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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Getting Ready for May the Fourth: Some Star Wars STEAM Ideas

Our weekly STEM program for 3 to 18 year old patrons took a turn for the galactic yesterday as we focused on Star Wars. None of the ideas I’m about to link to are my own, but I will tell you how well they worked for us and give you some tips for success.

81r2wmJ1JxL_SL1500_Our first activity was releasing Lego Star Wars figures from ‘carbonite.’ You can find the original post here. We used a combination of baking soda and water to freeze the minifigs into ice cubes. First hot tip – they don’t fit in standard ice cube trays. Luckily, I actually had some Star Wars themed jello molds (don’t ask) and they fit in those. We used vinegar to dissolve the ‘carbonite,’ but unlike the original post, I had the kids use pipettes to wash the baking soda away gradually. It really depends on your level of patience, but I think they had fun. Your mileage may vary.

Next we moved on to this activity – creating light saber cards. This was probably my favorite activity and the one I would consider the most teachable moment. If you scroll down in the post, you can find links to all the necessary materials, which were surprisingly affordable. There are also free printables to make the cards themselves. The blogger created one version for ‘May the Fourth’ and one for ‘May the Force,’ so you can use it year round.

We made balloon hovercrafts as detailed here. I’m sure you have some old CDs or DVDs and balloons around, and who doesn’t have a hot glue gun? Unfortunately, the other necessary piece (a pop up bottle lid) is much more difficult to find these days. Almost all of the items that used to have them, such as dish soap and sports water bottles, have switched to the new flip top model. I found them from some online vendors, but you either had to purchase thousands of them or pay exorbitant shipping fees. My best advice is to make friends with people who polish their hardwood floors – all of those containers still use the pop up lids, as does dish soap from the Mrs. Meyer’s company. It’s not ideal, but it is doable if you plan ahead (or have lots of friends with hardwood floors.)

We made these light saber sensory bottles, as well. The post recommends using VOS water bottles, which are quite expensive. We used the large Smart Water bottles because it is what I like to drink. I would recommend going with a smaller bottle, though.

Finally, we made some origami Millennium Falcons. There are many different versions of the instructions online, but the one I found easiest to follow is here.

Happy Star Wars day preparations to all!

MakerSpace: April National Poetry Month Activities

In the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH), we’re getting ready for National Poetry Month (April). We have a variety of activities that we will be hosting all month long in our makerspace using our materials to get teens thinking about and creating poetry. Some of our ideas include making our own chalkboards for teens to write poetry on, turning poetry into digital art and turning them into buttons, and creating visual poetry using methods like Black Out Poetry or Post It note art.

This will be our second year doing poetry in our Teen MakerSpace, so we tried to build on what worked for us successfully last year and provide even more options with more material choices.

Poetry Activities 2017  Poetry Activities 2017 part 2

If you have some other creative suggestions, we would love to hear from you. It’s never too late to add some fun, new ideas.

MakerSpace: Postcard Party


In an attempt to express my personal political frustrations, I recently hosted a postcard party. It turns out, with or without the politics, this is a great MakerSpace program. Making your own postcards is quicky, easy fun.


Here’s what I did at home: I invited a group of friends to my home whom I knew wanted to express themselves politically. Using the issues that they were most concerned about, I designed postcards (more on this process in a moment). We then printed them out, personalized them and dropped them in the mail. The Teen was there for this meeting, which is a fact that will become relevant in a moment. In total during this evening we quickly and easily designed about 20 postcards which we printed in multiple copies per sheet.


It turns out, I really, really liked designing the postcards and, as is often the case when I learn to do something new and enjoy it, I started making a lot of postcards. And I mean A LOT OF POSTCARDS. In fact, The Teen found it to be fun as well and we sat down and I taught her how to design her own postcards. The postcards we designed together weren’t political, but they were personal and they became a fantastic medium of both artistic and self expression.

So Let’s Talk Designing Your Own Postcards

I am currently using Canva. You can use any design program, including GIMP (free, online) or Microsoft Publisher (not free), but Canva has a wide variety of easy to use templates that help you get started and are easily personalized. One of these templates is a postcard template. There are a variety of pre-made postcard layouts that you can choose to get you started and yet you can completely personalize everything. Canva is an online program which is mostly free. You set up an account and there are a wide variety of free templates and elements you can choose. You can also add your own by uploading your own graphics.


