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.

Zombie Apocalypse – Playing the game

Hello again! I apologize for not posting this sooner. I have been out sick for a few weeks and have not kept up with blogging. If you missed the first part of my post about the Zombie Role Playing Game that we hosted this summer, check out my set-up post here. You will want to read that post to understand how to set up the game. In this post I’m going to go over game play and also let you know what worked and what didn’t.


We are lucky to have several large rooms that are connected by doors and an outside patio. You can modify this to play throughout the library if you are brave and your branch manager is okay with wild zombie teens taking over the space after-hours. We do not have the staff to do an after-hours program so I planned it for a Saturday and utilized all of our community rooms. Our program was during summer reading and Missouri tends to be super hot and humid in the summer. I set up several water stations and neutral zones for the kids to rest and hydrate.

Once you get everything set up and decorated there are a few things I didn’t do that I would highly recommend:

  1. Give the teens that are going to play the game a quick tour of the area. We did not do this and the first round ended up being  really confusing.
  2. Have super huge signs for your medical area and any safe zones. I had smaller handmade signs. Once they got the hang of the game this wasn’t a big deal.
  3. Introduce all of your adult staff! It helped our teens know who they were and what part they played in the game.

The big talk- DON’T SKIP THIS PART!!!

Before I turned the teens loose into the game area I went over the rules and how to play the game. This gave them time to ask questions. My TAB group created a double-sided document of rules and game play. It was great for our older high school players, but the younger middle school kids just tossed it aside when the game began and did their own thing. If I did it again I would have a small half sheet with a check list of things they needed to remember when playing the game. I would also post the rules around the game play area on poster sheets.

Here is the document that our TAB group helped me write: Feel free to use and modify for your own game. It is rather lengthy which worked for our High School kids who really got into the RPG part but bombed with the Middle Schoolers.

Zombie Apocalypse Rule Sheet

Playing the game- 

** This is what we did for our game. This doesn’t mean that it will be the same for you. You might have a group of kids that work well together or you might have a very chaotic night. I am letting you know both the good and the bad of running a game this size with a mix of middle and high school teens.**


The goal of the game is for each team to get enough food, water, and medical supplies to survive. They also needed to build a big enough shelter to house all of their team members. Teens who were zombies were tasked with infecting as many people as they could. Each round lasted for 15-20 minutes and we played for 1.5 hours. I gave them a 20 min break in the middle.


We had 40 teens sign up for this program. I split them into groups of five. Four groups were survivors and the 5th group became zombies. At first, I had them draw colored popsicle sticks to determine teams. We had decided that the first round we would have random teams so that my TAB members wouldn’t have an advantage. This elicited a ton of whining from players who came with friends. It also led to some Lord of the Flies moments during the game. I wish I was kidding.

Turns out middle school boys will sacrifice their one high school team mate to the zombie hoard because he is too tall for their shelter.

The game:

All of the high school kids and few middle school kids (mostly my TAB members) really got into the role playing aspect of the game. If they got infected water, they would moan and groan in their shelter and act sick. If they got a card that said they broke a limb, they would bandage it and hobble around. They followed all of the cards that were on the food or water supplies that they gathered during the game. About a third of the players decided that the rules were crap and went all out crazy. They stole supplies, they destroyed other players shelters, and a few decided that they could throw supplies at other players and zombies.

So to be honest.. it was very much like a real apocalypse! Just not very fun for players who were trying to get into the game. This resulted in a few players having a time out and a warning that if they kept it up they would have to call their parent.


The zombies were tasked with tagging players with green stickers. The stickers meant that the player was infected and needed to go to the med tent for a cure. They could only put the stickers on a player’s upper back or arms. They could not run down a player or tackle them. Once a player was tagged they had to gather their whole team and go to the med tent for a cure. Or their team could decide that they were on their own and not save them. Holy, wow this was a bad idea… you would have thought the world was ending with this one. There were a few teams that decided not to cure players, which led to tears and arguments. The next round we scrapped this rule and went with you get tagged.. you go to the med tent on your own. This worked out way better and saved a lot of hurt feelings.

To be honest, I thought more teens would want to be zombies. I did have 5 kids that stayed zombies the whole game. It may have just been my group. We had more teens interested in the survival part than eating people for the game.

