Category Archives: Programs

I still like D&D at my library

…in case you were wondering.

But seriously, I thought I would update my library Dungeons & Dragons life for you all so you know how it’s going. Also, I got a message from someone on Goodreads – hello new friend! – who asked me about my experiences. She was just asking for some general tips for running D&D campaigns for tweens/teens. I’m not an expert by any means and I get stuff wrong sometimes, but this is also something that anyone can do. It obviously helps if you’ve played D&D or some other roleplaying system before, are moderately organized, and like having fun, but those aren’t requirements.

Well, you should like fun. D&D is very fun.

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We usually have anywhere from 8-10 players and 10 is just A LOT of kids. As far as adventures I’ve used mostly pre-made – with lots of tweaks and changes – from the Dungeon Masters Guild via Wizards of the Coast. You can buy adventures for cheap and they are pretty good! I tweak them a bit by adding in more combat and simplifying the story. My teens like killing stuff, what can I say?

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous thoughts about DMing (Dungeon Mastering aka running the game):

-Be sure to know your story really well and be ready to either improvise or fall back on prepared side stories when your players do something completely unexpected. They will, because that’s the fun of D&D. I also like to have the teens summarize the last session but also try to take notes.

-Make sure you have a few copies of the Players Handbook around for kids/you to look stuff up. Your players will ask lots of questions. I don’t think that you need to know everything off the top of your head, but they want to know quickly. Try and review the classes and mechanic beforehand. I also like to put tabs in the Player’s Handbook for frequent sections like races, classes, weapons, spells, and leveling up. I also just discovered the D&D 5e Compendium from Roll 20 which is great for quick reference. Its so helpful!

-Always make sure to have plenty of dice, scrap paper, blank character sheets, and pencils around. I often have new players drop in right before we start so I have some pre-made characters as well. Also snacks. Snacks are key.

-My friend and DM for one of my current campaigns told me about DM David’s imitative tents. They are great – I love them! He has some for creatures/monsters too.

-The Dungeon Masters Guild has a lot of stuff on the website: pre-made characters, cheap adventures, and help. I’m sure there are people on there who know way more about this than I do.

-I definitely fudge the rules a little bit to make it more fun and because rules isn’t really what my group is playing for. They are into the story and the adventure. (And the murder of monsters and sometimes innocent NPCs. Did I mention the murder?) I tell them that if they want to be super picky about tracking how much food they have, they can, but that I’m not especially interested in that level of minutiae. I promise to not let them starve.

-My kids are also super concerned about things being really fair – as are many kids – so I try to be really aware of that when it comes to any rule bending or treasures giving out or inspiration. If you fudge the rules for one player, make sure to give the other players similar opportunities to get a second chance. Also, if they start complaining that no one is attacking them, I will have the creature attack them next. That’s what you get! Don’t complain!

-Finally, the biggest challenge for me is making sure that the kids aren’t talking . . . ok SHOUTING . . over each other and making sure everyone is getting a chance to talk/share ideas. One way I need to try out is to have a party leader. Basically one player will tell the DM what they want to do as a group in a roleplaying situation or if they are setting up a trap or something. Then you don’t have 8 kids talking to you at once! Or you could do to “talking stick/dice/ruler” whatever and only the person who has that can talk. Either one could work though I admit I haven’t really tried for various reasons.

So that’s how D&D has been going. We have the best time! How do you game at your library?

(Wait you don’t game at your library? Get with it.)

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PLA Highlights

I’m back from Denver with a miserable head cold – yippee! Apparently, cold + mountain altitude + flying at . . . plane altitude = Head Cold of Death with Fluid in Ears as Bonus. So while I’m not feeling the greatest right now, I really did have a wonderful time at PLA. I was able to attend some really helpful sessions and see and reconnect with some librarians.

Here are some quick and dirty (hehe) highlights of the conference:

-Downers’ Grove, Illinois’ documentary film class series for teens was really inspiring and I’d love to recreate it at MHL but they spent a LOT of money on filmmaking equipment. Maybe that’s something to think about for the future.

-One program was entitled something like, “How Two Libraries Quit Summer Reading, and You Can Too!” and it was awesome. They didn’t really quit – you just can’t really quit summer reading – but they did change their programs drastically. One library, Park City, UT, went to a more creative and self-directed program and the Nashville Public Library created one program with a point system for kids, teens, and adults that included activities and goals. Both were really interesting approaches and I’d love to incorporate elements of both at my library. One signup and program for all ages?! Yes please! And I love how Park City had patrons create their own reading goals. My coworker Rebecca and I are thinking of moving to a summer reading bingo board with prize suggestions from the teens. They want the “swaggiest” bookmarks*, candy, and Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. We can do that!

