Check us out! Readers Advisory at the KLA/MLA super conference 2015

We’re super excited to share the wonderful RA track at KLA/MLA with you this year! Check out sessions, handouts, tips, and more at and look up our social media using the tag #rablitz15!ra books

Writing Teen Murder Mysteries Can Be Super Fun

Click here to download Homecoming Homicide: A Teen Murder Mystery: (CC BY-NC 4.0)

At least, I like to think they are! One programming concept that has been perennially popular is the MURDER MYSTERY. Everyone likes to play detective, and everyone has a great time pretending to be on a cop show. 

I design these to take about an hour of sleuthing. I know some people are successful at taking a break in the action to allow teens to have snacks and/or listen to the actors do their thing, but I have always had to program these in libraries where few of us could take time out to participate in the program. So what I’ve done here is to allow participants to stay on their desk or to keep working, and to be “discovered” in their area by the teen detectives (who are instructed not to interrupt them if they are assisting other customers!).

You’ll notice a few spelling errors and some other typos – sorry for that. I tried to use all CC licensed clip art; you might substitute something with more local flavor for your teens. I also tell them not to remove evidence, and that only applies to books or materials in the stacks. This specific mystery features a fun clue bag given to the teens, which they can take to the “Police Lab” for discovery. All you have to do is take a paper ream box, cover the inside in dark paper, stick a shadeless lamp in there with a black light bulb for illumination, and tell them to check their liquid Tide-soaked “swabs” for “blood.” Use your imagination! What else might they check with their fake Luminol?!

In other mysteries, I’ve included floral vials in the police file. Dump a little cheap red nail polish in there, and you have a “blood sample.” The props add to the realism and as simple as they are, give the program a little extra wow factor. This one features a crumpled “receipt” pointing out an interesting fact about the glamorous (and dead) Bianca… what other things might have been purchased that could add verisimilitude to your murder mystery?

Feel free to take this and use it as is, put your own spin on things, or use it as a template to write your own murder mystery. Just give me credit and don’t make money with it. I’m licensing it under CC BY-NC 4.0. If you’re a journalist or author and want to quote from it or otherwise reproduce it, please contact me. Otherwise, have fun and get to sleuthing!

NEKLS Innovation Day fun!

My favorite time of year arrived… NEKLS Innovation Day! What a great time for libraries to get together and talk about their favorite technology, innovative services, and glimpse the horizon of our profession. The speakers were all so awesome! My contribution was a session on teen maker projects, and you can find my materials here:

Teen Maker Projects Handout

I brought samples of our fun projects, including some of my duds (hey, at least now you know what happens when you try to use Model Magic for a resin mold!) and encouraged everyone to try some new, fun ideas to make programming STEAM powered. Thanks to all who attended – I hope you’ll send me some pictures of the awesome things you’re doing in your libraries!

Louisiana Public Libraries for Teens!

Hi everyone, you were a phenomenal group to work with on Friday! This is the place where I will be posting links, slides, and exclusive ideas for you to use with your teens as you go together in your youth services journey. I hope they are helpful, and if you have questions or comments – ANYTHING – just reach out:

erindowney AT
@hybridlib on Twitter

Don’t forget what I said to keep talking to each other and networking. Share your successes and talk about missteps – when you talk it out, everyone benefits.

Power Up With Print LA

Notes from Programming and Emerging Tech in the PM

Our AM playlist:
Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
Good Feeling by Flo Rida
Brighter Than the Sun by Colbie Caillat
Dance Apocalyptic by Janelle Monae
Tightrope by Janelle Monae (feat. Big Boi)
You Get What You Give by New Radicals
Starry Eyed Surprise by Paul Oakenfold
Happy by Pharrell Williams
Up Up Up by Givers
Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall
Double Dutch Bus by Raven-Symone
The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
Brokenhearted by Karmin

USD 259 Inservice booktalks!

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for having me as a part of your inservice today. It was great to talk about awesome books with all of you! Find below my slides from the presentations:

Special shout out to those who stayed for a second round! Be sure to email me soon if you’d like to book a spring date with your school – I am always excited to share new and awesome books with your students, and tell them all about services at the public library.

KLA booktalks!

We had SO MANY awesome books that we just couldn’t get through them all! I’ll post slides, notes, and links here so you can enjoy these in the comfort of your own home. Click here for my slides and here for my notes!

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Amy’s done it again. This was hands down the most compelling galley I brought home with me from ALA – the story of a kid who is

reality boy med size black linedogged through adolescence by his childhood “participation” in a (fake) reality TV show not unlike Supernanny.  Gerald is the “Crapper,” who defecated on tables, in handbags, and various Barbie accessories when he was a preschooler/elementary schooler.  The British nanny (who isn’t who she seems) is brought to help Gerald & his two sisters when his mother writes a desperate letter to the show.  Gerald’s dad is just as unhappy as the rest of them, and the whole family is miserable.  We see Gerald’s mother struggle with a son she considers “retarded,” a younger sister who feels completely out of place, and an older sister whose behavior grows more and more erratic and disturbing with time.

We join Gerald long after the cameras were packed away and the lighting dismantled, but the show haunts him at every turn. His therapist has recommended boxing, but this is only encouraging Gerald’s violent tendencies.  He’s invented a fantasy world called Gersday, where he can spend time doing only the nicest things with characters who are kind and sweet to him, but escaping to Gersday is getting harder and harder.  As if that wasn’t enough, Gerald has met a compelling young lady at his afterschool job slinging hot dogs at the local coliseum.  He figures that nobody’s going to want to date The Crapper – who’d want to be associated with that?

Through flashbacks mixed with present-day scenes, Gerald invites us into his world and shows us what it’s like to drown in the misconceptions of others.  And honestly, that’s really what this book is about – the hidden stories behind carefully crafted narratives, public personas vs. private ones, and what happens when your expectations are shattered by a reality you didn’t want and didn’t ask for.  Like Gerald’s therapist reminds him, we all project our own experiences and expectations on other people to a certain extent – whether it’s making assumptions about a reality TV show family or the new coworker in the next cube.  As Gerald peels back the curtain on his experience, the reader starts discovering more and more of the truth behind the screen – and it’s both more and less shocking than you may expect.  This is a a book right in step with our times, perfect for an age in which we grow closer and simultaneously further apart using screens and social media with the ability to edit our stories down to a version of the truth that skims the surface of our lives like a fancy veneer atop particle board furniture.

I anticipate many reality TV memoirs in the next ten years, as kids like the Duggars, Gosselins, SuperNanny families, and others age up to the point where they feel compelled to share their stories in another medium.  Some will do it for money, sure, but others will do it so that people can hear more about what their shows didn’t show.  I won’t be surprised if their stories are as compelling as Gerald’s.