Goals and Purpose

Texas Teens Read! is sponsored by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in collaboration with local libraries. The purpose of Texas Teens Read! is to encourage teens to read during their summer vacations and become lifelong readers and library users, to establish the library as a safe and engaging space for teens, and to provide programming that will help teens become caring, responsible, and successful adults.

Target Age Group for Texas Teens Read!

Texas Teens Read! is designed for youth from 12 to 18 years of age, or from 7th through 12th grades. Individual libraries may adjust the age range based on the grade designations of the local school district, but it is important for the program to be specifically and uniquely for teens.


The 2008 Texas Teens Read! theme is Game On! TTR.08, and the programs in this manual support this theme. Program activities include video games, role-playing games, board games, trivia games, extreme sports, and more.


Graphic novelist Rod Espinosa designed the posters, certificates, bookmarks, and clip art for Game On! TTR.08.

Positive Youth Development

Each of the eight programs in the manual connects the suggested activities to positive youth development based on the “40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents” outlined by The Search Institute. The assets are positive experiences, relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need in order to grow into healthy, caring, responsible, and successful adults. These developmental assets are at the heart of many school and community programs for young adults nationwide. Young adults who are exposed to more of these assets have higher levels of academic success, are less likely to participate in risky behavior, and have fewer problem behaviors, including tobacco use, depression and attempted suicide, antisocial behavior, school problems, driving under the influence of alcohol, and gambling. They are also more successful in their adult lives. Teens develop assets by participation in library programs such as the young adult reading clubs, teen volunteer programs, teen advisory boards, and other programs outlined in this manual.

The “40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents” are reprinted below with permission from the Search Institute, (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute). © Search Institute, 1997. To learn more about the assets, see the Search Institute web site at Additional information about the value of the 40 assets and the research conducted by the Search Institute may be found at

The Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents

External Assets
  1. Family Support - Family life provides high levels of love and support.
  2. Positive Family Communication - Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
  3. Other Adult Relationships - Young people receive support from three or more non-parent adults.
  4. Caring Neighborhood - Young person experiences caring neighbors.
  5. Caring School Climate - School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
  6. Parent Involvement in Schooling - Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.
  1. Community Values Youth - Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
  2. Youth as Resources - Young people are given useful roles in the community.
  3. Service to Others - Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
  4. Safety- Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood
Boundaries and Expectations
  1. Family Boundaries - Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
  2. School Boundaries - School provides clear rules and consequences.
  3. Neighborhood Boundaries - Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
  4. Adult Role Models - Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
  5. Positive Peer Influence - Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
  6. High Expectations - Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.
Constructive Use of Time
  1. Creative Activities - Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
  2. Youth Programs - Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community.
  3. Religious Community - Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
  4. Time at Home - Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.
Internal Assets
Commitment to Learning
  1. Achievement Motivation - Young person is motivated to do well at school.
  2. School Engagement - Young person is actively engaged in learning.
  3. Homework- Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
  4. Bonding to School - Young person cares about her or his school.
  5. Reading for Pleasure - Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.
Positive Values
  1. Caring - Young person places high value on helping other people.
  2. Equality and Social Justice- Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
  3. Integrity - Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
  4. Honesty - Young person “tells the truth even when it’s not easy.”
  5. Responsibility- Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
  6. Restraint- Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.
Social Competencies
  1. Planning and Decision Making - Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
  2. Interpersonal Competence - Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
  3. Cultural Competence - Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  4. Resistance Skills- Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
  5. Peaceful Conflict Resolution - Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
Positive Identity
  1. Personal Power - Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
  2. Self-Esteem - Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  3. Sense of Purpose - Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
  4. Positive View of Personal Future- Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

Planning for Texas Teens Read!

Begin by developing a list of goals for your Texas Teens Read! program and discussing them with your library administration. Goals may be based on the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets or on other research. Texas Teens Read! goals must align with the mission of the library, and may include

  • Fulfilling your community’s need for a safe and engaging space for teens
  • Enticing teens to use the library
  • Promoting the library’s teen services and resources
  • Building a relationship with local teens
  • Encouraging recreational reading
  • Encouraging teens to become lifelong readers and library users
  • Providing opportunities for teens to be recognized and awarded for their reading

Ask for input about how to structure your reading club from various groups, including library staff, community partners, and most importantly, teens. Ask the Teen Advisory Board or teen volunteers to participate in the planning process and take their invaluable input into consideration. Talk to teens at every opportunity to discover what will appeal to them. Involving teens in this process will not only give them a sense of ownership and pride in the program, but it will also encourage teens to participate and promote the library’s programs. Teens will also be happy to help prepare for the club and the programs. They can help decorate the programming room, help with the preparation, play music, and help other teens play games during the programs.

