The Highs and Lows of Teen Tech Week

If you work in teen services you are probably already elbow deep in programming, but for the rest here is a reminder: it is almost Teen Tech Week! Next week, March 9-15, libraries across the country will be celebrating YALSA’s “DIY @ your library” theme by providing programs on coding, knitting, music recording and everything in between. Unfortunately I do not (yet) work in a teen services department, but that does not mean I (or you) cannot join in on the celebration.


Miniature human face models made through 3D printer via S zillayali, Wikimedia Commons CC

As a young LIS professional it is easy to get absorbed in the biggest and shiniest trends: 3D printing! Tablets! Computer programming! It is even easier as a teen librarian-in-training to get overwhelmed by feeling the need to be an expert in all-the-things to land a job. Another common factor may be a limited budget and time; making programs like TTW seem out of reach.

In a previous post I shared resources on how technology can be used effectively in the classroom, but here I want to discuss how you do not need high-tech gear and excess funds to explore emerging technology trends.

First we need to step back and ask, “What is technology?”

When defining technology I initially think of computers, smart phones and gaming consoles — devices popular in the here and now. But what about cars, televisions, typewriters, pens… are these not classified as technology as well? By definition technology is “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” Breaking down TTW would mean YALSA is then taking a week to promote teens’ creativity and problem solving skills in a public service environment — and isn’t that what libraries should be about anyway?

From brainstorming with fellow colleagues in the real and virtual world, here are possible low and high-tech activities for TTW — or for your own personal creative downtime:

  1. DIY Crafts: Do not let the term “technology” scare you into thinking you need to dump out your wallet for a brand new 3D printer. Host a crochet-your-own phone cozy party or make jewelry from miscellaneous computer parts.
  2. Media literacy: Underneath all this talk about media and technology lies a very real issue needing to be discussed, most teens do not understand how mass media works or how to use technology wisely. TTW is a great time to facilitate a conversation by creating interactive media literacy lessons like analyzing photographs, creating media or watching a documentary.
  3. Gaming: If you already have a gaming system and videogames, plug it in and you are good to go. Otherwise, ask teens to bring in their favorite games to swap and play. For a more guided program see how you can use Minecraft as an educational tool.
  4. Learn to code: All you need is a computer, internet access and a program like Codecadmey, Code Year or Squeakland depending on the audience’s age and skill level.
  5. Visit a makerspace: Don’t have the tools to solder a portable USB charger kit? I bet your local makerspace does! These community centers invite people in to use their tools to the best of their imagination. Now plan a field trip to the nearest makerspace and create!

These are only a few options of how you can get involved in Teen Tech Week, but you can find more resources at TTW’s website in the forum discussions, event toolkits and free webinars.


How is your library celebrating Teen Tech Week? What low-tech/low-cost programs have you facilitated for patrons of any age?

9 replies

    • Thanks Amanda! I am currently in a media lit for youth class now and every piece of media/technology we look at comes back full circle to actually understanding how it is used. With a background in media studies it is something near and dear to my heart as well. Media literacy something we need to continue teaching our youth, especially as access to technology keeps increasing!


  1. Thank you for touching on old technologies! I hosted a teen knitting program many years ago, and it went well: the yarn was donated by a local yarn shop, and the participants really got into the process of creating “useful things.”


    • My favorite projects are always those resulting in something I can actually use and I think teens will be more into a program if they can walk away with a new item as well. Anyway it is a lot more fun to show off something you made from scratch than just bought from a store 🙂


  2. The seeming need to know about everything cool and shiny in Technology Land before applying for YA services jobs in libraries was scaring me before I read your piece (I’m still in an LIS program – not in the workforce yet). These are some great ideas! Yes, it’s cool when libraries get things that are really “high-tech,” but it’s important to think about technology in broader terms, too. 🙂


    • Kathleen, I’m so glad this was helpful! I am still in that “needtoknowitallknow” stage, but through talking with current youth/teen librarian professionals have started to calm this urge. I currently volunteer at a teen makerspace that does have cool tech gadgets (i.e. 3D printer) but I still see teens spending all their time in the space playing cards and drawing (with a real pen and paper!). Jenga is also a huge hit. Who would’ve thought that? 🙂


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