Library Programs

Winnie the Pooh Party

I love hosting popular character parties, and in January 2019 I was able to celebrate one of my favorite characters of all time–Winnie the Pooh.

I planned to begin the program by reading a Winnie the Pooh book, but as I looked through the titles we owned, none were really great for a read aloud for preschoolers. After bouncing like Tiggers and talking about Winnie the Pooh, I sent attendees to complete activities.

We regrouped about 20 minutes into the program to play Winnie the Pooh BINGO.

Activity stations included:

  • Craft: Pooh and Friends Headbands
  • Game: Pin the Tail on Eeyore
  • Scavenger Hunt: Count the Bees
  • Obstacle Course: Catch the Heffalump

Pooh BINGO

About 20 minutes into the program, we all played Winnie the Pooh BINGO. We play a few rounds until everyone wins.

Since most of our audience was younger (ages 2-4), these boards only require four in a row to earn a BINGO. BINGO boards can be downloaded above.

BINGO winners received a Winnie the Pooh Activity book, downloadable below. These were printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper to create a foldable booklet.

Honey Pot Bags

At many of my party programs, kids create or earn a variety of small trinkets. I learned early on that this turns into parents having a variety of items to carry around and kids leaving items they made all over the place (possibly resulting in tears or arguments later). To help with this, I provide a bag for each child.

These bags, while adorable, were way too much work to make. The dripping honey was cut by hand out of yellow cardstock, and the letters were printed on yellow vinyl by our Cricut. The other side of the bag included a white label with space for kids (or parents) to write their name.

Pooh & Friends Headbands

Kids could make a headband to wear based on their preferred character–Pooh, Piglet, or Tigger. Attendees practiced scissor skills and built finger muscles cutting out ears, and parents and teen volunteers assisted with stapling headbands together.

Pin the Tail on Eeyore

Just like it sounds–kids played Pin the Tail on Eeyore. Eeyore and tails were printed on our library banner printer by our marketing department. After winning, they received a Winnie the Pooh sticker (bought off Amazon).

Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

Thirty-two bumblebees were hidden around our meeting rooms. Kids went on a hunt to find as many bees as they could. If they counted a number 25 or higher, they received a Winnie the Pooh bookmark.

Download scavenger hunt sheet below:

Download prize bookmarks below:

Catch the Heffalump Obstacle Course

Participants could complete an age-appropriate “Catch the Heffalump” obstacle course. Kids crossed Pooh Stick’s bridge, crawled into Rabbit’s House (tunnel), dug through Eeyore’s Gloomy Place to find his tail, bounced with Tigger, and completed exercises with Pooh.

Pooh Books & Materials

As always at programs, I included a variety of appropriate library materials. Kids and parents sat and read Winnie the Pooh books. During the event (except during BINGO), the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh played on the large screen. Many families took Pooh materials home.

Book Talk – 5th Grade Reads

My library has a fantastic relationship with our local school district. We regularly partner with teachers, principals, and entire school buildings in variety of ways, from daily public library delivery and end of year summer reading assemblies to quarterly book talk and storytime visits.

I love book talking in classrooms–it gives me an opportunity to talk to a captive room of kids about the library, but it also provides me with a chance to talk to students about what they want to see their library offer and about the kind of books they really like. It also gives me a chance to show that yes I have read the newest Dog Man, and I can discuss the evolution of Petey’s character throughout the series. No, librarians don’t just say shush and only read the “classics” you are forced to read in school, thank you very much random Westerville third grader.

Our book talks vary from school to school and classroom to classroom, but on average we talk to 50-100 kids at a time, typically all of the students in one grade at that school, for about 30 minutes. I bring along a PowerPoint that includes visuals to help students see the books that I am holding up (especially in those rooms with 100+ kids). We all bring bookmarks for each student with the cover of the books we are highlighting as well as information about library services and upcoming programs.

