Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Saving Big with Your Library

You may have heard that there are some problems with today’s economy, those same problems are affecting the very teen patrons that you serve.  This is a great time to remind your teens about the value of your library and your teen services program . . .

Today’s unemployment rate hovers somewhere around 9%.  That means 2 important things:  a lot of teens are living in a household where a parent is dealing with unemployment and many teens are having a hard time trying to find jobs themselves.  Everywhere you look belts are tightening and teens and their families are trying to find creative ways to save money and stretch budgets.  And your library has some great tools to help them . . .
Financial Aid and Scholarships – make sure your teens know that you have a wide variety of resources to help them find and apply for financial aid, including free Internet access.  Put the information together in easy to navigate ways:  create a web page, a handout, a display.  Just make sure they know where to go and find it easy to use.
Do It Yourself – Highlight areas of your nonfiction that will appeal to teens and help them meet these new needs.  Craft books can help fulfill gift needs, room redecorating, and more.  Some teens may be looking to find out how they can repair their car.  There are a wide variety of craft books that help you make your own soaps and lotions, re purpose out of date clothing and even show you how to decorate on a dime.  Pull out your best resources and put these books on display.
Things that teens can do to save (or make) money using library information:  Make their own gifts, redecorate their room, find recipes for low cost snacks, fix their car, make their own spa materials, re purpose old clothes, make crafts out of recycled materials, sell things and make money on e-bay, create a blog or webpage and sell handmade items, apply for financial aid and scholarships, find a penpal, find volunteer or intern opportunities . . .
Remember when coming up with programming plans that you can create programs around these themes and reinforce your message.
Homework Help – Chances are your library has access to a wide variety of databases that can help teens excel on school projects, papers and daily assignments.  Highlight these resources and tell teens how they can help.
Reading Rocks, But Books Cost Money – Whether it be to fulfill a school assignment or read the newest installment of The Pretty Little Liars, teens need access to a wide variety of books.  If a teen bought every single book they had to read for school, it would cost teens (and their families) 1,000s of dollars.  In fact, just buying 4 books a month for school assignments would add up to over $1,200 in the course of a year.  Remind teens that you can save their pocketbook!
Try Before You Buy – Whether it be books, music or movies nothing is worse than spending your hard earned cash on something only to find out that you hate it!  Remind teens that they can try before they buy and determine whether or not they like something before they shell out their bucks.
The Digital Book Revolution (and Audio Books, too) – This year the e-reader has really taken off.  From the Kindle to the iPad, there are a wide variety of ways that teens and their families can now choose downloadable books.  In fact, they can download audio books to a wide range of audio devices as well as digital books.  Make sure teens know how you can hook them up.
Let Me Entertain You – You’ve got teen programs, right?  Going to a movie today can cost you around $20.00, and that’s not even with popcorn and soda. Video games cost on average anywhere from $20.00 on up.  You want the latest movie on DVD?  Again, $20.00 bare minimum.  Remind your teens that you provide a wide variety of entertainment options, whether it be attending the latest library program or putting together their own low cost party.  They can check out a DVD, put together a low cost party menu, find some fun games to share and voila’ – best party ever at little cost to them.
Have game nights (both board and video games) and give teens fun opportunities to hang with friends and play with resources they don’t have.  With the right programming and the right message, your teen area and programs can become a destination hot spot.
Tech Me Up, Scotty – Teens love technology and they want access to a wide variety of tools.  Keep your library technology up to date and make sure teens know what you have.  Make sure you have teen friendly Internet access policies.  Let teens know about new resources ASAP.  Incorporate learning how to use these resources into your library programming: have programs where teens learn how to create blogs and webpages, manipulate photoshop editing software, make movies, learn powerpoint and more.  Keep them up to date on things like Google Chrome and Google +.
Calculate the Cost – Libraries everywhere are helping their users understand how much a library can save them by using library savings calculators.  This is a great tool to help punctuate your message: put an actual number on it.  For example, in the graphic at the top of the page I calculated how much it would cost to buy copies of some of the most popular teen series plus an additional 4 books a month for school.  Create a visual to convey your message – infographics rock and are effective.  Take a moment and send out a calculator on your webpage or FB page (or both).  There is a tangible financial benefit to using your library, make sure your teens get the message.
Make a plan to communicate your message:
  • Put together an infographic that works for you and your community.  Include the cost of school materials, entertainment, and technology..
  • Put the graphic on display in your teen area and share it digitally via your various communication channels.
  • Put together a display of your various non fiction materials and communicate how they can save you money.
  • Put together a program where teens can make crafts for the upcoming holiday season and walk out with physical products they can use as gifts.  Or ask a community member to do a financial planning talk, which I recommend by following up with some type of hands on activity.
  • Repeat your message multiple times and in multiple formats.

Teens Got Talent: Empowering Teens and Creating Buy In

Sometimes trying to find creative library programs that will interests teens is difficult, but there is a great resource for us that we don’t offer consider: the teens themselves.  Teens are singing, acting, making short films, designing web sites, making models and so much more.  They have talents and hobbies that they want to share, so give them a place to do it.  Go beyond an American Idol type program or a talent show and allow teens to share their talent – whatever it is – and create a dynamic, ongoing library program for teens, by teens.

Tired of trying to come up with program ideas, I declared 2005 the “year of the teen” and let my teens do the programming.  I went beyond a teen advisory board and canvased my community to determine what talents my teens had that they wanted to share.  I created an application with a deadline, selected the programs, met with the presenter, developed publicity – and then let the teens do all the work.  One teen shared how to make recycled Capri Sun purses (before you could buy them in the store), another teen shared about her travel experiences, and more.

The great thing about this type of programming is that it really taps into the 40 developmental assets (http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18).  It basically expands on what we try to do with Teen Advisory Boards and takes it to the next level: it’s not just a group of 12 or 20 giving program ideas but is open to any teen in the community.

Allow your teens to take ownership of your teen programming, be creative, and increase participation; allow them to share their gifts and talents with other teens in an attempt to provide creative, developmentally appropriate teen programming that also recognizes that teens are peer oriented while demonstrating how the library can help teens grow in their interests and abilities through the use of information services.  Almost any topic a teen will want to present on, you should have support materials in your collection – be sure to put them on display.