-Another awesome idea I’d love to incorporate at my library is to convince the school system to either  give out library card applications to new students as part of their school registration or just share the school records with us and let us give library cards to everyone at school. Another great idea is to have students’ I.D. cards be their public library cards. It would be so amazing and make it a lot easier for kids to access books from the public library. Right now they are supposed to show I.D. to get books and get a card, and they have to physically come into the library to get that card. Some libraries, like Haverhill in our consortium, have an online sign up for a card. I’d love that. It can be really hard for kids and parents to physically come to the library but if they already had cards or we just mailed them to them after applying online, they could still access a ton of our resources without leaving their house!

-Ok, so by far my favorite session was the very last one I attended called “Dragons in the Library: Tabletop Gaming and the Public Library” and it was so great. Obviously, it was totally right up my alley but it was fascinating. The Fresno library system created a tabletop gaming convention at the library and ran D&D games, hosted game premiers, and had a ton of people. Over 300 people over two days! It was just really fun to hear about how this library and others were using gaming in their programs. I asked a question about D&D one shot adventures – I’m going to be hosting a game for teens next month and they are super excited – and got lots of suggestions and helpful ideas. Basically, librarians who game – whether tabletop, video, roleplaying or whatever – are my new favorite people.

Denver was a cool city as well. I have been to the Rockies but hadn’t spent much time in downtown Denver and it was nice! Though, there are a lot of oversized things which make you feel like you’re in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! See giant blue bear:

bearno

And giant dustpan:

dustpan

I wonder what it all means….

While I was traveling and out there I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab which I really enjoyed. I’m sort of on a fantasy kick right now – wait, am I ever NOT reading a ton of fantasy? – and am also reading N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I’m also listening to The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey but honestly, I liked the book better when it was by Laini Taylor! SICK LIBRARIAN BURN. kanye

That’s all for now. I’m going to take some Sudafed.

*Is “swaggiest” a word? Unknown. What does it mean? Cool . . . I think? I’m not sure. I’m getting old.

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I ate a bug and other adventures in library services for teens

If I wrote a book about being a teen librarian the above would probably be the title. Librarianship makes for great titles. If I were to be writing about the reference desk I could title books things like No, You Can’t Have That Loose Cat in the Library or I Can’t Tell if You’re Joking When You Ask if the Library has a Sushi Counter So I’m Going to Treat it as a Serious Reference Question. They would be instant bestsellers I’m sure.

But I did eat a bug for a teen program. The program was . . . to basically just get edible insects on the internet and then eat them. It was a smashing success! The teens loved it and apparently, insects are a very sustainable source of protein and we should probably eat more of them. It wasn’t my favorite – it might have been buffalo flavored? WHY?! – but I did eat one.

And then I made a GIF of me eating a bug:

annaateabug

This file is named “Anna Ate a Bug” which you can sing to the tune of “Janie’s Got a Gun” and have a grand ol’ time.

In other news, the library is going well! We’re doing our Teen Poetry Contest, a phone film festival, and I’m planning on DM-ing (Dungeon Mastering for the cool people out there; it means “running”) a game of Dungeons & Dragons for teens that I’m super excited about. Basically, I’m spent the last few years morphing into a Super Nerd and so now I like things like tabletop role-playing games! And other tabletop games! Video games! Comics and more! I thought I had achieved Peak Nerd with my love of “Battlestar Galactica” and the greatest show of all time AKA “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but there’s so much more to be incredibly dorky about. I’m happy about it. I’ll just be a big nerd who loves comics and space and games and sewing and running and baking. And it will be glorious.

Since it’s been a while – you thought I wouldn’t mention that, you say? – here are some things I’ve been enjoying that you’d probably enjoy too:

Neko Atsume – it’s a phone game where you collect cats. That’s it. It’s amazing!

Mission: Red Planet – It’s a tabletop game where you send steampunk astronauts to Mars. It makes sense in the game, trust me. I wrote about it in my monthly game column at WWAC. (Does this make me a board games columnist? I don’t know!)

Steven Universe – Yes, this is a cartoon, ostensibly for children, but it’s beautiful, heartwarming, and hilarious. Plus the storytelling and progressive attitudes are serious pluses.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – You think I’d let you leave without some book recommendations? Of course not! If you like opera or the Franco-Prussian War (apparently that was a thing), you should read it. It’s a bit long but very engaging and beautifully written.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan – Listen to the audiobook, it’s perfect. This also is about music and the audiobook includes a lot of musical excerpts which make it a wonderful listen.

A still from The Verge's Neko Atsume game.

A still from The Verge’s Neko Atsume game.

What have you been up to lately? Eat any good bugs?!

 

 

 

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Back from vacation!

Hello all! I’m back from Chicago!

Chicago skyline from the Shedd front steps!

Chicago skyline from the Shedd front steps!

Lovely boyfriend Doug and I went out for a few days to see family, celebrate my Mom’s birthday, and just relax! It was a much needed break after a long summer of solo teen room staffing and a long hiring process. We interviewed five candidates – which was a lot! Everyone was really great and it was a difficult decision, but my new teen buddy is starting next Tuesday. I’ll tell you more about her soon. I think she’s going to be amazing!

Girls-Who-Code-logo

Other than hiring the biggest thing I’ve been working on at work has been Girls Who Code. I don’t think that I’ve talked about it here but it’s a BIG program for the library. Girls Who Code is an organization that helps coordinate free coding/programming clubs for girls in grades 6 – 12. It’s a year long program where the girls meet for two hours every week and learn the basics of programming (but not the BASICs of programming, know what I mean?!) and languages like HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, and more. It’s amazing! If you’ve heard of the Tampon Run game, you’ve heard of Girls Who Code. Seriously, it’s an amazing organization and our GWC @ MHL club will be launching next Saturday. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m so excited about it. Right now I have about 40 interested girls for 12 spots. Hopefully next year we can either do more clubs or accommodate more people. We’re limited by the amount of computers and time we have right now. Or maybe the schools will host a lot of clubs and the Merrimack Valley will become like a lady Silicon Valley. I can dream!

Also, my library’s next Pub Trivia will be 11/10 at 7:30 at Andolini’s in Andover. You should come! My cohost Curtis and I basically have the exact same haircut. It’s hilarious and fun to witness.

Finally, if you have extra cash laying around please contribute to WWAC’s Indiegogo. We’re trying to reach our last stretch goal, which will be an emergency fund for WWAC writers. I love this idea! God forbid anything happen to me or my job, but there are a lot of women who write for the site who freelance or just generally are making all their income off writing. I am so impressed and in awe of them, but I know it’s not the most stable job. So help us out if you can.

I’ll leave you with this blurry picture from my birthday because I really wish I knew what was happening here. Cheers!

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I finally read Gone Girl! Hello 2012!

Ugh movie cover.

Ugh movie cover.

I realize that everyone else in the world has read Gone Girl, but I finally got around to it. At first, because I’m a jerk, I didn’t read it because it was popular and everyone was reading. If everyone likes it, it must appeal to the common masses and therefore is crap. I am not going to waste my time reading a popular thriller. I was an English major! I’ve read Henry James!

Did I mention I’m a jerk?

There’s a little part of me that is still really snobby. That part of me loves to read poetry, literary fiction, Thomas Hardy and Henry James books (even though they don’t always seem to esteem women so much), the more enlightened end of the YA spectrum. I really am insufferable sometimes. Most of the time I’m ok with being a snob and other days I feel really bad about it. I also believe that you should read what you want, and sometimes that butts heads with my snobbery. So for me, I’ve just decide to do a little of both. Read something with “literary merit” and then read something not so critically well-received.

This summer I wanted to read Gone Girl I mean, everyone was talking about it three years. It’s been so popular that they’ve already made a movie of it and everyone else has moved on. Not me! I finally read and I did really like it. It was actual a review in the New York Times – I think I can’t find the article again – that made me want to read it. I remember the review having a point that was something along the lines of ,”Feminism means that women get to be just as unlikeable and scary as men.” Obviously, this is not ALL that feminism means, but I was intrigued.

And Amy – or Amazing Amy – is pretty damn unlikeable and scary. I know that I’m not supposed to like her . . . but I did sort of admire how smart she was in all of her planning. Obviously she is a bad person, but it was interesting to read about her. Similarly, her “Cool Girl” rant in the middle of the novel is a lot like some expectations and/or tropes of women in media, so I appreciated that.

Is the the most amazing book I’ve ever read? No but I really enjoyed. It’s kind of sad how often I am shocked by the realization that popular books can actually be good! Anyone else read some good page turners this summer?

Stay tuned for next week when I do a little tutorial on how to make a modified, easier version of these guys from Doctor Who:

adiposeThis tutorial is from Erica Kern, but since it was for a craft for our Doctor Who Club at work I didn’t want to bring in my sewing machine. I’ll show you how to do it slightly easier, but still pretty cute!

Finally, stuff of mine is going up a few times a month at WWAC. Check it out if you’re so inclined. It’s an amazing group of ladies, like I’ve said, and it’s so nice to have an editor. Editors make your writing so much better! This blog could definitely use one.

See you next week!

adipose giphy

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