Organizing a Mock Printz Program at Your Library

You can find a version of this post in Challenging Traditional Classroom Spaces with Young Adult Literature: Students in Community as Course Co-Designers by Ricki Ginsberg:

My library system hosts a yearly Mock Printz book discussion as a professional development opportunity to help staff build their readers’ advisory frameworks and introduce them to recently published titles. At the program, library staff discuss a pre-selected shortlist and vote for a winner and two honor titles. Although my experience is with a professional development program, you can easily host a Mock Printz for your library’s patrons instead.


In my system, the Mock Printz is organized by the YA Book Showcase committee which consists of approximately twelve YA librarians. Responsibilities include reading and evaluating newly released books for possible presentation and Mock Printz contention, as well as presenting at and participating in committee-run programs including new book presentations and book discussions. A Teen Advisory Board, English class, or library book club could also handle Mock Printz prep and shortlist selection.

Printz results are announced at ALA’s LibLearnX conference which is usually held in January. Your Mock Printz should be at least one to two weeks before the conference to have your Mock Printz results before the actual Printz. Plan to announce your shortlist in November to give participants and presenters plenty of time to read and prepare.

Choose Your Longlist:

  1. Ask for Suggestions: While I was the committee chair, I asked YA Book Showcase members around September to share any books they’ve read that seem Printz-worthy based on the official Printz criteria which I compiled in a spreadsheet.
  2. Look for Stars: Since the official Printz criteria emphasizes demonstrated literary merit, keep an eye on starred reviews from professional journals. You can find all of these online through online retailers like Barnes and Noble and also through the Novelist Plus database if your library has access to it. Jen J’s Booksheets is an invaluable resource outlining where titles have been reviewed and stars received (as of this posting Jen is currently a year behind on compiling booksheets, so it won’t help while looking up new titles).
  3. Best of Lists: Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and numerous other publications release yearly best book lists. The finalists for the National Book Award, Kirkus Prize, and YALSA’s Morris Award and Nonfiction Award are also helpful if they are announced early enough.

Finalize Your Shortlist:

Depending on the length of your discussion, and the length of the books, your shortlist should be between four and six books. If you plan to select your shortlist with a smaller group discussion, budget at least two hours for the process.

Your shortlist should feature a mix of genres and formats including contemporary fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, non-fiction, graphic novel, historical fiction, etc. You may also want to look for debuts and books from smaller publishers. The actual Printz is not always this well-rounded but variety means something will appeal to everyone and introduce participants to examples of genres they may not normally read.

Your final shortlist should be an inclusive, balanced list of authors and protagonists in terms of gender identity, life experience, and cultural background as varied as your vibrant library community. Try to make sure some of your titles are available as ebooks and/or audiobooks so that the shortlist is as accessible as possible to all participants.

Organize Your Mock Printz:

Start your Mock Printz by explaining the official Printz criteria and the evening’s agenda. At my system’s Mock Printz, committee members then share five-minute presentations on how each book fulfills that criteria and relevant details such as starred reviews or award nominations. After each five-minute presentation allot ten minutes of discussion with an additional ten minutes for final thoughts before voting.

Voting is modeled on the actual Printz’s weighted voting with first, second, and third place choices on the ballot. First place gets 3 points, second place gets 2 points, third place gets 1 point. If a title receives 5 votes for first place that would be multiplied by 3 for a total of 15 points and so on. The book with the highest total score is the winner with the next lowest being an honor title. The actual Printz would also need a specific majority of votes to declare a winner but time limitations may prevent runoff votes at your Mock Printz.

And the Winner Is …

After votes are tallied, announce your Mock Printz winner and honor titles at your program. You can share the results with the rest of your library community via a display or social media too. Then wait to see how your choices compare to the actual Printz results!

Everything You Need to Know About Duct Tape Crafts

everything you need to know about duct tape crafts

I’ve talked before about my love for pre-bundled craft supplies and passive programs with my blog post about Maker Kits. Today I’m going to talk a bit more in-depth about duct tape crafts.

Duct Tape Maker Kit SuppliesMaterials:

  • Scissors (safety scissors with rounded edges are okay but safety scissors will not be strong enough to cut the tape–tape can be torn but younger kids will not have the hand strength)
  • Rulers
  • Duct Tape
  • Index cards (other cardstock or heavy paper works too)
  • Laminated Instruction Sheets
  • Demo Items

The Duct Tape Maker Kit is stocked with a variety of duct tape, scissors, and rulers. The reason the kits can be self-directed are the laminated instruction sheets.