For example, regular readers know that I am both photo and photo app obsessed. It’s easy (and fast) to upload your own photos into Canva and use them for postcards. There are a lot of free elements available for use in Canva as well, but I like to use my own whenever possible.

You can start with a blank space or a template. In the beginning, I highly recommend using a template. Easily add or subtract elements like text, graphics, lines and more. There are filters available to change the coloring or tone of your picture. It’s easy, but it’s also flexible and adaptable. As you get better at using the program you can advance how personal you make things.

After you create your design, you then download the postcard. I always choose to download my creations as a JPG because they are easier to use across machines. PDF is another option, but I can easily send, share and print JPGs.


Now that my postcard is saved on my laptop as a JPG, I just need to print it off. This is pretty quick and easy to do using Microsoft Word. You can fit two postcards per page in a Word document. They are already saved as a standard postcard size so you don’t need to worry about resizing. I print them off on card stock and cut them down to size using a paper cutter. Because I know I want to go in and print more of my postcards, I saved each one as a Word document that I can just open again and again and hit print. For example, I have a filed named SUPPORT LIBRARIES POSTCARD that I can easily open and print off my Support Libraries postcards.

You can design a backside if you wish, but it’s not necessary. After your postcard is printed you just write your message and address it like you would any other postcard. The Teen made a set of postcards; she likes to write her friends encouraging messages and hand them to her friends at school or slip them in their lockers.

A note about the Canva app: there is a Canva app as well for mobile devices. I do not love the app as much as I love the online program. It does not have as many design template options available, for one. The smaller scale can also make precision designing more difficult. However, you can go into a saved design and quickly save it to your mobile device. This makes printing really easy if you have an AirPrinter that also allows you to select the 4×6 size. Print directly onto matte 4×6 photo paper and you don’t have to worry about cutting your postcard to size. This, for me, is the only benefit of the app on my mobile device.

And finally, here’s a look at some of the postcards The Teen and I designed.

postcard39 postcard37 postcard29

And as a fun aside, for some of our postcards we used our button maker to make corresponding 1.25 inch buttons. We were able to easily make them the size we needed for the buttons.


Here’s What You Need:

  • Some type of device: laptop or PC recommended, though tablets and smartphones will also work
  • Access to Canva (or some other type of graphics program)
  • Cardstock
  • Paper cutter
  • Color printer

For example, it my Teen MakerSpace we have a bank of iPads that we use for digital media. Teens can use these to take pictures using our Green Screen Photo Booth. These pictures can then be uploaded into Canva so that the teens can use them to create personalized postcards as outlined above.

This is a great opportunity to talk with teens about what makes a good photo, design and layout, and the always important topic of copyright.

In just 3 days working about 2 hours a day, we designed and printed out 40 unique postcards that we adored. I can’t recommend this enough.

#MakerSpace: Typewriter Fun

We got a typewriter for our Teen MakerSpace. Yes, a typewriter. This may  not seem like a very high tech gadget to get for a MakerSpace, but it has proven to be a glorious addition. The idea came to me when I went to a Pinterest conference and they had a scrapbooking merchant who had a bank of typewriters set up and it seemed like such a glorious idea. This belief was further reinforced when we went to ALA and there was someone making zines using a good, old fashioned typewriter. So our hunt for a typewriter began.

Behold our typewriter station

Behold our typewriter station

It actually took us months – several months in fact – to find an old-fashioned manual typewriter in quality condition. I scoured thrift stores, antique stores and online apps like 5Mile. We eventually stumbled onto a man not too far from our hometown that bought and restored old typewriters. We went to his home, which he works out of, and walked down the steps into a basement full of 100s of typewriters put on display. He was a true maker, he owned his own 3D printer which he used to print parts and restore parts of the typewriters. He talked with us about things like type-ins, which are a real thing and they sound amazingly cool. He also sold us our super excellent old-fashioned manual typewriter, which it turns out the teens love.




So you have a typewriter, now what?

As I have mentioned before, we have found that having creative prompts and displays greatly helps our teens think about ways they can engage with our various Teen MakerSpace stations. So we brainstormed activity ideas and put together a challenge sheet:


Some of our activity challenges include:

Photo Manipulation

Type a favorite quote, poem or even just a short letter on the typewriter. Using an iPad for our iPad station, take a photo of your quote. You can now use various apps to change the look of your work. When you make something you like, you can print it out and do a variety of things with your artwork including, frame it, transfer it onto a canvas, or make it into a button. Here are some examples that I made.

type16 type15 typewriter7 typewriter6

It’s interesting to take a plain white piece of paper with some typewritten text and see all the various ways that you can change it.