Example Slogans:
Teens Got Talent (take this moment to tie in with popular shows like America’s Got Talent and American Idol)
You’ve Got Talent – Share it With Us!
Celebrate you!  You’ve got interests and talents – share them with other teens. 


  • To expand your services to teens in the community
  • To provide innovative, creative teen programming by providing a forum for teens to express themselves and share their talents with their peer group
  • To meet the developmental needs of teenagers to express themselves proactively while utilizing the importance of peer influence and recommendation as a great asset in publicity and promotion
  • To use teen interests to promote the library collection and services

Phase 1:  Application of Teen Participants

Set an application period for teens to submit a program idea regarding a hobby, talent or experiences they would like to share with others.  Teens will have to submit a sample for tangible items, such as crafts, hobbies, etc. or a letter of recommendation for talents such as singing, acting, etc.  Or have them audition privately in a meeting with you.
 Needs for this phase:

  • Application
  • Permission form (?)
  • Publicity

Phase 2:  Programs for Teens Presented by Teens

From these applicants we pick one teen for each month (or each Friday, whatever time frame works for you) to present a program.  Meet at least once with each presenter before their program to make sure they have it all together and go over any ground rules (language, length of time, etc.).  In addition, you do all publicity and support materials.
Needs for this phase:

  • 1 overall poster highlighting all of the programs that have been selected
  • Individual program fliers
  • An individual meeting time for each presenter (approximately 30 minutes)
  • Program/presentation checklist for each presenter

Program Cost:

  • Staff time
  • Traditional publicity and support materials
  • Traditional program costs of materials or snacks depending on the nature of the program

Promote, Promote, Promote
Not only is there benefit to the teens when doing this type of programming, there is benefit to the library as teens become your promoters – they are going to want their friends to come.  They will hand out fliers for you, promote it on their social networking sites, and more.  Including teens in this way creates stronger buy-in, and teen buy-in increases word of mouth promotion, which is your most successful type of promotion.

With the popularity of reality shows, especially talent shows, the time is right for this type of programming.  Tap into the zeitgeist and let your teens shine!

The Disney Channel has a really good example of this with their video features, TTI (The Time I . . .)  If you can’t do live programming, definitely ask for video submissions that you can share over your webpage and Facebook.  If you do live programming, make sure you record it so you can also generate these video snippets to share.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKM39idF1Zo]

Verb Up Your Image

Everything you do is another building block in creating the overall image for your library and teen services program:  Every piece of paper you put out.  Every poster you put up.  The overall look of your area (Is it neat and organized? Are you merchandising titles face out and filling holes and straightening throughout the day?).  The number and types of programs that you do.  Think of it as a piece of pointillism art:  Each action is one small pointy stroke of your art brush and as your teens pull away from the canvas they begin to see the whole picture.  What do you want that picture to look like?

When putting your copy together, you need to think about your audience: teens!  Teens are active.  Even if they are just sitting around, they are still “hanging” and “chilling” (or chillaxin).  So what you want to do is tap into this desire to be active, to be a part of something and lead all of your copy with verbs.  Verbs are an important brushstroke in your marketing plan.  You want to let teens know that there is something unique, amazing, powerful happening at your library – something they want to be a part of.  Don’t tell them they don’t want to miss out, show them in your marketing materials and let them come to that conclusion on their own.

Think of the awesome verbs you can use: capture, engage, feed, explore, discover, crave, win, delight, share, fascinate, captivate . . . You can even use hang and chill, depending on your overall goals.

The temptation is to use being/helping verbs.  Or to use the verb Read.  Of course we are promoting reading, but you want to present a more multi-faceted image.  Libraries are not, after all, only about books.

Even though it is not grammatically correct, you want to start everything you put in the hands of your teens with a verb.  You are inviting them to DO something.
That something can be a guided activity, a program, or it can be a moment that is self guided, using your materials and resources.  It can be an event.  It can be a process.  But your overall message is this:  when you step into this public library, you will DO.
More about using verbs in your marketing materials:

Geek Out Your LIbrary

Geek (n.) – a person with enthusiastic interest in a particular interest or devotion.  Typically technology, science fiction and fantasy, comic books, etc.

Urban dictionary defines Geek as: The person you make fun of in high school and wind up working for as an adult.

Right now, geek is cool.  This past weekend was a Comic Con extravaganza with the cast of popular movies and tv shows present.  This year alone there are Thor, Captain America, and The Green Lantern movies.  This weekend we will see the release of Cowboys vs. Aliens.  And of course there are HP and Twilight movies, can’t forget them.

So this is a great time for teen librarians to embrace their geek coolness and geek out your library.

How, exactly, does one “geek out” their library and get their geek on?

Get out your graphic novels and manga and put them on display

Create your own creative and geeky comic book style fliers for programs, services or materials
     Do you use Photoshop?  Here are 20 photoshop effects
     Don’t have Photoschop?  Download GIMP, it’s free.  Here are some GIMP tutorials.
     Have an iPhone?  There’s an app for that.

Created with the iPhone app

Share fun tools with teens to create their own comic strips
     Comic Strip Creator
     Captain Underpants Comic Creator

Share information about comics, graphic novels and manga

Geek out your webpage.  Entertainment Weekly has done a fabulous job of creating the whole package on their website, follow their lead.

Get someone in to do a drawing workshop

You know your teens that come in and are doodlers, get them to let you share their work on your website or FB page.

Send out a poll, reviews, and discussion questions on your FB page or website about their favorite books, movies and tv shows.  Think Twilight trailers, magazine article links, and more.

Create a fun, interactive contest: drawing contest, create your own comic, give this picture a caption

Lots of popular teen fiction titles are also being released as gns, put the two together
     Some titles include Alex Rider series, Artemis Fowl, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, Twilight,     
    Vampire’s Assistant and Vampire Kisses

Host your own Mini Con!
Invite your teens to come in dressed in their favorite cosplay.  Set up displays, panels, games and other events throughout the day.  You can include any of the above as part of your Con.  Bust out your video game console – and board games, there are lots of awesome board/card games that would work.

Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff, A Teen Services Plan Example

In the previous note Talking with Non Teen Services Staff About Teen Services, part 1, we discussed the importance of having a Teen Services outline to train incoming staff and use as a background for communicating with all staff. We also discussed how communication is a marketing tool.  The final basic element we discussed was a Teen Services outline; a road map for you and staff that discusses why you do what you do.  A general teen services outline example follows . . .

For the purposes of teen programming and services, the library defines teens as anyone entering grade 6 through the completion of grade 12 in accordance with the local school district.

Understanding Teen Patrons
The teenage years are a time of great change. Teens are trying on a variety of roles and determining their identity, they are peer oriented, becoming more independent, and developing a stronger sense of right and wrong. Hormones cause a variety of changes. In addition, research indicates that teenagers use a different part of their brains; they literally think differently than adults do. For information on the teenage brain and how it influences behavior, please visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teenage-brain-a-work-in-progress-fact-sheet/index.shtml

Goals and Objectives of Teen Services

  • To create developmentally appropriate and appealing collections, services, and opportunities for teens in our community
  • To meet the developmental, emotional, social, educational, entertainment and information needs of teens in our community
  • To introduce teens to the library and develop lifelong library users and supporters
  • To provide unique experiences for teens that are developmentally appropriate and provide social opportunities for teens to interact with their peer group. These positive experiences help teens develop positive attitudes about the library.

Programming and Contests
Throughout the year we offer a variety of programs and contests. All programs and contests vary to meet the diverse needs and interests of teens grades 6-12. There is a special emphasis on the Teen Summer Reading Club each summer and Teen Read Week which is the third week in October. (http://www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/teenreading/teenreading.htm)

General Notes about Programming

  • Hands on, interactive programs, such as crafts, games and contests, are more popular than static programs such as speakers.
  • Parents are allowed to stay with their teens during programs. However, younger siblings and adults without teenage children are not permitted to attend to help maintain the safety and enjoyment of teens participating in the program and to maximize the use of limited space.
  • Contests are a type of self-directed program that allows teens to work at their own pace while allowing them the opportunity to explore library resources, develop research skills, and cultivate their talents.

Registering for Programs and Turning in Contests

  • Some programs may require registration. This is indicated on the fliers and all registration takes place at the Reference Desk. Please get complete information, including name, grade, telephone number and how they found out about the program, when registering teen patrons.
  • Patrons are called the weekend before a program to verify they are still planning to attend.
  • If registration is full, up to 10 patrons will be placed on a waiting list. These patrons will be notified the day of the program if space becomes available to them.
  • All contests are turned in at the Reference desk. They will not be accepted after closing time on the date indicated on the contest.

Teen CoffeeHouses
During the school year we offer a Teen CoffeeHouse on Tuesdays after school from 3:00 to 4:30 PM. This has proven to be a popular program in the past. We have an average of 60 teens participate on a weekly basis. Teens are invited to hang out, play games or work on their homework and snacks are offered.

Outreach to the Schools
We endeavor to reach our target audience during the school year through the public school system. This allows the greatest opportunity to reach a large group of teens with the least amount of cost. Some of the ways we utilize the school include:

  • The faxing of announcements to all schools in the county for upcoming programs, etc.
  • School visits
  • Booktalking
  • Working with teachers to produce bibliographies, etc. on specific units or topics of interest to teens or for curriculum support.
  • Teacher services

A Note about Booktalking
A booktalk is a 30 second to 2 minute introduction to a book. A dramatic presentation is used to introduce teens to a book and give them just enough information to make them want to check out the book and find out what happened.

  • A minimum of 3 weeks notice is necessary to schedule a booktalk visit
  • All teachers must talk to the Teen Services Librarian to schedule booktalks

Sample Booktalks:
By Neil Gaiman
The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring. In Coraline’s new house there are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. Only it’s different . . .

The Giver
By Lois Lowry
Welcome to the community. It is perfect. Everything is under complete control. There is no war, no fear, no pain. And there are no choices. Are you willing to sacrifice freedom for perfection?

What the students say about booktalks:

  • “If it wasn’t for you, I would have lost the opportunity to read a lot of great books”
  • “You inspire us to read”
  • “I liked hearing about the books you brought”
  • “Thanks for bringing us books . . . It really helped us explore our horizons”
  • “You get me involved in books”
  • “Thank you for coming to our school and making the library seem fun to the people that don’t usually go”

Teen Readers Advisory
Teens today live in a very visual age and utilize technology more than previous generations. It is an increasing struggle to attract teens to the print medium of the book. All Reference staff provides basic RA services to teens. You can utilize the RA pamphlets provided in the teen area as well as various resources online. When helping teens select books please remember:

  • Try to provide the teen readers with a couple of choices. Teens who choose books on their own are more likely to read the entire book and enjoy the reading experience.
  • Use terminology such as, “other teens have enjoyed”, “is popular” to appeal to teen’s interest.

Helping Teens Find and Select Books

  • Check on the library blog for reading lists on a variety of topics, including Inspirational fiction, Historical fiction, books for guys and books for girls as well as books recommended by grade level.
  • Read the inside front cover or back cover for a brief synopsis of the book. Be sure to pay attention to the topics of the book and the age of the characters. Books with younger teen characters or middle school settings will deal with situations and subject matters common among this age group. Similarly, books dealing with older teen characters and high school settings will deal with situations and subject matters common among this age group.
  • Take a few moments to look up books you are interested in the library’s catalog. When you find the title you are looking for select “details” and you can find subject headings, a brief summary and sometimes excerpts are provided.
  • Investigate titles by reading book reviews online. Book reviews can be found at Amazon .com or Barnes and Noble.com. Reviews provided are by professional journals, such as the School Library Journal, and other readers, often teens. VOYA.com is a journal that deals exclusively with book titles of interest to teens.

