No Budget? No Time? No Problem!


 by: RoseMary Honnold

RoseMary Honnold is the Editor-in-Chief of Voice of Youth Advocates. ( and former Young Adult Services Coordinator at Coshocton Public Library in Coshocton, OH. Contact her at


Teen Summer Reading Programs are fast approaching and many of Ohio’s libraries have received huge cuts into their programming and collection budgets. There are many things you can do to stretch your time and money to make this summer memorable for your teens.

Put your teens to work!

Volunteer activities are fun when done with friends, so if your shelves need dusted, your paperbacks need weeded, or your Children’s Librarian needs help preparing materials for craft projects, invite your teens to do it. Reward them with a pizza or include volunteer activities as entries into the summer reading prize drawing. Volunteer activities are great for Teen Advisory Boards, as well. Lots of brainstorming can be done when working on a project together. One of my favorite volunteer programs is in the June 2010 issue of VOYA, a Pajama Story Time. Several teens present weekly story times in their pajamas for young children in their pajamas! Absolutely free, absolutely fun, and rewarding for all.


Games of all kinds are fun for teens at the library because they get new opponents. Most teens are happy to share video and board games at the library so there is little or no investment needed to have a gaming event. Popular multiplayer games include Super Smash Brothers, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. An online game like Runescape ( can be played on the library Internet computers for free, and it is much more fun to do it after hours when you can talk across the table to your fellow players. Hasbro will provide free MONOPOLY games ( for tournaments in your library, and they even throw in a few games for prizes. Make a poster for the circulation desk asking for donated board games or puzzles and you will soon have a nice collection for a party, lock-in, or just to have around the library for teens who want something to do this summer.


Craft projects can be offered to teens in many ways: as a stand-alone project, as an afterschool activity, and a make-it-and-take-it, or as part of a bigger program, like a lock-in. Collect free craft materials from friends, coworkers, and relatives, and don’t forget your own stash, because everyone has bits and pieces left from forgotten projects in closets and basements. The cool thing about teen projects is they do not need to all look alike so you can have a variety of materials rather than twenty of everything. Some investments last a long time, too—like paint brushes, paint, glue, Mod Podge—so that your funds can be used for needed additions to round out a project. Beads are one of my favorite cheap craft projects because the teens are so creative with them and boys and girls like them. Add some nuts, bolts, and washers to the mix and you have some real hard wear! If you want to try decorating t-shirts or jeans, just buy the paints or markers, and ask the teens to bring their own clothing to decorate. There are lots of great teen craft books now that tell you how to recycle t-shirts and sweaters and decorate clothing, all of it is more fun in a group.

 Book Discussion!

Buying multiple copies of a title often makes book discussion groups too expensive for libraries and for teens whose families may have had to tighten their belts. Try a book discussion group where everyone talks about what they are reading in a specific genre or format. For example, many libraries have had great success with manga and anime clubs or fantasy and role playing game clubs based on a genre rather than a title. Besides discussing the books, you can explore a variety of activities connected with the genre, including films, food, arts and crafts, collections, and more. If you are fortunate enough to have a movie license, use it to the max this summer, showing the prequels to the latest releases right before the release date and showing books to movie titles.

Need cheap prizes?

Visit movie theatres, fast food restaurants, sports equipment stores, comic book shops, and video game stores and ask for coupons or tickets, free posters, or surplus goods. Collect advanced reader copies of new young adult books to give away as prizes. You can pick these up at conferences, on list servs, and on various web sites. Go through donated books to find like new copies of popular titles. Investigate your connections. Do any of your teens’ parents have businesses that might contribute? How about your coworkers’ families? More cheap or free prizes make more teens happy than one expensive prize to one winner!

The key to success with any teen program is to include your teens in the planning. They will tell you what will work, what they need, what they want to do. If you tell them you will provide a place if they help provide the equipment or the food, they will step up to help you put together a fun event. Even the planning, from brainstorming to making posters to advertizing, will provide bonding activity and fun for your group.

Watch for the October 2010 issue of VOYA Magazine. Amy Alessio will offer many cheap programming ideas and Beth Gallaway will talk about after school programming ideas. Every issue of VOYA has a programming column by Shari Fesko. If you have one to share, email her at For more programming ideas, check out some of these resources:

Honnold, RoseMary. 2002. 101+ Teen Programs That Work. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Honnold, RoseMary for the Young Adult Library Services Association. 2007. Get Connected: Tech Programs for Teens. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Honnold, RoseMary. 2005. MORE Teen Programs That Work. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Honnold, RoseMary. “See YA Around: Library Programming for Teens” [Online] Available:




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3 responses to “No Budget? No Time? No Problem!

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