Button Making

As I have mentioned, button making is widely popular in our Teen MakerSpace, so of course which use our typewriter to make buttons.

typewriter3 typewriter1

Book and Zine Making

An obvious use for the typewriter is to use it to make a mini book in our book making station. We also have resources on making zines that would work nicely with a typewriter.


You can tear up strips of typewritten words and mod podge them onto a collage or onto a frame. You can type on a piece of origami paper and fold it into a secret message. One teen made shape poetry using the typewriter. There are really a lot of fun and creative ways that a typewriter can be incorporated into a MakerSpace.

After growing up on computers, it’s interesting to see the teens trying to use a manual typewriter. It’s slower than a computer, so there is a bit of an adjustment the teens have to make. It can lead to lots of my gosh you’re so old jokes (for the record, we did in fact have color television when I was born thank you teens). There is a bit of awe and novelty to it. If you can get your hands on one for a reasonable price, I highly recommend it.

A Note About Cost: You can buy a typewriter at Michael’s as part of the We R Memory Keepers line, but it is around $200.00. We kept waiting and it is almost always exempted from any of the coupons, so those don’t help. They do sell replacement ribbons which are universal so they work even on our much discounted antique typewriter. I recommend asking around in the community to see if someone has one to donate or to check resale apps and lists like Ebay or 5Mile.

MakerSpace: Here There Be Stations, an overview of activities offered in the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County


Because it is the beginning of the new year – and the end of our first full year of our Teen MakerSpace – we are in the midst of evaluating what we’ve done and what we want to do going forward. One of the things that has become abundantly clear is that we aren’t necessarily using all of our stations to their full potential. So we have set for ourselves five goals for this year, and one of them is to rotate our stations in and out more efficiently. The specific goal is to rotate 2 tech related stations/activities and 2 traditional craft stations in and out each week. In order to do that, we did an inventory of what stations/activities we currently have. This will also help us as we look to develop more stations and activities for this year; now we have a better idea of areas that we may want to focus on.

So for today, I am sharing with you a quick list of the various activities and stations that we offer at the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I am pleased to see that there are 45 different options and that there are a pretty good balance between traditional arts and crafts and technology. If we have done a post on that activity here at TLT, I have linked to it as well for additional information.

Teen MakerSpace: Activity Stations Overview
Station/Activity Focus (Education Goals)
Chalk Art (see also this) Arts and Crafts
Sharpie Art Arts and Crafts
Fingerprint Art Arts and Crafts
Teen Coloring Arts and Crafts
Post it Note Art Arts and Crafts
Lettering Arts and Crafts
Paper Crafts Arts and Crafts
Stamp Crafts Arts and Crafts
Tape Crafts (Duct &  Washi) Arts and Crafts
Map Art Arts and Crafts
Book Making Arts and Crafts
Bottle Cap Crafts Arts and Crafts
Fiber Crafts Arts and Crafts, Design
Jewelry Making Arts and Crafts, Design
Ornament Hack Arts and Crafts, Design
Rainbow Loom Arts and Crafts, Math
Nature Crafts Arts and Crafts, Upcycling, Eco Friendly
Coding Apps Coding, Tech
Makey Makey Go Coding, Tech, Programming
String Art Design, Math, Fiber Arts
Squishy Circuits Electronics, Circuits
Little Bits Electronics, Circuits
Paper Circuits Electronics, Circuits
Make: Electronics Kit Electronics, Circuits, Design
Strawbees Engineering, Math
Felties Fiber Crafts
Knitting/Crochet Fiber Crafts, Arts and Crafts
Origami Paper Crafts, Design, Math
Ozobots Robotics, Coding
Brushbots Robotics, Electronics
Dot & Dash Robotics, Coding
Ollie Robotics, Coding
Mechano Robotics, Coding
Tech Take Apart Tech
Shrinky Dinks Tech, Arts and Crafts
Osmo Tech, Coding, Math
Button Making Tech, Creativity, can combine w/digital media
Stop Animation Station Tech, Creativity, Film
3D Pens Tech, Design
Rube Goldberg  Machines Tech, Design, Cause & Effect
Green Screen Photo Booth (see also this) (photo booth prop making) Tech, Digital Media, Photography
Music Making: Digital Media Tech, Music
Digital Media/Photo Manipulation Tech, Photography
Legos Various
Typewriter Word crafts (can combine w/book making)
Playing with the Green Screen Studio in the MakerSpace

