Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: 3 cheap and easy after school programs

I’m always looking for small program ideas that don’t take a lot of planning time, are inexpensive, are flexible, and appeal widely. Here are three to try.

Sci-Fi Stitches – or – Embroidered notecards

You can be silly or serious with this one. I did both and both were fun. For the “sci-fi stitches” I printed a bunch of different old timey photos onto cardstock (check Pinterest, there are gobs of people who have boards full of quirky and interesting old black and white photos). For the embroidered notecards, I supplied some adult coloring sheets to use as templates.

IMG_20170112_165822354 IMG_20170112_163628900

IMG_20170124_210229700 IMG_20170124_203629464

Supplies

  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needles
  • small pieces of corrugated cardboard
  • cardstock
  • tape
  • thumbtacks
  1. Draw your pattern onto the cardstock
  2. Place the cardstock on top of the cardboard. Using the thumbtack, poke holes along the pattern. If you’re using a coloring sheet as a template, you can punch right through the sheet itself.
  3. Thread your needle and start stitching into the holes. Use the tape to secure the floss at the back of the card.

Zenstones, aka draw on rocks

Seriously, drawing on rocks sounded kind of boring, but if you call it zenstones… or maybe rock-dalas… or meditation nuggets…  suddenly it’s a THING!

IMG_20170126_160502185 IMG_20170126_160509579 IMG_20170126_155408110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supplies

  • bag of rocks
  • permanent markers (black for light colored rocks, silver for black rocks)

This one was stone simple [lol!]. I had a bag of rocks left over from a gardening craft and I borrowed a few of the silver sharpies from the Tech Processing department and that was it. The kids did this for close to an hour. It was kind of amazing. This would be an easy pick for self-directed programming and could dovetail nicely with a number of seasonal themes.

Emoji Spelling Bee

Hey look! It’s not a craft! I heard about the “First Ever Emoji Spelling Bee” that happened at last fall’s Emojicon (a celebration of all things emoji) and it seemed like an activity begging to be turned into a teen program.

emojis: snail, minus sign, shell

Supplies

  • a list of silly words and phrases
  • teen supplied phones OR a computer projected onto a shared screen that can access an Emoji Keyboard Online
  • a timer

Have the teens come up with the words and phrases to challenge each other or make a list ahead of time. For each turn, give a teen one word/phrase clue and set a timer. When the timer is up, they are done and the rest of the group gets to decide if the phrase is “spelled” correctly or not.

Embracing Content Creation Queries – Guest post by Lynette Pitrak

“I want to design a Gandalf figure to print on the 3D printer.”

“How do I insert text over my video in iMovie?”

“I want to take pictures of the fall leaves on the trees in my neighborhood… but it’s really cloudy today.”

I’m paraphrasing here, but all three of the above are questions I’ve received from teenagers over the past week. When confronted with complex content creation issues, I usually find myself having two thoughts simultaneously:

“I have the best job EVER— teenagers are so cool!!!”

“OMG I have no idea how to do that—  I am the worst librarian in the world!!!”

Maybe some of you can relate? If you’re anything like me, you had a specific major in college (for me— art history/painting) and then completed an MLS or MLIS degree to become a librarian. I didn’t study computer science/filmmaking/music editing/photography in college or graduate school. But still, patrons ask me questions about all of these things (and much more :)) on a regular basis.

And to make things more overwhelming, I want to give the right answer! Librarians are people pleasers; we got into this profession because we LOVE helping people and want to add value to their lives– whether that be in connecting someone with a new favorite author, finding a historical stock price a patron needs when filing taxes, recommending a great gluten-free cookbook, or helping a teenager capture a photographic image. Sometimes, it can feel to me like content creation questions are more daunting than any other kind, because in that situation, a teen is trying to make something that is dependent on the help I am giving them. Luckily though, as a librarian, I have some pretty awesome training and resources to rely on:

  1. LIBRARIANS CREATED THE REFERENCE INTERVIEW! This is one of the first things we probably all learned in library school, and still so important. This is usually the first thing I will try to remember when helping a teenager who has a content creation query. For example, when working with the teenager who wanted to design a Gandalf figure to print on the 3D printer, it was very helpful for me to ask a few background questions. The first of these was, “What program are you using the design the figure?” By asking this, I was able to have a great conversation with this teen. I realized she hadn’t ever coded anything before and wasn’t sure what kind of program to use. She just wanted a Gandalf figurine! This was awesome because first, I could direct her to a program called Thingiverse. This program contains pre-designed 3D images which can be downloaded and then printed on a 3D printer. Natalie was able to get her Gandalf figurine easily this way. Even cooler, she was really interested when I was explaining about how use a program like Tinkercad to code a design that could later be printed on the 3D printer. So we set up a future appointment so that I can teach her to use this program to do some basic coding! She’ll learn some new skills to gain confidence for designing her own figures (and, over time, maybe build up to coding something as complicated as a Gandalf).
  2. LIBRARIANS ARE SURROUNDED BY BOOKS AND THE INTERNET! When working at the library, I am literally surrounded by books and computers with internet access. The librarians who order in our 000s area have built and maintained a wonderful collection of books focused on effectively using technology. It has been important for me to remember that there is no reason why I should feel awkward grabbing one of those books to look up how to do a specific thing, such as laying text over video in the iMovie program!! This is exactly what I did when working with Sam. I consulted our copy of My iMovie by Craig Johnston and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Duncan and used the table of contents to locate the section that discussed text overlays. Sam didn’t think I was unintelligent for having to look up the answer to this question! He was just so happy that I was excited to help him, and that I was able to work with him to try out the techniques recommended in the book until we ended up with what he wanted to do in his film. Next time, he’ll not only know where we keep our resources for computer help, but he’ll also remember that the librarians are always willing to help him. I also use YouTube videos all of the time when answering questions like this. This super easy-to-follow and informative video is just 3 minutes long, and answered all of the questions we had about text overlay in iMovie. Videos such as this one were created by regular people to help viewers do particular things that the creators of the video have also struggled with, and they are in abundance on YouTube!
  3. LIBRARIANS KNOW HOW TO PLAY AROUND! When Chicago Public Library opened their first YOUMedia space, they centered the space around the HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out) philosophy. One aspect of this model is that hands on, playful exploration leads to real learning. Working with content creation equipment and software is enhanced by being willing to experiment and play. When Jade asked me how to best take photographs that would emphasize the colorful falls leaves without becoming too dark (because the day was overcast), this was an opportunity to play with the library’s DSLR camera. A rule of thumb is that when shooting on a cloudy day, traditionally the camera’s aperture should be set to f/2.8 to f/4. However, other factors are also important to consider, such as depth of field, balance of shadows and light, and image clarity. Trial and error is key, and it is important to take a lot of bad pictures before finding the right combination. After consulting our library’s amazing IT Department assistant manager (shout out Jason!) for recommendations, we just played with the camera. I showed Jade how to use the DSLR camera’s menu settings to change aperture and shutter speed, how to check the light meter, and how to zoom in and out with the camera’s lens. Some pictures were totally washed out and some were blurry, but when we discovered a combination that worked (f/2.8, 1/100—tripod needed!), the results were beautiful! And now Jade feels confident that she can mess around with the DSLR to teach herself, which was the best part of that experience.
Too much light

Too much light

Not enough light

Not enough light

Good combination of aperture and shutter speed

Good combination of aperture and shutter speed

I hope these examples of some of the experiences I have recently had have been helpful for you!! Next time you a  re approached by a teen with a complicated content creation question, just take a moment to breathe and recall your librarian training… And recognize how lucky you are to have such amazing teens asking you for help!!! :)

 

Read more about Lynette’s work with teens in a creative makerspace setting:

View From Behind The Lens

View From Behind The Lens, It’s a Wrap!

View From the Director’s Chair

View from the Director’s ChairP It’s a Wrap!

Take 5 Community Reads for YA

Thinking about doing a community-wide read for teens? You could create a list of companion books for teens inspired by an adult selection like the St. Joseph County Public Libraries did, you could select a book specifically for your teens, or you could encourage the whole community to dive into teen lit by selecting a YA market book for everyone to read. There are lots of options. Check out these five titles that have been used around the country to create conversations, build community, and involve books and programming around books in teens’ lives in a big way.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

A contemporary realistic title with broad age appeal can open conversation to a wide audience on a variety of current issues that impact the daily lives of teens.

