Hoot hoot! Owl paper craft


You might have noticed that owls are very popular right now! Owls fit perfectly with the summer reading theme this year, so I knew I wanted to do some sort of owl craft. I looked around a bit, but a lot of things were just more complicated than what I really wanted. So I whipped these little guys up, & my teens had a blast putting them together!

Here’s what you need to put these adorable little guys together:

  • owl template
  • three little hearts per owl, punched out on orange construction paper
  • construction paper of various colors
  • one inch white circles
  • colored pencils, matching the construction paper
  • ink pad – we used the erasers on the pencils provided for tracing the template for the pupil stamp

Glue all the bits together, stamp the eyes, & decide which level of sleepiness you’d like the owl! The teens made these into magnets (using the self-adhesive ones) for their lockers or glued them to pre-cut bookmarks, or just glued them onto wherever they wanted them. Some of the teens even glued some together so they were looking at each other. So cute!

{Update 10-19-18}

owl infographic

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately…


I don’t know about you, but I have been just SWAMPED lately with just everything! I can’t believe we’re almost completely through April – summer reading is right around the corner, but I am nowhere NEAR ready! Our Hunger Games program went very, very well, & we had a reasonable number of teens attend. I created the program with the intention that it’d take about an hour for them to get through all the challenges, but they went all hardcore on it & the first team was done in eighteen minutes. EIGHTEEN. Every team was done in half an hour, so I’ve promised that the Catching Fire event will be much more intense & difficult. & they cheered!

The photograph up top is from our local newspaper – the bows went over very well, & made for very photogenic teens!

This past Saturday we held our very first Otaku Mini-Anime Convention. Although it was a blast, someone remind me to never again plan a six-hour teen event? Four hours is about the limit of my attention span, apparently. To be fair, most of them didn’t show up until the afternoon, so I think a noon to four time will be perfect.

They had a blast making sushi, as you can see below…


It was actually quite easy – I picked up sushi rice, nori, krab, cucumber, shredded carrot, cream cheese, & a few condiments. They used wax paper to roll up their creations, & it worked really well! So should you decide to do this, there’s no need to fork over the money for mats. You can easily do this for about $20-25 dollars, & I guarantee they’ll have fun.


Feeding teens


Photo by altair toyZZ

Unlike almost every other level of programming at the library, we teen librarians nearly always must have food. It’s simply not a question – these kids are hungry! I take it up another notch simply because a lot of the teens that come to my 6:00 program often come straight to the library after school without a snack – & some of them didn’t even get to eat lunch. Same goes for Saturday programs – they show up right after breakfast at 9:30am & then stay all day, sometimes without even a dollar to go grab something from Burger King.

But here’s the thing – you can serve something other than pizza. For some reason, pizza seems to be the default food offered to teens, but personally, I find it cost prohibitive! The only program that gets pizza is the Teen Advisory Board, & that’s $25 with delivery & tip for three mediums. If I did that for my big programs… let’s just say we’d be doing a lot less of them!

I’d like to encourage everyone to think outside the box & offer something different to their teens, especially if, as I’ve found, feeding these hungry creatures can get rather expensive fast!

My weekly program gets a snack – usually either pretzels or animal crackers, although sometimes they get cookies instead. It’s usually about $1.50 to 2.00 to feed 15-20 of them each week – I rely on the Target generic section for their goodies.

Our anime club usually gets pocky, cup o’noodle ramen, or rice & nori. Three of our annual programs for this club involve food, though, so that’s easy – candy sushi, bento boxes, & the ramen noodle eating contest.

As for other events, it usually depends on what’s going on. For Breaking Dawn, we had wedding cake. Our Chinese New Year’s Party had the teens eating well with dim sum, fried rice, & oranges. We serve hot dogs at our Summer Finale Party; at Hunger Games they’ll be eating granola bars, trail mix, beef jerky, apples, & other “survivalist” type stuff.

But even I fall into the trap of cheap food – thinking a bag of chips is the cheapest way to go when the $3.99 to buy the big bag of Doritos could have been spent on a bag of apples instead. Going into the future, I’m definitely going to try & expand my mind on what we could spend our money on. Sandwich platters? Party packs of tacos? Veggie trays? We had nachos at an event last year, & they LOVED that – salsa, cheese, & chips from GFS was definitely less than the $25 pizza order.

Let’s feed these teens something new & think outside the pizza box! What ideas do you have?

The Hunger Games are coming!