Playing with the Green Screen Studio in the MakerSpace


Legos in the Teen MakerSpace


Stop Motion Animation in the Teen MakerSpace


Duct Tape Crafts in the Teen MakerSpace

What’s In Your Teen MakerSpace Manual? : Forms Edition

This week, I have been desperately ill. It’s only a head cold and strep throat, but I will swear to you I have the plague. So yesterday I texted my boss and told her, “When I die, please bring the Teen MakerSpace manual to my funeral and tell everyone it was my greatest professional achievement.” She promised she would.

Tada: The Stupendously Amazing TEEN MAKERSPACE MANUAL

Tada: The Stupendously Amazing TEEN MAKERSPACE MANUAL

But it also reminded me that each time I tweet loving pictures of the manual – yes, I tweet loving pictures of the manual – someone will ask, “What’s in your manual?” So today, I will share that information with you. But first, some history.

I have been a YA services librarian for 22 years now. This is both the first and the fifth library I have worked at. That’s right, I’m working at the first library I ever worked at again. I cam here this time with a storehouse of experience to draw on and a manual that I have developed over those 22 years and adapted for this library and this community. It is now and always will be a work in progress.

The Table of Contents (it has been updated since this picture was taken)

The Table of Contents (it has been updated since this picture was taken)

Teen MakerSpace Manual Table of Contents

Teen Services 101

The first part of the manual is an outline of basic YA services and includes the following:

1. Our YA services mission statement and outline

2. Teens 101: A basic overview of adolescent development

3. The 40 Developmental Assets: A basic overview of the assets and how to use them with teens

4. Customer Service to Teens: A basic discussion of customer service to teens, what is means and what it should look like

5. Teen Fiction Collection Development Plan: An overview of what we purchase, from where, etc.

6. Collection Development Outline and Budget

7. Weeding Guidelines and Calendar

8. Social Media Policy

9. Programming Basics: An overview of what we do and why

Teen MakerSpace 101

The second part of the manual, and the biggest part, is exlusive to our Teen MakerSpace.

10. MakerSpace Outline

11. MakerSpace Inventory: You can find an outline of our various activities and stations here.

12. MakerSpace Opening and Closing Procedures Checklist

13. Directions for each and every Teen MakerSpace station, items or tool: This makes up the biggest bulk of the manual. I can not stress enough how important it is to keep a copy of the directions for each and every piece of tech that you put into a makerspace. I scan in the directions so I have a digital copy and I keep a copy in the manual as well.

14. The Teen MakerSpace Collection Outline: We have 2 separate collections. The YA fic collection, which is outside the Teen MakerSpace, and the TMS collection itself. We believe strongly that each station, tool or activity we do in the TMS should have supporting book materials for check out.

15. Circulating Maker Kits Outline and Inventory


16. Forms


Many of the items in the TMS manual are actually discussed at length in the book I edited with TLTer Heather Booth, The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services. The collection development forms and policies, for example, were handed down to me, adapted over time, and written right into the book. They have worked for me so I use them.

Overtime, however, I have also developed a wide variety of forms that I like to use. They tease me at work because if they ask a question someone else will reply, “give Karen a moment and she’ll make a form for that.” All teasing aside, I have learned over time that I am a visual person, not auditory. For example, if you tell me we need to buy new 3D pen filament in passing as we pass in the hallway, I am less likely to remember that we had that conversation then if you send me a text or an email. Or better yet, just keep a running form of supplies we need to replenish.

I particularly like to have filled out forms for activities and programs. For one, they help me make sure I am doing all the steps I need to be doing in order to have a successful program. And two, I then have a record should I need to go back and look and see what I did. For example, our local community has a First Friday where we like to go set up a booth and do activities with the teens and promote our Teen MakerSpace. Over time we have worked out an exact checklist of what we need to take so we don’t forget anything. It’s the little details – like trash bags or chairs – that can often get overlooked.