You may wish to supplement the poster, certificate, bookmarks, and reading logs provided by the Texas State Library with incentives suggested by your local teens. Ask teens what incentives will motivate them to read, what programs they would like to attend, how they would like the program to be structured, and how they would like incentives to be awarded, so that these will meet their interests and needs. Ask them if they would enjoy the programs outlined in the manual or if they would like to suggest others. You may wish to create and post an online survey on your library’s teen services web page and/or post a print survey in your library asking for teen input.

Begin planning for your Texas Teens Read! programs long before the summer begins, ideally in January or February. The sooner you consider programming ideas and finalize your plans, the sooner you can begin preparation and promotion, which will help create a more successful program.

Consider the time, staff, and space constraints a program of this type will create on the library or library system. Listen to the concerns of the staff and patrons, especially if this is your first teen summer reading program. Your colleagues’ support will be important to the success of your Texas Teens Read! program. Also, brainstorm program ideas with other librarians who serve young adults or older children. One of the best resources available is the library staff’s collective creativity.

The Introduction to No Limits: READ! Young Adult Reading Club and Programming Manual by Lisa Youngblood (Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 2002) contains excellent information on planning and structuring a teen reading club. Access it online at

Marketing, Cooperation, and PR

Preparation: Planning and Sponsorship

Preparation for Texas Teens Read! may include contacting various businesses for sponsorship and donations, finding and purchasing incentives, collecting and planning for decorations for programs and the club, securing games and accessories, and preparing for each individual program the library will offer.

One of the largest barriers for most libraries is limited funding. One way to secure funding is to find sponsors or ask for donations from members of the community. Determine your available budget and then invite community partners to contribute towards games, equipment, accessories, decorations, refreshments, and incentives. Local businesses are often very willing to donate funds or supplies to support library programs, especially for teens, the age group with the largest amount of disposable income. All you have to do is ask! Depending on the particular business, you may talk with the owner in person, write a letter on your library’s letterhead, or fill out a Donation Request Form provided to you by the particular business. Most companies and chain stores have policies on donations and may make donations only at certain times of the month and year, so call and check on the donation policy.

Partnerships or donations can be big or small, formal or informal, for the whole summer or for one event, but whatever the size of the contribution, it is important that the sponsorship be mutually beneficial. Acknowledge sponsors in promotional material, news releases, or press coverage. Also, acknowledge them and their contributions by sending a thank you letter and summary of program results, including the goals and the results of the evaluation of the program.

There may be individuals or groups in your community who are willing to present programs in the library without charge. Representatives of local businesses that sell games or gaming supplies may be happy to present or participate in programs. Many people in your community may have knowledge or skills related to your programs that they enjoy sharing. Contact local hobbyists, bookstores, game stores, cultural groups, performers, clubs, recreational facilities, and local schools to see what talent the community holds.

Draft letters to send out to local businesses that have teens as clientele, including fast food restaurants (especially pizza parlors), grocery stores, recreational facilities, bookstores, music stores, movie theaters, and video game stores. Keep the letter simple. Explain the program, your contribution needs, the dates when the contribution is needed, and the benefits for the contributor. A “Sample Letter to Potential Sponsors” is included below. Once the letter is sent out or delivered, follow up with a phone call or a visit. Try to make this as easy and convenient for the potential sponsor as possible. Once funds for the program have been secured, then you can begin implementing the ideas the library and the teens have suggested.

Sample Letter to Potential Sponsors

Library Return Address


Name and Address of Potential Sponsor

Dear ___________________,

The ___________________ Public Library is dedicated to encouraging reading and literacy for community members of all ages. This year the _____________________ Library is reaching out to teens by participating in Texas Teens Read!, a statewide summer reading program. Our goal is to encourage teens between the ages of 12 and 18 to continue reading throughout the summer and to attend programs in the safe and engaging space of the library.

The theme this year is Game On! TTR.08. At library program, teens will play board games, outdoor games, video games, trivia games, and more. The program begins on (start date) and ends on (finish date).

