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.

Friday, January 18, 2013

After a long week, we all need some pizza

It has been a tough week for me, professionally.   I'll skip the details, but you know how a workplace that's mostly women can be super stereotypical sometimes?  Essentially that.

This morning I wasn't looking forward to going to work, even though I had a pretty pleasant day lined up.  I went in a couple of hours late (the teenbrarian always has comp time) and spent the afternoon doing a pretty harsh weed at our smallest branch.  At 4 it was time for my Pizza and Paperbacks book club.

I do this program at both of our branches now, but it started when I was the FT youth librarian at the South branch, where I was today.  It is an idea stolen from an existing youth program---a book club where teens  get a NEW copy of a book TO KEEP so long as they keep showing up on the third Friday of the month to discuss it.  I got a grant to cover the expense of the books and pizza for each meeting for the first few years, this year it's funded by the FotL.  I wasn't sure how it would go over at first, but it turned out that the teens in that area really want exactly this sort of program.  A great group of teens started coming pretty regularly and I have a core group of about 15 or so.  They are a rowdy and diverse group, and we often run over the hour I'd planned by half an hour or more.  A couple of boys in the group liked it so much that they kept coming for the first few months of their first year of college. 

The key thing here is to make it as unlike school as possible.   I go in the room with nothing more than some scrap paper to write down books, websites, and other things that they mention being into.  No list of discussion questions or anything like that.  I start with, "so, what did you think?" and we go from there.  At the first meeting, someone asked if I was going to be picking books from "some list of books teenagers are supposed to read".  My answer was something along the lines of "no way, I'm totally just making you read the books I like!" and that's how it's gone.  We quickly made it through my favorites, and their favorites, and a few books that we went into blindly that none of us had read yet but I'd heard were good.  They almost always all actually read the book, and they aren't afraid to tell me if they hate it.  The best months are always the ones where some LOVED it and some HATED it.  We're all in agreement about one book though: Twilight SUCKED.

Today though,  I just wasn't feeling it.  I was tired and looking forward to the weekend and not in the mood for teenagers.  And then they started to arrive, and the rest of the week lifted off of me and I remembered that no matter what is going on behind the scenes at the library, THIS is what matters.  They loved the book this month, they wanted to tell me about their exams and their excitement about having a half day today, they were excited I got BREADSTICKS with the pizza.  I'm entering year four of this book club, and many of the people who came to the first meeting are still coming.

And now I'm home, ready to unwind from the week with a cup of tea and my cat.  I'm going into it from a place of happiness and satisfaction though, instead of one of exhaustion and grump.

This is an expensive program, to be sure, but for the first three years I was lucky enough to get a grant from Walmart which pretty much completely covered it.  If you haven't tried to get a grant from them before, I suggest you do!  The process has gotten much easier, it is now completely online.  This year they turned me down, but I think it's probably just because I'd already gotten it 3 years in a row.  I will try again next year!

Off the top of my head, for those who may be interested, here are some of the books we have read over the past several years:

Divergent (that was the one we discussed today!)
The Hunger Games
The Monstrumologist
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
Paper Towns
An Abundance of Katherines
Will Grayson Will Grayson
Looking for Alaska
The Glassmaker's Daughter (we managed an author visit for this one!)
Stuck in Neutral (with phone visit with Terry Trueman!)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
The Merchant of Death
The Mysterious Benedict Society
This Dark Endeavor
Ender's Game
City of Bones
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Coraline (the graphic novel)
Hate List
If I Stay

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dungeons & Dragons & Donuts

There's a teen program happening in the library RIGHT NOW and I'm not even in the room.  Does the idea terrify you?  A couple of years ago I wouldn't have entertained the thought, but it turns out that if you give a few of your problem teens some real responsibilities that a lot of you behavior issues vanish.

I stole the idea of having a D&D night from fellow local teenbrarian and good friend Kricket (my co-presenter at the conference a few months ago and usual travel companion for TCAF).  I scheduled a once-a-month night and roped a couple of my older teens into being DMs.  I went to the first meeting and made a character, figuring that if it was a small group I might need to play.  By the next meeting they were over a dozen strong, had split into two different games, and wanted to meet EVERY Thursday, not just once a month.

There have been a few bumps--one of my DMs got a job and a girlfriend and his game-the one all of the older teens played-had a dramatic falling out.  But the younger teens stayed, and their game has continued to grow under the leadership of a teen who is a conspiracy theorist and thus would rather I not share his name.

The problem with their desire to meet so often is that I simply cannot be in the room with them every Thursday night for 3 hours.  And so while I am at the reference desk they are tucked away in our activity room with the knowledge that so long as I can't hear them they are free to swear and play a violently gory game of D&D.  I stick my head in now and then to make sure everyone is literally alive (though often their characters are not) and nobody's upset.  Generally they are just fine, munching away on donuts and slaying dragons.  Their parents couldn't be happier.  In some cases some VERY awkward boys have just found the group of friends they've always wanted, and I suspect these guys (and a few girls!) will be around the library for years to come.

I am so, so happy I didn't have to continue to play after that first meeting.  I sometimes snag a donut though. 

