young man. At the time, I didn’t know his name or anything about him. It was terrifying and overwhelming and it was the first time I realized the full weight of my job.

Although that was the first time I saw this young man, it was not the last. He began coming into the library fairly regularly. He never spoke to me of demon possession again. He would eventually assault another patron and begin regularly threatening me. In the end, for everyone’s safety, he was eventually permanently banned from the library, a measure that libraries only ever use in the most extreme cases. I don’t know what happened to him, but I will never in my life forget that first encounter with him. I will never forget the desperation in his eyes, the fear I felt for him, and the ways in which I felt so unprepared and so inadequate to help him. I will never forget how his fear that he might be possessed by demons haunted him and prevented him from truly understanding that what he needed was support and care for a mental health issue.

Over the years, like any public library employee, I have worked with many people struggling with mental health issues of varying degrees. It never gets easier.

Resource: The Clam Before the Storm: How Teens and Libraries Can Fight Mental Illness

My child is not possessed by demons. She is intelligent, kind, and compassionate. She is, like me, one of the 1 in 4 people who struggles with a mental health issue. She has an illness with known causes and known treatments and she deserves respect, support and medical care just the same as any other person struggling with a chronic illness. Getting proper care and support is vitally important. It can literally be the difference between life and death.

We’ve been wrestling with what was spoken at church for the past few days. My teen is very lucky, she lives in a home where she is loved, supported and cared for. She knew that what was said was factually incorrect and that she could talk about what was said and how it made her feel and we’ve been working through it. Not every teen in that room will be as lucky, some of them may be struggling with their own mental health issues and now, once again forced to feel confusion and shame; they may delay seeing out the help that they desperately need. This is the weight of our words.

When we talk incorrectly about mental illness or attach stigma or shame to mental illness, people die. Fear, shame, confusion and stigma can all lead to people failing to seek out care and treatment, putting their lives in actual risk. I recently heard on NPR that the suicide rates in America are increasing at an alarming rate across all demographics, including our teens. Our teens are in crisis and what we say matters.

How we speak about mental health matters.

Watching my child struggle these past few days with the impact of a 45 minute Sunday School lesson has reminded me once again about the duty we have when we are entrusted with the care of youth. How we speak, what we say, whether intended or not, can have significant weight. We will often never know the full extent of our impact on our teens, both positive and negative, but there is a weight to our words that they carry with them.

I’m pretty sure my daughter will never go to that church again. She doesn’t feel safe there. She doesn’t feel respected there. And she doesn’t trust that youth leader. And she feels shame; shame that I have worked so hard to tell her that she didn’t need to feel. I resent that I took my daughter to a place that was supposed to be safe and affirmed and she walked out feeling the exact opposite.

This week has been a stark reminder for me in a far too personal way that for those of us who work with teens, the weight of our words is a burden that our teens will carry with them long after we have forgotten that we have even spoken them. So choose your words wisely each and every time.

Please note: there is a lot of mental health information available, including information specific to teens and mental health. Please consult reputable resources, learn the statistics and the impact and how you can talk about mental health issues without causing harm to others.

Teen Services 101: What Keeps Teens Coming Back to the Public Library?

Today we’re going to wrap up our Teen Services 101 series by assuming that you’ve done the research, created your space, hosted the programs and done the work. With all of that in mind, what will keep the teens that walk into your library coming back? Because that’s what we want, for our teens to keep coming back to the library.

They have to find something they need, want or value

If teens coming into your library and don’t find anything of interest to them, they’re not coming back. And since not all teens are the same, that means we have to have a variety of things available. This takes an investment of space, time, resources, staff and money. Some of the things that teens are looking for include: books, information, access to the Internet, a safe space to be social, and/or fun programming. That’s a lot of ground to cover.

They have to feel valued and respected by the library and its staff

And by staff I mean all staff. From the moment a teen walks through the door to the moment they leave, teens need to be treated well by staff. It’s not enough to have a dedicated teen librarian who respects and values teens. In fact, if at the end of the day when that teen goes to check out they have a bad interaction at the circulation desk, all of our work as teen librarians can be undone. This is why it is important that we work with all staff to break down bias, provide customer service basics training, and work to build positive opinions about teens in the library.

