Program Idea: Escape the Room Game

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

You are locked in a room with 11 others. The room is filled with mysterious and puzzling objects. Can you put the pieces together to find the key and escape in one hour?

A few weeks ago, I went with some friends to try Puzzle Break in Seattle, a live escape the room game. I can’t give too much away (spoilers!), but you have to work together to solve puzzles of various sorts to find a way out of the room you are in. This was super fun and I can’t wait until they release the new puzzle, so I can go again. There are also variations in other cities, including SCRAP Entertainment, which puts on events in Japan and on the west coast, and Escape the Room NYC. Adventure Rooms Canada even offers it for classroom groups. I also thought it would make a fun teen library program!

It would take quite a bit of planning to set up a cohesive game, but I think the concept would be easily scalable for a group of teens. I think of it as a mix between a murder mystery game — there should be a cohesive theme or story that the puzzles revolve around — a scavenger hunt, and puzzles. It could be set up in a meeting room, or even done in the whole library after-hours.

According to Wikipedia, these are some common escape the room game tropes to possibly include in a real-life scenario:

If you’ve ever played any of the Professor Layton video games, those would be a great source of puzzle ideas that utilize different learning/thinking styles and are appropriate for a teen audience.

If I get around to implementing this idea in my library, I will share how it goes!

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My First Four Months as a Teen Services Librarian

Monday, March 3, 2014

I just passed the four-month mark in my first professional library job. I work as a teen services librarian for a large system in Washington state and I split my 30-hour week between two small branches, with a couple shifts a month at a larger branch for reference desk coverage and one shift a month doing outreach visits on our small bookmobile. The biggest learning curve has been learning the system’s policies (and there are many!) and culture. I look forward to continuing learning and developing as a librarian!

What I’ve Been Working On

Programs at Branch 1

My “home” branch has some history of teen programming, though it took a bit of legwork to get info about past events and I have only anecdotal info about attendance. This is a small branch, not really near any schools, so it doesn’t get tons of traffic from teens. On any given afternoon/evening, I might see 5-10 teens in the library using the computers or checking out books. They are often with families, though we do see some independent teens hanging around.

Weekly drop-in gaming program: This is a long-standing program that most branches in the system offer. We don’t have a dedicated teen space in my branches, so for two hours, once a week, I set up our meeting room with video game systems (Wii, XBox360, PS2) and teens can drop in to play. So far, I’ve run this for 10 weeks. Most weeks we have one or two teens stop by, though two weeks we had six. This seems to be in line with how this program went before I took the position, so I’m not sure if this is worth the time investment on my end. I will keep it going for the rest of the school year to possibly build up interest, but will probably re-think gaming programs for next year.

Book club: Oh, I so want to have a thriving book club! I have twice tried to hold a book club without a specific book to discuss (just come talk about any book!), but haven’t had any takers yet. I will try one more time before scrapping this plan. I have some feelers out at the middle school and high school in my service area about doing an after-school or lunchtime club at the school, but those plans might have to wait until the start of the school year due to some scheduling issues.

Craft programs: I am trying out doing once-a-month craft programs. My first attempt was a duct tape program in February, which brought out one very interested teen. I’m doing a BrushBots program for Teen Tech week in March, hoping to get some more takers!

SAT Prep: The system funds free SAT prep classes twice a year, so we are trying them out for the first time at this branch in the spring.

Volunteers: I’d really like to get a few volunteers at Branch 1, so I’ve been working on some materials related to that and will be doing at least one info session at the local high school to drum up some interest.

Programs at Branch 2

This branch is a tricky one! It’s one of the lowest use branches in the system, both by circulation and door count. It’s also on an Indian reservation, though it’s not exclusively for use by tribal members. The tribe has its own state-of-the-art teen center, so it’s difficult to draw teens into the library when they have transportation and friends already at the center. I have had some success with bringing programs there. I did a repeat of the duct tape crafts there and will be bringing a break dance group next month. As with any collaboration, there are some communication and scheduling issues with this as well.

I have had two presenter-led programs at the branch, one poetry related and one a craft program, that were not very successful. One very enthusiastic teen attended the poetry workshop and no one showed up to the craft program.


I am actively working with the school librarians at the local middle and high schools (one each in my service area) to come to the schools to do presentations on databases and get students signed up with library cards. Right now, at the high school, I am lined up to do lunchtime visits related to eBooks and volunteer opportunities, and an after-school session about our free homework help resources. I will likely do some book talking in the late spring to prep for summer reading. I am also working with the other teen librarian in my area to meet with other community groups who work with youth to discuss collaboration. Luckily, the system is very interested in outreach, so we have a lot of time and freedom to leave the library and explore partnerships. This is both the most important and most challenging part of the job!