We hope that you will consider becoming a Game On! TTR.08 sponsor by donating (materials or money). We will be very happy to acknowledge you on flyers promoting the program and on our web site, if you would like to provide us with a link.

I will contact you soon to discuss how we may work together to provide this exciting program to teens. If you have any questions or if you would like to contact me, please feel free to call me at __________________. Thank you so much for your continued support.


Your Name and Title

Marketing and Promotion

Your inaugural Texas Teens Read! program will require heavy marketing and lots of publicity for the greatest success. Since the program is tailored towards teens, the promotional materials and publicity efforts should be directed towards them. Promote the program wherever teens are: through the local schools, at places teens frequent, and through mediums that they use and are familiar to them, including virtual communities. Virtual promotion may reach teens that do not have a positive view of the library and/or are unaware of what the library offers for teens. Begin promoting Game On! TTR.08 early and then promote each of your individual programs approximately 2 to 4 weeks in advance.

Flyers and Posters

Make flyers and posters colorful and eye-catching, but not too busy. They should stimulate teens’ interest without giving too much away. Include all necessary information, but avoid information overload. Invite teens to contact you to assist with programs and to volunteer at the library during the summer on your flyers.

Consider the target age range for the program. If a program is tailored towards younger teens and 'tweens, then let the design and content of the posters and flyers reflect that. If you are presenting a program specifically for older teens, then make the promotional materials edgier and more appealing to their interests.

Try a unique approach by producing teen flyers that are palm size or business card size for teens to put in their purse or wallet. Create small flyers that are more informal than full-page or even half-page flyers. Distribute or display these at schools, community centers, and any place teens typically hang out, such as the following.

  • Near snack machines (in the library and community)
  • Malls or shopping areas (including bookstores, music stores, game stores, comic shops, video rental stores, and clothing stores)
  • Groups or meetings (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, church groups, etc.)
  • Activity centers (Parks and recreation facilities, YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc.)
  • Recreational facilities (roller skating rinks, bowling allies, batting cages, community pools, parks, game centers, movie theaters)
  • Fast food restaurants
  • Convenience stores

Also, if you have any sponsors for your program or received donations from any organizations, send them flyers and posters to promote the program. If they were willing to give time or money to your program, then they have a stake in seeing the program succeed. In most cases, they will enjoy helping get the word out. Remember also to list sponsors and contributors on flyers and include links to their web sites on your library’s web page.


The best way to reach teens is to talk to them and encourage them to spread the word. Word-of-mouth promotion is very, very important with teens. Try to get the word out by visiting schools and community organizations to mingle with teens. Tell them about the program, listen to their ideas for improving the program, and act on their suggestions. Give the teens you meet a handful of flyers or a couple of posters and encourage them to pass them out to their friends or post in places they hang out. Do your best to get them excited about the program! If they are excited about the program, then they will tell their friends about it. Also, try to get teens involved in promoting programs to their peers. Not only can the teens help distribute flyers and posters, but they can also share their enthusiasm about the program and ultimately, excite others about your library’s teen summer reading program. If you have a regular teen group or a Teen Advisory Board, include them in your plan for actively promoting the program.

PSAs/Press Releases/Community Calendars

Local media can get the word out about upcoming library programs. You may use Public Service Announcements (PSAs), press releases, community calendars, or a combination of these.

It is important to remember that print space and air time are limited, so the item submitted must be newsworthy, of interest to the media’s target audience, and delivered according to the media outlet’s schedule. Contact media outlets in advance and request their deadlines, submission requirements and guidelines, as well as their preferences for length and method of submission. Many stations require at least a few weeks’ notice, so prepare your PSA as far in advance as possible. Some stations prefer faxed submissions, some prefer email, and still others want PSAs to be delivered in person or by postal mail. Printed calendars may have deadlines as much as a year in advance and you may need to send a general description long before you finalize your programs.

Send a press release to your local newspapers, radio, and TV stations publicizing the “kick off” for Game On! TTR.08 and then send press releases for the individual programs approximately two weeks before each event. When you send your press releases, invite local media to attend the events or offer to send the editor pictures of the programs for a follow-up piece. If you plan to include pictures of teens, you must prepare a form for teens and their parents to sign giving permission to publish the photographs. Ask your city and/or library system about policies and procedures to protect teens’ privacy.

