Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fandom Ornaments, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

I have Faith Healy today with me. She is the teen Librarian at the Crest Hill Branch of the White Oak Library District. She is so good at crafts. She is going to talk about her Fandom Ornaments.

Fandom Ornaments

So I run a Fandom Art Club. I started it when we were able to start in person programming again. It let me combine fandoms that teens love with crafts. I tried to make in all inclusive by doing all fandoms all the time, but that was a lot of work for me, so I narrowed it down to different fandoms to be focused on like Disney Perler Beads, Demon Slayer Bracelets. I did think it would be super easy to do an all inclusive fandom ornament though. When teens signed up I asked what characters they would like to do and from there I worked off it. I also made sure to have a few basics of popular fandoms.


  • Clear Ornaments
  • Paint
  • Images based on characters
  • Cardstock, multiple colors
  • Glitter
  • Hot glue and Hot glue gun.
  • Permanent Marks
  • Googly eyes.
  • Mod Podge


I had three options to make:

  • A Disney Mickey Mouse Ornament
  • A character Ornament where the character is made into the ornament. (This one was the biggest requested one) (See the Shoto Torodiki ornament)
  • Or just mod podge an image or icon to an ornament (This one no one did)

The Disney ones were easy. I just needed paint, cardstock and a template for the ears. The one that was the most work was the character ornaments. I had to find good pictures of the characters’ hair to make them look good. That took a few days to find them all plus a few extras just in case.

To do the ornaments,

  1. Open the ornament, pour either paint or glue in.
  2. Shake around to cover the entire ornament. (Teens loved this part) I made sure to have paper towels available for teens who were not fond of messes.
  3. Hold the ornament upside down and let access drain out.
  4. Cut out image, hair, or ear template. For the hair I just printed on normal printer paper and it worked nicely. For the ears, To make them stand up like the picture, I used cardstock, but printed the template on regular paper
  5. For image, Attach Image like the pegasus for Percy Jackson on with Modpodge
  6. For character ornament Attach Hair with hot glue and googly eyes with hot glue. (If facial features like a scar paint on top of ornament) I did have some teens who were extremely talented and drew awesome eyes with permanent markers on the ornament. Use paint or marker to draw a face.
  7. For glitter, let glue dry a little, 2-5 minutes pour a good amount of glitter in and shake around until covered. Pour out excess glitter.
  8. For Disney ornament hot glue the ears onto the ornament.

I had a hot glue station where I did a majority of the hot gluing unless teens felt confident with the hot glue gun.

Teens had fun and ended up making multiple ornaments each and taking a few home. The hardest thing was a teen request to do characters I never heard of BT21. I learned they were characters created by BTS. luckily I found a few characters and made them templates, and that teen loved what I made available!

 I did have another teen request the cat from A Whisker Away. We used white cardstock to make ears(I didn’t do a template, she just cut out triangle ears), painted the inside of the ornament white, and used permanent markers to make the eyes and color in the ear. That teen loved that I made that an option for her as she had seen the movie over 15 times.

I have attached all the templates for the hair I made here, a lot of them are anime as that is what my teens are super into right now. Feel free to use. There are a lot of options to go with this and my teens had fun. Some made meme faces with their ornaments.

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: Reading Colors Your World! by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Summer Reading is here once again. At the White Oak Library District we are so excited to start our summer reading program on June 7th. Our theme is the ILA Theme: Reading Colors Your World. This year we are going forward with a full reading program and we are excited to see the patrons return to the library. 

Our plan for Summer Reading for teens will have a Reading Log which is a coloring sheet. We plan to have the total of hours reading for teens to be six hours which is the same as our children’s department. We want to make sure we are making our program easy for parents who have children who are in both programs. We know this last year for parents has been very difficult. This year we are having crayons be our sign up prize for registration. We are using a log that they can color in and we thought crayons would be the perfect sign up prize.

This year we are having a new summer reading system for teens and children. We are going with a badge system. We read articles that libraries who started the badge system have an increase in circulation. We would love to have an increase in circulation at our library. 

