Special Events · Teen

LitBoxLoot — Teen Subscription Boxes (2021)

March 2021 UPDATE: I did a follow up post about what exactly is in each box. Check it out!

Happy New Year! I’m so excited to share this new 2021 program with you!


Reaching patrons during the pandemic has been a chore. We’ve done a million videos from story times to Harry Potter projects to STEAM programs … and reaching teens is a whole different prospect. We did an online QuaranTEEN scavenger hunt over the summer (which I just realized I didn’t write a post about!) when we were really and truly closed to the public. We got a few responses but nothing huge. So I started looking through my notes to see what I had written down that I wanted to try that would work during these COVID times. And I landed on subscription boxes.

If you’ve never heard of Owlcrate or Book of the Month Club, check them out. (Here’s a list of best book subscription services from My Subscription Addition. I want them all.) For example, Book of the Month users receive a book of their choosing (from a specified list) each month while Owlcrate users get something a little more special. They get a YA book along with goodies like blankets, journals, beautiful home goods, and gifts especially selected for readers. It’s YA-specific and something I was dying to recreate. I knew we didn’t have the cash to go all in on fancy blankets and such for each teen each month BUT I’ve been blessed with a hearty teen budget and I knew we could afford to give participants a pretty great experience.

I visited some blogs of other libraries that had started similar services. Teen Services Depot and Librarian Recommended were extremely helpful for planning and logistics!

Then I had to figure out my own logistics and getting teens registered. I started advertising and getting them registered them in December so I would have plenty of time to shop and get everything gathered/ordered. I first advertised to our summer reading participants and gave them the chance to register before advertising to the general public.

registration form

As you can see I didn’t want to do a “theme” every month that everyone got like Owlcrate. I wanted the kids to be able to choose their own genre. And I started with registering them for January, February, and March to see how things went. I figured if it got super popular and I got dozens of registrations (haha) I could give everyone a chance to participate by taking turns.

After selecting books (and placing holds) for each kid, it was time to shop. I got six girls and four boys registered (a great mix!). But then I realized I had a huge dilemma … what do you buy for teen/tween boys??? I scoured Dollar Tree and Five Below. I was lucky enough to find an Escape Room game at Dollar Tree and some fun candy at Five Below. I also found some magnetic chess games and playing cards along with little puzzles. On the next registration form I think I’m going to ask them to tell me a little about themselves. What are their interests? Favorite books, sports, characters, colors, animals. Anything that will make choosing items a little easier.

Like I said, I’ve been blessed with a substantial budget and plan to spend about $5 on each kid per box. Since it’s looking like we won’t have in person programming for at least another six months and I spent almost nothing of the budget last year, I did a lot of December shopping to use up some of my 2020 budget before it turned over. The girls were so easy to shop for. Socks, cute jewelry dishes, lip balm, notepads, cute pens, animal canvas art, bath balms, etc. And, yes, I know I’m being extremely gender stereotypical but I doubt most teen boys want bath bombs or jewelry dishes.

I bought the boys plain pens, little notebooks, funky candy, and some other silly things we had leftover from summer reading.

I was able to fit two books into each box (purchased on Amazon). I wrapped the books and any breakable “loot” in tissue paper to make it a little more special. Then I stuffed the boxes with “decorative shred” from Dollar Tree.

I ended up receiving 10 registrations total which is great for a teen program! I set a week that they could come pick up their boxes (either by scheduling a curbside pick-up or coming to the youth services desk directly on days we’re open to the public (we’re still on a hybrid schedule) so circ didn’t have to deal with anything at all. Instead of getting and keeping books like you would with Owlcrate or Book of the Month Club, these books would be owned by our branch and would be regular checkouts. They get them for three weeks and can renew them online (if there are no holds) as usual. I checked them out on the Monday of the pick-up week and told them not to check their accounts if they wanted to be surprised. I enclosed the receipt in the box.

I wanted to make sure everyone received a new book and then one other that could be older or even a graphic novel. I wanted to mix it up a bit and hopefully give them something they hadn’t read before.


This is the inside of our “romance” box.

I wanted the outside to look special and “branded” so I asked my husband, a super talented artist, to design a logo for me.


I then attached a label to the outside of each box.


Then I realized the kids chose three genres but when they opened their box, they wouldn’t immediately know which genre they’d been assigned. So I made some inside labels as well …


I love how this Dystopian one turned out! Here are some others I designed in Canva:

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I stole some theme names from Owlcrate so A Whole New World = SciFi/Fantasy and All the Feels = Books Guaranteed to Make You Cry. Now when they open their boxes, they’ll know immediately their assigned book theme for the month.

I’m really happy with how everything turned out. I had six people pick up their boxes yesterday on the first day of pickup! I hope that means they’re eager and excited for the program. I’m hoping to get some good feedback!

3 thoughts on “LitBoxLoot — Teen Subscription Boxes (2021)

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