Seasonal Passive Programming for YA

We do a lot of passive programming in our teen department. Most of it is themed and seasonal. Some of it follows special library events such as Banned Books Week. The most popular at our library is anything that involves art or drawing. I have a really creative group of kids that like to leave drawings around the library. We have a bulletin board in the department and I try to display as much as I can so the teens feel at home. Here are some ideas from our fall and winter displays. All of these ideas can created using die cuts.


Fall: Graffiti your Gourd 

The clever title was a suggestion from a post I made in Teen Services Underground. Thanks Jeretta! I think the pumpkins turned out amazing! I didn’t want to take them down for winter!



Winter: Do you want to design a snowman? 

This one came from one of my teens. She sings this particular snowman song all year long and very loudly. I did have to toss a few snowmen due to carrots in inappropriate places. Other than that, they kept it clean! The snowman wearing the Led Zepplin shirt is my favorite!



Passive Winter Prompt: Caption this Pet edition

This one is always entertaining. I love the this prompt. The “Caption this” idea came from Sherry at our Brentwood branch! We do this a few times a year at different branches with silly pictures or geeky movie stills.  I use post-it’s for the captions to cut down on the stuff I have to erase for being inappropriate. I also only put out pencils!

img_7997 img_7998

As you can tell it’s finals week, so a few of my teens are pretty stressed out!


Do you do passives in your teen area? What are your most popular prompts? I would love to hear about them. As always feel free to steal these ideas! If you use the photos, please be sure to credit the source.

Being a Fanbrarian Part 1- Know your Audience

When you are a Teen Librarian embracing geek culture is part of the job description. Teens geek out over pretty much everything under the sun. Their fandoms change weekly and keeping up with all of them can be a bit overwhelming. In the past year I have binge watched all of reboot Doctor Who, spent an entire weekend sorting out Homestuck, skipped my way through countless anime shows on Netflix, and skimmed the internet for tidbits on fandoms that I have no intention of following but need a basic information about to create programs. It can be exhausting.

So, where do you start if geek culture is not your thing? In the next few posts I am going to highlight my journey into teen fan-culture and personal geekdom.

First of all, here are some handy definitions that will pop up in my posts. These are taken from the Urban Dictionary and Google definitions.


the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something.
“my 17 years of sports fandom”
the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc., regarded collectively as a community or subculture.
“the Star Wars fandom”


A term used to describe fan fictions that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well. (Just think of “shipping” as short for “relationSHIP”.)

Fan Fiction- 

Fanfiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it. Sometimes people will take characters from one movie and put them in another, which is called a cross-over.

Get to know your teen patrons-

There are a ton of fandoms out there and knowing them all is pretty much impossible. When I started as the Teen Librarian a year ago, I had inherited a monthly fandom club and a group of kids that were serious Whovians (Doctor Who fans). I also had a bunch of anime and manga kids and zero personal knowledge of anything they loved. While this was helpful at first, I quickly found out that a monthly fandom group was not a good program. During my first 5 months I did: Sherlock, Star Trek, My Little Pony, Supernatural, and Harry Potter. My average attendance was a whopping 2 teens.  I also pretty much bombed with the Manga/Anime kids when I admitted that I had barely watched or read anything that they liked. An exact teen quote “Then why are you running a program?” The only saving grace was the fact that I gave away a ton of weeded mangas and had pocky. Other than that it was 6 months of fandom fails. 6 months kids.. I felt like the worst geeky teen librarian in the history of geeky teen librarians. This is what I did to fix it and for the most part save face with some of my super geeky teens.

The first thing I recommend is interviewing your teens. Sounds pretty obvious right? Well it can be a bit hard when you have no idea what they are currently obsessed with. It is especially hard if you are new or following in the footsteps of  your predicesor. Teens can be a skeptical and wary bunch. However, I encourage you to suck it up and give it a shot. Sit down with them, chat them up in the stacks about their favorite books and TV shows, comment on their fandom t-shirts or other swag, ask if they have watched any recent movies, and put up some passive prompts that get them talking about what they geek. If you happen to like some of the same things mention it. Talk about a character that you both like or both hated. Predict what you think will happen in the next movie. Just remember NO SPOILERS!

If you are lucky to have a Teen Advisory board do a night of all things geek. Ask them about their fandoms, who they ship, and have them suggest a few programs. Don’t have a teen advisory board? Survey your department. Put out a survey asking about what programs or geeky programs they would want in the library. If you are part of a larger system ask other branches about popular programs and what their teens like. Many teens will travel to different branches for programming and your peers can be a great resource. Another idea is to put out some passive prompts in the department.

