“Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!”

It’s a phrase that five kids repeated over and over again Saturday in a tournament at the Oak Park Public Library.

Ranging in age from 11 to 13, the participants displayed a variety of styles. Some weren’t accustomed to the use of “shoot!” and would sometimes show their hands too early. Twelve-year-old Abrar Syed threw his arm with furious speed, taking several of his opponents aback.

The competition was sparse, as the two initial contenders-who declined to be named-were eventually joined by ringers Elaine Houha, 11; Girard Clemons, 13; and Syed, the eventual champion.

The event’s organizers, young adult librarians Monica Harris and Alan Jacobson, were eager to tout the library’s summer programs to participants and spectators, including a summer reading program where teens can win an iPod Nano.

Harris and Jacobson are both relatively new to the library and the young adult department-Jacobson started in March, Harris in February-and have a bevy of concepts they’re trying out.

“Our idea is to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall this summer and see what works and what doesn’t,” Harris said. “We want to see what kids are interested in coming to and what they’re not, and adapt our programming from there.”

In addition to the reading program, they’re hosting events for teens like “T*DIY” do-it-yourself craft workshops where kids can make things from jewelry to fabric cellphone holders; “Teen Coffeehouse,” open-mic sessions where teens can read poetry, crack jokes, or otherwise perform; game nights, with everything from board games to video games like Nintendo’s popular Wii; movie nights; and old-fashioned book discussions.

Harris and Jacobson seem to be pleased with the programs’ success thus far. They recently held an open-mic “poetry in the park,” which drew about 50 people. The crafts program drew 20 people, which is “about all you can handle with crafts,” according to Harris. The most recent game night brought 13 kids-12 of them boys, the harder gender to get involved, Harris said.

They also co-sponsored with the park district a recent battle of the bands in Scoville Park, which Jacobson says brought out at least 200 people.

“Ideally,” Jacobson said, “we’re trying to have all the programs to the point where we can go over to your Oak Park and River Forest High School, your Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, your Fenwick and say, ‘Hey, we have all this cool stuff,’ and they’ll come over and do it.”

Harris and Jacobson didn’t quite reach critical mass with the rock-paper-scissors tournament, but that didn’t stop the participants from having fun.

The competition was fierce as the contestants entered the final round of the round-robin tournament. Each move meant more than the last, as they put their fingers on the line, trying to reach the seven-win mark needed to take first place.

As the final wins were tallied, Syed came out with eight, earning himself a $25 gift card to Borders. He left the room grinning from ear to ear, pleased to have gotten more than just a book at the library.

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...