Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: Tips for Me, and Maybe You Too, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

So at my library I have begun to program in person again. It has been a challenge for sure. The first program I did was a pirate themed scavenger hunt. I had no one sign up. I did get two to do it who had walked into the library. Then I did a backyard clean up of the library for volunteering. It was eventful. We got locked in the courtyard. Oops. We found a dead animal. We also found trash that should have not been left under our tree. So I started to remember what in person programming was like. I have to remind myself that everything is different. Here are the things I told myself:

  1. Low attendance is okay: Not all teens are vaccinated. I would rather teens be safe than sorry.
  2. We are starting over again: A lot of my teens aged out and I have not been doing school visits because of Covid so the younger teens do not really know me and what the library offers to teens.
  3. Do not spend a lot of money right now: We do not know how the attendance numbers will be so try to not do programs that will take up a lot of our budget.
  4. Keep doing some virtual programs: We know that some teens can not get to the library right now and this is a way to keep them engaged with the library.
  5. Try to not do too many educational programs: Things are hard and teens want to have fun and be able to take their minds off the pandemic.
  6. Do not over program: This is the number one thing I have to tell myself. I love doing programming but quality over quantity is key with programming.
  7. Be kind to yourself: You are dealing with a lot right now. The pandemic is still here and does not seem to be going away as much as we wish it would.
  8. Let things go: If something happens and you have to cancel a program that is okay. Things happen. It does not make you a bad person to cancel a program.
  9. Listen to the teens: This is what I have been doing the most. I am trying to do stuff that they want to do. Not things I think are cool. They are going through a hard time. We have to try to help them.
  10. It’s okay to be upset: If a program goes wrong it is okay to be upset and feel those feelings. You do not have to lie to yourself about how you feel.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Problems with the Supply Chain and What it Means for Libraries

If you build it, they will come. If you buy a book, it will be on your shelf. Except when there are problems with the supply chain.

If you’ve been to the grocery store or a restaurant lately, you’ve probably seen signs saying something to the effect of, “due to problems outside of our control, the item you want may not be in. We apologize for any inconvenience.” That problem beyond their control is the supply chain and it is also affecting the book biz, which is and can affect libraries.

My Twitter timeline is full of bookstores, publishers and authors noting that the supply chain issue is impacting the sale of books and you should order early. I know that when I look at various public library catalogs books with release dates in the past still show as not being in the catalog and this, too, is the supply chain problem.

Here are some articles on this very issue:




You can also google “supply chain issues” and get a lot of interesting articles on the topic. It’s not just being caused by the pandemic, though having millions of people sick and dying certainly isn’t helping. It also has to do with our tendency to rely on on demand sales as opposed to having stock of certain items. Like all things economics, it’s complicated.

Also of note, there is a paper shortage that actually began before the pandemic but continues to be a problem. Forbes ran an article on it way back in 2019, when the world made a bit more sense.

What it means for libraries is this: books aren’t arriving when we think they should. Book publication dates are being pushed back. There is no way to predict what is going to happen with our book orders because the normal rules no longer apply. It’s anyone’s guess when or if that book will come in so that you can put it on the shelf. If you order a book, it does not mean it will come and if it does come, it may come far after you thought that it would/should.

This isn’t the type of post that I normally share, but it has popped up so much on my Twitter timeline this past week and I know we’re not all on Twitter so I thought I would take a moment to bring it to everyone’s attention. One thing I would recommend is that if you are finding that your books purchased before publication date aren’t coming in by publication date due to this issue, let all staff know about the supply chain issues affecting publishing. I know that as a person working with the public I would love to have this information in case a patron complains about us not having a book at release date; nothing is worse than being a person who has to deal with patrons face to face and not having the information you need to answer their complaints and address their issues. A quick message to let all library staff know about how supply chain issues are impacting the book publishing business may just help a coworker answer the complaints of a patron who doesn’t understand why you don’t have the book they want on the shelf in a timely manner. Also, I always think it helps libraries prove they are valuable and reliable information community resources when we actually have timely and valuable information to answer their concerns.

Sunday Reflections: That Time I Tried to Talk About Being an Ally and the Book That Can Help Us All Have Those Conversations

Last summer, during the height of Black Lives Matter, I took 3 masked 12 year olds to the grocery store. All of us are white. As we were walking in, a Black man was walking out.

“Let’s raise our fists and yell Black Lives Matter,” one of them said.

And that started one of the most important conversations I have had in a long time with these girls.