So today I am sharing with you some of the forms that I have developed. Exactly zero of these forms were developed exclusively by me. They are forms that were shared with me and I adapted in some way to meet my needs; librarians are, after all, very good at sharing. So here’s a look at some of the forms in my (if I say beloved is that too much?) Teen MakerSpace manual.

Behold the Gift of Forms

So our appendix is just a master copy of all the forms we use in our Teen MakerSpace for easy access. Here’s a breakdown of what those forms are and how we use them.

TMS Supply Request Form

This one’s a pretty simple supply request form. I wasn’t even going to include it in this post but it’s in the manual under forms and apparently my completionist needs won’t let me leave it off.


TMS MakerSpace Assistant Training Checklist

Last year, I was incredibly lucky in that I got to hire two assistants to help staff the TMS. In order to make sure these new employees got extensive training, I crowdsourced examples of training checklists and put this one together for our needs.


TMS Monthly Goals

This is a new form I am introducing this year and, again, it’s crowdsourced. We wanted a tool to help us make sure that we are doing a couple of things in our TMS, like rotating our stations in thoughtful ways and making sure we keep exploring new TMS elements and find creative, new ways to use our existing inventory. Thus, a monthly goals form was born to help us as individuals make sure we are meeting our goals. We have a yearly outline that we use to help specify what our specific goals for the year are.


TMS Program Planning Worksheet

This is a worksheet I use to plan a big program, which is different then a TMS activity or station. For example, we are working on putting together what we are calling a Con Con (inspired by an idea from ALA 2016) – a convention for teens who want to start going to cons to learn some basic con skills like sewing, painting, etc. I am using this program planning worksheet to help put that program together.


TMS Outreach Activity Checklist

This is a checklist we use for any and all outreach activities, including First Fridays as mentioned above. We try to have more than 1 activity to rotate in and out of our outreach bag of tricks. A checklist is completed for each activity and kept in a notebook. When we want to do that outreach activity, we just go and grab the checklist and get our supplies together.


TMS Activity/Station Planning Checklist

Our Teen MakerSpace is set up in stations (we also sometimes use the term activities, just to confuse ourselves). For example, we have a permanent Stop Motion Animation Station. But we also have stations/activities that we can rotate in and out. We have a variety of robots, for example, that we can get out and have a day where we play with, say, Ozobots. We have also found that our teens like to do traditional crafts, so we rotate some of these in and out as well. Because our model is not permanent, we are always looking for new stations and activities to add to our reprotoire to rotate in and out. In order to do that, we have an Activity/Station Planning Checklist. Before we introduce a new idea, we do a little planning. We want to look at things like cost and materials, but we also want to make sure that we have or can purchase book titles that can be used to support that activity/station. Also, having the checklist filed away makes it easy to pull out and set up each station/activity when we rotate it back in.


TMS Daily Report

I like to have a daily record of when teens use our Teen MakerSpace and what teens are doing in the space for planning purposes, thus the daily report log. As we work in the space we just make hashtags of teens in the space by hour and note what they are doing. This helps us know when we need staffing and what stations/activities are the most popular with our teens. I find it to be an invaluable tool. Also, because of this tool we know that we had over 3,000 teen visits to our TMS last year during peak, staffed hours and that our teens favorite things to do are make buttons, work with the 3D pen, and use our iPads.


And now you know why these tease me about forms. But in all seriousness, I find them to be invaluable tools and they really help us organize our Teen MakerSpace. And they complete the amazing Teen MakerSpace Manual. (Was that last line too much?)

Do you have any favorite forms you like to use? Let me know in the comments. I do like a new form to look at and adapt.

Previous MakerSpace Posts

Small Tech, Big Impact: Designing My Maker Space at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH)

MakerSpace: The Making of a Manual

#MakerSpace: 1 Year Later

The MakerSpace Index at TLT

MakerSpace: Paper Circuits, an inexpensive way to introduce electronics with almost instant gratification

As the end of the year approached, I became acutely aware of the fact that we have a one month period between December and January when we can’t really make any purchases because we have to balance the books. So my goal was simple: fill in supplies and find a couple of new activities that we could introduce to carry us through this time period in our Teen MakerSpace. I had been aware of paper circuits, but hadn’t done much with them. This seemed like a good time.

For one, paper circuits are less expensive then a lot of the things on my “things we want to try” list. Also, they don’t take up a lot of space. It’s a great introduction to the idea of circuits without a lot of tools, wires, and things like soldering. I know nothing of soldering.

