Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Is Here!

Winter is here!  That means our new fiscal year has started and I can start programming with GUSTO again.  Fall is always a little sad, since most of my budget goes toward Summer Reading, and the kids are busy being back in school.  Now it's cold out and they're looking for things to do!

Today was Gingerbread House day.  This is a good example of adapting kid's programs for might assume they've grown out of gingerbread houses, but they definitely haven't.  I had a dozen teens--equally divided between boys and girls--here tonight with me.  This is another program that is as expensive as you want it to be--some years I've gone a little overboard at the bulk candy store, but this year I kept it pretty simple.  You can get graham crackers and frosting at Gordon Food Service, and they have a pretty good selection of candy too.  I bought Twizzlers, holiday M&Ms, small pretzel rods, gumdrops, and holiday candy corn.  I got a few kinds of sprinkles, and we have a lot around from past years too. 

I've found that frosting is NOT enough to hold the houses together, so for the past few years I've been hot-gluing them ahead of time.  Then all the teens have to do is decorate them.  They tend to eat the candy and socialize while decorating, so I've never had any real masterpieces come out of this event, but it is a GREAT time. 

Here's mine:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Summer Reading Wrap Up 2013

I think enough time has passed that I'm ready to think about this party!

Instead of giving away junk prizes for the teen SRP, I give away grab bags that MOSTLY contain just candy, though some contain little junk prizes and gift cards.  The real prize though, is the invitation to the wrap-up party that every teen who completes the SRP gets.  It's the most expensive part of summer reading for me, and really the most expensive thing I do all year.  This year was my third year in a row of doing the SRP this way.  The first year was just a big party with LASER TAG, the second year had a Hunger Games theme, and this year I went with a circus/carnival theme.  The teens were encouraged to come in costume if they wished, and many did!  My teens are the best teens ever.  I'm including pictures, but since I will only use one where any teens are unidentifiable they are not always the best ones.  You get the idea, though!

Because we have outgrown the laser tag arena (we had it for the HG party, and each kid got to play ONCE for all of about 3 minutes. They loved it, but it costs about $1000 to rent, so I knew I could better spend the money) so this year I decided to rent 3 smaller/cheaper inflatables.  I got:

The Bungee Run:
In this game two kids put on harnesses and race to the end of the lanes, trying to slap their flag down as far as possible before they get pulled back.  Hilarious!

The Wrecking Ball:

They stand on pedestals and try to knock each other off with an inflatable wrecking ball (SO HILARIOUSLY hard just to stand up on the pedestal!)

The Fly Wall:

Pretty sure you've all seen this one before.  Way harder to do than it seems!

In addition to the inflatable games, I had a midway with carnival games.

Are you for real not going to let me rotate that, Blogger?  Well FINE, but I want everyone to know it's your fault.

I bought a bottle toss game and a tic-tac-toe game from Oriental Trading.  They were both way harder than they looked!  I also created a game called "Twilight Toss" where the teens threw suction cup balls at cardboard standups of Jacob and Edward.  They LOVED it, because they HATE Twilight!

When I was looking into renting carnival games (Don't do it!  Around here they were asking about $60 bucks for one evening.  You can make it yourself with a roll of red and white striped tablecloth and cheap stuff, and then you have it forever), I saw a PLINKO board and was immediately smitten.  I looked around the internets to see if I could find instructions to make one. I found them, but it was a little beyond my abilities.  I emailed our amazing facilities guy, and not only was he happy to make me one, he suggested improvements to the plans I sent him.  Mega thanks to Phil!

We plan on using this for all sorts of things at the library.  Can't decide where to go for lunch? LET PLINKO DECIDE!

They won candy and tickets by playing these games.

The tickets were entries into prize drawings. I had some leftover gift cards, and I gave them away this way.  The more they participated in the activities, the more chances they had to win Minecraft accounts and Barnes and Noble/Game Stop cards! It was a great incentive for them to keep playing the games, though they loved them anyway.

I also had a couple of games going upstairs--because I really think it's best to have A LOT going on at an event like this where there will be more than 100 teens in the building.  I bought giant inflatable bowling from OT, and made giant Jenga from the cardboard boxes some of our kid's SRP prizes had come in.

There were also a scavenger hunt, tarot readings, and I had Sing Star and Just Dance set up in our conference rooms.  Because I have a lot of friends who are involved in the circus arts, I hired a few to wander around juggling, making balloon animals, and just generally goofing off to create some atmosphere.  Anthony always had a crowd of girls around him, I can't imagine why!

Around 8PM anyone who wanted played a game of Sardines.   Toward the end of the evening I did the prize drawings, and then sent everyone home!  It was a great success, and I think we had about 140 attend this year.  A smaller crowd than last year (216!), but I think the Hunger Games theme drew in a LOT of teens.  I always want my programs to grow every year, but I'll be honest---I was okay with a smaller crowd!

The party went from 6 (closing time) until 9, and the library was closed to the general public.  I do not allow parents to attend teen events, but I had LOTS of adult volunteers--Staff members and friends of mine.  It all went very smoothly, no problems at all.

I have no idea what I'm going to do next year to top it!

Monday, October 28, 2013


To anyone visiting from my MLA presentation...Hello!  I have a lot to write about this week once I get settled into my routine again-- I was on vacation last week, and the week before was a madhouse!  Posts about my teen SRP Wrap Up party and Zombie Night are coming up!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Minecraft Crafts

For the kids and teens of my area, Minecraft isn't just a videogame it's a way of life.  So this newsletter cycle I did Minecraft Crafts for teens, and because I'm nice I repeated the program for kids in third through fifth grades. 

There are tons of papercraft templates online, I trust you can google those yourself.  I had the inspired thought to also make awesome stuff out of Perler beads---those little beads you stick on a plastic template and then iron so they melt together.  I had the idea on my own, however it's something LOTS OF PEOPLE are doing.  They turned out great, and both the kids and teens managed to muster up the patience for such a finicky project because they REALLY wanted the resulting product.  I let them turn their creations into pins and keychains if they wanted.  Findings are pretty cheap at craft stores and it made their stuff more useful.  I had a great time at both programs.  I capped attendance at 20 and did it alone, though next time I'll have one of our adult volunteers come help.  I hadn't really considered how busy ironing I would be! 