Selected by Goodnow Library, Sudbury, MA

https://goodnowlibrary.org/news/one-book-one-school/

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

A book with a strong fan base will make promoting the event a lot easier – readers who love the book will be your best advertisement.

Selected by Lenape Regional High School District, Shamong, NJ

http://www.lrhsd.org/domain/35

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Pull in so-called “non readers” by thinking beyond novels. Graphic novels and nonfiction appeal on topic and delivery in a way that gives you a great jumping off point for conversations and programming.

Selected by Newton South High School, Newton, MA

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Look to nonfiction about current issues with an engaging delivery to involve high school aged teens and adults for conversations that impact all of us in modern society.

Selected by Fairfield, CT

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

A well loved classic that offers lots of programming potential and builds on the nostalgia factor. Reading it again as a teen might bring surprising realizations for those who skimmed over bits when they were younger.

Selected by Westmont Public Library, Westmont, IL

 

TPIB: Photo Shrink Jewelry Charms

shrinkydinks4Although we have some permanent stations set up in our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, we also occasionally rotate in some different stations to make sure our teens have a variety of activities to engage in. One of our permanent stations includes a bank of iPads which we encourage the teens to do many things with, including create digital media and do photo manipulation. If you have read many posts here at TLT, you know that I am quite obsessed with photo apps and photo manipulation and creation. It is one of my favorite things to do (my phone currently has 14,000 pictures on it and that is not hyperbole). And I then like to find creative things to do with those photos: like turn them into shrink plastic jewelry.

If you are thinking Shrinky Dinks – well, you are right, kind of. Shrinky Dinks are a brand name, there are other types of shrink plastic. And there is shrink plastic that you can put right into your printer, which is my kind of shrink plastic. So this summer, we made photo shrink plastic jewelry with our teens. Today I’m going to tell you how.

Supplies

shrinkydins

  • 2.25 circle punch. I use this one, but you can also just shape fill a 2.25 circle on your computer’s graphics program and a pair of scissors. I like the circle punch because it is a clean circle and it is quick.
  • Standard single hole punch (1/4 inch)
  • Photo printer shrink plastic, as pictured above. There are a few brand options, just make sure it says photo or printer friendly.
  • Some type of technology and a printer
  • A heat source: I recommend a toaster oven
  • A brown grocery bag or lunch sack
  • A metal tray (this usually comes with your toaster oven)
  • Oven mitts
  • A hot pad or trivet
  • Jewelry making findings and tools

Step 1: Creating your images

Before your can print and shrink your images, you need to create your images. For example, you can use Instagram images. Or use any variety of apps to create the images you would like to create(see below for a list of my favorites). When creating or choosing an already existing image, you want to make sure of two things:

1) That they will fit into the 2.25 inches size nicely and

2) That putting a hole in the top or on the sides – more about this in a moment – won’t obscure the important parts of the image. For example, if you are doing a photo with people you’ll want to make sure that you won’t be cutting off their heads when you put a hole in the top.

shrinkydinks7

For my example bracelet, The Mr. had created a series of Doctor Who inspired silhouette drawings to decorate The Teens room. I took pictures of those pieces of art and used a variety of apps to add backgrounds, text, etc. I then uploaded the images to my laptop so that I could print them.

Step 2: Printing your images

You’ll want to follow all printing instructions on your shrink plastic. For example, you will want to reduce the color intensity because the colors gets darker when the images shrink.

shrinkydinks8

For making jewelry charms, after much experimentation, we have found that 2.25 inches is a good size to begin with pre-shrink. In addition, a standard hole punch at the top shrinks down to a good size for a top loop and threading onto some type of jewelry finding. You can alternately put a hole on the left and right side using your hole punch to make a fitted charm bracelet where you loop thread or o rings through both sides of the charm.

After you print your image you’ll want to make sure not to touch the image so that the ink doesn’t smear or smudge.

