Non-Print Resource: Teen Librarian Toolbox

Resource: TLT/Teen Librarian’s Toolbox

Audience: Tween/Teen Librarians; parents

Whether you are a tweens librarian at a public library or a middle-school media specialist, chances are you never feel like there are enough hours in the day to accomplish all you have to do: attending staff meetings, developing and maintaining your collection, managing volunteers, training patrons on tech resources, fixing those resources, checking in books, checking out books, chasing after kids to return their overdue books, running reports, and oh, somewhere in between, you’re also supposed to plan and deliver library programs that support the needs of your young patrons.

Teen Librarian Toolbox is a great professional development website for tween and teen librarians who are short on time.  It was created by Karen Jensen and her team of public and school librarians, as well as subject experts who contribute posts on specific topics like manga, graphic novels, and gaming.  There are even two middle-schoolers who help review books for tweens.  Together, this team has over 50 years of library experience, and it’s very evident that they are passionate about this age group.

 As you can see the web site is quite well-organized and is divided into several sections.  I’ll show you the ones that I find most useful.

The TPiB (Teen Programs in a Box) section is probably one you’ll use most often.

    • The programs are divided by categories: book-inspired programs, craft-centered ones, interactive ones, and a section for “non-traditional” programming.
    • Note that most posts give a quick explanation of why this program was created, followed by a guide showing you how to execute the program, as well as any collection connections – the books and non-print resources that you might want to pull ahead of time and make available for the kids to check out after the program.  The page might have one central activity, or multiple activities you could choose from.  Some will have an outline of supplies needed, cost, links to external websites, and photos of the event or the craft.
    • Here’s an example:
      • This one in particular is based on 4 reality shows.  Depending on your group, you can choose one that you know will go over well (say, the fashion or craft one), or, you can even take all four ideas, and stretch this out into a 4-week program.
      • Under the TPiB tab, you’ll find many “prepackaged” programs that you can adapt easily for your library and the age group you are working with, and they range from something super simple, to more elaborate programs that require a bit more planning.

The Booklists tab, I think, is very helpful because everything that has been reviewed or book talked on the site is organized by topics here, so that if you have a middle-schooler asking for books on “body image” or “bullying” or “zombies”, all you need to do is click on the link and all the books that have to do with that topic will be displayed.  Along the same lines is the Teen Issues page, meant more for librarians, which helps us understand today’s tweens/teens, what issues they are facing, etc.  There’s a page on reluctant readers, which would be useful for both public and school library patronsThe links might be articles on certain issues, recommended book titles, or links to important resources like Kids Helpline or other support groups.

There’s a section on technology – with resources like app reviews, social media, and online gaming in the library…basically everything you’ll need to know to “geek out” your library.  The calendar is very useful too, especially when you’re planning themed programs around holidays or special events, such as Teen Read Week coming up in October.   

I also loved the Teen Services 101 page, which has a variety of articles on putting together a successful and effective tween or teen program.  There’s even a section called “Things I Never Learned in Library School”, about different surprises and challenges that might come up in a real library setting.

As you can see, there is a LOT to explore on this website and really, I’ve only touched on a fraction of what’s available here.  My hope is I’ve shown you enough to pique your interest and that you’ll check it out on your own and find something useful for your program and your patrons.


‘Boxers & Saints’ National Book Award Nomination!

Way to represent!

2013 NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS: ‘Boxers & Saints’ graphic novelist Gene Yang calls long-list honor ‘mind-blowing’ – Comic Riffs – The Washington Post.

Video: The Art & Style of Graphic Novels

One reason I would move to Washington DC in a heartbeat — Politics and Prose panel discussions!  This one features four graphic novel artists: Laura Lee Gulledge, Rutu Modan, Matt Phelan, and my favorite, Gene Luen Yang!

I Read Banned Books: September 22-28, 2013

Book News from NPR: ‘Captain Underpants’ Tops List Of Most-Challenged Books

ALA President Barbara Stripling told The Guardian that the large number of books for young people on the list isn’t surprising: “Young adult is a big trend right now, and a high number of complaints are directed at those books. There is a lot of pressure to keep teenagers safe and protected, especially in urban areas, and we are seeing many more complaints about alcohol, smoking, suicide and sexually explicit material.”