Paper circuits use a battery, copper tape, LED lights and paper to create cool things. For example, you can make light up cards. Or you could make a paper piano.

Paper Circuits | The Tinkering Studio

To begin with, we bought this set:


It cost $30.00 on Amazon and comes with copper tape, 12 LED stickers, 2 coin cell batteries, battery clips, and a “sketchbook”. Also, you can hack the box to make cool projects as well.


The very first page tells you how to use the book and set up a circuit.


Then when you turn the page, you light up a light bulb.


The Great Big Guide to Paper Circuits –

It has the added benefit of seeing almost immediate results. Sometimes it’s nice to have something that is quick and rewarding.

Pros: Inexpensive, good starting place, easy introduction, easy to store, lots of possibilities

Cons: I does have consumables, but they are relatively inexpensive to replace

We are just starting our journey with paper circuits, but I liked this kit so much I bought The Teen one for Christmas. It’s a good introduction to the idea of circuits and there are lots of cool things you can do. Additional components can easily be bought online.

More Info:

Paper Circuits – Instructables

Paper Circuits For Makerspaces –

Simple Paper Circuit | Make:

1000+ images about Paper circuits on Pinterest | LED, Electronics

1000+ images about Paper Circuits on Pinterest | LED, Paper and Tape

MakerSpace: Making a Photo Booth Prop Holder

Yesterday I completely re-arranged and marketed our Teen MakerSpace. As a librarian, this is indeed my idea of a good time. But one thing that has always bothered me is the way we display our Photo Booth Props. As you may know (if you don’t, hi new readers!), we have a lot of photo booth props. We like to make thematic units as new tie-ins come about. But we’ve never had a good way to display them. In fact, they were laying flat on a shelf like this before yesterday – check out the upper left hand corner:



Awkward, unattractive, hard to get to and easy to make a mess. In other words, not good at all. So yesterday Teen MakerSpace Assistant Morgan and I had a conversation that went like this:

Morgan: I wish we had a bucket or something to display them in.

Karen: We do, but they still get all wobbly and fall over and stuff.

Morgan: What about using that trashcan over there.

Karen: Oh, gross.


Karen: We’re a MakerSpace, let’s make one!

So I went into the office and looked around and we have a stack of empty shoe boxes that we can maybe do something with. And it hit me – WE CAN MAKE A PHOTO BOOTH PROP HOLDER. And we did.


Here’s what we did:

1. We filled our shoe box with rocks to make it heavy so that it would stand up straight. The rocks were placed in a plastic ziploc bag and duct taped to the bottom of the box. The weight is 100% necessary for balance.

2. We covered our box in duct tape to make it attractive.

3. We used a screw driver to poke holes in the top to place each individual prop stick in. This keeps them all nice and neat. No more flopping over! There was much rejoicing.

Now it sits, sturdily I might add, next to our photo booth. See, we used our making skills to solve a problem and make items more accessible. I’m going to call that a win.


To learn more about our photo booth or photo booth props, check out these posts:

Making Photo Booth Props

Building Our Portable Photo Booth

TPIB: Turn your Instagram pics into Photobooth bookmarks

TPiB: The Great Ornament Hack


Every once in a while, I feel like I have a moment of genius (it’s not often). This Teen MakerSpace activity was one of those moments, I hope. I was standing in Michael’s when I saw this big tube of clear plastic ornaments. In the past, I have done the paint inside the ornament craft with my kids, both at the library and at home. But what, I wondered, if I asked them to take it further? Thus was born The Great Ornament Hack.


The challenge is simple: Use ANYTHING (Except Legos!) in the Teen MakerSpace to make your ornament how ever you would like. Everything includes both traditional craft and tech elements.

For example, one teen was working on hacking the cap of his ornament to add an LED light so that it would light up.


We are giving teens about 4 weeks to make their ornaments. Each ornament is being given a number and hung from our ceiling. Beginning December 5th, teens will be invited to vote for their favorite ornament. One lucky teen will receive 100 button making pieces – which is a very popular incentive (we also used this as one of our summer reading prizes).

This is a really open-ended challenge that allows teens to create whatever they want to represent themselves. It can be holiday or non-holiday themed. It can be personal or a gift. The possibilities are limitless and the creativity has been off the charts and exciting to see.

The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive. In the first two days alone we had about 15 ornaments created.