After looking around online I found project instructions from Duct Tape and Instructables. I adapted the instructions to fit my needs, reformatted them, and then printed them out. I used my library’s laminator to laminate each sheet. Because I wanted laminated sheets, I kept instructions to one sheet of paper (one or two sided) for easy printing and laminating. I round out the kit with demonstration items I made myself while testing the projects.


The fun thing about working with duct tape is that the kids and teens really get to run with it. I give minimal instruction on basic techniques. The rest is up to the patrons attending the program and depends on how much effort they want to invest. I always appreciate a program where participants can put in as little or as much effort as they choose. Because the crafts range from very quick (index card bookmark) to more complex (duct tape wallet), I do recommend having a variety of materials and tape patterns to encourage experimentation. If you plan to offer the program for all ages you might also want to have coloring sheets or some other alternative for anyone who loses interest in duct tape crafting before the program wraps.


  • Did you know that a lot of duct tape crafts involve wrapping duct tape around other objects? I have done programs decorating notebooks and boxes with duct tape in addition to the crafts mentioned above.
  • While duct tape can be a pricier craft supply, I’ve found several bundled rolls for a really reasonable price point online. The main obstacle is that kids need a lot of strength to roll out the duct tape and without supervision it can get tangled. I would recommend buying the name brand if you order online or shopping in a store where you can feel the weight of the tape. Bazic brand is cheap but it’s very flimsy.
  • You can also use washi tape if your craft is strictly decorative. You’ll need actual duct tape if you want the strength to build out an item like a wallet.
  • Scissors will need to be cleaned often as sticky residue builds up. I put aside some of the best scissors–ie the strongest ones–just for duct tape and periodically task volunteers with cleaning them with alcohol wipes.

Once you buy the initial supplies and prepare materials, the duct tape programs can really run themselves. And unlike a lot of programs, you might even have time to craft while supervising.

everything you need to know about duct tape crafts


Gaming Unplugged: Board Games, Card Games, and Party Games to use in Teen Programs

Gaming Unplugged

I’ve talked before about ready-made craft programs on the blog in what I call Maker Kits–pre-bundled supplies for programs ideal to use for passive programming or (in pandemic life) to repurpose for grab and go programming.

Today I have some quick ideas for low-tech gaming (with minimal set up and generally quick game play) if you want to do an “unplugged” game program”