2012-3 hunger games

The Hunger Games Survival Challenge


I’ve had lots of people asking what I’m planning for my Hunger Games party, & as I think I’ve pretty much got it figured out, I feel that I can finally share! In the past, all my movie premiere parties have been more hangouts with games, crafts, & food, but this is something very different. I’m planning more of a competition-style program, in keeping with the theme of the Hunger Games, & I think that the kids are not only going to have a blast, but they’re going to learn quite a lot, too.

I’ll be splitting the teens into teams of no more than 3, but they’ll have to at least partner up. To start, there will be white drawstring backpacks in the center of the room, & a la the Cornucopia, they’ll have to grab a pack & begin the Hunger Games.

Tucked inside each pack they’ll find ten challenges, as well as their food for the night. As in the book, some packs will have things like apples or trail mix, while others will have crackers or something similar – I suppose what they consider “good” will probably vary from what I think is good, but that’s part of the fun! I’ll also include water bottles & juice boxes.

The challenges are going to vary among the packs, but everyone will have to complete ten of them. I’m hoping to have about 20 challenges to pick & choose from, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

  1. Get picture taken as team (we’ll print these out before the end of the night)
  2. Create team logo/symbol on backpack (which is why they’re white)
  3. Leaf rubbing/tree identification
  4. Plant identification*, ie: you come across these berries! Can you eat them?
  5. Animal track ID*
  6. Reference desk question
  7. Put books in order
  8. Toilet paper unwrap
  9. Dart gun target practice
  10. Archery practice
  11. Bean bag toss (a la corn hole)
  12. Lacing challenge
  13. Knot tying
  14. Ninja stars (Wii game)
  15. Decode message using Navajo
  16. Hunger Games trivia (ten questions)
  17. First Aid

There will be some sort of narrative to go along with the challenges, in the same vein as the plant identification challenge, but I’m still working on that. Some of these will be completed by everyone, but some will just be luck of the draw. Each challenge will be worth ten points, so there will be a total of 100 points possible with a time bonus for the first three to complete the entire game. For anything they choose incorrectly, they’ll lose points, just as they’d be in a rather bad place if they chose to eat poisonous berries.

While we tally up the points, I’ll have a Mockingjay pin craft for them to complete. Should be a fun night!

*There are some cool apps out there for those of you with iPads!

What do you have planned?

Geekin’ out @ the library…

So… Teen Tech Week 2012: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this theme. It might be because I’m pretty much a major geek myself, currently obsessing over all things Doctor Who & Sherlock, but overall, I think the theme is quite inspired. What with the celebrations of all things geek right now in pop culture (Big Bang Theory is the most popular sitcom at the moment, after all) & the incredible popularity of Tumblr, which has taken LiveJournal’s place as the social networks where all the geeks gather, it’s just perfect.

Here’s what I’m up to:
» Our library system is hosting two gaming tournaments: Just Dance & Smash Bros. I had originally planned to do a Rock Band tournament, but when it became quite clear that although the teens really enjoy playing, they can barely get through a song… I switched to Smash Bros. Perhaps they’ll be ready for it next year.

» Every year we have a tech survey – so far we’ve done music & social network questions, but this year we’re focusing on television. They fill out the survey (with about three questions), & then we pull a random winner out of the entrants. The prizes vary, but are usually books, candy, & whatever stuff I have lying around.
The questions:

  1. What are your favorite tv shows? Name up to six.
  2. How do you watch it? Circle all that apply: As it airs on TV / DVR/Tivo / Online Streaming (Hulu.com, official websites, etc) / Purchase individual episodes / TV on DVD / “Acquire” through various websites
  3. How do you find out about new shows?

I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what they have to say! These are always immensely helpful in getting to know them.

» We’re also hosting a multi-fandom costume party (which I’ve called, so cleverly, the “Geek Out @ Your Library Costume Party“) where I’m inviting them to dress in any character from any universe. In addition to just showcasing our geekiness, we’ll also be having lots of fandom fun with trivia games & crafts.

» The final thing I’m doing to celebrate, outside of the usual displays & decorations, is a passive ALL THE FANDOMS matching game. Personally, I love stealth fandom stuff – rather than wear a t-shirt with the Doctor Who logo, I’d much rather wear something that states “bow ties are cool.” Or something with the leaf village symbol, rather than the main Naruto logo. In the spirit of this, I’ll be creating a display with numbered images or quotes from 25-30 fandoms, & have them name the fandom to which each thing belongs. I’ll add a picture once it’s done, but it ought to be pretty gnarly.

What’s your library up to?

The Love STINKS Chocolate Fest

I’ve been doing this program for a while now – this is actually my “fifth annual” fest, & although the teens look forward to it every year, I’ve having a bit of a struggle with the realization that this means I’ve been at this five years already! That aside, I’m definitely looking forward to the fest this year!