When writing a press release, make it short while still including all the pertinent information. The first paragraph should include who, what, when, where, why, and how. The paragraphs that follow can include more general information.

Public Service Announcements are designed to air on radio or TV stations. Generally an announcer or an on-air personality reads a PSA, but some outlets require an audio or video recording of a PSA. You may submit the text for a PSA that gives an overview of the library’s Texas Teens Read! program as a whole, or you may submit a PSA about a particular event, such as a kick-off or grand finale. Try to get spots on several radio and TV stations, particularly on stations that teens listen to. A single broadcasting company often owns multiple radio stations and will distribute a PSA to all its stations. A PSA is often shorter and less formal than a press release. Typically they are about 20 to 30 seconds. The sample PSA below may be read in 20 seconds.

Sample Public Service Announcement

To: ______ Broadcasting (or radio station name)

From: Your Name at ____ Public Library

Please announce on all stations.

Attention: PSA

_________ Public Library’s teen summer reading program begins on _________. This year’s Texas Teens Read! theme is Game On! TTR.08. If you are age 12-18 or will be going into grades 7-12, join _______ Public Library at [time] for our opening event. Call [phone number] or visit [web site address] for more information. Free events will be held weekly on [day of the week] at [time].

Local television stations often have programs that feature items of community interest. If you are aware of such a program, contact the television station to ask if you can talk about the library’s summer programs. You will typically have a short interview with the host, in which they will ask you a little about the program. Find out ahead of time how long the interview will be and plan the information you will provide. Bring a small handout so you can glance at it if you need to double-check a date. Be calm, and try to speak clearly. Typically these programs will also provide the library’s contact information, so you do not have to fit every last detail into a couple of minutes. If you are not aware of any such program in your community, search your local television stations’ web sites and/or call and ask the television station if they have one.

Many media venues and cities will also include library program information on their community calendars. Provide them with the dates, times, and locations of your programs. Check submission requirements for community calendars, especially printed calendars, since they may need information far in advance.

Presentations at Schools

Visiting local schools is a fundamental way to promote the library and your programs. School librarians and principals can be especially valuable in getting the word out to students and parents about your summer programs and about other library programs throughout the year. Develop ongoing working relationships with the school librarians, principals, and teachers, beginning in the fall of each school year. Ask them how the public library can serve them, and establish a true collaboration. This may lead to class visits to the library, homework assignment alerts, a library card campaign for students, or collaborative collection development, etc., as well as permission for you to visit schools to promote your Texas Teens Read! program.

Even if time does not permit ongoing communication and collaboration with the schools, it is possible to market the Texas Teens Read! program in junior high and high schools. Send a letter to the district superintendent or school principals in January or February asking for permission to visit schools. Check the calendar on the school or district web site and find out when standardized testing of students will occur. Suggest dates for your visits that are after standardized testing is completed. Follow your letter with a phone call to talk in more detail about the visits and scheduling, and ask who to contact to schedule visits at each individual school. In many cases, you will be asked to schedule your visit with the school librarian who may be eager to collaborate with you to promote the program.

Allow each school to schedule and organize your visit conveniently. Your visit might include going to individual classrooms to talk about the programs at one school, doing a presentation at one or two classes during “library time” at another, or making a brief announcement at an assembly or an after-school function attended by the entire student body at yet another. Be prepared to talk to groups of various sizes and for various lengths of time. Make your presentation engaging. Tell the students about the who, what, when, and where of your summer programs, give them bookmarks or other printed materials, show the poster and tell them about the artist, tell a story or anecdote, or present a booktalk. Tell them about your teen collection and your media collection. Make it fun! Invite teens to come to the library, read, attend programs, and volunteer.

Consider asking school personnel to read a PSA or play a recorded PSA during daily announcements in the weeks before your summer programs. If time and staff permit, visit local schools to make presentations about your summer programs or mingle with the teens, talk about the summer programs with the students, and booktalk teen books. This promotes the library as a whole, lets teens know about Texas Teens Read!, and gives teens a friendly face to look for when they come to the library.

