Column Description: This column will attempt to demystify, and advocate for current trends in youth culture that may be incorporated into library services. Taking a no-nonsense approach by using communication with active patrons, and paying attention to figures, our goal is to provide enhanced services, better patron experience and engagement, and improved stats and circulation.

We started our monthly Snack Around the World last July, and it was pretty much an instant success. Trying to emulate popular “snack boxes” with our own educative slant, each kit includes two or more snacks, a printout from our CultureGrams database about the country, and sometimes an inexpensive craft or premium (think string art or vinyl sticker) relevant to the country, and of course, a taste test card with an invitation to share their findings on Instagram. One year later, Snack Around the World has visited over twelve countries and is still going strong. 

So how do we build on this already successful program? We offer Snack Around the States of course! Using a similar format to our Snack Around the World program, Snack Around the States also includes a two-page printout as to why we chose what snacks we did, what relevance they have to the state, its culture, cuisine, history, and future. We also include an invitation to a Zoom meeting where we connect with a Teen services librarian from a library in that state, to learn even more.

While Snack Around the States was met with similar success as Snack Around the World, there are different points to consider for each program should you choose to try something similar at your own library.

  • Source local snacks when and if you can.
  • All snacks used in both Snacks programs are individually wrapped.
  • Bulk food on Amazon often comes in tens and twelves, so we plan our programs for a minimum of ten registrants each month. Sometimes, there is food left over - but it is better to have extra than less; Rarely, an item of food comes in damaged and can’t be used.
  • Occasionally, when ordering from Amazon, the foods are near their expiration date - so just be cognizant of the time you received them, to the time pick up for your program begins.
  • Typical programs run between $4 - $6 per patron. You can maximize savings by planning around countries that offer inexpensive deals and getting creative with some of the state’s foods.
  • If you try to sync up with a library from another state on Zoom - make sure to double-check your time zones, and contact that library with plenty of time for them to consider scheduling and their own newsletter - after all, their teens might like to ask YOU some questions about your region.
  • If you do not have a database like CultureGrams, most states have a government landing page with historical/local information that is print-friendly. 
  • Don’t forget to recommend state and country books to check out and learn more!

For Snack Around the World, we jump around the globe - paying special attention to snack deals online from any given country (again, mostly purchased from Amazon) For States, we run alphabetically. When possible, we source from a local company or brand in that state directly - when that is not an option due to cost or because one does not exist, we get creative based on agriculture, exports, and history.

Both Snacks programs are a successful and rewarding way to explore culture, cuisine, history and more. It is also a testament to the versatility of to-go kits. You’ll be surprised just how much you’ll learn about the area you’re sourcing snacks from as well!

I would like to personally thank the awesome librarians who connected with us to try this fun, new, Snack Around the States program - dedicated to educating us on the “what’s what” and “goings-on” in their local areas! They include from Alabama, Hoover Public Library, Alaska, Anchorage Public Library, Arizona, Northwest Regional Library, and from Arkansas, the Central Arkansas Public Library System.

James Richeson is a Youth and Parent services librarian at Huntington Public Library with over ten years of experience. An advocate for tweens, teens, new adults, and parents, he specializes in patron-centered youth services, focusing on the needs of his local community to provide innovative library programs and materials. He was recently published in VOYA magazine, where he shared his 'Teen Programs To Go' initiative; which has been adopted by both public and school libraries across the US. When he’s not running a D&D campaign, coaching Battle of the Books, or discussing the latest Great Graphic Novel, he’s snapping together vinyl GUNDAM or building robots with the patrons he serves.