I told them no, you shouldn’t do that and when they asked me why, I explained to them that this man was a stranger and he did not know owe us his time or attention. I told them that they were a group of giggling 12-year-old girls and he would not know if they were being sincere or mocking him and the movement. I told them that it would be wrong from them to assume that just because this man was Black that he agreed with Black Lives Matter or the current protests that were happening. I told them that they were not being helpful and would be centering themselves in this moment and possibly causing problems for this man, who as far as we know was just a man trying to go grab a gallon of milk or whatever.

And then they started talking about the Black Lives Matter events happening on social media. They talked about turning their avatars into black squares and when of them mentioned the black square with a raised fist one of the girls corrected the others and said, no you can’t use that one, it’s not for us. And I stood back and watched them all process and talk about what they were seeing and hearing on social media, jumping in every once and a while to correct some factual errors or add nuance along the way.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were having a conversation about being an ally and – there’s a book for that.

Allies is a nonfiction book that presents a variety of individual essays that talk about what it means to be an ally. It starts from the premise that there are no perfects allies and then asks you to sit and think about what it means to be one. From the very first introduction, you just get profound thoughts on top of more profound thoughts to think about. And it starts by asking us as allies to de-center ourselves, to listen, and to let the voices of those who we claim to be allies for to speak and amplify them whenever possible.

As a white woman raising white teenage daughters, the idea of raising allies is very important to me. We are a family of deep, abiding faith and we believe that it is important to love our neighbors as ourselves and to make the world a more just place in whatever ways we can. I also know that we benefit from our white privilege and, like those around us, we struggle with our own internalized misogyny and racism and all the other isms that we are indoctrinated with from birth in both overt and covert ways. Learning how to be a good human, a good Christian, and a good ally are life long processes. It’s a constant state of undoing, relearning, trying, failing, and then trying again.

I appreciated this book. It was a challenging read. It is a thoughtful read. It is an encouraging read. I’m getting each of those girls that walked with me through the grocery store that day their own copies. I know that they, like a lot of teens in today’s generation, are very much wanting to change the world for good. But even people with the best of intentions make huge mistakes along the way. Allies won’t make it so they become the most perfect allies, but it will help them to become more thoughtful and better ones on their journey.

Publisher’s Book Description:

This book is for everyone. Because we can all be allies.

As an ally, you use your power—no matter how big or small—to support others. You learn, and try, and mess up, and try harder. In this collection of true stories, 17 critically acclaimed and bestselling YA authors get real about being an ally, needing an ally, and showing up for friends and strangers. 

From raw stories of racism and invisible disability to powerful moments of passing the mic, these authors share their truths. They invite you to think about your own experiences and choices and how to be a better ally.

There are no easy answers, but this book helps you ask better questions. Self-reflection prompts, resources, journaling ideas, and further reading suggestions help you find out what you can do. Because we’re all in this together. And we all need allies. (From Penguin Randomhouse)

Allies comes out on Tuesday, September 14th and I highly recommend it for everyone. It’s a thoughtful, challenging, and inspiring read for any of us who want to try and do our better to make a world a better and more just world but don’t know how to start. It starts with listening, and these authors have some powerful thoughts to share.

Book Gallery: Teen Lit with Working Teens

Today is Labor Day, a day when we pause and celebrate the labor force. Around the world, teens are working. Recent statistics indicate that in the United States, more than 20 million people aged 16-24 were employed. This is around 54% of the people in this age category. They work in our restaurants, our grocery stores, and in places that are often deemed “essential” in the height of a deadly global pandemic. They often work while going to school and for many of them, they aren’t just working for themselves but to help their struggling families put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. You can read the latest youth employment statistics at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today, I want to talk about teens working in teen lit. I was recently reading The Cost of Knowing by Brittney C. Morris and started thinking about teens working in teen fiction.

In The Cost of Knowing, Alex Rufus, our main character, works in an ice cream shop called Scoops. This is not the only book I have read where the main character works in an ice cream shop, the main character in Stay Sweet by Vivian Shiobhan also works in an ice cream shop.

Restaurants and food trucks are another place that you can find teens working in teen lit. Rather than duplicate lists that are already out there, here is a great list of food themed ya books that include lists of teens working in restaurants and food trucks. My personal favorite food truck book currently is Geekerella by Ashley Poston

And one of my favorite books about working in a restaurant or diner is All the Rage by Courtney Summers. This fantastic book highlights the profound economic need that many of our teens live in and the necessity of employment.

The Education of Margot Sanchez highlights another place that a lot of teens work: the local grocery store or super market. I know that when I begrudgingly go grocery shopping, it is often teens I know from the local high school that bag my grocery and stock the shelves.

And it what would now seem like a very 2021 twist, the book Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt stars a teen who delivers grocery. Although this job seems very relevant and everywhere today, Okay for Now was actually written in 2011, which makes it kind of spooky in light of current events.