Selecting Books

My powerpoint for this week’s fifth grade presentation is displayed above. A lot of these books overlap books I would recommend to fourth graders, as we are still at the beginning of the school year.

I am very particular about how I curate the collection of books I select for a particular book talk. Our marketing team recently revamped the bookmarks we distribute at these visits, so we have to present either 6 or 9 books. My ideal 30 minute book talk is 7-8 books, but I am settling into book talking 9 titles each time I visit.

Each of my book talk collections must include:

  • Fiction and nonfiction (typically 5 fiction and 4 nonfiction)
  • At least 2 graphic novels, preferably at least 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction
  • At least 1 book with a male main character
  • At least 1 book with a female main character
  • At least 2 books with diverse main characters (preferably more)
  • At least 1 school story/realistic fiction title
  • At least 1 fantasy/science-fiction title
  • I have to have read every title.

I also like to include at least one creepy book, one book with cute things (often animals), and, for grades 2-3, one book about poop or farts. These requirements are more personal preference than standards I hold myself to.

Some books can overlap many of these categories–for example, The New Kid by Jerry Craft is one of my favorite book talkers, and that book has a diverse male main character, is a graphic novel, and is a school story.

I focus on selecting books that are good but that are also books kids will like. The Gamer Squad series is definitely not going to win any awards, but Pokemon Go is still quite popular where I live, and the kids respond positively to that series. I want to see kids reading, and I want to connect them with a book that actually sounds appealing to them. In my experience, kids pick up fun, new books with situations they can relate to than books that are beating the reader over the head with “important topics” or books that I remember from my childhood (which are often outdated and sometimes filled with problematic plots–Maniac Magee, anyone?).

5th Grade Reads

This particular book talk was designed for 85 5th Graders during their first quarter in school. After talking about library services and upcoming programs, I book talked the following nine titles:

I’m not going to type my book talk blurb for all of these (because this post is already pretty long), but my spiel for my favorite is below. This is also a great book to promote in October in general.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

If there was ever a perfect book talk title, this is it. It is the perfect combination of horror and mystery, with an excellent cliffhanger to leave students wanting more.

Ollie is riding her bike home from school, when she finds a strange woman yelling by a river. The woman is holding a book and threatening to throw it into the river. Ollie likes books and manages to distract the woman long enough to rescue the book and ride away. When she gets home, she discovers the book is a little strange–it is called “Small Spaces” and appears to be a diary about two brothers from a long time ago who loved the same woman. One of the brothers dies, and the other brother makes a deal with a smiling man to bring him back to life.

Ollie shrugs the creepy story and goes to school the next day. Her class is going on a field trip to a local farm. Things start to get strange. Ollie discovers that the woman who runs the farm is the same woman she saw by the river. While wandering on the property, Ollie discovers three hidden gravestones, with the same names as the two brothers and the woman from the book she rescued. Even stranger yet, their substitute bus driver is very odd–he just keeps repeating “avoid large spaces, stick to small.” Over and over and over again.

Ollie is relieved to leave the farm with her class, but as they drive away, their bus starts to slow down and eventually breaks down. It is getting darker, and no one’s cell phones have a signal. Their teacher decides to walk back to the farm to get help. It keeps getting darker and foggier, and the bus driver just keeps saying “avoid large spaces, stick to small.”

Ollie is very nervous now. She glances down at her digital watch. This watch is very important to her–her mom was wearing it when she died a year ago, and Ollie has been wearing it ever since. The kids on the bus are being loud–their teacher is gone after all–and no else seems to notice that it is much too dark and much too foggy for early evening. Ollie looks down at the cracked screen of her digital watch, and instead of numbers, it shows one word: RUN.

So she does.

(Insert gasps from the entire classroom here, followed by groans as I tell them to pick up the book.)

