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    Kid's Programs Programs Teen Programs

    Go Big or Go Home Part 2: More Giant Fun

    Go Big or Go Home is easily the most popular post I’ve ever done, and I’m happy to say that I was able to round up a couple more ideas for giant activities for special library events. I’ve even found one or two for the younger set.

    Giant Version of LCR from DIY Showoff. You could also use red plastic plates for discs and save yourself a lot of work.



    The Apex HS Art Department has a full PDF explanation of how to create an amazing post-it note mural



    If you have some easily cleaned space try some spirograph-like  Pendulum Painting from Martha Stewart:



    How about something big for the little ones?  Studio DIY has a giant matching game.   



    Or maybe a giant game of Tic Tac Toe Toss like this one from Multi-Testing Mommy?

    Giant Tic Tac Toss

    There are many different ways to make large dice for all your gaming needs. I’ve had good luck with inflatable dice in the past, but I really like these fabric dice from Craftbits especially for younger kids.





    Resource Roundup Youth Services

    Beyond Bookmarks: Ways to Promote Databases and Electronic Resources to Youth

    As Youth Services Librarians we are very good at promoting books to kids. We booktalk, create displays, offer programs, and compile lists. When it comes to marketing our electronic resources we can struggle a bit without the tangible object to hand young people and their caregivers.  Here are a few ways to market these expensive and often under used resources.

    Mini Cards

    Less can be more. What do teens really do with fliers? Leave them on the table? Toss them? Wait till they become a clump in the bottom of their school bags? Why not try something they can slip in their wallets or in with their library cards? Create mini-cards the size of business cards featuring the bare essentials of a single database or online service like tutoring, Tumblebooks, Freegal, or Zinio. Focus on promoting just that one resource for a while and then make up a new batch.

    Speed dating

    The basics of the Book Speed Dating program can easily be adapted for databases. In this case it would likely be easiest to have participants rotate computer stations, each pointing to a different database, every 5-10 minutes depending on the age of your patrons and how much time you have for the session. You might consider doing this as a class visit and having a worksheet with one question to be answered by each database just to keep things on track. Leave time at the end for a bit of discussion.

    • Had they ever used a database before?
    • What could they use for a current assignment?
    • Which database was easiest to use? Why?
    • What kind of material were they surprised they could find in the database?
    • What advantages do databases have over Google? (You may have to prompt)

    Targeted Marketing

    When we promote our databases and other online resources we need to think both inside and outside the box. Sure, you’ve told the high school guidance counselor about  online tutoring, but what about the coaches? They have access to kids who need to keep their academics at a certain level but are very busy and are often not the kids you see in the library after school.

    What student clubs or community groups might be interested in Learn 4 Life classes? There must be teens in your community who would like to learn Java or digital photography for free!

    Obviously the foreign language teachers should know about Mango Languages and the like, but how about the local youth pastor that plans international mission trips?

    What groups in your city would benefit from test prep resources like Learning Express? Can your mini cards be passed out when the Urban League does college tours? These are just a few examples. I’m sure if you look around your community you can think of more.

    Contextual Promotion

    Make information about electronic resources available at the point of need. In other words do your best to integrate pointers to your electronic resources in your physical collection. CultureGrams bookmarks on the shelf near the geography books, Freegal mini-cards near the CD collection, pointers to test prep materials displayed with the college guides all have a better chance of success than the same information sitting on the circulation or reference desk.

    Think about your displays. Place subject specific resource guides or posters pointing to specific electronic resources in sign holders as part of your display. You could even make dummy book covers with the title of the database and access instructions.

    In most schools certain grades do the same type of projects every year. Talk to teachers and make notes of when demand for certain materials increases, be sure to focus promotion on related databases during those times.


    Bring your databases front and center by working with your web team to reduce the number of clicks to get to the start pages. At the very least link a few popular choices from the main youth pages.

    Set a goal to find ways to use or demonstrate a certain number of resources during programs.

