Topic: 5 Easy Things You Can Do to Improve Your CaTS Area by Michelle Anderson

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Children and Teen's team leader Michelle Anderson wrote this article about ways to improve a library's children and teenager's area. It was published in 'Library Life - Te Rau Ora', the online magazine of LIANZA (Library and Information Assocation of New Zealand Aotearoa) on 18 May 2011.

After 20 years of being a Children’s and Teens librarian I need a new challenge.  I cautiously emailed Hana Whaanga, editor of Library Life, asking if she wanted the occasional piece on Children’s and Teens Library services (CaTS).  She replied “YES!”  (apparently she loves ‘unsolicited articles).  I asked whether she wanted practical or theoretical, and she replied that practical articles are popular.

So here’s something really practical…  

5 Not-Too-Dear, and Not-Too-Staff-Intensive Things You Can Do in Your CaTS Area

[These are all things we do at Tauranga Library. They work in libraries with a bit of space and some tables and chairs in the CaTS area]


We have handbags, scarves, dresses, coats and hats, living in open-topped boxes in the picture book area.  The dress ups are happily used by tots to teens – in fact it’s the older kids who find it the most entertaining.  The clothes are bought from op-shops or donated by staff.  There’s a couple of donated “costumes” – a Dorothy the Dinosaur tail, a fairy dress and a Snow White dress but most are just funny old clothes we once wore.

Cost – about $30.
Staff time – 2 hours op-shopping, daily picking up off floor.

This year we bought a mirror so the kids can see themselves which was expensive (shatter-proof glass and wall mounted).  But kids have played with the dress ups happily without the mirror.

Dress-Up Box at Tauranga City Library


Every holidays we cover our kid-size tables with newsprint and put simple competitions out for kids to do– wordfinds, spot the difference.  Most popular is the colouring-in - if kids bring it to the counter they get a lollipop or a sticker.  99.9% chose the lollipop, some strict parents choose the sticker.  We received 600 colourings over the April holidays, so have lucky draws for the winners.  We have a good relationship with a film company who gives us prizes and posters and we do a competition to promote their holiday movie (NO POACHING MY FILM COMPANY)

Disney Prizewinner at Tauranga City Library

Cost - $15 for newsprint; 6c per lollipop; prizes are left-overs from Summer Reading Programmes; books bought from shops and Library suppliers clearance stock (about $4 each); giveaways from magazines we subscribe to.  
Staff time; produce competitions – 4 hours.  Hand over lollipop – 20 seconds per child.  Assembling prize packs, contacting winners – about 2 hours.


We take photos of holiday activities, kids playing with the dress-ups and prize-winners and load the photos into the digital photo frame on the children’s Enquiry Desk.  Children often stand and watch it flick through photos.  It’s a great way to promote our activities, and kids often see other kids from school.  This reinforces the idea that lots of people come to the library, INCLUDING people from your school.

Cost - $100 or less for a digital photo frame.
Staff time – about 30 minutes to load 50 photos.  New photos mounted every 3 months.


We have quite a big collection of Reference Only pop-ups.  They come out at the end of a class visit, or are used in preschool visits or storytimes. Kids love pop ups, and are pretty excited by getting to pull tabs, stare into mirrors and have things pop out of books.  We used to have a number out in the library for kids to use, but they became really battered quickly.  However when we just bring them out for class visits or for family groups, the children are usually careful.  Judging from the Thank You letters we receive from classes, the pop-ups make a big impression on the kids.  

Cost – Approximately $33 each (with discount from Library Supplier) - $350 will buy you 10 amazing books.
Staff time – ordering?  Getting them out, putting them away and asking people to be careful - minimal.


We’ve created a folder of A3 reproductions of historic photos of Tauranga.  It sits on a table in our children’s area with a sign inviting people to look through it.  Parents and grandparents really enjoy seeing the photos, and often call the kids over to see the changes in our city.  The only expense here was the folder and the staff time (and the digital imaging machine…that was already in the library).

These 5 things will not increase your issues, but they create a welcoming and fun atmosphere.  Some families borrow nothing, they may be just in the library waiting for the movies or the bus.  But they get to see that we are NOT just about BOOKS, but also a community space which provides services to kids, teens and their families.  

by Michelle Anderson (2011).

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Improve Your CaTS Area by Michelle Anderson

City:Tauranga, New Zealand

Latitude and Longitude coordinates: -37.6831256,176.1687521

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Improve Your CaTS Area by Michelle Anderson by Debbie McCauley (Tauranga City Libraries) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License