A great passive that helped me was a white board covered in paper that encouraged them to share their geeky feels. I cut out a bunch of pictures from TV shows, movies, comic books, anime, manga etc…  I added a glue stick, post-its and some markers and let them go crazy. Here is an example and the link to my original post.


The top responses were: Harry Potter, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Homestuck, and My Little Pony. Another idea is to have them talk about their favorite comic books or manga.



There are many things you can do with a whiteboard and a clever question. Teens love to express themselves and debate with each other about what they love. Don’t have a white board? Cover one of the tables in teen with butcher paper and leave out some crayons or colored pencils. You can write some questions on the paper like those above or leave it blank for artistic expression.

The whole point is to get out there and talk to your teens. You won’t know if you don’t ask, and most teens are willing to say a few words about what they love or hate. Finally, be prepared for some answers that might surprise you and maybe a few spoilers along the way. There are fandoms out there that I have no interest in ever watching or being a part of but I know enough about them to at least chat a bit with my teens when they bring it up. At the very least know the bare bones of what they are talking about!

Next up: Fanbrarian- Geeky Programming




In a Galaxy Far Far Away… There was this prompt

I have a board in teen that I use for writing prompts. It is one of the more popular passive things that we do in the departments. With Star Wars being more exciting than Christmas this year (okay.. at least for me it is more exciting) I put up a prompt for an original story starting in a galaxy far far away.

Trust me when I say that I doubt LucasFilm will use this in a movie. It is however.. unique.. um funny? Not sure what words I should use to describe where the direction of the story went but at least they had fun until someone really crossed the line with one too many body humor jokes and poop drawings!


“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..

Everybody was dead.

Or so they thought!

But really they resided in one of 2 places.

The Dark Side and the Light Side.

The Dark: Hellbent destruction with world supremacy  (snakes)

The Light: Hellbent peace with world supremacy (bunnies)

The light resides in Hogwarts

The Dark resides in Dumbledoors Beard

*They finally invented cool ranch Doritos!!!

I farted and it smelled like eggs and enchiladas (complete with poo drawing..)\

“That is very unfortunate” cried C3PO “Let’s get back to the story while you go to the doctor. That sounds serious!”

At the Doctor he found out nothing was wrong he just ate too much..

Of a DEADLY bacteria found only in the grossest germ ridden places on whatever planet you find yourself to be on.

It is nasty there.. people on earth would not want to live there because of the smell.


Yep! I smell an Oscar! Or at least a need for the Teen Febreeze fairy to make a visit!


Back to blogging and promoting kindness

It’s been two months since I have posted to Skipping Through the Stacks. Usually I have a min or two even in the busy months to post a book review or two. This fall, life and personal illness took a front seat over any of my social media commitments. Thankfully I am on the mend and looking forward to sharing what our library has been up to during my absence from the blog.

Finding Kindness: 

2015 has been a tough year for our world in so many ways. Terrorism, the political climate and mass shootings have made things tense. Instead of waiting on the magic of Christmas everyone seems to be waiting for the next horrible breaking news story to invade our screens. I have even noticed this among my teens at the library. In the past month I have had to take away several of my passive programs like the Art Dictionary due to the commentary and hate speech in the pages. Teens are under so much pressure from general life that adding more world drama and uncertainty puts some of them over the edge and they lash out at anyone who might slight them. It has been a rough few months.

To combat this in the department I have been on a mission to promote kindness. Through books displays on activism, social justice, and courage from teens in tough situations, to display boards with encouraging quotes; we have worked hard as a department to focus on the positives of life. We have hung up teen art and created silly writing prompts and my lovely coworkers have been a wonderful help with decorations and providing a friendly face when I am not in the department. It has been slow to pick up but I am finally noticing more smiling faces among my teens.

While I would love to say that we embarked on a huge exciting activism project that will blow your mind.. instead we focused on small changes and making our teen department the most encouraging and supportive place in the library. Here are some ideas that have been working really well:

Display: Hope, Courage, and Love


For my display for the months of November – December I chose books from our Non-fiction collection that focus on one of the above topics. I looked for books about teens that were involved in creating a better world or had been through really tough spots. I also found some biographies about people that had been through some really tough times in history and how they overcame their difficulties. We added some books about being an activist, avoiding bullies, poetry, human rights, and anything else that would show that you can overcome evil. I also put books out about world religions on the top shelves of our Non-Fiction section. I am pleased that many of the display books have checked out and I have seen lots of teens stop to look at what is offered. It is a simple way to address world topics that tend to cause strong reactions without being too in your face.