The Minecraft perler stuff I found online was great but not quite what I needed for a room full of 20 kids/teens, so I made my own.  Feel free to use.  These make a nice size for pins or keychains when they are done. 

Dirt Block, Creeper Face, Pig Face, Wood Block.  Each square is one bead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Minecraft, Part the Third

I'm still here, and mostly recovered from Summer Reading, which I'll have more to say about later.  Right now, though, let's talk crafting.

My server has been hosted in my boyfriend's basement for the past 6 months.  FINALLY everything is in place and I've just moved to a new server hosted from my library--which means instead of a string of nonsense, my teens now just have to use to log in (I'm clearly not an anonymous blogger).

I decided to take this opportunity for a fresh start, and just make a brand new server.  The steps are all the same as they were before, but now I'm really researching and adding anti-griefing software.  Those sixth grade boys, you guys.  They are destructive MONSTERS!  Right now my list of plugins is:


That last one is something new and untested, but the description sounds good and I can't wait to try it.  It says it can tell me exactly WHO messed with a block, which will help with the banning of the griefers! 

I'm most excited about World Guard, though.  As I get to know it I will post more about how it works and how I use it in the world.  I should be able to use it to make different zones, so that players who want PVP can have an arena for that, and people who want to build in peace can do that.  I'll let you know how it works out!

I've been getting LOTS and lots of  basic questions from people looking to start new servers, and my best advice is to just GO FOR IT and try things!  Also, for me it's important to regain a decent amount of control over the server.  Some people have trouble accessing theirs to try out different plugins and things, and I do so much tinkering that that would certainly not work for me!

Here's that first "How to Get Started" post, if that's where your server is right now!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Duct Tape

When I presented at MLA last year, my co-presenter and I called it "Beyond Duct Tape: Programming for Today's Teens".   Really though, I have no beef with duct tape.  It remains a staple in my programming wheelhouse--a sentence that I'm not sure makes sense and which also makes me want to slap myself in the face.  ANYWAY!

I've found that teens need a lot more instruction than you would expect them to.  I always hope that they will just play and create and end up with awesome stuff, but their imaginations just don't seem to go that way.  I usually provide them with samples and instructions for roses and wallets, and this time around I had put in the newsletter that they could bring a t-shirt if they wanted to make a t-shirt bag.

While we did have a couple of reluctant ladies who I don't think ended up making anything other than a bit of a mess, most of the teens came well prepared this time around.  I'd only allocated an hour--next time I'll make it two.  They weren't ready to leave!  I let them stay over for about half an hour, but I had tickets to that night's Tiger's game so I had to kick them out eventually.

Lots of the instructions that I have used before haven't been detailed enough for teens who haven't done these kinds of projects before, so I drew my own.  Please admire my awesome skillz!

Friday, August 2, 2013


Pro Tip!  If your scissors are all gunky (let's say, hypothetically, that you and 25 or so teens have been using them to cut duct tape), close them on a clorox wipe and let them sit for a while.  Scrub at them with the wipe a bit, and they'll be as good as new!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


It's July 31st! That means Summer Reading is ov----hmm? What's that?  Oh?  But...all my friends are done with Summer Reading at THEIR libraries?  Oh.  Oooooh.  24 more days?  Well, I guess I can maybe..... ::thud::

HI THERE!  24 days to go here at my li-berry before we're through with Summer Reading!  That's good, because I'm nowhere near my goal.  I'm still about 150 shy of last year, but there are usually a lot of teens who come in for their prizes and sign up at the same time, so I'm not too worried.  I also noticed that one branch didn't get the memo about 6th graders being teens this year (in past years we've offered them the choice.  This year they were all supposed to be teens, unless they had some strong objection), which accounts for about 50 lost teens.  Still, I'm at 480 right now, and for a library my size I think that's quite reasonable.  If I can get to 600 I'll be happy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quick and Dirty Book Review #2

I bought a book for the library after reading some good reviews, and had high hopes for it.  Link here:

You guys, I need more people to read this book and discuss it with me.  I'm not particularly sensitive to sexism in pop culture--in fact I've gotten into arguments where I'm siding WITH the appropriateness to sometimes have a movie or book where there isn't a strong female character.  It's okay to have a buddy movie!  Or a movie set in a men's prison!  But this book definitely rattled me.  I recognize what Andrew Smith is TRYING to do here.  The main character definitely grows throughout the book--he starts off simply thinking every girl is super hot (even mustachioed ones, gee thanks) but completely ignores little things like personality.  By the end he realizes that he really DOES like one girl for who she is, even if he totally keeps making out with another girl.  So, he's a standard 14 year old boy.  I get it.  I just don't think it was well executed, and it took away from the whole book for me.  It had promise--the comics are well drawn and I love a good boarding school novel, but it was just a little too much.  Am I getting old and lame?

Really, I am usually pretty lax about getting riled up about books like this.  I LOVE Swim the Fly, which is about a group of boys spending their summer trying to see a real live naked girl.  THis one though...there's just something about this one. 

It's "dont' have time to stop for a free slurpee" day!

Things are still going well over here! Programs left and right.  On Tuesday I was at both branches for tie-dye programs.  I did the same thing last year--I buy the dye but each teen brings something to dye.  That ensures that they'll end up with something that fits, and also cuts the costs for me down significantly.  I let them do two things, if they want.  Most do shirts, but I had a couple of girls do shorts and 4-5 did pillow cases.  I bought plastic tablecloths from GFS to protect the carpet, some Tulip brand dye kits, and I stole rubber bands from all of the assorted places we hide rubber bands around the library.  The dye I use doesn't require that weird ash soak thing, you just get the item damp.  I made kits ahead of time for each teen--a gallon sized ziplock bag with about 10 rubber bands, a pair of latex gloves, instructions on how to create a few different looks (photocopies of the instructions that come with the kit) and instructions for what to do after they get it home.  Because of space issues and also "room full of teenagers holding permanent dye" issues, I only let 15 register for each building.  Both filled up, and 13 showed up in each building---a great turnout! We only dyed the carpet a tiny bit---and it was in the building we're leaving within a year so I wasn't too horrified. 