Sherman Alexie, the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, told The Bulletin newspaper in response to a ban in 2008: “Everything in the book is what every kid in that school is dealing with on a daily basis, whether it’s masturbation or racism or sexism or the complications of being human. To pretend that kids aren’t dealing with this on an hour-by-hour basis is a form of denial.” Alexie added, “The world is an incredibly complicated place, and our literature must match that, especially literature for our kids.”

Here’s ALA’s list of the most frequently challenged books of the 21st century.

Observation: Baby Bounce! at the Chattanooga Public Library


Program: Baby Bounce
Target Audience: Babies ages 0 to 18 months and their caregivers
Time: Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 10 am
Location: Chattanooga Public Library, located in downtown Chattanooga
Registration: None required
Staff/Librarian: “Miss Emmy”, staff in Children’s Department of CPL; 1st year library science student; appears to be in her late 20s or early 30s

Climate of the Building
The downtown branch of the Chattanooga Public Library is located on Broad St., with plenty of street parking as well as a parking structure across the street from the building. Patrons can also get to the library by bus or on foot. The building has a newly renovated fountain out front, a reading garden on the side, and a newly built café at the main entrance, with tables and plenty of seating. There are “Nothing Quiet About It” signs throughout the library to suggest it’s okay, even encouraged, for patrons to move around and interact with the staff or each other. The general climate of the library is welcoming and non-stifling.

The Children’s Department
The children’s department of the library is located on the second floor, and as you walk upstairs you are greeted by a large mural at the landing of different animals, people, and landscapes (farmland, oceans, mountains, etc.). Patrons can also go upstairs using the elevator, helpful for those patrons with strollers or patrons who are disabled. The second floor of the library is home to the teens and tweens as well, though the children’s section is in its own room, separated from the teens and tweens areas by a set of doors and glass walls. The glass walls leading into this area contain a colorful mural of animals reading, adding to the playfulness of the environment. The information desk is located around the corner from the entrance to the room. Patrons can obtain brochures about different programs offered at the library (and its branches), as well as interact with the librarian on duty.


Displays & Decorations; Layout of the Children’s Department
The children’s room is painted celery green, and there are tables, chairs, and benches of various sizes, fit for both children and their adult caregivers. The computers recognize the different needs of the patrons as well – there are regular computers with access to educational games, the OPAC, and the Internet, as well as computers with modified keyboards (with larger, rubberized, color-coded keys that are easy to find and press). Each lookup station comes with its own headphones. For the younger patrons, there is a play area with interactive game centers and activity islands, allowing them to manipulate various puzzles and moving mechanisms (gears, wires and beads, etc.). There are also a couple of caterpillar shaped book bins, filled with board- and touch-and-feel books. There are many whimsical decorations and displays throughout: hanging mobiles showing animals reading, window and wall decals (flowers, moon and stars, etc.), stuffed animals small and large on shelves, a tabletop fairyland model, and painted wooden cutouts of trees located outside the storytime/programming room. There are also a couple of tables set up with books on display, though they don’t seem to belong to a common theme. Children’s programs take place in a circular room. The wall is painted in a shade of green and features a mural of children reading in and under a tree, along with a tree house, a tire swing, and animals). The pastel colors lend a calm and dreamlike quality to the room. The circular opening leading into the room is closed off by gates. On the day of the observation, a table was set up in the front of the room with a CD player, a basket of scarfs and egg shakers, handouts, and a plush skunk. There were no books displayed in the room.

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Organization of Books
Picture books can be found on low shelves lining the two walls of the children’s room. Books are also displayed along the top of the low shelves, as well as magazine holders. DVDs and puzzles are located towards the entrance of the room. Juvenile fiction and non-fiction books are arranged on bookcases extending from the middle of the room to the far end of the room. Pop-up books and series such as the American Girl books have their own spots on the shelves, marked clearly with labels. The books are arranged by the Dewey Decimal system.

Children’s Physical/Emotional State; Response to the Librarian
The Baby Bounce program I observed took place at 10 on a Thursday morning. I arrived approximately 15 minutes early to talk to the librarian, Miss Emmy, about the program, as well as to observe the kids and caretakers as they enter. Most of that morning’s participants arrived a few minutes before the start of the program and spent time in the play area/game center. A few babies arrived in their strollers, but some walked/crawled with their caregivers. They appeared alert and happy, though one grandmother mentioned to Miss Emmy that her grandson was particularly cranky that morning because he missed his morning nap. Throughout the 25-minute program, I noticed that he was indeed a little fussier than the other babies. As participants entered the storytime room, they were greeted individually by Miss Emmy, given a colorful scarf and an egg shaker, and encouraged to play with them while they wait for the program to begin. All of the babies reacted positively to Miss Emmy, though during this time there weren’t much interaction between Miss Emmy and the babies/caregivers past the initial greeting. Miss Emmy had told me earlier that she was not very experienced with this age group and joked that she was a little scared of babies, and I wondered if this was one explanation for the lack of physical engagement with them.

The Program – Outline
Here is the outline of the Baby Bounce program, followed by some of my observations.

1. Greeting song: “Hello and How Are You Today?” – Miss Emmy repeats the song for each child in the room, personalizing it each time with the child’s name.
2. Fingers and toes song: calls attention to the baby’s fingers and toes.
3. 2 clapping songs
4. Sign language: Miss Emmy said this is a new segment they are adding to the program, then proceeds to teach 14 common signs. When asked, she provided reasoning for teaching babies sign language.
5. “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” – taught body parts
6. “If You’re Happy and You Know It” – taught body parts (clapping hands, stomping feet) as well as common emotions (happy, mad, etc.)
7. Bicycle song: the babies were placed on their backs and the caregivers moved their legs back and forth, up and down; this was modeled by Miss Emmy, using the stuffed animal, Skunky. Encouraged exercise of leg muscles.
8. “Hickory Dickory Dock”: Miss Emmy asked everyone to use their egg shakers for this song; taught rhythm, and numbers 1 to 3
9. “Ring Around the Rosie”: this song allowed caregivers/walkers to stand up. Pre-walkers are held by caregivers, and “dipped” during the “all fall down” part. This track repeated 3 times, with increasing speed.
10. “Let’s Fly a Kite”: Still standing, the caregivers are encouraged to “float” around the room with a scarf in their hands as though they were flying a kite.
11. Goodbye song: sitting down, Miss Emmy plays a rocking song to signal the end of the program.

The participants were encouraged to stay and play with the scarf and egg shaker longer. Miss Emmy stayed in the room to answer questions, though most participants did not linger.

What I’ve Learned: Observations/Level of Engagement/Body Language, etc.

• Except for the greeting song, the program is entirely done with the help of a CD – with songs selected by the main children’s librarian. The same CD is used for every Baby Bounce session for the year, though the librarian can skip or replay a song depending on audience feedback. Though the songs played one after another, the program seemed well-paced. While I understand the value of familiarizing kids in this age group with the same songs, I would maybe add a couple of books each week – themed or not – so that participants have an additional reason to come back.
• Most songs were only done once, unlike what we have discussed in class about teaching the song (and any movements associated) the first time, then repeating the song as practice. I can think of two possible reasons for this: time constraints and the fact that this program is repeated every week and the participants are likely already familiar with the songs. That said, because the program encourages drop-in patrons, the librarian might want to consider doing the song twice for new participants.
• I felt too many signs were introduced during the sign language segment, especially since this was the first time this segment was introduced. That said, Miss Emmy spent some time explaining the rationale behind this segment, and the caregivers responded positively. There was also a handout showing the words and illustrations of the accompanying signs, which can help caregivers practice at home during the week. These were given out at the end of the program.
• For most of the songs, Miss Emmy used Skunky to model the movements. This was a great way to show the caregivers what to do, as well as letting the librarian take a more active role in the program, especially since the program is primarily run on the CD.
• The children and their caregivers were engaged throughout the program. There were lots of smiles and the caregivers were focused and fully-participatory (i.e. not chatting with each other; not distracted with their phones, etc.). There was one particularly fussy child (the same boy mentioned above) who whined a bit and wandered in and out of the room during the program. Miss Emmy did not seem distracted by him – she simply carried on with the program without calling out the behavior, letting the grandmother take care of the situation. I thought this is a good practice for this age group, since a) the babies are too young to understand library “etiquette”, and b) this is clearly a case of a child being tired (having missed his morning nap), not him being openly defiant, disruptive, etc. It is more important for the librarian to foster a loving/caring/welcoming environment (where it’s okay for babies to fuss) and be flexible.
• I felt that more resources – books, handouts – could’ve been provided to the caregivers at the end of the program. A couple of board books during the program would seem appropriate (especially for the walkers of the group) and it would afford the librarian a way to model reading and the importance of pre- and early-literacy to the caregivers. Since sign language was introduced during the program, I expected some sign language resources available for caregivers to check out, as well. This would have further reinforced the benefits of teaching babies sign language.
• More interaction between the librarian and the participants (both babies and adults) would encourage repeat attendance and be a great first step to build long-lasting librarian-patron relationships. I felt though Miss Emmy was friendly, she could have spent more time with the participants before and after the program.

Resources: Programming for Schools/Libraries

Here are two professional resources for programming in schools and public libraries, one for K-5 and the other for middle schoolers, that you might consider adding to your library.  I have included my annotations as well as a review where available.

Stories NeverEnding: A Program Guide for Schools and Libraries.  Irving, Jan.  2004.  Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.  978-1563089978

Designed with elementary-school children in mind, this handbook includes creative ideas and detailed instructions for implementing book-driven programs in both school and public library settings.  The ten chapters cover topics such as art, math, food, storytelling, poetry, and American heritage, and each chapter ends with at least two full-scale programs for consideration.  The guide also contains helpful features such as annotated booklists for each topic, reproducibles and patterns, as well as an index and resource bibliography.

This sound professional resource will enhance programming in either the public library or the school media center. (Booklist)

Center Stage: Library Programs That Inspire Middle School Patrons.  Wilson, Patricia P. and Leslie, Roger.  2002.  Greenwood Village, CO: Libraries Unlimited.  978-1563087967

This third book of the Library Programs That Inspire Series focuses on programming ideas for middle-school patrons, with examples of successful events from award-winning Blue Ribbon schools that helped draw in even the most reluctant students.  Topics include different types of program focus, stages of program planning and implementation, as well as different resources on and off the web. The book contains over 70 programs, index, and various lists and templates.
Awards/Honors/Best Lists:
[This book] would [be] helpful in any university training program. Those already in practice who feel insecure about staging events or in need of revitalization should own [this] title. (School Library Journal)
Well worth considering for all middle school libraries. (KLIATT Review)
The authors provide a rich and valuable programming resource for middle school librarians. (VOYA)
A useful planning handbook, offering ideas for both student and professional development programs that would be of interest to educators….Those looking for a programming resource would be well served by this book. (Booklist)

What’s in the News: Using Newspapers in Your Library

One of the ways teachers, parents, and caregiver can facilitate a child’s love of reading is by modeling reading themselves.  Though it’s not always easy to compete with iPads and other electronics, books still take up the majority of our space at home, and play a significant part in our daily routines.  That said, “reading” needn’t be limited to books — nearly everything counts, whether it’s an online article (though again I try to shy away from this since there are so many distractions online!), a magazine, a comic book or graphic novel (yes, those count!), a recipe, a poem, a play, or a devotional.  The newspaper, for example, can provide many opportunities to practice reading comprehension skills, as well as other language arts skills such as figuring out the topic sentence and important facts or events, inferring/drawing conclusions, etc.  At home, with my 4th grade daughter, I will pre-read articles (to make sure it doesn’t contain anything age-inappropriate or too “scary”), and come up with some questions and new vocabulary or concepts that we can talk about (these can be written on an index card or post-it note and taped to the article).  I encourage her to use the highlighter as much as she wants — to make note of new words or sentences she might not understand.  After she reads the article, we talk about what’s on the index card, and If she seems particularly interested, we can do further research on the topic or have a more extensive discussion.

This “lesson” can be easily adapted to the school library.  Students can be given copies of the article to read on their own, or the article can be projected on the screen and read together.

Here’s one example from today’s Times Free Press (Chattanooga’s local newspaper):

Read “Aquarium adding otters in bigger space” by Barry Courtier (Times Free Press, 9/18/13, B1)

newspaper 091813 otterRemember: Highlight new vocabulary or anything you don’t understand.

As you read, think about:

  • Why is the aquarium renovating and adding space to their existing otter exhibit?
  • Why will the otters be separated by a wall at first?
  • What will the new exhibit allow visitors to do?
  • What sense will otters use to get to know each other?
  • Other interesting facts you might have picked up from the article.
  • How would you find out more information about otters or the Tennessee Aquarium?