Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

My Top Ten Programs, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

10.  Mini Book Charms

I recently did a Shadow and Bone Mini books and it was a hit.This is a more expensive craft, but it is super fun and the teens love it.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Shadow and Bone Mini Book Charms: Take and Make, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

9. No Sew Unicorn Pillow

This is a more expensive craft, but if you use coupons it can make it much more affordable. I always try to shop for materials when things are one sale. The Unicorn was just so much fun.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY No Sew Unicorn Pillow

8. Geode Bath Bomb

This was a craft that filled up so fast. It was really popular. It does take a lot of prep work. That makes the results perfect.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Galaxy Geode Bath Bombs

7. Virtual Animal Crossing Programming

We loved playing Animal Crossing with our teens. We were able to have so much fun. We  had to learn some technical issues, but it was worth it.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Animal Crossing and the Virtual Library, by Cindy Shutts

6. D and D Virtually

I had never run D and D by myself before the pandemic. I had played and assisted, but taking over as DM was a challenge. I really enjoy the storytelling. I found out our group loves pets, so we involved pets in the story as much as possible.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Running a Virtual Dungeons and Dragons Program

Cindy Crushes Programming: 10 Tips for Using Roll20, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

5. The Price Is Right

I ended up doing this program over Zoom and it was super popular. Registration was full. It was a fun game that made teens feel good. We used school supplies as the prize  since we know teens can always use them.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Price is Right Game, by Cindy Shutts

4. Fan Parties

I have done fan parties for so many fandoms. Divergent, Hunger Games, Fortnight, and so many more. This is a great way to grab a teens interest. I love to have crafts, trivia  and even debate during my fandom parties. This is such an enjoyable program.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Riverdale Fan Party

3. Lighted Jars

Lighted Jars are so easy to do if you have a cameo or cricut machine. You just print out the shape you need and you are ready to go. I love using bookish themes.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Light the Night with Fandom Themed Fairy Jars

2. Nailed It

Nailed It  is such a great show. It is even more fun as a library program, I love the completion and like having a loser winner and winner winner. Everyone has such a great time and you see patrons really use their creativity skills when crafting.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Nailed It!

1. Virtual Escape Room

Virtual Escape Rooms I  love because of the ease for patrons to use. It does take a lot of time to make them but we have had very high usage numbers for the programs. We always get great  feedback when we put one  out. Parents love to do them too. A teen does not have to be somewhere  or online at a certain time. They can use the link at any time and it makes it so easy for them to do the program. Here is a link to the ones we have made so far. http://whiteoaklibrary.org/teen-promotional-events-two

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

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.

TPiB: Book Planters

IMG_7260I am not a crafty person. At all.  I’m unable to draw a straight line or measure correctly and have little to no patience for not catching on to something quickly. So when we ended up with all this extra dirt at the library (don’t ask), and my supervisor said hey, want to make some book planters for a program, I said sure mostly because I wanted to be accommodating, not out of some love for creating things.


IMG_7286I poked around online for how to make book planters and found lots of detailed instructions, including one titled something like “How to make a book planter in 946 easy steps.” It was more like 40, I guess, but that’s the same thing. Some suggested you cut through the cover. Some involved various power tools for cutting. Some wanted you to stack books up, use a tool to cut a deep round hole, and stick a potted plant in. And on and on. I took the best bits of what I found and came up with this.




IMG_7246You will need:

Discarded hardcover books (I used ones that had broken spines, missing pages, etc) If you can find ones with nice endpapers, bonus!

Box cutters (SHARP)

Cling wrap

Glue (Elmers or Mod Podge or whatever–don’t use rubber cement! That was a bust). I used Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue

Sponges or brushes

A ruler or cardboard square/rectangle template, if you’re feeling precise



Drop cloths


Butcher paper

Plastic bags

Paper towel

Plastic cups





Setting up:

IMG_7241Cover your work space with drop cloths or butcher paper. Things got quite messy—dirt, dripped glue, and an infinite number of shredded book pages everywhere.






Getting to work:

For the sake of mess and time, I partially prepped most of the books, but you could let your group start from the beginning.

IMG_72441. Get rid of dust jacket. Flip through the book and see if there are any pages with pictures that you’d like to paste into the front at the end. Snag them if so.






IMG_72502. With the front cover of the book open, glue the pages along all three sides to create a seal. I dotted tacky glue along one side, wiped it all over with a sponge, making sure to really get the corners and making sure the top few pages weren’t flapping loose. Once all sides are covered in glue, set the books aside to dry for a bit. I did this in the days before the program because I was worried the books would still be too wet to easily transport home if attendees glued them at the program. That said, one woman did choose an unglued book and did it at the program. It was mostly dry by the time she left about 90 minutes later.


IMG_72343. Once the book is dry, grab a box cutter and decide what size square or rectangle you’d like to cut out of the book’s pages. Use cardboard for a template to cut around, or measure with your ruler/use a ruler as a guide, or just eyeball it. Start slowly and carefully cutting. You will need to cut and remove pages in many, many rounds. Corners are hard. Just remember most of that hole will be covered in dirt and plants, so being inexact is okay. Just try not to mangle that nice top page. You could have the books completely uncut at the program and let attendees start from the top page. My lovely coworkers helped prepare our books and cut through the first 100 pages or so. Cutting takes a while.


(At this point, you may want to grab the piles of book pages being cut out. I plan to reuse them for some blackout poetry in April.)


4. Once the pages are cut nearly all the way to the bottom or deep enough for soil and plants, you can glue the inside of your square/rectangle to create another seal or just skip right to lining it with cling wrap. We lined enough so that it came up over the top quite a bit–you can trim it later.


IMG_72355. Using your plastic cup, scoop out some soil from your bag and arrange soil and your succulents in the hole. Most attendees fit 2 or 3 small succulents.






6. After planting, use your box cutter to trim off the excess plastic wrap, leaving just a bit to help protect those top pages from any water that might overflow.


IMG_72527. If your book doesn’t have nice endpapers and you want to add something more to your planter, you could create a collage from discarded pages and pictures.






IMG_72548. That’s it! I had brought in plastic grocery bags and we were able to set the books carefully inside them for transport home (if you glue the books the day of the project, you might not be able to do this easily).





IMG_7285It was a fun program and the book planters turned out lovely. My program was open to adults and teens. I had 6 adult women, 1 man, and 1 teen. The planters would make great gifts for anyone who likes books. Also, if I could successfully make one, anyone can!