Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

YA A to Z: Peace and Quiet – Recharging Your Battery After Summer Reading, a guest post by librarian Lisa Krok

 It’s almost here, the end of summer. Which means for a lot of us, summer reading is wrapping up. Today librarian Lisa Krok is joining us to talk about recharging your batteries.


We all know that summer reading brings with it a flurry of activity, endless prep and cleanup, and most importantly, happy kids who are keeping their minds engaged and avoiding the summer slide. Now that your maker projects, crafts, concerts, slams, book clubs, cup stacking, video games, and cupcake wars are done, catch your breath. Literally…stop right now and take in a few deep inhales and exhales and be mindful of feeling yourself decompress. I think we get caught up in go-go-go-go for so long that we forget how to unwind and relax. We have served our patrons well, and now we need to recharge in that blissful month between summer reading ending and school starting, August.

Think of the speech they give every time you board an airplane: put the mask on yourself first before assisting others. Our nature as librarians is to be helpful, but we must take care of ourselves first to be of any good to anyone else. If you’re feeling burned out and exhausted, it is time to recharge. Ironically, one of the things that will help you recharge is to unplug. Yes, I said it. If you can’t do it for a week, do it for a day. If not a day, do it for an hour. No phones, no emails, no social media, no screens of any kind, just BE.

Stop and breathe some more; enjoy your surroundings. There are many things to appreciate that cost little to no money at all. Go for a walk in the park or visit your local botanical gardens for some beautiful sights and intoxicating scents. Many towns have free music in the park or at local colleges on the green. Bring a blanket along and enjoy a picnic. If you enjoy cooking, make your favorite meal; if not, treat yourself to a cherished restaurant. Have a soak in the tub for as long as you want (bring a book, of course).

Spend some time on your own or as a family at a local lake, beach, or pool. Sunshine and good books have tremendous healing powers! So do furry friends that may live in your home and relish extra cuddle time. Catch up with friends and family you haven’t seen because you have been too busy. Enjoy simple pleasures like lemonade or iced tea on the porch, smiling as your kids create with chalk on the driveway, or just watch the world for a while: wind blowing in the trees, squirrels running, birds chirping. Bring out some bright pencils and color in those Harry Potter and curse word coloring books (my two personal favorites) you bought but rarely use. Have a nap. Paint your nails. Practice some yoga poses. Light those scented candles you have been saving for something special. YOU are special, and you deserve them.

Lisa Krok

 Meet Our Guest Blogger


Lisa is a branch manager and teen librarian in the Akron-Summit County Public Libraries in Akron, Ohio, a member of the 2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach. A to Z

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.


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!

How Do You Measure Summer Reading Participation?

How do you ask teens to keep track of their reading during your summer reading program? That is one of the ongoing questions we seem to be asking ourselves each year as we approach summer reading.

My 21st teen summer reading program has just come to an end. I emptied out containers of reading slips and counted entries. This year there were 462, up more than 200% from the year before at the library I am currently working. And these numbers are a big increase from the average numbers I have had over the many and various programs I have hosted over years past.

This year, I did something different.

When I moved to Texas it was a new field of public libraries to visit and learn from, and visit I did. I happened once, in the only summer that I did not have a summer reading program in the past 22 years because we had just moved and I didn’t have a job, to visit the Arlington Public Library in Texas. They did something unique in their summer reading that I have always wanted to try. And this year I was finally able to try it.


Instead of having a random variety of prizes or thing for teens to win for completing some basic reading, we went big. I put together a variety of thematic prize packages that teens could enter to win, giving them more choice. When they read a book, they put a drawing slip into the prize basket of their choice. Then, all their reading entries went into a grand prize drawing in which we gave away a Kindle Fire. My teen summer reading station looked like this:

tsrcprizestation I had size prize basket options:

Girls Night In, which included movies like Mean Girls, candy, and fun spa type items.

Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit, which included a Nerf zombie gun, Twinkies (those who have seen Zombieland will get this reference), a water bottle, a flashlight and a variety of zombie titles

Road Trip, which included some audio books, games you can play in the car, and snacks of course

The Creative Life, which included a variety of fun craft items, magnetic poetry, journals, etc.

GN and Comic Book Lovers, which included a variety of gns, manga, I Am Princess X, etc.

Movie Lovers, which included a variety of DVDs, some books that had been turned into movies, a cool popcorn bucket and a variety of other snacks

As teens read, they had slips that they could put into the prize basket(s) drawings of their choice.

In the past, I have tried a variety of different types of book reporting. In some cases, everyone who read at least one book got something when they turned in their first entry form. The problem with this method has always been that in order to keep it in budget that something has always been something cheap and not really very enticing.

In other years, I did weekly drawings for slightly larger items, like various small gift cards to places like Taco Bell.

There are pros and cons to all of the various reporting methods. And we could always have the discussion about incentivizing summer reading and whether or not it achieves the ends goals we hope to achieve and truly encourages an innate love of reading for pleasure.

Yesterday, as I spent time doing my prize drawing and compiling some basic information to report to my admin, it looked something like this:


Teens are given more choice in what types of prizes they want to win by entering into the prize baskets of their choice. Choice, I always think, is an important thing to give teens.

Because all the prize drawings take place at the end, it was pretty low maintenance, allowing me to spend more time invested in programming.


Putting the prize packages together was time intensive, especially since this was my first time doing this. It required some planning and revising, which took multiple trips to the store.

Going through the slips at the end has proven to be time intensive, though this depends on what type of information you want to cull from them.

One of the data points many libraries like to have is how many people register or sign up for a summer reading program and how many of those people actually complete the program. I have never been a big proportion of registration numbers. Registering for a summer reading program is, in my opinion, easy and these numbers give us no significant data. Registering is basically someone putting their name on a piece of paper saying I intend to participate in the summer reading program. They never have to read a single thing; counting intent is a meaningless statistic. I understand on some basic level why administrators may be interested in comparing completion rates, but I find registration to be another access hurdle to ask teens to jump over in order to participate. The more hurdles we eliminate, the more likely teens are to participate and enjoy the summer reading process.

As with any other summer reading program process I have investigated, it’s pretty easy to game the system. Every year a staff member will ask, “but how do you know if they are cheating or not?” And the correct answer is, you don’t. There is no summer reading reporting system that I have encountered that will successful weed out cheaters. Kids can cheat on their reading logs. Teens can cheat on their reading entries. Adults can cheat on their reading entries. Cheating does and is always going to happen. Some people are cheaters, but most aren’t so I’m not going to create hurdles for others based on the actions of a few. Summer reading should be fun, it should encourage reading and participation, it should be a way of inviting the public to explore what the library has to offer. I’m not going to lose sight of that goal in order to weed out a few cheaters.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really liked this participation method. It definitely seems to have worked for us in terms of encouraging participation. And I thought it was very easy for staff as well as patrons. I will definitely be doing it again.

And thank you Arlington Public Library for the inspiration!

How do you measure summer reading participation? Share in the comments. I would love to know how others are doing this because I might find a new idea to borrow.

Sunday Reflections: Rethinking Summer Reading

sundayreflectionsI have been having heretical thoughts.


They began like this. The school kept sending notice after notice about summer camps that you could send your kid to. Science camp. Drama camp. Sports camp. And of course there is also church camp. We signed up for exactly none of them because we opted instead to buy food and pay the mortgage. And I thought about every other kid of any age who will also never get to have the experience of going to camp this year. And for many kids they will never, ever get the experience of going to camp.

At the same time, I was putting the finishing touches on my teen summer reading program and getting that publicity out to the public.

And I had an AHA! moment: what if we changed the programming of SRC and made it a series of 1 week immersion camps on a variety of themes. For example, one week we could have a cooking camp (I work in a library with 2 full kitchens). Another week we could have a robot camp. Still another week we could have a craft camp.

So I called up my library assistant director and shared my thoughts with her. After she realized I didn’t mean doing it THIS year, which kind of gave her heart palpitations, she was intrigued by the idea.

The bonus, for me, is that The Tween heard me call and discuss the idea with her and she thought it was brilliant. In fact, later that night we went for a walk and she wanted to talk with me some more about it. She even began brainstorming additional themes for various weeks.

Here’s what I’m thinking. The basic shell of it would still be the same, you could do your reading slips or whatever it is you do to encourage summer reading in your area. Where we change things up is the programming. For example, our SRC lasts for 6 weeks. So we would have 6 weeks of “summer camp” with a different theme. Tweens and teens would register (cost is still free) for the week of their choice. Then that week you would have a program every day around that theme. You could do half days or whole days, either asking teens to bring a sack lunch or getting a local business maybe to donate lunches. Unless your library is well funded, in which case you can just buy lunch. There also might be grants out there.

Obviously, you may be looking at this idea and thinking there is a lot of time commitment involved here, and there is. But theoretically you would be able to use people in your community to help with the various weeks. I, as you may know, could not actually do a cooking camp because I don’t cook and I manage to mess up making macaroni and cheese every other time I make it (not an exaggeration). But I work in a town that has not 1 but 2 local colleges and we may be able to find some volunteers from here to help pull this off. Or maybe some local high school teachers. Or just community members who love to craft, run their own businesses, etc. The thing is, networking is a good goal and this is a way to do some and meet the needs of your community teens.

Obviously the planning would be intense. Especially the first year. We need to figure out a structure that will work, pin down six themes we feel are worthy of our time and attention that will also attract teens, etc. Then we have to begin the hard work of contact people, nailing down dates, etc. Then comes all the nitty gritty details: Do you have teens sign up? How do you have teens sign up? Can they sign up for multiple weeks? Do you need parental permissions? What about food and drinks? Times? Staffing? Publicity?

When I was thinking about suggesting this model, I also recalled Spring Break 2013. That year, Spring Break fell during March, which is National Craft Month. That year I scheduled a different craft activity every day for the week of Spring Break. It was hands down the most successful programming I have ever done. The teens loved it and wanted to continue. I’m not going to lie, it was exhausting, expensive, and time intensive. But I also never forgot how successful that week was and how it met a real need for those teens during that week. I have been batting the idea of week long “summer camps” at the library in the back of my mind ever since that time.

I’m not going to lie, when I think about what it would actually take to plan and execute something like this, it gets a little overwhelming. Especially since I have almost always been a YA department of 1. But I also think of the benefits versus doing a variety of weekly programs marginally related to the year’s SRC theme. With this intense immersion into something teens are more likely to actually learn something about a topic they like and have chosen to participate in.

Does your library do anything like this? I would love to hear from you if you do. I know that some local science centers do a version of this so I think it’s not completely farfetched.

Now I just have to convince library staff to try something new and different. Wish me luck.

Sunday Reflections: If Ranganathan wrote a list about the SRP

I dislike participating in the SRP program with my own kids. 

I know, it sounds horrible. I cajole and prod during the school year and do my best to keep up with the paperwork, and by summer, my energy for the tedious tracking is gone. And my daughter’s energy for sustained, monitored engagement is as well. We are both ready for a break.

That’s not to say that we don’t read! The house is full of books, bedtime stories have been de rigueur since the first day home from the hospital, and both of my girls pride themselves on the carefully curated bookshelves behind their beds. I just don’t care to keep track, and neither do they. Part of our problem is that reading happens constantly. They encounter passages about various animals as they play Animal Jam. She reads street signs as we drive, cereal boxes at breakfast, and grocery lists midafternoon. Reading happens everywhere. How to mark the fits and starts into twenty minute segments?
This afternoon, my daughter raced up the stairs with her reading log exclaiming that she and her friend were going to read. Yay! About a half hour later, she came down to update me: they’re almost done with the reading club. Eleven princess books down, surely it had been six hours already. Do I dash her excitement about all of this reading, erase the marks and bring her back to reality? Or do I gauge her time generally, and return to the library when it seems about right. It’s the latter, and here’s why: 

I’m a firm believer in the simplicity and flexibility of Ranganathan.  The SRP, like libraries and books, is for use. To me, the five laws for SRP should read like this:

1. SRP is for people.

Let’s make the focus of SRP not prizes or hours or tallies, but the people who are participating. What do they want and need to make the most of their summer reading experience? How can we keep our SRPs people focused?

2. Every reader his [or her] material.

3. Every item its reader.

These stay largely the same; everything that we read is useful in its own way. As my pre-reader points to words over my shoulder in my novel asking, “does that say bed?” my early reader sounds out the words on the back of her cereal box and her older friend reads Rainbow Fairies to her. One teen takes the summer to dive into books by her favorite comedians in hopes of improving her performance in forensics, and another rediscovers his little brother’s Goosebumps and takes a walk down memory lane, while yet another has had her interest sparked by the Fault In Our Stars fervor and is devouring all of the contemporary YA and fanfic she can get her eyes on. None of it is better or more worthwhile. It’s serving the purposes, stages, and interests of the reader and it counts. 

4. Save the enthusiasm of the reader.

Did I tell my daughter to march back upstairs and erase the marks she’s made because they didn’t accurately reflect her reading? No way. She was THRILLED to have read so much; and thrilled to be reading for the first time in ages. SRP shouldn’t discourage enthusiastic reading, and that certainly would have. If she were another child, one who is an avid reader, or has a better grasp of time (don’t get me started on this — asking kids who can’t tell time to track minutes or hours… just makes no sense to me), I might treat this differently. For some, the prizes are a great motivator to read. Others will be content with just getting their name on the big board of participants. Some will read voraciously all summer long. Others will do exactly and only what they need to do to meet the requirements, others will register and never turn in their logs. Though it doesn’t jive with our need to document success through statistics, I really believe it doesn’t matter.

5. The SRP is different things to different people.

And this is the crux of it all. Just like the library means different things to different people, so does the SRP. For some, it’s a chance to read as many books as possible. For others, an invitation to dive into some books they’ve been waiting for. For another, it might be a way to get a pass to a museum or a free food coupon. Still others might really like getting little prizes along the way. Some use it as a way to structure their week and remind themselves to visit the library.  And others just might not care, and for that we should not judge them. It’s ok. We’re glad they came to the library and are using it for what they need and want. 

What the SRP isn’t to any of our patrons: an opportunity to gather statistics. Let’s keep that in mind as we work to make our SRPs bigger each year with numbers that reflect that. My hunch is that if we keep the focus on the people, the numbers will work themselves out.


Take 5: Science and Lit resources for the Collaborative Summer Library Program

This year’s collaborative summer reading theme, Fizz Book Read or Spark A Reaction, has a science theme to it. Today, I’m sharing a couple of fun resources that you may want to use in your programming or share with your tweens and teens. Actually, in this case these resources are mostly Tween friendly except for the Basher Basics books which I think have universal appeal.

Code Busters Series Guide from EgmontUSA
The Code Busters Club is a tween mystery series from EgmontUSA. They have a website and a STEM discussion guide. It’s definitely for the younger tween crowd, but you can pair it with some CSI type activities and have a fun program or book club meeting.

Nick and Tesla
My Tween is actually reading this series as I write this. She has finished book one and is currently half way through book 2 and really likes it. The Nick and Tesla series has its own built in activities right inside the books. And at the website, there are YouTube videos of Science Bob demonstrating the projects found inside the books. I am a fan.

Science Comics for Summer Reading
Diamond Bookshelf has put together a guide to comics that introduce comic readers to various types of science. I am particularly looking forward to the Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction coming in August.

Basher Basics
This series of books is a MUST HAVE for any collection. It focuses on Math and Science and provides basic, easy entry and discussion into a wide variety of topics. We have a large collection of these in my home thanks to the Scholastic Book Fair and I can not recommend them highly enough.

The Tween actually introduced me to this resource, which would be great to put on the desktops of your library computers for the summer reading challenge. Edheads describes itself as “an online educational resource that provides free science and math games and activities that promote critical thinking. Choose from Simple Machines, Virtual Knee Surgery or Stem Cell Heart Repair, among others. All activities meet state and national standards.” It comes with at least one tween endorsement.

Sunday Reflections: Why I don’t read teen fic on vacation

I’m going on a real vacation this summer, for the first time in a while.  We’re not tacking a few extra days at the end of a conference or family event.  This is the real deal: sand, sun, lighthouses, and wild ponies (really) with no other obligations.  And like any good reader’s adviser, choosing my vacation reading is at the top of my packing list.

Vacation reading is, for me, very different than reading at home or reading for work.  It’s a pure luxury: reading how it used to be; a vacation in and of itself.  It’s reading without obligations or rules.  It’s reading with no expectations, other than a good story.  Vacation reading is so specific to place for me as well.  I need to take several books on any trip, just in case it doesn’t feel right when I get there.  The availability of e-books for this kind of reading has saved me lots of space.  Then the story and the experience of reading it becomes as ingrained in my memory of the vacation as food might be for some, or the sights and sounds are for others.

Since becoming a “book professional” I mark vacations by the books I remember, because the luxury to read purely for reading’s sake has become something rare and treasured in my life.  That’s something no one tells you in library school right there, that while making reading your job sounds delicious and everything you dreamed of as a child, the truth is that it’s still a job.  Yes, a job you love, but – a job nonetheless.

I’ve crossed the country by books, reading The Brothers K while curled in the back of my parents’ van, driving home from Glacier National Park on my last family vacation before spouses and significant others started tagging along, immersed in the saga of a family’s diaspora unfolding over the course of decades, dovetailing with my own family’s history.

I dove into Pillars of the Earth in 2003, craving the length, the time period, the detail, the complexity, the adult themes, political scheming, and conflict — all in one place! — that I had been missing after my first year as a teen librarian, trying as hard as I could to read as much teen fiction as possible, as fast as possible, in hopes of catching up to the teens and keeping up with my collection.  Don’t get me wrong – teen fiction offers plenty of complexity, but my reading at the time was informed by professional gaps more than personal interest, and none of those 6th graders were suggesting I read this!
When none of the books in my stack fit my mood on a camping trip in Northern Michigan several years back, I found myself desperately browsing the paperback racks at the only book purveyor in town, K-Mart, in hopes of finding something to see me through the downpour outside.  I chose two books, and read them both within the next 24 hours while trying to stay dry.
Another year, camping with a small child, my only reading time came after dark, so I read Gone With The Wind, a book I’d avoided for years but finally, thankfully picked up, by the glow of a headlamp while sitting next to a campfire, far too late into the night.  
This year, we return to the spot where I read She’s Come Undone and wrote ungodly long letters to my crush in ’93, covered head to toe while on the beach because of some crazy photosensitive reaction.  It’s the same spot where, deep in my lit major era, I read a whole stack of Alice Walker and John Steinbeck in ’98, and the same place where I was working feverishly on my own book and not reading at all in 2006.
This year, when I finally return to Chincoteague, Virginia, in addition to the requisite book set in the location, I’ll be taking along the The Last Word, Document 6, the final book in Lisa Lutz’ Spellman Files series, a bittersweet pleasure read for sure.  The Spellman Files is the only series I read (unless assigned!) and it’s ending. I read Document 4, The Spellmans Strike Again while balancing a brand new baby on my chest at a lake house in Michigan, so it’s comfortable, familiar vacation reading for a comfortable, familiar vacation spot for me.  
Now, I know some of  you are thinking, “Why on earth is she talking about all of this adult fiction that is never going to be useful to me as a teen librarian?  What does Heather’s vacation reading have to do with teen librarianship?”  The thing of it is, this is what I need to recharge.  It’s what reminds me that reading is joyful and fun and interesting and personal.  

I love teen fiction, but I love reading more.  

If reading the latest greatest teen contemporary is what you crave while sipping a cool drink on a hot summer day, go for it.  But the second that starts to feel like work, stop.  Put it down, and find a way to recharge your summer reading.  My vacation reading is not made up of books I choose because they’ll help me do my job better, or because a teen I work with just loved it, or my coworker or blog slavedriver friend suggested that they would be good to review.  They’re books I choose because I choose them.  That choice is vital to keeping your love of reading as fresh and exciting as it was the summer you  I flew through twelve or so Babysitter’s Club books, and then met Meg Murray, who changed my world under a tree at a campground in Iowa.  
That choice is what we encourage parents to give their teens when selecting books.  It’s what we remind teens of every time we help them locate the next in a series, every time we probe a little deeper to uncover the kind of book that the reluctant reader would actually enjoy, and remind him to never apologize for his reading tastes.  It’s why we order a wide variety of books, and compile them into book lists for every reading taste and interest.  It’s why we lobby for genre reading and champion the Quick Pick list and get grouchy over stale, stuffy required reading.  Choosing our own reading is powerful stuff!  
Reading for fun is vital to retaining your energy and enthusiasm about reading for fun. 
This is a job that can seep into every corner of your life (and house – who doesn’t have a stack of TBR somewhere lurking in the corner?), and it’s important to give yourself a break and recharge.  Maybe you don’t want to read at all on vacation.  That’s ok too!  Whatever you do for relaxing entertainment on your vacation, do it with no expectation of reaping direct benefits when you return to work.  It’s the surest way to return to work fresh, restored, and really ready to give your teens everything they deserve in a teen librarian – an energetic, empathetic, engaged ally behind the desk.  
What did you read on YOUR summer vacation this year?  

Things I Never Learned In Library School: You Will Never Have Another Summer Vacation

If you are not in youth services, you may be shocked – shocked I tell ya! – to learn that summer is the busiest part of a youth or teen services librarian’s life.  Summer is not when we take vacation and hang out with our kids.  No, we spend the first part of the year trying to plan for summer, the summer trying not to pull our hair out, and the fall trying to recuperate.

Summer Reading Clubs (or Challenged or Programs, whatever you call them) are often the biggest production of a library program.  I am not kidding when I say that libraries spend months planning.  There are prizes to obtain and organize, performers and programs to book, marketing materials to gather together . . . and you have to do all this while you are still doing the day to day activities.

My dad had the audacity one year to get remarried in July.  In another state. 
Some of you already know what a really big deal it was to try and get the time off for this event.  And ALA every year in the summer? Forget about it.  I went in asking for the time off this year with my tail between my legs and my very best puppy dog eyes.  I got the time off, but it also means we have to scramble to find people to take over programming, man SRC material stations and more.

Most libraries will host a summer reading club/challenge/program that begins when the school year ends and lasts anywhere from 6, 8 or 10 weeks.  The thing is, summer reading programs are really beneficial to our kids as it helps to keep them reading over the summer months.  Yes, some kids are readers and they will read regardless, but we all know that many aren’t and they need that extra incentive.

Library summer programs also provide educational and entertainment opportunities for the community throughout the less busy summer months.  Idle hands and minds can get into trouble, but summer reading programs provide a wide variety of programming events to help kids (and teens) occupy their time during the hot summer months.  From magicians to scientists to cute and cuddly animals, there are cool things happening at libraries across the globe during the summer months.  Just remember that when you are having fun at the library, a dedicated team of librarians worked behind the scenes to make all that happen, often sacrificing their own summer fun along the way.

As I get ready to kick off my own SRC for the year, I am reminded why we are doing this: Reading makes us all better, and the summer is a great time to read.  We’ll just have to take a vacation in the fall.

Here is some research from the ALA webpage about SRPs. Hopefully, knowing how beneficial SRPs are helps take some of the sting out of the loss of that summer vacation time.

So tell us about your Summer Reading Plans:
How long does your SRP last?
How do you have teens keep track of their reading?
How many and what types of programs will you be doing?
Do you believe in offering prizes for reading or would you rather just emphasize reading for fun?
And are you getting any time off this summer?

Tweens in the Library: Getting Them Involved in Summer Reading Programming

I am a huge believer of keeping my patrons involved in our library.  If they’re invested in the library and the community, they have a reason to come back, and feel like they belong.  I’ve always felt that way, no matter what library I’ve worked in- large branch or small.  Libraries are such a huge portion of the community, and when the community is invested in it, it takes on a life of it’s own.

I apply this heavily in my tween programming.  I’m heavy in the middle of summer programming, and we (Texas) just switched from having a state program to investing in the Collaborative Summer Reading Program, so our theme for the tween set (which I define as eight through twelve years old, YMMV) is Dig Into Reading.  If your tweens are anything like mine, it didn’t exactly inspire much enthusiasm (flowers, Miss?  REALLY? Plants? WORMS?)  So, it’s my job to GET them enthused- this is the age where reading goes to aliteracy, and they’re not old enough for the lock-in and teen things but old enough to WANT them.  These are the ages where they get so BORED with summer reading, so to get them invested is the BEST thing we can do.

First, I took the CSRP theme and thought up twelve themes for tweens that I thought would work best- ones that I knew I could create some interesting programs for my kids.  Then I created a ballot and had them vote.  Looking at the programming calendar, I knew that I had three programs that I needed tween themes for. The three with the most votes would be the programs for the summer.

After two weeks of voting, I had my three themes:  Mummies, Wizards, and Spies.

Next, I went through the PG listings of movies covered by our umbrella license, and pulled out movies that would fit the three themes, and highlighted them in different colors.  I then let two of my tweens loose with my list and a computer set to IMDB.com, and had them put YES, NO, or 1/2 for their preferences (half being if they couldn’t come to a decision).

 From their list of movies with definite approval, I pulled out ones that I knew I could stand to watch (a definite requirement for *any* program that I do) and have created our Tween Movie Ballot below.

This week is our school system’s spring break week, so they’ll vote for their favorite in each category, and the winner will be the movie we watch.  I’ll tie it in with crafts, games, and other activities pulled from the Internet and the chaos that is my brain, and we’ll have a wonderful time.  

And, not only have I gotten some of my summer programming done, but I’ve gotten a large group of my tweens interested in what’s going on, what the results are, and what we’re doing for the summer- and it’s mid March.

How do you get your tweens involved in your library?  What programs are you planning for your tweens this summer?  Share in the comments!

TPiB: Beneath the Surface Ideas for Tweens/Teens

Ah, February…  the time when every teen services specialist thinks of candy hearts, chocolate tastings, and OMG, we have HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL SUMMER?!?!??!  Do not fear!  We at Teen Librarian Toolbox have not one, not two, but EIGHT different ideas that would fit in with the 2013 Collaborate Summer Reading Program Theme (Beneath the Surface & Dig Into Reading)…

I happen to be in charge of everything (splitting the youth portion with my part time youth services librarian) and have had tremendous success with tween programs.  So for the summer I’m alternating between tween and teen nights.  However, any of these ideas can be aged up or down depending on your library, and what works for your patrons.  What works for me and mine may not work for you and yours.

Note:  All movie suggestions have been cleared through Movie Licensing USA, which is where my system gets their umbrella license.  If you do not have a public performance license, please use movies in the public domain.  Do not have the authorities pounding down your door.  Also, while the MPAA ratings are a guideline and not law, no movies suggested go above PG-13.


Superheros/secret identities 

  • Movie suggestions: DC Superheroes featuring Superman, Green Lantern, Batman– the first week of June Man of Steel is released in theaters so it would be a good tie in.  Marvel superheroes like The Avengers or Iron Man as Iron Man 3 will have been released in early May.

  • Craft suggestions:  create your own superhero emblem and place in a photo keychain, or utilize the system’s buttonmaker (start preparing the arm muscles), or get mask blanks and let them design their own costume piece

  • Game suggestions:  pin the cape on the superhero, name the secret identity, create your own superhero, get your own superhero name,  Marvel Monopoly


  • Movie Suggestions: anything zombie related, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or I am Legend (World War Z is released June 20)

  • Craft suggestions: create your own zombie heads with blank kickballs (hacky sacks for those of us who remember), or create a little felt zombie with some scraps and a house out of leftover candy tins.  Or check out Zombie Felties for a real craft project. 


Law enforcement

  • Movie Suggestions: The Lone Ranger comes out July 3, so you could pull in the western aspect with Wild Wild West, or go full force with S.W.A.T. or uber mysterious with Total Recall (2012)

  • Craft suggestions:  rattlesnake pulls, ID badges, finger print cards, create your own wanted poster

  • Game suggestions: Live Clue, mystery scavenger hunts, assassin

Shark week

  • Movie Suggestions: Really, what else is there but Jaws or the sequels? 

  • Craft suggestions: baby food jars plus plastic sharks=shark globes, or make your own shark teeth necklaces, design a shark bite

  • Game suggestions: shark bite tag, feed the shark (bean bag toss), shark volley


  • Movie Suggestion:  Wreck-It Ralph. Yes, seriously.  Yes, they are both video games, but if you have ever seen Minecraft, they build and build and build, and then take it down and tear it apart and then build and build and build.

  • Craft suggestions:  create your own Steve masks, fold your own Minecraft printables, build your own creepers

  • Game suggestions: Live Minecraft (gather boxes to build the fort, have some tweens be builders, and some be creepers and destroyers- see who wins), Creeper Bowling, after hours Minecraft gameplay


  •  Movie Suggestions:  Jurassic Park, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Godzilla

  • Craft Suggestions:  Create your own dinosaur fossils, dinosaur bones out of pasta, design your own dinosaur heads

  • Game suggestions: bean bag toss with dinosaur eggs, hot dinosaur egg (hot potato), Lava tug-o-war between the herbivores and the carnivores


  • Movie Suggestions: The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Hotel Transylvania, Corpse Bride, Jumangi

  • Craft Suggestions:  create your own mummies cardboard tube mummies, potato chip tube mummies, create your own tombs (Check out the hieroglyphics section on this Art Through the Ages TPiB)

  • Game Suggestions: Musical chairs (Walk Like an Egyptian, King Tut, etc.), Mummy wrapping, hieroglyphics codes 

Spy party

  • Movie Suggestions:  Spy Kids, Inspector Gadget, James Bond movies or the Austin Powers series

  • Craft Suggestions: recyclables to make their own gadgets, finger printing, disguise printables

  • Game Suggestions: disguise relay races, spy training obstacle courses, hide and seek, assassin

    Adapt ideas from this CSI themed TPiB