Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: Five Thoughts on the (Very Slow) March to the End of the Pandemic, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

At my library, we are all excited about the vaccines hitting our area. I am half vaccinated. I am so excited about what is to come but I know that the pandemic is certainly not over yet. We have new strains popping up around the country and since schools have gone back in session there has been an increase in positivity rates. We also serve a population that can not get vaccinated yet, so we have to be even more careful. How is the process toward in person programming looking at your library? Here’s a look at what we’ve been thinking about as we plan programming for the future of 2021.

Outdoor Programming

We are doing outdoor programming starting in the summer. We are hoping to have our program Dog Days of Summer which is an annual pet adoption event. We will still require social distancing and masks of course. Our children’s department is looking at doing outside messy crafts. We plan to have an outdoor volunteering opportunity during the summer and have teens pick up trash in our courtyard and improve our children’s garden.

My niece Julia and her dog Brock at a past dog days.

Avoiding High Touch Programs

We will still have to avoid programs that are high touch such as crafts where supplies would be shared. I do not have enough scissors for everyone one to do crafts so I plan on avoiding in person craft and continuing doing take and make at my library. Make and Take programs have the added benefit of allowing our teens to do programming on their own time.

Keep an Eye on Infection Rates

As we have learned the positivity rate for Covid can go up at any time. The pandemic is not over just because we are over it. All libraries will have to continue to pay attention to local infections rates and be open to cancelling at a moment’s notice should the need to arise. Patron, staff and community safety should always come first.

Keep Things Online

Not everyone can come to the library. We are going to keep doing online programming forever now. We want to keep our D and D online, since it is high touch and also continue to do digital escape rooms. I plan to keep TAG online for the foreseeable future, because we have learned teens like having a chance to do their volunteer hours at all hours. Not everyone can get a ride to the library and this helps them be able to do their hours without having to get a ride from their parents or guardian. Online programming has made library programming more accessible for a large number of previously under-served patrons.

Find Programs That You Can Do

One program we are thinking about is doing Kahoot trivia in the library. It would be easy to set up in our large programming room and have the teens social distance and have them use their devices such as their Chromebooks or phones to answer the trivia while we project it on our big screen. As we look for continued ways to address the pandemic, we will all have to continue to practice and be an example of best safety practices.

What are your plans for the year? Are you doing in person programming and how are you doing it? Also how are you making it accessible for all patrons? We are trying to balance that many teens have been doing well with a lot of our online programming and we want to keep serving those teens. We have seen this a lot at our Crest Hill Branch which is hard for patrons to get to. We noticed a lot more teens from Crest Hill doing virtual programming. We find we are serving different patrons. What is your end of Covid plan?

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.

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.

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Living, and Dying, in a Pandemic

There’s been a lot written about public and school libraries adjusting to these times. You can find articles about curbside service and virtual programming. You can find intense debates about whether or not libraries should be open for browsing. You can find articles that talk about the trials and tribulations of trying to serve the public while also trying to keep the public, and staff, safe during a deadly global pandemic. This isn’t even the first Things I Never Learned in Library School post I’ve written about the pandemic.

But nothing prepared me for the next step: when one of your current or former teens dies or is dying from Covid-19.

I have been doing this long enough that a lot of the teens that I have served are now adults. Many of them are now married and have children of their own. I’ve been doing this for 28 years which means that some of my teens are now in their 40s, like me. I did the math, and this appears to be correct. (I started working with teens in libraries at the age of 20, so I was barely older than some of my first teens.)

This past weekend I learned that one of my former teens has been fighting the Covid virus for more than 20 days and is not expected to survive. When I talked about my feelings about this last night on Twitter, another teen librarian shared that one of their former teens had also died of Covid over the weekend. The teens we helped raise are dying from a disease that many people still insist is just a hoax.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not the first time one of my current or former teens have died. I’ve talked a lot here at TLT about the emotional impact of serving youth and then having them pass away. It’s devastating. It stays with you. But I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about this in terms of the pandemic and I’m here to tell you it’s devastating on a deeper level. It hurts at the very core and adds to the already taxing emotional load of trying to live and work in a deadly global pandemic that is being largely mishandled by people in leadership at every level.

There are currently between 2,500 and 3,000 people dying daily in the United States from Covid-19. Those that do survive often have long term health and financial impacts. 25 million people are now out of work. And our childhood hunger rate, which had gone up to 1 in 8, is now back down to 1 in 5. Here in Texas, we have record breaking lines for our food banks.

Everyone in the United States and around the world is going to have life long repercussions from living through this pandemic, if they are lucky enough to indeed live through it. We are not okay.

I’m sorry I don’t have a better post for you today. Today, I just want to acknowledge our losses. And tell our teens, both current and former, once again that I’m sorry we keep failing them. I don’t know how we heal from this, but if you work in libraries you’re going to want to do a lot of research on trauma informed librarianship.

Stay healthy and safe everyone.

Pandemic School, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Today, teen contributor Riley Jensen is sharing her thoughts about starting school this upcoming year. Riley will be starting her senior year; it’s an important year with a lot of big decisions. She knows she wants to be a forensic scientist, which means college and tests and campus visits. She also has found her home, her people, in the theatre program. I did not think last year when I saw her perform that it would possibly be my last time seeing her perform on the high school stage. As her mom, this was very hard to read. We’ve cried a lot, talked a lot, and we’re trying to balance making the best decisions for her with the best decisions for our family with the best decisions for our community, all in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic in a state with really consistently high numbers of infection, hospitalizations and death. Here’s a look into the mind of a teen trying to navigate education in the pandemic.

This year while many other schools have made the decision to start school off virtually, my district decided that students would have a choice between online school and in person school. Only half of my schedule is actual academic courses while the other half is made up of extracurricular courses. So, I made the decision to do in person school since I can’t really be a teacher aide from home. Obviously students are required to wear masks and socially distance, but it can be hard to tell how many of the students will actually follow these instructions since they barely even listen to a dress code already.

Thinking about starting this school year has caused me a lot of anxiety. I have no way of knowing what my fellow students have done, who they have been in contact with or how well they’ve been following the recommended precautions. All I know is that if I get the virus at school I will be bringing it back home to my family.

It’s time to put on make up . . . But will the curtain go up again during senior year?

I also know that not everyone is taking this pandemic very seriously. I see people’s posts about them going out to restaurants or amusement parks or parties. I see them without their masks. I see them not being socially distant. I’m not completely innocent either. I’ve gone out and seen large groups of people. Nobody is really doing what they’re supposed to be doing anymore.

So, when I get back to school, I will be surrounded by people who have gone out and done things without a mask. I will be surrounded by people who don’t think this pandemic is that big of a deal. I will be surrounded by people who probably haven’t even looked at the number of cases in weeks. I will probably not be safe.

Senior photo by Rescue Teacher Photography

There are things I could do to make me more safe obviously. I could just show up to my extracurricular classes, but I don’t drive. I know that’s my own fault but that doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t drive. I could drop a few classes and sign up for early release, but then I won’t get all of the credits I need to graduate. At this point I don’t really know what to do, but I’m scared.

I am terrified of the thought that I might get sick and bring it home to my family. I’ve seen the statistics and I know that school is not a super awesome idea. It’s just so much to process. I barely even know what I want to do with my future, but now I have to figure out what to do without putting my whole family in danger of getting sick.

This whole thing is just stressful and scary and something that I never even thought I would have to think about. So, I’m just going to do my part in keeping everyone safe and hope that everyone else does the same. It seems that’s all anyone can really do at this point.

Sunday Reflections: They’re Sacrificing Our Poorest Children, Same as it Ever Was

As the end of July approaches, parents (and school personnel) have been anxiously awaiting to hear what we’re going to do about school this fall. This in the middle of a global deadly viral pandemic in which our numbers have started rising exponentially again. This is arguably the worst time to be thinking about how, exactly, we’re going to handle school in the fall.

When we returned from Spring Break in March of 2020 we were quickly notified that our schools were going virtual. While this worked fine for my junior who is arguably gifted and self sufficient, it was a disaster for my youngest who has an IEP for dyslexia. And by the time it was all said and done, neither one of my children wanted to touch a computer again. We are one of the many families for whom virtual schooling was a disaster.

The Teen doing virtual school in Spring 2020

This doesn’t mean I want to send my children back to school again in the fall.

Bety Devos wants schools to fully reopen but not many are listening

DeVos blasts school districts that hesitate at reopening

I live in the state of Texas, in which our numbers are rising. We’ve broken records every day for the past week and a half. At the same time, new science has come out that indicates that the virus is indeed airborne. Which means that our kids will be sitting in schools with questionable HVAC systems for hours on end and we’re going to just hope for the best. I guess.

This past week our national leaders began a huge push for in person, fully opened schools. This came from the top down and involved people like Betsy Devos indicating that only around 0.02% of our children will die. That’s right, the Secretary of Education who has never worked a day in a school has indicated that she is perfectly comfortable sacrificing 0.02% of our children to open our schools. madeline lane-mckinley @la_louve_rouge_ did the math on Twitter and that’s 14,740 children: https://twitter.com/la_louve_rouge_/status/1282344581455998976.

But let’s ask ourselves, who will these children be?

They will be our most at risk children. Our poorest children, whose parents can’t stay home with them to do virtual or homeschooling. And when we talk about our poorest children, it is important to keep in mind that our poorest children are often our most marginalized children, Black and Latinx children, rural children, and children with disabilities. That is because, like in all things, the system is designed this way. Systemic poverty and systemic racism are intertwined and designed to ignore many members of our society, including children.

TEA Issues Comprehensive Guidelines for a Safe Return to On-Campus Instruction for the 2020-21 School Year

Last week the TEA (Texas Education Agency ) announced that parents will have two options: send kids to school in person or do virtual learning. Whichever course you choose, you are being asked to commit to your track for at least 9 weeks. Though it gives each school district some leeway to make their own rules.

Early on there was a lot of discussion of hybrid scenarios. Putting kids on like an A/B schedule with them alternating between morning and afternoon classes with deep cleaning in between to minimize the number of kids and create more room for social distancing. Other scenarios seemed to discuss half the kids going to school on just a few days of the week while the other ones did virtual and then switching. All of the hybrid scenarios were designed to give everyone an equal audience in front of a teacher and equal time doing virtual schooling. While not ideal, the hybrid scenarios seemed more equitable.

Scout making a zine during Spring 2020 for a school assignment

Now, Devos and the TEA have come out with an either/or option. You can either do in person or virtual education. And then the call came out: if you can, please choose virtual or homeschooling so that the parents that can’t can send their parents to school. Do you see the inherent bias in this type of system? Because the parents who can choose to do virtual either have the financial means to have a parent stay at home to help their child succeed. They also are most likely to have the necessary tools to do virtual schooling to begin with, like strong, reliable Internet access and computers.

So our poorer children – those with parents who must work or who don’t have reliable Internet access or who don’t have laptops and tablets to successfully do their work – will have no choice but to attend in person school, putting themselves at greater risk of catching the virus and taking it home to their caregivers. Their risk is exponentially increased because their parents can’t afford any alternatives.

This doesn’t account for things like the vast disparities in our schools across the nation due to underfunding, redlining, and other issues. It doesn’t account for older school buildings without adequate heating and cooling systems to help with healthy air flow. It doesn’t account for children who can’t afford to buy their own lunches are going to be asked to show up and provide their own face masks, hand sanitizer (which I haven’t seen in a store for months), or more. It doesn’t take into account crowded hallways and cafeterias, schools that have barely had soap in the bathrooms during the best of times, or realities like busing.

I am not here trying to lambast public education or public educators. I believe in and support public education with every fiber of my being. I believe that the world is better when we take care of and educate our children. It’s a net gain. And despite the best of intentions, it hasn’t been going well for a while now in part because we have people who know nothing about education and who are actively trying to dismantle public education in charge and making decisions. And Betsy Devos is just the tip of the iceberg. Most unfortunately, educators haven’t been invited to the decision-making table for a while now at the same time that there has been a systemic campaign to try and undermine both public education and our teachers. I’m a public librarian, in no way affiliated with any type of public schools and I have been reading about and watching this play out for some time now.

But I’m also a parent, and as a parent, it makes me angry. As a citizen, it makes me angry as well. We have long known that educational success is directly tied in with things like self-esteem, accomplishments, and yes, even future crime. It is a moral and ethical imperative and a public good for us all to invest in the health and well-being of our children. Not just the children we have personally given birth to, but all children. We know based on decades of research and evidence that the health and well-being of our children is important for our economy, our safety, and our success. Not just as individuals, but as a collective whole.

I don’t have answers about what school should look like in the fall. But I am angry that so many people are so willing to sacrifice any of our children, even the smallest percentage point, because they can’t think creatively or don’t want to invest the money that would be necessary to make schools safe during a global pandemic. I’m especially angry because I can see that part of the reason that many are willing to make that sacrifice is because I understand whose children, exactly, are being sacrificed on the altar of “normal”, convenience and fiscal responsibility. It’s the same children it always has been, our poorest, our most marginalized, our most in need of our safety and protection. It’s the same as it ever was. And that should make us all angry.

Income inequality affects our children’s educational opportunities

Cindy Crushes Programming: Make and Take Crafts for a Pandemic State of Mind

Today for Cindy Crushes Programming we’re talking about Make and Take Kits. Though a lot of libraries initially swerved to Virtual Programming, with things like curbside pick up now happening, many libraries are starting to think about and put together Make and Take Kits. These are kits where all the supplies are provided for a program activity that patrons can drive through and pick up via curbside. Librarian Cindy Shutts shares some specific Make and Take Kit activities and I talk about some things you’ll want to consider when putting your Make and Take Kits together.

Since many libraries are not having  in person programs for a while including mine. I have been looking at possible make and take crafts. This is a hard one to do because you have to make sure you provide all the supplies that patrons need to complete the craft. Often teen patrons might not have supplies you would assume they have in their homes such as glue and scissors. I tried to think of easy and fun crafts that could be done quickly.One way to find out what supplies teens have by having them sign up ahead of time so you can find out which supplies they need such as markers or crayons. I suggest making a Youtube video or linking to one already made for teens who are visual learners. Do not forget to put the instructions in the bag.

The Classic Pet Rock

Supplies needed:

  • A rock
  • Googly eyes or buttons or beads for the eyes
  • Glue. I am putting glue dots in the kits to make it easier for the teens.
  • Markers

Instructions:

  1. Glue the eyes on the rock
  2. Use marker to add decorations

Nail Polish Splatter Art Tile

Supplies:

  • Tile
  • Nail polish

Instructions:

  1. Make sure your tile is nice and flat.
  2. Drip different colors of nail polish on the tile to create different patterns
  3. Let nail polish dry

DIY Hair Bows

This is based on this previously blogged about craft and you can find instructions at the post.

Some Things to Consider When Creating Make and Take Craft Kits

Do not assume that your patrons will have any of the supplies they need at home, including things like scissors and glue. Provide every supply necessary in the kit itself so that no one takes home a kit and can’t complete it because they don’t have the tools they need at home. Somewhere shared online that they were sending glue dots home in case their kids didn’t have glue. Another person I talked to said they were even sending crayons. In order to make accessible craft kits, you’ll want to include every supply needed.

Consider having patrons pre-sign up for kits so that you have enough on hand. First come, first served can be very frustrating when you go to great lengths to go out during a pandemic and then you go away empty handed. You could use something as simple as a Google form to help facilitate sign ups for kits to make sure that everyone that comes to pick up a kit leaves with a kit.

Whenever possible, consider making detailed step by step instructions – including pictures – or make a video tutorial and share the information where that tutorial can be found in with your kits, especially if they are more difficult crafts.

Though many libraries have circulating maker kits, because of the nature of the pandemic you’ll want to consider kits in which no items are returned for health and safety reasons. It’s true that you could probably clean and disinfect things like safety scissors, but you’ll also probably lose a fair number if you send them out in kits with the expectation that they will be returned. Plus, is cleaning and sanitizing safety scissors the best use of our time in this particular scenario when you consider how deadly the virus can be for some?

Create a hashtag for your library system, your kits, or specific projects and invite your patrons to share their completed projects with you when they are done so you can get some built in social media and PR. It’s voluntary, of course, but if you’re making kits you might as well invite your patrons to share their completed projects with you.

You’ll want to look for crafts that are easy, creative, inexpensive and require as few supplies as possible, but are still fun and have a visual punch. Kits can be put into something simple like a ziploc or paper bag. Be sure to include some type of branding on your craft kits.

Make and Take Craft Kit Resources

Pinterest Board of Make and Take Craft Kits: https://www.pinterest.com/PosiePea/library-make-take/