Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Back to School

It is, in fact, time for back to school. So here is a round up of links to a variety of back to school crafts and DIY that you may find fun and useful. The Tween and I may or may not be obsessed with making bottle cap/marble magnets.

Rock Your Locker

Here’s a look at some of the back to school crafts I have done. You all know I am a huge fan of marble/bottle cap magnets and back to school is the perfect time for them. Perfect. Also, you can make your own magnetic poetry kit which would create more locker fun.

Sherlock Bottle Cap Magnets from my Sherlock program

Mashable: DIY Supplies That Will Actually Make You Excited for School

One of my favorites on this list are the Washi Tape pencils. You can actually do a lot with Washi Tape, as Heather shared with us earlier. So if you’re going to use Washi Tape, don’t forget get you can do notebooks and folders as well. 

Buzzfeed: 37 Awesome DIYs to Make Before School Starts

Last year Buzzfeed ran this DIY post of awesome back to school crafts. Continuing the Washi/Duct tape theme, they make some awesome clip boards.

Buzzfeed: 23 Ways to Have the Coolest Locker in School

Yet another appearance by my favorite – Bottle Cap Magnets! They also make a cool bottle cap chandelier. There are some fun ideas here.

Divergent, Sherlock, Doctor Who and Minecraft Bottle Cap/Marble Magnets

Pimp Your USB

At the library, I am a huge campaigner for USB drives. HUGE. Our computer system has time management software and it will kick you off without mercy. So I tell everyone over and over again to bring a USB. So why not reinforce the message by having a Pimp Your USB day. Instructables has some ideas for pimping your USB. You can also make a pink eraser USB. You can also make a Lego themed USB drive.

Carry Your Tech in Style

Many kids will be going back to school this year with new cell phones, tablets or other assorted tech. You can make cool tech crafts like a cell phone holder using Duct Tape. There are DIY tablet covers for every skill level here. Here are 30 creative DIY smartphone and tablet crafts.

Share your favorite back to school and tech craft ideas in the comments, we’re always looking for more great ideas.

Back to School!

We can’t deny it any more: It is August. It is technically still summer, but many of us are now thinking back to school.  In fact, I even went out and bought the Tween a few school supplies.  The list is so long and expensive it helps to spread it out over a couple of months.  There may have been some tears shed.

At the library, it’s time to start thinking fall programming.  Well, technically, that time was really during the SRC but, you know, that’s kind of a busy time.  It’s also time to start thinking about reaching out and making and building partnerships between public and school librarians.  As I type this I am working on editing a vlog series I recently recorded with Naomi Bates from YA Books and More on the topic.  I am still newish to vlog editing so, you know, hopefully I will get that done before school actually starts.  Or it will be a series during the school year.  In addition, our Middle School Librarian Robin will be sharing her life as a school librarian throughout the year in her posts.  Robin has also agreed to be the Battle of the Books coordinator for her district this year and I am looking forward to hearing about that.

But while we are thinking back to school, here’s a look at some of the things you can do to help make this year a successful school year for your teens and your library.


Send Them to School in Style: Back to school crafts
Crafts to decorate lockers, get organized and more.  Celebrate going back to school with fun, hands on activities.

Library Boot Camp
Want to help teens figure out how to use the library?  Of course you do! Send them to bootcamp.  Library bootcamp.

Mark My Spot: Bookmarks 
Here’s a quick, easy programming idea that you can do in a school or public library: make bookmarks.  There are several adaptable and easily personalized ideas here.  You could do this program while you talk about book care.

Renovate Your Room – and get organized for school
A ton of programming and organizational activities based on Where’s My Stuff by Zest Books.

Buzzfeed has a great list of 37 DIY Back to School crafts


Teen librarians typically come in two flavors, public and school librarians.  We should talk to one another.  Work together.  Heather talks some about it here and here.  So get together once in a while for lunch, booktalk together.


Great books for Freshmen
They are new, some of them are scared, and most of them have no idea what they are in for.  Check out these great reads for Freshmen.

Great books for Seniors
The heat is on and everyone wants to know, what will you do now?  The teens in these books definitely know how they feel.

Great books for Middle Grade Readers
My tween readers are all about graphic novels right now.  In fact, my tween has read Smile by Raina Telgemeier something like 10 times in the last 3 weeks.  Here are some good reads to add to your collection.

Make the Grade
The ultimate guide for being successful in school

Where’s My Stuff
Has tips for organizing notebooks, lockers, backpacks and, of course, your room.

TPiB: Renovate Your Room – and more Duct tape crafts! (inspired by Where’s My Stuff? The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide)

Today is the first day of spring. It is also a good day to think about spring cleaning. I know: groan.  But, helping teens get organized can be fun.

One of my favorite programs I have ever done was called Renovate Your Room, and it is exactly what you think it is, a program to help teens do a quick but fun room makeover.

To help with this program, I invited a local interior decorator to come and talk about things like colors, space design and layout, and even things like Feng Shui.  Then, we did a couple of quick and easy crafts to create unique elements for their room.  Where’s My Stuff: The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide is a good companion book for this program (and your teen area).  Written by Samantha Moss and professional teen organizer Lesley Schwartz (who even knew there was such a thing), Where’s My Stuff? has an entire section on organizing your room.  It includes helpful tips such as how to maximize a small space, how to decide what to keep and what to toss, and how to create cheap storage.

For example, here are some of the storage on the cheap ideas they recommend:
Turn an old wicker basket into a magazine storage bin
Use a juice glass for make up brushes
Organize art supplies in a silverware tray
Turn a wooden milk crate on its side and use it to hold CDs (page 99)

Your Dream Room Activity

What, exactly, would your dream room look like? Why not have teens tell you.  You probably have a ton of discarded magazines laying around (I save them).  Teens can create a collage space of their dreams using a piece of cardstock, discarded magazines and some glue.  This will help your teen participants get an idea of their personal taste so they can make some good choices for the craft activities below.

Here are 5 sample craft activities you could do for the hands on portion of your Renovate Your Room program.  The Internet is full of great craft ideas, so don’t limit yourself to these, but I have done these and recommend them. 

Craft Activity 1:  Pen or Make up Brush Container
Empty (and washed) frosting container
Duct tape of your choice

Have a party and share cupcakes with your friends.  After you eat all of the frosting, wash that container out, cover it in duct tape, and voila – you have an awesome pen or make up brush holder.  Cheap, easy and can be completely personalize to your room.  

And here’s a bonus tip: You can use the duct tape to cover your light switch plates to coordinate your look.  Be sure to ask for permission, just so parents don’t come complaining.  For a library program, you can even provide plates and duct tape (purchased from a local hardware store).

Craft Activity 2: Dry Erase Boards

Piece of cardboard
Clear report covers/clear contact paper, clear transparency film
Duct tape of your choice
Some type of ribbon to hang it

To make this dry erase board, cut your piece of cardboard to a size that is slightly larger than your transparency.  For example, your transparency will be 8 1/2 by 11, so cut your cardboard to about 9 1/2 by 12.  If you use clear contact paper, the size of your cardboard does not matter and you can make it any size you would like.

Then, cover your piece of cardboard with a solid color of duct tape.  Then, lay your transparency over this in the center.  Here, I taped my transparency film on using a patterned tape around the edges to give it a little bit of flair.  Be sure you wrap your tape completely around onto the back to give it a smooth outer edge.  If you don’t have a transparency film, you can simply cover your layer of Duct tape with clear contact paper. 

Bonus tip: The Duct tape surface itself will work as a dry erase board so if you don’t have a transparency film or clear contact paper, simply omit that part and you still have a homemade, one of a kind dry erase board for your room.  Also, I did this same activity using a page out of a Mad Libs book and created a dry erase Mad Lib game that could be used over and over again. 

Craft Activity 3: French Memo Boards

A piece of cardboard
A layer of foam batting

Follow these instructions.  I have done this as a craft activity with my teens.  It takes a little bit of time, but is very rewarding.

Craft Activity 4: Sharpie Tie Dye Pillow Cases

White pillow case (Have teens bring their own)
Sharpies in a variety of colors
Rubbing alcohol
Paper towels

Follow these instructions.  This is one of my go-to crafts to do with teens, though typically with t-shirts.

Craft Activity 5: Cool Garland

Mod Podge
Sponge brushes

Follow these instructions to make Mod Podge Easter eggs, but instead of making Easter eggs you’ll just be making cool shapes to create garland. You can also use pieces of scrapbook paper and decorative punches to make this garland.

Bonus Craft: Wall Art

You can make canvas wall art simply by either printing off pictures or making collages using discarded magazines, Mod Podge and a blank canvas.  Simply Mod Podge your pics (or collages) onto a canvas (you can buy them in bulk at all craft stores) and create one of a kind wall art.  Another craft that is great to do with all those discarded magazines.

Collage on the left, Photo on the right

This is actually one of my favorite projects at the moment and I have done a ton of these to decorate the Tweens room.  I like to make photo collages in Microsoft Publisher and then print them out on regular copier paper to decoupage, that seems to work best.  They also make great gifts.

Take 5: Room Decorating Craft Books

Other Craft Ideas:
Instagram crafts (coming on Friday)
Poster Frenzy, make original posters to decorate your room
Story Terrariums to decorate your room
Make Fairy Gardens to decorate your room
Better Homes and Gardens Back to School Bedroom Crafts

Don’t forget to search on Pinterest for other cool room decorating craft ideas.

But wait – THERE’S MORE

The first section of Where’s My Stuff? is all about organizing your school stuff.  Think about what a great end of summer program this would be.  And we already have a ton of great back to school craft ideas for you here.  For example, you can modify this craft – magnetic tin bins – for the bedroom or locker and use my new best friend Duct Tape to tie it all together.  You can also create your own marble magnets or magnetic poetry kits for lockers.

I modified THIS cell phone Duct tape case, making it slightly larger, to create a cool place to store notes in your locker (or your room).  At a recent Duct tape workshop one teen made it big enough to hold her e-reader.

 Pair this with a couple of sessions on studying techniques and this Library Bootcamp, modified for a single program, and you have some great school success prep programming.

A final note about the book.  As with all Zest Books, Where’s My Stuff? has a fun and engaging lay out and design. It’s compact, just around 100 pages, so it’s not too intimidating.  The only drawback for library collections is it does have some space that it asks teens to write in, but I personally have never found this to be a problem in any of the libraries I have worked at and it doesn’t overwhelm the book.  There are, in fact, lots of good tips and information in here to help teens get organized in school and at home, and some good information for you to incorporate into a program.  Whether you are looking for a book to help your teen or a book for your library collection, this is a good addition.

Where’s My Stuff?, published by Zest Books in 2007. ISBN: 9780977266050