    Post “Did You Know?” fun facts on your bulletin boards or social media accounts with links to the database the fact comes from.

    Create a database trailer (like a book trailer) highlighting the types of information found in a specific database.

    Book Lists Readers' Advisory

    Binge Watching? How About Binge Reading? Finished Series to Binge On.


    With DVD box sets and streaming services more and more people, especially young people, are binge watching. Binge watching is exactly what it sounds like: watching a lot of episodes of a show at the same time. Binge watchers will often watch an entire season of a show back to back.

    So, how do we harness this energy for books? By reading an entire series start to finish! You can use this idea for a book display, book list, lock-in, or even for book discussion if you have some hard core readers.  Here are ten finished* series to get you started.


    Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter


    Divergent by Veronica Roth


    Delirium by Lauren Oliver


    The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater


    Curse Workers by Holly Black


    Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness


    Hourglass by Myra McEntire


    Summer Series by Jenny Han


    Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach


    Jessica Darling by Megan McCafferty

    More binge reading?  Try Lauren Kate’s Fallen, Condie’s Matched, Dashner’s Maze Runner, Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Artemis Fowl, or if you have a few months Naylor’s Alice series.  There are a ton of great options for any kind of binge reader.

    *We all know that “finished” is a little questionable these days with e-novellas, companion books, and authors writing follow-ups ten years later, but we’ll go with it for now.

    Early Childhood

    Serving NICU Parents: Or How the Reason I Quit Reminded Me Why I Love What We Do


    Early in December the specialist I was seeing at the end of my pregnancy decided that it was safer for both me and my little girl to deliver her at 35 weeks rather than wait. I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say we were incredibly blessed that both of us are healthy and she only spent nine days in the NICU.

    Preemies sleep a lot, and so there is a lot of time both to think and to take in your surroundings during a NICU stay. Once we knew she would be fine and I was able to move around better my librarian brain kicked in.

    Some of us are rather privileged when it comes to our own information needs. The ability to pull out a tablet and download a book on a subject by a reputable author or knowing how to conduct an internet search and be relatively confident our results are both accurate and presented in a way we can understand is a great advantage not just professionally but personally as well.

    Try to imagine yourself as a young, mother of a premature, ill, or special needs newborn with a high school education. You may not have internet access at home, and even if you do you barely spend any time there between working the hours you need to pay your bills at your job and spending time with your child.

    In that limited time you try typing your questions into Google, but when you do you find a bunch of message board posts where every answer contradicts the one before.  There are a couple of other websites on the first page, but now you aren’t sure which to believe. You’ve never been a big reader, but you decide to stop at Walmart on the way home and see if they have a book. They have two, both of which cost a couple hours of pay and each of them only has a few pages on preemies.

    Essentially the reason I’m choosing to stay home for a while served as a great reminder of how much I believe in what we do.

    NICU parents (and new parents in general) face many challenges we can’t do much about, but low literacy, access to information, and information literacy are needs that create opportunities for librarians serving children and their caregivers.

    While we as public librarians are sensitive to the first two sometimes it’s too easy to leave information literacy to the school and academic librarians. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it excludes a large number of people who need these basic skills in everyday life who may or may not have had the opportunity to continue formal education.

     So what can we do to serve our tiniest patrons and their parents?

    -Make an effort to seek out resources for our collections on topics like pregnancy and child care written on a lower reading level or at least set up to be less intimidating.  Dr. Sear’s The Baby Book is well known but I can only imagine how intimidating its 784(!) pages would be to someone who struggles with reading.

    -Partner with local NICU and PICU departments to provide resources for patients and parents. While the NICU had a small shelf of donated materials it included only a few board books for parents to read to their babies. Between regular life and spending time with their child NICU parents rarely have time to visit the library, and many times the large hospital where the child is cared for is not in the same area where they qualify for a library card.  A deposit collection of some type can help meet these needs.