In Carrie Mesrobian’s Perfectly Good White Boy, the main character works at a thrift store. Sean also ends up joining the Marine Corp, a job that a lot of teens will choose as they see the military as their only option after high school.

In Nina Lacour’s Everything Leads to You, Emi is a set designer. This is arguably one of the coolest jobs I have seen a teen hold in this moving love letter to the cinema.

And we will wrap this post up with a book that features a teen having my first job as a teenager: working in a movie theater. In The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord, Paige works at a local movie theater. This was my first job back in the very late 80s and early 90s, the time when we had midnight special showings and prize give aways and it was honestly pretty glorious.

What is your favorite book about a teen working? Share it with us in the comments.

Additional Resources:

Bustle: 11 Contemporary YA Novels about Life Changing Summer Jobs

The Hub: Working Teens in YA Fiction

We Need to Talk: An Interview with Wade Hudson, Cheryl Willis Hudson, and Brendan Kiely By Lisa Krok

“The Talk” seems to have become more needed than ever in the past few years.    Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson are the editors of the anthology The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth, and Brendan Kiely is the author of The Other Talk: Reckoning With Our White Privilege. I owned and had read The Talk already when I learned that Kiely had The Other Talk forthcoming this September. I immediately thought it would be incredible to juxtapose these two books and have an important discussion.

Lisa Krok: It is so wonderful to be able to have these very important conversations with you and with each other. Wade and Cheryl, what led you to compile these valuable and necessary stories in your anthology?

Wade Hudson/Cheryl Willis Hudson:

In thinking about “The Talk” as a necessary conversation between most Black parents and their children, we realized that there are many kinds of talks that others had as well. Learning how to navigate the world with confidence and caring is an essential survival skill made more difficult by the challenges marginalized people often face. Who better to share these stories, these lessons than children’s book creators with first-hand knowledge and experience?

How do you talk about things that may be uncomfortable to discuss? How do you stay safe? How can you feel secure within your own body and personal space? How does one avoid racial profiling, police brutality or deal with bullying or sexual harassment? What can young people do when faced with systemic racism, name calling, religious intolerance, and cultural stereotypes? What about confronting the issue of white privilege? And how can these lessons, these necessary “talks,” be shared with children and young people?

That’s what The Talk tries to answer. We believed it was necessary to offer these lessons, these “talks” across social and cultural lines.

LK: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with the necessity of these talks! Brendan, can you share a bit about the Two Americas you saw while touring with Jason Reynolds, and how that influenced your writing of this book.

Brendan Kiely:

First of all, I’m honored and grateful to be here and to be a part of this conversation with you, Wade and Cheryl. I wrote The Other Talk after listening to many, many people of the Global Majority talk about “The Talk”they had in their families growing up—the myriad manifestations of “The Talk” Cheryl and Wade’s anthology highlights so beautifully. As their anthology points out, there are many different kinds of “Talks”, especially as to how racism affects people’s lives, but, as Jason and I have discussed over the years, there isn’t often a talk white families have that speaks clearly and directly about the privileges white families experience because of racism in America. And so I wrote The Other Talk to try to join the conversation Black families, Indigenous families, and so many families of the Global Majority have been having for so long.  

So, Jason and I met while touring our debut novels. We were thrilled and grateful, because our publisher was kindly sending us to conferences and festivals all over the country. We were having a ball—but it was also impossible not to notice that, as a Black man and a white man traveling side-by-side, we were having different experiences too. It was impossible for me not to notice the magnitude of racist undertones—the suspicious glances, the unkind greetings, the extra pat downs in security—all happening to Jason, not me. I talk more in depth about those moments in the book, but just as it was impossible not to notice what was happening to Jason as we traveled the country, it became startlingly impossible for me to not notice what was happening to me too. From a certain point of view, I recognized that conversely to Jason, I was experiencing welcoming smiles and zero suspicions as we walked into bookstores, schools, or through airports or hotel lobbies. People assumed I belonged wherever we were. It was as if we were experiencing (as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested back in 1968) “two Americas”, two different Americas. I’m not saying everything was terrible; like I said, he and I were having a blast—and I think it is really important to stress that, too—but racism undeniably affects life for all of us in America. It affects us in different ways, however, and I began to think about how this pervasive racism affects my life by undergirding my life with social privileges.

And this is why I wanted to write The Other Talk: to help inspire white people like me to engage in conversations about racism in America by listening more, and learning more, and becoming more self-aware about how privilege affects our lives, and to feel more motivated to act and co-construct a more racially just America in solidarity with people of the Global Majority, who have been having these conversations for such a long time.