Our badge system has eight badges. We are so lucky to have our marketing person, Kiya Morrison, made them look great. My co-worker Faith Healy helped come up with the fun names. Last year we had planned to use badges but the pandemic did not give us any time to get ready for Summer Reading in 2020 so we did the most basic program. We used our button maker to the badges.

  • Crimson Knight Badge: Signing up for Summer Reading
  • Marigold Master: Doing a Craft Kit. 
  • Bumblebee Bot: Attending a Virtual Program
  • Sage Wizard: Volunteering
  • Cerulean Selkie: 2 hours of Reading
  • Lavender Lizard: 4 Hours of Reading
  • Bubblegum Baker: 6 Hours of Reading (1 Log)
  • Rad Rainbow: 18 hours of Reading.  

We are hopeful the teens will like our new program. We still plan to have mostly virtual programs since we had everything planned before our state went into the Bridge to Stage Five. We are starting to return to have teens return to in person volunteering. 

How is your Summer Reading Program looking this year?  How are you handling the pandemic and summer reading this year?What theme is for your summer reading program? 

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

I have been obsessed with the show Shadow and Bone. Our Shadow and Bone virtual escape room has been very popular and we wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the new show. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdN6Mb8Xy9NmDgf5BcNGN2QNhSEDXqJjqeWqv1S8aeEBbgh0w/viewform

I pulled a craft I had done before which was a mini book charm. I used wire cutters on each of the hook eyes to precut them all for the craft kits. I took the cover images from the internet and formatted them to fit the mini books. I used all the different editions. This way teens would be able to pick their favorite book.

Supplies to make craft: 

2 Mini Books                                                                                             

2 Jump Rings                                                                        

2 Hook Eyes                                                                         

1 Sheet of Book Covers

Not included                                                        

Glue (Elmer’s or Modpodge)                                                   


 I ordered sets of these mini books. 

Instructions for the teens:

1. Cut out desired book.

2. Glue cover to mini book with a small amount of glue.

3. Take the hook eye and glue it.

4. Open the jump ring and attach it.

5. Attach charm to the surface you want such as a necklace or a bracelet.

6. Close the hook eye.

I had this craft kit almost run out the first day. I plan to do this craft again with the Percy Jackson books in the future. This is a classic craft which makes it easy to transfer it to a Take and Make.

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: 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.

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: Hosting a Starfinder RPG, an interview with Nicholas Vidmar

We’re kicking off the new year with a fresh installment of Cindy Crushes Programming. Today YA librarian Cindy Shutts interviews adult librarian Nicholas Vidmar. Together, the two of them host a successful Starfinder program at White Oak Library. Starfinder is a role playing game (rpg) similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but with a more science fiction setting.

Background: At the White Oak Library in Romeoville we have been running an RPG (Role-Playing Game) called Starfinder. I help run this program with Nicholas Vidmar who is an adult services librarian. He takes the role of GM (Game Master) and runs the game. I help out by making the connections with our teens and bringing them to the table and I also play during the game to help make sure we can finish a scenario. Nicolas plays a variety of RPG games. He paints his own figures. We are lucky to have him because he brings a lot of his own materials to make the game run smoothly. Starfinder is a great RPG game, if you have played Dungeons and Dragons and are looking for something new.  Nicholas calls it Guardians of the Galaxy D and D.  I interviewed Nicholas about Starfinder and how librarians can add it to their programming. 

Starfinder Interview:

How long have you been playing role playing games and what are some of your favorites?

Nicholas: I was introduced to TTRPGS (Tabletop Role Playing Game Systems) about 5 years ago. There was a struggle getting into it as I played my first game in (Dungeons &  Dragon v3.5) for two very rough sessions then did not touch the genre for 6 months before I got invited to a 5th edition game that died after 3 sessions. Then I started GMing to keep games alive and have been running weekly games since. I have the most time put into 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, but since Starfinder’s release two years ago it has rapidly become my favorite. Aside from these two I also play/run Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, Zweihander, and the occasional game of Kobolds Ate My Baby.