The idea to do a Love STINKS Chocolate Fest actually comes from… actually, I can’t find it! I do remember that I was a brand new teen librarian flipping through the existing professional collection when I came across it – but I now I can’t figure out which one it was in. Ah well – if anyone knows where it originally came from, do let me know! What I DO know, though, is that it’s an unbelievably GENIUS idea. Say you’re hosting a Valentine’s Chocolate Craft, & you’ll have few in attendance. Since I started this five years ago, I’ve never been disappointed at attendance, & they ALWAYS look forward to it. I put out the first sign in December, & everyone was already squealing about attending. Girls & guys all across the teen spectrum come in droves, & it’s always fun to torture the rest of the library with the delicious aroma of chocolate.

I will say, what with the chocolate & all, that this usually ends up being the most expensive program I put on each year – but I really think it’s worth it! If you have a local chocolate shop, you could possibly get some of it donated, which would cut down the cost of the program considerably. The program itself is about an hour, hour & a half, & the teens have fun the entire time. The only tip I can really offer you is to start melting the chocolate about 45 minutes prior to the start of the program if you’re using a crockpot. There’s nothing worse than a program starting & you’re stuck behind a table stirring (yes, this happened one year).

Here’s what goes on at our annual chocolate fests:
» Lots of chocolate, obviously. In the past we’ve drizzled chocolate (melted in a crockpot, no less!) on peanuts, pretzels, potato chips, popcorn… I try to do something new every year. Initially, I had thought they would make chocolate pops & candy for later, but it quickly became evident that they just wanted to sit & eat the chocolate right away, so I’ve since adapted! This year we’re going use a chocolate fountain, & I’m going with strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, & pretzels. Last year, I also added hot chocolate to the celebration.

» Chocolate tasting! Living in a high poverty area, I’m keenly aware that for a lot of these teens, the only kind of chocolate they’ve experience is Hershey’s. Nothing wrong with that, but I take it upon myself to broaden their horizons & let them try anything I can. We’ve done cheap to fancy, white to 99% cacao, various flavors (hot pepper, orange, raspberry, sea salt, etc), as well as various candies (truffles, Toblerone, etc). I usually pick up two-three bars of each kind at Target (they’re often on sale right around V-Day), break them up into little pieces, & pass it around. Most everyone is brave enough to try everything.

» Crafts! Each year we make what I call “Anti-Valentines” with black construction paper hearts, white ink pens, & white lacy doilies, & I make it very clear that they should be for friends, not enemies – going more for a “Valentine’s Day sucks, but I’m glad we’re friends” vibe. So far I’ve not had any problems! This year we’re also going to be making mini voodoo dolls – no spells included. Should be fun!

» This year we’re doing something new: a Black heart pinata! I’ll be purchasing a heart-shaped balloon & crafting a pinata from that. Ought to be fairly simple, but we’ll see how it goes.

» Prizes! Usually I just give away giant bars of chocolate.

» Trivia! There are plenty of cultural things about chocolate (books, music, movies), & I usually quiz them about these. The first to answer gets chocolate or a pencil (my teens can never get enough of these). I also quiz them about recent celebrity break-ups, & have the classic Name That Candy! out for them to do.

» Break-up songs! In the past I’ve done trivia using lyrics, but this year I actually created a slideshow of break-up song videos. Sadly, I can’t include that ultimate break-up song (Song for the Dumped by Ben Folds), but I do hope they discover it on their own. I tried to use mostly newer stuff they’ll know, but I did include some classics.

Break-up Song Playlist
You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
Rolling in the Deep– Adele
Single Ladies – Beyonce
Invincible – Ok Go
Love Drunk – Boys Like Girls
Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
Newport – Cute is What We Aim For
Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks
Going Under – Evanesensce
Thnks fr th Memories – Fall Out Boy
One Eyed Girl – Florence + the Machine
I’m Not Cryin’ – Flight of the Conchords
Gives You Hell – All-American Rejects
Take Another Little Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Believe – Cher
That’s What You Get – Paramore
Hate (I Really Don’t Like You) – Plain White T’s
Your Love is a Lie – Simple Plan
Self Esteem – The Offspring
Alice – Avril Lavigne

That’s about it! If you’ve put on your own, how has it been different? Any words of wisdom to share?

Pinterest + Summer Reading = SO MANY IDEAS!

So hey – are you on Pinterest yet? You really ought to be! It’s turning into an amazing collaboration between every librarian everywhere – I have so many ideas for this summer reading I literally have no idea which ones to use.

