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YASF Meeting Minutes: 9.14.17

Westmont Public Library


  • ILA Planning
    • Pub Stroll
      • It’s on! Wednesday night. Still waiting to find out where we’ll be or if TBS will be our sponsor.
      • What should we do?
        • Last year: ARCs, but there was a Cubs game and debate, so not as much interactivity.
        • Ideas: ARCs again, tabletop games (Superfight, Cards against Humanity, etc.), YA Smackdown, trivia wheel?,
          • Superfight, YA Smackdown, ARCs for handout
    • Sponsored panels:
12 to 18: Meeting the Distinct Needs of the Early Teen and Late Teen Years Hannah Rapp, Berwyn Public Library; Kylie Peters, ; Joe Marcantonio, Plainfield Public Library District; Shaira Rock, Elmhurst Public Library
YA Troubleshooting: Working Together So We Don’t Fall Apart Rachael Bild, Oak Park Public Library; Becca Boland, Ela Area Public Library; Heather Booth, Thomas Ford Memorial Library; Evan Mather, Mount Prospect Public Library
Keeping the Peace with Teens Laurel Johnson, Skokie Public Library; Elizabeth Lynch, Addison Public Library; Yesenia Nunez, Addison Public Library
Keepin’ YA Real Becca Boland, Ela Area Public Library; Donna Block, Roosevelt University; Joe Marcantonio, Plainfield Public Library District


    • Reaching out to other panels to evaluate
      • Teen-related, will see if they want to use our evaluation forms. May not have increased YASF membership, but still gives us valuable data. We’ll do it again this year.
    • Evaluation form updates
      • Several questions may be unnecessary/repetitive/not valuable.
        • Lose question 3 &5
        • Reword question 1 (“Presented” instead of “organized”) and question 2 (“I learned something useful” instead)
      • Rachael will bounce off this evaluation off of a coworker really into data gathering, get feedback
    • ILA slides can be uploaded and accessible after the fact. YASF should promote!!!
  • Standards for Illinois Public Libraries (Rachael)
    • There has never been a chapter on Youth & Young Adult services. This year they are rewriting the Standards, and are including that chapter in this edition. There is a moving deadline.
    • Meeting about updating at ILA with Youth svcs forum on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. in Exhibits Hall.
    • Youth Svcs Forum has google doc they’ve worked on as well.
    • YALSA new core competencies are coming out in around November.
    • Who’s up for helping to draft this?
      • Lisa
      • Evan
      • Rachael
  • YASF incoming manager
    • Ask questions if you are interested!
    • Krista and Lisa are both considering it, but need to think/check on some things.
  • Old Business
    • Tournament of Books (Evan)
      • Krista will be taking the reins this year.
      • Finalizing nominations in January over a virtual meeting.
    • YA Librarian of the Year Award (Denise/Rachael)
      • Lynette will be receiving her award at the conference in October.
      • Revising requirements from personal ILA membership to working at a library with an institutional ILA membership. Emphasis that it’s the group you serve, not your job title.
  • Updates
    • YASF social media, etc.
      • Google Groups (Trixie)
      • Blog (Evan)
      • Facebook (Becca)
        • Gained 13 new members, up to a total of 112
        • Wednesday “What are you reading?” posts have been really successful – sometimes other folks have picked up missed posts without prompting.
        • We should post forum meetings as Event on the group.
        • We should re-share the pinned ToB nomination post (maybe on Wednesday posts?) to get new/more current nominations
    • IREAD  Update (Donna)
    • Youth Services Forum Update (Vince via email)
      1. Started doing “Forum Buddies” to keep new people attending. Pair new folks with older members.
      2. Field trip to Art Institute today! Be interesting to hear how it went. Should we put together a trip to Field Museum to check out kits, or other events?
      3. See more from their minutes
    • ILA Orientation
  • Other items?
    • Another meet up?
      • Post ILA. November? December 2nd?
    • Reaching Forward presentations
      • Escape Rooms
      • Tabletops


Upcoming YASF Meeting Dates:

  • October 10-12 – Rise Up! 2017 Annual Conference, Tinley Park
  • November 9, 2017 — Mount Prospect Public Library
  • February 8, 2018 — Oak Park Public Library
  • April 12, 2018 — TBD (maybe Wheaton or Glenside?)



