Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

My favorite tools: Slack

This is the second of a series of post on productivity and organizational tools that I’m finding useful in my library work.

slack logoIf you’re not currently using Slack, you’ve surely heard of it. There are gobs of ways to use Slack for communicating with teams of people, and it makes a great compliment to the other productivity tools that you’re already using.


What is it?

Like Trello is a collections of lists of lists, Slack is a tool that allows conversations within conversations.

  • Each group of people makes up a “workspace” with its own login. These workspaces are easy to toggle on your toolbar.
  • Within each workspace, you can create conversations around topics that are indicated with a hashtag.
  • You can create additional conversations between a subset of people in the workspace.

This is just the tip of the iceberg too. You can add files, link services like Dropbox, Twitter, and Google Drive, and enjoy all the emojis you care to throw around.

But how is Slack useful to a librarian?

Pull your (various & sundry) PLNs together

If your PLNs are communicating via email threads, secret Facebook groups, Twitter DMs and group texts, you’re probably bouncing around to check these various sources multiple times a day. Stop it. Pull everyone together in Slack channels and you’ll have everyone in one place. No one is going to get forgotten when you dash off an email, there will be a notification any time you miss something, and you can keep use your time more efficiently. Plus, those venting sessions can now happen outside of publicly searchable web! Since I started using Slack as a PLN tool, I’ve felt more connected, less frustrated by the noise on social media, and we communicate more often in a more practical way. It’s the best.

Plan big projects together

Are you working with a few other people on a big author visit at your library? Set up a Slack workspace and create channels for all of the various pieces. Your to-do list has just become an asynchronous meeting, and  you’ve kept all of your ideas and documentation in one place. Plus, it’s searchable. TLT uses Slack to coordinate projects. So does another PLN I’m a part of. Our big project, Everyday Librarians, is launching soon thanks to the collaborative planning platform that Slack provides.

Minimize your email

OMG there’s so much email. Sooooo muuuuch eeeeeeeemaiiiiiil! Pulling your coworkers into Slack for minor but important conversations (“FIY, I won’t be here when the garden group comes to use the meeting room. Can someone set up the room for them?” “I’ll be in a program. Sorry!” “Yeah, me neither” “I can do it!” “Thanks, Jane!” “No problem, Susan!”) is going to clear so much clutter out of your inbox. Put all of that in a #RoomSetup channel and then it’s there when you need in, and hanging out behind an unobtrusive little hashtag when you don’t. That’s going to let those messages from vendors, patrons, and other non-coworkers be the focus of your email time, which is going to make that time so much more effective and so much less distracting.


Like I said, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Slack can do. Please share in the comments if you’re an avid Slack user with great ideas on how to make it work for you and your groups.

My favorite tools: Trello

This is the first of a series of post on productivity and organizational tools that I’m finding useful in my library work.

I’ve been using Trello off and on, for professional and personal projects, since 2014. It’s visually appealing, simple to use, and dovetails nicely with Google apps. Trello, at its most basic, is a collection of lists of lists. Imagine a digital cork board with post-its that you can move from section to section. Here’s a board my coworker and I use to share our planning and ideas for the department:

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 10.18.14 AMNote that within each list is a “card”. Cards can be dragged and dropped from one list to another. So from our “ideas” list, we can easily pull something from a brainstorming session into our list of programs to schedule out for the next season. Each card can then contain its own list, conversation, to-do, attachment, or link and you can also push notifications on cards to people who are members of the list, as I did with this card for a teen service learning project:

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 10.25.19 AM

The boards get really fun when you start adding images!

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Trello will save your boards until you archive them, and it allows you to duplicate boards and move lists from board to board. This comes in handy for yearly planning tasks, like summer reading, or big events like our town’s annual summer party. I copy the board, change the year, and already have a to-do list to adapt for the current year.

On the main landing page you’ll see all of your boards. This includes those you create and those other people add you to as a collaborator. Star the boards you want to see at the top. Active boards float up too, with less active boards floating down to reduce visual clutter.

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Note here that I have two “Gathering On The Green” boards as I mentioned above. Because you can color code boards, I’ve greyed out last year’s board. Note also, that my personal board for Christmas can live here too — all of the sharing happens on the boards themselves, so I can keep my gift list, my family’s clothing sizes, and holiday dinner menu brainstorming in a similarly tidy and organized fashion and it’s not connected to my work boards.

Keeping on with the visual aids, you can color code cards themselves, as I did here. Each list is a reminder of items to acquire and then pack for an outreach event. Green meant “packed and ready to go,” yellow was “in progress,” and red still needed to be done.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 10.46.33 AMI like that Trello can work this way on a very minute, granular scale, and also work to organize big idea brainstorming and “what if” kinds of conversations. Each board and each list has its own flavor, and the flexibility that offers is very helpful to me. If you’re a Bullet Journal user wishing you could share your lists and work collaboratively within the Bullet Journal structure, take a look at Trello. Trello also offers a blog with productivity tips and suggestions for making the tool more useful for you, in addition to highlighting new features.

I highly recommend Trello if you’re trying to juggle multiple projects and roles (like most of us do) and you like the flexibility of having an online platform that can go anywhere with you and plays nicely with your other cloud based work. It’s also available as a mobile app. And it’s pretty.

Edelweiss, Or Crack Cocaine for Librarians/Collection Development People (Stephanie Wilkes)

This is one of those ‘informative training type’ posts where I want to let you guys in on a little website that has completely blown my Snuggie off.  (Don’t steal my phrase…I’m gonna trademark that.)  Basically, if you are a librarian who orders books or if you work in collection development, you are going to want info about this website.  Edelweiss is a website that has this tagline: “Whether you’re a bookseller, sales rep, librarian, reviewer, or publisher, you have the same goal: to connect readers with books”.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Basically, this website is an amalgamation of publisher’s catalogs.  All of them.   EVER.  Well, probably not all of them but pretty much all of the ones that you are ordering books for your collection from.  Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Egmont USA, Houghton Mifflin….you name it.  (I’m not paid by anyone to rep their publishing companies at all…if I left you off it was just because of a major lack of coffee and like I said, every publisher in the WORLD is on this site.  So that is your inclusion.  I’m going to stop now.)

So, instead of waiting for those color catalogs to come in the mail and letting them pile up on a corner in your office along with all other mail that we get daily, you can create an account and peruse the catalogs one by one all day long.

Now why is it crack-cocaine for you?  Because you can sit there and go through these catalogs for hours. Days.  Weeks.  Possibly months if you are an extremely slow reader, clicker, and you have an older computer.  Basically, the books are all listed in the catalog and you can see publication date, a ranking on Goodreads and the blogosphere of reactions, if it is the Frontlist or Backlist, the blurbs for the book, about the author info, publicity info from the publisher, and the list goes on.  Here is a sample of one of the listings for a book that I am absolutely salivating over:

See the page here

You can see the sale date, the ISBN #, the targeted audience, pages, sales rights, the Goodreads meter that shows the popularity of the title, summary, bio, marketing plans, selling points (which can be used for book talks), and quotes and reviews.  What more could you ask for?

Oh, well this:

See the page here

That little green button?  Yes, on Edelweiss you can Request a Review Copy for your e-reader.  So, it takes what NetGalley has done and brought it up to a collection development level.  I will say that NetGalley does have more YA titles than Edelweiss though, not sure why. 

Here’s the deal…with the abundance of rights being sold for trilogies and series, it is in your absolute best interest to use resources like these when you are working on collection development.  I preach day in and day out that Amazon should not be your discovery point for book selection and I 100% stand by that statement.  If you are a true professional, you should be using professional resources.  If you are training to be a librarian, work in a library, or want to ever work in this field, you should be learning how to use professional resources, not websites like Amazon, to determine what books are coming out and when.  There are several websites that collect information about release dates for YA books (http://yalit.com) and TeenReads (www.teenreads.com).   And, personally, if you want to browse a website to see what is selling, I urge you to use Indie Bound (www.indiebound.org).

There are other options you can use on this site to help you, some of which I am just now starting to use now that the glazed eyes have worn off after a three-day collection development spree.  For example, creating your own collections and even using a feature called GeoSearch, which enables you to find materials published that may have your city mentioned or authors near you. 

Okay, so a recap.  Schedule yourself a good 4 days in your office.  Make a large pot of coffee/tea/beverage of choice and sit down at your computer.  Crack your knuckles.  Pop your neck.  Go to http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.comand create an account.  We’ll see you next week and Karen and I will try not to post anything very exciting until then.  And for those of you who already have an addiction to Edelweiss, we will be having our first Edelweiss Non-Anonymous meeting soon via Twitter. 

If you have questions about Edelweiss, feel free use their help page or contact them via Twitter @weiss_squad.  They are super helpful, super friendly, and as with all metaphorical drug dealers, readily available. – Stephanie Wilkes

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Twitter

I am fairly new to the Twitterverse, and fairly addicted. It’s mostly Maureen Johnson’s fault (that woman is split your sides funny, you should definitely follow her).  An avid Facebook user for years, I had no idea how rich the book culture was on Twitter.  Here are 10 reasons why you should be on Twitter.

10.  Fast and Furious News

A wide variety of news outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, Yalsa and VOYA, tweet links and various relevant facts that keep you quickly and easily updated.  All you have to do is open the link and read the news source.  As a reader, the most amazing moment in my life occurred when someone tweeted that author Lauren Oliver was going to be coming to a bookstore that it turns out was just 45 minutes from my house.  I learned of it the day before and made the trek to meet Lauren Oliver (read about Lauren Oliver day here) and outside of getting married and having my babies, it was truly one of the more amazing moments in my life.  If it wasn’t for Twitter, it never would have happened.  I learn what is going to be on the bestseller list, what upcoming teen author festivals are in my area, and more.  During conferences like ALA or PLA you can follow the discussion even when you can’t make it there.  By choosing who you follow you create for yourself a news aggregator tailored to your wants and needs.

9.  Book, Books and More Books

Book bloggers, librarians, readers, and more – this is a great way to learn what’s being talked about right now.  And there are so many people who share books on their TBR (to be read) list that your own TBR list will grow long – quickly.  (Seriously, my TBR would scan the globe a million times at this particular moment). In addition, authors, publishers and fans are always tweeting new book trailers, cover reveals, and reviews that are easy for you to share with your teens and help provide content for your Web and social media pages.  I also found The Apocalypsies on Twitter.  The Apocalypsies is a blog devoted to YA authors with books debuting in 2012.  The lovely Jenny Torres Sanchez (@jetchez) is a part of this group.  There is a deep and rich book world teeming under the surface of Twitter.

8.  Authors

There are a lot of amazing YA authors on Twitter and they talk not only about their books, but about themselves.  Sarah Dessen just announced that she will be releasing her 11th book next year, which will be titled Best After Ever.  The other day I had an actual conversation with the lovely Ilsa J. Bick about her book Ashes and the upcoming sequel, Shadows (due out 9/25/2012).  Some authors have left comments on my books reviews or responded via tweet and you know, it is encouraging as a librarian but it also helps you build a good reputation with your library teens and they see you as a legitimate resource in their lives.  Many of the authors will talk about their writing processes, inspiration, and more.  It would be a fun classroom or library project to have teens pick an author and really follow them as they go through the process of writing a book, getting it published and going on the marketing tour.  Speaking of the marketing tour, I have learned a lot about what all goes into marketing a book via Twitter and this is an interesting insight for aspiring writers.

7.  Maureen Johnson

Speaking of authors, there is probably none more entertaining and hilarious then the lovely Maureen Johnson (@maureenjohnson).  Her Twitter description reads as follows:

“There’s a fine line between good eye contact and the piercing stare of a psychopath.  Maureen is on the wrong side of it.” – a fan

That about covers it.  You’ll want to follow her for the sheer entertainment value of it.  Be warned, she is obsessed with monkeys and possibly unstable.  But, you know – wicked fun.

6.  Connecting Teens to Authors

The other day a teen I had never seen before walked into my library with a Vlad Tod t-shirt (Vladimir Tod is the main character in the High School Bites series by the lovely Heather Brewer, if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it).  So, this teen is standing there with a group and I walk up and say, “Awesome, you are a Vlad Tod fan.”  She is immediately impressed that I get what her t-shirt is all about.  We then proceed to talk about the books.  Then I snap a quick pic and send it to Heather Brewer via Twitter and – gasp, shudder – Heather Brewer responded and said Hi to my teen, one of her “minions” (that’s what she calls her fans).  Heather Brewer totally made this fans day and made me look like a rock star with my teen.  The next day this teen emailed me at work and now I have a library/reading advocate in my pocket who will go tell all of her friends how cool the teen librarian is at the local library.  I also sent a picture to Cassandra Clare of a young man who said The Mortal Instruments was hands down the best series ever, and she replied.  Some authors have not replied, and honestly there is a lot of luck and timing involved because they just happened to be online when I tweeted them; but in the moments when you do get lucky, you get to be someone’s hero and help them connect with authors in unique ways.  As a teen, it is always nice to know the adults you admire and look up to actually care, so thank you Heather Brewer and Cassandra Clare.  As I tweeted just last night: “Authors on Twitter and reaching out to fans help librarians do their jobs well. So thanks.”

5.  Publishers

When thinking of who to follow on Twitter, you don’t want to forget your publishers.  They too are a rich source of information, providing news about upcoming titles, letting you know what is selling well, and often having fun contests to share with your teens.  Seeing what titles the authors are really pushing also helps you get an idea of what is likely to be popular.  As with authors, I have had some great conversations with people from Egmont USA, Harper Teen, Sourcebooks Fire, Harlequin Teen and more.  Random House has a fun feed called Random Buzzers for its website which is a fun place for teens.  There is a different feel to the publishers on Twitter then just visiting their web pages and browsing through their catalogs.  Of course their goal is still to market their product, but you can build relationships with them and, again, you get inside news at a quick pace so that you can predict trends, build collections, and better meet your library teens needs.

4. Book Bloggers

I did not know what a deep and rich culture of book bloggers there were online until I joined Twitter.  I follow a ton of amazing book bloggers and it is great to read reviews, talk about books and get a wide variety of opinions about what is hot and what is not.  Many of the bloggers will also do contests which can help you get some free ARCs to give away as prizes to teens.  There are also a variety of teen book bloggers and it is always helpful to hear what teens are really thinking and what they really like.  Some of my favorite teen book bloggers include Julie (@JulieHeartBooks), Aneeqah (@AneeqahNSRL), and Marissa (@MissyRissy_rox).  If you already follow a blog they probably have an easy “Follow Me on Twitter” button that you can use to follow them.  For the record, you can follow TLT on Twitter @tlt16.

3.  Tweet Chats

Every Wednesday night there is a chat called #yalitchat where writers (and bloggers and librarians and fans) hang out and talk about books.  A lot of the times there are specific topics, other times it is a free for all.  On Thursdays Figment hosts a discussion called #figlitchat; again, it is usually guided by topic.  And there is a monthly chat about ya galleys hosted by Early Word.  This is a great opportunity to talk about upcoming titles, what people are reading and what they are saying.

Early Word YA Galley Chat: the third Tuesday of each month from 4 to 5 p.m., ET (also with a 3:30 pre-Chat session). The next one is April 17. Hash tag, #ewyagc

Figlitchat: Thursdays at 9:00 PM ET, they have recaps on the Figment webpage. Follow the hashtag #figlitchat

#yalitchat: Wednesdays at 9:00 pm ET

2.  Other Teen Librarians

Want to hear about the lives of other teen librarians?  Hop on Twitter.  Here librarians tweet about Ref questions they get at the desk, interactions with teens, that awesome program they just had and more.  You may find your next great program idea to steal – erm, I mean, borrow. Struggling to get good attendance at your book club, it’s nice to know that you aren’t alone.

1.  The 2012 Project, of course!

If you are new here (by the way, welcome) you should know that some time last year I got a whim and decided I would do a monumental teen library advocacy project which is The 2012 Project (#the2012project on Twitter).  My goal: to collect 2,012 pictures of teens reading and using their library (attending programs, hanging out, reading, browsing collections, using computers, etc.) to SHOW the world (and our administrators and communities) that libraries are still relevant, that teens do read, and that we need good staffing and funding to meet their needs.  Not only are we trying to meet their needs, but we are trying to cultivate life long learners and library supporters.  Libraries change lives, they help give books their voices by matching them with readers, and they are cornerstones of communities.  So if you want to be a teen library advocate, you can tweet your program and random libraries pics with the hashtag #the2012project to @tlt16.

And a Bonus Reason to Use Twitter: the Library as Incubator Project (@IArtLibraries)

The Library as Incubator Project is focused on highlighting the connection between art and libraries.  By following their Twitter feed you can see what types of programming, art projects and art exhibits other libraries are doing.  You’ll definitely want to check them out.

Speaking of art and libraries, if you haven’t yet you definitely need to check out The Real Fauxtographer.  Here, Margot Wood, a YA reader and photographer, joins her two interests by creating photographs based on the YA books that she reads.  So far she has covered titles such as The Giver and The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  This is a fun project to follow and a great idea to share with your teens.  And I found out about it on Twitter.  Behold the power of Twitter!

So tell me people, how do you use Twitter?  Who do you follow, and why?

Some popular @tlt16 Tweets:

“A book can change a life, but not until someone opens it.  Librarians put those books into the hands that may one day change the world.”

“It takes a while for a person to find the book that moves them, & money will often stop most people from finding it.  So visit your library.”

“A book is still silent if it doesn’t have a reader. Libraries give books their voices by connecting them to readers.”

ALA Exhibits Highlights, part 1

This past Saturday I got to spend the day in the librarian version of heaven – the ALA Midwinter exhibits hall.  Here I mingled with my fellow geeks and ran into people I have known for years online, learned about some new products and services and picked up a ton of ARCs (which will be subject of my next post).  AND – I got to touch an ARC for Pandemonium, the sequel to Delirium by Lauren Oliver (sadly, they did not understand our need to possess it and they were not giving them out so I had to make do with just touching it).  So here are some of the highlights from Saturday . . .

1.  VOYA
I have been very honored since 2001 to be a reviewer for VOYA and in the past 6 months they have made my dreams come true by publishing two articles written by me (look for Karen Jensen in the October 2011 and February 2012 issues of VOYA) – BUT, I have never met a single person from VOYA in person.  Ever.  We always just talk via e-mail (usually to ask really Karen, are you going to turn in that review anytime soon). That all changed on Saturday when I met Edward Kurdyla and RoseMary Honnold. They were incredibly nice and we talked about things like the erosion of the English language and library budgets. RoseMary has been such a presence in the Young Adult/Teen Librarian world (I have even used some of her programs over the years) and it is always nice to meet peers who share your passion and understand your geekiness.  Part of the reason I began the TLT blog, FB and Twitter account was because I think there is tremendous value and inspiration and support in being involved in a community of teen librarians and you definitely get that with VOYA.  I have said it before and I will say it again, VOYA and School Library Journal should be your #1 tool in your toolbox. Also, please be sure to participate in YALSA and the various YALSA listservs.

2.  Figment
On Saturday I met and talked at lengths with two young ladies promoting a new social networking site called Figment; it has been active now for a little over a year. Figment.com is a free online community for teens and young adults to “create, discover, and share new reading and writing.”  They are in the business of encouraging teens to write, share and edit one another’s works.  They also have some great tools for teen librarians across the platform, but especially for schools that include discussion groups and daily writing prompts.  A lot of amazing teen authors are involved sharing their writing stories and giving tips to help teens become better writers.  You can learn more about their services for educators at www.figment.com/educators.

Some of the upcoming programs and contests they will have include:
Figment daily themes
Digital Learning Day: Now through February 1st
Girls with Grit Contest: Now through February 29th
Meg Rosoff will be making an appearance beginning January 24th and running through February 10th
Shannon Hale contest: January 24th – February 6th

The site is well designed, colorful and appealing, and easy to navigate.  You will definitely want to check it out and share it with all of your teens.

Without a doubt Fantasy and Science Fiction is dominating teen publishing these days (although I suspect there will be a renaissance of contemporary fiction fueled in part by the success of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and some of our other favorites) – but what I keep noticing is that there are not enough mysteries for teens (although do check out the Sherlock Holmes series by Maureen Johnson, The Name of the Star was just nominated for an Edgar Award for best mystery for young adults).  This year the Texas Teen Summer Reading Challenge is mystery focused so I am looking hard.  SOHO TEEN will be launching in January of 2013 with an emphasis on publishing mysteries for teens (so yay!!!!).  You can read a sampler of some of their titles online.

4. Guildcraft
Like many of you, I get my craft supplies primarily through Oriental Trading or by hitting my local craft store.  However, Guildcraft is adding more tween and teen crafts to their catalog so you may want to add it as a place to look for craft ideas and supplies.  They did have a craft kit to make bottle cap necklaces which I have done with my teens before and I highly recommend.  Also, I bought my daughter a necklace that tied a washer onto a string as the main component of the necklace.  Then, they made various bottle cap charms and put a small but strong magnet on the back of each so that the necklace can easily be changed.  Better explanation can be found here.

5. Discussion Guides
Throughout the day I was able to pick up discussion guides for a variety of titles including Girls Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls, The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and more.  If you have a book you are looking at using in the classroom or in your public library programming, be sure to check the publishers websites to see if they have discussion guides available. Many publishers are aware that we are looking for them and creating some good guides to help us use their titles in our libraries.

Some sites to check:

6. Zest Books
I am always looking for eye catching nonfiction for teens and, without a doubt, Zest Books has some.  They have a Teen Advisory Board that helps them in their title development and marketing which may help explain why their titles seem to be on point.  I have purchased a few titles before and they are smaller and if I am remembering correctly paperback.  Some of the titles I am looking forward to in 2012 include The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You should Know About . . . before it’s too late and Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends).  In November they will be releasing a title called Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves which has the potential to be powerful and amazing so keep your eyes open for it.

7. Egalleys
Many publishers are jumping on board with both feet into using egalleys to help promote their titles.  To see galleys be sure to sign up with NetGalley.com.  I use Net Galley and it is free and easy to use; you simply register and then select galleys that you would like to preview.  The only catch is that you must be approved by the publisher.  Some publishers, for example, are not currently accepting blogger requests. Random House, Disney Hyperion and the Lerner Publishing Group were just some of the publishers that were actively promoting egalleys at ALA Midwinter.

8. The End of Paper Catalogs
Many publishers mentioned that they were phasing out the physical, hard copies of their catalogs and would be going strictly to online catalogs.  Scholastic, for example, was encouraging librarians to go online as opposed to taking the catalogs and mentioned that soon there would be no option.  Without a doubt this is better for the environment and cuts down on marketing costs, but I imagine some will have a hard time making the transition. Although I am sure that many are already using the online versions to cut down on the amount of catalogs they get in the mail and have to try and find a place to store.

9.  Meeting Lauren Myracle

There were lots of debut authors at ALA Midwinter (I will introduce you to one at #10), but I was excited to meet popular teen author Lauren Myracle.  She was funny and humble and gracious and it was so cool to meet her.  She signed a copy of Shine for me and a ton of other fans.  I can’t tell you why Lauren Myracle called me a “naughty girl” in my signed book, but let me assure you that this girl is a ton of fun.  If you ever get the chance to meet her, jump at it. Throughout the day there were a variety of author signings and it was definitely a highlight of the exhibits.  Authors are our rock stars after all.

10.  Debut YA Author Jenny Torres Sanchez
Not too long ago we were talking on the YALSA-BK listserv about books about boys with weight issues – well, here one is.  The Downside of Being Charlie is the debut work of Jenny Torres Sanchez.  Charlie is an ex-fat kid who is having a hard time adjusting to the new him.  As a coping strategy for his complicated life Charlie turns to photography. I always love a book that encourages teens to be involved in art and self-expression and I see a natural promotional tie-in here with The 2012 Project. The Downside of Being Charlies has a June 2012 publication date.  Jenny was incredibly approachable and if she is going to be out doing author tours, or if you can get her to visit your school or library, I recommend you check her out.

And the most exciting thing, I ran into two local teens who had paid their own way into the exhibits because they loved books and reading THAT MUCH! They were excited to see a Clockwork Prince t-shirt and were big fans of Cassandra Clare.  I met them while looking at the Pandemonium arc and they too were bummed they couldn’t have it.  It was so great to see teens with passion and initiative.  And they agreed to have their picture taken for The 2012 Project.

Without a doubt, ALA Midwinter was an exciting, inspiring, and amazing learning opportunity.  It was also great exercise.  Later this week I will talk about some of the ARCs I picked up and some great upcoming releases in teen fiction.  Also coming this week, information about a great contest opportunity for you or one of your teens to win a copy of Girl Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls and signed by all 12 popular teen authors that contributed stories.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: blogs 7 through 12

What, you ask, are the 12 Blogs of Christmas?  Go here to read all about it and find out what blogs 1 through 6.  And now, blogs 7 through 12 . . .

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #7 – Y Pulse
YPulse provides you with a wealth of information on everything teen; from marketing to research and even trending topics. There are several tabs you can look under at this site, but you’ll want to make sure and check out the marketing channel. After you have read what’s on this page, check out the exhaustive list of marketing sites linked on the right hand side. Marketing is an important part of what we do, and yet we often have inadequate training and resources in this aspect of our job. YPulse will help.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #8 – Guys Read
Guys Read is the brainchild of Mr. Jon Scieszka. Yes, THAT Jon Scieszka. The site’s goal is to help connect guys with books. There is a news blog on the site also (which I how I am stretching to put this site on my “blog” roll); but the real gold is the way you can navigate the site to help match reader to books. Guys Read also produces short story collections for guys around themes, the most recent release being Thrillers. With the glut of paranormal romance that is currently dominating today’s teen book marketplace, it is really important to take a step back and put some emphasis on making sure we have balanced collections that will appeal to the guys as much as the gals. This site can help you do that. Also, it is really well designed.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #9 – TeenReads.com
Once again I am stretching the definition of blog here, but they do technically have a blog on this site so I am going with it. Teen Reads is a great place to find book reviews and information about upcoming teen releases. Awesome added features include Coming Soon lists, On Sale this Week lists, Books on Screen, and Adult Books You Want to Read. And they usually have a lot of fun contests. In fact, right now you can enter to win their Holiday Cheer contest. If you aren’t visiting TeenReads.com regularly then you are really missing out.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #10 – Rookie Magazine
Rookie magazine calls itself a magazine, but given the way it is formatted and updated I am going to go with blog. Rookie is a site for teenage girls by teenage girls. Many entertainment outlets have compared it to the old Sassy magazine (let’s have a moment of silence here to contemplate the awesomeness of Sassy magazine – okay, moving on). Rookie was started by a 15-year-old girl named Tavi but now there are a host of contributors and it is affiliated with the Walt Disney Corporations (don’t they own the world yet?). The content is arranged around monthly themes, with the month of December being ‘Home”. Again, it’s a good place to get idea, know what teenage girls like and think, and find things to share with your teens.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #11 – Daily Infographic
I really recommend you check out Daily Infographic for a few reasons:
1) We deal in information and it is interesting to see what others are thinking and talking about;
2) They are often good for sharing on your teen social media pages;
3) They are good examples and inspirations for design ideas;
4) I strongly encourage you to create your annual reports to your co-workers, admin, and community in infographic form as opposed to traditional pages of text and numbers. They show professionalism, are easy to interpret, and they can really convey the message of what you are doing; and
5) If you check some of my previous blog posts, they can make some good programming idea (graduating teens can infographic their lives, all teens can do their year, etc.)

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #12 – The Hub
The Hub is the teen reads blog of YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of ALA). And today is a good day to include this blog as it was just announced that it was nominated for an Edublog Award. Go YALSA! YALSA is a good to source for teen services librarians. You’ll want to make sure you join the list-serves, visit the wikis, and more.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: blogs 1 through 6

A huge part of being a successful teen librarian is staying current on teen reads, pop culture, marketing tactics, teen issues and more.  Honestly, we have to be informed on a wide variety of knowledge.  Part of my daily routine is to visit a series of blogs – I just pop in and take a quick glance to see what’s hot right now.  For the Christmas season I thought I would do a play on the 12 days of Christmas and share the 12 Blogs of Christmas and highlight 12 blogs that I check in with regularly to help keep me on my toes.  These 12 blogs (plus this one right here, shameful plug insert) are essential tools in your Teen Librarian’s Toolbox (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #1 – YA Books and More
Naomi Bates is a high school librarian in Texas, an amazing one. On her blog, YA Books and More, Naomi reviews the latest teen titles and often makes book trailers that you can share with your teens. Her blog is also a great place to visit to learn how to make booktrailers of your own because like every good librarian, she shares how she does it in a tutorial.

‎12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #2 – GreenBeanTeenQueen
Besides having a cool name and cool design scheme, this blog is full of book reviews by a tween and teen librarian. You’ll want to check it out if you are not already following it.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #3 – YA Book Shelf
I stumbled across this blog one day doing a search for book trailers.  Here I found an article highlighting 5 of their favorite animated book trailers, ones that I had never seen, and I was hooked.  First, they were totally correct in how awesome those booktrailers were, proving they had good taste.  Second, they provide me with a lot of good information not only about booktrailers, but about books themselves. It’s a good site.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #4 – Popwatch
Popwatch is a pop culture blog on the Entertainment Weekly website. They cover everything: video games, books, movies, TV, and celebrity in general. Lots of Twilight and Hunger Games movie updates. Plus, it’s fun.  I have also gotten a lot of inspiration here for poll and contest ideas, sometimes just simply sharing what they already have put together.  And I love their “bite” of the night which features a quote from a TV series the night before; I think this would be a good ongoing book feature (it’s formatted in a very visual way, too, and I recommend you copy that idea.)  Although there are multiple contributors, I think they tend to have a good writing style and are a good example of how to appeal to a mass audience.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #5 – Teen.com
To work with teens you have to spend a little time in teen culture so I go to Teen.com. Teen.com is the Popwatch of teen culture. I think it skews towards the younger end of the teenage spectrum, but I appreciate getting a look at what’s hots with teens. Plus, a lot of their stuff is great for sharing through my teen services Facebook page, or getting some good ideas of things to do with my Facebook page.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #6 – Reading Rants!
Reading Rants is now over 10 years old and it is still fantastic. Here a middle school librarian, whose favorite flavor if you should care to know is blue raspberry, writes insightful but fun book reviews and puts her books in unique book categories like “Dead-heads and Moshpits” and “Fanging Around”. If you ask real nice, Jen will even hit the road and do some training at your library for you.

It’s a Contest! Win a signed copy of They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill by Dr. Joni Richards Bodart

I had the pleasure earlier this year to review Dr. Joni Richard Bodart’s newest professional title They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill.  This book is a must have for your professional shelf.  Joni discusses why teens love monster lit, analyzes some popular titles in depth, and provides a monster bibliography (pun intended) of books to help with your RA needs.  Want to know what book comes next in that series?  It’s here.  Have a teen that has read all your vampire books?  Here’s a list to make sure and give you some fresh ideas to suggest.  Have a parent or staff member questioning whether or not all those vampire books are healthy or safe for teen readers?  Joni gives you some good discussion tools to explain why teens love to read monster lit to your administration, co-workers and teen parents.

The best part?  Teen Librarian’s Toolbox and Dr. Joni Bodart herself are giving away a personally signed copy.

You Can Win!

Learn more about Joni and her booktalking at her website, Thebooktalker1.com, or by reading my previous blog post on booktalking.

Good luck! And thanks for being a reader here at TLT.

Graphic Design for Teen Librarians (or any other non designer)

I am not a graphic design artist, but I play one on the Internet.  In fact almost all teen librarians are forced to play one at some time or another in their career as they make program flyers, teen area displays, and put stuff up online.  Over the years I have learned some basic design tips, primarily from my husband who was an art major (I don’t always appreciate the way the tips are delivered, but they do always make my final product look better).  And at one point I was even able to arrange for a local graphic design professor to come do some hands on training with some of our library staff.  If you have a local college or university, this is a great idea for some basic training.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will limit our discussion to the creation of flyers and posters, although many of them do also apply to displays or web pages.

Graphic Design 101

1.  Fonts and Colors

You want to limit the main scheme of your piece to 2 or 3 color and font choices.  They should be complimentary colors and readable fonts.  A lot of online sources says no more than 2, but sometimes you can make it work with 3.  It is important to choose legible font for what you are trying to do, some fonts only work well really big.

2.  Typography

Speaking of fonts, remember that your text is also a graphical element.  Headlines and text all need to be considered in the overall design process.  Typography is in fact considered quite the art form and there are whole texts written on the subject.  Here are 10 Common Typography Mistakes by Brian Hoff.

I love typography
Typography Daily

3.  Basic Layout

Americans read from left to right in a Z patterns, so you want to place your important content elements in the top left, middle right, then bottom left and back to the far right corner.  When someone approaches your work to visually scan it, their eyes will customarily focus on these locations just as if they were reading a text.

4.  Justify Your Text

One of the tips I learned that made a dramatic change in the quality of my flyers had to do with centering your text.  I think it is some type of novice instinct to center justify your text.  However, choosing to either left or right justify your text creates a crisper line and makes a better use of the space.  This one simple tip by our graphic design professor led training radically transformed all of our pieces.

5.  Symmetry is Not Cool

Part of the reason why center justification is not ideal is because artistically symmetry is a bad design goal.  While it is true that we tend to instinctively prefer symmetry when we look at faces, symmetry is not typically found in nature:  look at the treelines that you admire so much – yep, not symmetrical.  When you choose symmetry as a design lay out the eye doesn’t know what elements are important, your viewer doesn’t know where to focus.

6.  Size Really Does Matter

Thinking again of typography, differentiating text size helps your viewer understand the hierarchical importance of your headlines.  This is why a headline is bigger then the message.  Your headline grabs your readers attention.  Then your next element is slightly smaller to let them know what the next step is.  You can also help make these distinctions by consistently using different colored text throughout your document.

7.  White Space is Your Friend

White space are those graphically and textually blank places on your page, although they are not necessarily truly white.  The use of white space allows your readers to have a place to rest their eyes and avoid over design.  Having said that let me say this:  I think when dealing with teen viewers you can get away with less white space then you can with an adult audience.  Teens spend a lot of time engaging with visual media and are used to video games, graphic novels, and highly stylized magazines.  It took a while for white space and I to be friends, but I have learned to appreciate its value.

8.  Borders are Also Your Friend

At the end of your piece, a border helps wrap it up in a clean bow.  It presents a clean edge that again helps define your space and helps direct your viewers attention.  That sad, sometimes it looks cool to break the border.

9.  Verb Up Your Image

When writing your text, you should put a strong emphasis on verbs.  In fact, I previously wrote a blog post about this.  The bottom line is your viewer wants to know what is in it for them and you can make that message clear by starting your text with a verb.  As they read it there is an unspoken “You” or “You will” that begins the message:  Create exciting pieces of jewelry, Travel through the library after hours and see if you can survive.  It’s attention grabbing, exciting, and makes the reader put themselves into the action.

10.  If it Works for the Piece, Break the Rules

These are basic tips that I have learned over the years and generally apply to the pieces I create, but at some time or another I have broken them all with success.  If it works, do it.

Don’t forget to proofread!

Some Graphic Design Resources

Desktop Publishing 12 Most Common Mistakes
Graphic Design Blender

What Does Customer Service to Teens Look Like in the Library?

I was recently asked an interesting question:  what should customer service to teens look like in the library?

The truth is that customer service to teens should look the same as customer service to any other library patron looks.  Every library patron who walks through the library door should get the same high quality and friendly service regardless of race, gender, disability and yes, age.  Your library should have one and only one approach to customer service and it should apply to every one.  Anything less then consistent, quality customer service to all patrons is both discriminatory and bad for business.

Hopefully your library has a strong emphasis on customer service and provides routine training.  If it doesn’t, discuss putting some training in place with your administration.  And as your library’s teen services representative, make sure you are a part of the planning and decision making in your library to make ensure teen teen interests are represented in the discussion.  Some library policies, like obtaining library cards and Internet use, can be more complicated with the teen audience.  You want to make that the unique challenge of teenagers are at least considered in the discussion.

So, what should good costumer service to teens look like?

It should be friendly and approachable

Every patron that walks through your library doors wants to feel welcomed and valued.  Staff should be friendly and approachable.  Smile.  Interact with patrons in a professional and courteous manner.  As part of your training have staff think about their positive and negative customer services experiences.  Ask them what made those experiences stand out in their minds.  As you discuss and outline these experiences you will come up with positive and negative examples of costumer experiences.  By having staff reflect on their own experiences, it will help them realize the hallmarks of good customer service.  The golden rule of life applies to customer service: treat others as you would want to be treated.

Remind staff the importance of good customer service because customer service is PR.  Patrons are much more likely to go out and share their negative experiences with 7 to 10 people.  This type of negative PR is very hard to counteract and your best defense is a good offense; make sure patrons walk out of your library with nothing but good experiences to share.  Today it is easier then ever to share one’s experiences.  Many teens have Facebook or Twitter accounts and all it takes is for a teen to get online and share with their 200+ friends that “Generic Public Library HATES teens”.  But we can also use this to our advantage by giving them reasons to share their positive library experiences with 200+ friends.

It should be consistent

A good starting point for customer service is to make sure your library has policies and procedures in place letting staff know how to handle a wide variety of patron interactions and ensure high quality, consistent services to all patrons.  The consistent implementation of policies and procedures helps both staff and patrons understand expectations and decreases the hostility that can arise from miscommunication.  Consistent policies and procedures also help ensure that the patron’s experience will be the same regardless of what staff member they are interacting with; when they come in on Friday and see staff member A they will get the same experience as when the see staff member B on Tuesday.  In addition, they will see the patrons around them being given the same high quality service and being asked to meet the same patron responsibilities.  The fastest way to create negative patron experiences is for the patron to see other patrons being given service that they are not.  Patrons – including teen patrons – like to have clearly defined expectations from behavior in the library to Internet use.

It should be informed

Helping staff understand teen development and your teen services goals can help to decrease staff anxiety about teens in the library.  As with all things regarding staff attitudes, communication and team building can help break down barriers and make staff feel more comfortable in serving the teen audience.  Make sure you have a clearly outlined teen services program with a mission statement, goals, and appropriate evaluation measures.  I encourage you to communicate with staff on a regular basis making sure they know about upcoming programs, new and popular books and readalikes, trends in teen literature and pop culture, etc.  With some basic information, some basic tools, in their belt staff will feel more confident when teens approach the public service desk.

To help develop your teen services and communication model with staff check out these previous posts:

The “Be”-Attitudes of Communicating with Staff
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff, Part 1
Marketing Teen Services to Non Teen Services Staff: A Teen Services Plan Example

YALSA has put together a helpful presentation on Guidelines for Library Services to Teens Ages 12-18.  I recommend consulting it as you help put together your library’s customer service model and training packet.

Reshaping Our Experiences

So often when we walk away from a patron service desk we walk into a back office and begin sharing a story about the horrible customer interaction that we just had, forgetting that there were 90 other completely routine ones.  But those negative ones stay with us and we need to process them, to process the stress of it and state our case.  There is a catharsis in getting it out and sharing.  But what if, after we discussed our negative experience, we made it our goal to always follow the negative with a positive.  To make sure, for ourselves and others, that we share ourpositive interactions and remind ourselves that it is more often good then bad.  As I discuss in one of the above mentioned blog posts, part of your regular communication with staff should be an emphasis on positive experiences between teens and the library.  Report statistics, positive feedback, and those stories when I teen came back and told you that they loved the book you recommended.

Reshaping Our View of Teens

When you understand teen development, it is easier to understand why they do the things they do.  Brain research shows that they literally don’t have the biological mechanisms in place to make the same types of decisions that adults do. Again, some of this is discussed in one of the previous posts shared above. When we understand behavior, it is easier to deal with it.  I also recommend making yourself and staff familiar with the 40 Developmental Assets and your library’s role in helping teens obtain assets and grow in healthy ways.  By reshaping the way we see teens, staff can be more comfortable when the clock strikes 3 and you get the after school rush.

Reshaping Our Staff

As we share our knowledge of teens and teen services, we invite co-workers to be a part of our teen services program.  To be a part of the team.  Teambuilding is important because as staff become a part of the team, they become vested partners in providing quality customer service to teens.  It’s no longer you providing customer services to teens, but the library providing quality service to teens.

You often hear teen librarians making a case for teen services by saying that “teens are our future.”  The truth is, teens are also our here and now.  Teens are members of our community with information, education and recreation needs.  They are making important decisions about who they are and who they want to become.  They are forming foundational opinions about the library and its role in their life.  They are deciding whether or not they will be library users and supporters.  If teens walk away from the library today, it will be hard to get them back later.  Today more than ever there is a lot of competition in programming, services, and informational needs.  If we fail to capture and keep our teen patrons today, it is unlikely that we will be able to do so later; make sure your teens feel welcomed and served by every staff member in your building.  And use the powerful force of social media by creating loyal teen customers that will spread positive words about your library.

More About Good Customer Service:
8 Rules of Good Customer Service at About.com
The 10 Commandments of Good Customer Service at About.com
Authentic Promotion: Giving Customers What They Really Want
How to Create a Customer Service Plan
What Do We Mean by “Customer Service” Anyway?

Other tools for you to use:
Visit YALSA.  They have a large variety of tools including some on advocacy and a bibliography of current teen related research.
VOYA, an essential teen librarian tool, often has teen pop culture quizzes that you can use with staff.
Frontline on PBS did a good report Inside the Teenage Brain that you may want to check out.