Book talking is a great way to help alert students and teachers to awesome new titles they might be interested in (I’ve had two teachers use Small Spaces as a classroom read after my book talk). It is also a fun way to show kids that libraries are more than books and librarians don’t just read the stuffy books kids associate with classroom assignments–we read the fun stuff too, and we enjoy them (I am the first hold on every new Dog Man release). It is extremely rewarding for everyone when a kid stops by the library specifically to ask for books a librarian brought to their classroom, and then sees that same librarian while they are visiting. They can chat about all kinds of awesome books and programs and topics–and, hopefully, that kid leaves thinking of the library as a welcoming place filled with interesting books and people.

Make & Take Crafternoon

A few times a year, I offer a Make & Take Crafternoon program for our patrons. While this is designed for ages 6+ (some crafts with small pieces are included), this is a family event with a variety of crafting opportunities. This is also a great chance for us to clean out old supplies that have been sitting in our cabients.

While this isn’t my best attended event, it is simpler than most, involving a few stations and teen volunteer help.

At this month’s crafternoon, my activities included:

  • Button Makers (2.25″ and 1″)
  • 3Doodlers
  • Perler Beads
  • Random Craft Corner

Visitors could move between any of the stations as they liked over the 1 hour and 15 minute program. Anything they made they got to keep.

Button Makers

While our button makers are normally quite popular, they didn’t receive much use during this program. One teen volunteer managed both our 1″ and 2.25″ button makers, both from American Button Machines.

These machines have definitely been worth their relatively high cost. We use the machines as a creation station in programs, and we use the buttons we make as incentives to stop by the library during the summer, prizes for passive activities, and giveaways at large events.

I have a ton of templates with cute button images as well as blank templates that allow kids to design their own buttons. I also put out magazines for kids to find their own images in, but these have not been very popular at my last few programs.

3Doodlers

Our 3Doodlers didn’t get too much use at this event. Typically, they are the star of the show. These amazing pens print a warm plastic that can be molded into any shape before it hardens. While it isn’t recommended you draw on your skin, the pen tip and plastic are never hot enough to burn you. They are great for practicing dexterity and patience for elementary school students, and older kids can make some pretty amazing creations.

Perler Beads

Perler Beads were the most popular activity this week! I was surprised to see the interest, but almost every attendee made at least one Perler Bead creation, with many being quite elaborate, and some involving over 200 beads!

We had an adult volunteer manage the iron. Attendees were welcome to copy templates out of beadcraft books, off of internet images, or to make whatever they could imagine.

Random Craft Corner

I always like putting out random craft supplies, as this gives kids the freedom to make anything they would like. While the 3Doodlers and button makers often attract attention, many kids will gravitate towards the hodgepodge of materials to make something simple (like a bracelet) or something more elaborate, like a sock puppet with two heads. We recently had a large donation of empty Pringles cans, and those were the star of the random craft materials this time.

Make & Take Crafternoon is a fun program for me–it is simple to put together with what we have on hand, promotes family engagement, and helps clear out our craft closet. A win all around!

Pokemon Party

There is nothing quite like the Pokemon fandom. Pokemon love spans all ages–from preschoolers to grown-ups. There is a huge Pokemon following at my library, and this year’s Pokemon event was no exception, with 150 folks coming together to celebrate.

My unregistered fandom programs over the summer typically include three core elements: group trivia, group BINGO, and a variety of crafts and games that folks can participate in at anytime. The annual Pokemon Party involves a few additional items, including raffle/door prizes as well as a ton of snacks. I normally avoid food in programs, but at each Pokemon event, I have groups of kids who bring binders of trading cards and sit with other kids for the entire two hours. The snacks are meant for them but are available for everyone.

Trivia & BINGO

Trivia and BINGO are optional for whoever wants to participate. Trivia is difficult intentionally, with prizes for the Pokemon trivia experts. Everyone who participates gets a sticker, but our top three trivia masters get to pick from some nicer themed prizes (in order from highest to lowest score).