Step 3: Shrinking your images

Again, you’ll want to follow all the package instructions for using the shrink plastic. Typically you set your toaster oven to 325 degrees. You’ll want to place your images on a piece of brown paper bag that fits inside your toaster oven; this just makes it easier to remove for cooling. The paper goes on the metal tray which you put in the oven (though it also works if you lose the metal tray which I’m not saying I did but the image below proves). When you take the metal tray out you can remove the paper and set it on a heat safe surface to cool. We used a left over piece of ceramic tile, but any type of hot pad or trivet will do.

shrinkydinks6

The shrinking happens pretty quickly so you need to stay right there and watch your items in the oven. They will briefly curl up and it will scare you because you think, “Oh no, they’re going to fold in on themselves.” And yet somehow they don’t. When they are flat again, wait like 2 beats more and then remove the tray to cool.

We have done this in the library with teens and you want to make sure you have an adult supervising the toaster oven at all times. The items get hot and letting them cool down is essential.

Step 4: Turning your images into jewelry – or something

In the most basic sense, you can thread a single charm onto a basic hemp cord and you have a necklace. You can also string beads between several charms and create a necklace or bracelet. I happen to be lucky and my Assistant Director does chain mail as a hobby and this is a fantastic way to make a charm bracelet. Here are a couple of our creations to give you some ideas.

shrinkydinks3  shrinkydinks

shrinkydinks5

Don’t want to make jewelry? Don’t put any holes in your plastic, shrink like normal, slap a magnet on the back and you have one of a kind magnets.

There’s a Book for That

And because we try to have a book for every activity we do or station we create in our Teen MakerSpace, we were very excited to find this book:

shrinkshrankshrunk

A Couple of Notes

We experimented with other shapes, but found that circles worked best and didn’t have any rough edges that could poke.

You can technically do this with traditional shrink plastic and hand drawn images as well. For example, we found that our teens loved to make their initials or names.

Some of Karen’s Favorite Photo Apps

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version

App Review: Prisma

App Review: Aviary

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Image Chef

Tech Talk: App Review – BeFunky

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

Meme the Apps

More Photo Crafts

Instagram crafts

10 Things to Do with a Blank Canvas part 1 and part 2

Share it! Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Take 5: Ways to combat summer fatigue

My summer newsletter items are due in a matter of days, and I’m already exhausted. Anyone else?

This year should be easier for me.

  • We finally have a part time position tasked with serving tweens, so the pressure to plan for grades 5-12 all together has been lifted and I can just focus on teenaged teens… who have drastically different wants and needs.
  • I’m restructuring my SRP to encourage interactivity… but that means I’m letting go of the online forms that I’d finally gotten teens accustomed to using and am mired in InDesign.
  • I have an active Teen Board full of great people who are eager to volunteer… and suggest their own programs that I need to take the time to support.
  • I’m planning fewer small programs… because we’re adding some big programs.

giphy

I stare at the calendar, then at the unfinished SRP flyers, then at those unanswered emails, and then I refill my coffee cup and hope someone interrupts me so I can focus on a task that I can actually accomplish.

It seems dire, and I sound super whiny, but! But! I have some solutions. Here are my strategies I’m using to anticipate summer fatigue so I can combat it before it hits.

1. Forget about “should” if it doesn’t work.

“I should do more contests.”
“I should decorate more.”
“I should look into that free lunch program.”
“I should offer more mid-day programs in the summer.”
“I should do an anime club.”

Should I? Really? Every community is different. Though there are lots of commonalities between us, one thing I know for sure is that part of the beauty of library service is that we get to tailor our program to the needs of the people around us. Let go of the parts of summer that you do because you should and focus on the parts that are used. This doesn’t mean never try new things. Try new things! But give up the old things that don’t work, and give a pass to the new things that aren’t good fits for your community.

2. Front load

You think you’re the only one who’s tired of summer by the time mid-July rolls around? Teens get summer fatigue too. What works at my library is front-loading the summer with lots of events to build excitement and engagement, then tapering off toward August, when most of the town takes a vacation. My June schedule currently brings me to tears, but I think I’ll be able to breathe in July, and I’m reminding myself that August will be quiet enough for me to weed. Caveat: Rule 1.