Teen Web Page
Teens today are very connected. The teen web page seeks to be a virtual library for teens in our community. We utilize the following technology to help meet the interests of our teen patrons:

  • The Teen webpage – basic program information
  • The Teen Blog – book reviews, basic program information, photos, links, etc.
  • The Teen Scene Facebook page – announcements of upcoming programs or books, daily communication

Teen Collection
The teen collection currently focuses on fiction, graphic novels and audio books. There is a small, focused collection of teen nonfiction that covers spirituality, friendship and peer relations, crafts, etc. Basic school (academic support) information is interfiled with the adult nonfiction so that teens can find a wide variety of academic resources in one location.

Teens interests and abilities are as varied as any other age group, and our collection reflects that. The library’s policy maintains an adherence to intellectual freedom standards and supports the right of the parent to guide their teen’s reading selections, as stated in the library’s policy. If there are any concerns about materials in the teen area, please follow the library’s materials challenge policy.

Merchandising (Shelving) in the Teen Area
Teens are visual and we strive to maximize our face out displays to promote materials and increase circulation.  Please see the following training sheet to see what the teen area should look like.

A merchandising example from Marion Public Library
Marion, Ohio

Miscellaneous Information about Teen Services

  • Parents are responsible for helping their teens select appropriate books. The Library does not endorse specific titles, nor does it act in loco parentis.
  • If you notice that a lot of teens are requesting a book title or asking for specific types of information to complete an assignment, please pass this information along to the Teen Services librarian. This information is useful to us in collection development, the future development of programs and the development of research aids such as pathfinders and booklists.
  • If a teacher, school or organization calls enquiring for services we do not currently offer, these requests will be evaluated on a case by case scenario depending on time and resources. Please refer these calls to the Teen Services librarian.

Your Role is an Important One!
Every day you will have the opportunity to interact with teens; you help shape their experiences in and opinion of the library.  Please take a moment weekly to review the Teen Scene newsletter so you know what we’re doing and how you can help us.  We are happy at any time to answer any questions or address any concerns.

Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff, Part 1

When working with teens, you will run across other library staff members that don’t necessarily jump on board (you know right this very moment a name has come up in your head). But there are things you can do to help them support your cause.
First make sure you have these basic elements in place: (1) a basic customer service plan, (2) the basics of adolescent development, (3) a basic acceptable behavior policy and (4) the basics of your teen services plan.

Basic Element 1: A Customer Service Plan
I am going to assume that you have a basic customer service plan and that all library staff members are trained in quality customer service. And yes, I do know what happens when you assume. But it is important to remind staff that every patron that walks through your doors gets the same quality of customer service regardless of their race, gender – and yes, their age. This should come from the top down and be a regular part of all your customer service discussions. Every patron should be greeted in a friendly manner, every question should be given the same quality answer, and every person who walks through your library doors should walk out feeling satisfied with their library experience. Teens are not just future library supporters, they are library supporters RIGHT NOW and it is their experiences in the library which will make them continue to be library supporters.

Basic Element 2: Understanding Teens
Next, get together a basic fact sheet on adolescent development to help staff understand why teens act the way they do. Why do they always walk through the doors in large, noisy groups? Well, teens are peer oriented and have just spent 8 hours trying to sit still, quietly, in school – but their bodies are not really designed to do this. Do some staff training exercises to get them thinking about what they were like when they were teens. What music did they like? What music? How much time they spent with their friends? How did they feel about adults and authority figures? Keep it simple, no more than a page of bullet points. There is a good overview at http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/350/350-850/350-850.html, but I would condense it down for staff. If you have a college or university in your town, or nearby, you can also ask a psychology professor to come in and give a brief presentation on the topic; I recommend doing this every couple of years as part of your staff training days.


Basic Element 3: An Acceptable Behavior Policy
Make sure you help administrators develop a good, basic acceptable behavior policy. This should be a brief policy that outlines the overall mission of the library and touches briefly on behaviors that would be a hindrance to others using the library. Your policy should also outline what actions library staff will take. Then all staff should be trained on how to handle difficult patron situations, when they should call the policy, how to diffuse potential problem situations, when to get other staff members involved, etc. It is important for staff to understand that the acceptable behavior policy applies to all patrons across the board, it is not a tool to tame teenagers – it is a tool to help staff achieve quality patron service and maintain access for all by maintaining a comfortable and safe library environment. Again, this is something that should be included as part of your staff training. Have staff engage in role playing activities and learn how to interact with teens in a wide variety of situations. Better yet, get a panel of teens together and having them discuss with staff positive and negative experiences they have had – in your library or in any business – to help them understand what quality customer service looks like to a teenager. Some example policies can be found at http://www.sharonpubliclibrary.org/about_policybehavior.htm and http://www.bpl.org/general/policies/acceptableuse.htm. You can also just google some examples.

Remember, teens actually want and need limits and they respect consistency – so it is important that every staff member deals with problem situations fairly, consistently and immediately. And remind staff that for every problem patron they have, whether teen or not, there are 100s of other patrons that will never cause a problem. We tend to focus on and remember our negative experiences, so your library should make it a practice to focus on and remember positive experiences (we will address this more in part 2); make it part of your library’s daily, weekly or monthly practice to share positive feedback from patrons.

The Wheelock College Library Code of Conduct

Basic Element 4: A Teen Services Plan
Then make sure you have a basic teen services plan in place. This should outline your department mission statement for teen services and demonstrate how it fulfills the overall library’s mission, it should touch upon YALSA standards for teen services and competencies as outlined at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/profdev/yacompetencies/evaltool.cfm. I also recommend that you familiarize yourself with the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets at http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18. The basic premise is that the more of the assets a teen has, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. These are a good framework for evaluating your overall service goals and for community to staff and community the benefit of teen services.

A Basic Teen Services Plan Should Include:
1. A mission statement, which should support the overall library mission
2. Goals – what are you trying to achieve and why; what steps will you take to achieve these goals

A special note about collections: Your library should have a collection development plan and materials challenge policy in place. All staff needs to understand the scope and breadth of a teen collection and be given the tools to address any challenges that may came up.