The program outline and all trivia questions are in the below powerpoint:

BINGO is for everyone. We continue to play until everyone has gotten a BINGO. For many of our youngest players, this is their first ever BINGO game! When someone gets a BINGO, they bring their board to the front of the room and get to reach into a mystery bag filled with tiny Pokemon figurines. One prize-winning BINGO per person.

I got my BINGO boards free from The Eco Friendly Family, and using the extra boards provided, created enough boards to have 50 players at once.

3Doodlers & Button Makers

I use our library tech whenever possible, especially at fandom party programs. The 3Doodler pens made an appearance, with outlines of various Pokemon to trace (Pikachu was the favorite).

Our 2.25″ button maker was also available, with a teen volunteer helping kids make as many buttons as they would like.

Pokeball Ping Pong Balls

This is my third Pokemon event, and I am always on the hunt for new crafts. One of this year’s addition was ping pong balls with sharpies and pictures of Pokeballs. Kids could color their own Pokeballs, with clear rules that they couldn’t throw their new pokeballs during the program.

Trainer Toolbelts

Another new craft for this year was trainer toolbelts. I gave kids black strips of 12″x18″ paper, string to tie to the ends, and various cardstock pokeball designs they could color and cut out. “Pokeballs” could be taped or glued onto “pokebelts” and worn around the waist.

Guess the Pokemon

Guess the Pokemon is an annual favorite game. This year, I used 20 new Pokemon silhouettes. Kids had to identify the Pokemon’s name, check their answers, and pick up a small prize.

Pin the Tail on Pikachu

Exactly what it sounds like. Kids pinned the tail on Pikachu. This was also a return game from past events.

Catch the Pokemon

I wrapped pop cans in Pokemon character faces and colors. Kids threw a stuffed pokeball at the cans in an effort to “catch” the Pokemon by knocking the cans down.

Pokemon Scavenger Hunt

Each year, to advertise my Pokemon Party, I put a Pokemon scavenger hunt around the youth department, adapted from the one created by the Ontarian Librarian. This is always a huge hit, with a few hundred kids completing the scavenger hunt.

Innovation Academy: Tech Fair

After receiving a grant for some technology items two years ago, I’ve been running registered, monthly technology programs for upper elementary school kids (roughly ages 8-12).

These were great programs, except for a few recurring issues:

  • Each program focuses on one topic or device, and I have a limited number of devices, so a limited number of kids could attend (max. of 20, sometimes as few as 10).
  • This means that these programs had to be registered. Registration often filled up within 30 minutes of it opening (two weeks before the program date), even when I was offering 2-4 sessions in a month.
  • Each program, I have a new set of kids with different abilities. Some have coding skills well beyond my own; others have never heard the word “coding” before walking through the door. This made it hard to plan anything too advanced.
  • While programs were designed for ages 8-12, I often have parents sign up their 5-7-year-olds for my programs. While I am glad they are excited about tech, it makes it even more difficult to teach basic coding to a group of kids with mixed abilities when a few of them can’t even read yet.

This summer, I decided to try something different. Instead of offering weekly registered tech programming, I offered monthly tech fairs. I put out as much technology as could fit in our space and work with the number of tablets we own. I wasn’t sure what to expect with attendance or participation, but overall the programs were a success.

Technology Used

Each month, I strategically planned out how the room was laid out to accommodate the most technology. Almost all of the technology we own was used at some point during the summer–it was a great bonus to see everything out of the cabinets and being used by the public.

Tech I used at least once over the three programs included:

Each technology item was at a different station with a loosely structured activity. As the sessions went on, I realized that structured activities really weren’t necessary. Kids explored the technology in deeper and more creative ways when they had the time to do that on their own without having to focus on specific steps in a task.

Family Engagement

An unexpected outcome of this program was the multi-generational experiences and learning that took place. During my monthly registered tech programs, sibling partners often worked together, but, with rare exceptions, adults stayed outside of the room.