  • Card Games: It’s pretty old school but I like having some standard decks of playing cards on hand for game programs. You can also have a book of solitaire games (and shock everyone when you reveal that yes, we used to play with real cards!) and books with basic card games (there’s The Card Game Bible and Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games if you’re looking for where to start). There are also novelty decks for specific games like Old Maid or Crazy Eights and more. You can also explain card counting with Black Jack. Then, of course, there’s the classic: Uno. If none of the games appeal, you can always have everyone try to build card houses.
  • 1,000 Blank White Cards: This game is about as low tech as it gets. All you need to start are some pens and note cards. Players make the deck as they go so teens can create cards in addition to some you made ahead of time (maybe with help from volunteers). The game can take any form depending on what cards are created. Most involve some kind of point value, an action, and an illustration. Want to know more before you get started? There’s a wiki for that.
  • Charades: I am on a crusade to make sure teens know how to play charades and let me tell you it’s been uphill at my library. Charades has players draw a word/phrase of some kind and pantomime the action or words within to get others to guess the answer. It can be played either individually or in teams. I suggest using a word generator or other strategy to create prompts ahead of time because when I had teens write them up it devolved into a lot of obscure video game characters. You may also have to explain the concept with some examples. I had prompts in one game for “Little Women” and “The Hunger Games” and teens tried to act out the entire story instead of just the title.
  • Codenames: This game has a couple of version. I’ve been using the Codenames Pictures version. The game can work with 2-8 players (or more in teams) so it’s great for larger groups as well. Codenames is a cross between “Guess Who?” and “Battleship” with Spymaster players who lay out the board and know the location of their own spies on the board. Spymasters then use clues based on picture tiles in the game to reveal those locations to the rest of their team (example: “1, game” would tell the other players to look for the one tile on the board that refers to a game, possibly a dice or a billiard ball) to uncover the spies. Whoever collects all of their spies off the board first wins.
  • Coup: Easily one of my favorite games, Coup is a bluffing game where players compete to wield the most influence and win the game. The game includes a deck of cards, coins, and some how-to/role cards and works with 2 to 6 players (or more if you do teams. I think of this game as extreme “Go Fish.” Every player starts with two hidden cards which can take on various roles. Players then have to take actions to draw currency and gather enough money to either assassinate the competition or unseat them in a coup (forcing them to reveal a card). Whoever ends the game with more influence (one or two cards still hidden) wins. I love it for programs because it can be as easy or as hard as teens want to make it.
  • Dominoes: Dominoes is about as basic as it gets for low-tech games. There are a variety of ways to play but essentially you are matching pips (dots) to remove them from your hand of dominoes. Winning can either be done by using all dominoes in your hand or by determining points at the end of the game depending on what works for your crowd. Dominoes come in a range of sets including Double 6 (the highest domino has 6 pips on each side) up to double 18. I would suggest going with at least a double 12 set if you are playing with teens to make the game more complex. Having a larger set also means there will also be more dominoes to play so it will work better for larger groups. There is also a variant called Squaremino if you’re into that.
  • Grifters: This game is a from the people behind Coup but a bit more complicated. In this deck building game, players are all in charge of a group of criminals with various skills in brain, speed, or brawn. Players build their deck of grifters to complete different jobs and earn coins. Whoever has earned the most after all jobs are completed wins. Grifters works for 2-4 players (or teams therein) and it’s a bit more complicated so play runs longer but if you have the time it’s a blast.
  • Jenga: Does this need any explanation? Probably not.
  • Mafia: I only heard about this game while searching for information to put in this post. It sounds a little complicated at first but I think with the right group of teens it could be a lot of fun. It seems like it could be a good ongoing game for a program with regular attendance like an advisory group or some kind of club.
  • Sushi Go: This pick and pass game works for 2 to 5 players and involves building various sets of sushi. Go Fish but with fish that you eat.
  • Who Wins?: You might have seen this book on YALSA’s 2017 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list. Who Wins? is an interactive book that pits various historical figures ranging from Nicola Tesla to Harriet Tubman in head-to-head competitions in everything from The Hunger Games to ping pong. If you act as moderator and raise questions about the various merits of each figure (“Would George Washington’s wealth–rated 10/10–be any help to catch Jack the Ripper?”) it can lead to some interesting discussions. Teens also had a great time setting up various competitions. I brought this along with several other games to a program but the book kept everyone occupied for the entire hour.
  • Yahtzee or Dice: Yahtzee is a counting game but instead of cards you’re working with dice to build various sequences. You can buy a kit or just get some dice and make your own scoring. You can also up the stakes with double dice.

Paper Snowflakes Program in the Library

Kids hard at work contemplating their snowflake designs.

When I started as a library intern in high school, one of my first jobs was cutting out paper snowflakes for a display. I love cutting snowflakes and had a lot of fun making them. The display was very well-received and while there was a lot of time involved, it was low cost.

As I try to regenerate interest in teen programs, I’ve realized that I prefer to lead low-effort/high-impact craft programs. Basically: I like programs where participants can put in as little or as much effort as they like and still leave with some kind of finished project.

My library has a monthly Ezra Jack Keats program which includes a story by Ezra Jack Keats and can also feature other stories, rhymes, songs, or fingerplays. After the reading, everyone makes a related craft. Although it was summer, I decided to do cut paper snowflakes along with a reading of The Snowy Day.

Coloring snowflakes with crayons.

Before the program I gave teen volunteers a snowflake-making tutorial and then asked them to cut some demo ones. I grabbed a ream of white typing paper and a ream of blue typing paper and lots of scissors. I also used a box of crayons so that more adept participants could draw designs to cut. The crayons also allowed the younger kids to color and decorate pre-made snowflakes.

A finished masterpiece. Cut and colored by one of the kids at the program.

Because this craft is so simple, I was able to let teen volunteers do a group reading of The Snowy Day. I then talked a bit about if kids did the same things in winter as we see in the book and we figured out some facts about snowflakes. Then I explained the craft and gave quick instructions before everyone got started.

During the program I discovered it’s really best to have a lot of actual scissors (child size) but NOT the safety-scissors with almost no blade–they are impossible to use for cutting through the multiple layers of folded paper to make a snowflake.

I also spent a lot of time going around to ask kids how they were doing and tell me about their snowflakes. If I noticed anyone who was frustrated with cutting, I was able to quickly make a snowflake for them to use as reference or to color.

Snowflake, mid-coloring.

The biggest downside to this program was that there was a lot of paper scraps by the end but cleanup wasn’t terrible with help from volunteers. (We couldn’t find a broom so I did have to ask a custodian to sweep up the last bits.) I would not recommend doing this program in a carpeted room unless you have a vacuum handy.

Related Books:

  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian
  • It’s Snowing by Olivier Dunrea
  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
  • It’s Snowing by Gail Gibbons
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz

So I still have a Crochet Club

Remember back in November of last year when I announced that I had started a Crochet Club at work?

Well it’s still going and it seemed like it was time to share an update.

My library isn’t always the best with teen retention–we have regulars but even they won’t come to the same program every week. In the months that I have been doing this club, I only have one regular. However it has been so incredibly satisfying to watch her learn and grow. She just told me this week that she crocheted Easter eggs this year for her family’s egg hunt. How cool is that?

Periodically others will drop in but never with the same regularity. I’m not sure if that’s because they don’t actually like to crochet or just because they’re busy.

In having a weekly craft program, I have learned that weekly craft programs are exhausting. It’s a weird push and pull between always having the same things available and also having new projects. It’s also hard to have someone who can’t even do chain crochet while my regular girl is making hats and stuffed animals but I try to tell everyone it’s about working at their own pace. (As I suspected, the older kids catch on with the crochet nuances a lot quicker.)


I’ve also learned that metal crochet hooks and acrylic yarn are the way to go. I’m hoping to order some when our new budget rolls out.

For every Crochet Club, I come assuming I will be teaching someone to crochet from scratch (which means I rarely crochet things and spend a lot of time doing slip knots and chains). I also have some simple patterns including Granny Squares printed on my yarn labels, a slouchy hat, a keychain and my template of a freehand bookmark that I made as my first sample.


I also have a board on Pinterest with super simple projects that I can add into the rotation. Amigurumi is really simple to do once kids figure out how to read stitches and feel comfortable working in the round. (I don’t do Magic Rings so the only thing is I have to show them an alternative for that.)

As hooks have disappeared and broken, I’ve also stopped stressing about gauge. Except for the one hat pattern (which I help with fitting) all of the projects can be done to any scale so we just work with whatever hooks are on hand.


As we’ve started working on stuffed critters we’ve also covered sewing and finishing. I knew my mom taught me a lot but I have to admit I was surprised when no one knew how to sew together a finished project. (In doing this I’ve also discovered I need shorter, smaller blunt needles. Live and learn!)

I’m particularly fond of this owl pattern found free on Ravelry and this monster pattern. Both projects are simple and invite enough variation that they can be made repeatedly without feeling boring. Sometimes they don’t look exactly like the demo item, but I’ve realized that doesn’t even matter as long as it’s fun.

My library also has a huge box of buttons and white glue so we’ve been using those for eyes.

Last week I made this little monster and already have plans to make more:

My regular also made one and even added a mouth. I was very impressed.

While the program isn’t the biggest or coolest thing my library has, it is one of my favorite parts of the week and I’m really happy to continue to have the opportunity to host it.

So I started a Crochet Club . . .

Earlier this year the library hosted a yarn bombing of the youth wing entrance. It wasn’t organized by my department and I’m still not totally clear who put it together, but everyone was really excited about it. The feedback was fantastic and it generated a lot of interest in knitting and crocheting among the patrons who came into the library.


So after hearing from so many kids that they loved the yarn bombing and crochet in general, I asked my supervisor about the possibility of starting a Crochet Club for kids. This was in planning stages since August and I had my first two sessions in November (with a gap because of Thanksgiving).

Crochet Club isn’t exactly what I envisioned. But it’s close and it is getting there.

The first thing we did was a supply order. Because of where the library already has accounts, that meant I had to order from Dick Blick. Unfortunately that did mean there were some limited options but I did eventually find everything I needed.

The supplies I ordered were:

  • Sets of plastic crochet hooks (I prefer metal but they only had plastic. If you are in a position to order individual hooks, that would be fine but I had to buy multiple sets with the knowledge that some hooks will not be usable sizes with my yarn supply.)
  • Yarn (My choices were wool or cotton. Since I’m allergic to wool I knew we had to go with cotton. Acrylic is easier to work with when starting out but it wasn’t meant to be. The yarn I wound up with is the equivalent of sport weight yarn. I would have preferred worsted as it’s thicker but again, had to take what I could get. I went with a variety of colors with 2-5 skeins each.)
  • Blunt embroidery needles (In retrospect I ordered too many of these but if the kids every get to the point where they can handle making actual projects these will come in handy for finishing and weaving in ends. If we get to that point, I also think they’ll disappear at a fierce rate so it’s better to have several.)
  • Fiberfill (It turns out that fiberfill is sold by weight and its extremely light-weight. So I now have a life time supply of fiberfill. Anyway in terms of small projects I assume eventually all crocheters want to make stuffed animals which means you need stuffing)

Before the program started I set down the age guideline of 6th grade and up (my target age was 11 I think but it got printed as 6th grade and up in our program flyers). Programs here tend to skew younger so I knew I’d probably get littler kids. My theory with that is that everyone is welcome to try but if they really aren’t catching on or into it, I’m fine with suggesting the kids leave to do something that’s more fun for them.

I intentionally avoided picking out any patterns as I wanted kids to pick up technique first. Because we are working with thinner yarn my initial idea was to have them make a sampler bookmark using chain, single and double crochet stitches.

It turns out that was wildly ambitious even as a starting point. But that’s okay because it’s a learning curve.

At my first session I had one girl who was in fifth grade. She caught on quickly and left with a chain crochet necklace. She tried to do single crochet, didn’t like it and went back to chain crochet.

In my second program I had the same girl (who I didn’t recognize because she is never, ever in the library except for Crochet Club! I’m still so ashamed!) and several kids from the afterschool program that has arbitrarily decided to use the library as a base of operation.


The kids ranged in age from 5 to around 10. The 5 year old unsurprisingly wasn’t into it. I tried to show him how to finger crochet but that didn’t work either. He came and went saying hi to his friends and seeing what everyone else was up to.

The other kids ranged from advanced to super beginner. The girl I had my first week remembered everything she had learned and was a champ working by her self for most of the session.


A couple of the after-school kids caught on quickly–including a boy who was single crocheting for part of the program–but it was hard to police their technique. Everyone was working too tightly and I don’t know how to explain the tension to them in a way that makes sense. The kids also had some weird ideas about how to hold the crochet hooks in that they were using them more like picks than hooks (I think this is because some of them were coming from having done a Rainbow Loom program the day before). While that’s fine for chain rows, they were all working too tight to actually do anything with said chains.

(After thinking more about this I realized the kids were all grabbing any hook so they were working too small. I’m going to take a step back and start the class with an intro explaining skeins, hooks and gauge sizes. I’m also organizing supplies to make it harder for the wrong hook to be taken by the kids. In addition I plan on setting up a sign in sheet so that regular attendees can borrow supplies and also to discourage latecomers/advise when the program is at full capacity.)


Similarly the kids all seemed to have a hard time letting their left hand do any of the work which is what I am used to when I crochet. I am not sure if this is from years of practice or if it comes easily by virtue of being ambidextrous. (Speaking of which one girl who came was left-handed and figured out how to translate my right-handed demo to her needs like a boss.)


Moving forward I’ve discovered that I can’t let in late comers because it derails my ability to help others. Maybe if I get a regular group and they get more advanced that will work but not right now. I also think for the time being (particularly as the program skews younger) I’m going to try capping at 10 kids (or less) to keep things a little easier to manage as I’m the only one in the room with crochet experience.

I’m also going to start doing group introductions and some kind of sign in sheet so that I can learn names and so that, as we continue, regular attendees can also borrow hooks and maybe yarn (mostly hooks) to practice.

My other plan is instead of a one-on-one demo to try a group demo with the kids watching me to see if that’s easier than flitting from person to person.

Honestly, I’m thrilled with the progress the kids made even if some of their final products weren’t the prettiest. One girl in particular had a hard time getting started but she also said she plans to practice before the next program. They all were enthusiastic and excited to be there which is all I could have asked for.


Have you ever taught someone else to crochet? Any tips or anecdotes?