What supplies do you need for a Starfinder program at your library? About how much does the program cost?

Nicholas: This can vary greatly. If you run absolute basics, you can have everything for up to 10 players for about $20 plus some printing costs. The basics consist of a set of 7 dice per player (d20, d12,d10,d10,d8,d6,d4), a character sheet (free online), writing implement, and the rule book. Pathfinder and Starfinder stand apart from many TTRPGS because the whole ruleset, not just basic rules, is available free online because of an open game license. If you were to buy the books, still something I would recommend, they each run between $40-$60. Though a one-time investment, this cost does make TTRPGS more cost prohibitive. To move up from basics, the next recommended items are a GM screen and a battle mat. The screen gives the GM quick reference and hides his/her notes and rolls from the players. A battle mat is a one inch grid set on the table to help players visualize combat. Starfinder is unusual in that it requires both a square and hex grid. The cheapest mat is a roll of wrapping paper, many have a grid printed on the back. Once you have a mat, then you can get into minis, the most expensive and superfluous part of the game. Most of these resources are good for many games, so there are no ongoing costs except new character sheets.

How long is set up and what does it entail?

Nicholas: So TTRPGS have two layers of set up: pre game, and at the table. Before the game: characters need to be made, the rules learned, and an adventure planned. How long these take depend on the division of labor and type of GM. Players can make their own characters, or leave it to the GM if they find the rules confusing. It takes about an hour to make a fully fleshed out and kitted supplied character. Pregenerated characters are also available for certain levels. For Starfinder there are about 50 pages of tactical rules and supplements on other aspects of the game. Having a general knowledge of this content is important to keep the game running, but you can also reference the rules midgame. Lastly there is the process of planning the adventure. This can be extremely meticulous if you need to know every possible outcome of potential player actions, or a non-existent step if the GM is comfortable winging it. Generally it is agreed that a middle ground of an adventure framework with flexibility to accommodate crazy player choices is the best option. At the table the GM needs to set up the battle mat and the resources they need to run the planned game. Printed out stat blocks, minis, dice, GM screen, etc. Players just show up and get out their character sheet, dice, and a mini if they have one. Usually this takes 15-20 minutes.

What types of storylines are in Starfinder?

Nicholas: Starfinder is a Science Fantasy setting so you have aliens, spaceships and laser weapons alongside Elves and magic. This allows for a huge variety of adventures. You can go from starship combat to raiding an ancient temple on a forgotten world, to navigating the servers of a corrupt corporation to bring them to light. I personally fancy the derelict space drift where something went wrong; a little mystery, and little horror, sometimes an ethical dilemma, and often some really abominable creatures. It can also be as light hearted as playing a bunch of friendly furballs trying to make sure their boss is safe, if that sounds fun go play Skittershot, a fantastic introductory adventure published by Paizo.

What is the difference between Starfinder and Dungeons and Dragons?

Nicholas: The setting is different. It is a different world in a different time. D&D is high/epic fantasy while Starfinder is science fantasy. Overlap does exist, 5th edition has aliens, looking at you Froghemoth, and Starfinder has fantasy races. Still the focus on technology is a significant difference. Classes and mechanics are even further apart. There are minor parallels like Envoy to Bard and Solider to Fighter, but otherwise classes are entirely apart. It is a preference of flavor here. Starfinder is more mechanically complex than 5th edition, more actions have rules supporting them. They are both still d20 systems and so have inescapable parallels, but how the numbers get modified varies. 5th edition uses rerolls while Starfinder uses numeric modifiers, yes that means more math.

How did they teens like Starfinder?

Nicholas: Many loved the setting and possible character concepts, like a psionic psychedelic space walrus named Phoomph Debloomp. There was a great deal of excitement over getting to fly a starship. The teens were split on the increased complexity. Some thought it was awesome to see so many factors making them powerful, but others felt limited because they could not roll to win. Not every system is for every player, but there is an RPG for everyone.

What is your favorite part of Starfinder?

Nicholas: The setting has me hooked, and starship combat is a treat.

What would you like librarians who are trying new RPG systems to know?