LK: I am so glad you took this on, Brendan!Wade and Cheryl, how did you go about selecting the contributors to your anthology, and how do the varied forms/styles/illustration mediums add meaning to the individual stories?


We asked BIPOC friends in the industry whose work we admired and respected to contribute to The Talk. They had a variety of stories to share from their own personal experiences. Meg Medina for example, wrote about the advantages of being bi-lingual but being discriminated against because of it; Grace Lin wrote a letter to her daughter about recognizing the objectivism of being called a “China doll;” Daniel Nayeri wrote about the weight of silence in communicating across cultures and the value of not talking; Duncan Tonatiuh wrote about a school visit where a student actually asked the question “Why Are There Racist People?” Tracey Baptiste in her essay, “TEN,” gave advice to her preteen on how to respond if being stopped by the police when driving while Black. Whether written as a poem, essay, prose, or letter or created in cartoon/graphic digital format or drawn via a realistic watercolor, the diversity of writers and illustrators expressed thought provoking situations that young people find themselves in. The end result was a powerful and complementary balance of text and images.

LK: It is truly a glorious amalgamation of varied stories and styles!Brendan, your anecdote with the strawberry Nesquick really stood out to me. Could you share that please?


The Strawberry Nesquik story is a starker and more devastatingly tragic example of the “two Americas” I mentioned before, in that it juxtaposes Jordan Davis’s life with my own, but what I think is at the heart of the story is a deeper understanding of the “other America,” the “privileged America,” in which I live. I think some people hear the term “white privilege” and they immediately think about all the ways in which they are not “privileged” (not rich, not living in a fancy house, not taking vacations to far flung corners of the world), or they think that applying that word to their life takes away from all their “hard work.” This is why, in the book, I use the example of the benefits my grandfather made use of in the GI Bill when he returned from WWII. He had access to opportunities (higher education; further, specialized degrees; home loans; brokers who would show him real estate in areas where the property value was rapidly increasing). Everything he achieved he did through hard work—no doubt about that—and it is also true that everything he achieved he had access to in a way many, if not most, veterans of the Global Majority in America did not have access to. Did he work hard? Yes. Was he also privileged with more access to opportunity? Also yes. He benefited from the effects of systemic privilege, you might say; and two generations later, I too benefit from his (and my own) systemic privilege. But racism is systemic and also interpersonal—and so too is privilege. So not only have I benefitted from multi-generational systemic privilege, the Nesquik story highlights just how privileged my interactions are with other people I encounter in my life—store clerks, law enforcement, my teachers, etc. Because the word “privilege” leaves such a bad taste in some people’s mouths, the poet and scholar Claudia Rankine replaces the phrase white privilege with white living—it’s just the experience of living as a white person in America. And, in the book, I try to use many, many examples from my own life to spotlight and explain why so many of those everyday experiences of my life living as a white person in America are in fact privileged.

LK: You delineated white privilege perfectly! It is indeed misunderstood by many.Wade and Cheryl, is there a particular story in your anthology that stands out to you personally, and why?


All the entries are special to us because they spotlight a particular aspect of each creator’s experience or a particular concern or challenge. This adds to the breadth of the book. Adam Gidwitz’s story “Our Inheritance” is important to us because it is told from the perspective of a white writer. Often, anthologies or books that deal with social justice issues focus on the victims and imply that the victims must find the answers to the challenges presented. We believe that equality, social, economic and political justice, can only be achieved when all of us, together fight to achieve them. Adam’s piece is crucial because it brings everyone to the table for this important discussion, not just those from BIPOC communities.

LK: Absolutely! It is so important for allies also learn and do the work, rather than placing that burden on the victims. Brendan, I was fascinated by your statement that, “race has no basis in biological fact”. Can you elaborate on this, please?


I always return to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s line “race is the child of racism, not the father.” In other words, “race” is a social construct. I think it is important to reinforce just how strongly biologists want the rest of us to understand this. For example, this is from the American Association of Biological Anthropologist’s Statement on Race & Racism:

Race does not provide an accurate representation of human biological variation. It was never accurate in the past, and it remains inaccurate when referencing contemporary human populations. Humans are not divided biologically into distinct continental types or racial genetic clusters. Instead, the Western concept of race must be understood as a classification system that emerged from, and in support of, European colonialism, oppression, and discrimination. It thus does not have its roots in biological reality, but in policies of discrimination. Because of that, over the last five centuries, race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world.

I apologize for the long quote, but I thought the whole paragraph was worth highlighting because I elaborate on these ideas, and how they relate to my life specifically, in the book.