3.5 weeks in and we're at 352 teens registered for summer reading.  7 weeks to go!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I need to find a .gif of someone being extremely busy, but I'M TOO BUSY!

Summer Reading registration started one week ago and we already have about 135  teens signed up!  That's pretty good, since teens tend to sign up when they come for their first prize--and prizes started today so those 135 are the super responsible ones.  (edit:  I had to stop here on this post yesterday--today we're up to 160!)

I'm excited about the prizes this year--especially the Above-and-Beyond.  The teens are too, I know this because there's a poster up behind me with the prizes and I can hear the squealing. Here's what I went with:

 Last year my final number of registered teens was about 620, and I've increased by about 50% every year for the past few years.  That means I'm aiming for 1000 this year, which is insane and  probably out of reach but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try!  I'm hoping to spend more time at the branches this summer pushing it--at the main library (where I spend most of my time) I track down teens and tell them enthusiastically about how they can win CANDY AND MONEY YOU GUYS! and it totally works.  The branch librarians do their best but many are not as comfortable engaging teens as I am.  Understandable, I'm totally nuts.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Fifth Wave - Rick Yancey

I confess:  I'm a huge fan of disaster/apocalyptic/dystopian teen novels.  You'd think I'd be tired of them by now, since nearly every other book published follows something along those lines, but so long as the author throws in some element that is new or different I'm generally totally in.  This means I've read quite a few really terrible books, but sometimes one really shines.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Rick Yancey.  When I was on the Thumbs Up!  award committee, I lobbied hard for The Monstrumologist.  The committee felt it was a little too terrifying for the younger end of the age group that the award is for, so they went another direction, but I still think it was the best thing written that year.  I have made all of my book clubs read it, and I recommend it all the time, usually with the statement "DON'T TRY TO READ IT IF YOU'RE HOME ALONE!"

Obviously I have been anxiously waiting for The 5th Wave to come out.  It's possible I swiped it from the in-process cart...shhhhh don't tell.  It did not let me down.  I'd hate to spoil it for anyone, so I'll just say that the general premise is that aliens have come to earth and started wiping out the human race in a series of waves.  We have a tough but realistic female protagonist who is not perfect.  I love love love survival books, and the living in the woods and foraging for stuff elements of this one are great.  An offhand comment early on about how she is worried about her supply of tampons (I totally think about that when reading other books where the ladies are just tromping around happily) made me realize that the author really thought through what a woman alone and on the move might worry about.  There's a tough of romance but it's good and necessary, not just thrown over the top of a shaky plot like it is in so many cases. 

Read it!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Oh lordy it's June

Our local high schools are having finals right now.  Because we were so packed during midterm exams, I decided to throw a study hall.  We started yesterday, and I estimate we had a total of 25-30 teens make use of it, the most at one time was about 15.  Not too shabby, though I'm hoping for more today and tomorrow!

It's easy enough to do--I just booked our auditorium for Thursday-Tuesday, and had all the round tables set up.  I borrowed the laptops that our ANF department uses for computer classes and set them up, and had the IT department set up a printer so that I can offer free printing!  I filled a table with supplies that I thought they might need--paperclips, staplers, tape, markers, pencils and pens, scrap paper, rulers.  I bought Doritos, Cheetos, and pop in bulk (and some other snacks) and put them out on a counter (all free for studying teens!).  Tomorrow I'm coming in and doing nothing but Study Hall all day, so I'm getting them pizza.  I made sure to notify the schools, and one of them has been in contact with me.  They've been pushing it hard during announcements and that sort of thing.  The kids who came yesterday loved it--I heard a group of boys talking as they left yesterday about how much more they got done than they would have at home. 

Even if the crowd was a little small yesterday, it was made up mostly of teens I've never seen before, which is definitely a success.  I left flyers about summer reading around, and filled the display case across from the auditorium doors with summer reading prizes. 

Such a simple thing to do, yet it has helped our bond with the local schools and general community goodwill.  I had adults popping their heads in to see what was going on and commenting on what a good idea it was.  Yay!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

So far so good on the Minecraft server!  We've got about 15 teens involved, and they're happily building away. So far the tasks have been:

1) Find the City
2) Build a house
3) build a business  (just for show, we're not messing around with an economy at this point)

Here's the city:

I have been impressed with the adorable houses some of the teens have built!  They're mostly boys, but we've got at least two ladies in there.  The building up in the air is the insane asylum, and in the distance you can see a couple of towers of the fort.  I'm disappointed to see a little destruction--someone must have spawned some creepers, which isn't very sporting.

Now I need to come up with more tasks and challenges to keep them occupied.  I think perhaps I'll have them build famous landmarks next?

I purchased three Minecraft gift cards at our local Game Stop, and this summer I'll be giving them away.  The first contest will be your standard "guess how many whatevers are in this jar", and I think I'm going to try to track down green gummy bears in bulk and call them creepers.  Cute, eh?  Not sure what I'll do for the other contests, but I'm sure something will come to me!

We've been in creative mode all of May, I think in June I may switch to survival.  Perhaps survival mode AND a building challenge, to make it extra difficult? Hmm.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Minecraft 2 --The Plugins Episode

You have a functioning server!  Ain't life grand?  But what about all the fiddly details that will make your server YOURS?  You want PLUGINS, my friend!

As my teens start logging in, I'm sure my needs will change, but I started with a few basics.  Start here to see what's available,  These are what I'm playing around with now:


To add a plugin, you just download what you want, unzip it if necessary, and put the files into your plugins folder.  Personally, I put the download into my plugin folder and THEN unzip it, but my computer programmer boyfriend had a heart attack when I did that---though he couldn't give me a good reason why NOT to, so nyah nyah.

Here's my plugin folder after adding Essentials and Anticheat

Easy!  Try logging in now and then to make sure nothing has gone wonky.  There's nothing worse than having something go wonky and not knowing WHICH of the many things you just did has caused the problem!

