Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Using Canva to Promote Library Services, a guest post by Lisa Krok

We have all had to pivot quite a bit during the pandemic to find alternate ways to serve patrons. I never expected that video production and editing would be part of my job as a librarian, but here we are. *Whispers* and you know what? I kind of enjoy it! Canva is a fantastic tool for promoting library resources via social media, websites, etc. I know some folks are thinking, “But my library doesn’t have funds for a fancy graphics program like that”. GOOD NEWS: Canva Pro is FREE to public libraries! That means you get all the bells and whistles that normally sell for a premium.

Free Canva Pro for Public Libraries

There is a plethora of things you can do with Canva Pro. You can select the type of media you are creating from a menu of Facebook posts, Instagram posts, flyers, posters, videos, presentations, and more. When you select the type of media you are creating, Canva automatically sizes the blank template for you. So for example, Instagram posts are automatically sized as square. Once you are in your preferred media type, then you can create completely from scratch, use a pre-made template, insert photos from Canva library, add animations or stickers, music, and more. You can also upload photos and videos into Canva to use within the graphic you are making.

Here are some examples of templates I created that can be reused to promote different materials, which are then posted on our social media:

I also generated reader’s advisory templates with a Like, Try, Why format:

As libraries have gone through different phases of physical access for patrons, digital media circulation has skyrocketed in lieu of physical materials moving as much. In addition to Hoopla as pictured in templates, we utilize the OverDrive platform and our local schools have access to Sora. Sora is a school version of OverDrive. Once schools have Sora, they can access our library’s OverDrive collection by simply logging into the Sora app with their student IDs. This eliminates issues of students not having a valid library card, not knowing their passwords, etc. (Although we certainly encourage library cards!)

Since our programming is now virtual, Canva Pro has been useful with creating informational videos, how-to crafts, booktalks, games, and more.

Voting information was crucial for both teens that were 18 and adults for the election in November. I was able to screen shot this video tutorial with voting information:

Voting Informational Video

I had some fun with this one:

How to Wear a Mask

We do multiple booktalks each month, here are some examples with Canva Pro:

Wintry Recs with Lisa

Sharon Flake Booktalk

An Ember in the Ashes Finale  

(I was Helene for Halloween so she makes a cameo here!)

Oh the Horror!

For more videos from our staff, visit our You Tube channel:

Morley Library You Tube Channel

In August, we usually take a break from programming after summer reading. I thought this would be the perfect time for a Guess Who contest on social media, since we weren’t posting new programs that month.

Be creative! Canva Pro is a rabbit hole and I am still finding new ways to jazz up our posts and find new virtual ways to serve our patrons. Have fun!

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She recently concluded a term on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee (BFYA 2021), and also served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

MakerSpace: Teaching Teens to Use Canva to Design their Own T-shirts (Laser T-shirt Transfers)


Our Summer of Shirts is coming to an end (today is our last day) and last Monday was hands down one of my favorites: I taught teens how to use Canva to design their own images and then print them out onto a transfer sheet and make them into t-shirts.

This teen made a tiger t-shirt.

This teen made a tiger t-shirt.

Why Canva?

I wanted to teach teens a few basics of graphic design while also teaching them some basic computer skills. Canva is a free online program that anyone can use. You could also use GIMP, but it has a much steeper learning curve. Canva is not only free but it’s a good entry point because it is easy to use. Canva saves all of your designs so you can use them again and again. All you have to do to set up an account is have an email address and create a log-in.


After I taught the teens on day 1 to use Canva, my teen actually taught several teens the next day how to use it. That’s how easy it is to use.


  • Computer access with a printer
  • Transfer paper
  • An iron or heat press
  • Plain white t-shirts

It’s very important that you pay attention to what kind of printer you have. Most homes have inkjet printers and you must use inkjet transfer papers. The library has laser printers so we had to research and buy special laser printer transfer paper. This paper requires some additional steps and is not, in my opinion, as effective as inkjet transfer paper. If I was going to repeat this program I would ask the library to consider purchasing a cheaper inkjet printer to create crisper images. It’s also important that you pay attention to the color of your t-shirts. White t-shirts definitely work best, and if you are using an inkjet printer there are different types of transfer paper you have to use depending on the color of your t-shirt.

This is the laser transfer paper that we purchased based on reviews and cost: https://www.amazon.com/Laser-Transfer-Printers-8-5x11-Sheets/dp/B005IXG71U

This is the laser transfer paper that we purchased based on reviews and cost: https://www.amazon.com/Laser-Transfer-Printers-8-5×11-Sheets/dp/B005IXG71U

I also want to say that I have used both an iron and a heat press and a heat press hands down works better. A heat press obviously has a higher price point, but it is quicker, easier and creates a better end product. This is the heat press that we purchased and it cost around $200.00. It is both glorious and a pain in the butt because it is heavy and takes a lot of counter and/or storage space (we don’t always have it out in our Teen MakerSpace).

Step 1: Creating Your Image

Step one is more about learning some basic computer skills and talking about graphic design. There is, of course, also some discussion about copyright to be had. For example, one of my teens was incredibly angry with me because I assured her that she could not import someone else’s fan art into her design and print it off. Canva does, however, allow you to upload your own art so you can include copyright free online images or personal hand drawn art. One of our teens is very artistic and she did use her own artwork to make her t-shirt image.


Once you have completed your design in Canva you then can download it and save it as either a .jpeg or a .png. Either one works. I then upload them into Word to size them and flip them. It is very important that you flip your image if the transfer paper instructions say to so that your image comes out in the correct direction.

Some Basic Graphic Design Tips

25 Epic Graphic Design Tips for Non-Designers – Canva Design School

If you are using laser image transfer paper, you will then print your image off onto the page with the red grid on one side. You will want to turn up your brightness before printing.

Step 2: Preparing Your Transfer

Heat your heat press up to 201 degrees Fahrenheit and set your timer at 20 seconds.

Preparing the transfer

Preparing the transfer

Again, these step is only necessary if you are using laser printer transfer paper. You have just printed the image onto the red backed page. You must not prepare your transfer by putting the sticky substance on the red page. To do this, you will put a page of the green backed paper face down onto the red backed page. The red and green grids must be on the outside with the image in the middle like a sandwich. You will then place it into your heat press at 210 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds. You will then IMMEDIATELY and carefully but slowly separate the two images while they are still warm.

Your page will now be ready to transfer onto a t-shirt.

Step 3: Completing the Transfer

You now need to heat the heat press up to 375 degrees fahrenheit and set the timer for 30 seconds.

You’ll want to pre-press your t-shirt to remove any wrinkles and moisture. After doing this, you can then get your t-shirt and transfer situated on the heat press. When your press is at 375 degrees, you then press the image to your shirt with the image facing down onto your t-shirt.


Transferring the image


My first attempt (we worked out the kinks)

You will now wait until your t-shirt is room temperature before removing the paper. Trust me, do not try and do this while everything is still hot as you will lose parts of your image. You will, however, still want to carefully remove your paper using a steady motion.

PDF instructions can be found here: Laser Transfer T-Shirts

A Gallery of Our T-shirts


A teen was inspired by an image she saw online to create this t-shirt. Food was a popular theme.


TMS Assistant Desiree made this t-shirt to celebrate recently becoming a mama bear. She also was inspired by a design she found online to create this image in Canva.


The Teen transferred little donuts onto her shirt and used a Sharpie to write “I Donut Care” onto her food themed shirt.


I turned the TLT Instagram logo into a TLT t-shirt, which I love.


The Teen helped Thing 2 design this t-shirt using images in Canva.


This teen turned his original artwork into a t-shirt.

 Other Summer of Shirts Posts

TPIB: Meme ALL the Shirts! (Heather Booth)

MakerSpace: Mod-A-Tee Making Hot Glue Stencils and Spraypainting T-Shirts

Mod-A-Tee @ Your Library – Fun with T-Shirts

Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

Maker Mondays: How do you make those cool graphics for social media?


Branding. It’s a thing we talk a lot about in all walks of life, including libraries. And branding is more important than ever with our prolific use of social media. When you share something on social media, you want an image to share with your post that is easily recognizable, immediately associated with your brand, and points directly back to you when it is shared by others on social media. Even better if you create regular content that is predictable, expected and communicates to your patrons who and what you are. So consider having regular features like New Title Tuesdays, for example, with well developed images to market that content. And consider adding your logo and website url onto each image.

Popular websites like Epic Reads are already doing this and doing it well. They have regular features that are comfortable and familiar to their readers, and that is a powerful tool.

But how do you create the images? Today I am going to share with you two separate tools that work well for this: Canva and Word Swag.


I have previously talked about Canva at length so I’m just going to touch on it here briefly. Canva is a free online tool that you can use to create all types of images, including social media images. You set up an account for free and you can upload your own pictures or use their library of free images. If you want to spring for the bonus features, there is additional content you can tap into for a free. I have, however, successfully used Canva for multiple projects and never had to pay any additional money. I sincerely recommend Canva, in under five minutes I might add. Previous posts on Canva:

Tech Review: Online Creation Tools Piktochart and Canva

MakerSpace: Postcard Party

These social media images were created using Canva:






Canva has both an online portal and a mobile app. At first I hated the mobile app version, but I am getting better at it. I still prefer the online portal.

Word Swag

Word Swag is an app that you can purchase and download to your mobile device to make quick images to share. Word Swag is a bit pricey for an app at $4.99, especially given what it does, but it is quick and easy to use with effective results. It is available for both iOS and Android. You can start with a provided image or access an image from your camera roll. You can then crop it, add text, and quickly save your photo. It’s fast and easy, but man do I hate the filters that it has.

ra1 ra2 ra3

These images were created using Word Swag.



Some thoughts about Word Swag:

I find Word Swag to be particularly good for making book quote art to share on social media

After you put in your text, you can select your font style and roll the dice to find the best fit and look for your background image. Seeing what the roll of the dice produces can be fun.

In addition to being able to insert your own text, it does have a feature where you can select a category and it offers a few choice quotes in that category for you to use. If you have a picture you have taken but not a great text, it can be fun to see what comes up.

You can only add one text block unless you save, reload your image, and start the process all over again. So if you want to have a heading text at top and your website url at the bottom, the process is much more complicated.

As I mentioned, the filters in this app are basically awful. This is, after all, an app that focuses on words more than images.

It’s easy to use, fast, and can all be done while on the go right there on your phone.

A Final Analysis

After buying Word Swag and using both tools to create square shaped social media images to share, I found that I kept using Canva more than Word Swag, mostly because Canva just offers a lot more options. I like the filters on Canva more (though Instagram is still my favorite quick app for filters and the blur feature). I like that you can add images to your image, like a silhouette. And I like that you can add multiple lines of text in multiple locations. So in terms of functionality, Canva definitely beats out Word Swag. But if you want quick, easy, and portable, either one works. And for the novice, Word Swag may be easier to use.

Word Swag gets the edge for quick and easy, Canva gets the edge for higher functionality.