The subtitle of my book is “reckoning with our white privilege.” To me, I think being clear and honest about how those “policies of discrimination” throughout history unequivocally impact our lives today is a vital part of the conversation (the “other talk”) white families like my own can engage in more deeply and discuss with young people. As the young, eight-year-old white girl from Traverse City, MI quoted in the Washington Post explained, although learning about racism in second grade made her feel bad, it also made her motivated to want to do something about it. In essence, learning about the truth of racism and privilege made her want to learn more so that she could do more—and I think we owe it to her and all young people out there to try to learn more, listen more, and act alongside them.

Many thanks to Wade, Cheryl, and Brendan for this essential conversation, which is just the beginning! Teen librarians, if you happen to be at the YALSA Symposium in Reno this November, please join us for a more in-depth conversation about these two books. Let’s Talk!

The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth is available now from Crown Books for Young Readers.

The Other Talk: Reckoning With Our White Privilege releases September 21 from

‎ Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.

An author and publisher, Wade Hudson is president of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publisher of books for young people. Among his 30 published books are the middle grade anthologies, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices and The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth, coedited with his wife, Cheryl; AFRO- Bets Kids: I’m Going to Be; Journey, a poetry collection; and Defiant, Wade’s memoir of growing up in the Jim Crow South at the height of the civil rights movement. Wade has received the New Jersey Stephen Crane Literary Award, the Ida B. Wells Institutional Leader-ship Award, the Madam C. J. Walker Legacy Award, and a CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award.

Cheryl Willis Hudson is an award- winning children’s book author and cofounder with her husband, Wade Hudson, of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company that focuses on Black-interest books for young people. Her published titles include the classic AFRO- BETS ABC Book; Bright Eyes, Brown Skin; and Brave. Black. First.: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World. She and Wade co-edited the middle- grade anthologies We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices and The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth. A member of the PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee, Cheryl has been honored with the Madam C. J. Walker Legacy Award and Children’s Book Council Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award.

Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), and three other novels, and most recently a nonfiction book, The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. His work has been published in over a dozen languages, and has received the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Meyers Award, and ALA’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. A former high school teacher, he is now on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program. But most importantly, he lives for and loves his wife and son.

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the Adult and Teen Services Manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians (ABC-CLIO). She reviews YA for School Library Journal, blogs for Teen Librarian Toolbox, and her passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. Lisa has served on both the Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s teams. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach

Book Review: In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Publisher’s Book Description: From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.

Karen’s Thoughts:

This is a soul crushing book that makes your heart soar while ripping it out at the same time; it is profoundly moving and well written in the way that makes you want to frame quotes on your bedroom wall to carry you through life’s dark days.

Cash is a high school teenage boy who lives in abject poverty in the Appalachia region with his grandparents who are raising him since his mom died from an overdose. He is best friends with Delaney, who just happens to be a scientific genius. Because of an amazing discovery that she makes, the two are offered a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school (she is the type of friend who negotiates her deal to help a friend instead of leaving him behind). In the Wild Light is a peek behind the curtain in the life of a group of teenagers, but mostly a boy named Chase, who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

At school, Chase discovers poetry as a language to help him talk about his feelings, he finds his people, and in the process, he starts to find himself. It’s a moving character study that dismantles toxic masculinity, explores the heart of family and friendship, and introduces us to characters who have every obstacle put before them and you can’t help but root for them.

This is a stunning, achingly moving book. I loved everyone (except for the roommate, who you are not supposed to love). If you like moving and triumphant character studies, this is the book for you: full of grief, hope, joy, anger and triumph.

Some of the issues tackled in the book include addiction, grief, sexual violence, bullying, and toxic masculinity.

Highly recommended.

Some additional books on the opioid crisis and addiction include:

Book covers pictured include Heroine by Mindy McGinnis, The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman and You’d Be Home by Now by Kathleen Glasgow (comes out September 28th)

RevolTeens: They’ve Never Needed Librarians and Libraries More… By Teen Librarian Christine Lively

If the last 20 months had been written as a series in a book, I would have thrown it across the room in frustration. How can nobody be doing anything substantial to stop this plague? It would be too infuriating to believe.

Yet, here we are.

I don’t know what will happen this year, of course, but I do believe that teens have never needed librarians and libraries more. Whether you work in a public library or a school library, our jobs are essential, and we are on the front line of survival. This is the time when teens will need us to listen and support them as they make life and death decisions. We can and must help them survive and endure this uncertainty as well as they can. 