When you have these components in place, you now have the tools you need to communicate with staff, and to train any newly hired staff. In fact, talk to your administrators and make sure that a part of any new hire training involves sitting down with you and discussing teen services. Also, discuss with administrators the need to have a teen services representative at all management meetings to help ensure that any new policies and procedures that are being discussed are considering the potential impact on this section of the population; children and adults are often well represented on management teams, but I have found there is often a disconnect when it comes to teen services and management. Internet policies, obtaining library card policies, and the use of AV materials are just some of the areas that are interesting areas for teen services librarians.

In Part 2 we discuss developing regular communications with library staff.  Remember, communication=marketing!

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

First off, I realize not everyone has an iPhone and I apologize.  Also, I don’t know if the apps are available on other form platforms, but if they are – I recommend you check them out. 

When trying to come up with images to promote activities, reads, etc – well, sometimes I just can’t find something I think will work well so I have had to find an easy way to go out and create them on my own. I am not super talented at this, nor do I have a lot of time, so I need quick, easy and cheap tools.  Thankfully, I have found there are a ton of iPhone apps that help me fill the bill.

Along the way I have come to understand that teens love it when you use THEM in your images.  How fun is it to walk into your local library’s teen area and be able to say to your friends, hey that’s me?  It makes it feel more personal and cultivates that same sense of ownership that librarian’s try to achieve through advisory boards.  Check to see if your library has a policy for the use of photos, and then get creating.  You can create images to share online, in marketing tools and to decorate your teen space.  You can also ask your teens to create images and share them with you so that you can use them this way.  This is a great way to promote your teen area, teen services in general, or specific programs and events.

Made in Publisher using a variety of pics and some Wordle art

Imagine clicking on a short promo video for a library’s teen summer reading club and seeing your friends promoting it – it gives it a sense of fun.  It’s the ultimate way of tapping into teens and their peer orientation.  And the bonus is that teens are more likely to spread the word if they have that type of buy in.

So, here they are

1.Hipstamatic – This is my favorite camera app.  The basic package starts at $1.99 and then you can purchase additional film/lens/flash packs.  You want to be sure and buy the additional b&w package for some amazing b&w images.  This is a simple point and click camera, but it produces the most amazing looking images.  You’ll want to practice with it to find out what combinations create which affects, but they have a new contest feature on the app which gives some examples and they tell you which combinations were used to create each image.  The only downfall to this camera app is that what you see in through the image finder is not true to what is being taken, the perspective is a bit off.

Made in PowerPoint using a pic taken with Hipstamatic

2.  Pocketbooth – This app lets you create a 4 image photo strip like you would take in a photobooth.  It is easy and fun.  You can create this type of image using a variety of software editing tools pretty easily, but this app takes the pictures 1 after another pretty quickly like you are sitting in the actual photo booth.  You can choose black and white or color so there are options.

3.  Wordfoto – This app lets you take a photo and input a saying and then it recreates the photo out of words.  There are some ways of fine tuning the way it looks, but at the end of the day some photos work well in this app and other do not.

4.  Photo Shake – This app lets you input a bunch of pictures and create a collage.  This is a more extensive tool that takes a while to figure out how to use it successfully, but once you do it is worth it.

5.  Zombie Booth – Who doesn’t love zombies?  Take a picture of a teen and zombify them.  Yes, I know that isn’t a word.  Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, also has a zombie app but it is kind of lame – but the book is awesome!  I prefer this app.

6.  Adobe Photoshop – It is a more simplistic version of the popular software, you can do less but it is easier to use.  Great for adding a border or making a picture tinted.

7.  Photoforge – This app let’s you manipulate pictures more extensively than the Adobe app, but it is more complicated to use.

8.  Color Splash – This app takes a color picture, turns and black and white, and allows you to colorize a part of the picture for emphasis.  It can make amazing images.

9.  Super 8 – This is a video camera app that allows you to make old Super 8 looking movies.  It is a tie-in to the recent Super 8 movie.  You and your teens can make some fun promotional videos with this app.

10.  Comic Book – This app is a quick, easy way to put your pictures from your photo library into a comic book format.  There are a variety of layouts, word bubbles, and stickers to add.
Each app is just a tool, and are only successful if you use them.  So practice.  Then you can use your images on your FB page, webpage, blog, signs, posters and more.  You and your teens can get creative and have fun.  You can work together, have contests, and promote, promote, promote!
Please note: I am not involved in any way with any of these apps and I make no money from recommending them.  I just like to use them in a variety of tools because they do what I need them to do.

Another great part about creating your own images to use in promotional materials – you don’t have to worry about copyright issues.
And let me take a moment to make the unconventional suggestion that your library purchase an iPhone for library use.  Not only will this allow you to have one in house for the purposes listed above, but it gives you a library cell phone to use should you be in a program and need to call for additional supplies or help.  And really, with the wide number and variety of apps available, you can do a lot of things with it.  And no, I am not paid by Apple in any way.

Teen Read Week 2011: Book Quotation Celebration

The other day I stumbled across a cool Perks of Being a Wallflower Poster, and as I looked for a good copy to share with you my Google image search revealed a ton of amazing cool fan art that involved teens’ favorite quotes from the book.  When I read, I always keep a journal by my side and write down my favorite quotes so I understand the motivation to collect quotes.

That and a recent encounter with an awesome display at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History got me thinking about a great program idea for Teen Read Week 2011.

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

This year’s Teen Read Week theme is Picture It @ Your Library and it runs from October 16-22.

What a great program (or contest) idea . . . have teens take their favorite book quotes and turn them into works of art.  You can upload the artwork and share it digitally, use it to decorate your teen space, and let your teens walk away with a tangible remembrance of their favorite book.  Plus, this type of programming and decorating gives teens buy in to your library and teen department.

This type of programming is also a great way to promote creativity, literacy, and computer/technology skills which all teens need.  There are a wide variety of tools your teens can use to create images:  they can do it free hand or use any type of program such as Microsoft Publisher, PowerPoint, Gimp, PhotoShop or any combination of the above.  If you don’t currently have access to a good photo editing program you can download Gimp for free.  PowerPoint is a particularly useful program for teens as a lot of schools require presentations now with this program as a part of their technology literacy curriculum.