Nicholas: It is a front loaded endeavor; the prep work to start is heavy. This means that one off programs are a poor choice if you are running in house. If the program is recurring it is fantastic because the cost and effort drop to very minimal levels. Eventually, players can take up the reigns and the program can become self-sustaining. It can also buff circs as the rule books are easy recommendations coming off the game. I will also caution others of the Chaotic Stupid archetype that is rampant among new players. TTRPGS are cooperative, but often new players want to be evil for the sake of evil. This is very bad for the health of the table and can quickly kill the interest of other good players and then kill the program.

What are your final thoughts on Starfinder as a whole?

Nicholas: Starfinder is great for its fun guardians of the galaxy style, colorful setting, and mid-range mechanical depth. It may not be the best system to introduce players to TTRPGS due to this depth, but the crunch will appeal to some players. There are plenty of unique aspects to get hooked on while playing.

TTRPGS have an immense breadth and while Starfinder is my personal favorite, I will always say to look beyond and see what else is out there. There are so many iterations that it may take a bit to find one that resonates with you and your patrons.

See Also: So You Want to Play Dungeons and Dragons in Your Library

TableTop Game Review: Ultimate Werewolf

I found out about today’s game, Werewolf, from one of the best sources of all: a teenager. In fact, right now, this game is very popular with the teens that I know. It’s kind of a cross between the old school room classic Heads Up 7 Up and a role playing game. I’ve also been told that it’s a version of another game called Mafia, which I am unfamiliar with.

The premise of Werewolf is simple: All of the players in your game live in a village that is being attacked by werewolves. You want to eliminate – which means identify – the werewolves before they kill all the villagers.

Here’s a brief how to on YouTube:

And here’s a breakdown of the game on How To.

Please note: This game need a large number of players to be played. We recommend 10 or more. So from a library perspective, you’re going to want to play this in a meeting room.

You are going to hand out cards to each player. At least 2 of those cards will be werewolf cards. There will also be one seer, who can ask to identify one character each round. The remaining cards will be villager cards. There are additional cards you can add, but this depends on how many players you have. For example, you can have a priest or doctor card which allows the priest or doctor to heal one person once during the game.

The game operates on a day and night cycle. During the night cycle, the werewolves will identify the next person in the game that they want to kill and the seer will ask the moderator the identity of one player. During the day, the players will nominate people to kill in hopes that they are killing the werewolves and not their fellow villagers.

There is a moderator that oversees the game. The moderator controls the flow of the game. They will tell everyone during the night cycle to go to sleep and everyone lowers their heads. You can have participants tap on their legs or something to help provide a bit of noise coverage. The moderator then says, “Werewolves, open your eyes” and the werewolves choose someone who they want to kill. They are then told to go back to sleep and the seer is awoken. It is here that the seer will find out the identity of one person of their choice. Without revealing anyone’s identity, the seer tries to help sway choices regarding who is killed or saved during the day cycle. The moderator will do this routine every night cycle until either all the werewolves or all the villagers are eliminated.

It is now day time, and the moderator will awaken all of the players. The moderator will tell the player that has just been killed by the werewolves that they are no longer in the game. Players will then nominate a player to be killed, hoping that the player they are choosing is a werewolf. Once all the players agree on a player with a majority vote, that player is also killed. So each round two players are eliminated from the game.

The key to a successful Werewolf game is that players must keep their identities secret. The second key to a successful game is a good moderator. For example, even if the seer or other special characters are eliminated, the moderator will pretend to keep waking them up during the night cycle so that the remaining players don’t know which identities have been eliminated.

If all the villagers are eliminated and only a werewolf remains, the werewolves win. If the villagers identify and eliminate all of the werewolves, then the villagers win. I recently played with a group of around 11 tweens and teens and the werewolves won every time.

This game was a lot of fun and easy to play. And remember, it was the teens themselves that told me about this game so it already has a teen endorsement. It’s quick, easy, fun, and there isn’t a lot of set up.

You can find the official Werewolf rules here.

