TLT Turns 10: 10 of My Favorite Programs Shared on TLT
I currently don’t do a lot of library programming, but I have done 1,000s of library programs, many of which I have shared here on TLT. Here’s a little secret for you: I actually share my program ideas and outlines here so I have easy access to them for the future. I repeat programs all the time, because why not. And I’m not the only one who shares programs here. In fact, teen librarian Cindy Shutts shares programs the first and third Wednesday of every month with her regular Cindy Crushes Programming column. So today, I’m going to share 10 of my favorite tween and teen programs that we have shared here on TLT.
When I do presentations and I have to introduce myself one of the things that I share is that I know more than 22 ways to change, upcycle, or decorate a shirt – because I do! And one summer, I hosted a summer of shirts in my teen makerspace. This proved to be one of the most successful program series I have ever hosted. I have always found that teens like craft programs where they get to be creative and self expressive AND they get to take something home. Shirts are a great take home!
I love button making so much, I own my own button maker! Just as I know more than 22 different ways to make a t-shirt, I know tons of ways to make buttons. In fact, I have found that tweens and teens like having specific button making challenges, so when I found the idea of challenge cards, I jumped!
In 2020 when libraries closed, everyone had to scramble to figure out how to still engage teens and keep them safe. Cindy Shutts has been sharing her virtual escape rooms here and I love them! She does such a great job. I think that every library should continue to offer some virtual programs when libraries re-open and virtual escape rooms are a great way to do this.
An important part of teen librarianship is knowing what’s hot and figuring out how to turn it into a program. Former TLTer Heather Booth did just that in 2011 when Angry Birds was super popular. After she blogged about it, I did this program several times at my library and it was fun! It was also cheap!
One day I really worried that we weren’t doing enough to promote books in our teen makerspace, so we found ways to make them! And with the popularity of Instagram, it wasn’t hard to find resources to make this happen. It took everything we loved – sharpie art, duct tape crafts, and photography – and turned them into something we love even more: books!
Several things surprised me when I started using Legos as part of my MakerSpace programming. One, I was stunned to learn how expensive they can be. Two, I was surprised to learn how many tweens and teens had never played with Legos, in part because of revelation #1. I was also surprised to learn how much tweens and teens needed more specific directions when you offered them Legos. This is, in fact, how I found and began the challenge cards I mentioned above with the button making. If you are going to offer Legos, I recommend having daily specific challenges.
Jewelry making is a great program because you get to take stuff home. And I love how Cindy turned a popular YA series into book themed jewelry. This is such a great craft idea. And yay for books!
DIY Do Not Disturb Door Spinner (by Kara DeCarlo)
Every once in a while, a librarian contacts me and says hey, can I do a guest post about x, y or z. And if we can make it happen, we do. This DIY Do Not Disturb Door Spinner came about because of the pandemic and everyone trying to do Zoom school, but it’s actually great for any time. Teens love privacy and I think it’s a great idea. Don’t want your sibling knocking on your door because you are doing homework, trying to sleep, or whatever? This door spinner is right for you! It would be a great addition to one of my other favorite programs: Renovate Your Room.
A lot of the program things I have done over the years have been craft related, and as cheap as possible. But this one time, I did something more expensive and high tech and it was super cool! In fact, I made a neon Space sign which still hangs up in Thing 2’s room. That’s pretty awesome.
One of the library’s I had the honor of working at had a really well established library program that they hosted every year to get 6th graders into the library and teach them how to use the various resources. It was also a great way to transition the elementary kids to the teen services center. I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of work and required a lot of staff and a lot of staff time, but it was a pretty great program. The only thing I would change is that if I was doing this program now, I would probably call it something different. I like the program itself, but I’m pretty hesitant personally to promote things around the framework of war, and I say this as the proud military kid of a veteran.
So there you have it, 10 of my favorite programs that we have shared here on TLT. In one way or another, I love something about all of them. And if I was making this list again next year, I might have a different one. But today, this is my Top 10 Programs. What programs have you loved that we have shared here on TLT? We’d love to know, so please share in the comments.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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