In whatever programming you do, it is important that teens are engaged and have buy in.  And it is always a bonus if they can walk away with a product in their hands, especially one created for them by them.

So here’s a general outline and suggested timeline:

Set a launch date and dates for the artwork submission and determine the structure of your program: I suggest artwork be submitted prior to TRW if you want to have a reception where you announce the winner, or during TRW if that is when you want voting to take place.  Also determine if part of your program is going to be to have a teen tech lab day where teens can come in and use the library’s computers and get assistance from you to learn how to use the software and create their images.  This is, of course, completely dependent on your library’s ability to offer this type of programming.  If you don’t the tools, I recommend spending some time researching and writing a grant so that your library can purchase laptops and provide this type of teen programming in the future.  Or ask your administration if it is possible to have an after hours event and let the teens use your public computers.

Set up a prize:  Maybe a local art or craft store can donate a gift card or prize packet.  Or put together a book basket of art books and tools.  Or something cool like a digital camera.

Set up your general guidelines: size, mode of submission, format, etc.  The main component would be that it has to include a quote from a book.  You can specify if you want to limit it to teen books, or only teen fiction.  I would love it open to any book because whatever moves you, moves you.  You’ll want to specify in the guidelines that the quotation also include the title and author from the book, so that others seeing the piece can know where to find the book should they want to read it.  Yep, it’s a great RA tool, too.  When working with teenagers I really encourage you to have online modes of submission so let teens send their artwork to your work e-mail address, or set up a free account specifically for this task.  You’ll want to specify size so that you have a standard format to work with.  I usually include some type of statement about the library reserving the right to disqualify any submissions that include inappropriate content to make administrators happy, but it has never been an issue.

Set up your promotional campaign: theme, timeline.  Create promotional posters and an entry form.  I will work on putting together a template you can download and share them next week, or you can create your own.  I usually include on any submission form a place for teens to sign saying that they indicate it is an original piece of art (or poem or short story) and it doesn’t violate any copyright laws.  It won’t necessarily stop all violations, but I think it gets teens to stop and think about it for a moment.

Set up your support team: contact your area art teachers and get them on board, give them entry forms to pass out to students.  I recommend doing this a couple of weeks after school starts.  The first couple of weeks are kind of busy, but you want to get the information out there and give teens time to create, create, create!  Contact your local paper and ask them to run an article about TRW, popular teen titles, and your contest.  Get signs up everywhere, especially in your local arts district areas, your schools and anywhere in your community teens hang out.  Also, keep in mind that most churches have youth groups and they may be willing to put your signs up and pass the word along.  Contact your local radio station and ask them to run a psa for you. 

Also, remember that all library staff are a part of your support team.  Make sure they understand the process and guidelines.  Make sure they have a plentiful supply of fliers to put in patrons hands – all patrons, they may not be a teen but they may be the parent or a grandparent of a teen who doesn’t use the library and this is just the thing to get them involved.  Don’t limite your signs to the teen area, put them up in public spaces and near your nonfiction collection of art and drawing books.  Keep staff updated with weekly e-mails and share some submissions with them.  Communication is key in working with staff and you want to acknowledge that they are an important part of the process.

Set up your voting mechanism:  Determine how, or if, you want teens to vote. It doesn’t have to be a competition, but it would certainly be a fun one.  I recommend uploading and promoting online voting.  You could also set up a display and ballot box in your teen area to promote voting.  Or, better yet, do both and reach a wider audience.

So, to get us all in the spirit of this year’s TRW, I am going to ask you all to create your own Book Quotation Celebration and share it here on the TLT Facebook wall.  Be creative.  Have fun.  And celebrate the books that move you.  Here’s mine . . .

Other variations could include:
  • Create your own book cover or poster for your favorite book
  • Create your own READ type poster
  • Create a poster (basically an “ad”) for the teen area using pictures of yourself and your friends at the library
  • Create a collage or comic book cover for your favorite book

Make the Most of Your Teen Services FB Page

Hopefully, you have a teen services FB page.  This is a great way for you to remind teens of upcoming programs, new books, popular culture tidbits, great homework sites and have fun, informal contests and chats.  When creating a teen services FB page, make sure it is not tied to your personal account but to your library or work e-mail, always keep your personal stuff personal.  Your library may want to explore creating a social media policy to help outline what staff can and can’t do using the library’s FB page (here is an example http://lis768.tametheweb.com/libraryschool/2011/02/20/a-public-library-social-media-policy/).  But in addition to having a main library page, you should have teen centric one that allows you to meet your teens in their world./

Here is a look at some of the fun things you can do with your FB account, some of which I have done and others I have simply stolen 🙂  I mean borrowed . . . I am, after all, a librarian!

Remember, the goal of your page is to Engage, Promote and Share

Promote Your Collection, Favorite Titles, Programs, Services and More


Start off each week with First Day, First Lines – post a first line from a new book, or an old favorite.  This is a simple way to do some basic online RA.  Or, do popular lines and see if teens can guess which book it is from.

Save your event fliers as a .jpeg and post them on your site to promote upcoming events.  This gives you something visual to share when inviting teens to programs.  You can also do this with RA slides and posters.
Share Book Trailers – make your own (you can use tools like MovieMaker or Animoto) or repost other.  There are great sites for these and you can just search Teen Book Trailers on YouTube.  Naomi Bates has a great tutorial on making book trailers at http://www.screenr.com/user/naomibates and she shares her book trailers at http://www.nisdtx.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=3590

Have an online scavenger hunt: Ask a question that requires teens to use your online catalog or databases to answer.  Your teens will learn library resources and research skills while having fun.

Don’t forget your magazine collection.  Most of your magazines have online counterparts – send a link to the headline and invite your teens to come in and browse through your mags.

Teen Title Teasers – Scramble book titles and see if teens can unscramble them to get the correct book title, or doing an secret code type of thing.  It’s a fun way to promote materials.
Share your book reviews – keep it positive but honest.
Online RA – Have a weekly day and time for a chat session, or post RA lists like If You Like Twilight . . . you will also like (And here’s a cool tool, you can take the graphics from this very page and post them on your page.  Yep, that’s what they are there for).
Get Your Teens Engaged: Involved, Creating, Voting and Discussing
Take pictures of your teens in your teen area or at programs and post them (make sure you abide by your library’s photo policy if you have one).  This is a great way to do a Look Who Go Caught Reading type of thing.  You can show teens in action, or get creative and make awesome pics using a variety of tools.  If you have an iPhone, there are a variety of apps you can use to make excellent, creative pictures with little time and effort and they are easy to upload.

Made with the WordFoto app on iPhone

Make up your own awards and get teens voting.  Be sure to have a mock Printz Award campaign in January.

Push out links of interest to your teens.  You can cover things like news about books being made into movies, campaigns like It Gets Better, PSAs, movie reviews and more.  Spend time browsing sites like Popwatch.ew.com, Seventeen magazine, TV Squad, Teen.com.  Don’t forget to add the occasional humor like Cakewrecks.  See what your teens have to say.
At prom time, get daring and post your high school prom pic.  Do the same for graduation, etc.  In fact, you can play a fun game of “Guess the Library Staff” with baby pics or school pics.  Don’t forget that part of engaging your teens includes sharing yourself – so have fun with it.
Speaking of fun little contests – FB is a great, fast way to do this.  Post a picture of a Transformer and see who can guess which Transformer it is.  Or HP cast member. Or a book cover with the title removed.  It can be just for fun or you can offer some type of prize – $5.00 off of your fines, a bonus SRC entry, whatever.  You can also save contest sheets as .jpegs and share them for teens to download and fill out.

Have an online book discussion group.  Everyone meets online at a certain day and time and you use the FB chat feature to talk about your group’s book.

True or False – Yep, the simple game is great for FB.  Put out a whimsical true or false challenge out there and see what kind of response you get.

Truth or Dare – Dare your teens to come in and talk to you about a book, to bring you something, or whatever.  Or ask a question – what’s your favorite book and why? – and see what kind of discussion you can get started.
Pimp My FB – Spend some time researching apps and put together a program where you help teens personalize their FB page.  You can add banners and apps to make it more personal and increase functionality. 

Have a tech lab where teens create pictures, posters and more and then share them on FB.  This is a great way to teach teens tech skills and have teen generated content to share on your FB page.  You can use things like Publisher, Powerpoint, Gimp and more.  Or you can get ambitious and let teens make their own videos (outside the library or part of a program) to share.  You can even get them to make commercials for your library or SRC, book trailers (see above) and more. 
Post movie and tv clips and trailers.  You can share the newest Breaking Dawn trailer with your teens.  Or a funny clip from Hannah Montana that features John Cena as part of the WWE’s promotion of reading www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZB1gzoz8f8
Have teens help you with collection development.  My arch nemesis is always graphic novels so I would occasionally put it out there: What graphic novel series do I need to buy, and why!
Post popular new music videos.  This week both Selena Gomez and Beyonce are duking it out at the stores – show them videos and let them choose a winner.  You can also share music videos and post booklists of books that share the same theme.  Or create playlists from teen fiction.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Just Listen have built in playlists.  Sarah Dessen also has a great discussion about her playlist online.
Use the new FB poll feature – it’s fun and fast.  Toss out polls like, what’s your favorite book in the HP series?  Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?  Who do you think should play Katniss in the Hunger Games movie?
Allow teens the opportunity to get creative.  They can make pictures and stuff from home and then post them on your page if you set your wall up correctly.  Do like a postsecret.com event (making sure of course to put something in the guidelines about acceptable images and language).  They can also do things like create a poster for the upcoming Hunger Games or Breaking Dawn movies.  Be sure to check out my great contest idea for this year’s Teen Read Week theme, https://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=250713701621367.  Here’s my example . . .
Have a scrap and brag – There are a ton of free online scrapbooking tools.  Have a contest – have teens create a scrapbook page of their favorite teen library event, favorite book or whatever.  The images are uploaded, a voting window is put out there and then a winner is declared.  You can use tools like scrapblog, blogster, or simply do it in Publisher.

Every year I have a teen contest to have teens create the artwork for my teen summer reading club.  Have them upload it online and let voting commence.  This is a great way to get teens involved and generate some pre-publicity for your TSRC.  I usually solicit entries during the month of March, determine a winner in the first couple of weeks of April, and then put out my publicity using the winning image in May.  This generates great pre-buzz for the TSRC and incorporates teen ownership and buy in for your programming.
Make the Most of YOUR FB page 
Pimp YOUR FB page – seriously, there are a lot of tools out there.  Make sure you make the most out of your FB page.  This will take a little bit of time on your part, but there are tons of articles that discuss the best free FB apps and you can find the right one for you.  There are also apps let you create banners (or use a premade one) and you can download fun, creative sidebars.

If you have a blog, link it to your FB page.  Then every time you update your teen services FB status it will show up in your Blog.

Be sure to put your “Like us on FB” logo on every piece of paper you give to teens and post it in your teen area.  They need to know you are out there.
Here are some articles with additional tips:
http://www.techprone.com/10-best-facebook-applications/ – I linked to this article because it mentions Static FBML, this app is mentioned in a ton of best app articles

A Teen Programming Primer

At some point or another, as a teen librarian, you may find yourself having to talk to staff and administrators about library programming.  Sometimes you may have to address funding issues.  Other times you may find yourself having to justify the amount of staff time that is spend developing, marketing and executing teen programs.  And at other times you may have to find yourself helping staff and administrators understand and deal with teen behavior issues.  Despite the amount of time and money that teen programming can consume, and the behavior problems that can sometimes come along with teen programs, it is an essential part of teen services in any public library.  The bottom line is this:  Programming helps teens understand the role of the library, how to use it and its resources, and it helps cultivate lifelong library users and supporters.

Why do libraries engage in programming, including teen programming?

It is a marketing tool that keeps your library visible in the community
Each program you have makes your presence known in the community and communicates the message that your library is a viable part of the community’s educational and recreational needs.  It also communicates the message that you understand, value and respect the teens in your community and are actively providing a way to meet their needs.