More Table Top Game Talk at TLT

DIY Games

Take 5: Table Top Games Teens will Love

Cindy Crushes Programming with a Live Action Donner Dinner Party Game

Cindy Crushes Programming: Cindy’s Favorite Tabletop Games

Game On at Your Library

Cindy Crushes Programming: Mission to Mars Escape Room

In today’s episode of Cindy Crushes Programming, Cindy Shutts shares with us how she hosted a Mission to Mars themed escape room with her teens.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT and online:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Stranger Things Themed Escape Room

Programming Librarian: Creating a DIY Escape Room for Your Library

Plot: Welcome to the Mars Space Station! Unfortunately, the station is losing oxygen and you have 45 minutes to find the key for the manual override to fix the oxygen levels. A former, disgruntled Space Station employee has hidden the clues to restart the system in the breakroom.


You could use the Breakout Edu Kit

  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  • Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes, one small and one large
  • Empty bag of Space Ice Cream
  • I hate Ares note
  • Books
  • Mythology Book
  • Breakroom supplies like plates, salt and pepper shakers, napkins, silverware
  • Mars Space Station Manual (See documents below)
  • Nasa Mars Posters (https://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/resources/mars-posters-explorers-wanted/)
  • Various images of Mars printed out to look like Mars is outside the window. I like using a porthole or making portholes with paper plates.

Instructions: I made sure I read the prompt, so everyone knew what was going on. I also let them know they had two hints. I am always prepared to add one more hint later on if they need it.

Room Set Up Instructions

Red Herrings:  I will have an empty bag of Space Ice Cream and a Tang Container.

Word Lock: This clue will be in the Space Station Manual. I have bolded the letters L A S E R in the document. This lock will be on the large box.

3 digit Lock: I will have a note on the table saying I hate Ares who is the god of war in Greek Mythology and Mars is the god of war in Roman Mythology.  I am going to bring a book about mythology and have a Roman numeral written in the book on the page about Ares that says 3 9 9 or III IV IV. This lock will be on the large box.

Key Lock: Key lock will be on the small black box. The key will be placed in the large box.

4 Digit Lock: 0319 On the break table, There will be 3 blue paperclips, 1 green paperclip, 9 yellow paper- clips. I will hide a note in the trashcan that has a picture of Clippy, the old Microsoft mascot.  This lock will be attached to the large box.

Final Thoughts: My teens were really on the ball and finished on the 30-minute mark. I would add a directional lock to make it harder next time. I am doing a Star Wars Escape Room in July and I plan on making it a little harder so it will take more time. All the teens were happy and liked the directions.  I was grateful to Nic Mitchel, a fellow teen librarian who helped me made the prompt punchier.

Teen Services 101: What Do We Know About Teen Programming?

Today I am ready to resume our Teen Services 101 discussion (I’ll put all the previous posts at the end of this one) by talking about Teen Programming. Programming, as you know, is an important part of teen services. Here we discuss some of our thoughts regarding teen programming. I am specifically going to share with you some things that we – and here by we I mean teen librarians who answered an online survey – have found to be true of teen programming likes and dislikes. Specifically, in broad categories, I’m going to share with you what is often most successful and what is often least successful when it comes to teen programming in public libraries. Please keep in mind that there are always outliers and exceptions, but as a general rule, this is what we find tends to work or not with teens and programming.

How this data was collated: 1) Around 50 teen/YA librarians responded to a very informal poll and discussion about what has worked or not worked for them regarding teen programming, 2) this list was then vetted by 10 of my closest peers and respected YA/teen services librarians, and 3) this has been proven true time and time again in my 26 years of working with teens. It’s a curated list of best practices presented to you with the knowledge that as with all things, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but it is a good reference point.

Things that typically prove successful with teens and programming

Programs that offer opportunities for self-expression

There is a reason that I know 22 different ways to make a t-shirt: t-shirts are a great way to get teens engaged with making and programming while also giving them an opportunity for self expression. Poetry, journals, digital media, etc – these are all programs that have been successful for me time and time again. Teens are going through a tremendous amount of identity exploration and they seem to enjoy creative opportunities where they can embrace and express who they are.