Since the tech fair wasn’t structured in the same way, adults were welcomed into the tech space. Little siblings came too. Third graders showed grandparents how to build a video game with Bloxels. Parents explained to kids how Ozobots use sensors to read color patterns that tell them to complete certain actions. Five-year-olds who didn’t yet have the skills to use the Blocky app with Dash helped create an obstacle course, and an older sibling explained to them how their code worked.

Families walked out of the program with some hands on time with new technology after thinking creatively about ways to take a simple challenge or activity to a new level.

Tech fairs are simpler for me to plan than monthly programs. I am essentially pulling from our supply of tech, charging and pairing everything, and leaving the rest up to our patrons. Registration and age requirements are no longer issues. However, the simplicity in program planning is not why I want to repeat this series–the learning that came from family engagement made this series something to remember.

Mother Bruce Storytime

Mother Bruce is one of my favorite book characters. If you haven’t read, or, even better, listened to, the book Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, track down a copy now. It is a funny read, perfect for preschool through first or second grade. The audiobook, read by Roberston Dean, is a particular favorite of mine with excellent pacing, great sound effects, and an original musical score that brings the grumpy old bear to life.

I was determined to celebrate one of my favorite storytime characters at the library. We had a great Saturday morning with a family storytime and a visit from Bruce himself!

My storytime outline is below.

We didn’t get through all of these activities (I often plan way too much). Goin’ on a Bear Hunt was a group favorite.

Post-Storytime Activities

After storytime, folks were welcome to participate in a variety of themed activities. These included:

Mother Bruce Ears & Gosling Craft

Visitors cut out bear ears and attached them to brown headbands. Optionally, they could also cut out yellow goslings to tape to a string hanging off the back of their headband (so your goslings would follow you everywhere, just like Bruce’s).

Goin’ On a Bear Hunt Obstacle Course

No preschool program is complete without some physical fun. Little ones explored our Goin’ On a Bear Hunt obstacle course. They completed some of the activities we did as a group during storytime including climbing a mountain, crossing a river, walking through a wheat field, and going into a cave to find our bear puppet.

Find the Goslings Scavenger Hunt

Ten goslings were hidden around our meeting room, and little ones had to find them all! When they found all ten geese, they got to pick a Mother Bruce bookmark.

Download geese to hide around your room or library here.

Gosling Match

I love to give little ones an opportunity to play in water. Just like a fair game, little ones could pick up rubber “goslings” and try to find two with matching colored bottoms.

This didn’t work quite as planned, as my ducks shifted and didn’t want to stay bottoms down in the water.

Meet Bruce!

The star of the event–Bruce came to visit! After sufficient warning to prepare little ones for a visit from the big bear, Bruce stopped by for photos and to participate in the crafts and activities. The Costume Specialist store in Columbus, Ohio lets libraries borrow book character costumes for free, and these visits always make an exciting addition to any program.

Teen Volunteer Training

I am incredibly lucky to have a large base of teen volunteers to help at Westerville Public Library. Part of that is because of school requirements.; high schoolers and middle schoolers have community service time as a graduation requirement in Westerville City School District. I also have many teens who are actively seeking scholarships or involved in extracurriculars that require or encourage helping out in the community that they live.

All in all I have a little over 350 active teen volunteers every school year. (This the monthly archiving of teen volunteers that have aged out of the program as well as those that have not volunteered at the library for a year.)

On the third Monday of each month, I can be found leading a one hour training session for teens ages 12-18. During the school year training covers how to help out at library programs and how to shelve materials in designated areas. Teens that attend training can begin selecting desired shifts and putting in some hours at the library for whatever their community service needs they have the very next day. (I really love how streamlined it has become.)

The training session is really simple. We lightly touch on the types of programs that teens can help at (storytimes, parties, special events, etc.) as well as special assignments that can become available throughout the year (making buttons, cutting out crafts, placing stickers, etc.). Because each program and librarian requesting the help is unique and the needs vary we do not spend a lot of time on this subject. However the basics of what is expected for helping at programs is covered, as well as talking about the general personalities; i.e. if you aren’t a fan of little kids….storytimes might not be your best fit. The WPL website also provides a link to a Google doc I maintain listing descriptions of more specific tasks that volunteers would be doing at each event.

