Movies, Musicals and Madness: Spring Teen Programming Ideas

I have always loved planning programs. Before I was a librarian I was an event planner, and I spent my time planning events for socioeconomically challenged groups in the Bay Area. Now I spend my time planning programs and events for teens at my library and helping my fellow colleagues come up with innovative ideas for teen programs.

girl reading

I think one of the most interesting things about planning programs for teens is coming up with ideas that will spark their attention. I have said this before in job interviews -- and maybe it sounds weird -- but I eat, sleep and dream about teen programming. (The other night I had a dream about starting a Walking Dead book club, which sounds kind of fun and scary at the same time.) I also really enjoy working with tweens and teens. I was a middle school librarian for four years and I have two teenagers at home, ages 19 and 13, and I work with teens every day at the library. I am total a teen at heart. I can prove that because I love unicorns, narwhals, sparkles and I only read YA novels. I also love Tris and Four, John Greene, and Instagram.

When I'm planning a tween or teen program, I try to think of special things that I know will draw teens into the library. These components should be considered when you are planning teen programs.


  1. Design a program that is just for teens -- not for kids, not for adults.
  2. Find a topic that relates to the hottest trends.
  3. Bring food. I'm serious.
  4. Find a safe, private space where they can share their experiences, feel free to talk, and most of all, be themselves.
  5. Make sure to have library staff that enjoy working with teens doing teen programming. A staff person that does not like teens will drive them away instantly and they know when someone is not teen friendly, they can sense it right away!

If you are just itching to take on teen programming at your library, here are a few ideas to try.

Start a YALSA Teens' Top Ten nominees (TTTN) book club for voracious teen readers in your community. Choose a date for your new book club and make sure you have all of the Top Ten Nominees or a good selection of them, so you can do mini-book talks to the teens. At the first meeting, let the group know how excited you are about these books and how much fun it will be to go through the list and read them all. Also, let them know that they will be able to vote for their favorites the month before Teen Read Week. This is perfect timing to start a TTTN book club because the 2015 nominees were officially announced on April 16 for Celebrate Teen Literature Day. So gather up all of your teens that love to read and have a meeting this month!

Hold a Spring Fling Karaoke program for tweens. This is a really fun way to break the ice with your teens and get them warmed up for your summer programs. Try out the Sing! Karaoke app by Smule, it's totally free and it can be downloaded at the Apple Store or Google Play Store. The teens might be shy at first, but as an expert librarian/singer, you can dive in and show them how it's done. Plus, the Wii Karaoke games have voice volume control so you don't have to worry about being too loud. Don't forget to bring fun spring snacks like flower-shaped sugar cookies, gummy bears, and lemonade.

Organize an "Into the Woods" screening and writing party. I have to say that I am insanely in love with musicals, and so is my 13-year-old daughter Mac. We both fell really hard for the movie "Into the Woods," so it seems like a perfect idea to have a program to celebrate the recent release of the film on DVD. "Into the Woods" is a modern twist on several of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales that intertwine the plots of many favorite stories. The tale explores the consequences of wishes made by some rather desperate people and the tangled journey they go on to make their wishes come true. It would be fun to have a viewing of this movie at the library for teens. Before the movie, talk to them about fairy tales and how these tales can help them explore the concepts of story writing. After the movie, encourage the teens to create a storyboard chart by writing down the events of the movie. If you have time, start a discussion of the choices the writer made r when constructing the plot; have questions already written out that will help build the storyboard. You can also offer the teens a chance to write their own fairy tale and share with the group. You have so many enticing points for this program -- movies, musicals, fairy tales, writing, and teens -- all together in one big group. It sounds like the beginning of a new library club just waiting to happen!

Well, that's it for this month. Tune in next month to hear about more programming tips and ideas from Mrs. Librarian Lady.