3. Stock your survival bunker

Cans of soup, protein bars, coffee card, good chocolate… You know you’re going to be too busy to take your full break now and then. You know packing your lunch is going to fall by the wayside at some point. If you get as hangry as I do, you owe it to yourself (and your coworkers) to stash a few pick-me-up items in your desk drawer that you can grab when the going gets crazy.

4. Ask for help; Offer help

Even if you’re the only teen librarian in your library, Summer Reading is a library-wide event. Turn to your library colleagues, coworkers, volunteers, and even members when you need a hand with something. Likewise, if you see someone who needs a hand and one of yours is free, lend it. Teamwork! Cooperation! Other good words! SRP is kind of like pulling an all-nighter in college. In hindsight, it totally messed up your schedule and was maybe not the most effective way to achieve your goals, but you remember it fondly because your roommates all did it with you.

5. Appreciate the fun, don’t put up with nonsense

Take a deep breath and get out in the sunshine. Life loosens up a bit in the summer, and we can too. Find ways to make exceptions to the rules that make you feel good and keep patron service at the forefront. Can you let those kids who were just riding their bikes around the neighborhood and then decided that they had to stop at the library check things out even if they don’t have their cards? Feel like loosening up the age requirement so someone can bring their out of town cousin to see how great their library is? Want to toss another raffle entry at that kid who tackled Chaucer for fun? Do it.

But the nonsense? No.

giphy (2)No, the eight-year-old can not participate in the Teen SRP just because she reads mostly YA. No, you will not send prizes to the person in California who keeps emailing librarians! No, you can not wear a bathing suit, bare feet, and a towel at today’s program. You can say no. You can do it. I’ve said no in all three of the above situations… multiple times. Saying no in a bad situation is saying yes to your core mission & beliefs. It holds the space you need to have held for teens, it preserves standards that keep everyone safe, and it reminds people (including yourself) that you have logic and reason for implementing programs the way you do.

So — go forth and SRP y’all! Before you know it, summer will be but a fading warm glow and we’ll be on to back-to-school shopping. Good luck!

View from Behind the Lens: It’s a Wrap! a guest post by Lynette Pitrak

makerspaceMy previous post detailed the first half of View from Behind the Lens, an eight-week advanced photography workshop for middle school and high school students.  In the first few weeks of class, Downers Grove-based instructor Mike Taylor and I worked on teaching the students camera basics, various types of photography shoots, and working with both natural and artificial lighting.  We did some great walking tours through Downers Grove at all times of day, to capture full sunlight, dusk, and night scenes.

field tripMidway through the program, we took an amazing field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Photography to take a docent-led tour.  A graduate student in Columbia College’s photography program showed the View from Behind the Lens students a special collection of work, and facilitated a discussion about choices in shot framing, Photoshopping, and lighting.  Then, the students had half an hour to explore the rest of the museum on their own.  We finished the day with a fun stop to Chicago’s beautiful Millennium Park, so the students could see some amazing outdoor sculptures by artists like Jaume Plensa, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and of course, Anish Kapoor, who is the artist behind Cloud Gate (aka The Bean).

For the last class sessions, we focused on photography editing using Adobe Lightroom software.  The students had a great time playing with the filters, cropping, changing color photographs to black and white, and adjusting file sizes so that they were set to print most cleanly.  

Students then had the opportunity to take the cameras home for one month, in order to shoot on their own.  At any time, they were able to come to the library to access the Lightroom software to edit their photographs.  After this month-long period, each student submitted two photographs to be hung in Downers Grove Public Library’s art gallery.  The beautiful show hung for the entire month of February, and attracted a lot of attention from library visitors!!  The community was incredibly impressed by the professional and creative work done by these teens.

meet the artist receptionFinally, on the last day the show was displayed, we hosted a Meet the Artists event in the library’s gallery.  Around one hundred members of the community came to meet the teen photographers and talk to them about their work.  Over half of the photographs sold too, many being the students’ first sale ever!  It was a truly wonderful experience, and so exciting for Mike and I to see the students’ talent and passion come to life during the final show.