At a minimum, take or send posters and flyers to the school and ask the librarians or principals to display them in the library or in the school office or entry hall. Individual schools and school districts have different guidelines for distributing items to students, so ask about them before printing up a bunch of flyers. Some school districts have a central administrative office that must approve anything that will be distributed on campus. Letting them approve handouts in advance will allow you to make any revisions to your handout before reproducing numerous copies. The school district’s administrative office can also tell you how many copies you need and how they prefer to have materials delivered and distributed. Some schools require materials to be bundled in stacks of 20 or 30 for easy distribution to teachers. Some want everything sent to the administrative office, and others want materials sent directly to the individual schools. Policies on flyers and school visits may also vary. For instance, in some school districts, flyers for each student and school visits are allowed at the middle school level, but there is a different policy at the high school.

If the school or district’s policy prevents you from visiting schools or distributing flyers to students, or if your library staffing level is too low for school visits, send materials for the school librarian to distribute and display. Also, keep plenty of handouts, posters, and flyers in your library.

Promotional Videos

In many cases, schools and even libraries show video announcements, either at the actual facility or online through their web site. If available, use this marketing opportunity to involve teens in promoting the Texas Teens Read! program by asking a group of teens or a high school video club to produce a promotional video. The video can be distributed to the local middle and high schools, in the libraries, through the library’s web site, on local public television channels, and on web sites such as YouTube. Allow the teens to plan the video, gather props and costumes, direct it, and star in it. Give them the basic information and let them know what needs to be included, and leave the rest up to them! A creative group of teens can come up with very original and visually appealing video announcements! Be sure to collect signed consent forms from anyone who appears in the video.

Online Promotion: Websites/Blogs/e-Newsletters/Email/ Instant Messages/Social Networking/Podcasts

Librarians will reach teens by marketing through media they use. Nearly 90% of all teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are online, according to the PEW Report on Teens and Technology at

If your library has a teen web site, include information about Texas Teens Read! and your summer programs. Include the web address on all promotional materials. If you do not currently have a teen web site but might get one in the future, list the library’s general web site address on any materials you hand out. That way, if you do add a teen page, teens can easily find it. If possible, host an online reading club so teens can record and keep track of their reading online. Many libraries host online summer reading clubs using a software management system produced by Evanced Solutions

Web logs (or blogs) are effective ways to market teen programs, and to enlist teens to participate in the planning process, offer suggestions, and give feedback on individual programs or Texas Teens Read! as a whole. If the library hosts blogs, use the teen blog to promote the Game On! TTR.08 programs. If the library does not have a blog for teen services, get one! They are free, or generally very low cost, easy to use, and they are a must have for connecting with teens. Consider linking to some relevant blogs if your library is unable to host blogs due to security concerns. Perhaps a local group with a blog will include what’s going on at your library in its list of upcoming events and activities.

Online eNewsletters are also a great way to promote teen programs in the library. Teens can sign up to receive the newsletters through their email and even forward them on to friends. Let the teen advisory board or volunteers create weekly or monthly eNewsletters to market teen events directly to teens.

You may also reach teens who do not come into the library regularly through email, Instant Messenger, social networking sites if your library allows them, and podcasts on your library’s teen web page.


Several legal issues may affect your Texas Teens Read! programs. If you have questions about a specific situation, please seek legal counsel. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission shares this information but is unable to offer legal advice.

Gaming and the Law

In recent years several states have passed laws restricting minors' access to violent video games. Courts have invalidated all of these laws under the First Amendment. Some states have passed laws restricting minors from purchasing games rated “M” (Mature) or “AO” (Adults Only) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ESRB was created in the late 1990’s in response to congressional interest in video games. There are groups advocating laws to regulate access to games based on their content, or laws banning violent games.

An MP3 audio file of What IF: Gaming, Intellectual Freedom and the Law by Katherine Fallow, a presentation at the 2007 ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium, is available at This presentation discusses intellectual freedom principles and the First Amendment in relation to games and gaming activities, along with recent court decisions addressing minors' access to video games, the legal status of game ratings, and policy developments.

Some communities have experienced controversy regarding video gaming programs and video games in circulating collections. For example, controversy arose in response to library gaming programs featuring games rated “M” by the ESRB, such as Halo. It is recommended that libraries establish board-approved policies that include selection criteria for video games in the circulating collection, installed on library computers, and played at library programs. The policy may include statements about acceptable ESRB ratings for video games for children, teens, and adults. For example, the policy may state that games rated “EC”, “E”, and “10+” will be in the children’s collection, games rated “E”, “10+”, and “T” will be in the teen collection, and that the adult collection may include games rated “M”. The policy may also state that games rated “EC”, “E”, and “10+” will be played at children’s gaming programs or installed on computers in the children’s department, and that games rated “E”, “10+”, and “T” will be played at teen gaming programs and installed on computers in the teen department. This policy should be provided to patrons, particularly parents of children and teens attending gaming programs and playing games on library computers.

The Bingo Enabling Act

Bingo games fit so many areas of our programs; it is an easy game to play, and can be tailored for almost any topic. While you may be tempted to play “Sports Bingo,” “Video Game Bingo,” or even “loter�a de leer,” as you plan your summer programs, please be aware that it is a third degree felony, subject to a $10,000 fine and three years of jail time, to sponsor any bingo without a license.

The Bingo Enabling Act does not permit libraries, schools, and non-profit organizations to sponsor any type of Bingo game without a license from the Texas Lottery Commission. Licenses are required for all types of bingo, including Mexican Bingo or loter�a. Licenses are only available to organizations that hold a 501c exemption from the IRS and have been in existence for at least 3 years. Applying for a license may take 30 to 60 days. Application forms are available online at According to the Lottery Commission, a license may cost from $100 to $2500 per year. Libraries with bingo licenses must charge participants who play bingo and must collect taxes. They must maintain records and file quarterly reports with the Texas Lottery Commission. Additionally, "An individual younger than 18 years of age may not play bingo conducted under a license issued under this chapter unless the individual is accompanied by the individual's parent or guardian.” For more information on the Bingo Enabling Act, please visit the Texas Lottery Commissions web site at Specifically, see Subchapter L. Enforcement, Sec. 2001.551. Unlawful Bingo; Offense.

According to the State of Texas Lottery Commission, bingo “means a specific game of chance, commonly known as Bingo or lotto, in which prizes are awarded on the basis of designated numbers or symbols conforming to numbers or symbols selected at random." It is tempting to think that because we don’t charge fees to play, or we are basing a game on books, library resources, or educational topics, or that we are not offering any prizes, that the game is not really bingo. If it looks anything like bingo and the winner is determined by chance, then don’t take the chance that you’ll get in trouble! Play Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, or another game instead.

Copyright Issues

This section will discuss copyright primarily as it relates to public performance of music and videos in library programs and will provide some basic information about copyright as it relates to public libraries. The information is intended to help library staff and volunteers understand issues related to the use of materials protected by copyright in library programs. Please consult an attorney if you have questions about copyright and fair use. The information provided in this section is not intended to provide legal advice.

Written works such as books, poetry, magazine articles, or jokes, music, and film are considered creative property and are covered by copyright law unless they are in the public domain. All items are covered by copyright upon their creation by default, regardless of whether the creator registers the copyright or includes a notice of copyright on the work. A creative work that is not protected by copyright is said to be in the public domain. Everyone may freely use works that are in the public domain. A work may be in the public domain if:

  1. The term of copyright for the work has expired;
  2. The author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright, or
  3. The work was created by the U.S. Government.

In general, works created before 1923 are now in the public domain. Works created after 1923 are subject to a variety of laws that regulate copyright and renewal of copyright. The Cornell Copyright Information Center at provides an excellent chart outlining copyright terms for various types of materials.

Some writers want their material to be widely available and choose not to enforce copyright. Copyright owners may specifically “license” certain kinds of free use, such as non-commercial or educational purposes. It is important to understand, however, that even though something is “freely available” or can be found in many locations on the Internet, the item is probably still covered by copyright. Assume that someone owns the copyright to material unless you find documentation to the contrary!

Just to add to the complexities, some art becomes so intricately connected to a specific company that even though the copyright may have expired, the material does not become part of the public domain because it is part of the company’s trademark. Mickey Mouse, for example, was created in 1920 and therefore should no longer be covered by copyright. However, as a symbol of the Walt Disney Company, representations of Mickey are covered by other rules, and you may not make copies of Mickey Mouse.

For more information about copyright, including fact sheets about fair use and searchable databases to determine copyright ownership, go to the Library of Congress,


Questions have been raised about the use of recorded music in public library programs. A public performance is defined as, “one in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances might gather.” Damages of a minimum of $750 for each infraction might be levied for unlawful public performance. If you use music in your Texas Teens Read! programs, you may wish to get legal advice as to whether or not a license is required for those public performances or whether the use is considered “fair use” under copyright laws.

It might be possible to argue that teen programs are educational, in which case exceptions to the exclusive rights of a copyright owner for educational uses might apply. If you intend to rely on this exception, you should seek legal advice to gain a more complete understanding of the teaching exception than can be provided by the Texas State Library.

Music that is played while teens enter the programming room, during a program, at the start or end of the program, and background music would probably not be considered either an educational exception or a fair use. For those uses, the library needs a public performance license or licenses. Even if the teens sing a song, it is technically considered a public performance and a license is required unless the song is in the public domain.

Recently a judge found that even karaoke played in a public place violated copyright. When a karaoke machine was set up by a disc jockey in a public place, an investigator for Broadcast Music, Inc., was in the audience. The business and the disc jockey were sued for violation of copyright because the business did not have the appropriate licenses.

It is not always easy to determine if a specific song is in the public domain. For example, “Happy Birthday to You” is a popular song that is not in the public domain, while “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” is a traditional song that is in the public domain. Check out Public Domain Music,, a reference site for songs that may be in the public domain. Keep in mind that just because a song is in the public domain does not mean that the specific recording of the song is. The artist may have rearranged the public domain song and copyrighted that version; in that case, you can only use the original lyrics and arrangement, not the copyrighted performance of the music.

Before you start rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, “The copyright police won’t catch us, and anyway, we’ve been doing this forever,” stop and think. First, libraries should be in the forefront of protecting copyright and setting a good example for patrons. We tell kids they should not illegally download MP3 files, but if we publicly perform music without appropriate permission, our actions are comparably illegal. Second, it’s easy to get a public performance license and in fact, your city or county may already have one that covers the library.

The public performance of music is licensed by three organizations. When a songwriter or composer signs a deal for the music to be recorded, that person joins only one of them. As a member of one of these organizations, the musician authorizes that organization to license the public performance of his or her music and collect fees for that use. Libraries may need a license from more than one of these organizations.

Most U.S. songwriters and composers join either the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Performers (ASCAP) at, or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) at They are the two major licensing organizations in the United States. Both provide low-cost licenses for governmental organizations. A third organization, SESAC, Inc. at is relatively new in the United States. It licenses music that the other two organizations do not. All three organizations provide online databases of performers and titles covered so that you can ensure that what you want to use is covered by the license you have purchased. If you use varied sources of music, you may need licenses from all three organizations, or you will need to be very selective in your music use!

Chances are good that your city or county already has a license if it offers dance classes at the recreation center, provides musical sing-alongs at the senior activity building, or holds regular outdoor parades or concerts. Check with your public information office, parks and recreation department, purchasing department, or the city or county legal department to see if a license exists and for which licensing organization. If none of these offices are aware of a license, then you can educate them about the need for one. If your city or county does not already have a license, fees are based on population. For a local government with a population of up to 50,000 people, a license would cost less than $275 a year based on a 2005 fee schedule for BMI.

There are several different types of “rights.” If you plan to include music on a video, web site, or in some other manner, please read about relevant licensing requirements or consult legal counsel. Note that the public performance of music via digital transmission (such as over the Web) implicates additional rights that these organizations cannot license. Although these three organizations license performance over the Web of the underlying musical score, it is also necessary to obtain permission to perform via digital transmission of the sound recording itself. This is a very complex area of copyright law, so if you are considering making digital transmissions of music, check out How Stuff Works at for some background, but you will probably need to obtain legal advice.


Many libraries show movies during their summer programs. Some of the programs suggested in this manual include recommended videos or DVDs. Unless you have public performance rights to show a film, display the video or DVD for families to borrow.

Follow copyright law by using films, videos, or DVDs that are in the public domain or which you have purchased with public performance rights, or purchase a site license that allows the library to show "home use" videos. Some of the Texas Library Systems have negotiated pricing for system members, so check with your system office.

The cost of an annual movie license is based on the number of registered patrons and is often less expensive than purchasing public performance rights to show just a few movies. For example, an annual license for a library with 5,000 registered patrons costs about $250 and covers most movie studios, including Buena Vista Films and Dreamworks. The average cost per patron for a license to show movies for a year is about five cents. Contact Movie LicensingUSA at or call 1-888-267-2658 for details. Be sure to ask your Movie Licensing USA representative about discounts that may be available.