Teens don’t have full authority over their lives. If they are under eighteen, they cannot decide for themselves to get vaccinated, however, they can make decisions about going out, wearing masks, washing their hands, and caretaking for family members and friends. Many families are struggling daily with the decision to go back to school in person or online. Some teens are weighing the decision to go to college, or stay home and try to stay safe. The list goes on and the stakes are as high as they can be.

While none of us will be advising teen patrons directly, we can help them to research the most current and reliable information about COVID-19, to evaluate the information, and then to use that information to guide their decisions about how to live. They may be helping their families make informed decisions, and will need to know that they are acting with the best information available. That’s what we librarians must do as they navigate this pandemic.

We must also provide whatever support teens need. In the time before the pandemic, games, crafts, and other activities may have been popular, and they may still be with some teens. Others may need a quiet space to think and be away from home, or a story to help them escape from the stress of school and illness. They may also need to talk and unburden themselves. Having an unbiased and open minded person to listen to them is essential for so many teens. It can be the difference between thriving and struggling. I know that everyone reading this is passionate about supporting teens as they learn and navigate the world. We have to keep this effort going, no matter the obstacles that shutdowns and quarantines put in our way.

If we’re going to continue to support and listen to teens, we also must take care of ourselves. It’s so easy to get caught up in helping others and taking on their burdens that we wake up one day sobbing over a cereal box and wonder what happened. This pandemic does not seem to be going away, and we need to take care of ourselves so that we can endure with the teens we serve. Take some time to think about the things that have helped you get through these last 20 months. Make an effort to seek out the hobbies, meals, movies, loved ones, and pets that have buoyed you. Make that time a non-negotiable time to feel better, safe, and loved. Our national and international pandemic has borne personal grief and loss. If we forget to take care of ourselves, we risk not being able to help those who need us.

We are in uncharted territory every day, but that’s what we’re trained to do – chart new territory, and help teens to build the tools and skills to lead us into an uncertain future. We can give teens a space and a face to help them find their way through.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.

Boredom Busters, Brain Builders, and Creativity Connectors for Teens, By Lisa Krok

Like many libraries, we have experienced a scarcity in teens during the pandemic due to different restrictions. As some of these are gradually being lifted, I have been brainstorming ways to keep them engaged as they return. In the before times, we did not have much turnout at planned in-person programs. I suspect this is due to transportation, as the library is not walkable from the local schools. We seemed to get best results in more spontaneous, open-ended programs. If a group came in, we would sometimes throw some popcorn in the microwave, grab some board games and head to  our meeting room that also has a bank of computers off to the side. We have video gaming consoles in there, so between the board/video games and computers, the kids would happily munch their popcorn and hang out. We ended up calling these “Teen Hangouts”.

Pre-pandemic, we had a computer lab with about 20 computers in a relatively tight enclosed space. Obviously that is not a good idea now, so the computers were dispersed in groups of two to four throughout the building. When our library first reopened, we had a small number of computers by appointment on the first floor only. With the teen department being on the third floor, they had no choice but to use those first floor computers, where some adults were sometimes not understanding of their developmental levels, needs, and volume. Something needed to be done to accommodate the teens who were returning and needed to feel welcomed in the midst of restrictions.

Step one was to get some computers placed in a space that was just for teens- obviously the teen department, right? We have designated some computers that have teen priority (during the school day if teens are not there, adults may use). CHECK.

Step two – how to engage these teens so they can just drop in when they are able and have a variety of things to do?

I decided to create a cart that would be like a portable program on wheels that could be used in the teen room or taken to a meeting room to use along with snacks, video gaming, and other activities. I began searching through different types of carts. Typical library book carts from Demco were out, due to flat surfaces and high cost. I wanted something very durable that had tray style shelving so that things wouldn’t slide off. After searching the usual suspects (Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.), I found just what I was looking for in an unusual place: a restaurant supply store. They had the three shelf, tray style model I wanted in a 36” size to hold an abundance of supplies. It is heavy duty and comes in a variety of colors. The wheels lock so it can stay secure in place or use freely to roll away as a mobile program cart. It was shipped requiring minimal, simple assembly that took less than ten minutes. This is what I chose:

Teen cart

Next step – what goes on it? I wanted a variety of things, and a good stock of art supplies. Fortunately, Target had a great back to school sale with free shipping – BINGO! I ordered what I hope is a year’s supply of crayons, colored pencils, markers, scissors, glue sticks/glue, tape, pencils, erasers, etc. Some are on the cart, and a stash of refills is in the cabinet for later.

Uno was very very popular in the past with our teens, so I purchased more of that and some other card games. Some are fun just for fun, and some are mind stretchers like Brain Yoga.

