Let’s Get Digital!

By Valerie Jensen and Maritza Hernandez

Program Description

This program gives teens opportunities to explore their creative side. Through digital photography and audio recording, they can communicate about their daily lives and express themselves through a technological medium.

Developmental Needs and Assets

This program helps teens build on assets such as using time constructively, developing a commitment to learning, empowerment, building self-esteem and developing a positive identity. These programs allow teens to get creative and explore different techniques with their peers.

Books to Display

Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements for Teens by Marc Campbell.

Digital Photography for Dummies by Julie Adair King.

Digital Photography for Teens by Marc Campbell.

How to Photograph Absolutely Everything: Successful Pictures from Your Digital Camera by Tom Ang.

Re-creative: 50 Projects for Turning Found Items into Contemporary Design by Steve Dodds.

Super Crafty: Over 75 Amazing How-To Projects! by Susan Beal, et al.

Books to Booktalk

Razzle by Ellen Wittlinger.

Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie Tolan.

Teen Ink: Written in the Dirt by Stephanie H. Meyer.

Thwonk by Joan Bauer.

Bulletin Board

Use photographs taken by the teens to decorate a bulletin board or display wall. Arrange the photos like a collage with catchy titles, such as “The way we see it,” “Snapshots,” “Through our eyes”. Be sure to get a signed permission slip from the teens and parents of teens younger than 18 before posting their artwork.


Music Cassette Coin Purses

  • Old cassettes
  • Small Philips screwdriver
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Felt
  • 9-inch zippers
  • Markers and paint

A full tutorial for making the music cassette coin purses is available from StumbleUpon, www.chezlin.com/2008/04/cassette-tape-tutorial/. You can also refer to the book Re-creative: 50 Projects for Turning Found Items into Contemporary Design by Steve Dodds for more music and audio related craft ideas.

photograph of five students working with crafts. Three of the five students are only partially shown.

Decoupage a Table

  • Old young adult books
  • Color copier
  • Photos of teens (optional)
  • Mod Podge
  • Spray adhesive
  • Scotch tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Medium sized paintbrushes

The table shown in the photograph below was covered with pages from young adult books, pictures taken from teen programs, and copies of book covers. The size of the table will determine how many pieces need to be copied or cut. As the teens are cutting out the pieces, someone can be sanding the top and sides of the table for better adhesion. Once all of the pieces are copied and cut out, lay them on a flat surface. Arrange them however you want them to appear on the table. Use a small amount of scotch tape to hold all of the pieces together. After the pieces are together, turn the sheet over and lightly spray the sheet with the adhesive spray to better hold it together. While you’re waiting for that to dry, pour some Mod Podge onto the table and use the paintbrush to spread a thin layer across the surface. Before that dries, lay the collage of pictures onto the table, centering it on the table to cover it entirely. Pour more Mod Podge onto the collage and use the paintbrush to spread it over the entire surface, paying special attention to the corners if applicable. Let it dry for a couple of days before you bring it out for the public to use.

Photograph of decoupage table - table decorated with various book covers and pages, whole table view

Games and Activities

Say Cheese, Please! Digital Photo Contest

Hold a digital photo contest at the library by allowing teens to submit up to two photos. With the teens’ permission, display the entries at the library and online if you have a teen blog or website. Choose a theme like “Within Arm’s Reach” to make it a little more challenging and add focus to the contest. A theme allows the teens to come up with their unique spin through their camera lens. Give the teens an entry form for their parent’s permission to display the teens’ photo online if they are under 18. A sample entry form is provided here and can be adapted for your contest.

Digital Photography Contest Entry Form. Basic information such as request name, phone, email, parent signature, brief description of entry

Photos will be judged on clarity, originality, and creativity. Have a high school art teacher, your local newspaper photographer or a professional photographer to judge the photos. Award prizes to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners by getting local businesses to donate gift cards or certificates, or use donated books as prizes.

Photo Gallery

Create a photo gallery using a random assortment of photos that include teens. Teens at the library program can help by using some of these unique ways to display photos.

  • Hang photos on a string using clothespins. This replicates the way photos are hung in a darkroom during processing.
  • Print the photos on brightly colored copier paper instead of plain white. Display these eye-catching images in the young adult area of the library.
  • Add a photo gallery on the library’s website or teen site to display the pictures taken by the teens. Let the public vote on their favorite photograph. If you don’t have a web site, there are many free blog services and online photo albums, which would be used to showcase the pictures.
  • For a craft project, let the teens decoupage an old table with pictures from young adult programs, their own photos, book covers, and pages from books. The completed project will make a great addition to library’s young adult section!

Photograph of decoupage table - table decorated with various book covers and pages, closeup

Blogger Online Photo Gallery

Encourage the teens to show off their photos online. If the library has an existing blog or website, insert a link directing patrons to an online photo album such as Flickr or Photobucket (or others listed below), or upload your images directly into the library’s website or blog. Remember that teens own the copyright to their own work and you will need their permission to upload their photos. For teens younger than 18, you also need their parents’ permission.

