Hello Awesome Librarians of Ohio!

Beyond Book Clubs

If you were at my presentation (Beyond Book Clubs & Gaming: Creating dynamic programs to which your teens will flock!) – hello! Thanks for stopping by!

I am sorry I ran out of time to give you a proper send-off, but some of you asked for this information, so here you go!

PDF Handouts:

If you have any questions or comments or just want to talk, please feel free to email me, either here or through my work email (amazings AT wtcpl DOT org). It was awesome to see everyone, & I hope we’ll talk again soon!

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.


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?

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?

Happy Halloween… a bit late.

When I first started this job nearly five years ago, I didn’t really care about Halloween. The reasons for that are varied, but the truth is, I would have never considered doing any sort of Halloween program back then.

So back in July, when I was planning for the fall, I surprised myself when I realized I really wanted to do one! A little creepy, a little cheesy… it would be a blast. I came up with the name “Nightmare on Mahoning Ave” because our library is, well, on Mahoning Ave, & got to planning. I made most of the decorations myself (it’s amazing what you can do with cardboard, a razorblade, paint, & glitter! I made two haunted houses, a chandelier, the pumpkins & gravestones, & the welcome signs) & got the rest quite cheaply from Oriental Trading. Although the photographs were taken with the lights on, we lit up the room through battery-operated candles only – ’twas perfectly spooky.

So here’s what we did:
» First & foremost, I knew I wanted to show them the old Legend of Sleepy Hollow cartoon narrated by Bing Crosby, so I mixed that with a few fun videos: Hoobastank did a hilarious cover & video of the Ghostbusters theme, so I showed that, along with a funny Muppets short I found, This is Halloween from Nightmare before Christmas, the Night on Bald Mountain sequence – stuff like that. I had about an hour’s worth of material, & made it the main event.

» Horror movie trivia! I let them work in teams to solve these. I also did the classic “guess the body parts” game, only as a self-guided station, sans the poem.

» For crafts, I had glow-in-the-dark beads & tiny skull beads sitting out with string & keychain bits, as well a pre-painted mini gravestones waiting to be decorated with their chosen epitaph. I also got some white make-up in case anyone wanted to quickly become a zombie, & use our accu-cut machine to cut out plain white masks in the event someone needed one.

» Prizes were mostly book-related; I’ve found that the dollar spot at Target tends to have holiday-themed paperback classics for a dollar, so I grabbed some of those.

» As for food, I went with caramel apples (ice cream caramel from GFS + apples was a big, but fun, sticky mess!) with DIY sprinkles & Oreo bits, as well as dirt pudding parfaits & green lemonade.

Because I’m in a pretty impoverished area, I really want all-out for this one. As with the Love STINKS Chocolate Fest, I’ve a feeling we’ll be turning this into an annual event. As always, if you have any questions, please ask!

Further reading:
» Nightmare on Mahoning Ave board on Pinterest.
» Martha Stewart’s Halloween goodies

Books with Beat!

Teen Read Week is upon us! What are you up to this year? I’m running a month-long giveaway disguised as a survey of their music tastes. Music is probably the most challenging to figure out; you can’t just judge what’s on the radio any more. A good part of my “usual” teens just keep bouncing from Japanese star to Korean teeny-bopper week to week, & we can’t get a lot of that music in our library. In return for filling out a three question survey (favorite musician, favorite book, favorite part of the library), I’ve giving away a prize pack of books & other various stuff I’ve always got lying around.

As part of our usual “Teens on Tuesday” programming, I’m doing our own version of Silent Library.

Here are my notes on what I’m planning to do:

Silent Library

I’ll hand out cards; whoever gets the skull & crossbones must complete the challenge! You can only win a prize when you complete the challenge without laughing. NO ONE is allowed to make a lot of noise (silent laughter!), if you laugh too loud, you’ll forfeit your chance to win!

Round 1: Eat an oreo without your hands
Round 2: Wrap someone in toilet paper, using the whole roll, in two minutes
Round 3: Write your full name with your feet as legibly as possible within 90 seconds
Round 4: 3 pieces of bubble gum; blow five bubbles within 60 seconds
Round 5: Rattle Race: attach a shaker to your knee; make it to the finish line without making a noise. If noise is made, start again. Everyone who finishes within 2 minutes wins!
Round 6: Eat 5 brussels sprouts, one at a time, within 2 minutes

Final Round: Lifesaver Relay!
Includes everyone, divided into two teams
Everyone sit in a row at the table, with teams on either side. Put a toothpick in between your teeth. The first person, without using their hands, picks up a lifesaver with the toothpick. Once they get it, the next person does the same thing. First team to finish wins the prize!

For every challenge they complete, they’ll win a small prize (pencil, candy, etc). Nothing too bizarre, gross, or painful, but it ought to be fun!

Quick Hit Resource: ReadyMech


I’m working on our “End of Summer Celebration” today, which we hold in leiu of a summer reading finale (I invite all teens to come, rather than exclude those who usually forgot [or were too lazy to fill out] their entry forms), & I finally remembered to check out a resource I’d heard about at a lovely crafting *workshop: ReadyMech.com.

Mecha are a bit like the Japanese version of Transformers, only brighter & wackier. Teens love them, & this site offers .pdfs of many varities. Although I would have prefered to use cardstock, I gave in to our color copier’s personality & used plain paper instead. It took a little finagling, but using a glue stick, I was able to get one together! You can see him on the right hand side of the picture below. It’s a little thing, but actually quite cute!


I’ll put the big stack in the middle of a table, & let them have at. We’re also going to be doing Guitar Hero & DDR, & decorating guitar pick necklaces. Mostly, they come to this for the pizza & prizes, but we always have a good time!

*presented by Mandy Simon, teen librarian @ Worthington Park Branch!