Already Guest Posting Elsewhere

Want the secrets of my SRP?  Or maybe to see what I look like in a jaunty bow tie?  Wander over to Miss Julie's blog and check me out:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Unconventional Undertakings

Teenbrarians have to be experts in a number of bizarre things.  Where's the best local pizza place willing to give a good deal for bulk orders?  Which candy varieties have been processed in a plant that also processes things with nuts?  Is that 438 volume boarding school mystery series finished? What about the spinoffs?

Conventional conventions usually throw in a few teen things but really focus on either youth or adult services.  The exception, of course, is the YALSA convention, but for most of us traveling out of state is not really an option. The year that I went it was awesome and fun and useful, but it was expensive and most of the costs came out of my pocked--though my employer covered registration.  So I'm always on the lookout for things that are local or somewhere I can talk a few friends into roadtripping to where I can pick up some weird or interesting skills.

A small, cheap example is the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.  It's a bit of a hike for me, but a couple of friends and I go every year.  It's in the Toronto Reference and Research Library and admission is free.  Last year there was a "Librarians and Educators" day before the festival proper started, and we got to meet and hear from some artists and booksellers about graphic novels.  It's a great chance to get to meet your favorite webcomic and graphic novel artists.  This is where I've been able to meet Lucy Knisley, Kate Beaton, Ryan North, David Malki, Raina Telgemeier, and many many more awesome people.

A big, expensive (but totally worth it if you are a nerd and this is the sort of thing you want to do on vacation) example is BEA.  This is in NYC every year, and is a publishing event, but there's definitely a librarian presence.  Since my BFF lives in New York, the year I went I had a free place to stay, and again my library managed the registration fee.  I had to get myself there and keep myself fed and watered.  All of the major publishers are there showing off their upcoming books, and TONS of big name authors are there doing formal signings and generally wandering around.  Here I got to meet Maureen Johnson and see Nancy Pearl get interviewed by the guys from Unshelved. It's a magical place where people just talk about BOOKS, which was refreshing and really awesome.  I'd love to go again, and really wish I could go every year.

Up next?  C2E2 in April.  Again I'm getting myself there and staying with a friend, but my library will let me count the time as work time, so I don't have to use vacation.  I'll get to sit in on panels and talk books and nerd stuff and have an awesome time while prancing around in a wedding dress like the right fool I am.  I can't wait.  So many opportunities for professional connections and knowledge I didn't even know I needed are there!

*I recognize I should go back and make a lot of things links.  But you know what? You're an intellectually curious person with the ability to google shit yourself.  Also, you look GREAT today.

Profesh Presenting

I hadn't gone to a professional conference in a while.  Michigan has two annually that should interest me in theory--the Spring Institute which has a focus on children's "stuff" with a side of teen business, and the annual conference which is for all kinds of librarians.  I've gone to both in the past, and even when I was a shiny new librarian I had a feeling that I wasn't being told anything I didn't already know.  How many times could I be told that I could use a cookie sheet as a magnet board during storytime?  I am lucky enough to work in a building that has a magnet board, so this info wasn't particularly helpful the first time, nevermind the second and third.  So I stopped going, and instead looked for more unconventional opportunities.

The offerings about teen stuff were often similar.  "Your library should have graphic novels!" the presenter will say.  Yes, right. We do.  Lots of them.  "Video Games!  IN THE LIBRARYOMG!"  uhhh, yup.  Weren't we in Library Journal when we started doing that nearly 10 years ago?  I know that these things are probably new and crazy ideas for some libraries, but for a lot of us they aren't.  I realized that I wanted to hear from EXPERTS in the field, people who were doing NEW and interesting things, who had teens like mine who are ravenous for things to do at the library.  And then I realized...maybe I can't learn from a lot of presenters because I AM an expert at this.  It was quite a moment, in terms of grownupness.

And so I recruited a friend and we put together a proposal and it was accepted.  We figured out our talking points, made our Power Point presentation, and rehearsed together.  The day of our presentation we were nervous, but excited to talk about our amazing library teens to the two or three people we figured would show up.  We called our presentation Beyond Duct Tape: Programming for Todays Teens.   When our presentation started, it was standing room only.  Turns out we weren't the only ones looking for more.  People took notes, asked great questions, and stayed well over the allotted time.  We've gotten follow up emails.  It was amazing.

I started the presentation by saying "The first year I was the FT teen librarian, the summer reading program had about 200 participants.  The second year, which was the first year I planned it myself, we have about 440.  Last year I had 660 teens do my summer reading program.  I know what I'm talking about."

And I do.  I don't know how I got so lucky that this is what I get to do professionally, but it's become obvious that it's what I was meant for, and that is the real secret to my success.  Other, lesser secrets, are pizza and candy. 

Crap, I gave them all away!

Totes Profesh

How many times have I started and not kept up with a blog?  At least a dozen if you count Geocities sites created while I was in high school.  This is the first time I've tried to blog about my professional life, though.  As I settle into this job, I finally feel like I'm in a place where I have something to say about the profession and my roll in it, after a few years of finding my role within my organization.  Welcome.