Category Archives: Advice

YALSA: Teen Space Guidelines

teenspacesThese guidelines were created in 2011 -2012 by a task force of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) with feedback from the library community achieved through a public comment period in the fall of 2011.
This is a tool for evaluating a public library’s overall level of success in providing physical and virtual space dedicated to teens, aged 12-18. Potential users of these national guidelines include library administrators, library trustees, teen services librarians, community members and job-seekers hoping to assess a library’s commitment to teen services. Not every element of the guidelines may apply to every public library situation, but the guidelines can serve as a place to begin the conversation about what constitutes excellent public library space for teens.
Click here to read the full YALSA Teen Space guidelines.
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a national association of librarians, library workers and advocates whose mission is to expand and strengthen library services for teens, aged 12-18. Through its member-driven advocacy, research, and professional development initiatives, YALSA builds the capacity of libraries and librarians to engage, serve and empower teens.

Tips on Working with Teens: Bribery & Corruption are OK!

There is an old(ish) saying that goes “You get nothing for nothing!”

That can be adapted for attracting teens into your library or teen activity/reading group. As librarians we know the pleasures that reading brings, some teens are also aware of this – these are the ones that will come to the group anyway. Reward the group members – a big bag of Funsize Mars Bars is a relatively inexpensive way to do this. The idea is not to broadcast that there will be freebies but surprise the attendees towards the end of the first session.

Teenagers talk to one another, and when word gets around that they can get sweets /chocolate and possibly win cool free stuff in the library then their friends will start coming along. The good thing about readers is that their friends are also not averse to picking up books when the need arises. Teenagers are busy people and often need a reason (or excuse) to attend something that may cause them to lose face in the eyes of their peers.

The nature of the group will dissuade all but those most determined to get free stuff and those that are attending because they love reading, manga or whatever the group focus is (also those that may need a reason to eb there but can’t admit to liking books). It is a good idea to institute group rules – the first rule of reading club is that you must talk at reading club, if it is your first time at reading club you must talk, talking can be about books, magazines or any printed material.

Depending on the size of the group one bag of Funsize mars bars can last for a minimum of two group meetings. You do not have to use Mars bars if you have a manga group you can pick up a bag of White Rabbit sweets, Pocky has become unbelievably expensive compared to what it was a few years ago and I only use it for prize giveaways these days.

Over the years I have found that many group members may come for the freebies, books or magazines but end up staying for the community spirit and being with like-minded teens who enjoy what they like.

Once the group is established you can hold random giveaways if you are able to source freebies, these can include proof copies of books, interesting things that you pick up at conventions or cheap, shiny things that you can pick up at pound stores.

Organising Author Skype Visits

Hosting a virtual author Skype visit is a lot easier than you may think, all you need (apart from a willing author at the other end of the Internet) is an Internet-enabled computer, the Skype VOIP program, a webcam, a microphone and for best effect an interactive whiteboard to project the image onto.

Skype is freely available to download for all major operating systems, you can download it here and you can pick up a microphone, speakers and basic webcam for under £20. The biggest problem that colleagues that I have spoken to in the past have had was being able to access Skype through their work computers. The only way to get around this is to cultivate a good working relationship with your IT team, or, failing that, speak to your manager or senior leadership team and ask them to speak to teh IT peaople for you after making a really good case as to why you need it.

The Internet has made the world smaller than ever and with many authors now having embraced social media, more and more are willing to go on an international tour without leaving their home.

Finding an author willing to virtually visit your school or library is as easy as going to the Skype an Author website.


  • Make sure you have or can get Skype before booking an author
  • Test your Skype account the day before the event
  • If you have booked an author in a foreign country make sure you both know the times you are going to hold the virtual visit
  • Check that the webcam and microphone are working before the day
  • Have a member of teh IT team standing by just in case
  • Tips on Working with Teens: Do NOT Touch the Librarian

    This one is known as Mr Imrie’s first rule, and I put it in place for two reasons – firstly I am over 6 feet tall and fairly bulky, the last thing I want is to have someone scream “Oh my God! That monster what is he doing to the children?”

    I have had that particular phobia ever since the incident where I picked up my cousin’s daughter in Curry’s to prevent her from toppling an expensive television and she screamed the place down, fortunately I was able to find my cousin and give her back before anything happened which in my mind was being picked up by the police for attempted abduction and deported.


    It is the one boundary rule from which all others are established. As long as they follow the rule it shows they are actively thinking about engaging with you, it also building an almost subconscious level of respect. Eventually it becomes almost second nature and while they may recognize you as part of the library group they are also aware that you are apart from the group. In one of my previous libraries one of the teens introduced her friends to me by saying “This is Mr Imrie the Librarian, do not touch the Librarian, no-one is allowed to touch the Librarian!”

    Anyway, back to the tip. One of the things I have learned about teens is when they are in a group they can get very huggy – and they can be indiscriminate in their hugs. Glomping has been known to occur.

