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Nationwide Teen Lock-In.

Snow is on the ground in many of our home states, but February is the time many libraries begin thinking about what they will be doing in the summer. Many libraries offer teens a chance to spend time at the library after hours. Some do an all-nighter, while others do a shorter event. Plan your afterhours events and make it even more exciting by signing up for the Nationwide Teen Lock-In (NTL) ( The date for the lock-in is Friday, August 1, 2014.

A lock-in program that could be shared throughout the country was the brainchild of Jennifer Lawson of the San Diego County Library. Lawson was inspired by an idea that connects local lock-ins, so she expanded the concept for a national teen audience. In 2011, Lawson sent a general digital invitation through the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of the American Library Association) listserv, ya-yaac, and the program has grown from there. Lawson passionately speaks about this event: The great thing about the program is it allows teens in different parts of the country and different circumstances to connect and find commonality. In our second year, we were able to connect teens in more than thirty libraries, ranging from California to Alaska to the Midwest and small towns in the South." By signing up for the NTL, all participating libraries are able to set up their own individual activities and times, but there are also planned author visits and competitions that every library can participate in virtually.

In 2013, Courtney Saldana, youth services supervising librarian at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, California, and Tinna Mills, teen librarian at the Chippewa River District Library System in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, took over as co-chairs of the event. Mills, who will also serve as co-chair in 2014, had this to say about the impact of the event: "I really love the lock-in because of how I see it bonding people like no other event we host at the library. People remember and talk about it all year long and for years to come. We even have young adults who have aged out of the TAB return as chaperones because they love the event so much."

Mills added that it is the perfect chance to join forces with other local groups. Her library, for instance, joined with the Mt. Pleasant Parks and Recreation department to plan and staff the event from 8:00 p.m. on Friday evening until 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. As mentioned above, not every library is able to host an all-night event, which is why the NTL is very flexible. Participating libraries aren't required to sign up for all of the activities that have been planned. This gives participants many options to customize their event, so it works in their community. The best part is that the program is 100 percent free, which makes it available to any and all libraries, large or small.

The author visits are done virtually and staggered throughout the night in order to allow participants to join from different time zones. In the past two years, the NTL has featured a number of talented young adult writers, including: Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, and Colleen Houck. The authors for this year have yet to be decided. Mills jokingly concedes that last year's six authors were too many; there will be a maximum of four authors this year.

One other virtual event in 2013 was the Teen Photo Scavenger Hunt. The scavenger hunt allows teens at all participating libraries on the night of the lock-in to form teams and create photos from a list of theme-related poses. Teens are encouraged to be creative and thorough, and Mills testifies that they definitely take that advice and run with it.

The Teen Lock-In website provides ideas and instructions for other activities, including the very popular Minute to Win It competition that Mills says is a huge hit every year at her library's event. The Minute to Win It concept is based on a popular television game show that has contestants trying to complete silly physical challenges in one minute or less. Crafts of all kinds are another popular choice for activities. Duct tape crafts, paper folding, or a new craze sweeping the craft world--the Rainbow Loom--are all easy, inexpensive crafts to offer. The book Got Tape by Elbe Schiedermayer is perfect for duct tape craft ideas, with clear, concise instructions; for paper folding, try which has a section just for children, as well has projects for more advanced folders; and you can try the Rainbow Loom, which does require purchasing the looms ($16.49 at that come with small plastic rings that you weave together to make many fun projects.

Here are some wonderful quotes from teens who have attended a lock-in event:

"The lock-in provides many activities that everyone can enjoy; anyone can find something fun to do!"--Hunter

"The national teen lock-in is an AMAZING event. On top of being able to spend a whole night locked in the library with a ton of really awesome people, we have the ability to talk with people from libraries across the nation. One of my favorite things about the national lock-in is the virtual author visits. It's not always possible to have an author come or Skype in just for our local library, but with the lock-in, we (along with many other libraries) can talk to an author and ask them our questions--an opportunity that doesn't come around too often. The lock-in is one of my favorite parts of summer, and I'm so glad we have the ability to do so many things with people from all over."--Madeline

"It was probably my favorite event of the summer. AND I MET NEW PEOPLE. The scavenger hunt was the best part. It was a great way to work with new people and work together."--Eva

"The lock-in was a very fun experience. Meeting new friends and winning the photo scavenger hunt championship was great. I'm glad I was a part of this and can't wait to do it again next year."--Waabe

Now that you have facts, go to and register your library!

Shari Fesko is the teen services librarian at the Southfield Public Library in Southfield, Michigan. Fesko is an active member of YALSA and a huge lover of audiobooks, all things food-related, and hip hop.
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Title Annotation:get with the program
Author:Fesko, Shari
Publication:Voice of Youth Advocates
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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