Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: How to Make a Digital Escape Room, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

At my library we have found one of the easiest ways to attract people to  programs is by creating a virtual escape room. They can be used any time of day and are fun to make. I like doing them with different fandoms. I have created two that are published so far one about Animal Crossing and one about Camp Half-Blood (Percy Jackson). My co-worker Faith Healy created two as well. She created an original haunted house one that has been used almost 200 times. She also just released a Mandorlian one in honor of the new season.

Start the Animal Crossing Escape Room

Start the Camp Half Blood Escape Room

Start the Haunted House Escape Room

Start the Mandalorian Escape Room

  1. Pick your theme and Do Research: Right now I am editing my Hunger Games escape room that is going to be released at the library next week. I rewatched the movies to prepare to write it. I also did research while writing it. I have different terrains. So I loved information about the terrains that could be useful. I learned about swamp gas and used it as a deadly way to kill the players.
  2. Write the Story: I used a Google document to write it out. I wrote the escape room essentially as a choose your own adventure story. Having the Google document makes it easier to break everything into sections which makes it easier to transfer the information onto a Google form on which the escape room is formatted and released on. Do not make too many choices in your questions. You might think  it will be fun to have lots of choices but really it makes everything more confusing. Faith and I found out you want to try to keep it under eighty sections in the end because it takes a long time to load if it is overloaded. My Animal Crossing one was 18 pages and now my Hunger Games one is 31. It was easier for the Animal Crossing one to load everything. I recommend you use your strengths writing if you are someone who likes outlines then use and outline. I am someone who finds the paths along the way when writing. I do not know what is going to happen when i write which is a surprise to me. I think escape rooms work well if you have experience writing fan-fiction.
  3. Edit the Story: You need to edit the story. I recommend waiting a couple days before editing so your eyes are fresh. Then have your co-workers help edit. I have one of the children’s librarians, Terri Purcell help me edit everything. She is always able to help me make projects better. I also have the other teen librarians help me.  I know not everyone has other teen librarians but I think children’s librarians are super awesome to help. Also the circulation staff can be a great help.
  4. Create the Google Form: I copy and paste everything in a Google form. I make sure all the questions are multiple choice and also go on  to the section based on the answer. Here is a very useful video on how to use the google form. Make sure that all the endings you have a submit button that way you can keep track of your numbers for statistics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLzbPGF4TzY
  5. Having Someone Test it: You will need your staff to help test the escape room. You have to make sure all the answers to the questions are connected to the right answers. This makes the game playable. I also check to see if after they have used it it submit and logs their choices properly.
  6. Release: We have release dates. We put them on all of our social media pages and I shared them to facebook groups and also the schools. 

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.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Teen Volunteering During a Pandemic, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

At the White Oak Library District, we have been trying to provide virtual volunteer opportunities for all teens during the pandemic. Faith Healy has been in charge of our program since we switched to all virtual hours.  I interviewed  Faith about volunteering for teens at the White Oak Library District. If you have any questions please email her at fhealy@whiteoaklib.org

When during the pandemic did the library start offering virtual volunteer hours?

 We came up with the virtual volunteering while in quarantine and wanted to offer the volunteer opportunities to our teens as soon as we reopened as a way to give teens something to do when they couldn’t go anywhere.

What types of volunteer hours are available  at White Oak Library District?

As of right now, we are only offering virtual volunteering. With the pandemic and social distancing, there is no safe way to have volunteers in person. But we have several virtual volunteering options and have recently added more. We created a google form that teens use to let us know they completed the volunteering and it helps us keep track of who volunteers and what hours they have.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScImKZReQGblsH5aE8ZhDoTEBlvXrHHEXl9EnvLKGzGHGi0Bw/viewform

Teen Blog Post: Teens get to write about what matters to them. This is my personal favorite and we have had several teens write about what happened during the pandemic and it is so nice to give them a platform for their voices to be heard. We do double check before adding them to the library’s blog, but all the submitted blog posts have been amazing! It is a great way to hear from your teens when you can’t see them in person

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScDjU_RH8KhG-nXGKMpFTfqz0piI2P5h2Fuuh9KroJnJ0VyMQ/viewform

Book Review: We have teens write a review of a book and tell us why they love it. We have gotten some great book reviews and some that I have added to my need to read list.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdBvL4UQYPIXTyBrhA1r5wqxrLGD69ET2vEGylaQb9K0WWEwQ/viewform

Video Post: For this one we did have to create a permission slip for parents to sign since we did want to use any videos teens created for social media. We offer teens to create a short video as long it is book or library related. That was the only condition. We did get some interest, but no videos, at least not yet.

Those are the three we started with and we recently added four more. Alot of them were ideas of my wonderful co-worker.

Video Reviews: With the pandemic the library has been posting more YouTube videos, so we wanted teen feedback and figured offering volunteer hours for feedback would work. All they need to do is watch any White Oak Library District YouTube video and write a mini review that is at least three sentences long.

Artwork Submission: This was an idea I had when looking at other library’s virtual volunteering. I believe it was Naperville, asking teens to create sidewalk art and take a photo. I thought why not just have them create any art and we can share it on our social media. I did limit it to library, book, or fandom related, but I figure teens can have fun with it and I look forward to seeing their submissions! I did ask if they would like to be credited or anonymous if we post their art as some teens might be shy about sharing artwork under their name.

Librarian Pen Pal: All the teens have to do is email a teen librarian. We get to hear from them and get feedback, and they get volunteer hours. A Win-Win for everyone. Plus during the pandemic we rarely see teens, this is a great way to create that personal connection.

TAG Survey: So at the beginning of reopening, my library did try to do a virtual tag that, got no one. So now to correct that we greeted a TAG survey via a google form and linked it with our virtual volunteering form. We offer volunteer hours in exchange for feedback we normally get from our TAG groups that we can’t have now as virtual doesn’t work and in person is not possible. TAG Survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScQVRIiz0UCPRi1tgkHvj7XrLV8VphzfQJWVhi-6LmkZHE3KA/viewform

We are exploring another option that a lot of libraries in the area seem to be doing. #TheWeWereHere project found at: https://thewewerehereproject.org/index.html. They have been partnering with libraries to collect teen voices about living through 2020 as it seems that everything happens in 2020. They just want the library to offer volunteer hours in exchange for teens sharing their story on their website and naming the library as a partner. I recently reached out to them and am waiting to hear back. It seems like a good option to give our teens a wider platform to have their voices heard and recorded for future generations

What options have been the most popular?

 Our most popular option for right now is definitely the Book Reviews. We have received a lot of those that we posted on our White Oak Blogs. I love reading their posts about what books they love and why!

Our second most popular is definitely the Teen Blog Posts. The most popular topic has been life during the pandemic. I am glad to give teens an option to voice their opinions especially in a time when they feel they might not have a lot of options to do that.

How do you keep volunteering going during the pandemic?

Virtual volunteering does offer us an easy option to offer patrons a link to go to. We have gotten a few emails from parents about volunteering and it is simple just to send them a link. We also noticed an increase in requests via email, phone, and even in person for volunteering which got us to shake up what we were offering and add new ideas and options. We also try reaching out to schools as some do require volunteer requirements and that helps.

How do you keep track of volunteering

One great thing about google forms is it keeps track for you. You can view each submission as an individual which helps you break down what a single teen has done. You can also get an overall summary which helps you notice what is the most popular option and what is not. When teens come into to get a sign off on hours, I simply check the google form to see what they earned and can sign off on.

What is your favorite part of running the volunteer program?

I would say the teens are my favorite part. Volunteering helps me connect with teens that might not come in for a book or a program. Plus I love how many teens just want to give back in this world. Teens are the best!

What advice would you give other librarians who are running virtual volunteering?

I would say try new things! When I created the blog post option, I hoped to have at least one or two, but we got more than that blowing my expectations out of the water. If you are not sure it would work give it a try!

Also feel free to use volunteering to benefit your library’s needs as well. A majority of our new volunteer options are created just to get feedback. We have so few teens coming in and a lot of teens that need volunteer hours that we decided to combine the two. We don’t know if it will work, but we are willing to give it a try.

Last thing I would say is check out what other libraries in your area are doing! We are all part of a larger community and feel free to take any ideas you want from me. I am happy to share. Feel free to contact me with any volunteering ideas! I am always on the lookout to increase our options!.

Thank you Faith for sharing with us about teen volunteering. If anyone has examples of how you are doing teen volunteer programs during the Pandemic please let us know.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

cindy

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.

Cindy Crushes Programming: 5 Tips On How To Get Teens To Your Virtual Program, by Cindy Shutts

It is hard to get teens to come to virtual programs. I have been trying to find a way to make sure our patrons can find information about our program. How are you getting the word out about your programs?

Share your program on the local resident groups and mom groups on facebook.

Teens are unlikely to see the advertisement, but their parents or guardians  will. This allows them to sign up their teens. Make sure to include the sign up link when you make a post. All of our programs with Zoom registration is required just to make sure we can email the link to the patron ahead of time. We are trying to avoid Zoom bombing.

Make a Facebook Event

This is very useful because it reminds the patron about the programs in the patron mark they are interested in going to get a reminder before the program. Also include the registration link in the event because this is how you can get the Zoom link to them.

Sample of Craft in Library

If you are doing a craft remember to have a sample craft out so parents and teens can see. We do this with Take and Makes. If we have registration for a craft, we make sure to send them a link of our video so they can view it. Here is one of our craft videos from when my wonderful coworker Ariel Nelson and i did a foot scrub kit

Contact Teachers and School Media Specialists

The teachers we work with are amazing and often our biggest champions. They are the ones working so hard to get our teen through the pandemic. I have even more respect for them now then I did before. If I have a really great program I want the teens to know I will email the teachers and School Media Specialists ahead of time. I do not use this resource every time because I do not want to overwhelm them. I also joined a community resource group for the schools on Facebook. This is a way I can contact teachers and parents at the same time without having a big long email.

Inside Building Signage or Curbside Advertising

This is what we would do pre pandemic. We would post our teen programs with signs where teens or parents and guardians could see them and be interested. Now we have curbside pickup, we can add advertisements in their books or verbally tell them about the program.  We do not have many teens in the building which is how I used to advertise. Word of mouth was my number one way to get teens to come to programs. I used to have a huge after school crowd and now I am lucky if I see 4 teens in one day. I am glad the teens are being safe of course, but I do miss seeing them and hearing about their day. That is why I really like doing zoom programs because I can talk to them.

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.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Virtual Programs You Can Do Right Now, Part 4, by teen librarian Cindy Shutts

Teen programming looks a little different for public libraries right now because getting together in groups just isn’t safe so everyone has turned to virtual programming. You can see our previous discussions on virtual programming hereherehere, here and here. Today we have even more virtual programming ideas for you.

Virtual Pet Show

This is a program we are going to do next week. We are excited about this because teen librarians can show off their pets and talk about what makes them special. Patrons do not even need a pet, they can talk about their favorite type of animal if they don’t.

Virtual Price is Right

Earlier this year, I wrote a social distancing version of the Price is Right. We made it a virtual program with a few tweaks and it worked out well. We even were able to use a virtual plinko game my co-worker Faith found. This was one of our more popular programs that we have done.

Virtual Field Trips

This is something I have started to see libraries partner with museums. This helps get more people interested in the museum. This is something I want to try.

Virtual Test Prep

Naperville Public library has been doing virtual ACT and SAT prep. They have hired a local college prep company. This had been one of their more popular in person programs.

An Example from Geneva Public Library District: http://gpld.org/event/4395067

YouTube Tutorials

A lot of librarians are showing off their skills on YouTube from cooking to O’Neal Public Library who are doing a weekly series of Ukulele Tutorials. These videos are super fun to watch.

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.

Cindy Crushes Programming: 11 Tips to Help Us All During Pandemic Programming, by librarian Cindy Shutts

Here are some tips I am doing with myself and my programming.

  1. Be kind to yourself: This is easier said than done. Everything is hard and draining. You have to realize you will not get the same amount of work done as before because you are working through basically an active trauma.
  2. Do not make programs too hard: This is really important because you do not want to overwhelm the teens or yourself. Having programs that are too hard can make you and the teens feel like failures if you both do not get the desired result.
  3. Do programs you care about within reason: This makes the work easier. I got back into Animal Crossing this year which made my life easier. I was able to do a whole series of programs around it. I add within reason because you want to make sure the teens are interested also.
  4. Look at social media to see what teens are interested in: I got a tik tok over the time I was sheltering in place and saw a lot of things that teens are following such as the resurgence of Twilight, Animal Crossing, plants, crafts, and a lot of social activism. This is giving us a chance to see what teens care about. I will warn you not to be creepy. Please keep healthy boundaries between you and your teens.
  5. Keep costs low: Right now attendance is very different than it was before. You have no idea what the attendance of programs will be. We can not hold ourselves to standards that are pre pandemic.
  6. Put Yourself First: This is very hard for people in our profession. We want to help everyone and do everything we can to help our patrons. You can not do your job if you do not keep yourself first. When we came back to work I had a lot of questions for our supervisors and thoughts. They allowed me to help me make my own way back to work. I work on my safety first. If I have concerns about my safety or feel like something is going wrong. I talk to my supervisors. This has been very helpful. I feel much more in control by setting boundaries
  7. Try New Things: You are having a chance to start fresh. Try new program things that you have always wanted to do but could not. We used Kahoot for trivia last week and it was super fun. We have always thought about doing virtual programs and this time has allowed us to use new platforms such as Roll 20, Jackbox Game, and of course Zoom.
  8. Be prepared to have changes: We are working on doing programs that if we had to work from home we could run them. We do not know what the next few months will bring so be prepared to change how you do your program. You have to be flexible when the time comes. My county just got more restrictions and our positivity rate is going up so we are looking at upcoming programs to see if we can adapt them if things get worse.
  9. It is okay to cancel a program: Sometimes things do not work out how you planned them. It is okay.You might have thought your craft was going to be in person but now it is a take and make and it does not work as a take and make. Cancel. You can not control the pandemic.
  10. Let yourself have feelings: It’s okay to be disappointed a program did not work out or no one came. You can feel that. It does not make you weak. This is a horrible year. I am just going to say 2020 is the worst. Your feelings are valid. You are in an active trauma.
  11. Protect Your Teens: There are new dangers in the virtual world. Make sure you practice kicking people out of your virtual program. Use a setting that lets you be in control of the room so that you can protect the teens from harassment. Zoom booming could happen so we use a waiting room and we are using our patron policy in the virtual space. Learn from others who have had issues. We require registration to come to most of our programs.

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.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Virtual Programming Failures, Tech Issues and Tips, by Cindy Shutts

Since I started doing virtual programming for teens during the pandemic, I have wanted to talk about failure. I think in a lot of ways we are holding ourselves to pandemic numbers. I could have a very full program and it would work perfectly. Now, even if I have people attend there could be technological issues.

It is okay to have a no show program

This is as true before as it is today. Sometimes you just do not get anyone to come. We had a virtual book club and no one showed. It was our first try at having a virtual program. I knew we have to realize we are building a completely different patron base. We have to have teens who have time and access to the internet. I also realized that maybe for our teens virtual book club felt like work. It is hard to want to do anything work at is related right now.

Check your tech equipment where you are running your program

You have to make sure everything works where you run your program because you do not know what the internet capabilities are. This was an issue with my Animal Crossing Program. I had been able to use a dodo code to let people on my island before but our wi fi at work was different than that at my house. I had tested it before even at work but I had someone who was my friend come to my island. I did not realize our internet at work
was Nat Type D when you need Nat Type A or B. Also make sure you can kick out someone if they break patron policy.

Your teen’s internet may be a problem

This issue also happened during our Animal Crossing Program. We had the teens get kicked off the island and we had no idea why. We then realized one of the teens did not have a strong internet connection and the was the cause. It was hard to tell the teen that was the issue.

Give yourself time

We have had two programs with zero people attending. It is okay. We are building back the patron base. They are not going to come back right away. You have to keep trying different programs and see what works. I learned that even though the Animal Crossing program had issues teens wanted to come. I am working on a virtual Animal Crossing escape room and a make and take craft.

Try all different programs

This is the one big thing we have learned about our patron base is that they want to do something fun. It is a stressful time and the programs that have done the best are programs where they did not have to think about work or what is going on in the real world. All library patrons might not want all the same type of programs.

You can see our previous discussions on virtual programming herehereherehere and here.

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.