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!
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.
The program I get most questions about from fellow library professionals is laser tag. This is by far my most well-attended program; I had 40 kids plus 10 on a wait list in 2016, and I had 55 in 2017. I continue to hear about it and get questions about when we’re doing it next all year long.
I’ve done this program twice, in February 2016 and February 2017. I chose February because it’s an indoor event that releases pent-up energy, so ideal for winter. Both times were for grades 6-8, and included four supervising adults. Parents were required to sign waivers.
What I share here will be a conflation of the two programs, taking the most effective parts of each. I’ll also mention some things I suggest not doing. Continue reading
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.
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
A few weeks ago I called up my two local middle school teacher-librarians to ask if they’d be interested in partnering up on an activity for Teen Tech Week. It turned out that they were having lunchtime events to celebrate Read Across America all week long. So we combined the two, and made one of the Read Across America days a tech day. I brought robots from the public library to the school libraries (each on a separate day) and stayed there for all three lunch periods. Students could eat their lunch in the library, then play with the robots.