For whoever checks this blog:
I have accepted a new position outside out of the library world and I am no longer in Teen Services… for now. I am still going for my MLIS and plan on returning at a future time. However for the time being I am a computer programmer. Weird, right? I will leave this blog up for reference in case anyone needs the information.


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CD Mosaics

Hey, it’s me again.
The last two (and only two) posts I made were about programs that are very specialized. I decided to step back a bit from the crazy-huge, heavily populated programs to talk about one that I really like that exists in the world of crafting. It’s not one that 100 people are going to show up to, but you’ll probably get a good 15 or so to show up. Not bad.
In today’s world of streaming music, digital downloads and YouTube music, the CD is unfortunately falling behind in use and sales. It is unfortunate because the compact disc revolutionized content sharing and created a very versatile, space efficient option for those wanting to buy video games, music, movies, audio books, software and other types of media. I still buy CDs almost exclusively (sometimes I grab a vinyl – yeah). I am of the camp of thinking that believes that cloud saves, streaming and instant downloads are not only eroding your consumer rights, but creating a generation of perma-toddlers out of a lot of people who want things yesterday and are never satisfied with downloading just a terabyte of music. But I digress. Teens will generally go for the downloadable option, which leaves CDs in a position usually held by other tech relics. To compromise, I use them with my teens for craft making.
You will need several things for this program to work. They include:
CDs: Time to clean out your old, dusty CD collection. Part with ones you won’t use ever again and ask your friends or fellow staff to do the same. If there is a big CD weeding project coming up at your branch, take advantage of that, too. I simply asked people to donate some to me and I got stacks and stacks of them.

***Special Note! If you use any CD-Rs or CD-RWs, they don’t shatter very well for whatever reason. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you can bend them some and make 3D artwork, but I just wanted to give a heads-up.***

Hammers: Regular home-use hammers are fine for the job. I had two hammers to 14 people, or one hammer per seven teens. Honestly, more is probably better if you can borrow a couple extra.

Drop Sheets: Use an old, worn sheet or blanket to put on the floor so clean up is easier at the conclusion of the program.

Eye Protection: You and your teens will smashing CDs to pieces with hammers. Shards will fly. Protect the eyes.

Paper: I used pieces of poster board that were about 11X14 inches to put the CD pieces onto. I found packs of five sheets on sale for like $3.00 a pack at Hobby Lobby.

Glue: I found that tacky glue worked best, but I have heard that glue dots will do the trick pretty well also. I picked some huge bottles of tacky glue at my local craft store for about $2.50 a bottle.

Markers/Other coloring implements: There will be spaces between the CD shards that they can fill in with markers.

Trash Cans: Unless you feel compelled to sweep up all the CD shards and ship them to a plant that can recycle them, have trash cans handy for the excess pieces.

Okay, now what do you do with all this stuff? The craft is very simple. You basically hand hammers to your teens, have them smash up CDs and use the pieces to make a mosaic. I made a laughable one ahead of time to use as an example just to show what one would look like, but I stressed that theirs would probably look far less pathetic than mine turned out. I am no visual artist, but I can motivate others to be.

Be sure to have a couple simple rules they can follow. Rule #1 is to always, always wear the eye protection at all times forever and always. You would be surprised how far a dagger-shaped piece of a Backstreet Boys CD can fly when hit with a carpentry hammer. Rule #2 is that they only smash the CDs on the drop sheets that are covering some portion of your floor. Which reminds me that this program is probably best if you have concrete floors. You don’t want to dent wood, tile or some other surface that can’t take a beating. You could definitely do the smashing outside if the weather is good.

Half the fun of this program as far as the teens were concerned was to take some CD by a band they hated and smash it to bits. Trust me, they’ll have tons of fun smashing CDs. After they have accumulated enough pieces, they are to take the poster board and start gluing down the pieces with tacky glue onto the non-glossy side of the poster board. It just sticks better if you’re not using the glossy side. I chose poster board because it is affordable and less flimsy than construction paper, but I guess you could use whatever you like or already have.

Encourage them to get creative. Some teens used only colored CD pieces for their art. Others used only the shiny, silver sides. Others alternated. The possibilities are almost endless. Below are a few photos taken during the program that will get the point across.

To conclude, it’s a really simple and extremely inexpensive program to put together. If you’re on a budget or don’t want to bust out that company credit card, do this.  And… pictures….

The black really looked black, but my flash distorted it though. Sorry! Here is an example of one teen’s art in which they tried to mimic the cover of a Sherrilyn Kenyon book.











Stop… hammer time! (Excuse my awful pun.) You will notice there are no drop sheets in sight. Live and learn. My poor vacuum!









A teen getting ready to start with her pile of pieces.










If you have any questions, contact me at the methods below.

Sam Witt

Young Adult Programmer

KCPL – Erlanger Branch

401 Kenton Lands Rd.

Erlanger, KY 41018

(859) 962-4000 x4111

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Outdoor Laser Tag

Ever wanted to do something more exciting than the overdone, mundane events of a Summer Reading Kickoff aimed at teens? Or maybe your library doesn’t even cater to teenagers during their big in-house push for teen Summer Reading. In my library system, our events specifically target children because they are the most willing age group to participate in a program such as SRC (or SRP, whichever you like). I decided that this year was going to be a super cool year for teens on the day of the kickoff. At one of my Teen Advisory Board meetings, one of the younger members mentioned how much they liked playing laser tag and suggested I try to contact a local laser tag venue and see if they ever traveled with their gear. And that’s exactly what I did. So, on Friday, June 1 2012 from 6-8 PM, we battled with lasers.

I live in the Greater Cincinnati area, so even outside of the of city itself in nearby Northern Kentucky there is a lot going on. Last time I checked there were at least three businesses nearby that have laser tag arenas. Hopefully, if having laser tag at your library sounds interesting, you have a business near you. Obviously, this program is dependent on your proximity to such a business, but chances are it is also dependent on your budget and space. Allow me to explain.

A few miles away from my Branch in Erlanger there is a place called Lazer Kraze. This business not only has an indoor arena and all kinds of other jazz going on inside, but they also have a traveling laser tag field. There is a service they call “portable laser tag” that they offer mostly to big school events, business events or large parties. It is actually an outdoor event and they have special guns and sensors for specific outdoor use. What Lazer Kraze had were basically modified Tippmann 98 Custom paintball guns which had sensors where the paintball hopper would normally sit. There were no vests or sensors to wear, only the guns which were controlled wirelessly from their laptop. They also had these giant inflatable “bunkers” (see images below) that they tossed all around the playing area for people to hide behind. They had it down to a science and could set up and take it down rapidly. They provided all the instruction on how to use the equipment before each game and coordinated gun usage and such. They even brought their own music and speakers so there was techno playing the whole time. They could support 20 people total per game, 10 people per side. With games of about 6 minutes time or 30 lives per person (whichever happened first), they could move a lot of teens through the game in two hours.

Their package is a little pricey, but if you have enough people show up and do a little math, it might work out in your favor and garner you new library fans. For their larger deal, which I chose, it was $650 plus travel mileage. I know, it sounds like an arm and a leg but it depends on your library’s budget. I had been pinching my pennies most of the year, so I had the money leftover. Since our fiscal year was about to roll over, it was either use it or lose it. For this to be possible, you must also have an outdoor area that is about the size of a high school basketball court and good weather. The equipment can’t be used in the rain, so hope for clear skies! Assuming you have a laser tag business nearby, a playing area large enough, money and good weather, you’re good to go.

We advertised this heavily with our usual Summer Reading Kickoff press. Someone from PR was even interviewed on a local news channel and mentioned the program. The flyer is below.

On the day of the event, I put up a banner which directed people around the back of the building to the playing area. As they approached the field, there were tables set up which were staffed by teenage volunteers. These tables had information about all kinds of library stuff and almost all of it disappeared by the evening’s end. Beyond the tables was the playing field. While they were waiting to play, they could look at the freebies and learn about summer reading.

Initially I had no idea how many people would show up. I was thinking maybe 60 or 70 teens total, which meant the same people would get to play quite a few games. What I ended up with was a whopping 210 teenagers present! Although that meant each person played in fewer games, everyone still got to play. That also means that 210 teenagers learned about my library system’s Summer Reading Program, teen programs and all kinds of other library facets while they were waiting to play. I spoke too soon when I said in my last post that 59 teens was the most I’d ever gotten at any program. 210 is insane, and I don’t know if that will ever be topped. It was controlled chaos. For the money-minded, $650/210 teens = $3.09 a person. Not bad.

My role that evening was crowd control. I counted people off into teams and monitored behavior, which wasn’t a problem at all actually. If I had known that 210 people were going to show up, I would have asked another staff member to help out. But with the Children’s events going on inside the library, the whole place was a mad house and no one would have been free. That night was the busiest I’ve ever seen our particular branch.

Below are some photos taken during the event so you can get an idea of what this looks like. I understand that many libraries won’t be able to do this type of thing for any number of reasons, but if you have the opportunity to do this or something similar (like an outdoor obstacle course maybe?) I highly recommend it, as it is such an awesome way to get teens to the library for Summer Reading. Enjoy the pictures!

Here is the flyer:

Here are some photos:

Just like in the movies!


























Our wonderful volunteers!












Here is my contact info:

Sam Witt

Erlanger Public Library

(859) 962-4000 ext. 4111

Categories: Special Programs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hunger Games Arena Challenge

For my first post on this blog, I decided that it would be fun to talk about the recent Hunger Games program that I hosted on Saturday, March 10th, 2012. Some other local teen library people were asking me about it and one suggested I send out my program to various young adult listservs and such. However, I think it would be easier if all the content was located somewhere easy to get to on the net, so I created this blog.

My program, entitled The Hunger Games Arena Challenge, took place at my library branch in Erlanger, KY over this past weekend and lasted from 5:30 until 9:30. With the approaching release of The Hunger Games in theaters, it was obviously the perfect time to host such a program. In my pretty short time as a Young Adult Programmer/Librarian, this program was by far the most complicated and widely attended program I have ever created or hosted. I had read a lot about what other libraries were doing this March or had done in the past as the books were coming out and I wanted to not only use some of their ideas, but also incorporate some of my own. A portion of my program was based on the program done by the Bethany Media Center and can be viewed here. What it turned into was controlled chaos, but a highly successful and fun teen program. I ended up with 59 teens at the program, so I consider this a big success.

Allow me to explain. Along the way there will be photographs and images of the activities and some of the paperwork I used like score sheets to give you a better idea of what things looked like and so that, if you want, you can use the ideas too.

Due to the fact that our program dates and information have to be in to our PR department at least two months in advance, I started planning this bad boy pretty early. I wanted the program to be pretty big and have lots of teens attend, so I decided that I wanted to require registration and cap the registration list at 60 teens, with a waiting list in reserve just in case. Those 60 teens would be split into 12 teams (which represented the 12 districts in the book) and be comprised of five teens on each team. Each team would participate in various challenges (what I called Hunger Stations) and the team that scored the highest would win movie cards to Rave Motion Pictures (a local theater) to see the movie when it came out. Since they registered, I already had name tags made up for the participants. I also gave each team a score card on the day of the program for them to keep which included the names of their team members, their district number and their district’s trade. I knew that with that many teens in one place with the building to themselves would require some reinforcements. I emailed staff and got six other people to help out, which was a godsend because I could not have done this alone. The staff turned out to be a group of super awesome people, so we agreed that we would all dress up and get in character for the event. We dressed up like Capitol game makers and wore makeup and colored our hair with bright, crazy spray on colors (my hair was bright blue for instance). There are pictures of all this toward the end. Once I knew how many people I wanted and had the staff support and the date nailed down, I started planning out activities. I settled with six activities that I felt would be fun and be pretty easy to implement and score.

Here are the six activities I planned:

  • Hunger Games Trivia: Teams must put their heads together to answer as many questions correctly as possible. The questions only covered the first book. I pulled many questions from the aforementioned Bethany Media Center program, but to be honest, I found quite a few typos, vague questions and sometimes the key was incorrect. So I edited the trivia heavily. I ended up with 94 questions worth a total of 100 points. The file information is below.
  • Katniss Archery: Some staff members were kind enough to let me borrow Nerf bow and arrow sets. Participants would shoot arrows at targets which were worth 5, 10 or 15 points depending on the distance. Each person was allowed four shots and they could drop their worst shot. We set this up in our book stacks, allowing the aisles of books to serve as shooting ranges. Three teams were shooting at once which required three bow and arrow sets and three aisles down which to shoot. The targets were made of printer box tops with printed out targets taped to them and affixed to the shelves using Velcro sticky back. See below for photos.
  • Cornucopia Challenge: This event was based heavily on the aforementioned Bethany Media Center program, but was also edited a lot. The item list wasn’t complete enough for me and the story that went along with the event also contained many errors, so I changed some of it. In short, this is a relay race in which three teams would square off against each other to gather as many items from the cornucopia as possible. One team member would race across the meeting room to where the items were, grab one item and return to their team to tag the next person. Repeat until all items are picked up. Then the staff member present would read from the story which gave point values to the items they collected. Some items were worth points, some deducted points and others were worthless. The items included on my list which is later in the post are only those with positive or negative point values. All those items were brought from my home or borrowed from other staff members. Sometimes I had to create facsimiles of the items. I also grabbed a whole bunch of random, meaningless filler items to make the race last longer. The teens had no idea which items would help or hinder them, so they grabbed whatever they could.
  • Arena Food Challenge: Each team nominated one person to eat as much of some nasty food as possible. I wanted a food that people do eat, but it’s not one that people like to eat a lot of. What I settled on was sauerkraut because it was cheap, smells awful and it’s difficult to eat a lot of it. I allowed two minutes for participants to down as many one ounce containers of sauerkraut as possible. One team actually got 16 ounces down! Beware, some teens may not be able to stomach this. Have trash cans at the ready as well as water.
  • Dress Up a Tribute: I asked staff members to donate old, unwanted clothing items and costume items. I also raided our Children’s department of essential crafting supplies like felt, scissors, colored pencils, markers, staplers and tape (but I asked first). Each district chose one member to be the runner to go to the the supply bins and another member to be dressed up as their district’s tribute (like the pre-games parade in the book). They had 25 minutes to create a costume out of provided materials and I encouraged them to theme the costume with their district’s trade. Afterwards their photos were taken and we judged them based on creativity and trade relevance on a scale of 1-100. After the program, I donated all the usable clothing items to a nearby Goodwill.
  • Tracker Jacker Battle: This is basically extreme tag. It is also complete chaos, so I don’t recommend you do this unless you have a nice flat, clear area free of any obstacles in which teens can run around like crazy people and “attack” each other. Each team sent two members into this challenge. One was the tracker jacker, and they were equipped with a roll of stickers with which to sting others with. The other team member was the target, denoted with bright duct tape on their shoulders. The tracker jackers would attempt to “sting” the backs of the other teams’ targets. The more stickers a target had on their back at the conclusion of the event, that’s how many points their team lost from their overall score. If a sticker was anywhere else besides the person’s back, it did not count. I had one girl fall and hurt herself because people were going nuts during this event, so please encourage them to be careful! We had to get her a pack of ice and she sat out the rest of the event.

So now you have basic idea of what was supposed to happen. Time to explain how things went down. We scheduled the program for 5:30 but didn’t actually start until 6:00 (when my branch closes on Saturdays) to account for the chronically late teen. However, at 6:00 when the library closed, we promptly showed the teens a short video I made to get them in the Hunger Games mood and it also served as a general explanation of what to expect during the program and the general rules. The video was created in Windows Live Movie Maker using a few stock pieces of photo and video. The vocal effect was created with a Korg Kaossilator Pro and a basic studio microphone. I recorded the voice into the free audio program called Audacity and exported it as an .mp3 file. Here is a link to the video at Vimeo, but it’s also embedded below. Video.

Below are pictures and such of the events in action and the things I used to make everything run as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, here is the flyer that my PR department drafted up. It looks great! When I bought the movie cards from Rave Motion Pictures, they allowed me to post this flyer in their lobby. I highly recommend creating a good relationship with an area theater. Of the three major theaters in my area (AMC, Great Escape and Rave), only Rave agreed to have me post this and were super kind. This was also blown up onto a huge sign to put in our lobby area. Anyway, here is the flyer.

Yes, the mockingjay pin logo is okay to use according to the publishers. We asked.

Here is the schedule I created to keep all staff members on the same page:

Hunger Games Schedule

As you can see from the schedule, we did the trivia, archery and cornucopia challenges simultaneously in different places. Then we went back into the big meeting room and did the final three challenges one after another. After the last challenge, the teens had pizza (which I ordered a few days ahead of time for a preset time to be delivered) and while they were chowing we finished up scoring all the challenges. After that, we announced the winners, handed out the movie cards and then raffled off some posters and things for everyone else. Josh Hutcherson had come to our library a couple years ago and posed for a read poster, so I had about six copies of that poster to give away. The girls went nuts over those!

Here is the trivia I used as well as a key:



Here is the Cornucopia Challenge story and item list:

Cornucopia Competition Story


Here is the score sheet I used and the form we used to judge the costume photos.


Picture Voting Card

Now for pictures!

Here are some pictures of the teens hard at work answering those 94 trivia questions within a 30 minutes time limit:






















Here are some photos of the archery challenge. This station lasted 15 minutes. There are still a couple stray arrows lost amidst the books…

This is what the aisles looked like when we turned them into shooting ranges.

































Here are some photos from the cornucopia challenge. Some are of the race itself and others are the teens sitting down listening to the story so they could earn points.





























Here are some shots of the Dress Up a Tribute portion. The costumes mostly turned out awesome. They were so creative and had thoughtful explanations for the judges as to why they chose to do what they did.










































Here are some photos taken during the eating contest.




























Here are some shots of the chaos that was the tracker jacker battle.















Here are some sweet shots of me and the other staff members dressed up with our crazy hair.

Game Makers! (That's me at the top.)
















For those who may be curious, District 4 (Fishing) was victorious and those tributes are now happily in possession of movie cards so that they don’t have to pay for admission! If you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to email me at I would be more than happy to answer anything you can throw at me.


Here is my contact info:

Sam Witt

Erlanger Public Library

(859) 962-4000 ext. 4111

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