    -Make contact with the social worker who handles the NICU. They can provide expertise on what kind of materials would be most useful to their patients as well as providing information on support resources for parents in your community.

    -Seek out partnerships with organizations in your community that work with parents who are likely to struggle with these skills. Shelters, low cost health clinics, and alternative education programs are great places to start. Sometimes just knowing the library welcomes them and their children can make a world of difference.

    -Create handouts in the library directing patrons to quality, research  based materials including books, health databases geared for the general public, and reputable websites. Share these with your hospital and other community contacts.

    Teen Programs

    Ice Breakers for Teen Program Success

    Teens love to express their opinions, but most of us have had a TAB, book group, or other program where teens are just not talking. Like everyone else most teens are more willing to express themselves when they are comfortable with the people around them. If your group is made up of teens who don’ know each other or who know each other from school but don’t otherwise socialize you might try some ice breakers to warm them up.

    There are lots of icebreakers online and in books, but in my experience good icebreakers for programs:

    • Need little introduction
    • Require few materials
    • Do not require too much personal information
    • Do not involve touching more than hand to hand
    • Do not have a single winner, or preferably a winner at all

    Once a group is comfortable with each other you might move on to more complex team-building activities that sometimes go beyond these rules, but that’s a different post for a different time.

    Running icebreakers successfully

    • Know your audience. For example, if you have a lot of teens from conservative and/or homeschool families you might pass on games that require pop culture knowledge.
    • Be flexible. Yes, this is the number one key to youth services in general but it goes twice for activities with no import like icebreakers. If it’s not working well cut it off and try something else.
    • Participate! You want them to be comfortable with you as well as each other. If it’s something you don’t want to do chances are they don’t either.
    • Start slow. If you have a really quiet or shy group don’t jump into the high activity list right away.
    • Unless you know and trust the group “I Never” is a very, very bad idea.

    great group games

     This book is in my own personal resource collection and it has a lot of ideas from simple ice breakers to more complex team building games. Each activity lists the time it takes, supplies, set-up, and how to play. They also include questions if you are looking for deeper lessons in the activities. There is now a kid’s edition that looks like a good choice as well.

    A few favorites:

    Song Battle

    Split the group in two and pick a word that appears in a lot of songs like love, happy, or baby. The teams take turns singing a song with the chosen word in it until one team can’t think of a song that hasn’t been used.  Alternatively you can do this Pitch Perfect style where each team has to sing a song with a word taken from the song sung before it.

    Birthday Line-Up

    Without talking the group has to line up from youngest to oldest.

    Three Questions

    Have each person in the group write down three questions for everyone to answer.  Things like their favorite book, farthest they’ve traveled, favorite meal etc.   If needed warn the group that you are reading the questions and you’ll skip any that aren’t appropriate. Put all the questions in a bowl and draw them out giving everyone in the group a chance to answer.

    The Wind Blows

    Place the chairs in a circle. There is one less chair than persons. The person without a chair stands in the middle and says “The wind blows everyone who…” and finishes with something simple and not too personal.  “Is wearing blue”, “Had cereal this morning”, “Is in 9th grade” etc.  Anyone who fits the description has to get up and find  a new chair. The person left without a chair is now in the middle and has to come up with something.  I’ve never had it happen but it is possible the question could go somewhere unfortunate, a simple “try again” should get the point across.


    Pass around M&Ms and tell each teen to take a few. Once everyone has their candy tell them they need to share one thing about themselves for each candy they have. This is extra fun because being greedy totally backfires.


    The group sits in a circle and everyone says their name. One person is in the middle with a pool noodle or pillow. A name is called and the person in the middle has to whomp the person whose name was called on the leg before that person can say their name and someone else’s. If the middle person manages to whomp the person they switch places, if the person says two names first the person in the middle stays and the person whose name was said second calls out the next name.

    If you don’t have time to search for more on your own you can buy 21 mixers/icebreakers complete with graphics from Youth Leader Stash.