Many early comedies, horror films, and cartoons, such as those featuring characters like The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Betty Boop, may be in the public domain. Several businesses that sell public domain films provide lists of films that, to the best of their knowledge, are in the public domain. For example, although Desert Island Films at does not sell VHS copies to individuals, you can use the list on their web site to check whether your library owns films that are free of copyright restrictions.

Controversy Regarding Role-Playing Games

It is possible that community members may express concern about the RPG Quest: Role-Playing Game program in this manual, particularly if teens play Dungeons and Dragons. Before planning an event, consider whether your community may find role-playing games controversial. You may wish to discuss the potential for controversy with your library’s administration, library boards, Friends of the Library, or with community members.

The RPG Quest program includes links to articles to help you become knowledgeable about past controversies concerning role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. These articles, and input from your community, will help you make an informed decision about which games to host. The articles may also assist you in addressing complaints or challenges that may arise unexpectedly.

To avoid controversy, clearly announce the names of the games and the dates on which they will be offered. This will let teens and parents know which games they will enjoy and will provide advance notice to parents and teens who object to a particular game or type of game.

Serving Teens with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public libraries to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities so that they have access to the library building, programs, and materials. As you plan for the 2008 Texas Teens Read!, remember that programs that work for teens with disabilities will also work for all teens. With a little planning, inexpensive adaptations, and the desire to be inclusive of all teens, the Texas Teens Read! will be accessible for teens with disabilities. In addition to being the law, inclusiveness is good policy and encourages more participation in library programs.

Check with local schools for sign language interpreters. Check with sign language classes and invite several students to practice what they have learned. Find out where in your community you can locate sign language interpreters in case you need to hire someone to interpret a program. Often interpreters will volunteer their time in order to make library programs inclusive. Send special invitations to families with deaf teens; the deaf community is very appreciative of efforts to include all children in programs and is very supportive of staff and volunteers who are willing to try signing. Create a display of captioned videos and books that include sign language.

The Talking Book Program (TBP), a division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), has a Disability Information and Referral Center (DIRC) that provides information about adaptive equipment, games and toys, support groups, the ADA, and serving people with disabilities. Questions are answered by DIRC staff or are referred to other appropriate sources. The DIRC can be reached toll-free at 1-800-252-9605 or 512-463-5458, or by e-mail at

The Talking Book Program is a joint state and federal program that provides unabridged books in alternate formats for Texans of all ages who are unable to read standard print materials due to visual, physical, or reading disabilities. The service is free to the user and available to all who qualify because they are unable to read standard print materials due to temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations.

A properly certified application must be submitted for each prospective patron verifying that the application meets one or more of the federal eligibility criteria.

The criteria are:

  • Blindness;
  • A visual disability of sufficient severity to prevent the reading of standard print without the use of an aid other than prescription glasses;
  • A physical disability that prevents the individual from holding a book or turning a page; or
  • A reading disability that is physically based and of sufficient severity to prevent the reading of standard print material in a normal manner.

Applications submitted for individuals with reading disabilities must be certified by a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy. Applications submitted for individuals with other disabilities can be certified by a number of professionals in various fields related to health care, education, or rehabilitation, or by a professional librarian or library director.

TBP provides books on cassette tape, in Braille, in large print, and via digital download. Special playback equipment is loaned free of charge for use with books on cassette. All materials are circulated to TBP patrons free of charge through the U.S. Postal Service.

Because TBP patrons are located throughout the state and interaction is limited to telephone and mail communications, TBP encourages teens to participate in Texas Teens Read! activities sponsored by their local public library. TBP will provide the books in alternate formats so that young patrons with disabilities can participate in local programs.

Because library staff understands the importance of books in the lives of their patrons, they play a critical role in referring qualified individuals to the TBP services. Applications and brochures are available to keep in your library. By making this information available in your community and alerting eligible individuals about TBP, you are helping teens with disabilities make the most of the Texas Teens Read!

Call or write TBP with your questions or requests for applications:

Talking Book Program
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
P.O. Box 12927
Austin, TX 78711-2927
1-800-252-9605 (toll-free in Texas)
512-463-5458 (Austin area)
512-463-5436 (fax) (e-mail)
Web site:

Texas Teens Read 2008! Programming Manual / Game On! TTR.08
Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission