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Helpful Online Resources for the Teen Librarian

By Allison Riggs

As a newer librarian, I always love learning about new resources to help me be the best librarian I can be. It’s even more helpful when I have all of those resources in one spot to help remind myself what sites I should be regularly checking. I have made this list of resources over the past year and want to share it with you! You may already know a lot of these resources, but I hope you find at least one or two new ones that you can use. I have listed the resources in alphabetical order with each resource’s link and a short description of what it has to offer.

Book Riot

For this resource, I signed up for their Young Adult newsletter and it is forever helpful, and just plain fun to read. It sometimes features upcoming titles, book lists, and YA movie adaptation news.

Booklist Webinars

Looking for free webinars about upcoming teen titles? This site is for you! They offer hour long webinars, and if you can’t watch the webinar live you can access it whenever it is convenient for you. To make it even easier, you can sign up for their webinar newsletter and you’ll automatically get notified whenever they have an upcoming webinar.

Epic Reads

This site is run by Harper Collins Publishers. It features monthly new YA release round ups, fun quizzes, and a variety of bookish content. I get a lot of inspiration from this site for book displays. It also helps me keep up with the upcoming popular YA title announcements.


There are hundreds of bookish accounts that you can follow on Instagram. Just looking at the #bookstagram or #yalit tags are super helpful to see different books coming out, what’s popular on Instagram, and to find new gems you didn’t even know about! There are also some great library and librarian bookstagrams that are very helpful and fun to follow as well.


I couldn’t have a list of online resources for librarians and not include Pinterest. I get some great craft ideas for programming from Pinterest!

Programming Librarian

This is an ALA run site, and I have gotten some awesome programming inspiration from this site. You can browse programming ideas by price, audience, topic, or type of library.

School Library Journal

Their website is filled with wonderful articles and reviews. I love their Read Woke articles by Cicely Lewis! They also have a very helpful blog full of programming ideas and posts on challenges teen librarians face. It’s called Teen Librarian Toolbox.

Stacked Books

This blog is a great resource for us teen librarians in charge of their teen nonfiction collections. It also has a lot of other great readers’ advisory lists as well. This is a great collection development tool.

Teen Services Underground

Every teen librarian should be checking out this blog. They have a large amount of programming ideas, readers’ advisory lists, and they always have a steady stream of new posts being published.

We Need Diverse Books

If you haven’t checked out this website yet, you really should. They provide great resources!

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association)

YALSA has an abundance of information for teen librarians including book lists for collection development, information on teen growth and development, and more. Their site can be a little overwhelming, but worth a look. They also have a blog with book award announcements. It’s called The Hub.

Young Adult Services Forum (ILA) Facebook Group

Teen librarians use this space to discuss books, programming, upcoming conferences, and to ask for advice. The forum also runs a fun Tournament of Books at the beginning of the year!

Making Changes: Donation Day

By Olivia Buck

When I became the Donation Day Coordinator for Bloomington Public Library, I had never attended a donation day prior to taking on the job and I had little idea of what to expect. I knew I would be the only library staff person working at donation day, managing and training several volunteers, while also acting as the main contact for any patrons at the event. The monthly donation day at my library is a fast-paced event where we’re constantly moving and shifting from one task to the next. Cars pull up to a side door in our parking lot where patrons honk their horns and we sweep outside with carts. Smiling, we greet our patrons while unloading their boxes from their cars. Bringing the boxes back inside, we sort the books out by condition. The books that we can keep are then sorted into genre and placed on carts that I wheel into another part of the library for further weeding and sorting later. The items that are outdated or in rough condition are placed in large, rolling bins which will be sent away for recycling.

Sometimes, patrons request tax receipts and I set about counting items and signing the receipt. All this to say, during donation day, our Community Room is like an anthill crawling with activity. After taking on the role of coordinator for the event, I realized that a few changes needed to be made to make our donation day work as efficiently as possible. Soon after one of my first months as coordinator of the event, I had a meeting with my manager to discuss how things went. I wasn’t sure if I could make changes to the event or if my manager would be receptive to my ideas. A bit nervously, I explained that I thought some changes needed to be made.

First, the hours weren’t working well for our patrons or volunteers. When I took over running the event, I knew that the donation day hours had recently been revised from lasting five hours in late morning to mid afternoon to three hours in the morning. However, patrons rarely arrived before 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Most of the time, it seemed that volunteers would have little to do for the first hour. Then an onslaught of cars would appear outside our doors at about 10 minutes till the end of the event… which was when all of my volunteers left. I’d often be left with a dozen giant boxes of books to sort, all by myself. Additionally, I was on a deadline to get out of the Community Room, because it had to be cleaned up and ready for events that took place immediately after I closed the doors for donations.

Luckily, this problem was easy to fix: change the hours. I knew that there would be some confusion on our patrons’ end since the hours had already been changed not long before, but I felt that the benefits would outweigh the costs. I proposed to the department manager that changing the hours again would be helpful. I also raised concerns about having so little time to get everything moved out of the Community Room after our event. With full support from my manager to make changes to the hours, we arranged to shift the hours to 10 am – 1 pm and to book the Community Room for the whole work day so that I would have more time to get everything sorted out.

The second problem was a bit more difficult to solve. My volunteers didn’t have enough training and I didn’t have enough time or help to make sure that they got the training they needed during the event. Prior to taking on the role of Donation Day Coordinator, I had experience training staff in the Circulation and Outreach Department, as well as having learned some great teaching techniques from my experiences as a peer consultant. However, training for donation day was quite the challenge. Unlike with library staff, volunteers may arrive at any point during the donation day shift. Which meant that, I often already had a heap of boxes to sort through and cars lined up outside waiting to be unloaded before I could even think about training. While training, sometimes information would be missed in the hecticness of the day and volunteers would jump into things before I could finish training them. In order to solve these problems, I created a training document to help with the flow of training and to keep on track. I also implemented volunteer training sessions prior to the start of the event. We recommended that first-time volunteers arrive thirty minutes before the beginning of the event for training. My manager listened patiently as I shared my ideas and readily agreed to try these things out.

Since making these changes, monthly donation days have run much smoother. There are much fewer slow periods during the day and the donations begin to wind down around the time that we close our doors. Volunteers who attend the pre-opening training have an easier time jumping into the event and know that they can come to me whenever they have questions. The training that they receive helps them to understand the bigger picture of what happens to the donated books as well as helps them make judgements on what we can and cannot keep. Donation day is still busy and requires a lot of hard work, but the improvements I was able to make with the help of my manager and other staff have made it run much smoother than it had in the past.

Strategic Planning as a Community Engagement Tool

By Sarah Keister Armstrong

It’s a foundational value for libraries to be welcoming and inclusive. However, we must remind ourselves not to view these terms simply as passive adjectives, but rather as active verbs that are a part of our work within our communities. One way to actively welcome and include our community members is through strategic planning processes that are designed to actively engage all segments of our communities.

While we likely are aware of many existing barriers to library usage, what may be less easy to comprehend are the barriers to engaging in a participatory process. A strategic planning process is an ideal time to identify some of these barriers and begin working to alleviate them.

1. Use the opportunity of your strategic planning process to connect with members of your community that are not routine users of the library.

The question of how to reach non-users has been a common one in library strategic planning during the past few years. Philosophies differ regarding how much time and effort should be spent to try to reach segments of the population who do not currently engage with the library or its services. Some processes make this aim a focal point and devote significant resources to seeking out and engaging non-users. Others move forward in the belief that the best way to expand the library’s user base is to maximize the quality of its services and offerings for all. Regardless, there is definite value in thinking about who the people are who don’t use your library.

RAILS recently published a post on attracting new customers to the library on its new My Library Is… blog, and its advice to build relationships outside the library’s walls is spot-on. Community organizations have a unique capacity to reach audiences that are unfamiliar with the library. They also have established trust with the community members they serve that is needed to communicate information about the library in a dependable way. For example, groups that serve veterans and military families, organizations that serve immigrants and refugees, and faith-based organizations are increasingly engaging with libraries, particularly as the library community continues to emphasize that it is a place for everyone.

Your library’s connections with other community organizations may be helpful in discovering and understanding segments of the community that could be better served through increased library usage.

Examples include:

  • Those who are minimally aware of the library
  • Those who might have a family member or neighbor that regularly uses the library; and
  • Those who visit the library every couple of years to vote or to access a notary public, but don’t see how they fit into what they perceive are the library’s offerings.

2. When your strategic plan is completed, capitalize on the opportunity to communicate back to the public about the goals you have set and the impact members of the public have had on the decision making process.

When people fill out a survey, provide written suggestions on a comment card, or send a quick email with an idea, they want to see follow up. They want to know that they were heard, and more so, that their input was seriously considered.

That’s why strategic planning has such natural connections with community engagement campaigns. When a library invests time and resources into seeking input from the community during the strategic planning process, it is important to communicate the results of that phase of the project back to the public. Increasingly, strategic plans consist of a public-facing document that both demonstrates the overarching goals and strategies crafted in response to community input and functions as a communication piece to engage the public.

So who should you tell about your new strategic plan? Everyone! Reference it in your marketing and communications with the residents of the community you serve. Share it with the municipal governments, community-based organizations, and social service agencies that your library works with (or that you would like to work with). Emphasize that you appreciate the feedback your public has provided and that your library is making discernable actions as a result.

3. Be conscious about the voices that are invited and able to participate in any community feedback gathering stage.

It’s easy for us to engage with those already inside our social and professional bubbles. Inherently, community engagement efforts require us to reach beyond those bubbles. During a strategic planning process, or anytime your organization is seeking external input, it is essential for your library to be aware of the voices that are at the table. It also is important to recognize the professional expertise of individuals working in libraries, and balance that with the feedback received from those we serve, which can sometimes conflict with what we consider to be best practices.

Even at times when we are not directly soliciting feedback from those already engaged with the library, we still need to remain cognizant of the bias we may have toward the needs of our most loyal users and supporters.

There’s a natural tendency to approach strategic planning with a mindset that assumes we already know what the library’s strengths and weaknesses are, and that there is no community feedback that would surprise us. Of course, there are countless ways libraries have been surprised by unexpected tidbits within their community feedback.

But even if the data you collect through a survey or series of listening sessions or casual conversations simply reaffirms what you already know, there is value in reaching out to the community you serve. This is especially true when we can lengthen our tables and invite new voices to be heard.

Dealing With Conference FOMO

By Shannon Kazmierczak

We have all been there: the Fear Of Missing Out on all of the fun your co-workers are having at library-related conferences.  Some of you might have been feeling the FOMO these past couple of weeks, between ILA in Tinley Park and the PLA symposium at the Harold Washington Library.  Some of you have felt this in the past, especially when the conferences are somewhere amazing, like New Orleans or San Diego (no offense, Peoria, IL).

What can we do but feel sullen working extra shifts at the patron-facing desk while watching #insertlibraryconferencehere trending on Twitter? We praise our co-workers from afar for the amazing job they have been doing during their poster sessions and presentations, wishing we could be there supporting them in person. We think about the connections they are making and all of the geeking out that might occur when you get a whole bunch of library professionals together in a room. You wonder what amazing giveaways the booths have in the exhibit halls and if the buffet lunch was all it was cracked up to be. You admire the cute clothes and flair they are wearing and fangirl (or boy) at a blogger you follow, author you adore, or other librarian who has made a name for themselves in this world. Meanwhile, your co-workers have no idea what drama you’ve been putting up with at the desk because they are having the time of their lives!

Don’t worry, there is a cure for FOMO and it’s called ECG-WISH, Engaging Conference Goers While It’s Still Hot. (I just made that up, can you tell?)

When you see your co-workers coming back refreshed, revived and ready for whatever a patron, a publisher, or a board member might throw at them (sometimes quite literally); do your best to engage with them while they are still on that collaborative high! Ask to see the paperwork they brought back with them and make copies. Encourage them to discuss the best takeaways they can provide you with while the information is still fresh in their mind. If your supervisors, or if you are a supervisor, require a report following the event be provided, read it with earnest.  Research the ideas, become a follower of the presenters Instagram/Twitter/Facebook accounts that are mentioned. 

I know that some of the bigger libraries are fortunate enough to have the budget to send people to the larger conferences that require travel or overnights. But don’t let those roadblocks prevent you from some of the really amazing webinars and local seminars that are out there to provide you with continuing education that we so need in our line of work.

While you sit on the sidelines, waiting to be called in to be the next person to get to a conference, remember, those conference days are exhausting.  Your co-workers will come back to follow up on emails, phone calls, and whatever else they missed and you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

College of DuPage LTA Student Interview

By Amanda Musacchio

This is the first in a series of interviews with currently enrolled College of DuPage Library and Information Technology students. These interviews were conducted by myself, Amanda Musacchio, Program Chair and Instructor at the College of DuPage. The Library and Information Technology Program includes a 30 credit Library and Information Technology Certificate as well as a 64 credit Associate in Applied Science Library and Information Technology Degree. For more information, please contact me at

Judy Kuiken, LTA Student at College of DuPage

This first interview features Judy Kuiken, a second-year student who will be completing her certificate requirements in May of 2020.

  1. Question: What would you like to share about yourself?

JK Response: Hi, I am Judy Kuiken. My first library work experience started in February of 2017 in Mesquite, Texas and I worked in the Circulation Department.  I enjoyed learning new skills – diversity, and interaction with patrons.  It was there that I found my new career “love”, librarianship. 

Upon my return to the Chicagoland area, I needed to find employment with my discovered new career “love”.  After applying at a few libraries, I received a welcomed call in January of 2018 from Helen Plum Memorial Library in Lombard. Excitedly I met with the Circulation Department Manager, who not only hired me on the spot and informed me of the benefits of working at Helen Plum, one being tuition reimbursement.  I hit the jackpot!  Not only would I be able to work in the library, but now I could enroll in the Library and Technology Certification Program (aka LTA program for those of you who don’t know the millions of library language acronyms).  I could not wait for the required one-year employment to start tuition reimbursement and signed up for and started the LTA Program in August of 2018.       

I live in Glen Ellyn and I am completing my last semester in the LTA program at the College of DuPage.  I expect to finish my LTA certification journey and the final requirement of my certification with my Practicum Course starting in January 2020.  I will graduate with certification in hand in May of 2020.

  • Question: What are you excited about that is happening in Illinois libraries (and beyond)?

JK Response: I think what excites me most about what’s happening in Illinois libraries and especially what I’m experiencing at Helen Plum Library, is the pursuit of patron-focused service.  The top library priority should be our patrons and community but I feel sometimes, with all the social and economic challenges libraries face, the focus can be spread too thin.

  • Question: What is something interesting you have discussed in your classes?

JK Response: Integrity.  The foundation that libraries are built on.  The ALA and its Mission “to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”  The ILA’s Vision “to collaboratively shape a new future for libraries in Illinois” and their Mission “Leadership, advocacy, partnership and learning for the benefit of Illinois libraries”. That’s where it all starts.  I want to be part, even if a small part, of an organization like the ILA that has professional core values of “information access, equity, intellectual freedom, and objective truth”.

I know I’m new to this new career “love” and maybe a little idealistic but it’s the mission, vision and core values that remind us all of why we do what we do.  I respect them and respect the value that libraries have, not only in their communities but throughout the world.

  • Question: How do you see yourself contributing to the Illinois Library world in five-plus years?

JK Response: If this blog is still up and running in five years let’s talk.  I never want to forget the main focus of libraries and that is patron and community service.  I would like to be part of a collaborative team traveling around Illinois promoting patron focused service.  What corset-tight library “rules” can we loosen or “laws” we can lobby to reword or change that would allow equal information access to all patrons wherever they may live in Illinois?

  • Question: What do you like most about the College of DuPage Library and Information Technology Program?

JK Response: Having a business background, what sparks my interest is understanding the big picture of library operations and the LTA Program has given me that opportunity.  I, like many others, had no idea of what it takes to run a library.  I’ve gained a great deal of respect for all who have chosen this profession and the seamless effort that patrons enjoy as a result of the hard work of many.  I am not only learning some of the many library staff job descriptions and responsibilities, but I am learning the financial end and challenges libraries face.

I have a “thank you” with which I would like to conclude: 

I would like to thank the entire staff at the Helen Plum Memorial Library for their continued support with helping me to understand library “stuff”, research, working around my school schedule, which has been inconvenient at times, and doing and being the best at what libraries do and that is to provide leadership to enhance learning and ensure access of information for all.

Why I Made Morale Part Of My Job

By Shannon Kazmierczak

A long time ago, a supervisor told me that my morale was up to me. I felt completely slighted by this comment, but when it comes down to it–at work, in life, in everything–it is basically true. Given whatever situation you are in, you are in charge of your own attitude.

Recently my department head came to the unit heads with an idea: to create a small committee of people within the department to take on the task of making things a little more fun, building a little more camaraderie and hopefully, boosting our morale. She started asking for volunteers to start, and we know how that goes. . . don’t everyone jump at once! She then asked unit managers to pinpoint someone that might be able to bring their creativity or energy to the table. I (of course) volunteered before others had to be voluntold.

The group began with five part-timers which made it somewhat difficult to meet and plan, but with e-mail and that golden unicorn of a day when we could have at least a quorum, we made it work. Our first job was to give this “thing” a name. We came up with Bureau of Fun or BoF for short (a little cutesy and corny but it worked).

The next thing we did is come up with a short term task list that was easy to accomplish. We began with something that could be called a paper form of an ice-breaker. We asked everyone to fill out a two-truths-and-a-lie survey, and then one of the BoF members compiled it into a quiz form for everyone else to fill out. We gave everyone about a week to complete each task. Then we posted the results on the wall in a common area for all to see and gave a small little prize to the person who got the most answers correct. We essentially wanted to be able to get to know a little more about each other and hope for participation. We had about a 25% return rate on that project which we took as a win.

When it came to party planning here at work we seemed to have one person who took the responsibility to determine the day of the month we would celebrate everyone’s birthdays, landmark events, like new homes, presentations at conferences, etc. That party of one saw the BoF as a great opportunity to unload that responsibility, so we took it and ran.

We thought, why have just a normal celebration when we could have themes? Dip day, pizza day, pi(e) day, “oh my gourd it’s October”!  We ask that food surround the theme if possible. When the email goes out with the date of celebration, that date is chosen to make sure the people whose birthday it is will (almost) all be there.  We also make sure that no one feels pressured to bring things in, and that everyone can participate regardless of providing, and foods can be homemade or store bought. One member of the BoF provides cute flatware and another is usually there in the morning and tries to set up the buffet table with appropriate decorations. What better than food and a little party to bring people together?  We usually see about 60% of our department over the course of the day to come by for a nibble and chat about life. With our department spanning two floors, it’s impossible for all of us to be at the same place at the same time, especially since, you know, patrons.

Another larger scale event we planned was an after-hours outing. This one was challenging to find a day and a time that worked for people and of course there is always an opposition to wanting to do something with your co-workers during non-work hours. We ended up having 10 people go to see the Downton Abbey movie at a nearby theater and it was a lot of fun. Someone snuck in treats, we laughed, we cried and we were all able to do it together.

Honestly, has working with this group has made a difference in my morale and my co-workers?  I’m not 100% certain. I know I’m not the only one who looks forward to the one coworker who brings donuts from the local bakery to our monthly celebrations, or the fact that at least a few of us actually like to spend time together outside of work. When we all make the effort to realize that we are all a part of this wonderful ecosystem of people that have different interests and different skill sets but we all come together because we are passionate about this library and what we stand for, then yeah, I think my morale is boosted a little. Maybe this is what can get us through tougher times ahead.

Over the course of time we ended up losing a couple of part-timers going on to full-time positions (yay for them, boo for us).  We’ve called out for replacements and some have willingly stepped up to the plate to take over temporarily (or so they think). We are still working on some ideas that could be spontaneous and fun but even those require a little bit of thought and planning. Our next big event is planning our department’s holiday celebration in December and we are hoping to step away from the tradition of sandwiches and all the clean up and set up done by one person.  What could be more fun than decorating together and some festive music. . . 

Sustainability and Library Programming

By Laura L. Barnes

Two things on my radar this week were the ILA Annual Conference (a hearty thank you to the ILA staff and conference planning committee for another terrific event) and an article in American Libraries about library programming related to climate change and sustainability. Thus, this post about library programming and sustainability.

The American Libraries article looks at how libraries are designing programs to address issues related to climate change in their communities. Some of the highlights include:

  • Santa Monica Public Library’s (SMPL) Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, which they offer in partnership with the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. The prize recognizes authors, illustrators, and publishers whose books “make significant contributions to, support the ideas of, and broaden public awareness of sustainability.” SMPL also does a great deal of additional sustainability programming, as well as public education about the environmental features of their building.
  • The Greenwich (Conn.) Library (GPL) and La Crosse (Wisc.) Public Library (LCPL) partnered with local universities to identify speakers to discuss how climate change impacts their respective communities. GPL brought in speakers from Columbia University and Yale University. LCPL partnered with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to host screenings of two TedX talks, followed by a public discussion of the issues.
  • The Massachusetts Library System’s partnership with Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW) on a four-program series held during Climate Preparedness Week. The series opened with an academic overview and narrowed to specific actions that people can take to be more sustainable.

The article also discusses how the libraries handled disruptions from audience members who disagreed with the speakers. An incident at the first presentation in the Massachusetts Library System series led to a new policy that speakers must finish their remarks before audience members, restricted to three minutes each, are allowed to comment.

If your library is interested scheduling programs with an environmental focus, this year’s iREAD theme, “Dig Deeper: Read, Investigate, Discover!”, which I dug into at the annual conference, gives you a perfect hook for all ages. Use the theme to dig deeper into community climate resiliency by inviting speakers to discuss current environmental issues and solutions.

The Prairie Research Institute, of which my organization is a part, has scientists who can speak about these issues. Researchers from the Illinois State Water Survey study climate, weather, and their impact on Illinois communities and can present on topics ranging from weather, drought, and flooding, to making communities more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) study Illinois’ biological resources. They can speak about specific plants and animals, as well as topics like biodiversity and invasive species. INHS also hosts the Traveling Science Center (TSC), a 320 foot mobile classroom that features informative, engaging exhibits on biodiversity and natural resources. Visitors learn about the types of habitats and species diversity of their region, as well as ways to protect against threats to that diversity. Visit their web site to schedule a visit to your library.

The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) protects, preserves, and interprets Illinois’ archaeological heritage. ISAS can provide speakers on Illinois’ cultural resources, as well as topics like environmental archaeology and how archaeologists use technology to identify sites and preserve the past.

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) researchers conduct basic and applied research in geology, compile geological maps, and gather and manage the state’s geological data. Their researchers can speak on topics ranging from earthquake possibilities in Illinois to fossils and dinosaurs.

Finally, my organization, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), integrates applied research, technical assistance, and information services to advance efforts in the areas of pollution prevention, water and energy conservation, beneficial reuse, carbon capture and utilization, and pollutant research. Our researchers can discuss topics ranging from everyday sustainability in the home, to making your office greener, to the environmental and human health impacts of emerging contaminants like microplastics and PFAS, the so-called “forever chemicals” that have been in the news recently.

For more programming ideas, visit the Green Libraries LibGuide’s Programming page.

When planning your programs, remember to model good environmental practices by using reusable tableware, rethinking your giveaway items, and encouraging people to bring reusable water bottles. For more on greener purchasing, take a look at my last blog post.