Another important thing:  Make sure you have given yourself permission to use the things you're installing.  In the main folder, you'll see a file called "ops".  When you open it, it shows a blank notepad document.  Just type your name, and the names of any other admins in there.  Just make a list, no need for punctuation.  That should make everything work.  To check, get the server running and sign in.  Then try a command.  Wait, you don't know any?  Well then, try this:


/time set night

Did you go from something like this:
 to something like this:

If so, you're golden.

You can read about what those plugins all do at their sites, but here's a rundown:

AntiCheat: keeps teens from being able to use cheats in your server.  Seems like a good idea.

Essentials: gives you lots of handy tools.  I'm still learning to use them, the loooong list of commands is here: 

WorldEdit:  Does what it says on the box!  You can get really creative with this, but I've mostly used it to fiddle with the landscape a little to make room for my town. You can easily flatten land, dig big holes, drain ponds, etc.  It takes some time to figure out, and it is possible to make a very wonky world, so PRACTICE this one!

GroupManager: This was the easiest permissions thing I have found.  It allows you to decide who can do what. In my world right now there are two groups: admins (me and my intern) and the default group that all the teens fall into.  GroupManager had things pretty nicely set up already-if the teens decide they need more permissions I think I'll be able to add them, but it gave them reasonable stuff.  They can build and fight, but don't have access to TNT, and only I can change the game mode.

ChestRestock:  This allows you to put items in a chest, and the chest restocks itself through magic.  I like the idea of being able to hide things for the teens to find--this way everyone who finds it gets the prize, and I don't have to worry about restocking it myself. 

That's all I'm using, currently!  I'd love to know if you discover/have heard of interesting plugins.  I saw one that generates a TARDIS, and one that gives you the arena from The Hunger Games!  Lots of cool stuff available!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft.  It's all the rage these which I mean for the past three years or so.  It's starting to become a THING for libraries though, so of course I'M ON IT.

There are a bunch of blog posts and articles out there about how fun and valuable it is to host your own minecraft server, but it turns out there aren't a lot of articles about how to set up the dang thing.  I am by no means an expert, but here's how things shook out for me.

Step 1) buy a Minecraft account and figure out the basics of the game.  This is going to mean putting in some hard work playing video games, but I know you'll get through it!  Having an understanding of the game is pretty important for the rest of it.  There are plenty of tutorials and things available on the minecraft wiki, as well as recipes for crafting. The most important thing to know up front:  you move with the letters WASD and space bar (a teen walking by had to explain it to me my first time, that's the level of experience i'm starting with).

Step 2) talk to your IT department.  If you're going to want to open your server to the outside world, they're going to need to be involved because firewalls and ports and other IT mumbo jumbo.  Right now my server is hosted on a computer in my boyfriend's basement, but it will migrate to one of our servers once ::insert IT mumbo jumbo:: is moved/upgraded/something something.

Step 3) set up your server!  You'll need a computer that isn't doing much of anything else, or for your IT department to do some wizardry and then give you access to that wizardry.

-Pick your server.  I chose to go with the Bukkit server because it seemed like the most user-friendly and has a lot of great plugins to make my life easier.  MAKE SURE YOU DOWNLOAD THE MOST RECENT VERSION.  At the time of this posting, that is version 1.5.1-RO2  (

There are lots of tutorials available, but I found that they assumed a certain amount of previous knowledge, even the ones that are aimed at total noobs.  Here's one of the most valuable things I learned:


There it is!  Rename it craftbukkit (it'll automatically add the .jar, in my experience. When I named it "craftbukkit.jar" it turned out to actually name it "craftbukkit.jar.jar" which took a while to figure out.), and then make a new folder (name it something fancy like "server" or "bukkit" or "minecraft" or "francis" and put it inside! DO THAT BEFORE YOU OPEN IT! LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

Double click it! It should generate a bunch of files:

In your fancy folder, right click and open a new text document. Paste this in it:

java -Xms1024M -Xmx1024M -jar craftbukkit.jar -o true

Save it as       run.bat

Double click our fancy new "run" thingydo.THINGS WILL START TO HAPPEN:

Mine is telling me there might already be a server running on that port.  I am able to login to it though, so I'm going to assume that's something to do with the fact that I can't actually run this on my computer (IT stuff blah blah computers ports blah blah)  for now though, I am able to log in and I am able to install sweet plugins.  It's pretty easy to move all of your hard work to a place where it WILL be functional to the outside world, so if you're working on it while IT figures out their end, it's all good.

 Even though I've done this a few times now,  I did it from scratch as I was creating this tutorial, and goodness did I mess it up a lot.  Hopefully if you walk through these steps you won't need as many stiff drinks as I did after my first couple of tries.

Next post: PLUGINS!

 (here's where I got my info when setting it up.  The link does NOT go to the most recent version, use my link above.  This article had all the info, but I found it hard to follow--it took me many tries to get it right!

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's business as usual these days at the library.  I try to give myself a month here or there without too much to worry about, and April is one of them as I gear up for summer reading.

Winter Reading is finally over, and was a pretty decent success!  I had about 50 teens turn in about 350 entries.  Since I re-vamped the whole thing this year, I can't really compare to last year's stats, but I was definitely excited to see a lot of unfamiliar names on many of the entries--which means it's not just the kids I see all the time participating.  My favorite bingo square was the one where I had them email me a joke--it meant I got random emails with terrible jokes in them!  Highly recommended.

I had another Trivia night and it went well.  I pretty much get the exact same teens each time, which is fine so long as they remain into it!  I wish we could get a few more though, because it is SERIOUSLY fun.

There was one pretty big flop this week-- due to lack of interest by the youth librarians, I put together our first Battle of the Books.  I kept it pretty low key, since we really had no idea what sort of interest there would be.  It turns out not much!  If we (and by "we" I mean "not me, but someone") do it next year there are plenty of things that we could do to ensure more participation.  Because I'm the Teen Librarian with plenty of my own work to do, I didn't do those things.  We'll see how next year goes, if it goes at all.

