Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Shower Melts by Cindy Shutts

I love doing bath and body programs. I based this programming on this recipe.

Aromatherapy Shower Melts


  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sea salt or Epsom salt
  • up to 2 tsp of water
  • Peppermint or lemon 10 drops 10
  • Bowl 
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Tablecloths
  • Use Food gloves for mixing


  1. Mix dry ingredients in the bowl ½ cup of Baking soda and ¼ Epsom salt
  2. Add water slowly and mix. The mixture should stick together but not look wet. Add more water as needed.
  3. Add ten drop of the lemon or peppermint
  4. Move mixture in the plastic conditioner you should have enough for 2-3.
  5. Wait 24 hours for it to Dry

Final thought: This was a great program and when I get back to work I plan to do more programs like it.

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.FacebookTwitterShare

Cindy Crushes Programming: Riverdale Escape Room 2

In today’s episode of Cindy Crushes Programming, Cindy Shutts shares with us how she hosted a second Riverdale themed escape room with her teens. You can learn all about her first one here.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT and online:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Stranger Things Themed Escape Room

Programming Librarian: Creating a DIY Escape Room for Your Library

Plot: Journey back to Riverdale and help save Jughead and the Southside Serpents from an evil force trying to take over the town. They must the Southside Serpent who only has 45 minutes to be rescued and if he is not saved the Southside Serpents will perish.


  • You could use the Breakout Edu kit
  • 4 number lock
  • 3 number lock
  • Word lock
  • Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes
  • Southside Serpent signs. I plan on hiding the note on the back of one.
  • Riverdale’s Southside Map (found online)
  • List of Locations
  • Various props I have in my office
  • Props that I made for my last Riverdale Escape Room that I will reuse to be red herrings.
  • Homemade Pop’s Dinner Menu
  • Receipt
  • Fake blue and gold newspaper
  • Maple syrup label
  • Dear Riverdale letter
  • Spellman Mortuary label printed off from my Sabrina Escape Room
  • Fake poster about the dance where Josie and the Pussycats are supposed to perform.

Instructions: I made sure to read the prompt aloud so everyone knew what was going on. I also let them know they had two hints. I am prepared to always add one more hint later on if they need it.

Red Herrings: Homemade Pop’s Dinner Menu, Receipt, Blue and Gold Newspaper, Maple Syrup Label, Spellman Mortuary Label

Word Lock:  Morse Code …  .–. . .-.. .-..  with a Morse Code guide hidden in the room.

4 Number Lock:  The note about the missing serpent will be included in this clue.

Dear Riverdale,

The Serpent of the Southside is mine.  The serpent’s power will die out and so will the serpents. After the serpent dies, three eagles will scream, five wolves will howl and thirty southsiders will die.

Try and Stop me!

The code 3530

3 Number Lock: 465 I plan on hiding a 4 6 5 in the room and color coding the letters. 4 is blue, 6 is Green and 5 is orange. I will also have a list of colors hidden in the room to help find the order. Blue, Green, Orange.

Key Lock: The key will be hidden in the room. It will be in the big box and the lock will be attached to the small box with the snake in it.

Directional Lock: (Up Down Right Left) I found a map of the Southside of Riverdale online and printed a list of locations Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Fox Forest Park, Crystal Lake, Southside High School.

Final Thoughts: The teens really enjoyed this program and had a great time. I had a good number of teens. I had worried Riverdale was over with teens since the newer seasons have had less viewers.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Body Scrubs and Face Masks

Today, my co-worker Ariel Nelson joins me to talk about a program we hosted together. I had planned a body scrub program for adult and teens when Ariel came and asked if she could combine her facemask program with my body scrub program. I was really excited because Ariel is very knowledgeable about home beauty care products! She makes her own all the time. We both love to use Pinterest to find recipes! It was also nice to have two people running this program. We each did our own recipes in groups of ten and had the patrons switch stations.


  • Containers for scrub and facemask to go in
  • Magic Bullet
  • Mixing bowls and spoons (make sure to get the right size)
  • Mint Cucumber Scrub
  • Cucumber
  • White Sugar
  • Coconut Oil
  • Peppermint
  • Oats
  • Plain Milk
  • Rose Water
  • Plain Yogurt
A blue bowl on a table

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9 Homemade Body Scrubs

Cindy’s Cucumber Mint Body Scrub

Here are the directions:

You can find the original directions borrowed from Creations by Kara: https://www.creationsbykara.com/cucumber-mint-sugar-scrub/


  • 4 Cucumber Slices
  • 3/4 Cup White Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil
  • 4 drops of Peppermint


1.           Use the Magic Bullet to puree the 4 cucumbers slices

2.           Pour in mixing bowl

3.           Add 3/4 of a cup white sugar and mix

4.           Add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and mix

5.           Add four drops of peppermint and mix.

6.           Poor into the plastic bag and it is ready to take home.

7.           Please refrigerate until use because of the cucumbers.

A picture containing table, food, plate, indoor

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7 DIY Face Mask Recipes

Areil’s DIY Oatmeal Face Mask


  •  3 teaspoons oats (slightly blended)
  • 1 teaspoon of plain milk (warmed slightly)
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  •  1 teaspoon plain yogurt


1. Mix oats with slightly warmed milk until the mixture forms a thick paste.

2. Add in rose water and yogurt to the mixture and stir until all the ingredients are uniform.

*As an alternative to using plain milk and plain yogurt, you can use 1-2 teaspoon(s) of raw honey instead: Mix oats, rosewater and honey together to form a paste*


1. Apply face mask to clean, slightly damp face and neck area

2. Leave facemask on for 15-30 minutes

3. Rinse facemask off with warm water

*Store your facemask in the fridge for up to 1 week if you plan to use it multiple times.


1. Happy, healthy skin starts from the inside out. Make sure you are staying hydrated by drinking AT LEAST four 8-ounce glasses of water and follow a healthy, balanced diet.

2. Prior to face mask application, make sure that skin is cleansed thoroughly and wash your hands before applying mask.

3. The most hygienic way to apply a facemask is with an applicator: a bristle brush or a brush with a silicone wand.

4. After applying your facemask and cleansing your skin, moisturize your skin with a moisturizer formulated to your skin type.

Final Thoughts:  We thought this program went really well. All the patrons were really happy and were excited to use their new skin care products.  This is a more costly project but you can always look for sales and find cheaper recipes. This project would be less expensive for patrons to recreate at home.

More Programming Fun with Spa Themed Activities:

#RethinkAmerican: Part three in the Great Stories Club series, by Lisa Krok

Back in October and December, I posted the first two parts of this series. These can be found in the links below:

Part one: Racial Healing Circles   Part two: #RethinkLabels

These were developed in conjunction with ALA’s Great Stories Club grant and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio (DCNEO), who funded my project with a matching grant. Together with DCNEO, we provided programming that correlates to the themes of our Great Stories Club books. All book clubs and programs are held at the Harvey Hub. This is a collaborative effort between Morley Library and Harvey High School that is new this past school year. Mondays through Thursdays, the high school and the library each provide a staff member after dismissal time in the school library media center for about three hours. This provides opportunities for programming, book clubs, crafts, homework help, and more.

We meet first to discuss the designated books, and then follow up a week later with DCNEO  that corresponds to the themes of the books. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was selected from the choices Great Stories Club provided, due to its themes of immigrants and deportation. There is a large immigrant population at the school we work with, so this is an important and relatable topic for the teens. When we met to examine the book together, I showed the group photos of Nicola Yoon and her husband, author David Yoon. They immediately noticed that Nicola is a Black woman, and David is a Korean-American man, just like Natasha and Daniel, the main characters in the book. This fascinated the crowd, and seemed to make the book more authentic to them, since it was inspired by the author’s real life.

The following week, we met again to dig deeper into the themes of the book with DCNEO for the #RethinkAmerican program. We began with an icebreaker called Cross the Line. This involved Simone Hutchings, our DCNEO leader, stating “Stand up if you…” and a situation. The cases states were things like:

-Stand up if you were born in the United States

-Stand up if you were born in another country

-Stand up if you are proud to be an American

-Stand up if you have ever told a joke that could be considered racist or offensive

-Stand up if you speak more than one language

…and many more. This sparked interesting conversations afterwards.

*Everyone was given the right to privacy if they did not feel comfortable disclosing a particular situation.

Next, giant pads of paper were hung in three areas of the room. Students were instructed to think about what being an American means for different groups: the media, their families, and themselves. The group broke up and moved around the room to write their ideas on each sheet. The photos below show their varied responses.

We debriefed afterwards to point out similarities/differences amongst the three pages. Next, we translated those ideas to what we see as American values and our own personal values. Each student was given the sheet below, and volunteers shared their thoughts.

We concluded with a brief video and discourse. Similar to the #RethinkLabels video from part two in our series, DCNEO has created a #RethinkAmerican video, also. View it here: #RethinkAmerican video  (three minutes).

Many thanks to the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio!

-Lisa Krok Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians, forthcoming from ABC-CLIO in March 2020. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She was appointed to the 2019-2020 YALSA Presidential Advisory Task Force, served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team, and is on the BFYA committe. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Cindy Crushes Programming: March Madness Bracketology

Background: Basketball is my favorite sport. I was lucky enough to live in Joliet, IL which is just an hour away from Chicago. I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls during their prime. It was a magical time.

I also am a Kansas Jayhawk. I went to the University of Kansas for a short while and both my parents and sister went there. The University of Kansas is one of the premier basketball schools in the country. The first Kansas coach was Dr James Naismith who actually invented the game of basketball and KU houses the Original Rules of Basketball.

What is March Madness?

March Madness is the NCAA basketball tournament (Men’s and Women’s) of which the winner is the national champion. Currently the tournament includes the top 68 teams in the country. 32 of the teams are the winners of the conference tournaments held in March which get automatic bids. The rest are picked by rankings and their strength of schedule. It is always hard to figure who is in and who is out. The champion is crowned in April.

Here is the link to the NCAA page about the bracket. It has a nice video that gives more information about how the tournament runs. I also have last year’s bracket so you can get a better idea of how the bracket will look.


How to create a program:

This is hard to program time wise. You have to wait until selection Sunday to do the Men’s Bracket. The Women’s Bracket is released the following Monday. Games for the Men’s Tournament actually start that Tuesday night. I like to have the program start on that Tuesday so I can have the participants both brackets that night.  The Women’s Bracket is not as challenging. The University of Connecticut women have won six times in the last decade. It takes away a lot of upsets. This year should be more interesting as UCONN already is projected to be a second seed instead of a number one seed. Baylor beat UCONN at home which snapped their home winning streak of 98 games. Brackets come out for the men on March 15 and Women March 16.


  1. Print out brackets.  I like to use CBS Sports Brackets because I think they usually have the best bracket or Yahoo Sports Brackets.
  2. Bring a lot of pencils. You need to make sure the teens will be able to erase.
  3. I like to talk about the history of college basketball and explain what the brackets mean. Each of the four brackets has a number one seed. These are the best teams in the country. The 16th seeds are the worst. The Number 16 team plays the Number 1 team in the first game up. Until 2018 a Number One Seed had never lost to a Number 16. In the Men’s Bracket in 2018 University of Maryland Baltimore County (16) beat Virginia(1).
  4. Explain how to fill out their brackets. Please look over the bracket before you hand them out so you know how to fill them out. For the play in the games I have them circle who they believe will win. For the rest of the games I have them write in t their winners. This part takes the most time. A lot of the teens have no idea how to fill it out. I tell them they can pick different ways. I always like the cutest mascot. It really can work well. I make sure to tell them to not always pick the higher team in the bracket because they are always upsets. I check handwriting on this part because it is really important that you can read them.
  5. I always like to end the program playing a One Shining Moment video which is the song they play at the end of the tournament.

After the program: I like to have a prize for the teen who had the best bracket. This means waiting until after the Championship Game. I do a simple scoring which I give each right answer one point but you can do it a lot of ways such as one point for round 1 and 2 and then up the points for the later rounds. This is subjective. I make them write a score for the final game to be a tie breaker but have never had to use it.  I call the winner and give them a random prize.

Final Thoughts: This was an easy program for me since I know a lot about basketball. If you are doing it for the first time, I do recommend learning more about the tournament to be prepared to help the teens. There are often questions. The teens who like sports love to do this program and try to out basketball trivia on me which is fun.

Editor’s Note: You can also use the March Madness bracket format to do a book themed program. Here’s an older post about this.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives: The Teen and I Discuss what Musical Theater Means to Theater Teens and Why Librarians Should, and Can, Care

There are a lot of different ways to tell a story and books are just one of them. No one was more surprised then me when The Teen signed up for musical theater in the 7th grade. I have no talent to pass on and this child of mine is introverted and shy so it never occurred to me that in theater, she would find herself and her people. She is now a junior and I have seen her perform in 6 musicals, 6 plays, and win 2 awards. More than that, it has been my greatest parental joy to see her happy, fulfilled, working hard, succeeding and just finding herself.

The Teen in Sweeney Todd

She is one of many teens who find themselves in theater. Theater kids are her friends and her family. And like many teens around our world, they speak a lot in musicals. Today she has put together this list of her and her friends favorite songs from the musicals that speak to them and shares what they mean to her. Want to know about teens and what they’re thinking about? Don’t forget about the theater kids.

The Teen’s Musical Playlist

A list of songs from various musicals and why they matter.

Dead Mom from Beetlejuice

This musical is very easy to relate to. A lot of people have lost someone who they loved and relied on. It can be hard for people to talk about that but this song really captures how it feels to experience a lose.

She Used to Be Mine from Waitress

This musical is truly beautiful. It talks about wishing you could go back and change the things that you did in the past because you aren’t living a happy life. As the musical progresses the main character begins to accept that she made mistakes and realize that who she has become is enough.

In My Dreams from Anastasia

This song is just so extraordinary. It sounds so amazing and the singer has a stunning voice.

Lifeboat from Heather

This song gives us insight into the life of one of the Heathers. Se talks about how she wishes she didn’t have to be the way she was but she feels like she has no choice.

I Don’t Need Your Love from Six

This musical is so fun and it actually talks about something important. This musical is about the six wives of Henry the VIII. This song is about his last wife and she sings about how she shouldn’t be known for who her husband was because she was so much more than that.

In the Air Tonight from American Psycho

This musical sounds super cool and the Eleventh Doctor is in it. It is a very violent show but if you look past that it has some really awesome music.

I Like It from A Bronx Tale

This musical is very underrated. It has some amazing music and it talks about how greed can lead to so many problems.

Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening

This song has so much depth. It sounds so meaningful and it has so much heart.

Wait for Me from Hadestown

Amazing voices, amazing choreography, and amazing set. Just an all around amazing performance and show.

Rockin’ Jerusalem from Choir Boy

This may not technically be a musical but the songs are beautiful. Every voice is meant to be heard.

Turn it Off from The Book of Mormon

This song is hilarious. It is absolutely ridiculous and so fun. You can’t help but sing along.

High Adventure from Aladdin

This musical is fun and this song is even more fun. It makes you want to go on a high adventure.

Requiem from Dear Evan Hansen

This is my favorite song from the whole musical. It talks about how the sister of the boy who committed suicide can’t feel sad about losing him because he really wasn’t that good to them. It sounds so enchanting and it makes me cry every time.

One Normal Night from The Addams Family

If you love the movie then there is a good chance that you will love this musical. It really adds a fun little extra bit to the family.

City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

The Teen and cast sing City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

After doing this show I always find myself thinking about this song. It was awful to learn how to sing because it’s all over the place but it was so fun.

Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof

This musical made me mad when it ended but the opening really sets up for a spectacular show.

Think of Me from The Phantom of the Opera

All of the songs in the show are amazing and this musical will always be a classic.

Tango: Maureen from Rent

Everyone knows the opening song for this musical but this song is also amazing.

No Me Diga from In the Heights

This is one of the most funny songs from the show. It is just so fun to sing along to.

Cell Block Tango from Chicago

This song is known by everyone in theatre. It makes you want to be in jail just so you could do something like this.

A Few More Thoughts from a Teen Librarian on Public Libraries and Musical Theater

You’ll notice that she left Hamilton off of this list. Make no mistake, we went through our Hamilton phase and wore that soundtrack out. Hamilton singalongs were and are a ton of fun. I’ve even done a few High School Musical singalongs when the movie was popular. These are just a few ways you can incorporate musical theater into your teen services.

Want to know how you can incorporate musical theater into your programming and support local teens and your local schools? Start networking with your local drama teacher and ask them to do a special sneak peek of upcoming musicals at your library. They can sing a couple of songs in costume, do a meet and greet, and generate PR while you get some fun, arts based, and community networked programming. You don’t need scenes or props, just local teens in costume singing a couple of songs to generate interest and community support. On the occasions when I have worked in libraries that did this, they were tremendously successful. You have a somewhat built in audience because every kid that comes and performs will bring some parents and friends with them.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a fun book about teens and theater

You can also find out far enough in advance what those upcoming high school musicals are to make read-alike book lists, put up displays, and help promote community events. YA Librarian Cindy Shutts and coworkers have started a great series of Broadway Booklists to help get your started: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown, and Prom: The Musical. You can bundle the books on the lists with the soundtracks and the movie if they’re available and make binge kits and circulating bundles.

There are also a lot of book lists out there for tweens and teens who love musical theater. You’ll definitely want to check out the classic No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman about a young boy who turns a book report into a musical theater rock opera . . . on roller skates. Goodreads has a book list of 63 YA titles that deal with theater, not just musical theater.

You can do workshops, viewings, singalongs and more. Teach teens how to use technology to create their own playlists. Set up a music writing station as suggested by Mary Amato in this post. Circulate ukuleles. Make-up, costuming, graphic design and more are all ways that you can incorporate musical theater and theater in general into your library programming. Network with your local schools, community theaters, and your very own teens.

And Scene . . .

The Teen writing her musical playlist list for you

Before writing this post, The Teen, Thing 2 and I just finished watching High School Musical, The Musical, The Show on Disney+. The Teen cried through the last two episodes because it captured perfectly everything that musical theater means to her. It’s about the grit that is required when life throws you every curve ball, because as you know, the show must go on. It’s also about finding your family, which I am so glad happens for these kids.

Teens crave ways to express themselves creatively, they crave finding a place that they can belong and feel comfortably accepted as self, and they thrive when they are supported by the adults in their lives and their communities. Supporting the arts and bringing them into our libraries in creative ways can make all of this happen.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Starfinder RPG, an interview with Nicholas Vidmar

We’re kicking off the new year with a fresh installment of Cindy Crushes Programming. Today YA librarian Cindy Shutts interviews adult librarian Nicholas Vidmar. Together, the two of them host a successful Starfinder program at White Oak Library. Starfinder is a role playing game (rpg) similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but with a more science fiction setting.

Background: At the White Oak Library in Romeoville we have been running an RPG (Role-Playing Game) called Starfinder. I help run this program with Nicholas Vidmar who is an adult services librarian. He takes the role of GM (Game Master) and runs the game. I help out by making the connections with our teens and bringing them to the table and I also play during the game to help make sure we can finish a scenario. Nicolas plays a variety of RPG games. He paints his own figures. We are lucky to have him because he brings a lot of his own materials to make the game run smoothly. Starfinder is a great RPG game, if you have played Dungeons and Dragons and are looking for something new.  Nicholas calls it Guardians of the Galaxy D and D.  I interviewed Nicholas about Starfinder and how librarians can add it to their programming. 

Starfinder Interview:

How long have you been playing role playing games and what are some of your favorites?

Nicholas: I was introduced to TTRPGS (Tabletop Role Playing Game Systems) about 5 years ago. There was a struggle getting into it as I played my first game in (Dungeons &  Dragon v3.5) for two very rough sessions then did not touch the genre for 6 months before I got invited to a 5th edition game that died after 3 sessions. Then I started GMing to keep games alive and have been running weekly games since. I have the most time put into 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, but since Starfinder’s release two years ago it has rapidly become my favorite. Aside from these two I also play/run Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, Zweihander, and the occasional game of Kobolds Ate My Baby.

What supplies do you need for a Starfinder program at your library? About how much does the program cost?

Nicholas: This can vary greatly. If you run absolute basics, you can have everything for up to 10 players for about $20 plus some printing costs. The basics consist of a set of 7 dice per player (d20, d12,d10,d10,d8,d6,d4), a character sheet (free online), writing implement, and the rule book. Pathfinder and Starfinder stand apart from many TTRPGS because the whole ruleset, not just basic rules, is available free online because of an open game license. If you were to buy the books, still something I would recommend, they each run between $40-$60. Though a one-time investment, this cost does make TTRPGS more cost prohibitive. To move up from basics, the next recommended items are a GM screen and a battle mat. The screen gives the GM quick reference and hides his/her notes and rolls from the players. A battle mat is a one inch grid set on the table to help players visualize combat. Starfinder is unusual in that it requires both a square and hex grid. The cheapest mat is a roll of wrapping paper, many have a grid printed on the back. Once you have a mat, then you can get into minis, the most expensive and superfluous part of the game. Most of these resources are good for many games, so there are no ongoing costs except new character sheets.

How long is set up and what does it entail?

Nicholas: So TTRPGS have two layers of set up: pre game, and at the table. Before the game: characters need to be made, the rules learned, and an adventure planned. How long these take depend on the division of labor and type of GM. Players can make their own characters, or leave it to the GM if they find the rules confusing. It takes about an hour to make a fully fleshed out and kitted supplied character. Pregenerated characters are also available for certain levels. For Starfinder there are about 50 pages of tactical rules and supplements on other aspects of the game. Having a general knowledge of this content is important to keep the game running, but you can also reference the rules midgame. Lastly there is the process of planning the adventure. This can be extremely meticulous if you need to know every possible outcome of potential player actions, or a non-existent step if the GM is comfortable winging it. Generally it is agreed that a middle ground of an adventure framework with flexibility to accommodate crazy player choices is the best option. At the table the GM needs to set up the battle mat and the resources they need to run the planned game. Printed out stat blocks, minis, dice, GM screen, etc. Players just show up and get out their character sheet, dice, and a mini if they have one. Usually this takes 15-20 minutes.

What types of storylines are in Starfinder?

Nicholas: Starfinder is a Science Fantasy setting so you have aliens, spaceships and laser weapons alongside Elves and magic. This allows for a huge variety of adventures. You can go from starship combat to raiding an ancient temple on a forgotten world, to navigating the servers of a corrupt corporation to bring them to light. I personally fancy the derelict space drift where something went wrong; a little mystery, and little horror, sometimes an ethical dilemma, and often some really abominable creatures. It can also be as light hearted as playing a bunch of friendly furballs trying to make sure their boss is safe, if that sounds fun go play Skittershot, a fantastic introductory adventure published by Paizo.

What is the difference between Starfinder and Dungeons and Dragons?

Nicholas: The setting is different. It is a different world in a different time. D&D is high/epic fantasy while Starfinder is science fantasy. Overlap does exist, 5th edition has aliens, looking at you Froghemoth, and Starfinder has fantasy races. Still the focus on technology is a significant difference. Classes and mechanics are even further apart. There are minor parallels like Envoy to Bard and Solider to Fighter, but otherwise classes are entirely apart. It is a preference of flavor here. Starfinder is more mechanically complex than 5th edition, more actions have rules supporting them. They are both still d20 systems and so have inescapable parallels, but how the numbers get modified varies. 5th edition uses rerolls while Starfinder uses numeric modifiers, yes that means more math.

How did they teens like Starfinder?

Nicholas: Many loved the setting and possible character concepts, like a psionic psychedelic space walrus named Phoomph Debloomp. There was a great deal of excitement over getting to fly a starship. The teens were split on the increased complexity. Some thought it was awesome to see so many factors making them powerful, but others felt limited because they could not roll to win. Not every system is for every player, but there is an RPG for everyone.

What is your favorite part of Starfinder?

Nicholas: The setting has me hooked, and starship combat is a treat.

What would you like librarians who are trying new RPG systems to know?

Nicholas: It is a front loaded endeavor; the prep work to start is heavy. This means that one off programs are a poor choice if you are running in house. If the program is recurring it is fantastic because the cost and effort drop to very minimal levels. Eventually, players can take up the reigns and the program can become self-sustaining. It can also buff circs as the rule books are easy recommendations coming off the game. I will also caution others of the Chaotic Stupid archetype that is rampant among new players. TTRPGS are cooperative, but often new players want to be evil for the sake of evil. This is very bad for the health of the table and can quickly kill the interest of other good players and then kill the program.

What are your final thoughts on Starfinder as a whole?

Nicholas: Starfinder is great for its fun guardians of the galaxy style, colorful setting, and mid-range mechanical depth. It may not be the best system to introduce players to TTRPGS due to this depth, but the crunch will appeal to some players. There are plenty of unique aspects to get hooked on while playing.

TTRPGS have an immense breadth and while Starfinder is my personal favorite, I will always say to look beyond and see what else is out there. There are so many iterations that it may take a bit to find one that resonates with you and your patrons.

See Also: So You Want to Play Dungeons and Dragons in Your Library

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY No Sew Unicorn Pillow

I’m always excited to see what fun stuff librarian Cindy Shutts is doing with teens in her library. Today she is walking us through a No Sew Unicorn Pillow.

I saw a picture of a unicorn pillow on the internet and realized I could make one myself based on the no sew pillow concept. Unicorns are still very popular and who doesn’t love a hand made pillow.


  • Permanent Vinyl (gold for the horn and black for the eyelashes) (Karen’s note: Oracal 651 is a permanent vinyl. Here’s a vinyl 101 to help get you started.)
  • Fleece (I used a 50% off coupon) and used three yards of fleece for twenty pillows
  • Felt of various colors especially green for the leaves
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Fabric scissors
  • Stuffing for pillows

Step Zero: Prepare all the fleece before the event. I cut all the fleece into sets of two sheets each 14×14 inches.

Step One: Use the cameo silhouette machine to cut the vinyl horns and eyelashes. If you do not have a cameo silhouette machine you can use black and gold felt. I did have patrons who wanted to make their own eyelashes and horns.

Step Two: Have patrons cut 1 ½  to 2 inches squares in each of the corners of the fabric.

Step Three: Have the teens then cut 1 ½  to 2 inch fringe and I made it a cm wide all around the pillow.

Step Four: Tie the fringe from the front to the back sheet of fringe. All the fringe should be tied to the fringe behind it. Teens often need help learning to tie knots. This part of the craft takes the longest. One side should be left untied.

Step Five: Stuff the pillow and try to make it even.

Step Six: Tie the fringe around the side you just used to stuff the pillow.

Step Seven: Place the horn and the eyelashes on the pillow. If you use vinyl hold it down for a few minutes.

Step Eight: Make flowers out of felt. I used this websites’ flower tutorial. https://diyinspired.com/diy-no-sew-felt-flowers/

  • Cut one green petal about 1 ½ inch tall and oval shaped body. I free handed this part.
  • Cut the color you want the flower to be and make it 2 inches long by 4 inches wide
  • Cut the felt in petal form like the first picture below.
  • Cut three more petals out of the color your felt flower is.
  • Hot glue the flower petals and roll the main piece of the flower together. Glue the three petals to the green felt leaf to form a base and then glue the rolled flower to the base. Glue the flower to the base.

Final Thoughts: This was a really enjoyable craft. There are a lot of steps. Having fabrics scissors is a must. I used coupons on all the items to make this craft. I also used sales to make things avoidable and always reuse my supplies. Let your teens become creative. I have a few pictures of my patrons’ pillows below.

Take 5: TV Shows to Inspire Teen Programs

Some of my favorite teen programs have come from TV shows. Remember Minute to Win It? That was a great source of teen programming because it consisted of just putting together a bunch of 60 second challenges and tying them in with something that was already popular. Other TV shows that have inspired teen programs for me have included Top Chef, Cupcake Wars and Jeopardy. But there are some new shows out there that I’m itching to turn into teen programs.

Making It

I love this show. It is without a doubt trying to be the American Version of The Great British Bake Off, but with crafting, and I’m all for it. My family and I are huge GBBO fans, as are many of the teens I talk to. Making It takes the same type of premise but incorporates making/crafting and it’s in a barn instead of a tent. But the challenges are interesting: make a theme wall that tells us something about who you are, decorate a mailbox, make a home for some type of animal.

One of the recent episodes had pairs working together to make costumes. My favorite was Wok and Roll, which involved one person dressing up as a wok and the other as a piece of sushi. This challenge was obviously Chopped inspired (we’ll get to that show in a minute) as it involved a basket full of 5 craft supplies and each team had to use at least 3 items out of the basket. This is a great idea for cleaning out your craft closet of all those miscellaneous supplies!

What I like about this show is that it is a series of challenged for a season and then you take a break. Be inspired by the challenges and use them as jumping off points. But also, I like the idea of having a short series of making/craft programs and then taking a break and having another season.


Speaking of Chopped . . . Chopped has been on for years now, but I have always loved the premise: Here’s a basket full of miscellaneous ingredients, figure out something to do with all of them. You could do this with food or crafting, as mentioned above. The premise is key here: here’s a mystery basket full of stuff, now do something with it. As I mentioned, using the premise for a crafting/making type program definitely is a good way to empty your craft closet of all those miscellaneous supplies. You could do cupcake decorating, cookie decorating, toy mashup programs, etc.

Get Out of My Room

Universal Kids (I just recently learned there was a Universal Kids channel!) has a show called Get Out of My Room which is a room makeover show for tweens. It’s basically the Property Brothers meets Trading Spaces for pre-teens, kind of. In it, siblings who share a room each get their own room designed around their personality and then they make craft projects to decorate their siblings rooms. In one episode, for example, one sister made homemade marquee initials for her Hollywood loving sister’s wall. So there are some easy and affordable craft projects and tips tucked into each show.

Another one of my favorite repeat teen programs that I have done is called Renovate Your Room. In it I invite a local decorator to come and share some basics of decorating. We then cut apart magazines and make mood boards and layouts for our dream room. I then have one small activity that teens can do and take home. For example, you can paint light switch covers or turn old magazine holders that your library is going to discard into cool desk accessories. I’ve even turned old cassette tapes, plastic cups and floppy disks into night lights and pen holders.


Remember when we were kids and your brother would pretend to hit you and if you flinched you got “two for flinching?” No, was that just my brother? Well, the old art of trying to get someone to flinch has been turned into a truly horrific gameshow on Netflix. To be honest, I truly hate the way it’s done because it involves things like low grade electrocuting people and dumping things on them. The contestants are clearly consenting, but it’s the type of challenges that are implemented that don’t sit right with me. My teens love it, but I’m not it’s biggest fan.

Here’s how it works. Contestants are put through a variety of tests and they are supposed to not flinch. Some of the tests are pretty benign. For example, a train goes past that with foul smells and you have to sit there while the train passes by and not flinch at the foul odors. When you flinch you are out. The last person standing without flinching wins. Unfortunately, not all of the challenges or so benign and that is why the show is pretty controversial. I’m not endorsing the show by any means.

However, with a bit of modification and adult supervision, this could be a pretty fun program. For example, my teens love to do a lot of online challenges like the blindfold food challenge, some of which could be safely and easily incorporated into a program like this. More gentle challenges like popping balloons, opening a bunch of cans of nuts knowing that one of them is going to have a pop out snake, or even jack-in-the-boxes would certainly work. Or use your Makey Makey or Little Bits to create a sound board with buttons and some buttons create no noise and others do and the person playing has to push each button and try not to flinch when the noise happens. With a little creativity, the try not to flinch game can work and be fun.

Ellen’s Game of Games, Hollywood Game Night, Match Game, etc.

There is a renaissance of game shows happening right now on TV and there is no real shortage of inspiration to choose from. With a little adapting, they can be an incredibly fun source of tween and teen programming.

When using a TV show or movie for your programming, remember to keep copyright in mind. For example, I didn’t call my Minute to Win It inspired program series Minute to Win It – I called it the 60 Second Showdown. I have seen other libraries use the name of the show as the name of their program, but I like to make it clear that my program is inspired by a certain show while giving it a unique name just in case.

What programs have you done that have been inspired by TV shows and how did you do them? Share with us in the comments. I would love to know what other librarians are out there doing.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts is walking us through her Star Wars themed Escape Room.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things Escape Room

Cindy Crushes Programming: Star Wars Escape Room

Cindy Crushes Programming: Mission to Mars Escape Room

Cindy Crushes Programming: Riverdale Escape Room

Basic program premise . . .

Your teens will be “locked” in the library and in order to escape, they must unravel a mystery, find the secret codes, and “unlock” the boxes to survive or meet your end goal. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Plot: An evil warlock has cursed the town of Greendale with zombiism. You have 45 minutes to find the cure.


  • You could use the Breakout Edu Kit
  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  • Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes
  • Directional Lock
  • Fake Spell container with the cure. I used an old perfume bottle I got that was labeled spell.
  • Spellbook
  • Black Cat (fake)
  • Random decorations: I used all the items I have in my office and around my house and the items that I use to make displays.
  • Letter from Sabrina to Harvey

Instructions: I read the prompt, so everyone knew what was going on. I also let them know they had two hints. I am always prepared to add one more hint later on if they need it.

Directional Lock: The directional lock code will be hidden in the letter from Sabrina to Harvey. The code is Up Down Right Left. I hid the letter in the large lockbox. The directional lock was on the small lockbox.

Wordlock: This is very simple the code is spell. I will have the spellbook and also Sabrina’s last name is Spellman so many things will be labeled Spellman.

4 Digit Lock: In the spellbook, I placed a spell recipe for the cure. This spell gives the code for the 4 digit lock. This lock was on the large lockbox.

Spell for Anti-Zombie

three frogs’ eyes = 6

one buck’s antlers = 2

all the legs of a spider = 8

scorpion’s pincers = 2

3 Digit Lock: I am making a fake urn box. The code will be on the urn. I added a fake label to look like the urn came from Sabrina’s family business, The Spellman Funeral Home and Crematorium. The code is 666. I used that as the date they started the business 6/66. This lock was on the large lockbox.

Red Herring: I pulled all my old documents for my Riverdale Escape Room. This was super confusing to the teens who kept looking at the old documents. This lock was on the large lockbox.

Bustle: 11 YA Books To Read if You Like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Epic Reads: 16 Books to Read if You Like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Final Thoughts: This was a challenging escape room. I made a mistake and scheduled it on a day without school. Therefore, I did not have many teens attend. The teens who attended loved it, but next time I need to make sure I schedule it for a school day.  I am trying to increase circulation. Every time I do in an Escape Room activity I use library books as decorations that are related to the topic. Teens can check them out after the Escape Room activity.

Additional Materials:

Letter to Harvey

Dear Harvey,

 I am hoping this letter finds you well. I have to meet with you in the woods. I fear there is danger coming to our town of Greendale. Plus bring the rest of the Gang with you so we can stop this evil before it begins. I will be up the road, but turn downward when you get to the cave. You must go right when you see the bear painting, but left when you pass the Greendale Forest ranger station. I will meet you all at midnight.

Be Safe, Sabrina

Spell For Anti-Zombie

three frogs’ eyes =

one buck’s antlers =

all legs of a spider =

scorpion’s pincers =