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The Hunger Games Film: Activities and Read-Alikes (A Special Edition of Pop Culture Round-Up)

30 Jan

Hunger Games cover (UK edition)The Hunger Games will be out on the 23rd of March. Already a wildly successful YA trilogy in the US (and popular in the UK, too), the film is bound to create fresh interest in the books. Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, a poor sector of a dystopian United States called Pan Am. When Katniss’s younger sister is selected as a “tribute” in the yearly state-sponsered teen-on-teen battle royale – the eponymous Hunger Games – Katniss volunteers to take her place, knowing full well that she will probably die in the process.

Film trailer:

Due to the popularity of the books, many American libraries are already hosting Hunger Games events. I would recommend preparing with extra stock – buy plenty of copies of all three books in the and considering events, but holding off until after the film is released, as I suspect many British teens will become fans of the trilogy after they watch the film.

In the meantime, you can read the books yourself and look at the District One Capitol Couture website – a very clever introduction to some of Pan Am’s obsessions.


You will probably get requests for more books like The Hunger Games. YALSA put together a list of classic and contemporary dystopian books for teens: The Future Sucks – A Visitor’s Guide to Dystopia. (One addendum to that list: the classic dystopian novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.) They have also compiled a short list of post-apocalyptic teen books at Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic Teen Books. There is an older list of 50+ dystopian YA books at Bart’s Bookshelf, and a shorter but very recent one compiled by on Wired. Alternately, type “dystopian YA list” into a search engine of your choice in order to yield extensive lists.

Displays and Activities

Tons of ideas for activities and displays. Here are my two favourite lists:
Feed Their Hunger for the Hunger Games from Teen Librarian’s Toolbox and and older (but still very useful) post from Youth Services Corner Hunger Games Party Ideas.

Do you have anything planned to respond to interest in The Hunger Games and dystopian YA?


NaNoWriMo 2011 for Teen Writers – Get Your Library Involved!

14 Oct

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Programme LogoNovember is rapidly approaching, and with it the opportunity to engage your teens in a novel writing challenge, NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, although given its global participation it could more accurately be called IntNoWriMo. Every year NaNoWriMo challenges tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people to write 50,000 words of a novel over the course of the month. Sound difficult? It is. It’s really hard. But it’s also fun, and crazy, and educational, and exactly the kind of zany challenge that teens who aspire to write can get into.

NaNoWriMo is not about writing the best novel you can, but about simply going ahead and doing it. This egalitarian approach can be pretty encouraging for young people (and, well, adults too) who fear that their attempts at writing will not be “good enough.” NaNoWriMo is NOT about being good; it’s about seeing what happens when you push yourself past those expectations. Sure, there’s some dross, but it’s difficult to write 50,000 words of a novel without at least a few compelling scenes, or hilarious pieces of dialogue, or compelling characters.

The amazing thing about NaNoWriMo (besides its existence), is that it has a whole Young Writers Programme dedicated to encouraging young people to participate. There are already a ton of NaNoWriMo kits and lesson plans for adults who want to encourage local young people to participate. (The website uses American terminology, so click through to the “High School” lesson plans if you’re working with teens!).

Did I mention that writing is a free activity? With loads of pre-set ideas for activities already available on the website? And that you can run these activities with just one staff member? Or that teens can help organise/supervise/run activities themselves? And that teens get so into the challenge that they probably will want to volunteer, if not this year then next year? Not to mention that writing supports and boosts literacy and reading.

Teen NaNoWriMo would make a great library project. Find your local teen writers, or gather them from your library’s reading or writing groups (if you have them). Alternately, this would make a great collaborative project with a school. Why not join in and take a crack at writing 50,000 words yourself?

Do you know any teens who participate in NaNoWriMo? Have you ever run any teen NaNoWriMo programmes at your school or library? Have you ever written 50,000 words in November yourself? I’d be curious to hear your take on all of this.

Candy Chang and Thoughts on Creative Teen Library Programmes

2 Mar

Image by Candy Chang ( from her I Wish This Was project.

I can’t help but look at this low-tech art project that uses stickers for creative revitalisation of urban areas and see a potentially awesome teen project. As David Gauntlett said, stickers are the most democratic social medium.

I can picture the project so well: arm teenagers with stickers, and encourage them write and stick them all over the library, or the neighborhood, or the town. There’s a certain innovation that quick, uncensored projects like this can give a person. Encouraging that kind of inspired thinking (limited medium, unlimited use), is what libraries do.

Of course, librarians would have to consider things like whether the stickers peeled off easily, and set parameters to prevent permanent unwanted sticker damage.

The purpose of this post isn’t really to push the brilliance of stickers. Instead I’m ruminating on the types of unusual, creative projects that we can do to inspire teens. Projects that cost little and mean a great deal.

Does anyone have any other ideas for a similar project? Comment below, and let me know.

On a Shoestring: Creating a Teen Offer without Staff or a Budget

23 Feb

This is the first post in YA Library UK’s On a Shoestring series. The series is designed to give advice to librarians struggling to develop teen library services amidst budget and staffing cuts.

Given the serious cuts and closures public and school libraries are currently facing, creating or improving your teen offer may seem nearly impossible. This can be hindering and highly discouraging. However, the situation is not impossible! Even if you have no staff hours or budget dedicated to teen services, there are some steps you can do to improve to improve the teen offer in your library.

Working in partnership with other organisations is a wonderful way of boosting your available programmes for teens. However, the suggestions below can be implemented without external assistance.

By improving your teen space, running passive programmes in your library, and working with other staff to devise a formal plan for teen services in your library or authority, you can invigorate teen services in your library.

Improving Teen Space in Your Library

Whether the library you work in is a sprawling central library or a cramped one-room branch, you can make the teen space awesome. If you work in a very small branch–or a mobile library–your entire teen area may be a shelf of books (hey, some spaces are just small!). If your have a shelf of books with, considering soliciting reviews of YA books, graphic novels and manga from teens who visit your branch regularly. Display the reviews by their respective books. The only cost there is for a piece of paper and a piece of tape. If you want to be especially fancy you could always laminate the review, or find a plastic wallet to display it in. Larger libraries can create entire review shelves or, if you have an area where you can put a book display, an entire review stand.

Alternately, ask teens who come into the library to help you think of themes for book displays (and ask them which books they think should be on it!).

Similarly, cork boards or an area of wall for posters can improve a teen area quite a lot. This space should be designated for information on teen events happening in the library and elsewhere in your community. It can also be used to advertise books, DVDs, graphic novels, manga and music of interest to teens. You can make short themed book recommendation lists and post them here. If film adaptations of YA books are being released, promote books and media that tie into the film (or relate to its theme). Make interesting posters of book lists and reviews to place in the teen area. Recruit talented teen artists and designers to help you.

Make a suggestion box for your teen area and put forms next to it. Bring teens’ attention to it whenever you have an opportunity, and encourage them to add their suggestions for the area (and the library).

Even small improvements to the area can make a large difference to teens who use it. Ask teens who use your library regularly what types of changes they’d like to see to the teen area. Teens in Essex Libraries have suggested that books in the YA section be divided by genre. Depending on the size of your YA collection, dividing the books may not take much staff time, but it can make a huge difference to readers.

Have passive programmes available in or near the teen area in your library.

Passive Programmes for Teens

Passive programmes are activities for teens that will help invigorate the library but put few demands on staff or budgets. While I don’t recommend comprising your entire offer of passive programmes, they can certainly help make the library more active, engaging, and teen-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started:

+Keep board games behind the library’s counter. Teens can borrow these when they come into the library and return them when they leave. If you lack the funds for board games, you can make basic packs of cards available (again, behind the counter, to minimise the chance of cards getting lost), and display information about card games and tricks. If you lack a card budget, you can always make pens and paper available and display instructions for paper-based or homemade games (please comment or email for details of these kinds of games). You can also encourage teens to bring their own games from home to play in the library, and provide a space for them to do so.

+Post a poster advertising a writing or drawing competition, and offer a prize. Teens can submit their work to a reference desk or counter. Post winners (and winning drawings or pieces of writing) in the teen area! (Unless you are offering library vouchers or ARCs as prizes, you will probably need a small budget to purchase a small prize.) I’ve even heard of librarians simply putting jars of candy on (staffed) desks, and having teens guess the amount of candy in the jar. The teen with the closest guess wins a small prize.

+Provide a cork board (usually £4-14) and review cards for an Add a Review board. The Add a Review board is quite similar to the displays mentioned above, except that any teen can submit a review to be posted on the board. This is a great way for teens to be acknowledged in the space. It also promotes literacy.

+Start a review, writing, or library blog to which teens can submit reviews, writing, or art.

+Start a Facebook page for teen library services in your authority. It will take some time to develop a following, but a virtual presence still helps promote library services to young people.

Setting Clear Goals

Creating a plan for teen library provision does not require a formal budget. Sit down with other staff and establish goals: how many teens do you intend to get into the building? What would it require to do achieve this goal? Do you need to raise or apply for money in order to implement aspects of the plan? What are staff fears and how can they be allayed in a manner respectful to both staff and teens? (There will be a post addressing the latter question tomorrow, and one about writing a detailed teen plan on Friday.)

Please note that the above is not an advocation for reducing staff or budgets. It is intended to help librarians working in less than ideal conditions. Hopefully these suggestions will assist you in creating a foundation on which a more robust teen programme can be built.

Look for Part 2 of the One a Shoestring series next week! If you have any passive programmes or staff/budget-free projects that you’ve done, please comment or contact me!

Write a Novel in a Month: NaNoWriMo at Your Library

28 Nov

image promoting National Novel Writing Month 2010November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a time when determined people all around the globe dedicate their hearts, souls, and meagre personal time into writing 50,000 words in just 30 days. Despite proclaiming itself “national,” the challenge is actually open to anyone anywhere during the month of November.

Now that November is nearly over, it’s time to think about November 2011: an excellent though perhaps daunting opportunity for your local teens to accept the 50,000 word challenge. Sound tough? The good news is that NaNoWriMo requires minimum supervision. The bad news? It demands plenty of encouragement and lots of snacks.

Many teens relish the challenge and the opportunity to write freely with others, but without having to share their work or censor their ideas. A 50,000 word draft also serves as inspiration (“If I can write this, what else can I accomplish?”). The motivation of snacks, games, adult and peer support don’t hurt, either.

NaNoWriMo is keen on libraries promoting their (completely free) writing challenge. Toward this end they’ve produced a guide for libraries called Come Write In, which explains the basics of NaNoWriMo and suggests ways that libraries can get involved. They may even send you a free pack of promotional materials.

NaNoWriMo at Your Library

To run NaNoWriMo at your library, you need to provide:
+a comfortable place for young people to write uninterrupted
+sufficient quantities of writing materials (computers, pens/pencils and paper)
+plenty of promotion in late September and all of October
+early staff notification when and where all NaNoWriMo-related meets and events will occur.

To make NaNoWriMo a real success at your library, I also recommend:
+staff and/or teen planning of events/programmes based around NaNoWriMo such as writing challenges, games, and opening/closing celebrations
+snacks and drinks available during established novel-writing times
+weekly pep talks.

The benefits of holding NaNoWriMo in your public or school library? Knowing that you’ve encouraged teen literacy (reading and writing), supported writing for pleasure as a hobby, provided teens have the opportunity to make new friends, helped give them confidence in self-expression, and positively raises the profile of the library.

If you just can’t wait for November 2011, plan events in April for National Poetry Writing Month or Script Frenzy.

Graphic Novel Reading Groups–From Syllabus to Reading List

15 Oct
Some of the graphic novels Alexander Chee uses on his syllabus.

A few of the graphic novels Alexander Chee uses on his syllabus.

Author and teacher Alexander Chee has just posted a complex and varied list of graphic novels he teaches as part of his (university) seminar on the graphic novel. This would make an excellent starting point for library staff germinating a graphic novel reading group (although a few of the volumes might not be appropriate for younger readers). The list runs the gamut from excellently penned superhero comics to literary graphic novels and includes several volumes of manga.

For reading groups I would also add Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, something by Sam Kieth (possibly Zero Girl), and maybe Enigma (by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo).

In my authority we often only hold one or two copies of a graphic novel (with the exception of Watchmen and possibly Scott Pilgrim, so I would suggest basing reading group sessions around teen recommendations and swapping of graphic novels rather than encouraging the entire group to read and discuss one particular volume. Teens will find addition titles to suggest and recommend to one another.

Check out Alexander Chee’s list and let me know if there’s anything you’d add for your graphic novel reading group.

Practical Programming: Helping Young People with Study and Employment

23 Aug

Here in the East of England a guide called “What Next? A Guide for 17-18 Year Olds” is circulating amongst youth organisations and libraries. The guide covers topics such as going into work, job training programs, how to gain useful experience during a gap year, and options for teens who want to continue studying but have decided to delay their entry into higher education.

Practical ProgrammingAlthough library programs for youth often focus on leisure and fun, scores of teens and young adults need practical advice about jobs, education, extracurricular opportunities, and finances.

My library sees quite a few older teens and young adults every week. They come to work on their CVs, look at our career guides, and gain employer contact details. Young people working on their exams (both GCSEs and A-Levels) have repeatedly requested that we set aside certain materials and space for studying.

The greatest number of requests is always for up-to-date exam study guides. The Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library maintain a large section of reference only study and career guides. I’m sure those books are in use continually during the Winter and Spring.

At my very own library (Southend Central) we’ve received repeated requests for designated study areas for young people. Perennial library patrons do not always welcome the springtime influx of study groups, and many regular library users become hostile toward young people (this usually only manifests itself into glaring and throat-clearing, but the message reaches teens load and clear). Designing an elected study area for young people is on my long-term agenda (I promise to update with further details if I get a study area plan into action!).

The library is filled with young people searching for work and researching qualifications. Southend Library’s teen advisory group (Southend Library Youth Forum) has recommended partnering with Connexions to provide help for young people looking for work (this could include anything from assistance creating CVs to careers advice).

After school homework clubs and study groups can prove popular, but be prepared for a high volume of students in need of help. It may be necessary to set parameters ahead of time about the content of the group and the type of help provided by staff. Alternately you may simply state that staff will not be present and allow the group to self-monitor.

“What Next?” points out that many young people who want to continue into higher education may not be ready or able to enter university. Your library may consider setting aside a small collection of books and up-to-date pamphlets with relevant alternatives to university, such as short courses, Open University offerings, recent publications about applying (and re-applying) to courses (“What Next?” recommends the UCAS website). You may also add information about local and national volunteer opportunities and programs abroad. (Click here to view the resources linked to in the “What Next?” brochure).

It’s not necessary to keep a massive collection of information, so long as what you have is direct and relevant. You may find a very positive local teen response to programs and groups local need for information about study, work, and other practical concerns.