Tutorials for creating a blog are available from Google, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6477846893924984833, Blogger, www.blogger.com and Typepad, www.typepad.com but there are many other free blog services available. Additional resources are provided in the Professional Resources section of this program.

Photo Editing

As part of your program teens can learn to edit their photographs. Ask the teens to bring their own digital cameras or use a picture from the library’s computers to practice. Teach them different styles and techniques to edit and manipulate photos using photo editing web sites and software. Teens can learn how to change the color, size, shape, and backgrounds and borders to their photos. Teens can then share their edited pictures with friends on some of the web sites mentioned elsewhere in this program or on the social networking site of choice. If available, use software like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro. Using photos pulled from online albums, web sites like Fotoflexer, www.fotoflexer.com and Picnik, www.picnik.com allow teens to morph photos, remove blemishes, add animation and special effects, and correct coloring. They can also add text. Additional resources are included in the Professional Resources section of this program.

Audio Expressions

In this activity, teens make audio books, with the help of a librarian. By downloading free audio software, you can easily create a book on CD that is read by the teens. Chambers County Library System did this as part of Teen Tech Week 2008.

  1. Start out by letting your teens choose several books they might like to read. It’s best to select books that have short chapters if possible.
  2. Obtain permission from the publisher to record the book. Getting permission from the book publisher to record the book is usually easy to do. Most of the publishers like creative ideas that get their authors more attention. Orca Soundings, www.orcabooks.com, have proven to be very cooperative with this program. If possible contact the publisher by email for faster response.
  3. Most of the book publishers also require the author’s permission as well. Publishers may request permission from the authors, or may ask you to contact the authors directly. It is best to have the permission in writing. An email confirmation is usually sufficient.

Here is a sample of the permission letter emailed to Orca Books.

To whom it may concern:

My name is ______________ and I am a librarian at _______________. I am writing to request permission to allow teens at my library to create an audio book using the book title __________________ by ___________________ from the Orca book collection. The Orca titles are very popular with our teens, and many ask for audio recordings of them. The popularity of these books has increased tremendously through word of mouth, and since they have become part of the local school system’s reading program. The high interest, low level titles have hooked teens who are reluctant to pick up a book, many of whom have trouble with comprehension. Additionally, they are much more likely to score a higher grade on the school system’s reading program if they can have someone read the book to them, or listen to an audio recording.

Thank you for your consideration.

Chambers County Library System was granted permission with the stipulation of creating one CD for each library in the system to be used in-house only. Each participating teen was also allowed one copy for their personal use.

After you get permission, if it is within the library’s budget, purchase enough copies of the book as there are chapters. That way each participating teen can receive a copy of the book as a thank you for participating. Look for books like those published by Orca Soundings that are available for under $10.00 each.

Each teen signs up to read a chapter and schedules a “recording session” for their chapter.

As each teen comes in to read, let them state which chapter they are reading along with their name, and then begin reading the chapter. Ex: “Chapter 1 read by John Doe”. Don’t worry about making mistakes, they can always go back and record again until they are happy with the end results.

To record the readings, download the free audio recording and editing software from Audacity, www.audacity.sourceforge.net. A tutorial on using the Audacity software is available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/manual-1.2/tutorials.html. Be sure the teens are in a very quiet area by themselves to record their chapter. To start recording, click on the Record button. To stop recording, click on the Stop button. After each chapter is successfully recorded, click on File and Export as MP3 to a desktop folder. A pop up will appear, allowing you to add a title, tracks, etc. Add this information if you want, but it is not necessary for the purposes of this program. Once all your chapters are recorded and saved to your folder, you can burn them onto a CD.

Professional Resources



Flickr is another free online photo sharing website. Flickr allows you to organize, store, edit and share your pictures. Flickr also has special features allowing users to make photo DVDs, greeting cards, postage stamps and more.



Flauntr lets you add borders and overlays, change colors, add text effects, and change your photos into famous works of art using effects from world famous paintings.



Gimp is a software download with tools and features similar to Adobe Photoshop. It has advanced features, so if you have experience with Photoshop, Gimp is a great free alternative.



Lunapic is an online photo editing website that lets you add animation, draw on an image, adjust the size, add speech bubbles and literally has hundreds of features to choose from. It is a fun site for teens.



Photobucket is an online photo sharing website for uploading, sharing, linking and finding photos and videos. Photobucket is free but also has a Pro service allowing more space for images and videos. Photobucket also allows you to edit photos, resize, create slideshows and more.



Picasa is a free software download from Google that allows you to organize, store, edit and share your pictures. Picasa’s main focus is editing photos.



Picturetrail is an online photo sharing and image hosting website. Picture trail is free and allows users to create slideshows, add Bling to their photos, create custom album covers, and create photo clubs.



Shutterfly is a free photo sharing website that gives users their own URL to share with family and friends. It allows you to store photos and create photo story and memory books, cards, photo gifts and more. Shutterfly charges for the books and cards.

Texas Teens Read 2010! Programming Manual / Within Arms Reach: The Future is Yours!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 10, 2011