Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

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.


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


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.


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 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.

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson (Blog Tour)

“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” – author Libba Bray, quoted on page 161 (always quote Libba Bray, always.)

Teenagers often get a bad rap. They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, their selfish, they’re lazy – that’s what you’ll hear a lot in the press. And from adults: When I was a kid, if we didn’t show respect my parents would have kicked my butt, when I was a kid . . . Well, the truth is, kids today are a lot like kids have always been. And in some ways, they’re better: they have more information about the world they live in and are doing things to make it better. They don’t just sit back and say, “I wish someone would find a way to do something about pollution” – they find a way to make it happen. Sometimes they are local things, sometimes they are global things. But teens today are signing up to be real Changemakers.

What is a changemaker? They are the people around us who take the initiative to create positive social change. They are the teens who start a school garden. They are the teens that start a local recylcing project. They are the teens that see a need and work to find a way to solve it. They want to make their world a better place by starting a movement, creating a new tool, or putting new practices into place.

But being a changemaker isn’t always easy. First comes the idea, but then what do you do with it? Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson is the perfect tool for the changemakers among us. From brainstorming to team building to marketing, Be a Changemaker is a step by step resource guide that can help changemakers go from having an idea to being a force to be reckoned with. An idea in and of itself isn’t enough, changemakers need a variety of tools to take that idea and make it a reality. Some of the chapters cover topics such as running a meeting, developing a business plan, dealing with money matters, working with the media, writing speeches that spark and planning an event. Having read through the book, I have to say this is a really good tool and I like that it highlights and motivates while giving teens the tools they need to be successful changemakers. I definitely recommend it.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to bet better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Check out these 5 teen changemakers who are doing things like helping sick kids, joining the fight against bullying, and recycling to help others while saving the planet: 

Everyday Hero: Teen creates backup emergency communications system for local fire station 

This Kid Rocks: Chapel Hill teen creates nonprofit to encourage sick kids 

Arizona teen creates middle school program to combat bullying 

Chicago Teen Creates Change Through Living Gift Markets 

DC teen creates organization to collect discarded crayons from restaurants 

And if you have an aspiring changemaker in your life, here are some organizations you can help them get in touch with to address the things they are passionate about. And if they don’t see something here, they can always pick up a copy of Be a Changemaker and start their own movement. 

To Write Love on Her Arms 
Their mission statement: To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. 

It Gets Better Project 
The message of the It Gets Better Project is simple: everyone deserves to be loved for who they are and it does get better.  They ask everyone to take this pledge: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other bullied teens by letting them know that it gets better. 

The Big Help 
The Big Help is an initiative of the Nickelodeon channel that encourages tweens and teens to get involved in local projects to help their communities.  The audience definitely skews younger tween, but the way it is designed encourages local action, which is great.

Donate My Dress.org 
Donate My Dress is an initiative sponsored by Seventeen Magazine that encourages teens to donate their special occasion dresses to others in need.  The 2012 spokesperson is Victoria Justice. 

Do Something.org 
Do Something is all about encouraging teens to, well – do something positive for their world.  This is what it says under their Who We Are page: e love teens. They are creative, active, wired…and frustrated that our world is so messed up. DoSomething.org harnesses that awesome energy and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, we launch a new national campaign. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car. With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the US for teens and social change. 

VolunTEEN Nation.org 
I am a huge advocate of teen volunteers, and many libraries have been using teen volunteers for years in the form of Teen Advisory Groups (TAGs).  But not all libraries have the staffing or funds to successfully incorporate TAGs into their programs.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage teen volunteering by providing teens access to volunteer information.  Volunteen Nation is here to help.  Volunteen Nation encourages organizations to add volunteer opportunities to their programming and they also help teens find volunteer opportunities through their website. 

Stop Cyberbullying.org 
With the explosion of technology comes the explosion of cyberbullying, find information and take the pledge to step in and speak up here.

As part of their ongoing campaign to promote tolerance, Tolerance.org sponsors Mix It Up at Lunch Day in November (this year it is November 13th).  On this day teens are encouraged to sit with new people at lunch.  I have gone to schools on this day with displays and just went and interacted with the teens at lunch.  Most teens like to sit in the same place with the same people, but it can really open up dialogue. 

Teens for Planet Earth 
T4PE is a social network by teens, for teens to learn more about conservation efforts and to share information about local projects. 

Greening Forward 
Profiled in Be a Changemaker, Greening Forward was started by a 12-year-old boy to address environment concerns. It is not one of the largest youth-led not-for-profit organizations. 

Project Girl 
From their about page: “PROJECT GIRL combines art, media literacy, and youth led activism. PROJECT GIRL is a ground-breaking girl-led, arts-based initiative created to enable girls to become better informed critical consumers of mass media advertising and entertainment. In other words, to become more media literate. PROJECT GIRL’s unique approach uses art as the means to educate, inspire, and create social change. . The Project Girl gives girls the structure to be the producers of their own culture, not just passive receivers of a culture that is trying to sell them something.”

Stay Teen 
Stay Teen provides information on sex, dating and birth control. 

Love is Respect 
Love is Respect talks about the positive things that love is, and highlights the negative things that it is not – including sexting and abuse. There is some good discussion under the Is This Abuse? tab. 

Break the Cycle 
Break the Cycle is also committed to helping to end dating violence and promoting healthy relationships. 

Day of the Girl 
International Day of the Girl is a movement…

to speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls’ rights everywhere. 

Teens on Trafficking 
Human Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that is bigger than we realize.  Teens on Trafficking gives teens facts and tools to help end it. 

Love 146 
This is another resource aimed at ending human trafficking and sex crimes against children. 

Free the Children 
Profiled in Be a Changemaker, this is a group founded by a 12-year-old boy. They are an “international charity and educational partner, working both domestically and internationally to empower and enable youth to be agents of change.” 

Here ya author John Green and is Bro join with teens to fight suck using their brains. 

Book Description:

Empower yourself in today’s highly connected, socially conscious world as you learn how to wield your passions, digital tools, and the principles of social entrepreneurship to affect real change in your schools, communities, and beyond.

At age eleven, Jessica Markowitz learned that girls in Rwanda are often not allowed to attend school, and Richards Rwanda took shape.

During his sophomore year of high school, Zach Steinfeld put his love of baking to good use and started the Baking for Breast Cancer Club.

Do you wish you could make a difference in your community or even the world? Are you one of the millions of high school teens with a service-learning requirement? Either way, Be a Changemaker will empower you with the confidence and knowledge you need to affect real change. You’ll find all the tools you need right here—through engaging youth profiles, step-by-step exercises, and practical tips, you can start making a difference today.

This inspiring guide will teach you how to research ideas, build a team, recruit supportive adults, fundraise, host events, work the media, and, most importantly, create lasting positive change. Apply lessons from the business world to problems that need solving and become a savvy activist with valuable skills that will benefit you for a lifetime! (Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, September 2014. ISBN: 9781582704647)


Laurie Ann Thompson comes from a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners. She has worked at IBM, Intel, and Microsoft, and she co-founded a successful internet startup. In addition, she has led a regional nonprofit professional organization and volunteered with Ashoka’s Youth Venture, which supports teens with big ideas. This is her first book. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Visit her at LaurieThompson.com. You can learn more about author Laurie Ann Thompson at her webpage. You can also find answers to Be a Changemaker questions at the Be a Changemaker Q & A page.

And Please visit the rest of the stops on Be a Changemaker blog tour

Tues, Sept 9 ~ at Girl Scout Leader 101 

Wed, Sept 10 ~ at Unleashing Readers 

Thurs, Sept 11 ~ at Teen Librarian Toolbox

Fri, Sept 12 ~ at The Nonfiction Detectives

   and Kirby’s Lane   

Sat, Sept 13 ~ at The Styling Librarian  

Mon, Sept 15 ~ at NC Teacher Stuff   

Tues, Sept 16 ~ at The Hiding Spot 

Wed, Sept 17 ~ at Kid Lit Frenzy   

Thurs, Sept 18 ~ at GreenBeanTeenQueen   

Fri, Sept 19 ~ at A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

A free copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.