Zombies were released at different times. The first round the zombies were hiding before the rest of the teams got into the rooms. This was not a good idea. Most players were tagged before they had time to find supplies or build a shelter. The next round we released the zombies after 5 mins of game time and that worked a lot better. Teams had time to build a shelter and get supplies. The last round we released zombies in different spots at different times and that worked really well. It added an element of surprise to the game!

Shelter approval:

I know the whole “get your shelter approved thing” sounds a bit weird. The reason my TAB members decided on this rule was to keep people from destroying each other’s shelters and stealing supplies for the whole game. They wanted to help curb the chaos. For the most part, this was a really good idea. Once a team finished their shelter and everyone could fit inside they would grab an adult and get it approved. They adult had giant blue stickers that they would stick on the outside of the shelter letting other teams and zombies know that this was a safe area for that team.

If I did this again I would use 8 x 11 signs that said shelter approved. The stickers were hard to peel off once a new round got started and more that one team used that to their advantage during the next round.

The Med Station:

There were two adult volunteers that ran this station. They handed out medical supplies and cure to infected players. The players had to complete tasks to get cures. One of the tasks was to play the game of Operation. They would have to remove 3 pieces for a cure. Another task was to do the YMCA, pat their head and rub their tummy while whistling, and anything else my med guys came up with.

Once a teen got a cure (glow stick bracelet) they had to wear if for the rest of the game. At the end of the game, we gathered up all the cures for next round. This was a bit of challenge and we did have some teens hide them to use in later games.

My TAB members had a rule that if you got one cure you could not get another. This did not work and led to the zombies hunting down “cured” players and turning them almost immediately after they left the med station. We decided to skip this rule for the rest of the rounds. You could also limit where your zombies can hunt. We had a safe zone around the med station, but they still hovered nearby.

Evaluation time and issues-

The first round of our game was a mess. The combination of mixed teams, not knowing where things were located, and zombies on the playing field from the start, made for a crazy round. I had to stop this one early due to lots of confusion and outright anarchy! The other 2 rounds went a bit better once they were allowed to choose their own teams.

I am really proud of my TAB members for giving the game an honest evaluation. This is their list of what didn’t work and solutions:

Problem #1-

Mixing high school and middle school- We allowed upcoming 6th graders to come to the game. Many of them were way to immature to do this game properly. The whole RPG part was lost on them.

Solution #1-

Have a game just for Middle school and a game just for High school. This way younger players can just do the tagging and survival part and older players can role play.

Problem #2-

Where is everything?? It was really confusing not knowing where everything was before the game.

Solution #2-

Give a tour of the game area and introduce the adult helpers!

Problem #3-

Cheating!!! This was a huge issue. Many of the younger players were confused by the RPG part and ignored the supply twists.

Solution #3-

Not as many rules on the rule sheet. Posting them around the game area for everyone to see so there is no excuse not to follow the rules. Only RPG with older players and do a basic game with the younger players.

Problem #4-

Too many people!! 40 players is way too many for this type of game. It made keeping track of things really challenging.

Solution #4-

Only 20 players and dividing them by Middle and High School.

Advice from the Librarian-

I think my TAB team did a good job coming up with this game from scratch. It did have some issues but we managed them well and the last two rounds of the game were really fun. This is a fun game to do in your library and can be modified to fit a small to large group. I would honestly not do more than 25 teens for this game. Even with 5 adults, it was still hard to deal with all craziness and it WILL get crazy!

We didn’t really do as much RPG as we wanted to. I think it was confusing for players that had never heard of it before. It was one thing that we could have explained a bit better to our group. However, it was a good learning experience for my TAB team on how to create a game and explain it to new players.

If you have any questions about this game or need any tips, please feel free to message me! I hope that you try it with your teens!

Zombie Apocalypse Live Action Game – Set up

What do you do when you have an epic discussion about the zombie apocalypse with your Teen Advisory Board,  that leads to talking about real life scenarios and a “would you survive discussion?” You create a live action role playing game!