Thank you for giving Downers Grove Public Library the opportunity to share this program with other librarians and educators, and please feel free to get in touch with questions at any time.

Lynette Pitrak is the  Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove, Illinois. 

TPiB: Book Planters

IMG_7260I am not a crafty person. At all.  I’m unable to draw a straight line or measure correctly and have little to no patience for not catching on to something quickly. So when we ended up with all this extra dirt at the library (don’t ask), and my supervisor said hey, want to make some book planters for a program, I said sure mostly because I wanted to be accommodating, not out of some love for creating things.

 

 
IMG_7286I poked around online for how to make book planters and found lots of detailed instructions, including one titled something like “How to make a book planter in 946 easy steps.” It was more like 40, I guess, but that’s the same thing. Some suggested you cut through the cover. Some involved various power tools for cutting. Some wanted you to stack books up, use a tool to cut a deep round hole, and stick a potted plant in. And on and on. I took the best bits of what I found and came up with this.

 

 

 

IMG_7246You will need:

Discarded hardcover books (I used ones that had broken spines, missing pages, etc) If you can find ones with nice endpapers, bonus!

Box cutters (SHARP)

Cling wrap

Glue (Elmers or Mod Podge or whatever–don’t use rubber cement! That was a bust). I used Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue

Sponges or brushes

A ruler or cardboard square/rectangle template, if you’re feeling precise

Soil

Succulents

Drop cloths

Rags

Butcher paper

Plastic bags

Paper towel

Plastic cups

Scissors

Rulers

Pens

 

Setting up:

IMG_7241Cover your work space with drop cloths or butcher paper. Things got quite messy—dirt, dripped glue, and an infinite number of shredded book pages everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to work:

For the sake of mess and time, I partially prepped most of the books, but you could let your group start from the beginning.

IMG_72441. Get rid of dust jacket. Flip through the book and see if there are any pages with pictures that you’d like to paste into the front at the end. Snag them if so.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_72502. With the front cover of the book open, glue the pages along all three sides to create a seal. I dotted tacky glue along one side, wiped it all over with a sponge, making sure to really get the corners and making sure the top few pages weren’t flapping loose. Once all sides are covered in glue, set the books aside to dry for a bit. I did this in the days before the program because I was worried the books would still be too wet to easily transport home if attendees glued them at the program. That said, one woman did choose an unglued book and did it at the program. It was mostly dry by the time she left about 90 minutes later.

 

IMG_72343. Once the book is dry, grab a box cutter and decide what size square or rectangle you’d like to cut out of the book’s pages. Use cardboard for a template to cut around, or measure with your ruler/use a ruler as a guide, or just eyeball it. Start slowly and carefully cutting. You will need to cut and remove pages in many, many rounds. Corners are hard. Just remember most of that hole will be covered in dirt and plants, so being inexact is okay. Just try not to mangle that nice top page. You could have the books completely uncut at the program and let attendees start from the top page. My lovely coworkers helped prepare our books and cut through the first 100 pages or so. Cutting takes a while.

 

(At this point, you may want to grab the piles of book pages being cut out. I plan to reuse them for some blackout poetry in April.)

 

4. Once the pages are cut nearly all the way to the bottom or deep enough for soil and plants, you can glue the inside of your square/rectangle to create another seal or just skip right to lining it with cling wrap. We lined enough so that it came up over the top quite a bit–you can trim it later.

 

IMG_72355. Using your plastic cup, scoop out some soil from your bag and arrange soil and your succulents in the hole. Most attendees fit 2 or 3 small succulents.

 

 

 

 

 

6. After planting, use your box cutter to trim off the excess plastic wrap, leaving just a bit to help protect those top pages from any water that might overflow.

 

IMG_72527. If your book doesn’t have nice endpapers and you want to add something more to your planter, you could create a collage from discarded pages and pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_72548. That’s it! I had brought in plastic grocery bags and we were able to set the books carefully inside them for transport home (if you glue the books the day of the project, you might not be able to do this easily).

 

 

 

 

IMG_7285It was a fun program and the book planters turned out lovely. My program was open to adults and teens. I had 6 adult women, 1 man, and 1 teen. The planters would make great gifts for anyone who likes books. Also, if I could successfully make one, anyone can!