This is just a PIECE of my summer reading board


…lots zombies & stars & everything glow-in-the-dark! It’s going to be a great summer even if the slogan is dumb. No, I’m still not over it.

What I love about Pinterest, as opposed to other bookmarking sites, is that because it’s all visual, it inspires to think beyond what’s being offered. Prior to this, I’d bookmark something, but by the time the program came around, I usually completely forgot about that great thing I found six months ago. Now, I see something, & about a million different ways I could use it goes off in my head, & it’s so much easier to plan things! & because you can organize into little boards, I’ve got each program separated along with miscellaneous boards, & I can visit & see all my ideas every time I work on a program. Love it!

It is still invite-only, but if you throw out to Facebook “I need a Pinterest invite!” I can practically guarantee you’ll get about seven people offering them to you. I had people coming out of the woodwork to give me mine!

How do you figure out what your teens want?


Image by ILoveDoodle


It’s not a hard concept. You don’t even need to do this in any kind of “proper” setting – just walk up to the teen you always see taking out stacks of manga & find out what’s new that they wish we stocked. I can guarantee you he’ll give you a long list of stuff, both old & new.

Show them a picture of the Hunger Games cast & see what they think.

Ask the kids always glued to the Wii if there’s something new they’d like to try.

Ask the teens sitting in your teen area, wherever that might be, what books they enjoy. You might be surprised at their answers – Hunger Games isn’t all that popular where I am, but the Fallen, Hush Hush, & Mortal Instruments series are never on the shelves.

Find out how many of them have Kindles or Nooks or iPads, & if they actually want eBooks. Maybe that’s a budget you don’t need!

Ask the kids wearing the One Piece & Naruto shirts what other anime they’d like to watch. Maybe they know something you don’t!

Ask the teens on the computer what they do online. My teens had never even heard of Second Life when it was so popular on ALA a few years ago, & they’ve moved on from Runescape to a game called Vindictus. Some of them love Angry Birds while others are loyal to Facebook Scrabble or Plants vs Zombies. A bunch of them are on a new-ish social network called Plurk, which I’ve never heard of from anywhere else. Some of them are moving on to Twitter, but most are on all three. They all love Tumblr & some still use LiveJournal for pictures & fanfic.

After visiting Hot Topic (which ought to be a regular stop for you, no matter how awkward you might feel going inside), ask them about anything you don’t know or recognize. Fair warning: if it’s in Hot Topic, it might be heading towards old news, but it’s still something you should know about.

Some of this information I glean from our teen advisory board meetings, but honestly, a lot of things, especially all the new stuff, I get just from walking up to them & asking, hey, what’s your opinion on a bookcart drill team? (They all unanimously thought it was as lame as I did.) When I see a teen reading or carrying a stack of books anywhere in the library, I walk up to them & tell them (if I don’t know them) that hey, I’m the nosy teen librarian & I want to know what you’re reading.

I constantly see, across the listservs & workshops, people asking what’s popular, what’s new, begging for updates. Honestly, the only way to know what’s what where you are is to talk to them. The teens here are different from the teens there! Anime might not even be all that popular at your library – or maybe they don’t come to your gaming programs because they all have the systems at home. I’m lucky, now, that my desk is in the teen space so I can just ask any question to any of them whenever I want, but prior to that, I used any time I had off the reference desk to be in the teen space when teens were there. I know teens can be scary & annoying & smelly, but the only way to know if their needs are being served is to ask. Ask them as they check out books what they thought of the first in the series. Talk to them when they venture to the scary ref desk to put a hold on something if they know about the upcoming program, & what they’d like to see in the future. Have a conversation while you weed if that old project is still being done – maybe there’s a whole shelf of books you don’t need anymore! Pay attention while you shelve which books are going out – & coming back looking like they’ve been read a lot. Ask the teens around if they’ve read what you’re shelving & if it was any good. Talk to them, all of them, any time you’re around them.

I promise, you won’t regret it.

National Gaming Day 2011: Live Angry Birds



Using inspiration from this 4YA post, I set about creating our own version of Live Angry Birds for National Gaming Day (November 12). Above, you’ll see the examples I made using the instructions from the 4YA video – very easy, & the teens were able to create their own without much trouble. I let them use any color of yarn we had on hand, & I actually just used cardstock & glue sticks for the faces – a minute or two of pressing, & they stuck just fine.

As for the thieving pigs, I dug out some florescent green pom poms from the children’s closet (readily available, I’m sure, from just about any craft store), & glued on faces made from construction paper. Ta-da! Super easy & cheap program to the rescue!



Using plastic cups, Jenga pieces, & a shoebox top, I made six different towers for the teens to topple. We found that throwing the birds worked best, & they had three tries to knock down all the pigs (some challenges used 1 or 2; at least one had all five pigs). If they succeeded, they got a small prize from the ever-growing prize grab-bag*.

The teens had a TON of fun doing this, & I’ll definitely do it again, so long as Angry Birds remains relevant & fun.

*This bag contains all that silly junky stuff, like temporary tattoos, pencils, keychains, buttons, bookmarks, airheads, etc, that are leftovers from various summer reading programs & other events. I just throw them into a canvas bag & watch it grow.

BREAKING DAWN…. part one

Now, I’m not a hater – in fact, I quite honestly enjoy the series, & it’s possible I’m among only a few that absolutely loved what Catherine Hardwicke did with the first one. But I can’t imagine I’m alone when I say I’m getting rather tired of this universe. For me, the biggest obstacle is the fact that there’s really very little to play with here – no costume contests, no silly food to recreate, very few universe-specific details. At the previous three parties, we’ve made glitter gel & created jewelry, a la what’s been available at Hot Topic, but I was getting a bit tired of doing that. So, for this movie, we created more of a wedding reception atmosphere, complete with “Save the Date!” wordage on our marketing.

What we did:
» As at all our Twilight parties, we had the soundtrack playing sprinkled with various trailers & tv spots.

» I made a wedding cake, & this was actually the first time I’ve ever decorated a cake like this, so I’m fairly pleased with it. We got the pans from a staff member, & I think the mixes, frosting, & other ingredients were less than $10.

» The guestbook was rather amusing – I think they had fun pretending to be at Bella & Edward’s wedding!

» Our major craft was a dreamcatcher. Oriental Trading has a very nice kit, less than $1 each, that makes quite a nice little dreamcatcher. The reviews over there are a bit unfairly negative, because the truth is, this isn’t something you can do with younger kids, but for teens & older, I think it’s perfect.

» I printed out a bunch of t-shirt ideas I’d seen online, & as we’ve done at all the parties, they were invited to bring along a t-shirt to design for the movie line.

» We always have a Jeopardy-style trivia game with questions taken from the book, & this party was no exception.

» We’ve had the life size standees since the New Moon Party, & I think we’ve had our money’s worth from them. Throughout the week prior to the party they help with advertising, & then everyone fauns over them at the actual party.

» Prizes included a few bookmarks, a donated copy of Breaking Dawn, & some other little vampire tidbits. Bookmarks with dreamcatcher lore, Twilight & New Moon reading maps, & Vampire Kisses READ bookmarks completed the freebie table.

For our next (& with any luck, FINAL!) Twilight party, we’ll be having cupcakes & thinking more along the lines of a baby shower. Of course, it’ll be a vampire baby shower, so darkness & candlelight will still rule the party planning.

TRW 2011: Fine Amnesty


This year, I pushed for a “Fresh Start” fine amnesty for the teens, & with several meetings & lots of finagling with various policies, we made it happen!

Our idea for this was that there are lots of teens who can’t use their cards because of old fines or because of family issues, & quite frankly, that sucks! Our library is in a very high-poverty area, & as soon as they hit $25 in fines, they’re “sent” to collections. In some cases, that’s one book with some extra in overdue fines, & if you have no money, you definitely can’t pay it off. Add that to the fact that we can’t actually collect money from minors in collections, & we’re looking at a lot of money sitting that we’re never going to get. We went into meetings overflowing with positive vibes & just about everyone agreed! Some kinks needed worked out, but overall, it went swimmingly!

Here’s how it worked:
1. We offered this at every library location during Teen Read Week.
2. Because of how our library card policies are, we could only include teens ages 13-17.
3. I created a brief survey, & every teen with fines could fill it out & return it to our circulation desk to see if they were eligible.
4. We decided that we would waive up to $50 in fines.
5. Teens who did not have a card any more could have a new card free of charge, in addition to the $50 fine waiver.
6. As this is a one-time-only fresh start, the code “TRW2011” was added to their records. (I’m definitely hoping to make this an annual thing)
7. At our library, if any member of the family is in collections, we block all cards. For teens who could no longer use their cards because of this, if they completed the survey, they were unlinked & given access once more.

Over our five branches, bookmobile, & main location, we had about three dozen teens participate & waived approximately $1000 in fines. So many of my “regular” teens who are constantly here can check out books once more, & it’s just so thrilling to see happy teens checking out stacks of new stuff!