Right now I'm focused on my upcoming trip to C2E2 and getting my Donna Noble costume together in time!   I'm also using all of my free time at work to start assembling grab bags for summer reading prizes.  Last year I went through about 1500, and I hope I need many more this year!  I've got about 200 made, so if I keep going I should be in good shape when the SRP starts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Teen Teenbrarian

There's a thing going around the twitters--librarians are posting photos of themselves as teens.  I happen to have a FEW gems on FB, so I thought I might as well post them all here!
This must be my Freshman year, because by the time we did photos again I would have switched to xylophone for marching band.  I graduated at 17, so that means in this picture I'm about 13.
Ah, the black lace over red dress style for Homecoming.  Great when paired with black nylons and a choker for that perfect 90s look!

I'm actually not sure whether the previous picture was older or newer than this one, which was Homecoming 97.  I suspect the red/black dress was Homecoming 98.  My mother not only let me out of the house in this, but she borrowed it once.

I'm so glad I grew up to be the stylish and sophisticated lady you see here!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I have not forgotten you, blog! 

It's a very busy time for me at the library,  and that combined with a mysterious illness of mystery left me pretty unable to function for a while.  I'm feeling better and deep into Summer Reading planning--perhaps a little TOO deep, as I keep forgetting about programs that are going on right now!   I nearly didn't leave in time to pick up the pizza for today's TAC meeting!

Despite the Summer Reading plans being made, Winter Reading is still going!  I'd estimate that right now I have about 150 entries here at the main library, I have no idea how it's going at the branches yet.  They have until March 30th to turn in their slips, so I'm sure there will be many more.  My heavy cosplayers are vying for the $50 gift card so they can purchase costume supplies, but the Doctor Who and Manga themed prizes are popular as well.  At THIS building the Nerdfighter prize isn't doing as well, however I suspect it's more popular with my teens at the branches.  I hold all of my book clubs at the branches, so I've put time and energy into making Nerdfighters of those teens!

The really big news is that I have finally hired an intern!  The search for just the right person was long--I've been without since September.  Since I do purchasing and programming for three buildings, I have very much missed the extra help with all of the housekeeping things that need to get done.  I was searching for someone who had a genuine interest in working with teens, who was as different as possible from me (so that they would appeal to the teens that don't give a hoot about me), and who I thought could uphold the great casual atmosphere I've built here.  I think Mike will be a great fit--on his first day he taught me how to domesticate animals in Minecraft, so he's already been useful!

I've been learning the ins and outs of Minecraft, as I'm hoping to start a guild here this summer.  The teens have been a great help, as have the hours and hours and hours I have now spent playing that addictive game.  I think it will be awesome to play with the teens, but I'm still figuring out the best way to make it work for us.  The IT department is involved now, as I need a static IP address to run our server from. on. from. Right now my thoughts are that our server will be available during the after school hours for any teens that I put on the White List, and once a month or so we'll have specific challenges that they can compete in for prizes.  They won't have to even come to the library, they will be able to log on from home!  Virtual programs! The future is NOW!

Friday, February 22, 2013


It's Trivia night!  Last summer I had my first pub-style trivia night at the library and it was super fun--more fun than even the teens who showed up had anticipated.  This newsletter cycle I scheduled 4 different trivia nights--one at each building for teens as well as one for Young Adults (18-29).

Tonight I'll be at our North Branch, and I'm pretty excited about who has signed up.  Many of the teens who normally hang out at Main and South are signed up!  That's definitely a sign of a good program.  Another good sign is when you see teens you've never seen before.  Hopefully that happens, too!  It's snowing pretty hard here this morning though, I hope that it stops and the roads clear up so that everyone can make it.

I assume none of my teens know about this blog, so I'm going to post the questions I wrote here.  There is also a round where I show a famous painting and ask either who painted it or what it's called, and one where I show pictures of famous people and ask the teens to identify them.  Last time I used Kevin Bacon, Jenna Marbles, and our library director for that round.  They didn't know Kevin Bacon or the director, but they knew Jenna Marbles!  This time I chose Hilary Clinton, Psy, and Walt Disney.

Here are the questions! How many can you get right?

1)Which president was the first to be sworn in on live TV? He was the 33rd president.
2) Which president was the first to have a pet cat in the white house?
3)Who was the FIRST  first lady had both a husband and a son serve as president?
Famous African Americans:
1) This famous man developed 325 different products from peanuts.
2)This woman developed beauty products for African American women, eventually employing as many as 5000.
3) This man was the first African American supreme court justice:
Animal Nicknames:
1)What marine mammal is known as the “Sea Cow”
2)What kind of whale is known as the “Killer Whale”?
3) What is one of the mountain lion's multiple other names?
Vintage TV:
1)Name the three grown men who share a house in the show “Full House”
2)It was recently announced that this 90s show will soon be getting a re-boot revolving around the teenaged daughter of two of the main characters of the original show. What was the original show?
3)Name the show that centers around the patriarch of the Huxtable family.
Pop Culture:
1)How many members are in the band One Direction?
2)What is the first name of the butler in the anime/manga Black Butler?
3) What song is currently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list?
1)According to the recently celebrated Chinese New year, we have just entered the year of the what?
2)Name the Egyptian sun god
3) Who is the Norse god of Thunder?
1)Everyone knows J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books.  What does the J stand for?
2) Everyone knows J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings books.  What does the J stand for?
3) Everyone knows Lemony Snicket wrote The Series of Unfortunate Events.  But that’s just a pen name.  What is the author’s REAL name?
1) Who said, "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt"
2)What French Queen allegedly said “Let them eat cake”
3) “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads” comes from what movie?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Summertime and the livin' is FRANTIC AS HELL

Summer planning is starting hardcore this week.  I have a Teen Advisory Council meeting tomorrow night, and it's our last before I have to have the newsletter articles DONE.  That means it's all happening now. There's a lot getting in my way this year--uncertainty about whether I'll have an intern this summer, hatred of the theme, the suspicion that I have MONO and that's why I'm so tired.  And the biggest hurdle for me mentally--wondering how the heck I'm going to top last year.

