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YA March Madness


In 2009 I helped my library win a grant to build an incredible teen space called The Corner.  In the beginning, the space was amazing.  We held a few programs and the teens respected their area.  However, due to staffing, the popularity of the space, and an overall disinterest in work due to my pregnancy and new baby, The Corner sort of became overrun with a not so great crowd.  With the enthusiasm of a new boss and a lot more sleep in my life, I slowly started to take the teen space back.  Were our teens really that bad?  Welllllllll… it’s not like this library is in a bad area, but the kids were used to being in a walled in, adult free space, and (OMG!) they got a little cra cra.  This is when I introduced them to… The Self Directed Program!

What is a self directed program, you ask?  It’s really just a fancy name for a passive program, where the librarian sets everything up and your audience comes in to do all the work.  Over the last year I have held several self directed programs (posts with pics will be coming soon!), but our most recent one, YA March Madness, has been hands down the most popular. 

Round of 32

We started out on March 1 with 32 popular Young Adult fiction books.  (I’m super lucky that my PR lady is awesome and she made me these incredible posters for my bracket.)  Next to the bracket, I put out my first ballot.Ballot

Over the next five weeks, I had 107 ballots given to me.  The teens were allowed to vote once a week and I gave them a piece of candy in exchange for the ballot.  I also gave them the opportunity to win a gift card to Spoon Me (our local FroYo place).

Elite 8

Each week I tallied up the winners, made a bigger book cover for the new bracket, and created a revised ballot. 

Final 4

There were some big upsets, and eventually we went from 32 books…

Championship Round

…down to 2…


…and finally we had a winner!

So, why do I love me some self directed programs?  1) It is a physical reminder that you are in a library, complete with books and teen programs. 2) It gives me an excuse to talk to teens about our programs. 3) It opens up dialogue (such as, “What do you mean you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars, Miss Christen?!???”) with my teenagers. 4) Teens who can’t make it out for specific programs still get to participate in library programming. 5) I love to give out candy and gift cards!

I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe it will help inspire you to try self directed programs in your library (or classroom or maybe even at your business?!).  Be on the lookout for more posts about this topic coming soon…


DIY Coffee (or Tea… or Hot Chocolate!) Mugs

DIY Coffee Mugs

Oh glorious DIY coffee mugs. How do I love thee? I love your simplicity… your effortless… your endless possibilities. I also love that you are teen program friendly. Today begins my first ever Crafternoons program at the library and I think my group is going to love this DIY activity.


  • Coffee mug (I bought white mugs for $.99 from Ikea)
  • Sharpies (I have been told that Oil-Based Straight Sharpie Paint Markers work best)
  • An oven


  1. Use your Sharpies to draw on your coffee mugs. (I searched Etsy for creative ideas!)
  2. Once you like the design on your mug, put it in the oven to set the ink.
  3. ***Place your mug in a cold oven. After the mug is in the oven, turn it onto Bake at 350 degrees. Wait until the oven is preheated and then turn your timer on for 30 minutes. After your timer goes off, turn off the stove and leave your mug in the oven until it is cool to touch. (I left mine in overnight.)
  4. Enjoy your mug!

I hope you all enjoy this super fun (and easy!) crafty idea. Now I need to make myself a cup o’ joe in my lovely new arrow mug.



{edited 3-13-13: Awesome mugs made by some of my awesome library teens!}

Twelve Weeks to Better Photos: Week Four, Flash

Well, it was finally warm enough (a nice balmy 48 degrees) to take a couple outdoor photos.  This week’s lesson on flash can be found here.

We’ve been learning about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, but sometimes you still need to use your flash.  This week’s lesson not only focuses on using your flash indoors  but outside as well.

Tips for using flash

- Make sure your subject is between 6-12 feet away from you. A flash only works so far away (so don’t bother using a flash for things that are off in the distance) and by moving your subject away from you it will make the light less harsh so the people you’re taking pictures of won’t look washed out.
– Move your subject as far away from the wall behind them as possible (that will prevent harsh/giant shadows in the background).
– Turn the flash down. Many cameras will let you reduce the intensity of the flash so it’s not at full force all the time. Try taking it down a few notches.
– To avoid red-eye, have your subject look over your shoulder. It will still appear that they are looking right at the camera, but it will prevent the flash light from bouncing off their retinas and creating red-eye (this really does work!).
– If you’re using an external flash, bounce the light off of the ceiling or a wall instead of pointing the light directly at your subject.
– If you’re using the built-in camera flash, consider investing in (or inventing) something that will redirect or diffuse the light. You can buy something (like a lightscoop or diffuser) or DIY something.  I personally love my lightscoop for indoor shooting.

The Assignment

This week I’m inviting everyone to do TWO challenges: the one found on thsi week’s pdf and a second one I whipped up myself.

Challenge One (from pdf):

1. Use fill flash to “pop” colors on a gray day.

2. Use fill flash to eliminate dark shadows on the face on a bright day.

3. Use fill flash to combat backlighting on a shadowed subject.

Here’s my number 1, starring Mr. Carrot.  All pictures are SOOC.

Gray Day No Flash

Gray Day Fill Flash

I didn’t play with these in photoshop, but just looking at them, I kind of like the first picture (sans flash).  Go figure.

Now, it wasn’t overly sunny out and there were minimal shadows, but I did try again in sort of different lighting…

Shadow No Flash

Shadow Fill Flash

You can definitely see that Mr. Carrot’s left eye is better lit with the fill flash in the second picture.

Challenge Two (from me):

Take your flash indoors and see what happens.  For this challenge I shot with my pop up flash, no flash, my lightscoop, and a DIY index card contraption.  Do you have a favorite of the four?

Flash versus no flash


White Index Card2

Now these are SOOC with no editing.  That being said, I kind of love the picture with the index card best.  Go figure.

I hope you enjoy these challenges and I’ll see you all next week for Lesson 7: Shoot Outdoors… again.



DIY Glitter Shoes

Glitter Shoes

We made DIY Glitter shoes at the library today!  I saw this pin a couple of months ago and knew that we would have to do some shoe upcycling this Winter.  After looking at all the different tutorials, I decided that I liked the one at We are Not Martha best.

To recreate these shoes, you will need:

• Mod Podge (about 2 ounces)
• Glitter (any color, about 2 ounces)
• Foam Brush
• Clear Glaze Spray ( a few sprays)
• Pair of plain flats (and color will do)

(Don’t have Mod Podge?  Here’s a recipe to make your own.)


1. Mix Mod Podge with LOTS of glitter.

2. Use the foam brush to apply glitter/Mod Podge mixture onto shoes.

3. Let Mod Podge dry.  Repeat steps 2 and 3 two more times.

4. Spray the clear glaze on the shoes and let dry.

5. Enjoy your awesome new glitter flats!

(Need pictures?  Check out the awesome tutorial at We are Not Martha!)

I hope you all enjoy your awesome new glitter shoes!



Twelve Weeks to Better Photos: Week Six, Shooting Indoors

Well, we’ve made it to week 6 and are halfway done our 12 week course.  This week we will be focusing on shooting indoors while utilizing natural light.  You can find week 6’s pdf here.
Parallel to window Shooting indoors can mean a shortage of light.  With less light, you will have to find a comprise with your ISO, shutter speed, and depth of field.  However, today we’re going to learn how to utilize our windows as a natural light source.  Shooting near windows and open doors is a great way to capture light into your pictures, especially during these cold winter months.

When shooting near windows it is important to remember to meter on your subject.  This just means having your camera settings (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) based on the object/person you’re shooting, and not the giant light source behind/beside them.  For this week’s pictures I made sure my focus was on the darkest part of the picture (read: my son’s shirt)!

The Assignment

This week’s assignment is to use your windows and doors to create natural light.  You want to try to take pictures of your subject both back lit and in direct light.  Also, try to capture your subject parallel to your light source.


{back lit}


{direct light}

Parallel to window

{side lit}

What I Learned

This week’s lesson has been really helpful for me.  I ALWAYS use my flash when shooting Dax, so it was cool taking pictures of my son without it.  This lesson also forced me to pay attention to my metering, which was great!  I will say that I don’t love the back lit pictures I took, but those side lit pictures are just adorbs.

Thanks for playing along this week!  I’ll see you all in seven days for Week 7, Shooting outdoors.


12 Weeks to Better Photos: Week Five, Composition

Welcome to Week 5 of our 12 Weeks to Better Photos course.  What’s that you say?  Week 5?!  What happened to Week 4.  Welllllllll… Week  4 involves going outside and right now it is COLDDDD out there.  If you happen to live in a warmer climate, please feel free to check out Week 4, Flash here.  If not, don’t worry too much.  I plan to work on this one sometime soon and you can just take care of this lesson when the weather permits.

So yeah.  Hi Week 5!  After weeks of technical talk, I’m pleased to announce that we will be working on something a lot more fun… Composition.  While it’s important to know the functions of your camera, it’s now time to focus on shooting images that are pleasing to the eye.  Check out Week 5’s pdf here.

Rules of ThirdsComposition can be defined as “the artistic arrangement of the parts of the picture.”  Obviously “good” composition can be highly subjective, but Two Peas in a Bucket has put together a list of suggestions to help you better compose your photos.  So without further ado, here are few simple suggestions to think about before you start snapping away.

Tip #1: Keep it Simple.

Learn to keep an eye on your surroundings.  Have a busy background?  Take a step closer to your subject to make him or her your focus.  Lots of toys and clutter on your floor?  Pick everything up before posing your subject.  When you eliminate the distractions  you are helping your viewer focus on the moment you are trying to capture.

Tip #2: Apply the Rule of Thirds.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to a point that is two-thirds up in a photo.  Instead of posing your subject in the middle of your frame, try moving them a bit off center.  You will be pleased with the results.  (The above photo is an example of how we can apply the Rule of Thirds to our pictures.)

Tip #3: Keep an Eye on the Horizon.

If you’re taking pictures outside, try to keep your horizon either a third of the way up or a third of the way down in your frame. (See the pdf for a great example.)

Tip #4: Frame Your Subject.

Use other elements to literally frame your subjects.  This can include windows, trees, fences… There are literally endless possibilities.

Tip #5: Fill the Frame.

The best way to reduce distractions is to get super close to your subject.  Fill that empty space to make your subject more prominent.

Tip #6: Try a New Perspective.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  You don’t just have to stand there, holding your camera, shooting away.  Get on your belly.  Climb onto a chair.  You might be pleasantly surprised how much a change in perspective can alter the look of your photo.

The Assignment:

Use these tips and start taking pictures!  Please share as many photos as you want this week.  SHOW OFF!







Some Random Thoughts:

1. Don’t have a DSLR?  It doesn’t matter.  You can use your P&S or your camera phone this week.

2. Some people just have an eye for composition.  I am not one of those people.  I am constantly checking out other photographers to see what they are doing.  I stalk Pinterest.  I am also a fool with my camera.  I climb all over our furniture.  I crawl all over the ground.  I always wear crappy pants and sneakers on a photo shoot because I expect to get dirty.

Does it help to have an artistic eye in photography?  Heck yes!  Can you learn composition with little to no creative ability?  YES!  This process should be fun and the more willing you are to embrace the silly, the easier everything will become.  So on that note, enjoy this week and please SHOW OFF your hard work!


12 Weeks to Better Photos: Week Three, The Color of Light

Welcome to Week 3 and the Color of Light.  We have been learning about the importance of having enough light in our pictures during the Week 1 and Week 2 lessons.  Now we will be focusing on using the type of light that is available to us.  Check out the pdf of this week’s lesson here.

whitebalanceWhat is the Color of Light?

All light emits a certain color.  “Natural” sunlight will be different depending on the time of day or cloud coverage.  The light found inside will vary drastically depending on your light bulbs or even the color painted on your walls.  Your camera will pick up and enhance colors that your eye might not catch causing your pictures to have a much different look than what you had expected.  That is why we have white balance.

What is white balance?

White balance is setting the color temperature of your image.  When you set your white balance, you are showing your camera what is really white. There are two ways to set your white balance.  You are automatically defaulted to Auto (AWB), but your cameras should have other settings built in such as Tungsten, Daylight, and Cloudy.  Your second (and better) option is to manually set your white balance.  Each camera is different, but if you type into the YouTube search box your camera model with “manual white balance” you will find tutorials.  (Canon T3i users, check out this video tutorial.)  ***You will need a piece of white paper or cardstock to manually set your white balance.***

The Assignment: 

Photograph the same subject using various white balance settings (including a custom white balance) to see how your camera adjusts for different types of light.

AutoWhite Balance


I have to say that I love my Manual white balance.  It’s a little bit warmer than I thought it should be, but you can see every detail in the picture and it’s not blown out like in Auto.

All in all, this is a pretty easy feature to set up and I’m looking forward to playing around with it some more (especially indoors on my favorite subject… Dax!).

See you all next week for Lesson 4, Flash!


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