The Teen making a T-shirt bag in the Teen MakerSpace

Popular culture tie-ins

Some of my most popular and well attended programs have been Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Sherlock related. The trick is you have to pay attention to what your teens are into and strike while the iron is hot. Sometimes this means putting together a quick, last minute program. Cindy Shutts recently shared a WWE program that she did with her teens, something that would not have occurred to me but demonstrates the value of knowing your teens and responding to their interests in a timely manner. Take a few moments each day to talk with your teens, discover what they love, and tie your programming into these things. This simple act communicates respect and value while inviting your teens to have fun with you in the library.

Escape rooms

Escape rooms are fun ways to get teens into the library to work together as teams and engage in creatively problem solving while having fun. I find these to be slightly similar to interactive murder mysteries, which I have also successfully hosted in the past. There is something fun about solving puzzles, following a trail of clues, and trying to escape a room or solve a mystery.

Maker programs

You do not have to have a dedicated makerspace to host a maker program. In fact, a large amount of teen program has always been maker related. Crafting, DIY – it’s all a maker program and they are popular for a reason. The best part about maker programs is that teens usually have something to take home with them. Also, they are another way to get teens engaged in creative self-expression as mentioned above.

Craft programs

See above. Crafting is making – and it is popular. A bulk of my programming over the past 26 has involved crafting or marking of some type in large part because that is what has always been the most attended type of programming for me. Also, most people like having something fun to take home.

Gaming (tabletop and electronic)

Gaming of any variety has always been fun and popular with teens. It’s not necessarily quiet, so chose your space and time accordingly. There is a ton of research out there about the various benefits of both types of gaming and I urge you to look into it if you need to make a defense to admin about why gaming should be a part of your teen programming.

Trivia events

I love a good trivia night! Stump the librarian, popular culture trivia nights, general trivia nights – there are a lot of ways you can incoporate trivia events into your teen programming. They can be an event in and of themselve or a part of a wider themed event. For example, most Harry Potter programs usually have a trivia component to them. I highly recommend hosting trivia events with your teens.

Life size games

I was turned on to life size games when Heather Booth blogged here about Life Size Angry Birds. I repeated that program multiple times while the game was popular and it is a lot of fun. I have seen various posts about life size chess, Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippos and more. These games are fun because they make something little quite big and tap into childhood nostalgia.

Childhood nostalgia

When one of my previous makerspace assistants suggested that we put a perler bead station in the makerspace, I argued that it was too juvenile for teens. I was proven wrong. Time and time again my teens remind me that as they sit on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, they often like to do things that are childlike or remind them of their childhood. Sometimes teens just want a moment to dive back into the carefree moments of their childhood.


I have mixed feelings about food and programming. One in twelve people has a food allergy, some of them life threatening, and my child is one of them. I hate the way everything in our world is food based as it can exclude a lot of people. At the same time, I know that 1 in 5 children goes to bed hungry so having food at a program, even in a fun way, can be a great way to help address this situation. And food based programming is fun and popular. Cupcake Wars like events have proven popular for me, for example. What I would recommend here is to be mindful of food allergies – know what the top 8 food allergens are – and make sure and provide a variety of options so that participants can partake safely. You’ll want to make sure your advertising makes it clear that food will be present and keep all packaging so participants can look at the ingredients listings if necessary. Also, because of the prevalence of deadly peanut allergies, I highly recommend not having any peanuts or peanut butter. You’ll also want to be aware of what the food handling laws in your immediate area are before introducing food at your library.

Things that typically prove unsuccessful with teens and programming in public libraries

So what doesn’t work as well when it comes to teens and library programming? Well, we’re going to talk about that. And I’m sorry to say, I’m going to have a moment of heresy here.