Though I am the only YA librarian for three buildings, I'm lucky enough to have the funding for a paid intern to help me out for about 10 hours a week.  My previous intern has graduated and left the country, leaving some big shoes to fill.  The teens really related to him, and they miss him dearly, so any incoming intern is going to have to overcome some hurdles in bonding with the teens.  We posted the position several months ago, but I wasn't thrilled with the candidates.  They were all nice, but none of them had real enthusiasm for working with teens, and that's important for this sort of job.  Overall I came out of the interviews feeling like I'd have to put in more than I'd get out of the potential interns--a situation that just won't work here.  I need help, REAL HELP. I understand that a library student will have to learn everything, but the hope is that eventually they will be able to carry some real weight around here.  The most promising candidate already had a full time job that would not have allowed her to be here when I'd need her most.  We decided to postpone hiring until the Winter/Spring semester starts, but we haven't had any replies from qualified students.  No intern will mean fewer programs and fewer BIG programs, which will be disappointing both to me and to the community.

I'm making the bold decision this year to completely ignore the collaborative theme.  Every year I MOSTLY ignore it, but still use the name and some of the bad art. This year I'm not using any of it.  The teen theme always seems very slapped together last minute based on a loose tie to the children's theme.  My teens STILL make fun of past themes (Metamorphosis in particular), and so this year my theme is SUMMER READING.  Wild, I know.

 I'm a loner Dotie, a rebel.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shopping with other people's money

Buying books used to be my favorite part of the job, but I admit that it's become a little overwhelming.  It seems like every year there's more to choose from, but my budget certainly isn't getting any larger.  I purchase the YA books for all of our three buildings--I took on the third building in December--so I do my best to stretch the budgets as far as I can by not duplicating much between buildings.  Having to put things on hold is a drag, but for now I think it's important to have as many TOTAL TITLES available as possible.  Obviously there are some books we'll need to have a duplicates of-- we've got 4 copies of Divergent and Insurgent and something like 23 copies of The Hunger Games.

Because my budget is so limited I have to pass up on a lot of books that I'd like to give a chance.  It's also extra disappointing when I give a book a shot and it doesn't do well.  I run reports and talk to teens and try to figure out what will do best at each building, but it's not a perfect science.  There are some things I know to avoid--historical fiction doesn't do well in any of my buildings (authors, take note).  I buy a few here and there, because I know the local schools still do genre specific assignments, but that's the only time they get read. For the most part I just steer the teens towards the shelf of Ann Rinaldi books, which still do okay compared to other historical fiction.

Sometimes when I'm weeding in the teen areas, I notice that the alphabet leans heavily toward the first half.  You can almost tell, alphabetically, when I get tired of reading VOYA.  Today I'm tackling the February issue backwards, hopefully I'll catch a few good ones that I would have missed before. 

The top books from our"New" teen fiction collection right now:
Catching Fire (still "new" because I haven't SEEN the books to take them off)
Defiance (Redwine)
Shadows (Bick)
Underworld (Cabot)
Until I Die (Plum)
My Life Next Door (Fitzpatrick)
Rapture (Kate)
Hemlock (Peacock)
UnWholly (Shusterman)
Ultimate Comics the Ultimates V. 1 (Hickman)
The Dark Angel Saga 2 (Remender)

We haven't had it very long yet, but I'm glad to see that Rookie Yearbook 1 is doing well, too. It's gone out twice already and it's been available less than a month.  (The books on the list have gone out at least 5 times in the last 3 months, and the Manga collection is never "new" or else the list would have been exclusively Manga!)

If you work with teens, I'd love to know what's popular at your library right now

Monday, February 11, 2013

A gash, a rash, and purple bumps.

Last week had some flops and successes.  The flops were all due to injury or illness--Swing Dancing was cancelled because one instructor was out of town and the other managed to gash/burn his leg with some sort of saw (I have learned not to ask too many questions when it comes to him!).  I was out sick Thursday and Friday--D&D happened Thursday without me, but Friday's Anime Club did not.

Still, not a wasted week.  The teens have come up with their own crazy club, the Extremely Great Club for Geeks.  They created it on their own but I made it an official library program so that I can do my best to find them space to meet so that they don't cause the rest of the librarians and library patrons too much stress.  They are great kids, but when  you've got more than 3 or 4 teens together things tend to get noisy, and there were 20 or so here for the meeting.

I happened to have another program going on on Wednesday night, so I roped them into participating.  One of our youth librarians organized having the library make valentines for patients at a local hospital.  Each branch had a kid's program to make them, and I had a teen program at the main library.  Only about 3 people showed up specifically to make valentines, but when I combined them with the 20 already there it ended up being quite a party.  Two tables full of teenage boys studiously making valentines is maybe one of the cutest things I've ever seen.  I should have taken photos of some of them, but they get nervous when the camera is out!

I hope the Extremely Great Club for Geeks keeps going.  Our Anime Club hasn't been doing so well, I think because of the mix of younger teens and older teens. This summer I'm going to try splitting them up for some programs and seeing how that goes--probably 6th, 7th, and 8th grades together, and high school together.  I don't blame the older teens for not wanting to hang around with the sixth graders, but it's going to make a lot of extra work for me.  Oh well, being extremely busy is one of the joys of teenbrarianship!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winter Reading

Winter Reading started yesterday!  The system I work for has always done Winter Reading for kids, and last year I decided that teens should do it too.  This program doesn't get nearly the participation that Summer Reading does, and that's fine.  It's a chance to have some fun and give out some prizes.  I've found that teens prefer a chance at a super awesome prize to definitely getting some small crappy thing, so Winter Reading gives them a chance at one of 4 really awesome prizes.  Last year they got an entry into whichever drawing they chose for each hour they read.  This year I'm trying out a BINGO sheet at the urging of my Teen Advisory Council.  I tried to make it easy and fun and a little weird.  There are 3 different sheets at the moment, but I might make one or two more as the program goes on (they've got until the end of March).  They get one drawing entry for each BINGO they get, and they can enter as many times as they want.  I tried to make sure the sheets had a few squares that encouraged them to poke around the website and facebook page, talk to random librarians, email me, and come to programs.  Here's the front and back of one of the sheets:

Other sheets encourage emailing me the best joke you know, reading a book from a list of my favorites, reading in public, and other random things.  I gave them out to the teens at book club yesterday, and they thought they were funny. Mission accomplished!