The majority of the hour is focused on shelving training. Teens are able to help return materials in 3 locations: J Fiction, Teen Fiction, and DVDs. Spine labels and call numbers are explained, examples of different stickers that may be seen on books are shown, and then we get into the nitty gritty of the ABCs.

Like most fictions sections, our books are organized alphabetically by the author’s last name, then first name, then within that specific area the title of the book and/or series. I annoy my kids with several slides showing exactly what I mean by “author’s with the same last name” and that no matter how awesome you are about know series order they still go alphabetically. And then I up the ante and make them move and do things.

I start out getting groans and mumbles because I have us all sing the ABCs together and will stop or slow down if I don’t get participation from attendees. 

When teens show up at the beginning of the training I have the attendance sheet for sign-in* and everyone receives a beautiful paper with their last and first name on it. This paper comes into play after our lovely a capella, because it is actually their spine label featuring their very own call number. Each teenager is now a book and collectively they need to alphabetize themselves as if they are being placed on a shelf. 

Then comes the next physical movement and moment where teens will have to intereact with each other. Basket sorting! When setting up for the program I pull 10 items from each designated shelving area mix them up so they are out of alphabetical order and place each grouping in a basket for the trainees to sort and alphabetize while working together. Each team of teens will wind up sorting each basket of materials so that they can work with the items in a controlled environment. I, of course, throw some curve balls in the mix to make sure they all understand the order of author’s last name > author’s first name > title alphabetical system that we use and can correct any missteps along the way.

Then we get to do the super happy fun times tour and visit the areas where they get to shelve items! Starting in the Teen Dept. I show volunteers where to collect items needing to be shelved, where they get placed, and how to move book ends around. Most of the shelving in this area has bookends that are connected to the stacks and I teach them how to not only move the brackets back and forth along the track, but how to get them back in when they come out. Everyone get to “break a shelf” and practice moving the brackets and replacing them back properly.

DVD land is next with the same start as Teen, showing where to collect materials they get to re-shelve as service. Bonus time though because I sneak in one more round of alphabetizing training and have everyone select a DVD to shelve, let them loose in the stacks, and follow behind checking their placement to ensure we have it down. While they are winding through the stacks with DVDs in hand I remind them that shelving is not a race and that accuracy is key and what we are really looking for. If they need to sing the ABCs to themselves or take a minute to make sure it is being placed right, then do so. An item not in the correct location is as good as lost until it someone finds it.

After DVDs have been explored the last stop on the tour is the Youth Dept. We learn where materials to be shelved are located and have a look at the unique layout of the stacks in the area and I explain how to shift shelves. Because of our checkout rate and pages staying on top of things, very rarely do our volunteers need to know how to shift materials, however I’d rather have them armed with that knowledge than stumble across over packed shelves later.

At the end of the tour, we go over how to sign up for shifts using our system (which will be explained in a post on another day). And I implore them to please ask any questions and to make sure that they have things spelled correctly on the attendance sheet before I let them escape to the outside world armed with new knowledge, a pocket-sized handout on shelving basics, and my business card.

*Note: I try to keep registered programming to a minimum, however Teen Volunteer Training is one of those I do ask for sign-up. It helps me more easily check for applications and have the spine labels printed beforehand, as well as foreshadows IRL to the teens that they will need to sign up for things…like shifts. Teen Volunteer Training is also the one registered program that is the exception to the rule that only registered individuals can attend. I keep blank spine label forms in case I have kiddos wandering in to go through training so that they can be books too and we talk about responsibilities and signing up for things at the end of the training.

Play and Learn

This summer, I worked with a fellow librarian to start a nine-week play series for ages 0-3 and their families. Play & Learn quickly turned into one of my (and our patrons) favorite programs of the summer.