    I have only been hugged twice since starting working in the UK, the first was when one of my teens left the group to go to university, she hugged everybody and ambushed me and ignored my cries of “No touchy the librarian!” It was a bit embarrassing as I had some colleagues visiting the group from another local authority and I had been telling them about how I had been running the group. The second was after a group meeting and I was waiting at the bus stop and some of the kids were waiting nearby and started chatting to me about where they were going on their holidays when their bus arrived one of them hugged me to say goodbye then almost missed her bus as she started apologising for the hug and was worried about me getting into trouble at the library.

    A friend of mine set up his rule by establishing his personal bubble space through mime and then saying “This is my bubble you are not allowed through it!”

    Personally I prefer the Emperor’s New Groove approach

    I do that whenever anyone tries to hug me, or looks as if they may be heading that way. It helps avoids awkwardness and can sometimes get a laugh.

    There are a couple of exceptions to the no touch rule, these are either if someone wants to spud you (fist bump) or give you a high five. I can be persuaded to spud occasionally but never high five.

    EDIT: Barry Lyga has a good post on working with teens from an author’s perspective: Remember that they’re kids

    Tips on Working With Teens: Do not try to be cool! You are not cool – and never will be!

    If you were cool you may never have become a librarian, we are never cool but we ARE completely awesome in many other ways!

    Cool is by nature exclusionary – and the library is used largely (but not exclusively) by uncool kids – the geeks, outsiders and young people that want a place where their bullies may not think of looking for them. If you exude coolness it may scare them off as only cool kids mingle with cool people.

    If you target the in crowd first you will limit the growth of the group to those that are in their favour and the library group may become just another clique where the outsiders are marginalised.

    Be a geek, this is easy as almost everyone is a geek these days, be your natural slightly odd self – most of the best librarians I know and spend time with are painfully uncool in all the best ways; they are also magnificent when it comes to working with young people.

    Eventually the library teens will accept you as one of their own and start trusting you and your suggestions on what to read and do!

    Being uncool you will not be a threat to the cool kids and they will eventually take pity on you and talk to you. Once the first one starts talking the others will eventually come round and start engaging

    One of the perks of being uncool is that kids will feel secure enough to laugh with you and, at times at you but you will be their librarian and they will trust you and love you for as long as you are there!

    Once you have done this you will have started transcending the cool barrier, the kids you work with will eventually start saying that you are cool (it may take a year or so)but you must remind them that you are not cool – you are AWESOME – as is everybody that uses the library! When teens realise that they are awesome they will finally start realising that cool is not really that cool.

    Tips on Working With Teens: Be to Them Who You Needed When You Were a Teenager

    One of the first things you should do when working with teenagers is think back to your years as a teen.

    Remember what you went through, the unfairness of being young and perfect and not being understood by grown ups who were never young like you. Think about the challenges you faced, what you needed to get through those years

    While the problems that young people may have changed and multiplied over the years their needs remain pretty much what they were when we were that age:

    • Someone to listen or give advice
    • A reliable adult figure
    • Be a friend but remember that you are also a figure of authority
    • Be encouraging and supportive but always be honest
    • Sometimes just being there when you say you are going to be there is all that is needed, you may not be needed for a deep heart to heart – just your presence may be enough
    • Be consistant – you are working with teens through choice or by nomination, do not blow hot and cold with them or you will alienate them and once that happens they are lost to you!

    This list is not exhaustive, they are just some things that I have used over the years, if you have others please do not hesitate to share via the comments!

    Tips on Working with Teens: Props are Important

    Props can be broken down into three categories:

    Active, Passive and Inbetween/Interactive props

    Active Props

    Active props are those that you can use to initiate conversation with a teen or group of teens, these can be books, magazines or things as simple as a sign up sheet for a group activity.

    A book is perhaps the easiest and simplest prop to use. If you are new to the library you do not want to go out brandishing a book; the first thing to do is find out where the teens lurk in your library. These days it is usually the Teen/YA area. You need to be in that area before the teens arrive, working not just loitering as (unless you are a teen yourself) hanging around a teen area can give the wrong impression. Once they have gotten used to your presence and started treating yu like part of the furniture you may be able to pick up on their interests and reading habits. The next time they come in to the library you can have a book in your hand that tallies with what you gleaned from their activities previously and when they start chatting you could insert yourself into their conversation with a “If you like that then you may enjoy this!” and showcase the book. Even if they do not take the book you will at least have been able to initiate conversation which can make things easier in future.

    A piece of paper can have many uses, firstly it can be used to take notes after you have said something along the lines of: “Hi I am [insert name here] and I am the new Teen/Youth Services/ Young Adult Librarian and I am hoping to run clubs and activities for young people in the library, what sort of groups would you like to see here?” Then you could either jot down what they say, or give each of them a sheet clearly marked with a space for names and ideas.

    Passive props

    These are generally things that you wear or can have on your desk or around you if you are working in the Teen Area.  They can also be more exciting and in some cases unique.

    The most successful passive prop I own is a Domo-kun lanyard that I used to use to hold my library name badge, there was a massive manga reading group of young people that used to come in and when they saw it they invariably asked where I got it, and, could they have it?