My TAB group has been more or less zombie crazed for the better part of a year. All of them have been begging for some kind of role playing game that involves taking over a large section of the library. After much discussion and a well thought out proposal from one of the girls, the Zombie Apocalypse program was born. My only request was that they plan the entire program from start to finish and help me with clean-up. This is the first program we have planned together as a group and I am super proud of how it all turned out. It took us 6 months and they all learned something about what it takes to run a library program. Needless to say, we will be doing this again very soon!

This was a monster huge program with a ton of prep work. I am breaking down the posts into a few parts. For this round I will walk you through the set-up.

Basic game outline for 30-40 teens:

  • Collect enough supplies for your team: Food, Water, Medicine
  • Build a shelter that will fit your entire team and get it approved by the Zombie Master (librarian)
  • Avoid zombies!


We used 3 large rooms and our outdoor patio. If you are able to do this after hours you can use the entire library! This can be scaled up or down depending on the size of your group. I will explain why 40 teens was a bit much later on.


  • Instructions for players
  • Lots of empty cereal boxes, cracker boxes, etc..
  • Empty water bottles, empty gallon water jugs
  • Note cards to go inside boxes and jugs
  • Small empty boxes or old microfilm containers for med kits
  • Bandages- Torn strips of white cloth
  • Pool Noodle shooters- Pom, Poms, Pool noodles, Balloons, rubber bands
  • Socks
  • Giant Pom Poms
  • Smarties or Nerds
  • Bags to carry their loot
  • Boxes of all sizes- the bigger the better!
  • Other building supplies- Foam blocks, pool noodles, blankets
  • The Game Operation or Trouble
  • Glow stick bracelets blue- Dollar Store
  • Glow stick necklaces green-Dollar Store
  • Lots of bright green stickers- Think garage sale stickers
  • Funny signs
  • Tables for the Medical Station and General store
  • Pop-Ice and lots of water for players
  • Staff- We had 5 staff for 40 kids and could have used a few more people
  • Fans- it gets hot!

The set up: 

You will need to do lots of prep work for this game. This is a survival game that requires players to gather food, water, and medical supplies. They also have to build a shelter for their group. Start having library staff save food boxes, water bottles and jugs, and boxes of all sizes for shelters.

Food supplies:

We save boxes like cereal, Cheez-its, Mac and Cheese, Pop-Tarts, etc. Each box would feed a certain amount of people. We wrote the number on the outside of the boxes.


Water supplies: 

You will need single serving water bottles and gallon jugs. Try to avoid Milk jugs for obvious grossness. The single bottle will water one person and gallon jugs will water the whole team. We used more of the single water bottles in the game and limited the amount of gallon jugs.

The evil supply twist:

Here is where you get to have some  fun. My teens decided that this needed to be as realistic as possible and very survival based. They determined that based on movies and books, not all the supplies would be safe to use. Food could be spoiled, water could be contaminated, Med supplies could give you the zombie virus; nothing is really safe! So, inside each box and taped to the outside of each bottle and jug were instructions such as:

  • Food has been contaminated. Go to the Med Station and do a task to get well.
  • Water has been contaminated. Eat smarties to cure yourself and purify the water.
  • While scrounging for food you broke your leg. Use the bandages on one leg and limp for the rest of the game.
  • Rats ate all of your food. Discard all your boxes and go get more supplies.
  • This box of food was poisoned. The whole team must go to the Med station for a cure.
  • Your water is safe!

You can get really creative with these. My volunteer and I had a blast thinking up clever demises for each box. We also made the choice to have single water bottles be the only safe thing in the game. Gallon jugs could water the whole team, but often came with a nasty surprise! In addition, the only safe food boxes were Cheeze-its.

Instructions on outside of jug

Instructions on outside of jug

Bags to carry supplies: 

You know those bags you get at conferences? This is perfect use for them. Each team got a bag to cart around supplies while they were building their shelter. You could also use paper or plastic bags.