At one of the libraries I used to work at there was a staff member who loathed and detested teens and she made a point every day of positioning herself by the back entrance at exactly the moment when teens would be coming into the library after school and giving them the stink eye. They called her the “dragon lady”. It was a lot of work undoing all the damage she had done when I started working there. It was also a lot of work trying to dismantle her biases against teens to try and get her to stop this behavior.

At the end of the day, library administration should be setting high standards for customer service to ALL library patrons and should be training staff to meet those standards and holding them accountable if they don’t. Everything done behind the scenes is undone if we don’t treat patrons well and every dollar invested is wasted if we aren’t providing good customer service.

See: What Does Customer Service to Teens in the Library Look Like

They have to have a positive experience

At the end of the day, it is total experience that matters. Teens, like any other library patron, want to have positive experiences. And like everyone else, they are more likely to remember, talk about and share the negative experiences. We used to say that for every negative interaction a patron has they will share it with 10 people, but that has dramatically changed because of the impact of social media. One negative experience can be shared online with hundreds of people in an instant. The only control we have over what’s said about us online is to do our part to make sure our teens are having positive experiences so that they have something positive to say about our libraries and staff.

The reality is, even the most dedicated and amazing teen librarian or teen services team can’t do this alone. You need administration buy in and support, you need every staff member to support your work by treating teen patrons with good customer service, and you need the infrastructure to help make it all happen. That’s a big part of the job, advocating for teens and teen services and helping to put these elements into place so that teens have a space and a reason to come into the library, and then to keep coming back for more. And the number one thing you need to make all this happen is the knowledge, passion and dedication to help make it happen. It all starts with you, the teen librarian, but it doesn’t end there.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today

What Do We Know About Teen Programming

So You Want to Do Teen Programming, but What About the Books?

Sunday Reflections: Stand Up for Children

Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to BEA (Book Expo America). Of one of the many highlights of this event for me was meeting George Takei, who was there promoting his new graphic novel They Called Us Enemy. You see, I am a long time Stark Trek everything fan and this was it, I finally finally got to meet someone from the universe that carried me through my teens and early twenties.

As I stood in line, I was not prepared for what would happen. You see, George Takei took my hand as I put it out to shake his and he held onto it with his two hands and looked me straight in the eye and told me what it was like for him as a young child to be put in Japanese internment camps here in America. He told me how his family lost everything and they were plunged into poverty that would take them years to recover from. And then he told me that he could not be silent because it was happening again.

Make no mistake, it is happening again.

I expected that I would cry while meeting George Takei, but I was entirely wrong about the reason that I would cry. You see, here I stood and stared into the eyes of a hero of mine and I could see that even though he had lived through what had happened to him and his family that he was still truly haunted by it. As a person who talks frequently and often about the long term effects of childhood trauma, I was truly staring into those effects in the eyes of a by all accounts completely successful adult.

Then this week the news became far worse then I could ever imagine. Stories poured out about what the conditions were like for children right here in the United States of America in border camps. People began arguing not about what those conditions were, but about whether or not we should be calling them concentration camps. And then members of our government stood up and argued that we shouldn’t be supplying these children with things like toothbrushes and soap.

Trump Administration Argues Migrant Children Not Entitled To Soap, Toothbrushes, Beds

I am horrified about what is happening. I went to church this morning and sat in my Sunday School class and this topic didn’t even come up. The silence regarding this issue was loud and vulgar.

Make no mistake, these children are being treated horrifically and they are experiencing trauma, they will feel the effects of this trauma their entire lives. It will reverberate throughout their lives and ours and all of human history. As we speak we are dehumanizing and abusing and traumatizing children.

The Long Term Effects of Childhood Trauma

Please do not be silent. You can call (202) 224-3121 and ask your representative to stop this horrific abuse of children. I share with you today the words of George Takei:

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Harry Potter Book of Monsters

Harry Potter is a series that continues to be popular as new tween and teen readers discover it every day. In celebration of all things Harry Potter, Cindy Shutts recently hosted a program with her teens and taught them how they can create their own book of monsters. The steps are outlined below.


  • Hot glue and gun
  • Fake fur
  • Large googly eyes
  • Red felt
  • White felt
  •  Composition notebooks

Step One: Measure the composition notebook.

Step Two: Cut and measure the fur a little bit larger than the notebook. This allows there to be a little overlap and gives a better effect. Excess can be trimmed off.

Step Three: Hot glue the fur on the notebook. Start at one end and press the fur down as you glue. This ensures that the glue does not dry before you have a chance to attach the fur.

Step Four: Cut sharp looking teeth out from the white felt. It looks better if you do it free hand rather than tracing it because the trace marks often show. Hot glue the teeth on the inside cover of the notebook.

Step Five: Cut a tongue out of the red felt and hot glue it on the inside cover of the notebook.

Step Six: Hot glue the googly eyes on the felt so it looks like a monster.

Step Seven: Let dry then enjoy your book of monsters.

Finals Thoughts: This was a very enjoyable craft. I had been avoiding it because of the costs, but I saw a picture online that looked easier and cheaper. I used a 40% off coupon on the fur. The fur is the most expensive part of this program. Use a coupon if you can! There are more difficult versions that cost more money to make, but this one was perfect for us. The teens loved it and wanted to do it again.

Book Review: Rules for Vanishing

Publisher’s Book Description:
In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side. 

Karen’s Thoughts:

You may have seen some of my recent reviews and noticed that I am going through a bit of a YA thriller reading streak. The Rules for Vanishing takes readers on a journey down a ghost road in order to find a missing sister and friend, with mixed results.

I love a good town with creepy legends story. Here we have a ghost, a ghost road and a missing sister who vanished a year ago trying to find said ghost. It’s a fantastic set up. Unfortunately, what happens on the ghost road gets a bit predictable. You see, along the road the group of teens have to pass through several gates and it is clearly established that once they get through each gate, something awful is going to happen. What that awful looks like is different each time, but there is a bit of built in predictability that I feel hampers the tension in the story. There is a rhtymn established: gate, conflict, brief moment of respite to process what just happened, gate, conflict, brief moment of respite . . . As a reader, I wish that this pattern wasn’t so clearly established.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few twists and turns along the way. But one of the earlier twists unfortunately undermines the final twist a bit because in some ways, it was already done and far more eerily earlier in the novel.

What this book serves up well is a reflection on family, identity and friendship, all of which have been broken in various ways by the vanishing that occurred a year earlier. Here we see teens wrestling with the after effects of not just loss, but loss without any sense of closure because no one is really sure what happened a year ago. It is this part of the story that feels more fleshed out and compelling.

Overall, I feel that this is an optional purchase. Many teens will be interested in reading it and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but it has a predictability about it that may turn some readers off.

Nonfiction Roundup: MakerSpace Edition

Today I’m sharing with you some of the new nonfiction that I’m loving for Teen MakerSpace and making ideas. As you know, I believe making is a combination of traditional arts and crafts or technology, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. There are lots of great titles out there. And when it comes to making with teens, I have been known to find inspiration in books that are geared and marketed for younger kids even, because you can find inspiration anywhere and just adapt the activities accordingly. So here are some fun titles that I am exploring as we speak. Have fun making!

Teen Services 101: So You Want to Do Teen Programming, but What About the Books?

On Monday as part of our ongoing Teen Services 101 discussion we talked specifically about teen programming in public libraries and I said something kind of controversial: It’s hard to host a successful teen book discussion group/club in a public library. Note I didn’t say it’s impossible, but I did say it was hard and I stand by that statement. But there are a lot of ways that you can tie reading and literature into programming and today I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

Popular Book/Book Character Events

I’m old enough to remember when Harry Potter parties were the biggest game in town. I’ve also hosted Rick Riordan inspired Olympians camps, Hunger Games events, and Divergent programs, just to name a few. When The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was big we literally sent a pair of blue jeans around to all the branches and had teens sign them. An Alice in Wonderland inspired mad hatter tea party is a blast! There are so many ways that you can tie books in with programming.

An Alice in Wonderland quote put into a graphic and made into a t-shirt. I told you, I’ve made a lot of t-shirts for teen programs. I did not, for the record, design this graphic.

You can find tie-in events to go with any book. Does the main character do photoraphy? Have a photo making event or paint photo frames. Does the main character sing? Have a karoake party. Take, for example, the graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom. The title alone is a great event, just have tweens and teens create mini-kingdoms out of cardboard or have them make cardboard armor. You can use MakeDo kits to help make this happen. Find things within the book to inspire activities for your book based events.

A teen models a cardboard helmet made by Morgan, TMS Assistant at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

If you’re feeling uninspired, you can go by the standby of trivia and viewing parties (as long as you have a public performance license). Or use the elements of the book to create your own Escape Room.

Book Inspired Crafts

I like to tie reading and the YA collection to various craft activities. For example, I’m a big fan of digital media and I have taught teens how to create their own memes and put their favorite quotes on them. I’ve also challenged teens to turn their photos into their own interpretations of their favorite book covers. You can do a lot with a smart phone and a few apps.

Almost any craft activity can be book themed if you add a quote or an image that represents a book.

Just a few of the various book related crafts you can do:

  • Put your favorite quote on a meme using digital media
  • Put your favorite book quote on a blank canvas
  • Make a triptych to describe your favorite book by taking a series of 3 pictures that represent the book
  • Use digital media to make book trading cards
  • Use stop motion or video creation software to create your own book trailers
  • Put your favorite book quote on a book tote or t-shirt
  • Make postcards inspired by your favorite books
  • Make a specific book themed photo booth. For example, you can make Harry Potter props for a Harry Potter themed photo booth
  • Or make a Book Face photo booth

Making Mini Books

There are tons of great books out there that teach you how to make your own mini books and journals. These make for fun programs that get teens thinking about books and writing. Again, you can use digital media or some other art form to put your favorite book inspired quotes on the cover.

Other Things You Can Do:

The Penguin Random House Post it Note book wall at BEA 2019
  • Make space on the wall for teens to share book recommendations via Post It Notes
  • Book spine poetry
  • Black out poetry
  • Turn book covers and graphic novel pages into buttons with a button maker
  • Use a comic book app or blank comic book pages and graphic novel panels to have teens create their own comics and graphic novels
  • Want to promote historical fiction? Host a retro party with retro crafts, games and activities. Books set in the 1980s are now historical fiction, so have fun with that!
  • Want to promote fantasy? Dragon crafts, fairy gardens and DIY crowns are just a few of the activities that you can do
  • Want to promote science fiction? Galaxy slime, galaxy jars and DIY lava lamps are just a few of the activities that you can do

There are over 100 teen programs outlined here at TLT and many of them can easily be given a book related spin. You can also browse through the Teen Programming tag to find ideas. Pinterest and other librarian blogs can also be your friend. I have a regular routine with a variety of blogs and library websites I check periodically to see what everyone else is doing.

When promoting your programs, be sure to put up a display of If You Liked, Try . . . book that go along with your theme. That’s another great way to tie books and reading into programming.

The truth is, every program we do can be tied in with books in some way and can be used to promote our collections and to help cultivate a lifelong interest in books and reading. Programming doesn’t have to be book clubs and discussions to be literary and promote reading. There is nothing wrong with book clubs and discussions, but we need a variety of programming to get a variety of people to engage with our collections. Programming doesn’t take away from our collections and it doesn’t prevent us from creating a book centered culture, it gets our patrons in the doors and reminds them that we have books that can be read and explored in a variety of ways.

I know you all have more great programming ideas that are book related, so please share with us in the comments. Link to any posts you’ve done, share your Pinterest boards, etc.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today

What Do We Know About Teen Programming