I made three great prize bundles based on specific themes that I know my teens are into, and also gave a CASH option for the teens who aren't as nerdy/awesome as the ones I interact with most often.  Here's the prize poster:

I can't wait to see which one is the most popular.  Last year it was The Hunger Games themed prize by a landslide,  but my teens have informed me that they are way over it, so I skipped it this time.  I was a little bummed I couldn't get a signed copy of TFiOS, but there's no way I'm giving mine up! (It's signed AND hanklerfished!)

I am extremely lucky in my funding (thanks, FotL!), but this could easily be adapted for a smaller budget.  Teens will do anything for candy or cash. 
Another week of SO MANY PROGRAMS!

The first Monday of every month is the Pizza and Paperbacks meeting at our North Branch.  This month we were discussing The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, a book I hadn't read before selecting it and which I couldn't even slog all the way through.  That's one of the beautiful things about such an informal book club, they're encouraged to hate the book if they hate the book.  They know if they don't finish it for whatever reason they can still come, and they know maybe the next book will be more their style.   A couple of them liked it, but only one said he liked it enough that he would read the next book in the series.

I run this book club VERY casually.  I don't come in with questions prepared, I just start by saying "so, what did you all think?"  and we go wherever the conversation takes us.  Most of them didn't care for this book, and discussing why definitely encourages them to think about things like pacing and writing style.  One things we've noticed as a group is that if an author uses too many exclamation points we tend not to like the book.  Yesterday one of the ladies mentioned that she didn't like the character name "Sophie", and she feels like it's overused in YA books.  So we stopped to investigate why an author might use that name, and looked up what the name means.  Looking up "Sophie" and "Joshua", another main character's name, led us to believe that the names HAD been chosen on purpose.  You don't need to beat them over the head with the idea of symbolism--that one quick moment taught them another place to look for it.

There was a program scheduled for today--Swing Dancing for Young Adults (ages 18-29), but it's been cancelled.  The instructor burned the heck out of his leg somehow.  It's good news for me, because if we were having the program I'd be working 8:30AM-8PM today.  Instead I get to go babysit the cutest baby in the history of babies.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Though it's snowing today there's not enough on the ground for the Snowman Building Contest I'd scheduled for today.  We schedule months in advance, so I picked today just based on the fact that I would be scheduled to work today.  We'll try again in two weeks!  There weren't many people signed up, so I don't know how well it would have gone, but a few of them were unfamiliar names.  I love to see unfamiliar names signed up for things.  I've got a great core group of teens, but I want more!

Yesterday I was off and starting to feel the pressure from all of the things I have going on right now.  A few emails and some quick poster design work and I'm ahead of the game again, though.  Just needed to actually GET those things done instead of putting them off.  I'm running our first ever Battle of the Books, and it starts Monday to coincide with our Winter Reading program.

What's that you say? Isn't Battle of the Books a thing for younger readers, not teens?  Yes, indeed it is.  Now and then I step in and do youth programs when I see a gap in our programming that no one else is willing to fill.  Someone mentioned that we should have a BotB, and I loved the idea, and so it's my project now.  It's for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, so this will be a good way for some future teens to get to know me!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Did a little weeding today.  I'm hoping to move things around in the teen room.  We've been struggling to find the best way to use the poorly designed space for years.

Most of the teen audio that gets a lot of use is the stuff that is either SUPER popular or is assigned at school, and I think that even in those cases the audio is only checked out as a last resort.  A lot of sci-fi and fantasy series go out, but I know for sure that those are mostly going home with adults.  When an item costs $50 and I'm calling 5-6 lifetime circs "good" I know there's a problem.

I tend to buy audiobooks as an afterthought--three or four big carts a year--and I often delegate the task to an intern (if I have one).  In the future I'll keep it to myself, there are definitely some rookie mistakes in that pile.  Things I would have known better to buy, and even a few instances where we owned the audio book but not the book proper.  I wouldn't think to tell an intern to check if we had the book first, because it seems so obvious to ME.  A good reminder for myself, since I will hopefully be hiring a shiny new intern in a month or so.

As I weeded away, I started to consider the idea of interfiling audiobooks with print books in the teen room.  It wouldn't work for adults or children, where people browse the collection, but I don't think the teens browse for audiobooks.  I might give it a try for six months and see how it goes if I can make it work in the space.  What do you think?

The Snowy Day

Slow programming week as we gear up for Winter Reading, which starts next Monday.  I have the writer's group tonight, D&D tomorrow, and then a snowman building contest on Saturday, if we have any snow.  It was in the 50s here today though so I wont be surprised if that one doesn't happen! 

I've finally finished my Winter Reading BINGO sheets, all that's left to do is make the prize posters.  I'll share it all when I have everything together!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Whatcha Mean What's a Zine?

There's something brewing in the library world, a backlash against the buzzwords and the cutting edge and the movin' and shakin', and a discussion about core services and the daily grind is starting to emerge.   Julie  got things started with her great post about who gets recognized in this field, and Valerie renewed our annoyance with her story about being cut from M&S for fuzzy reasons.  I definitely will look at this year's list with much more scrutiny after reading her story.

A few days ago on Twitter I said, "I'm going to start a journal called "reviews and advice for actual librarians who are busy doing shit"  and was surprised at how many people immediately said they'd read or contribute to such a thing.

You've caught me at a good time, internet.  I'm very into DOING things lately.  I even joined a parade planning committee a few weeks ago.  So you know what? Let's do it.  I jokingly said we should make a Zine, and I kinda like that idea.  So send me things.  Tidbits, articles, blog posts you've written that you want to share with some others.  I'll put them all together once a month and send it out or post it somewhere (still working on details, but probably just a Blogger blog so we can comment and hilarity can ensue) so we can swap ideas and share in victories and defeats that have to do more with the everyday business of the library and less to do with the theoretical or lofty.

Here's what I'd love to see for the first "issue":
Summer Reading stuff.  Program ideas, how to work with the weird themes, etc etc
"How To" info for a program you did and loved
Colossal Failures
Book Reviews of old and new books, in whatever style you like
Reviews of products or services you use at work
What you did at storytime this week/your favorite songs for movement in ST
Anything you want to share, especially if it is something that might save someone else some time or give them a laugh.

Keep it simple, informative, and awesome. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Secret

By now you might be getting the idea that my secret is hard work and dedication.  That's the only way this works!  You've got to spend time with your local teens, let them get to know and trust you.  You've got to listen to their ideas and try things even when you are pretty sure they aren't going to work.

Today I just have one program--a teen gaming event with a Pokemon theme.  We'll see how it goes.  At my library gaming has really gone out of style, but I usually throw in one or two gaming events in each newsletter cycle just in case.  I've found that having a theme sometimes helps--our last Pokemon day went well, and a Retro Games day went pretty well also.  This newsletter cycle I've got today's event and another one in a couple of months where we're going to break out my new Kinect and play Just Dance.  There's already at least one teen here for the program (it starts at 3, but I'm on desk until 3).  If it's just her and I, we'll eat Doritos and gossip and come up with ideas for EGCG (Extraordinarily Great Club for Geeks) and the afternoon will not be a waste.  Numbers aren't everything--though that's another post for another day.

Hard work, dedication, PROGRAM PROGRAM PROGRAM.  Other than the holiday Monday, this was a pretty normal school week, and I had 6 programs.  Am I so exhausted that I can't WAIT to get home and eat Chinese food while watching The West Wing?  Yes.  Is it worth it? YES.

The Very Busy Spider

I've been trying to update about my programs as they happen, but this week has been super busy.  Monday went well, with about 15 teens coming to hang out and/or play D&D all day.  They actually really buckled down and played--usually there's a fair amount of wandering the library, but it seems that the most serious players were the ones who showed up for the marathon.   I left them in one conference room while I hung out in the other with the ladies, who proposed a new club based on an idea I had a while ago.  They have been discouraged by Anime Club lately, and want something a little broader.  I told them, jokingly, that we should just have a Nerd Club for all nerdy teens to gather and geek out.  They ran with it, and created a FB event for The Especially Great Club for Geeks and gave it the following description:

"This is a club for nerds and geeks of all kinds! Whether you're into anime, comics, video games, or British television; we want you here.
Bring your friends! There will be contests, trivia, and many more fun activities. Yes, there will be food. (Feel free to bring your own beverages and snacks. The more the merrier!)"

The club had their first meeting Wednesday, since I had already booked the auditorium for that evening.  From 4-6 about 20 teens hung out eating chips and playing Apples to Apples while this video played on a loop.  Sometimes the teens really just need a space, and they really will make their own fun.  It's so important to give them some breathing room--many of my programs are pretty unstructured, because I've found that when I expect them to sit down and do something specific they often lose interest pretty quickly. 

I had the auditorium reserved for Wednesday evening because it was supposed to be Young Adult Trivia Night.   I have started doing "Young Adult" programs (for ages 18-29) at the request of the people who USED to be teens but have since grown up.  Unfortunately, they haven't been as popular as I'd have hoped.  I ended up opening trivia night up to all ages, and a lively group of about a dozen teens and young adults had a great time.

We play pub style.  Usually 8-10 rounds, with 3 questions in each round.  I ask a question, and they write down the answer on a slip of paper and assign it either 1, 2, or 3 points.  You can only use each point value once per round.  They have the length of one song to answer the question and bring me the paper.  Simple!  I write the questions myself and try to use a wide variety of topics.  It is important that you tell them before you start that they have to put their phones away, or one team will raaaather suspiciously know that the 13th president was Millard Fillmore.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A little competition is a good way to get people excited to go to work, so long as it's all in good fun.  Many years ago, a coworker and I realized we disagreed on one of the really important things in life:  The proper way to prepare the delicious snack known as Puppy Chow.  I've recently learned that puppy chow is a regional thing, so if you haven't had it before you should definitely give it a try.  Essentially you melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter together, add a little vanilla and then pour it over cereal.  Mix it up, dump it in a bag, throw in a bunch of powdered sugar, shake.  It's one of those "looks gross, tastes amazing" things.

Our disagreement had to do with which cereal one should use.  She maintains that one should always use Chex, whereas I am a strong supporter of the larger air pocket created when using Crispix.   After years of feuding and a bad week last week, I finally threw down the challenge.  We'd each make a batch and then have our coworkers try both and vote.

Everyone was MORE than happy to help us solve this important dispute.  The verdict?  Crispix by a landslide!  Bragging rights are mine! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

I don't work in the sort of library that closes just because everything else is closed, so I'm at work today.  The schools are closed, though, and so the teens will start rolling in as soon as they wake up.

In anticipation, I reserved two of our meeting rooms--one for a D&D marathon and the other in case some of the other teens want to get a second D&D game going, and if they don't I'll let them use the room as a hub today, a place to hang out and eat pizza and make a little more noise than they could up in our teen room. All it will cost me is pizza money and some of my stockpile of pop and snacks, and will earn me major points both with the teens who need somewhere to go and the other librarians who don't want to have to shush them all day.  It's a win all around.

We're also broadcasting the inauguration in our auditorium, and I can't help but hope that they will head over there and watch a little. 

Anyone reading this probably knows about the financial struggles of libraries and library staff.  I love the system I work for, but we're not immune--we haven't had raises in years, we started having to contribute to our healthcare, and that payroll tax holiday has ended.  I don't grumble too much, but it does mean we're making less and less each year.  We try to keep spirits up around here with jeans days and funny contests.  Today a coworker and I are making everyone participate in settling a long-standing feud between us, and I'm excited both for the inevitable thrill of victory and to have a little something fun going on today.  Details and pictures when she FINALLY GETS HERE.