We have central purchasing, but I am in charge of maintaining the teen collections at the branches. I did a full weeding of both collections when I started, since they hadn’t been looked at in about six months. Now I do a scan about once a week for books in poor condition and a monthly look at specific sections. I can also request new copies of popular titles, so I have a tiny bit of purchasing power! The system is lucky to have a healthy collections budget and a great teen materials selector, so I have yet to come across essential titles that we are missing! The biggest challenge with collections is not having the books you want to recommend to teens right there on the shelf any time you want them, but that’s a problem in all libraries. Some teens are on board with holds, but I’ve found that most want something to read immediately. I definitely need to keep improving my knowledge of less-popular titles to recommend in reader’s advisory.

System-Wide Projects

So far, I’ve gotten involved with my system’s Mock Printz group and am on a team working on developing new RA services for the whole system (across children’s, teen, and adult). I will also be working on an advisory group for a new system-wide teen website to be launched in conjunction with summer reading.

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Teen Book Festivals

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It seems like I keep hearing about more and more teen book festivals happening around the country. These one- or two-day events usually feature a large roster of YA authors to talk about their books and teen lit in general, sign books, and interact with readers. It looks like most of these festivals are teen-focused and are often organized by librarians and teachers, with assistance from local bookstores. I’m a little envious that there isn’t one near me, so I figured I’d live vicariously by visiting a lot of their sites and rounding up the festivals! Let me know if I’ve left any off the list.

NoVaTEEN Book Festival
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Arlington, VA

Colorado Teen Literature Conference
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Denver, CO

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Houston, TX

Pasadena Teen Book Fest
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Pasadena, CA

Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Rochester, NY

Round Rock, TX

Austin Teen Book Festival
Austin, TX

Charleston, SC

YAK Fest
Fort Worth, TX

Primarily for Librarians and Educators

YALSA YA Literature Symposium
November 14-16, 2014
Austin, TX

Young Adult Literature Conference
Naperville, IL

Major Book Festivals with a Large YA Component

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
April 12-13, 2014
Los Angeles, CA

National Book Festival
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Washington, DC

Posted by in Books, Conferences, Resource Spotlight    1 Comment

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YALSA Blog: What I’d Like to See

Friday, January 31, 2014

There was a bit of hub-bub this month about the news that the YALSAblog was re-booting. First Wendy Stephens, the outgoing blog member manager, posted on her blog that the Editorial Advisory Board had been sent email notices that their terms were ending early. Then the Midwinter Board documents went up last week with item #18 YALSAblog Reboot. The blog is also currently seeking a new member manager, though according to the board doc, there will be an interim manager from now until the position is filled.

I think it’s great that YALSA is re-evaluating the blog, though I wish it had been a bit more transparent to the advisory board and manager than it appears it was handled. As mentioned in the board doc, the blog has been pretty much operating as-is since 2006. A lot has changed in the way YALSA communicates information to members, not to mention the changes in the broader information media landscape. As a YALSA member, here are a few things I would like to see from a new YALSA Blog:

Those are just a few of my disjointed thoughts about the YALSA Blog. I have no idea if any of these things have already been considered or are completely outside of the realm of feasibility. I have nothing but respect for all of the work the past member managers, advisory boards, bloggers, and YALSA staff have put into the blog up until now. And yes, I’m considering applying for the open Member Manager position and thinking about ways I can contribute to the blog!

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The Politics of Book Links

Monday, January 27, 2014

links - Blank

When you click on a link of a book title, where do you expect to go? Ever since I started blogging about libraries and books about five years ago, the practice of creating links to books has been almost an existential crisis for me. Blogging is an interactive medium, so of course I want to link out to somewhere, but where?

The default most places on the web seems to be to link to Amazon. For many reasons, this is great. Amazon has loads of bibliographic information about specific titles, along with other book recommendations and the opportunity to buy with as little as one click. As a blogger, I could also use Amazon Affiliates links and even make money from linking to Amazon (full disclosure: I do have an Affiliates account, but do not currently use my links). But as a librarian and book-lover, the Amazon default kills me a little inside. Of course I do buy books from Amazon, but they are clearly a threat to the survival of physical bookstores, both independents and chains, and are well on their way to disrupting the publishing industry in general. Since I care about the continued existence of bookstores and traditional publishers, I choose not to link to Amazon on my blog.

I could instead make my book links go to an independent online bookstore. I’ve seen plenty of blogs and other websites link to Powell’s, an indie chain in Oregon, since they are large and have an extensive online selection. I think this is a fine practice, but I’m not so sure I want to favor one independent bookstore over another.

On the non-bookstore side, I see a few options. The biggest reading social network is Goodreads, which is an obvious choice when linking to a book. I’m an avid Goodreads user and when I’m reading about a book on a blog, it’s so useful to be able to click on the title, go straight to Goodreads, and add the book to my to-read shelf. Goodreads also has heaps of info about the title and links to a whole host of book-buying options. Of course, it’s not so great if you’re not a Goodreads user. Oh, and it’s now owned by Amazon, so it’s contributing to the factors already outlined above. (This does not stop me from using Goodreads though—it’s so useful!) Similar to Goodreads, LibraryThing is another social book site that could be used. While I am a user of the site, I don’t think it’s the best option for regular book links. Its user base is much smaller than Goodreads, so it won’t be as useful or familiar to most blog readers.

Another option I have used extensively on this blog, is Worldcat. This big online library catalog from OCLC provides bibliographic information and links out to other library catalogs based on your location. It also links to a few buying options and pulls in Goodreads reviews. I like linking to Worldcat because I see it as a neutral source and it promotes libraries (bonus!). My one hesitation with Worldcat links is that it’s not very familiar to most people, which could lead to confusion if someone is used to book links going out to Amazon or Goodreads.

I’m still clearly undecided about the best way to link to books from my blog. There are no industry standards for book blogs, so what do others prefer? Am I the only one who lets this issue keep them up at night?

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YA Programming Blogs

Thursday, January 23, 2014

As a newly practicing teen librarian, I’ve found that reading about successful programs and services for teens to be especially helpful. Blogs are a perfect medium for sharing of-the-minute ideas, talking honestly about what worked and what didn’t, and generating responses from others. Unfortunately blogs come and go, so it can be difficult to keep up with what’s new and current. Here are a few of my favorite blogs written by librarians that feature programming ideas or other services for teens or tweens.


Beth Reads

Beth is a youth services librarian in Ohio who posts about books and programs, mostly YA-related. Some recent posts I’ve found helpful have included: Ice Breakers for Teen Program Success, Doing More With Summer Reading Data, and Jump Start Your Book Club: A Change Will Do You Good. You should also check out her one-minute book talk series. Her posts are very thoughtful and coming from a place of experience, so it’s worth going through her archives.


The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian’s Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette

Ingrid, a children’s and teen librarian in NYC, blogs about books, programs, and other things of interest to the library world. I especially love her teen displays like It’s Time for a Body Positive Brooklyn: Look, I finished that display, finally., Queering up the Library: A finished display, and Oy with the Jokes Already: A totally jokey YA display with a totally broken color printer. You might also appreciate Tree Octopuses, Hate Sites, Agatha Ann Cunningham: The “Oh, C’MON!” Menagerie of Information Literacy, which discusses information literacy and a fake library ghost story crafted by two teen library interns.



Sarah is a teen librarian from Michigan. She has been blogging at Teenbrarian for just about a year and posts a lot about her regular programs. She has some good insight about hosting Minecraft programs, a Trivia program, and Dungeons and Dragons.


Young Adult Activities

A group of librarians share program ideas suitable for middle and high school audiences. I particularly enjoyed Updated: Urban Legends (I’ll be incorporating this into my summer reading programming!),  How to Survive a Horror Movie, Bike Rodeo.


Zen and the Art of Teen Services

Sarah, a teen librarian from Ohio, talks books, programs, teen trends, and more. Her post about Anatomy of a Teen Event Flyer is a must-read for any librarians who design their own flyers. Other great posts include Beyond Anime: 100+ ideas to keep your otaku happy!, Feeding teens, and Beyond Book Clubs & Gaming: Creating dynamic programs to which your teens will flock!. I wish she would post more!

Find more librarian blogs on my links page or take a look at previous link roundups:

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Mock Printz Roundup 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014


The Youth Media Awards, the collection of awards handed out by the American Library Association, will be presented Monday, January 27. For young adult literature, the Michael L. Printz award is considered the highest achievement. Awarded annually since 2000, it honors the best book (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or anthology) in terms of literary merit and up to four honor books that were published in the United States during the award year. A committee of nine YALSA members discuss the eligible titles at the Annual and Midwinter ALA meetings and choose the winner and honor books in a closed door session.

To promote the reading and discussion of quality YA books, many library systems and regional library groups organize Mock Printz events. Typically, librarians will choose a shortlist of titles that they think merit inclusion on the Printz list. They then meet to discuss the books and choose their own winner and honor books before the official ceremony.

I’m always curious to see what books look like contenders for the award, so for a few years (2012, 2011, 2010) I have compiled Mock Printz lists and winners. It’s not the best predictor of the eventual winner, especially since a lot of the groups share lists to some extent and most librarians aren’t reading as widely and extensively as those on the committee. It’s still an interesting exercise to see what’s buzzing before the announcement of the actual winners and honorees.

This year, I looked at 19 lists. Several titles appear on multiple lists, but there are a lot that only appear on one list. A total of 45 individual books were listed. Of the lists I looked at, here are all of the books that appeared and the number of lists they appeared on:

What do you think? Who will take home the big award next Monday morning?

The full lists from each library or library system appear below.


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2013 in Books

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The last year has been a great year for reading! I set a personal goal to read 100 books and I surpassed my goal by 12 books for a total of 112. I started my first professional library job this fall, so I’ve really ramped up my YA reading even more than usual. I also work for a really big system that has a fantastic collection and I’ve been able to track down a more diverse range of reading options.

Of the 112 books I read in 2013, I read:


Top 10 Favorite 2013 Books

Non-2013 Releases That I Read and Loved in 2013

Reading Resolutions for 2014

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Movies Based on Books: January to March 2014

Friday, December 27, 2013


(1. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit  2. I, Frankenstein  3. Labor Day  4. The Monuments Men  5. Vampire Academy  6. Winter’s Tale  7. 300: Rise of An Empire  8. Addicted  9. Divergent

January 17

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Based on characters created by Tom Clancy
Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley

January 24

I, Frankenstein
Loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, and Miranda Otto

January 31

Labor Day
Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard
Starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin
Directed by Jason Reitman

February 7

The Monuments Men
Based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter
Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon
Directed and adapted by George Clooney

February 14

Vampire Academy
Based on the books by Richelle Mead
Starring Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry

Winter’s Tale
Based on the novel by Mark Helprin
Starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Russell Crowe

March 7

300: Rise of An Empire
Based on the graphic novel Xerxes by Frank Miller (not yet released)
Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro, and Eva Green

March 14

Based on the novel by Zane
Starring Kat Graham, Sharon Leal, and Boris Kodjoe

March 21

Based on the novel by Veronica Roth
Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet

Release dates and rating subject to change

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Webinars and Other Online Training for Teen Librarians

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Whether you’re a long-time librarian looking to strengthen your skills or a newbie just starting out, there are lots of online learning resources for teen librarians and others working with youth. These are a few options—some are free, some cost money. If you know of any other opportunities, let me and other readers know in the comments!


YALSA of course offers regular webinars of interest to teen librarians and others who interact with teens in the library. Starting in January, all of the webinars will be free to YALSA members! Webinars are usually monthly and last an hour. Past webinars (from 2010 on) are archived for viewing free by members or $19 for non-members.

YALSA also holds online courses, which are typically 10 hours long. These carry a fee—the most recent course was $155 for YALSA members, $195 for ALA members, and $215 for others. They occur three times a year on rotating topics.

Other ALA divisions also have webinars that may interest teen librarians, some with fees depending on your membership, including Public Library Association (PLA) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).


Infopeople is a federal grant funded program through the California State Library that primarily provides training to library workers in California. They host webinars that are also open to those from other state. These webinars run the gamut of library specializations, but they do offer a couple each year that are of specific interest to librarians working with teens and tweens. All webinars are archived and date back to 2006.


Webjunction is a service provided from OCLC that offers many online learning opportunities for librarians. There are many options each month on a variety of topics, with a few every year geared toward young adult services. The archives number almost 200 webinars back through 2007.

Programming Librarian

This initiative from the ALA Public Programs Office hosts occasional webinars of interest to public services librarians, including teen librarians. Some of the archives are free and some are available for purchase. Some interesting webinars include “Engage! Teens, Art & Civic Participation” and “Programming for At-risk Tweens.”

School Library Journal

SLJ hosts regular webcasts, including publisher previews, author chats, and curriculum tie-ins. They usually offer a couple each month and are free with registration.


Booklist offers regular webinars about upcoming titles, publishing trends, and other book-related topics, like collection management. Presenters include editors, authors, and librarians.

Baker and Taylor

Baker and Taylor, a book distributor, offers webinars on book-related topics with presenters from publishing companies and libraries. Some topics include middle grade fiction, African American Literature, and graphic novels. The archives are free—no need to be a B&T customer.

Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science

Simmons holds regular online continuing education classes on many library topics. Most courses are $250 and offer continuing ed credits, if needed.

Other Options

Webjunction posts a monthly list of free webinars of interest to librarians from a variety of sources.

Check with your state library or local association. Many offer their own training open only to local members or offer free or discounted access to other online training opportunities.

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