Some of our hacked ornaments hanging to dry


Mixed media spider


There’s a color theme happening here


Makey Mouse made by me with computer bits and pieces from our Tech Take Apart station


Mario in process


Steampunk ornament

As I have mentioned, in addition to having our regularly opened space and standard stations, we like to have temporary stations to keep it fresh and interesting. This challenge has proven to do exactly that.

The complete Mario ornament

The complete Mario ornament

To find out more about the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, start here:

Small Tech, Big Impact: Designing My Maker Space at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) (School Library Journal article, February 2016)

1 Year Later, What I’ve Learned (School Library Journal article, November 2016)

MakerSpace: Fun with Lettering and Quarto Books

Lettering might seem like an odd thing to discuss when it comes to making, but there are lots of great ways that you can include lettering with making. If you have read any of my makerspace posts, you know that I have mentioned how my teens tend to be into more traditional arts and crafts as well as technology, so we work hard to find ways to combine the two. And some of those ways include lettering.

I’ll be honest, the ideas all stemmed from my love of these books on lettering from Quarto Books.

lettering3 I’ve already shared a post about some of our chalkboard related activities, which you can find here:

TPiB: DIY Chalkboard Fun

Making Text Transfer Chalkboard Speech Bubbles

MakerSpace: Button Maker Challenges

TPiB: MakerSpace Poetry



lettering6And we do a lot of stuff with Sharpies. And I mean a lot. You can find some of those activities here:

TPiB: Sharpie Art! Quick and Easy Programming

MakerSpace: Button Maker Challenges






But there are a couple of other books on lettering which we also enjoy that have spurred some additional creative ideas. Those ideas include combining digital media with hand lettering to create our own books and bullet journalling.


Book Making

There are a variety of great books out there about making both books and mini books. Combining those books with our lettering books, we have created a pretty cool book making station in our Teen MakerSpace. We help teens use our digital media lab to create photos, which they then print out and turn into books. They can add text digitally, but we also encourage them to use a variety of lettering techniques to give their mini books a pop. And just this past week we purchased an old school manual typewriter that teens can use to type poems or add text to their books. You can read more about our mini books here: MakerSpace: Instagram Scrapbook and Mini Books.


Bullet Journals

Bullet journals are very popular right now. I learned about them from Librarian Drea at ALA. Actually, several librarians I follow online engage in bullet journaling. And the Irving library in Texas has a monthly bullet journaling program.

What is a bullet journal? According to Bullet, “The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” Basically, a bullet journal is whatever you want it to be, but it is not necessarily a long form diary. It is composed more of short lists, goals, and more.

Buzzfeed has a variety of posts on Bullet Journals that may help you get started:

WTF Is A Bullet Journal And Why Should You Start One

Here’s How To Use A Bullet Journal For Better Mental Health

29 Bullet Journal Layouts For Anyone Trying To Be Healthy

23 Bullet Journal Ideas That Are Borderline Genius

You can also find a lot about Bullet Journalling on Pinterest:

Bullet journal, Bullets and Journal ideas on Pinterest

Many journals can be kind of expensive, so we made our own using 1 inch binders, scrapbook paper, a variety of cool pens, washi tape and stickers. And to add a bit of tech, we made inspirational quote pictures for our covers.


The Teen filling out her bullet journal at home. She still uses it months later.


I taught the teens about Infographics and they made their own biographies in Infographic form


An example of a cover made using our digital media lab


Sample bullet journal pages. This teen made a page of their favorite book quotes.


The Bestie writing in her handmade bullet journal

As a librarian, I like that the idea of books keeps coming up in our Teen MakerSpace. Whether it’s making our own books or just journalling about books or making our favorite books quotes into memes using our digital media lab, we love to find ways to circle back to books. And we love that there are books out there not only inspiring our making, but that teens can use to help support their making. We are about making, but we are also about books and reading. It’s not one or the other, but both.

Win Quarto Books

This week I’m posting all about Quarto Books and the various ways that we use them in our Teen MakerSpace. Because I use Quarto Books a lot, I contacted them and asked them if we could host a Quarto Books week and they have generously agreed to donate a set of 5 Quarto Books for us to giveaway. Thank you Quarto Books! To be entered to win, you must be a U.S. resident and need to do the Rafflecopter thing below by Friday, November 18th, 2016 by Midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway