Program – Build to Battle

What is it?

Using office supplies and instructions from the Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction book series by John Austin, create tiny catapults, bows and arrows, and other “weapons” then compete in challenges with them.

 

Price

You may be able to find what you need among you existing office supplies, or solicit donations of materials.  In this case, you could potentially run the program without buying anything.  I had a healthy budget to work with and ended up spending about $50 on building materials.

 

Why do it?

There’s a little bit of every STEAM element—science, technology, engineering, art, and math—in this program.  Not many activities hit on all that, particularly not ones with this high appeal for pre-teens and teens.  It’s a great program for disguising educational elements behind a ton of fun elements. Continue reading

Program – Extreme Library

What is it?

After the library is closed, middle schoolers can come play active games throughout the library building.  I like to really play up the fact that they will have the library to themselves, and be allowed to do things we wouldn’t normally allow.  Hence the “extreme”…though of course, it’s all perfectly safe and legal. 😉  This is the program description I use: “Zombie tag in the Library? An extreme scavenger hunt in the stacks? That can’t be allowed…but we’re going to try it anyway! We won’t tell if you don’t.”

 

Price

Anywhere from free, to however much you want to spend.  If your budget it low, plan activities that use materials you already own.

 

Why Do It?

When you’re doing something unconventional like this, it’s a good idea to prepare for the possibility that your reasoning will be challenged.  Continue reading

Program – Laser Tag at the Library

What is it?

After the library is closed, invite middle schoolers to play laser tag in the building.

 

Price

$300-$700, depending on the equipment you use.

 

Number of participants

This can vary a lot.  If you rent equipment, most rental companies will offer 10 to 20 laser taggers at a time.  It’s often cost-effective to have the equipment for a block of time.  I like to get the equipment for three hours, and break it into three time slots; participants can sign up for one slot.  Each one-hour slot has 20 players (10 on each team), so I get 60 total in one night.  After all the instructions and suiting up, I’m usually able to give the participants 40 minutes of play during their timeslot, which seems a good amount of time to me. Continue reading

12 to 18: Meeting the Distinct Needs of the Early and Late Teen Years

Three colleagues and I spoke at the Illinois Library Association’s annual conference this month. Our presentation, “12 to 18: Meeting the Distinct Needs of the Early and Late Teen Years,” was about why and how to differentiate services to younger teens/middle schoolers and older teens/high schoolers in the public library. I had such a great time hearing what other library professionals had to say on a subject close to my heart.

You can view our slides here: 12 to18 _ILA 2017_Slides

I also created a list of selected titles and authors with special middle school appeal, which you can view here: Middle School Favorite Titles

Please use and share!

ALA Annual 2017 (AKA OMG I MET CARLA HAYDEN)

SEE.

Dr. Hayden was amazing: warm and enthusiastic. I felt like we were friends the moment we spoke. I told her I was a young adult librarian in the Chicago area, which is something she also was at the beginning of her career. She pointed to me (see photo) and said “She’s a young adult librarian!” to her staff members like I’d just told her I was a rock star.

I got to tell a bunch of publishers to publish more books aimed at middle school readers, met a few authors, tried some new maker technology, went to some useful sessions, and did a whole bunch of networking. I always come back from conferences feeling energized and inspired. There’s just something about being in a big building full of people with funky hair and cardigans who love books and information as much as I do. By the way, if you’re in the library field and need a boost of confidence, watch Hillary Clinton’s inspiring speech from the closing session about the importance of libraries here.

If you haven’t had the chance to attend a conference, do your best to make it to one. ALA can be hard to get to, but state conferences are great too (or at least, the Illinois Library Association one is; I haven’t been to any others). The ideas and rush of motivation make them worth the cost and time away from work.

A Low-Stress Murder Mystery Program

lower floor (768x1024)When my middle school patrons got it in their heads that they wanted a murder mystery program, I was less than enthused. It sounded like a logistical nightmare. But they kept asking, and I couldn’t think of a good excuse besides “That sounds too hard for me.” Not a great attitude for someone who’s always saying she wants their ideas.

Clue (768x1024)

I’ve seen presentations and write-ups from other libraries that have had after-hours murder mystery dinners, but I thought that was too much added complication for my first murder mystery, and the kids hadn’t asked for that. So I held a no-food mystery on a weekend afternoon. (I didn’t mention the lack of food in the marketing, naturally.)

The kids also said they wanted the type of mystery where they play roles, and one of them is the murderer. I agreed that this kind of game is the most fun, but I was concerned about attendance. My program attendance varies widely, and it’s tough to predict numbers or to get people to commit to things. Usually about 3/4 of the registered patrons show up.

This program works best with 10-15 players. It was more preparation-intensive than most of my programs, but was less work than I’d feared it would be. I ran it with no help from other staff (aside from borrowing some objects from them for props). It was two hours long, but I think one-and-a-half hours might have been a slightly better timeframe. Continue reading