    More recently I have become the proud owner of a Mockingjay pin; now that gets a lot of attention – from teens as well as adults who are in the know, I have received the usual questions as to where I got it and can they have it, not only that but I have created a dystopia novel conversation group in my library based on a single pin (and the multimillion advertising for the movie and the books).
    Hats can work as props, but are more limiting indoors, clothing can also be used but depending on the dress code where you work your mileage may vary!



    In-between or Interactive props

    These are props that fall somewhere between Active and Passive ones, they can include musical instruments, games consoles and even plush furry toys.

    The furry beast is a prop that I used infrequently and mostly when one or more of the kids I worked with were upset – giving I teen a hug is just about acceptable for a female librarian but for a male member of staff it is the sort of thing that can get you reported for improper behaviour, but having something plush for them to cuddle until they feel better is a lot safer all round.


    My ukulele has attracted a lot of attention in my current library as I take it in to practice during my lunch break but games consoles will give you an automatic audience no matter where you are!














    Any number of props can be used to engage with young people, especially if it is something that you are personally interested in or know a lot about.  They do not have to be big or expensive – cheap and cheerful items work just a swell as long as they are eye catching then that is all you need.

    Library of the Living Dead

    This is brilliant!

    Staff at McPherson College’s Miller Library in Kansas, USA, have produced a library guide in graphic novel format, Library of the Living Dead. Intrepid bearded librarians extinguish a horde of zombies, teach something about the Dewey Decimal system and demonstrate the value of library and information lore in the process.

    Available to download as a pdf here

    Nintendo 3DS & Libraries

    On Friday the always amazing Carl Cross of Derbyshire Libraries sent an e-mail to the Lib Gaming UK mailing list. You can join the list here – go on you know you want to!

    It was a great post and naturally I wanted to share it, and since Carl gave permisison to have it rebroadcast on Teen Librarian, here it is in its entirety! Enjoy:

    Last week Nintendo launched its glasses free 3D handheld the 3DS.

    There are at least two other librarians on this list with one /waves/ and probably a few more.

    For those of you who don’t have one it has an inbuilt social gaming feature called Street Pass. The idea is that your 3DSes send information to each other as you pass unknowingly in the street. Hence the name.

    At the moment the information is your Mii (avatar) and a few game specific features such as downloading your best laps in racing game Ridge Racer as a ‘ghost’ for the other player to beat. Streetfighter takes a similar approach by having your team of trophies battle each other for fun, profit and prizes.

    There’s loads of fun stuff built into the 3DS that encourages social interaction from early JRPG-alike StreetPass Quest to the utterly mad face shooting ARG Face Raiders.

    All cool stuff but what has it got to do with libraries?

    Not everywhere is as population dense as Tokyo or London or Manchester and your chances of meeting another 3DS owner in the wild are sometimes slim.

    Some enterprising folk are using the power of social media to hook up with others in real life to swap data and to game. All you need is a location and a bit of advertising, preferably in an online space like the Meet Mii Facebook page.

    See what it’s got to do with libraries now?

    It needn’t stop at that of course. While only one of the launch lineup of games offers online multiplayer (Streetfighter IV for the curious) others have local multiplayer as long as both players have a copy of the game. We’d be offering ourselves up as a venue to find other players.

    Of course there are problems with this idea. As far as I can see two biggies and the usual ones about noise:

    Biggie 1: It’s potentially a shop window for potential muggers – the 3DS is an expensive piece of kit and if they know there’s a whole load of people with one in their pocket they may well take advantage.

    Biggie 2: It’s no good trying to limit this to a given age group. If you’re going to do it at all it must be for all comers which means parents need to be warned. It’s a good opportunity to talk about online security in general of course.

    I’m considering trying this in a couple of our libraries and see what happens. I will also be starting a regular Wii club in the near future so I expect that to form part of that too.

    Anyone else tempted? Can anyone else see any major problems with it that I’ve missed at this stage of a Friday?

    Simplified Dungeons & Dragons

    Over the past few years I have spoken to a number of D&D and gaming fans that work in Libraries, without exception they have stated that they would love to set up gaming sessions in Libraries, the only problem they have encountered is the timescales involved in setting up and running campaigns.

    Now thanks to BoingBoing I have found a website that has provided a ‘how to’ guide on running a D&D introductory campaign for eight year olds. The campaign can be tweaked for older players in libraries but overall the simplified rules and character creation makes it easier to start with beginners.

    2) Kids chose which color dice they want and which miniature will be their hero, both of which they got to keep as “goodie bags” from the party. We didn’t have them do any further character creation (all heroes had the same stats behind the screen) except for name. Lots of the kids who hadn’t played before had problems coming up with a name, so I asked if they wanted to roll for one. I didn’t actually have a table, I just used the time they were rolling the dice to think them up.

    3) The scenario was that the heroes set forth from their stronghold to explore the surrounding wilderness in search of magical items to claim and Pokemon to capture. We had the kids construct the wilderness using Heroscape hexes, and the stronghold using wooden Kapla blocks

    The campaign was played over two and a half hours. For full details go here:

    What Made for a Successful D&D Birthday Party