 

 

 

View from Behind the Lens: Advanced Photography for Teens, a Guest Post by Lynette Pitrak

makerspaceIn the fall and winter of 2014, I had an amazing experience coordinating a filmmaking workshop for high school students called View from the Director’s Chair.  To highlight a different aspect of our library’s Media Lab this year, our IT Department Manager and I created a similarly-structured workshop called View from Behind the Lens.

View from Behind the Lens began October 21st, and will continue through December 16th.  We were lucky enough to hire Downers Grove-based photographer Mike Taylor, a professional photographer and college professor, as our instructor for this program series.  Along with Mike, our library’s IT Assistant Jason, myself, and eight teenagers in middle school and high school meet weekly to learn advanced photography skills!!  

teens pose with tripods near a monument

View from Behind the Lens Halloween Photo Shoot

We are now several weeks into this workshop, and have learned a lot about digital photography techniques!!  The students in class are working with a combination of Canon and Nikon cameras (and everyone is VERY loyal to their chosen brand! :)).  We have gone over the basic settings of the cameras, including f-stop, aperture, and white balance. Mike has also discussed various kinds of photography with the students, such as stop-action, motion-blur, infrared, and night photography, and how to use the lenses and settings to achieve the desired effects.  To put this instruction to work, the students have gone on in-class walking tours through Downers Grove.  We have done daytime landscape shoots, portraiture, an architectural shoot, and a fun night shoot in the cemetery to celebrate Halloween!

girls pose for portraits in funny wigs

View from Behind the Lens Portraiture Shoot

In one week, we will be taking a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Photography to take a docent-lead tour of a special photography exhibit.  Because the museum is staffed by volunteers from Columbia College’s photography program, the View from Behind the Lens students will have the opportunity to talk about what it is like to major in photography.  

In the last weeks of class, students will learn how to edit their photographs with Lightroom and Photoshop.  Then, they will have a month to shoot on their own, to prepare final photographs for a gallery show and Meet the Artists event on February 28, 2016!!!

 

 

Lynette Pitrak is the  Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Saying goodbye to a successful program

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolLast month I hosted another Career Conversation event at my library. I really enjoy these evenings. I’ve learned interesting things at every single one of them, even when the jobs that the panelists hold are nothing like the kind of work that suits me. The same has seemed to be true of the teens who attended. Those who came to the events because the topic (Politics, Arts, Engineering, Education, Sports, Health Care) is something that they want to pursue got practical advice and information. Those who came because their friends were interested still learned and were entertained. There’s nothing quite like listening to people who are passionate about their work share their love and encouragement with teens.

So it is with mixed feelings that I decided that November’s panel on careers in the Sports world would be our last. The series ran for a full year, and there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch. So why would I pull the plug on a good thing? Several factors come into play. And while I’ll miss hearing about the varied life experiences our panelists offered and we haven’t covered all of the areas of work that our teens are interested in, I feel confident that this is the right choice. Why?

  • The planning and coordinating of the event had become unwieldy.

I ran this event every other month, which means that before one panel had happened, I was already contacting panelists to come to the next one. Schedule-wise, this was difficult and time consuming but not out of the ordinary for programs. What made the planning of this really stressful though, was that I’d begin seating the panel by contacting my top four or five hopefuls. And then I’d wait. And sometimes then I’d wait more. And more. And then I’d contact another few people. And wait. And wait. And by the time I was a week or two ahead of the event, I’d still sometimes be scrambling to find one last person, or replace someone who had an unexpected schedule conflict. Working with one presenter poses some difficulties. Working with unpaid presenters poses others. Working with four or five unpaid presenters? Well, you can imagine the stress involved. This is not to say that anyone I worked with was difficult! It was just the process and the worry and the unending schedule coordination that really started wearing on me.

  • I had limited support in recruiting attendees.