Books that I recommend: 

  • Words Wound: Delete Cyber bullying and Make Kindness Go Viral
  • Dear Author: Letters of Hope
  • America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60’s
  • Breakthrough: How one Teen Innovator Is Changing the World
  • The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes To Their Younger Selves
  • Yes You Can: Your Guide To Becoming An Activist
  • Positive: A Memoir
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
  • People Who Said NO: Courage Against Oppression

Passive Response Prompts: 


As teens come into the department they are greeted by a sign with upcoming programs and general announcements. I moved the sign to just outside the department so that teens and adults could see it. We also have a chalkboard that they can draw all over. I put simple messages throughout the month about being thankful, sharing kindness, or what makes you happy. These got the most responses.


I have another white board that I used to encourage notes about what makes you feel loved. I did not get a picture of this one. But you get the idea.

Yarn Bomb the Library- 

What does yarn bombing have to do with the kindness? Well, nothing really except that it’s lots of fun and generated a ton of laughs from my Teen Tuesday group. They spent over an hour wrapping everything they could get their hands on in yarn. The bright colors and festive look have coaxed out some smiles even during finals week. I still have the yarn out and they keep adding to the support pole. While it is just a silly activity it does promote sharing and helping each other as they wrap things up or look for things to wrap. Sometimes the silly things bring the most joy.


One boy spent the whole hour wrapping my desk!


Furry yarn was by far the favorite wrapping material.


The support pole and ugly cushion now improved with fuzzy yarn.


The catalog computer pole.

Final thoughts: 

While none of this is really that groundbreaking it is very simple to do and will fit with pretty much any space. As the months go on we will keep changing things up as we look for ways to bring joy into the department. Even if you do something small you never know who it might reach.



Banned Books week- A passive program

Looking for something easy to do for Banned Books week? Try asking the following question:



I am happy with the results and I have watched it spark quite a few discussions among the teens. It is a simple way to get them thinking about having the freedom to read and what might happen if that is challenged or taken away. One of the No answers was -“I think that defending a book is important but there are more important things that I would risk jail time defending than something like Twilight.”  (I might have giggled a bit over that response!) Another teen said Yes because “Taking away one freedom makes it easier to take away others.”

So.. Would you risk jail time to defend your favorite book?


If you give the teens a Tardis…


They are going to take lots of selfies!

We now have a Tardis in the teen department. It was a personal purchase because well… I wanted one! I tend to do a lot of Doctor Who programming so having a Tardis in the department made sense. Plus, it allows for lots of hilarious moments like this. These two spent over an hour posing with it and laughing. We had a great conversation about Doctors, Companions, Villains, and Spoilers. It is becoming our department mascot!

What do you have in your department?

The Poet-Tree – Passive program

April is National Poetry month and every year we do something special in the library. My coworkers in children’s had random acts of poetry and a poetry garden. The littles wrote poems on die flowers and we hung the up around the department. For teen I decided to use the Poet-tree idea that is often seen on Pinterest.


I had one of our talented teens draw a gorgeous tree on butcher paper. We cut out leaves and put them in a basket with some pens and a glue stick. They could write a poem and glue it to the tree.  We ended up with lots of wonderful poetry. Some dark and twisty and a few that were downright hilarious. We even had a poem that asked someone to prom! I only had to remove one poem for language and an inappropriate drawing. Not bad for being up an entire month.



Some of my favorite poems from the board:

Cheese Fries.. Far more superior to guys

The Leaf: A Haiku
Green Leaf falling down
Darn you leaf! You’re in my tea!
I’m going back inside
Misty Winter
At night when the lone wolf howls
the dead come to life..
So deep are his howls
So beautiful
and yet filled with such sorrow
Going to school
No no no no no
no no no no
no no no
no no
raindrops glisten on
a leaf birthed in a young spring
that yearns for the sun
The Country:
The country is a place that fills me with joy
It’s where a man can play like a boy
who knows how to use them powerful big toys
So to me: Hey it’s better than Illinois
I am a living flame
untamed, unpredicatable
Doomed to fade away but..
clinging to to promise
of short, yet magnificent light
And finally.. (I really hope they said yes)
You know what’s technologically irrelevant?
You know what’s not?
You, with me at Prom!
What did you do for Poetry month?