Teen book clubs in public libraries (more successful in school libraries)

I feel like this is heresy to say, but in my experience it is very hard to host a successful teen book club in a public library. It’s not impossible, I know, for example, that Amanda MacGregor has hosted a successful book club both in the public and now in the school library. I have tried and failed to start three book clubs at three different locations. I know only a handful of public librarians that have led successful book clubs in a public library setting. Many respondents to my survey have also indicated that they too have been unsuccessful at book discussion clubs/groups. Those that are successful indicated that they partnered with the local school and did it on the school grounds and teachers offered extra credit for participating. Like I said, your mileage may vary, but I definitely wouldn’t start with this if you are trying to start putting together some teen programming.

So what about the books? We’re going to talk more on Wednesday about how to tie books and reading into our teen programming in creative ways.

Information sessions/lecture type programs

Again, there are always exceptions here, but on the whole, teens seem the least interested in attending information sessions or lecture type programs. I know that Heather Booth has hosted some well attended career panels, proving that this is not a hard and fast rule. Irving Public Library hosts author panel discussions that have well over 100 teens in attendance. But over the course of 26 years, my least attended programs have always been something that was more education based.

Things without a lot of personal choices involved

I have also found that the more personal choice a teen has, the more successful a teen program will be. For example, if you are going to host a craft program, consider offering a choice of five programs instead of one so that a teen can choose what they do within that time and space. Having some stations as opposed to one activity chosen and dictated by an adult seems to have more teen appeal. Whenever you can in whatever way you can, open up your teen programming to allow teens to make more personal choices within that time and space. We all like restaurants that have more on the menu as opposed to less, so think of programming in the same way.

Things that feel too much like more hours in school

The number one response I got when I asked my fellow teen/YA librarians about teen programming was this: it can’t be anything like school. By the time our teens come into the public library, they have already spent eight hours in school and the last thing they want is to be involved in anything that resembles school. I’m not saying here that programming can’t, isn’t or shouldn’t be educational, what I am saying is that it should help teens achieve educational goals in fun ways. But also, keep in mind, teens deserve recreational opportunities and downtime just as much as any other group.

And there you have it, a brief overview of what overwhelmingly tends to work and not work when it comes to teen programming in public libraries. As I mentioned in my introduction, there are always exceptions. These are not hard and fast rules, they are more here’s what we know and think based on experience and current best practices. Your mileage may vary and you should definitely do what works best for your patrons.

What tips, tricks, stories and experiences do you have to share with us? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today

Cindy Crushes Programming: Tile Art

I love doing drafts with tiles. They are super cheap and it is easy to do many projects with them. I get my tiles from Home Depot, Menard’s or Lowes. I purchase the white ceramic tiles. The size depends on the price and type of tile available. I will discuss two of my favorite tile crafts below.

Book Mod Podge Tiles


  • Tiles
  • Book cover images
  • Mod Podge
  • Brushes


  1. Print out and cut book images. If you have old School Library Journal issues that you were going to recycle, they would be perfect for this craft.
  2. Position the images on the tile to see how it will look. You can do one big book cover or many smaller book covers. I love doing many book covers.
  3. Place a layer of Mod Podge under the image and then place another layer on top. Next glue all of the book images at once with another layer of Mod Podge. Then you will want to put a few layers of Mod Podge on top of the whole tile. Be very careful when explaining this step to the teens they will want to us  too much Mod Podge. Gentle layering works best for this project.

Thoughts: I love this craft for Teen Read Week. It is a simple craft and teens can celebrate their favorite books. They can make lovely coasters or a work of art.

Nail Polish Tiles


  • Tiles
  • Nail Polish (avoid glitter nail polish)
  • Water
  • Aluminum Half Size Deep Foil Pan
  • Stick


  1. Pour a layer of water into the foil pan.
  2. Put nail polish in the water. Pour it in gently. Try to swirl it when you put it in the water. Use multiple colors.
  3. Put the tile in the water, but do not submerge it. It should be just deep enough so it hits the nail polish layer that is floating on the top. Pull the tile out quickly and let it dry.
  4. Use your stick to get rid of the extra nail polish in the water so you can keep your pan nice and clean
  5. You can add a little more nail polish by hand if you missed a spot on the tile.

Thoughts: This is a really pretty craft and also super cheap. I did learn, however, that glitter nail polish does not work well on this craft.

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.