Sometimes, the panel had a clear audience with community and school partners who were happy to promote it. For example, when we hosted engineers, I contacted the high school’s GEMS club and the word spread like wildfire. For others, like our event focused on politics and political science, there wasn’t as clear a link between school organizations who would promote the event. And our education panel – which I thought would fill to capacity – had the lowest attendance of all. After the fact, several regulars commented that they “already know what teachers do all day*,” so they figured the panel wouldn’t be useful. I’m not averse to running programs for the same core group of teens–there are lots of benefits that aren’t just numbers based. But in this instance, given the amount of adult involvement and goodwill from community members I was dependent on, I felt it needed to pull a wider audience to continue.

  • There’s a better way to do it.

It occurred to me that part of the hurdle in getting teens to come to an event like this is the social nature of teen programs. Would the teen who wants to go into archeology come to an event on engineering just because her friend was? Maybe, but more likely than not, she’d find other ways to occupy her time. But what if this event got bigger so that it could encompass the future archeologist and her engineer-hopeful friend, and their buddy who has no idea what to do after high school? I’m hoping that after a bit of a hiatus, I’ll be able to bring Career Conversations back, more in the spirit of a job speed dating event. This would bring groups of teens together, and would allow for one (albeit large and probably unwieldy) planning season. It would also be less dependent on individual presenters as I’d hope to bring in a lot of different folks who love their work and want to share about it. It could also serve as a community bridge building event by inviting the local community college and trade schools to be present.

  • The teens who originated the series were ready for new challenges.

This was a teen-generated program idea. Last year’s Teen Board came up with the idea and the first few topics, and had been a help in recruiting participants. This year, several of our movers and shakers have graduated and the new group of teens is interested in other events and programs. And this is what it all boils down to: programming by teens is going to change as teens change, and we have to be open to that and willing to change course. Even when by outward appearances, it’s all going well.

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Brad Pitt laughing

Right?!

Star Wars Reads Day 2015 at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

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The Children’s Librarian and I do a little cosplay for our event.

Saturday October 10th was Star Wars Reads Day – one of my favorite holidays of the year! Why? Well for one, I got to dress up like Princess Leia. Of all the princesses I think she is my favorite because she saved Han Solo and Luke Skywalker just as much as they saved her. Never forget that one of her best quotes ever is this: Someone has to save our skins! She then proceeds to do exactly that.

Star Wars Reads Day is also one of my favorite days because it’s really easy to program for. We had a fantastic day at The Public Library of Mt. Vernon and Knox County with a variety of activities for our tweens and teens, many of which we found of course on the high holy programming deity: Pinterest.

We made light sabers out of pool noodles and duct tape. This turned out to be very easy and very popular.

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A staff member painted a white trash can to look like R2D2 and we did a bean bag toss. It should be noted that the staff member in question is not me, I could not do this. Look at how fabulous this looks!

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We of course made Fortune Cookie Wookiees because how could you not!

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Because we have a large number of Legos available for our programming, I put together a variety of Lego challenges for our tweens and teens to do. They were supposed to do various activities in 5 minute challenges, but in the end it turned out they really just wanted to build and play so that’s what I let them do. I have learned over the years that it is important to listen to your audience and be adaptable. Even though they did a free build, many of the participants still ended up building space ships and incorporating Star Wars Lego Minifigures that we bought for our event.

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I also created a station that involved using my new favorite thing: The Button Maker! We wanted to do Star Wars Thumb Print Doodles (there is a Klutz book), but I thought we would take it a step further and make buttons out of the doodles. This too proved to be a very popular activity.

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I also downloaded some free Star Wars silhouettes from SilhouettesFree.com and combined it with my second new love, the Fused app, to create these cool Star Wars buttons.

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The librarians were not the only ones to cosplay, we had several of our kids come in costume or bring fun props.

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To be honest, the highlight of the day for the kids was probably when this young lady below walked in and I proclaimed, “Oh my gosh you have great buns!” I totally should have known better after working with tweens and teens for so many years, but I had some genuine bun envy because I don’t have enough hair to do legit Princess Leia buns. Needless to say, there was a lot of snickering.

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And because it was Star Wars READS Day, we made sure and had plenty of new Star Wars books on hand for our tweens and teens to check out, and R2D2 was there to lead the way.

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It was a great Star Wars Reads Day. Until net year, remember: Read More, You Must!