Why my teens are obsessed with Cheeze-its and Sam’s club:

My teens are hilarious and we have lots of food based conversations. Somehow in the midst of discussing survival, Cheeze-its became a viable food source that can partially cure the zombie virus. I blame Dan who is one of my awesome teens who has since graduated and moved on to bigger and better adventures. #dansclubforever

She suggested that Sam’s Club would be the one stop shop for surviving the zombie apocalypse. The reason: Zombies can’t get Sam’s Club cards. At this moment my TAB group invented Dan’s Club (in honor of Dan). It’s also, the only surviving store in the apocalypse.  Each team would have to get a Dan’s club card at some point during the game. There would be a Dan’s Club store in one of the rooms where teams could use their card to “buy” supplies. Once at the store, they would have to complete tasks given to them by Dan to get much needed supplies. Tasks included:

  • Saying the alphabet backwards
  • Patting their heads and rubbing their tummies while standing on one foot
  • Doing the YMCA
  • Doing the Chicken Dance
This is Dan's Club

This is Dan’s Club. Yes, she has a selfie stick…

Dan decided to walk around in a Dan’s Club box during part of the game passing out Dan’s club Membership cards. Teens would have to brave the zombies and get a card to shop at the standing store. Here is a link to the card she created: (yes the spelling is bad- because spelling is not important during the apocalypse!)


Having a “store” helped. Otherwise we were hiding supplies in the rooms and hoping that teens wouldn’t hoard things. (we were very very wrong) I will explain more in the game play post.


We happened to have a ton of leftover microfilm canisters that were perfect for Med kits. Inside we put a few cloth bandage strips (old t-shirts, sheets, etc..) and a few packages of smarties. One kit was enough for the whole team unless they got a defective kit. We did not tell them what the smarties were for (purifying contaminated water) so this messed up a few teams who ate them immediately! I decorated the outside like this:


You can also use small boxes or paper bags. Some of the kits were empty and some kits had the note that said:

  • This kit is contaminated with the Zombie virus. Your whole team now has the virus. Head to the Med Station for cures.


Each team had to build a shelter that would fit everyone on their team. Once it was built they had to get it approved by the Zombie Master (the librarian or one of the other staff). Approved shelters got a giant blue sticker. You could also use small flags or even a brightly colored sheet of paper to show that the shelter is approved.

Collect tons of boxes for this part. The bigger the better. We also used pool noodles, foam computer box inserts, and blankets. We did not give them tape. My teens decided that “there is no tape in the apocalypse.” I personally loved this idea, because otherwise it would be a tape nightmare. This also forces them to be super creative when building.



Pom Pom Shooters

My teens decided that Nerf guns are evil and would cause nightmares for this event. (I silently cheered because they were totally right). They decided that the following items would be safe for weapons:

  • Zombies could be stunned but not killed by using a “weapon”
  • To stun a zombie for 10 seconds- hit them with the following items
    • rolled up clean socks
    • Pom Pom shooters – Instructions here
    • Giant sparkly Pom Poms- Find them here (I have had these for 2 years. I found them on sale at Joanns)

This worked out really well. We had a few assembled shooters and then hid a few kits around the game area. We also hid the Giant pom poms and socks. All of the items were soft and didn’t hurt when you threw them at other players. Trust me we had a whole meeting devoted to testing this out! If you can’t afford the shooters or the giant pom poms the socks are a super cheap alternative.


Zombies wore a green glow stick necklace. Their job was to tag players using bright green stickers. Zombies had a limited number of stickers for each game. They could only tag players on their back, shoulders, or arms. When they ran out of stickers they just walked around and moaned or knocked over shelters that were still being built.

Med Station & The Cure: 

We decided that we needed a med station in the middle of the room. We used three tables and kept med kits and cures at the table. Two volunteers ran this area and I would advise more if you have a large group. When teens got notes from supplies or were tagged by Zombie they headed to the Med Station. At the station, they had to complete tasks to get Med Kits or the cure. My teens thought that the game “Operation” would be perfect as one of the tasks. You had to get 3 pieces out without setting off the buzzer for the cure.


We put the cures in a paper towel tube and covered the ends. The cure consisted of a blue glow-stick bracelet. Once they got the cure they had to activate the bracelet and wear it for the remainder of the game. My teens made a rule that if they got tagged again while wearing the bracelet they immediately became a zombie. This was a bad idea. I will tell you why in the next post. There were only two cures out in the wild for players to find during each round. One only contained a pencil- no cure!

If their supplies had made them sick they had to do other tasks to get better or sit out of the game for 2 minutes.

Water station: 

Have lots of water and cups for your teens. They will get thirsty from running around. We had a water station in a corner and they could stop and get water or take a break if needed. Zombies could not tag anyone or wait for them outside the station. This was the neutral zone!


Break out the Halloween stuff and make your rooms look zombified! My teens decided to skip this part and only made a few posters for Dan’s club. It actually worked well for us and made clean up easier.





Final thoughts: 

This is a lot of prep but totally worth it! We used a ton of recycled supplies and spent only $15! Next up, I will run through game play and include a link to the printouts I created for the game.



Hobbit Day

This week I am playing catch up on what we have been programming in the library. I have several fun and low cost programs to share with my readers. Feel free to use the ideas at your own library!

My favorite program besides Star Wars Reads Day has to be Hobbit Day. We received a lovely party package from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that made the day even more special. Alas, it was also the last movie from the world of Tolkien (cue sad face) and we wanted to go out with a bang. I partnered with the lovely Miss A who moonlights as our tween librarian, and together we rocked the Shire library style. We also quickly learned that we should never be allowed to work together on anything because I think there was more giggling than actual progress. There was also a fair amount of party Thranduil memes being sent back and forth but I digress..

Our patrons had a blast and we had a wonderful family stay the entire time and call around inviting their friends to join them. The only downside is that I didn’t get more pictures of the event. We were so busy with the quest that I left my camera in my pocket the whole time!

Hobbit party an all ages program:

We decided that this should be an all ages event and hit up Pinterest for some ideas. There are lots of people that have done some amazing birthday parties around all things LOTR. This was our favorite and the inspiration for most of our party: LOTR Party

We used the biggest room in the library and turned it into a mini quest. When the children walked in the they chose whether they wanted to be a Hobbit, an Elf, or a Dwarf. Each race was represented by a different colored leaf with a name written on it. They could tape it on their shirt or wear it as a necklace. They also received the “One ring.”  Once they had those things they started on their quest. The quest was marked by brown paper “stones” with arrows pointing in the right direction.

The Rings

We made these out of paper towel tubes and painted them gold. I used a sharpie to write some squiggles on the sides for the dark writing.

Stop #1- The Dead Marshes


Children had to walk through the treacherous marshes using the secret path. I used some blue bulletin board paper, paper stepping stones, fake and real plants, and lots of leaves. We didn’t want to make it too scary for the little guys.

Stop #2- Shoot the bad guys!

We set up a shooting gallery with the bad guy characters from both LOTR and the Hobbit. Miss A turned the extra scary looking orcs into party orcs with bow-ties and silly hats. The kids then got to either throw rocks at them (giant puff balls) or shoot them with Legolas’s bow. Most of them tried both and there were lots of cheers when they knocked them off the mountain.

Stop #3 – Shelobe’s Lair

For this stop we covered two tables with black sheets and added some spider web and fake spiders. Inside the lair were a bunch of spider eggs (Easter eggs) that either had a spider ring or a bit of web. The kids had to crawl inside and find an egg. When they came out the other side they opened it up and found out if they were safe (spider web) or if they had gotten bit by the spiders (spider ring). If they were bitten they had to be wrapped in toilet paper (web)  before they could continue their journey. This was the second most popular stop and there were lots of giggles.

Stop #4- Riddles in the Dark

I made a guessing game using old jean pockets and filled them with random items. The kids had to feel the outside of the pocket and see if they could guess what was inside.

Stop #5- Mount Doom



Once they got to this stop they had to toss their gold rings into the fires of Mount Doom to save all of Middle Earth. After they had destroyed the ring they got a poster of Gandalf and a ring bookmark to take home. We built the volcano using two huge flower pots and brown paper. We added some red and orange tissue paper and streamers for the lava. The kids really loved it. It ended up being a photo stop for the parents.

After the quest they could do more activities that were set up around the room. We had match the actors to the Dwarves, make a shield, Hobbit trivia, and lots of puzzles and games. We also had music from the movies playing the background.

We had lots of people come and go and it was a very successful party with not a lot of expense. If you are thinking about hosting one of these parties and need some of the trivia questions or puzzles you can find them here:





Ani-May Fest

This year has been a pretty awesome so far. We finally have a thriving Teen Advisory board that is excited about planning and running programs at the library. Wait… you’re letting them run the programs?! Yes, and other than a few hiccups it has been a success.

I had an end of the school year pizza party for my TAB members and we discussed what we wanted to do for the end of spring and beginning of summer. The top request was me letting them plan and run an entire program from start to finish. I let them choose which event they wanted to do and they all selected   Ani-May Fest. I have to admit I was crazy excited about their choice. To be honest, (Librarian confession time) I am not a huge fan of anime or manga. I have tried to watch the shows they recommend and read the top teen manga for many years. But, I just can’t get into it. Don’t get me wrong, I have mad respect for the genre. The art is fantastic and I get why it is popular. It’s just not something I am ever going to love.

When I first became a the Teen Librarian at our branch I had to run a few programs that the previous librarian had planned. One of them was a Manga night. It was my first fandom program and it didn’t go over very well. I had planned a ton of crafts and had lots of themed snacks for them to try. 12 kids showed up and half were horrified when I confessed that I had not watched or read much from the genre. Several ended up leaving after one girl declared that I was unfit to run anything since I wasn’t a fan. After a few awkward minutes the rest settled in to drawing their favorite characters and chatting. The only saving grace was the cart of manga that had been weeded from the department that I let them take home. Even though the program for the most part bombed I did learn a lot about the genre from the teens that stuck around and were willing to school me on their favorites.

Ani-May Fest was planned 100% by my TAB group. They chose the title and helped me write the description for the program. The only thing I was in charge of was getting the food and setting up a Crunchyroll account so they could watch some anime on the big screen. The best part? One of the teen boys who is not a fan wanted to come and help his TAB friends run the event because he wanted to support what they love. Adorable! Here is what we did:

Ani-May Fest

Celebrate all things anime and manga during this special event. Learn how to make candy sushi and gyotaku paintings, watch episodes from Crunchyroll, rated TV-14/PG-13 and under, and discuss your favorite characters. Other craft activities, games and snacks will be provided. Costumes are welcome!

Candy Sushi

IMG_6473 IMG_6474


My TAB members ended up making the sushi for the other attendees instead of letting everyone try it. It turned out okay and they had fun bringing it out on serving trays for everyone to try. I highly recommend using name brand candy and not the cheap stuff. We got the super cheap, off brand twizzlers and they all thought they tasted really bad. Twizzler makes a rainbow variety that taste a lot better! We used the following guide to make our version:

how to make candy sushi

Tip: Use Pam and Wax paper!! We forgot to spray the wax paper with Pam so everything was super stuck together!

Gyotaku Prints-


Gyotaku is a Japanese tradition where you use fish and ink to make prints. It started in the 1800’s and may have been used by fishermen to record the size of their catch. Now it’s a lovely art form! We are lucky to have a small collection of rubber fish that we use at various events. You paint one side of the fish with acrylic paint and lay a large piece of paper over the fish. Then you gently rub it to make the print. Everyone tried it but only few took their prints home. One of the teens suggested that we add googly eyes next time to make them “cooler.” The other suggestion was to us real fish.. um no!



There is a wonderful resource for Libraries called Crunchyroll. It is a streaming service that has lots of popular Anime you can watch in your library. All they require is for users to fill out a short survey at the end of their program on how they used the service. If you buy a membership, it is around $7.00 a month.

Chopstick relay- 

This was my favorite event of the night! One of my TAB members created this game for the attendees. He came up with the rules and made sure that everyone got a chance to play! I am so proud of him and I wish I had grabbed better pictures of what he created.

IMG_6478 IMG_6479

The game is pretty simple. See how many items you can pick up and put into the cup using chopsticks. Each item has a value based on how hard or easy it was to pick up with chopsticks. The first round you could use cheater chopsticks and the second round you used chopsticks the traditional way. There was an option to use cheaters the whole time but you forfeited half of your score.  We used flat glass marbles, pom poms, glass shapes, and beads. Some of the glass marbles were inside a vase so it was harder to get them out and into your cup. The teens loved this game and played it over and over. They even created new rules and set up a relay race between partners where you passed pom poms to each other using the chopsticks. There were lots of laughs and everyone got a chance to play!

Other Activities-

Most of them just wanted to draw while watching anime. I had a few games set out: Sushi Go, Takenoko, Tsuro, and King of Tokyo. I also had templates for DIY Pokemon cards and origami paper for folding. It was pretty low key and they could what they wanted or just hang out with their friends.

If you are looking for themed snacks check out Asian markets in your area. I found a bag of 25 chopstick sets for under a $1 and inexpensive candy for them to try. Survey your teens and see if they have any favorites and where they go to buy them.

Final Thoughts- 

This was a lot of fun! My TAB team did a pretty good job helping out with the program. Only one stayed and helped clean up afterwards which is something we need to work on as a group. I’m also working with them to mingle with the crowd a bit more. They tend to get a bit clannish and stick together. We’ve got the planning thing down. We just need to work on the participation part!

The other teens all had a good time and they didn’t care that their librarian was not a huge fan. They loved sharing their favorites with me and liked that other teens planned this event. They asked if this could be a yearly event every May!

Having teens plan your events can help if you are not well versed on a fandom. If you don’t have a TAB group you can still plan a meet up like this. Check with other staff and see if there are fans out there that would be willing to help you with the event. At the very least they can give you pointers so you are not totally in the dark. Finally, be willing to do a bit of research about the fandom and also give it a chance. You don’t have to like everything to plan a fun night!





Being a Fanbrarian Pt. 2- Geeky Programming

To me, the best part about being a Teen Librarian is programming. I love coming up with ideas that will appeal to a variety of ages. It is personally challenging in a good way and something I look forward to every planning period. Geeky programs can be fun if you are fan yourself or super challenging if you have never watched or read the current craze. In my last post I talked about getting to know your audience. This post is what to do when you have found out what your teens love and how to plan a program without losing your mind. *You may still lose your mind but hopefully not all the way!*

Got my list.. now what?


You’ve surveyed your teens and they have requested a bunch of geeky programs. Some of them you know and some you have only heard about in passing. Maybe a few on that list are not your cup of tea and the idea of programming around it makes you shudder in horror. First off, I am firm believer of “if you can’t find anything to like about something don’t program it!” I am not a fan of Attack on Titan. It creeps me out on many levels. Naked giants eating people… double nope. I can appreciate the art and why the teens love it but I am not going to do a whole program around it. Plus, if you really are uncomfortable with something and truly cannot handle it on any level then leave it for another librarian. Teens can tell when you dislike something they love. Kinda like they can smell fear and know the exact moment that the cookie package is opened. It will not be fun for anyone involved so skip it.

Next, I suggest sorting out your list. I put the programs that I know at the top and the ones I don’t, but might be willing to learn about at the bottom. If there is anything else on the list that I think I can’t do or is out of my comfort zone I ask a fellow librarian if they want to do it or send the idea to another branch. Many times they have resources that I don’t or one of the librarians there is willing to give it shot or are a fan themselves. Which brings me to my next point: Job sharing and cross programming

Who do you know?


There are millions of fandoms in this world and knowing them all is impossible. But, someone you know just might! Your co-workers are fabulous resources that we often forget about. I am not a Legend of Zelda fan and did not grow up playing the game. I have a group of tweens that love Zelda and had been begging for a program. Thankfully one of the lovely gals in the Children’s department is a mega fan. She was able to create a wonderful tween program with little to no effort. We often trade ideas and help each other with programming so it was a really good fit.

Another fandom that I am trying to break into but am lacking both time and motivation is Anime and Manga. Honestly, this fandom is very overwhelming to me. There is so much to know that includes thousands of shows and books. Since this is my most requested program I am doing a job share with another branch. One of their teen librarians is coming to my branch to help me with this program. I can do the basics and she can actually talk to the kids about what they love. This program is still in the planning phase so I will let you know how it works out.

If your library is open to it you can bring in outside help. We have several Geek groups in our area and we have invited them to come and help us out with fandom programs. Some of the Geek clubs in the Southwest Missouri area include: Doctor Who, LARPing, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Ghostbusters. We also have a few local cosplay groups that have come and done “DIY parties” with our teens and were very well received. We often don’t think about using other people as resources for programming but coworkers and friends outside of work can be great resources for your teens.