I also ordered clear plastic pencil boxes, which I used to store the art supplies and the card games. A labelmaker was a must- I wanted things labeled and easily organized. I know, as much as teens can be neat and organized – I kept it simple with clear boxes and labels. All of the items listed above are on the top shelf for ease in finding and returning. Also – hand sanitizer, of course!

The middle shelf contains handheld games like mini Etch-a-Sketch, Rubik’s cube, and activities like magnetic poetry, and puzzles. The other half of the middle shelf is a funky neon green 4 letter tray. This is dually purposed for both art and writing. There is plain paper, lined paper, blank comic panels, and coloring sheets. Again, everything is clearly labeled to find and return.

The bottom shelf was the easy part – an assortment of board games including classics like chess, dominoes, and Clue to Giant Uno, Star Wars Battleship, and more. We have more games in the cabinet that I plan to swap out periodically to keep things interesting.

With things changing rapidly regarding the pandemic, we will likely keep this cart as a passive-only program for now and not do the spontaneous groups with the video gaming and snacks, etc. added in. When things are safer, we can resume group programs. Because I am a librarian, of course I put the cart next to a book display- if you build it, they will come, right? I found these great posters of authors from a broad spectrum of demographics and printed and laminated them to place on the wall, then pulled books from those authors. I found the posters on The Dimpled Teacher’s website at https://sites.google.com/view/thedimpledteacher/class-decor . She is fabulous about sharing good free materials.

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the Adult and Teen Services Manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians (ABC-CLIO). She reviews YA for School Library Journal, is a regular blogger for TLT, and her passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. Lisa has served on both the Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s teams. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach

Sunday Reflections: That Time I Got to Help Build an ALL Youth Library

In the span of my 28 year career in public libraries, I have two incredible moments that meant everything to me. One was creating the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, a project that I lead from start to finish and is still going well (as much as it can be during a deadly global pandemic). I never thought that I would get to do anything as amazing as this project, but recent events have proven me wrong.

On August 14th the Fort Worth Public Library system opened an all youth branch, and I got to play a small part in that. The Reby Cary branch, named after a local educator of high regard by the local community, is an amazing branch dedicated entirely to youth. The collections, resources and space are designed for youth ages birth to 18 and for youth only. Adults can put books on hold and pick them up at this branch, so if an adult brings their kids to the library they can pick up reading material for themselves as well, but the actual space is dedicated to youth. It’s my dream come true.

Unlike the TMS I mentioned above, I was not involved in this project from start to finish. It required things like getting a bond passed, hiring architects, and so much more. A lot of hard working people dedicated to the local community and to serving youth worked long hours and with a fierce commitment to bring this project to completion. My role was primarily to select the books and build the collections, and I had help doing that. But every single book in this library for these kids is a brand new book, hand selected to build the very best of collections with them in mind.

The day I showed up to start helping to unbox and shelve those books, I knew that I was getting to be a part of something profoundly amazing.

Today, I am going to take you on a visual tour with photos I took while setting up the library.

The Teen Area

Both sides of this shelf are the teen collection, which I got to build from scratch! It includes fiction and nonfiction and graphic novels (my amazing coworker Michelle buys the graphic novels, so I can’t take credit for that.)

Near the teen area you can find this seating

The seating is the most comfortable seating I have ever experienced in a library. I don’t know where these chairs come from but I have been trying to find out because I want to get one for my house. There are tons of windows and natural light. And near the collections, there is a makerspace. I have been building teen collections and spaces for 28 years and I love this one.

Children’s Collections

As I mentioned, the collections focus on youth from birth to ages 18. So we have everything you would expect to see – board books, picture books, juvenile fiction and juvenile nonfiction.

The Picture Book shelving is my favorite. I find the curvy lines to be so inviting and soothing. All of the shelving is on wheels and at one point we realized we wanted to completely flip some collections and ALL WE HAD TO DO WAS MOVE THE UNITS instead of taking every book off of the shelf and shifting it. It was beautiful. Those of you who have ever had to shift entire collections will understand how profoundly beautiful this is.

The board books are on the bottom row in baskets so that the littles can flip through them.

There is a storytime and presenter stage

There is lots of cute furniture for the younger kids as well

There are also rolling bins that can be moved around, various play stations, circulating STEAM kits, a meeting room, a makerspace and more. It’s truly glorious! And I got to help make this happen.

And I can’t forget to mention the amazing, original artwork created for this library. It changes colors and there are buttons throughout the library that kids can switch to change the colors. It looks like an amazing under sea creature to me.

There is also an outdoor reading garden with big games like cornhole. And there is a little succulent garden.