It helps bring in new library patrons
Each program is an opportunity for a new teenager to become a regular library user

It helps bring in return business
Each program, especially those in a series like storytimes or Teen CoffeeHouse/Cafes, helps bring in repeat business

It allows libraries the opportunity to build community partnerships
Programs are opportunities to work with various community resources and build partnerships – which most libraries have as one of their primary goals.  You can partner with local businesses and agencies for prizes, share time and financial resources (as well as wisdom and experiences) and piggyback with larger agencies to gain greater visibility.  For example, your local big Brothers/Big Sisters has developed programs that can be done right in your library thus saving you the time of developing a new program; these programs involve financial education, health and more that are based on researched standards and well developed.

It increases circulation, promotes your collection and promotes literacy
As you develop a core teen patron base, your circulation will increase.  In addition, you will have opportunities to better know your teen patrons and learn their reading interests so that you can purchase and place targeted books in their hands.  Since teens are so peer oriented, they will often become your best publicity.  The greatest thing that will ever happen is to stumble across a read that a teen loves and get them to tell all their friends that they have to read this book.  Each program is also an opportunity to highlight parts of your collection or simply display new teen titles.

It helps fulfill important goals and objectives for our community members such as Every Child Ready to Read, the 40 Developmental Assets, etc.
As children and teens meet healthy development requirements, the community as a whole – including the library – benefits.  Healthy community members=healthy communities.
Every Child Ready to Read http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/ecrr/index.cfm
40 Developmental Assets http://www.search-institute.org/assets/

It helps fulfill your library’s mission statement
Your library should have a well developed mission statement and it should include a reference to programming.  Even if it doesn’t, programming helps meet educational goals, recreational goals and life long learning goals and these are all a part of most library mission statements.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
Each program is an opportunity to market your library.  They demonstrate that “wow” factor: here is an exciting event for your patrons to participate in.  And the bottom line is it is easier to market an individual program than to market the all inclusive but abstract value of the library.  An event is easier to market than a concept, but each event can help reinforce the concept theme that public libraries are valuable and exciting.  In addition, by having a wide variety of events, you can increase the variety of marketing targets.  A craft program will meet the needs to one part of your audience while a gaming program will meet the needs of a different part of your audience.

Foundations of Teen programming

  • It is essential in dealing with teens that you understand and respect the teenage years and developmental process.

Not only must you, as a teen librarian, have this knowledge, but you must actively and continually share it with all library staff.  Provide training events that allows staff to understand adolescent development and develop successful strategies in interacting with teen patrons.  These training opportunities should have opportunities for staff to remember what it was like for them as a teen – what they liked, what they thought, how they felt.  As they remember this time it can help them develop compassion and tolerance.  In addition, a variety of role playing events should be included so that staff can practice what they will say to teen patrons and feel more comfortable when situations arise.  If possible, get together a panel of teens to talk about their experiences in the library – both successful and not – so that staff can hear straight from teens what they do and don’t like.

  • Spend some time researching the teenage brain

Research shows that the teenage brain is different than any other age.  Understanding the how and why can help you better work with teens and meet their needs.  There are a couple of good book resources out there that discuss this topic, and you can visit a couple of different websites to help in your research.
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teenage-brain-a-work-in-progress-fact- sheet/index.shtml

  • It is important to note key characteristics of teens:

(1)   they are peer oriented
(2)   different areas of their brain are engaged differently then adults, see above,
(3)   they have a belief system of “it can’t happen to me” which results in them taking chances

  • You must spend time immersing yourself in teen popular culture – keep on top of what games they like to play, what music and movies are popular, etc.  Visit popular teen web resources, watch popular teen programs, and browse through your teen magazines monthly.  You can’t serve someone unless you know what they like and want.

Organizing teen programming

  • Structured vs. Unstructured – there should ultimately be a variety of degrees in structure.  Not all programs should be structured, nor should they all be without structure.  Variety is indeed the spice of life.
  • Passive vs. Active – Passive programs allow teens to work in their own space at their own pace.  These can include contests, scavenger hunts, etc.  Active programs have the benefit of being completed in a finite amount of time, bringing teens together with their peers, and have that “wow” factor that demonstrates that the library is a fun, exciting place to be.
  • Audience – middle school teens are often a library’s primary audience because they come with the least amount of competition.  High school students are more engaged in extra curricular activities, relationships and jobs.  This means that you have to work harder to draw in high school students, but it is essential that every library does.
  • Type of program –
    • Gaming – can include video games or traditional board games.  Or get creative and do large scale versions of popular games such as a murder mystery (live Clue) or a human chess tournament,
    • Scavenger Hunts (fun and help teens learn rudimentary library skills),
    • Cafes (least amount of prep and planning, allow teens to be in peer group settings),
    • Crafts (costly, very limited target area, but can promote library collection and provide a sense of satisfaction as teens walk out with something they have made),
    • Speakers (most boring for teens – demand them to sit and reminds them of school – but provides them with important information and very likely to reinforce library services or collection areas),
    • Book clubs,
    • Teen advisory boards (gives teens input, can take a lot of time involvement)

Goals and Evaluations

  • Before organizing a program, determine what your specific goals are: audience, attendance, expenditures – both staff time and money, and what you want the teens to accomplish
  • Have a mechanism in place after a program so that you can determine if you have met your goals and how you can further meet them in the future.


  • Schools – flyers or announcements, here you have a captive audience
  • Local businesses – signs
  • Word of mouth is your best publicity – as you develop teen followers, they will spread the news for you
  • If you have the means, collect e-mail addresses and send notices, get a Facebook page and use the event function and post reminders in your status feed
  • Develop routines so that teens can better predict programming – every Tuesday, the first Saturday of the month, etc.  This eliminates some of the guess work for your patrons.


  • Join a YALSA list-serv (there are several, some are for books and some are for programming)
  • Look at what other libraries are doing
  • Develop relationships with other teen librarians
  • There are several book resources: Patrick Jones, 101 teen programs that work, alterna teens

Web sources:

Teen Services Best Practices and Competencies
A checklist for what you need to know and be as a teen librarian: