Monthly Archives: July 2017

Low-Cost Library Programming for Teens

As a solo librarian running a rural community library, you learn to make programs on a shoestring budget, sometimes out of literal shoestrings.

But I find some of these programs are the biggest hits, especially with teens.

Budget Teen Summer Reading Mega Hits have been:

Frisbee Golf:
     Supplies: Frisbees/flying disks, check the summer party section or hit up local businesses, printed numbers, paper & pens to keep score with, outdoor space.
     I have the teens place the numbers that dictate the “holes”. They can change them every round if they like. Look, we aren’t sticklers for Frisbee golf rules, but if your teens are so inclined, you could be. 

Salvaged Book Art:

The sky is the limit here. I am positive every library has old musty books to retire, either from donations or discards. 

Discarded books & magazines in an assortment of sizes, bindings & styles
Paint & brushes
Tape, washi tape & Duct tape
Glitter. Be brave. Get out the glitter. Teens can run a vacuum, you know.
Colored paper
Dollar store frames
Findings: Brads, adhesive Velcro, snaps, broach-style pins

I didn’t plan one specific craft for this program, but we’ve made journals, wallets & ornaments in the past. This time, I opened up Google images & showed the teens what other people have made. Then I cut them loose.

I heard a lot of “I dunnooooo, I’m not creative. I’m not an artist.” And then “My room’s going to look SO COOL!”



Library Game Days:
Supplies: Whatever games you have at home, whatever you can get your Friends group or district to stock the library with.
I do a retro video game station with the projector & either my personal NES, Sega & district’s Wii from 2008.

Most popular table-top games at my library are:

I was wedged into the corner to take this photo. Every available space in my little library was full for International Game Day, 2016. This is a really great program to get involved with, organized by ALA . You can receive free games & promotional materials. Every year, it brings new people into my library.

Actually, there’s a story about how successful that IGD was. My clerk started asking me if I wanted her to vacuum, and if I wanted us to leave together. I thought she was just being thorough. No. It was an hour past closing & I hadn’t made one motion to close up. Everyone was having such a joyous time that we all lost track of the clock. I suddenly blurted out, “We’re closed! An hour ago!” All hands were instantly on deck, cleaning & putting things away. Nobody had noticed or at least nobody wanted to alert the spacey librarian that it was time to go home. 😉 (Please ignore the prominent garbage can. Sometimes we need all the visual clues they can get.)

There are three of my most popular teen library program ideas for any budget. These got a LOT of bang for our buck.

Family Camping

If we don’t go camping at least once in the summer, I feel like it’s a wasted year. This year, Girl Child is home from college & starts work in a week. She works harvest, which has taught her so much about our area & the agriculture we depend on, but it is a fast & furious season where people work from sun up til sun down in 100+ temps, so to go camping, we have to make hay while the sun shines, before they start making hay. 😉 

Oregon fishing

Camping resets my heart. It resets my motherhood & my sense of self & my stress level & my marriage. It reminds me that I have in me all the skills of my foremothers. I can make fire & cook on fire (with blessed modern amenities that make those things faster & easier!) & reminds me to be grateful for my excess. We can fish & provide our bodies with protein that never saw a grocery store. We can pick berries & mushrooms & stretch our brains’ legs by identifying plants & insects & trees that have important jobs to do. We are reminded that we should leave small foot prints.

It’s also just too dang hot to stay home. And I really like s’mores.

This trip, we traveled to a lake my husband’s grandfather helped create. It’s a man-made lake in northeastern Oregon & my husband’s grandfather helped log it to make way for the dam that created it.

We took Girl Child’s best friend. She’s newly vegetarian & that threw a wrench in my normal camping menu. But we are happy to eat vegetarian meals, or add our protein after dishing up hers, & it’s important to me that everyone has food that makes them feel welcome & nourished.

I cooked a couple meals that will become permanent parts of our camping routine now, because they’re shelf-stable & traveled well.


It was also my niece’s very first camping trip & wow was she adorable. She’s nearly 4 & was such a trooper. Hiked, fished, played in the water, ate s’mores, ate camp stew, got some one on one time with my husband, whose beard & hat used to freak her right out!

We always took our kids camping when they were little. It’s not really as much of a hassle as people think. They ARE indeed old enough to camp, even as tiny babies. We packed our son’s toddler potty all over Oregon with us because dangling a 2-year-old over a portapotty or pit toilet is not fun for anyone involved. As a young family, camping was our main source of vacation. You eat as cheaply as you do at home, you buy the gear once & not too much is actually required. Then the fun is all free & the memories are priceless.