Someone Pinch Me

As we began this project, I knew I was getting to be involved in something special. We spent months working hard to build a balanced youth collection that had a good representation of the old and new for these kids. We ran reports of statistics, combed through lists, and crunched all the data. We worked hard to find books that represented every single possibility, every single kid, that we could find. If collection development were a symphony, this collection would be a magnum opus.

But the first day I showed up to help unbox and shelves I knew that this was so much more important than I even realized. I’m not going to lie, I still get teary eyed thinking about everything that this project means. It has been and honor and a privilege to help make this amazing library exclusively for youth happen. I only played a small part, but I will forever be grateful that I had the honor to do so.

If you would like to learn more about the Reby Cary Youth Library, or visit it (it’s amazing, I highly recommend you visit it), you can find more information here: https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/departments/library/branches/rebycary

There are some articles with more and better pictures about the Reby Cary Youth Library here:

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Fox 4 News

Fort Worth Report

Because I keep getting asked, the shelving was purchased here: https://bcilibraries.com/products/

Cindy Crushes Programming: The Dog Days of Summer, by Cindy Shutts

One of my favorite events that my Library district, White Oak Library District, puts on is Dog Days of Summer.  It is hosted at our Crest Hill Branch. It is an annual celebration of all things dogs.  We have many pet rescues come and bring their animals to show off. We are so lucky to have seen animals who were adopted one year come back with their pet parents the next year. We are so excited to be back at this year after having to cancel due to the pandemic in 2020. What is great about this program is must of it takes outside.  This event takes place on August 28, 2021 starting at 10:00am. So if you are in the Illinois area please Join us!

I am having our Crest Hill Branch Manager, Amy Byrne here to answer some questions about Dog Days of Summer. She came up with the idea.

How did you come up with the idea for Dog Days?

I can’t claim full credit for our Dog Days of Summer event; I expanded on an idea a colleague at our Lockport Branch had. Since moving to the south Chicago suburbs in 2010, I noticed that there are A LOT of rescues in the area, particularly dog rescues that are home-based foster organizations without one physical location. The Crest Branch Library has a large outdoor space that’s perfect for outdoor gatherings, and it’s a perfect way to bring dogs to the library.

How do you prepare for Dog Days?

There’s a lot of preparation with many moving parts! This year, I started in March by talking with the store manager of PetSmart in Joliet to see if they were interested in being a partner in the event, and in what way PetSmart would be able to partner. As in past years, they’re donating 200 reusable PetSmart shopping totes with goodies inside.

Next, I emailed hundreds of rescues, veterinarians, clinics, small business retailers, services, nationally-known dog brands, etc. to announce the event and secure their space at the event. At this same time, I contacted Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s office to invite him and his League of Extraordinary Canines to open the day, and Deacon Kevin O’Donnell to offer pet blessings to those who want them – both said yes.

Because this is such a large-scale event, representatives for each of our three Branches are Pack Leaders for the different aspects of the event. The Pack Leaders choose staff to work on their committees to generate ideas, and get all of the work amongst their Pack finished. We have monthly Zoom meetings with the Pack Leaders from March through July, and then weekly Zoom meetings leading up to the event, with an in-person final meeting the week of Dog Days of Summer.

What types of rescues and other animal resources come to Dog Day?

All kinds! We have dog rescues that rescue all kinds of animals, some that only rescue dogs, some rescues that focus on a particular breed, size, or age. Additionally, veterinary clinics, specialty services like canine massage, service dogs, comfort dogs, foundations, trainers, and more. You can see who’s coming at http://whiteoaklibrary.org/Dog-Days-of-Summer

Charm, a good boy

What type of activities do you have for dogs that come to Dog Days?

This year, we’ll have an expanded and fun agility course, customizable bandanas you can decorate for your dog, and a yogurt bar with dog-safe toppings. Additionally, there are a series of contests for dogs and their humans, like peanut butter licking competitions, costume contests, and trick contests. We’re also offering a photo booth with fun props for dogs and humans, and you’ll be able to either take your own photos, or buy a print.

What type of activities do you have for the people who come to Dog Day?

In addition to all of the activities above, there will be demonstrations on canine massage, CPR, etiquette for approaching dogs, the dangers of puppy mills, and how hearing assist dogs change the lives of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. There are also raffles with great items that are donated by brands like Earth Rated, Kong, and FURminator (Spectrum Brands). This year, tickets will be $0.25 each, or five for $1.00, and at the end of the event, we’ll draw the name of one rescue that’s in attendance to receive the money from the raffles.

New this year is a dog food and supply drive that will benefit Wet Nose Food Pantry. Anyone can drop off items, including gift cards, cash, or checks, to any of the three White Oak Library District Branches through August 31st.

For more pet centered programming, check out this previous TLT post:

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.