Evan Mather

Krista Kountz

Denise Hudec

Lisa Bearfield

Alea Perez

Rachael Bild (virtually)

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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Meeting Minutes


YASF Meeting Minutes: 4.20.17

Lansing Public Library

  • Old Business
    • ILA Program Proposals: Rise Up!
      • Who proposed what?
        • Gaming – Becca & others
        • Restorative Justice – Skokie & Addison
        • Escape Room – Evan, Krista, DG
        • Troubleshooting – Evan, Becca
        • Community Partnerships – Evan, Schaumburg, Evanston, Indian Prairie
        • Nonficiton
        • YALSA school/public lib partnerships – Donna, Northbrook
        • Different ages – Kylie
    • IYSI 2017 recap
      • Hinsdale Public Library created “subscription box” style checkouts
      • Playaway Launchpads now have test prep!!!
    • Networking event recap
    • It went well! Considering holding another in August as a sort of SRP wrap up.
  • Tournament of Books (Evan)
    • It went well this year! Ideas for next year:
      • Push start date back a bit later to better include titles released later in the year. A small group will meet virtually to finalize the list.
      • We had a lot of author interaction over Twitter. Update winning post to include tweets.
      • Create a Twitter account for Tournament of Books only to better engage/promote?
  • YASF social media, etc.
    • Google Groups (Trixie) – 3 new members since last meeting
    • Facebook (Becca?) – Many new people, both from YALD and Tournament of Books. Everyone’s been awesome about “What are you reading Wednesdays?”
  • Updates
    • IREAD  Update/liaison search  (Brandi)
      • 2019 Theme – officially approved! “It’s Showtime At Your Library” A more inclusive theme including theater/movies/production
      • Need new YA liaison for iREAD!!!! – Donna volunteers. YAAAAAY!
      • Next meeting pushed back – conflicted w/ C2E2. In May.
      • Maybe Noelle Stevenson for art?!?!?!?!??!!?
    • Youth Services Forum Update (Vince via email)
      • Forum buddies – gives “partner” to new meeting attendees
      • Brochure for promotion @ conferences
      • ILA Program Submissions:
      • YS Forum has table during exhibits/registration
      • Betsy Bird
      • Puzzle Hunt program
      • Out of the box programming ideas
      • Fundraising on a small scale
      • Ignite for YS
      • Forum field trips – programs at cultural institutions (Museums, Naper Settlement, etc.)
      • Booth @ Reaching Forward
    • ILA YA Award  (Denise/Rachael)
      • Submissions are open! Share it! Flyer looks nice
      • Revisions to language have been submitted to ILA
      • Wanted to drop language about submitting programs from last 2 years – worth mentioning newer/revised/other programs/services is worthwhile
      • Inclusive of other services – outreach, etc.
      • Will share revisions
  • New Business
    • C2E2 /ALA Pop-Up library (Trixie/Rachael)
      • Collaborative pop-up library
      • Maker Faire has been rescheduled
    • LTAB (Heather/Rachael)
      • Louder Than a Bomb – hook up with young Chicago authors
      • Need many volunteers – poetry fest.
      • What if YASF sponsored LTAB for volunteers? Could people go for work time? Would it work as only a half-day, or is that unrealistic? How else could we make this worthwhile prof. Development? Reciprocal – young Chi. authors in return?
    • BFYA @ ALA (Rachael for Sara)
      • Local libraries are invited to bring a group of teens to talk about books nominated . Applications until 5/1.
      • Tips for not losing kids: 1 adult:10 kids, but actually 1:5 or so is best. Buddy system. Carry what you get. Chartering a vehicle>public transit, often.

Upcoming YASF Meeting Dates:

  • May 5, 2017 – Reaching Forward Conference, Rosemont
  • September 14, 10-12  — Westmont Public Library
  • October 10-12 – Rise Up! 2017 Annual Conference, Tinley Park
  • November 9, 10-12  — Mount Prospect Public Library



Brandi Smits

Becca Boland

Evan Mather

Donna Block

Lisa Barefield

Alice Son (virtual)

Krista Kountz (virtual)

Rachael Bild (virtual)

Trixie Dantis (virtual)

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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Meeting Minutes


And the winner is…

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner has emerged victorious in the 2017 YASF Battle of the Books!

It wasn’t ever a sure thing. You can reread some past posts and follow the book’s triumphs over noble opponent Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, and on to best esteemed competition like Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.

In the end, though, it was your votes that declared it our winner over We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson.

Congratulations to Mr. Zentner and The Serpent King! 

UPDATE: His response!

And thank you to all of you who voted and read along with us.

But most of all, an enormous round-of-Internet-applause for our reviewers.

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Posted by on April 18, 2017 in Tournament of Books


Tournament of Books, Final Round: VOTE

And the time is now upon us for YOU to all vote for the final winner of our 2017 Tournament of Books. We’ve gone through numerous rounds, and many an awesome book has been eliminated. Our two finalists, We are the Ants by Sean David Hutchinson and The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, sit before you awaiting judgement. Make your voice heard and cast a vote!

The poll will close at 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.


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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Tournament of Books


Tournament of Books, Round 4: The Great American Whatever vs. We Are the Ants

The match-up between The Great American Whatever and We Are The Ants was a tough call. Both focus on gay male protagonists who use humor to deal with grief and messy relationships with family and friends, but are also very different books. Both are worth reading and passing on. I had previously read The Great American Whatever and listened to We Are the Ants, so for the purposes of judging I did the reverse, with some surprising results.

I read The Great American Whatever over the summer and thought it was pretty good, but not spectacular. Snarky teenage filmmaker Quinn Roberts struggles over the death of his sister/film-making partner, Annabeth, while also struggling to come out. I thought of it (perhaps too dismissively) as “Me and Earl and the Dead Girl.” I felt strongly then, and still do, that Quinn’s grief for his sister is the main story, and his first short-lived romance is somewhat of a distraction. Federle’s funny, but there’s at least one Donald Trump joke that was already dated at the time of publication and is REALLY dated now. I liked the characters, though; and the messy relationships between Quinn, his best friend Geoff, and his mother felt true. The side plots about Quinn’s hero Ricky Devlin coming to town and the summer film program felt contrived. When does that much ever happen in the same week, seriously? Listening to the audiobook helped to elevate the story’s strengths and downplay its weaknesses. The revelations about Geoff and Annabeth, and the emotional breakthroughs between Quinn and his mother and Geoff made a strong impact. I love that The Great American Whatever is a story about Quinn learning that he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did, and accepting it.

I listened to We Are The Ants in the car back in December, and found myself driving around longer than necessary in order keep listening. Henry Denton struggles over the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, and whether he should save the earth from destruction by aliens. I found a lot to love about this book. I can’t get enough science fiction with a sense of humor, and equally refreshing to me is that Henry is gay and out, and his family is fine with it. Hutchinson’s dry, world-weary sense of humor is also a big plus. His intermittent scenarios for world destruction are on-point. He successfully develops a number of interesting female characters including Henry’s mom, his Nana, his brother’s girlfriend Zooey, his friend Audrey, and teacher Ms. Faraci. I appreciate his depiction of an abusive relationship between young men. Finally, I love the ambiguity of the aliens’ existence. Are they real? Or are they a metaphor for depression that Henry invented? If the aliens aren’t real, then where does Henry go during his “abductions?” Reading the print book turned up a few flaws. Some of the dialog read a lot cheesier on the page than it sounded in the car. There are some contrivances, like Henry’s writing assignment for Ms. Faraci, and Diego’s (too perfect?) appearance in and impact on Henry’s life. Even so, the story sucked me in and moved just as quickly on the page as on audio. The humor still felt fresh, and Henry’s defiant conclusion gained power.

In the end, We Are the Ants is the funnier and more resonant of the two, and my pick to move on.

Donna Block is a Teen Services Librarian at Niles Public Library. She geeks out on ginger ale and black licorice, Pottermore sorted her into Slytherin (twice), and if she were a dog she’d be a shiba inu.

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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in Tournament of Books


Tournament of Books, Round 4: The Serpent King vs. If I Was Your Girl

The South, replete with dual references to the burger joint Krystal, stargazing, and remarkably rough childhoods, sets the scene for this book face-off. The two novels, amazingly firsts for their respective authors, make strong cases for the complexity and charm of growing up in a small rural town, where everyone knows everyone and secrets are hard to keep. It is difficult to say if the experiences presented in these stories represent a large subset of teen experiences, but it is easy to conclude that both tell important stories and should speak strongly to those teens who pick them up.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

High school senior and son of a preacher man Dillard Early (Dill, to his friends Travis and Lydia) does not live a charmed life. Following his dad’s imprisonment for possessing indecent photos of children, his small Tennessee town hasn’t let him forget his family’s troubled past and doesn’t think much of his future. Neither does Dill. As he watches Lydia, also his crush, prepare to escape small town life for the Big Apple following graduation, he is forced to face the grim reality of staying in place and being consumed by his mother’s and town’s disdain for him.

Readers are presented with a book chock full of raw emotion that, like a genie in a bottle, has been pent up in a space much too small for all the power it wields. When it is unleashed upon the reader, it is a torrent of beautifully interwoven doubt, self-pity, longing, and shame, mingled with glimmers of hope, defiance, and acceptance. It is powerful and resonating, and, in parts, profoundly unsettling.

The characters are flawed but complicated and deep, and the demons they face are so heavy, yet sadly everyday, as to bolster their believability. Zentner masterfully alternates the narration between the three main characters, giving readers a deeper glimpse into their lives and thus more of the story to invest in.

Dill, for his part, is stubborn and moody. While these qualities do on occasion distract, they do not detract from the seriousness of his depression and anxiety, especially where his parents are involved. He leads a complicated life, and his friends know it, but they do not excuse all of his less than charming behaviors because of it.

Lydia veers a little too close at times to a manic pixie dream girl, though her own desire to live a bigger life and to grow outside the constraints of her town help to keep that tendency somewhat at bay. She does not exist just to save Dill. She exists to live out her own dreams, which is often a source of conflict between the two characters.

Travis is, perhaps, the most complicated of all and his story is where Zentner’s ability to weave backstory into the present shines the most. Travis doesn’t have the dual luxury/obstacle of having his problems exposed for all to see. He is both mocked and feared, with little to no sympathy given, and even his best friends don’t know of the troubles he faces at home until it is made impossible for the two to miss them. Even so, despite his troubles, Travis isn’t one to let his circumstances rob him of joy. Of the three, Travis is the character most comfortable in his own skin, making his big moment in the book all the more tragic.

Perhaps best of all, this book gathers, but does not tie up, all the loose ends. It provides connections and a reprieve from pain, but it doesn’t make attempts to completely solve all the wrongs faced by the characters – we know that Dill will continue to fight his own demons. What it does, instead, is offer hope that things will be better with time and efforts to make change.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

18-year-old Amanda Hardy, having just moved to her father’s small town of Lambertville, is looking forward to a fresh start for her senior year of high school. Although she hopes to keep a low profile until she can graduate and move to a big city, Amanda quickly finds herself surrounded not only by a new set of friends but also by cute boys who are showing signs of interest. The problem is, she has a secret and if it ever got out, it could be a matter of life or death. The secret? Amanda used to be Andrew.

Russo, herself a trans woman, lets the reader know in the backmatter that this book was written in the manner it was quite intentionally. That is to say, it was written to provide a cisgendered, heteronormative reader with the most familiar framework they might possibly have while reading about the life of someone different than them. Knowing this makes the almost too-perfect outcome less questionable and provides a nice break from the stories that highlight the oftentimes dismal experiences trans people can face. It was lovely to read about a girl exploring her path in life and trying to fit in, who just so happens to be trans. It was nice to have a glimpse at the issues without being overwhelmed by the weight of how heavy they are to those who live through them. So when I say reading this novel was a bit like revisiting a 1980s John Hughes movie, it is meant to be a mostly endearing comparison.

The thing, though, about John Hughes movies is they make you feel good and give you the happy ending you want, but sometimes at the expense of believable plotlines, emotional depth, or fully fledged characters.

The characterization in this novel is a mixed bag, which takes away some of its strength. Amanda herself has a refreshingly authentic voice, which manages to stay more formal than direct conversation with the reader while never straying too far from casual and trustworthy. While reading her story, I was never concerned that I would encounter the John Green condition: teens who speak as though they are preparing for futures in philosophy. (Do some teens exude a maturity and depth that equals or rivals their adult counterparts? Absolutely. But John Green characters tend to test the limits of this.)

Sadly, the secondary characters aren’t provided with much backstory, revealing tidbits only when it helps to move the story forward and in a way that makes them caricatures, reducible down to one label – the Baptist, the fashionista, and the tomboy. Grant, Amanda’s love interest, is given more of a story than Amanda’s close friends and it is even a heartbreaking one but despite this, it still manages to fall flat.

Moving past the characters, the story does do a rather delightful job of presenting a hopeful message, even if it isn’t entirely believable. Readers will want to believe in the hope it offers up and will greedily gobble it down.

This story absolutely needed to be told. The importance of having it present Amanda as approachable and sympathetic cannot be overstated. With luck, more will follow and they will start to address the issues found here. But in the end, it is If I Was Your Girl’s attempt to be so careful on its readers’ behalf and to avoid more substance and complication that makes it just miss its mark.

Winner: The Serpent King


Alea Perez is the Head of Youth Services at Westmont Public Library, where she doesn’t get to work directly with teens anymore but she still works on their behalf. In the land of make believe, also known as her free time, she loves making lists, spending time with her rescue dog, and hunting down Thin Mints.

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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Tournament of Books


Tournament of Books, Round 4

This is it! We are ready to begin our fourth and penultimate round of the 2017 Tournament of Books.

It’s down to We are the Ants by Sean David Hutchinson vs. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo vs. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

In just over a week, you’ll be voting between the winners of those two showdowns. Until then, let us honor the victorious few that have emerged from the noble fallen.

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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Tournament of Books