As librarians, part of our job is to make sure that we sneak little life lessons into our patron interactions. Lessons in copyright, when we’re talking to teens about finding an image for their “band flier” or adding music to a YouTube video. Lessons in ethics, when we are setting up a Smash Bros. tournament.
What about the old idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” When it comes to the teen sitting at the back of the room afraid to speak up in a Teen Advisory Board Meeting, it still applies. Your YA fiction collection is an entirely different story.
One of the first things I did when I was hired as the Young Adult Librarian was weed the YA Fiction section. I was brutal. I removed anything that hadn’t circulated in the past 3 years. (We had titles sitting on the shelf that hadn’t been checked out since 1998!) I weeded titles with dog-eared pages and covers that were falling off. I tossed entire series where one or two books had gone out recently but more of the titles hadn’t gone out in years. When I was finished, I had four full carts of books ready to be deleted from the collection. Some of the books I replaced with newer, more attractive covers but most of them are gone forever.
It is hard for librarians to get rid of books. We love them. We hand them out for free to whomever we can. We promote them. We talk about them. We create displays and book lists. We beat our heads against the wall because teens won’t admit to reading for pleasure. We need to remember is that it is part of our job to get books into the hands of our patrons. If they come into the library and see three ugly books for every appealing book, they won’t come back. If all the books on the shelves are attractive, they won’t know where to start. The Young Adult Fiction statistics went up by almost 3,000 circulating items the year after that I weeded the collection.
So, go ahead. Judge a book by its cover. Your collection and your teens will thank you.