Each Wednesday, from 9:30-10:30 am, parents and their little ones interacted with 10-12 activities we placed around our large meeting room. On average, we had 80-120 visitors each week. People came and went on their own schedule–for some babies, 10 minutes was more than enough time in the crowded room; others enjoyed a full hour of play and even stayed to help with clean-up.

Some activities repeated each week (bubbles!), while others rotated in and out throughout the summer. We grouped our activities into four categories and made sure to have a mix of these each week:

  • Fine Motor
  • Gross Motor
  • Sensory
  • Belly Babies (for our littlest prewalkers)

We picked activities that kids of all developmental abilities could enjoy, such as ball pit balls in muffin tins.

Some of our most popular activities included:

  • Cereal Boxes and Straws
  • Baby Pool Play
  • Pom Pom Drop
  • Sensory Tiles
  • Tumbling Mats
  • Sensory Bags & Bottles
  • “Messy” Sensory Play (rice, beans, sand, easter grass, water)
  • Instrument/Sound Play

This program is particularly great because you can adapt it to whatever budget and space you have available. We have very large crowds in the summer, and this program was able to meet the needs of parents and little ones while appealing to a large range of ages. We included a mix of purchased play items and items that parents could re-create at home cheaply–another library could do a similar program just focusing on one of these categories, to save staff time (pre-purchased items) or money (cheap, home-made items).

Play & Learn also encouraged parent-child interaction. Each activity included laminated sheets on the floor nearby, explaining the value of the activity along with questions and vocabulary words to encourage parent engagement.

Play & Learn has already been requested multiple times by our community to be continued this fall. While that cannot happen, unfortunately, due to our busy school-year programming schedule, I am looking forward to this program’s return next summer.

Programming By a Thread

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I embroidered as a hobby. And occasionally I will come up with the grand idea that I will once again take up this hobby, so I buy oodles of threads and embroidery flosses in anticipation of projects that I will undoubtedly create…..except the actual creating of embroidered objects does not happen.

This means that I’ve got stacks on stacks on stacks, floss on floss on floss and is good news for all of my teens because that makes string art is an easy possibility for a program!

String art is a crazy simple program to produce, all you need is:

  • Wood
  • Finishing nails
  • Hammers
  • Embroidery floss
  • Paint is optional
  • Templates are optional as well

You can always buy wood boards off of Amazon:

Or you can be like me and run to your favorite tool supply store, buy some wood planks and ask them to cut them to your desired lengths for a small fee. After all, you might already need to go there to pick up hammers and finishing nails and why not make it one trip. (Pro-tip: Home Depot and Lowes make the first two cuts for free on each board)

Overall teens are pretty good about waiting for their turn and sharing hammers, but you will need several hammers on hand. You can probably beg, borrow, or steal some from co-workers if you do not have a small cache of them. I currently have 8 hammers in my supply, but after the popularity of my last program for string art I will need to purchase a few more to cut down on the wait times between each teen needing them.

I like to supply some simple templates of patterns as well as blank paper and pencils for those that want to be unique and create their own designs. There are a bunch of templates all over Pinterest, but I have found that designs turn out best when you have nails spaced 1-3 inches apart, depending on the shape. That also means that you can never have enough finishing nails on hand. Whatever number you think each piece will take, double it and make sure you have at least 1 emergency pack squirreled away for use when you run out at the end of the program with a couple of teens still creating things.

I begin String Art by explaining what tools and supplies everyone will have access to and go over basic safety rules for using hammers and nails for everyone. A small stack of planks and a bowl of nails is placed in the center of each table grouping and 4-6 teens can easily sit at station with enough room for their projects.I put paints, tape, and template supplies at a table near the front of the room so everyone can have access to them and distribute hammers to the tables after the general rules and safety talk.

The entire program runs at the pace of the teen creators. Some will be faster than others, some will make more in depth pieces, some will focus painting the board and mapping out their outline, while others will just jump right in and start hammering away like they are wielding Mjölnir. There is no right or wrong way for them to create and as you can see a lot of different creations come out of it.

Advisory Boards

Lots of libraries have advisory boards for their teenagers. A place where teens can voice their opinions, ask for materials and programs, and meet peeps from different schools (or even homeschoolers). When I became the Teen Librarian at Westerville, I inherited two: JTAB (Junior Teen Advisory Board) for middle schoolers and TAB (Teen Advisory Board) for High Schoolers.

At my previous library, at the advice and mentoring of my director, I tried to create a Teen Advisory Group. It somehow devolved from a group that met to help brainstorm, create, and inspire programming to being just another program I had to continually create new material for. Over the course of one semester it changed from being TAG: Teen Advisory Group to TAG: Teen Arts and Games, a hangout group that focused on activities and crafts.

It could have been the intense, once a week, schedule I was asked to implement for meetings. It could have been that I was a newly minted librarian and I was still testing the waters on what my program style was. The giant learning curve figuring out my new community coming from Chicagoland to western Kentucky. Or that no one knew what was going to happen with teen programming as I was literally the first Teen Librarian for Henderson Library and County. But somewhere along the way TAG changed and it was no longer an advisory group.

Arts & crafts and gaming programs are important and needed for teens, but that was not what I had prepped for. The new direction meant that I was quickly burning through all my programming ideas, that should have been spread over many months, and quickly burning out. During the small break in programming we had over winter break I was able to regroup and plan out some fun weekly activities without losing my mind but was never able to get a true advisory group off the ground.

And then I moved to Westerville, where there was already a group in place. And after acting as a substitute Teen Librarian during a maternity leave, I became the Teen Librarian…and wasn’t sure what to do with the advisory boards I inherited. After all my last foray into this type of programming fizzled out and turned into something completely different.

It was time for my new teens to school me, yo.

I was up front and honest about my experience with advisory groups to the JTAB and TABbers and asked how the program currently ran. Then we talked about what they wanted the group to be like. And over the course of one semester it changed from what I inherited to a hybrid of what my teens and I both wanted and needed.

Things that stayed the same:

  • When we meet – once a month on the last Thursday, for about an hour. JTAB at 6pm TAB at 7pm
  • Who it’s for – JTAB is for middle schoolers, TAB is for high schoolers
  • Service hours – as long as a teen signs in on the attendance sheet and participates in the meeting they get an hour of community service
  • Snacks – are served and enjoyed at the meetings, but can’t be taken home at the end
  • What we do – share wants for programming, library materials, and random conversations/ideas
  • Marketing – All members (including me) talk to teens in the community about coming to check out the fun we have at JTAB/TAB
  • Officers – TAB members elect officers for roles and more or less run the program with librarian guidance as needed
  • ARCs – anyone that attends can snag one ARCs to take home

Things that changed:

  • How to join – Show up! No more applying and interviewing, you show up you get to participate
  • Snacks – options are now a combo of healthy and sugary, but take into account shared allergies, religious dietary restrictions, and packaging (being able to save some snacks for the next meeting is a big plus!)
  • What we do – Create and run programs independently. Teens still help create programs and activities, but the onus of an entire program is no longer on their shoulders
  • Marketing – teens create special campaigns and activities to spread the word on the fun that we have at JTAB/TAB
  • ARCs Frenzy – anyone that attends can snag one or several ARCs to take home
  • Book reviews – JTAB and TABbers can fill out bookmark book reviews stating why they loved or hated a library book that gets tucked into it’s respective title

Small changes in how things went made a big difference for how we all view the advisory boards. Teens still get agency by sharing their ideas and wants, but don’t have the same pressures of having to be present all the time for everything. I don’t have have an overloaded schedule of crazy and have help in coming up with programs. And we all get snacks and hang time with people who’s lives may not cross paths if it weren’t for the library.