Behold the power of the internet


Pinterest is my BFF. I have tons of themed boards with ideas for my teen programs. I also share a few boards with other librarians in our system. While Pinterest can be a massive time suck, it can also be an invaluable resource for all things geek. It even has a geek option in the search bar. I used Pinterest when I was binge watching Doctor Who last year to help me get some of the references I missed and to find ideas for crafty things the teens would like. It also schooled me on the lingo for the fandom. If you want to follow me: MsVal313.

A quick and easy way to explore a fandom is to hit up their official page. You can glean a ton of information off BBC Sherlock and Doctor Who. I have also used a few wiki links to learn more information about those obscure Anime Fandoms that many of my teens love. I also skim the tags on Tumblr to find additional information. Proceed with caution on this avenue. If you are not interested in spoilers Tumblr might not be a good choice!

If you have not explored the Facebook group: Teen Services Underground I highly recommend it. It is a gathering of YA Librarians who love to share ideas. I have asked many a question about fandom related things and been directed to blogs and given advice on what to do. They helped me navigate the world of Homestuck without losing my mind and plan a fun program that attracted 13 teens who want me to do this again “like OMG every week.” They also do a monthly feature of programming ideas and YA related posts from bloggers all over the country. They also have a website: Teen Services Underground

Another place I love is Teen Librarian Toolbox. There are tons of program ideas from books to movies and everything in between. When I was a new Librarian this was my #1 resource for all things teen. This blog is full of information about programs, teen issues, and features lots of guest posts.

Finally, If you have a blog or site that you love please post them below and I will create a list on this post for everyone to use. You are also free to steal any of my ideas that I blog about.

Blogs I love:

A format that works for me


Depending on the time of year and my budget I use different formats for my geek programs. My teens love trivia, scavenger hunts, crafty stuff, and themed snacks. Sometimes I can do all of that and sometimes they have to pretend that the $1 raspberry filled cookies are Jammy Dodgers. It is rare that my programs cost over $20. I am really good at making something from very little. I have found that most of the time they just want to talk about their fandom and hang out together. Here are some ideas for how to format your programs.

Program example #1 – Sherlock BBC

  • Scavenger hunt through the library using clues from the TV show.
  • Cumberbatch Bookmarks– Seriously though… adorbs!
  • Pin the Mustache on John
  • Have some Moriar-tea and make crowns. I have used Burger King crowns and blinged them up with glitter glue and left over rhinestone stickers.
  • The great debate- Is Moriarty really dead? How did Sherlock really fool John into believing he was dead?
  • Origami Lotus– From the episode The Blind Banker

Program example #2- Homestuck

  • Decorate Cupcakes with candy corn (found all year long at Walgreens) and sprinkles
  • Make troll horns with air dry clay
  • Share fanfiction- Make sure to remind them to keep it PG or PG-13 cause it can get a bit eye opening!
  • Make Fandom Buttons with the button maker- If you have one break it out. Teens love buttons
  • Alternate craft if you lack a button maker- make magnets from Printable magnet sheets or bottle cap magnets

Program example #3- The Big Doctor Who program that cost about $40 for 17 kids to participate

  • Doctor who T-shirts using freezer paper and fabric spray paint – Have kids bring their own shirts
  • Doctor Who Jeopardy- Old Who and New Who
    • I made these Jeopardy boards and you are welcome to steal!
  • Snacks: Walgreens “Jammy Dodgers” (raspberry creme cookies), Chips (Cassandra Crisps), Bananas, Sour Patch Kids (Jelly Babies)

Program example #4- Super Smash Bros (video game) Tournament

  • This game has an option for setting up brackets so I let the teens choose names and set everything up. It is super easy!
  • Perler Bead Mario Crafts
  • Extra TV with video game cartoons
  • I have done this program with snacks and without snacks. They get pretty tuned into the game so it kinda doesn’t matter either way.

It’s your turn!

Do you have a format or program that works? Would you like to share? Please comment below. All ideas are welcome and it’s nice to have a variety of things to choose from!


Next up- Everyday Fanbrarian




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