Passive programming

A goal for this year at work is to incorporate more passive programming into teen services. I just finished reading Happier at Home which is making want to make goals and resolutions – things I at which I usually scoff derisively – but I do think that they help me get things done. Why passive programming? Because I like it and I think it gives a bit of an added value to teen services and teen spaces. This is something that my library’s Children’s Roome does very well. They always have a take home craft and multiple other activities in the stacks. Patrons seem to enjoy them, so I want to try them out with teens. Plus, there are some pretty cool things you can do with it.

So far through my research, i.e. Googling, I’ve found that the Programming Librarian has a lot of great ideas like putting out origami paper and instructions,  asking “poll” type questions on paper or a chalkboard (or a cool chalkboard vinyl decal – more on that later!), window painting, art projects, etc. Other ideas they include are making programs in a box like a friendship bracelet kit or marble magnets that you could then circulate. I love that idea. Similar to this – and also sadly similar to the box of “rainy day” activities that they create in The Babysitters Club* books – I am thinking of creating a “Bored Box” that I can keep at the desk or set out in the teen area that has stuff in there for bored teens. I’m thinking art supplies, coloring books (coloring is an ageless pastime, I believe), duct tape for crafts with some instructions, decks of cards, and other games.

Other examples I’ve found are this color your own puzzle piece display (pinned from Pinterest without linking back to the originating website – my ultimate pet peeve!), this “guess what weird thing I am” quiz, and an idea from my mentor (hi!) about putting book series related objects (think tiny bows and arrows, a mockingjay pin, a mini plastic loaf of bread, etc, for a Hunger Games theme) in a jar of rice/sand/couscous and having the kids try and figure out all of the pieces! I would probably do this with rainbow-ized rice because it looks magical:

Rainbow rice from
Rainbow rice from

What else? I found these blue silicone sticky birds that look a lot like the twitter logo and stuck them on the wall. (I’ll try and take a picture of them this week as they are sort of hard to describe.) Then I created some fake Tweets from book characters on put them up. I’ve only done two so but it was fun. Hopefully, I can change them out every week or two and have the teens guess the books.

Here's my blank tweet. Feel free to borrow if you want.
Here’s my blank tweet. Feel free to borrow if you want.
Maze Runner tweet
Maze Runner tweet
Hunger Games tweet
Hunger Games tweet

I’m not sure if teens will like, or even notice all of this, so if I find out they don’t then I will have to re-evaluate. But until then, I’m going to try it out. This month for my passive program, I just have a simple Young Adult Book Wordsearch out that I created using Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker. Then month, I’m going to set out origami paper and instructions. For March, I may do the “guess the objects in the jar” game, perhaps even with a prize!

Finally, this isn’t exactly passive programming, but it’s part of the reason why I want to do more passive programming: the revitalized teen area! Now that the space is slightly more inviting and more teens may be hanging out there, I wanted to make it even more exciting. Or try. I was going to write, “make it even more cool,” but sometimes I may be a bit fuzzy on what is actually “cool” this days. I do try, though. Take a peek:

The TAG (Teen Advisory Group) kids picked out the bean bags, the color scheme, and approved my love of the chalkboard vinyl and the “Keep Calm and Read On” sign. They are still working on some teen-made art for the space, and I’m hoping to find a better desk/table solution. I’m thinking TV trays that could hang from a hook on the wall or lap desks or both. I know some teens want to be able to do homework in this space and the tiny little tables we have just aren’t going to cut it.

I think it’s a big improvement but there is still room to get it even better. What do you think? Do you have any great passive programming ideas you want to share?

*I think my sister always skipped chapter 2, you know the one that starts with “It all started with Kristy’s great idea…” I honestly don’t think I realized all of the second chapters were basically the same until she pointed it out to me years later. Years later, like perhaps in college. Being a fast reader often makes me a bit of an oblivious reader.

10 thoughts on “Passive programming

    1. I think it’s going ok. It’s a little hard to tell – the only way is to count how many “handouts” I have before and then after. Last month, I put out 20 wordsearches and they were all gone. So maybe people did them? Or they got thrown away? Hard to tell, but I”m persisting….

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  2. I’ve done a few passive programs for teens in my system so far. We started rolling them out in November with a Find the Wimpy Kid Character, the idea for which I got from another blog (which, I apologize, I don’t have the link for anymore!) Essentially, we printed out characters from the book, laminated them and hid them around the branch. Then the kids were given a printout with all the characters and had to write down the name of the character and where they were hidden. I’ve also seen people do this with Where’s Waldo characters. If they found them all, we handed out a Wimpy Kid bookmark that I made.

    In December/January, we had a sign asking kids to share their new year’s resolutions, which they wrote on sticky notes and stuck to the display. You can get creative with the display around it, with fireworks, suggested resolutions (I tried to avoid anything that would make kids feel shamed, like “lose weight” and chose ones like “eat more veggies” or “exercise more”), or the definition of “resolution.” — We had a great turnout for this one, because apparently teens love expressing themselves (who’d-a thunk). Some were really amusing, like “eat more jellybeans” or “be more swag.”

    In March, I scoured the internet for Life Hacks that would appeal to teens, found 10-15 or so and printed them out, laminated them, then stuck them on the display area with shiny star stickers, then asked the teens to vote for their favorite life hack. (It was interesting to see which hacks won at different branches!)

    For April, I did a play on April Fool’s Day and found a bunch of strange facts (I got all of mine from the website for the British TV Show “Qi” at ) then made little folded cards, with the phrase “Fact or Fooled?” accompanied with a fact. They had to decide if it was true or false, then open the card to see if they were right.

    With each program, if possible, I try to make a handout for the kids to take with them, as sometimes that’s more appealing. I had a word search and maze with the New Years display and with the April Fool’s one I made a crossword using phrases about fools and had missing words. They had to figure out the missing word and put it in the crossword. (Ex: “A fool and his ____ are soon parted”) — I included a word bank to make it easier on the kids. I made the crossword with the same Discovery website you listed above.

    That’s what I’ve done so far and they’ve gone pretty well! Thank you for the ideas you’ve suggested here, too! I can’t wait to try some of them. 🙂

    1. Those are such great ideas! I love the QI one especially (LOVE that show!) and the voting for life hacks. I’m going to save these ideas for our VAB (Volunteen Advisory Board) because we are always looking for ideas like this for them. Thanks!

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