Creating a Non-Fiction Collection for Teens

A lot has changed in regards to my library’s teen space & collection within the past two years. In September of 2009, a thorough weeding project made room for our newly created teen space. No longer in an awkward part of the children’s room, the teens now have their own area in the adult department. It’s full of many things that were not available (exclusively or at all) to the teens before. There’s a table! And lots of chairs! And a zine collection! And teen-created artwork on the walls! It’s pretty great.

One thing that we didn’t have, however, was a separate non-fiction collection for teens. Books that would be considered teen non-fiction were mixed in with the adult collection (although there were some juvenile non-fiction books that may have worked for teens, as well). It wasn’t until December of 2010 that we decided to create an entirely separate non-fiction collection for teens that would be housed in the teen space. I’m not exactly sure what took us so long, considering we already have graphic novels, manga, Cliffs Notes, and YA audiobooks as part of the teen collection. But I am glad we made the move!

I pulled some books from the library’s other collections & then also ordered a bunch of new items (books on health, relationships, finance, etc) to balance out the collection. I’ve been putting some of the newer, more appealing books on display (Lauren Conrad Style, the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook) to draw attention to this new section of the teen space. And it’s made a big difference. It seems that more teen non-fiction is being checked out, which is awesome. Now I am waiting patiently for one of our teen patrons to check out First Guitar Tutor (by Terry Burrows) & become a world famous rock star. I can’t wait!

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Creating a Teen Zine Collection

It’s no secret that I love zines (which I often describe as self-published mini magazines). I’ve been reading them since I was in high school, and I’ve made many close friends because of them. So when the possibility of creating a zine collection for teens at my library (the Homer Township Public Library) was brought up, I got REALLY EXCITED. A few months later, we now have a small collection of zines available (which still makes me REALLY EXCITED). So here’s a little bit about the how and the why, in case you want to do something similar.

Why a zine collection for teens? There are several reasons. Many teens have never heard of or seen a zine. As a librarian, I am lucky to have a public space in which to introduce someone to new things. I also think it’s our responsibility to offer collections of all kinds, and while zines will never be as recognized as other forms of media, that doesn’t make them of any less value. Having zines at the library (and offering books, pamphlets, and workshops about zines) shows teens that you don’t have to be a super famous writer in order to have your voice heard. All you need is a story to tell & access to a photocopier.

How did I create this collection? The short version is this: Once I got the okay from my director, I did some research on zine collections in public libraries, and then I headed to Quimby’s. I was able to spend a few hours sitting on their floor, flipping through hundreds of different zines and mini-comics (I wanted to make sure what I was buying was age appropriate, of course). I pulled a few zines from my own collection, had some zines donated by friends, and then I bought Whatcha Mean What’s a Zine? and Stolen Sharpie Revolution. We decided not to catalog the zines, and to keep them as an in-house-only collection (for the meantime, at least). I purchased a small bin to store them, made up a sign, printed off a few copies of Zines 101 (thanks, Zine World!), and started to spread the word. I spent about $100, and now we have a unique collection of awesome zines in my teen space.

Zines are not usually found on the shelves within public libraries (although the number is increasing each year). I’m lucky enough to have a director who is supportive of new ideas and a teen community that is responsive to additions to the YA collection. As a zine enthusiast and a public librarian, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Book(talk) It!

I did booktalks at my local high school last Thursday in celebration of Teen Read Week. I remember when I was first asked, sometime last year, to do booktalks for their students. I was pretty nervous going into it, but I felt really prepared. I brought a stack of some really excellent new books, along with some surefire older ones that almost all teens fall in love with (like Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin). What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the fact that most of the teens stared at me with a blank look on their face. I quickly learned that I was living in a fantasyland thinking that I was going too reach that entire room!

Booktalks are exciting for teens who like books, but if they’re not readers, they’re probably not going to care. But still, I try. I bring a wide selection of books for both boys and girls, and I give them enough of the plot to try to hook them, but not enough that they feel like they’ve heard the whole story. I’ve found that it also helps to bring the newest books in a series, but also to talk about the first book in order to possibly grab the interest of readers who aren’t familiar with the series. I also try to keep my energy level up (even though I repeat myself to several classes throughout the day!). The last time I was at the school doing booktalks, a student from the newspaper was taking photos of my presentation. I later found out that she had to discard all of them – I move my hands around when I talk, and every photo was too blurry to print!

The night of my booktalk last week, I ran my monthly manga program back at the library. When it was over, one of the circulation staff called me over. “I just wanted to tell you,” she said, “that a girl came in and checked out The Maze Runner. She said some lady had talked about it at her school this morning.” That lady was me! I was that lady! As a 32-year-old who is often mistaken for being several years younger, I’m not often called a lady, but I’ll take it. Because this lady is really, really excited that someone was listening.

The Internet is My Best Friend

Summer is on its way (although the weather makes it feel like it’s already here!) and for me that means one thing: teen volunteers! Our annual Teen Intern Program is held in conjunction with our Summer Reading Program, and we get an average of 70 teens volunteering their time over the 6 week program (although the number of participants may go up this year, since our local high school now requires each student to complete 10 service hours per year). Having teen interns is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s beneficial for the library, as they are a tremendous help with the craziness of our SRP, and for the teens, who can put this experience on their resumes or college applications. And as someone who volunteers in my own community, I am hopeful that our Teen Intern Program shows the teens how awesome and rewarding volunteering can be.

But, oh, the scheduling of all of these teens! We’ve been using paper applications since the beginning of the Teen Intern Program (in 2006) and I have always dreaded opening that Excel sheet and trying to work out a reading desk schedule for everyone. It was time consuming and difficult. But this year we’ve moved on to this revolutionary concept of ONLINE APPLICATIONS. Whoa, what? I know! We used Google Docs to create a general application form (name, contact info, volunteer opportunities, etc.) and Doodle to make a reading desk schedule where the teens can choose which day & time they’d like to staff the reading desk (& once two teens choose a particular day & time, then that section is blocked out). The applications have been up for about two weeks now and it seems to be a pretty successful change. Sure, I’ve gotten questions from teens and parents who were a bit confused, and I’ve already had to contact some teens who’ve filled out the form incorrectly. But that’s okay! I expect confusion and mistakes, especially since this is our first year trying this. And hey, I’ll take answering a few questions over all of the scheduling misery I was in before. So high five, internet! Thanks for making this librarian’s life so much easier!

Reading Your Collection

Lately I’ve been doing some thinking about reading. Specifically, about the time I spend reading and what I choose to read. I, like all of you, spend a lot of my free time reading. And not just books: zines, blogs, and magazines, too. Finding time for all of the things I want to read sometimes seems impossible. Being in charge of collection development for my library’s YA collection makes this even harder. How much time should I be devoting to reading the YA books on my library’s shelves? I am part of the Adult Services Department and so I need to be reading adult books as well. How do I find a balance between the two? Also, what about the books I want to have in my collection, but that I don’t necessarily want to read? I’m not a fan of fantasy or science fiction, but patrons ask for recommendations in these genres, so I need to know what to offer them. Or what about the super popular books that everyone is talking about, but that I have no interest in? L.A. Candy is a lighter read than what I’d choose to voluntarily read, but it’s so popular that I feel like I should read it to get my own take on it, even though I don’t really want to. Sometimes I feel torn, and my to-read pile next to my bed grows to an unrealistic height.

So what do I do? Well, a couple of things. I read a pretty equal mix of adult and teen books. I sometimes choose books that fall outside of the realistic fiction genre for my teen book club so that I am forced to read them. I spend some time looking through our new books to familiarize myself with them so that even though I won’t read all of them, at least I know they are there and what they are about. So I’m curious about you. How much of your collection do you actually read? Do you skim some books just to get a quick feel for them and their audience? And should I read Sweet Little Lies?

Support Teen Literature Day

Support Teen Literature Day is just weeks away! Held during National Library Week, STLD was created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in 2007 to celebrate and highlight teen literature. This year STLD will be held on Thursday, April 15. So what are you doing to celebrate? Here are some suggestions:

+ Do some serious promotion! In the weeks before, make sure your patrons know that STLD is coming. Use social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter) and your library’s blog to raise awareness.

+ Use your teen advisory board and teen book club! Have them suggest display ideas, create promotional posters, or make booklists.

+ Contact your local media. Submit an article to be printed in the newspaper or ask to have a journalist visit the library on STLD to document the library’s activities.

+ Partner with your local school library. Booktalk to students or pass out flyers listing the STLD activities being held at your library.

+ Have a read-in. Offer snacks and drinks to teens who read at the library that day, and offer prizes for teens who read for a certain amount of hours.

+ Hold a library scavenger hunt, let teens create book trailers, or have a special meeting of your teen book club.

+ Give out free stuff! Offer candy or bookmarks to patrons who check out YA books that day.

+ Have a raffle! Let teens enter their name to win books or other prizes.

+ Conduct a survey, either in print or online. Ask what library services teens want or what books they’d like to see in the collection.

+ Encourage patrons to be a part of Operation Teen Book Drop. Readergirlz, Guys Lit Wire, If I Can Read I Can Do Anything, and YALSA have partnered to donate thousands of YA books to teens on Native American reservations on STLD. Readergirlz is asking teens across the country to participate in Operation TBD by leaving a book in a public space in order to share the awesomeness of YA books with others. Check out the readergirlz website for more info!

As librarians working with teens, we support teen literature in our everyday work. But participating in Support Teen Literature Day allows us ways to show the larger library community (both staff and patrons) that YA lit is meaningful and exciting. It’s a great opportunity to shove your favorite books into the hands of YA lit readers and lets you highlight your library’s teen services. So get involved!

Books for Teenage Punks

When I was a junior in high school, my friends and I were obsessed with Girl by Blake Nelson. I had just found punk rock, and the book was filled with characters that dressed in thrift store clothes and loved underground music, just like me. This was in 1995, back when YA books weren’t the phenomenon they are now, so we read this book over and over and over (in fact, I’ve had to buy three copies of it over the years, as two that I loaned out were never returned to me). The YA lit landscape has changed, of course, and more and more YA novels feature storylines that involve punks and/or music obsessed characters. These are the books (besides Girl — it still rules!) that I’d like to take back in time and give my teenage self:

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

Kara, a teen living in Oak Park, Illinois in the mid 90’s, tries to replace her fractured family with a new family: a group of punk kids who hang out in a nearby park. Kara finds her place among them, but she also finds their troubles, including drug use, dating violence, and suicide. A heartbreaking story of the secrets that teens keep and the ways that friendships can both save you and tear you apart.

Beige by Cecil Castellucci 

With her mom away on an archeological dig, straight-laced Katy is forced to spend the summer with the dad she hasn’t seen since she was seven. To make things worse, Katy’s dad is The Rat, the drummer of infamous punk band Suck. Katy doesn’t understand how music can affect someone so deeply, and so she feels incredibly out of place in the punk community she’s been thrown into. As Katy finds unlikely friendships and forges a real relationship with The Rat, she also finds a home in an unlikely place: music.

Born to Rock by Gordon Korman

Leo’s life takes a sudden turn when he is accused of cheating on a test and his scholarship to Harvard is revoked. Having already rejected offers from other schools, Leo doesn’t know how he’ll come up with the tuition money. But then he discovers that King Maggot, lead singer of famous punk bank Purge, is his real father. King’s idea of bonding time is to have Leo (a Young Republican) be a roadie on Purge’s reunion tour. Life on the road with aging punks is unlike anything Leo has ever experienced, and it leads him to surprising revelations about his family, his friends, and his identity.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going

Unhappy with his weight and sad about his lack of friends, Troy is contemplating jumping in front of a moving train when the legendary Curt MacCrae appears. Curt’s a homeless punk rock kid, and a friendship quickly forms between these two outcasts. When Troy becomes the drummer in Curt’s band and discovers the acceptance of the punk music scene, Troy realizes that there is life outside of his sadness.

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Emily Black grew up around music, with a basement full of records and a father who would fill the house with songs. Her mother left when Emily was four months old, supposedly to follow the music that meant so much to her, but really to run from a secret she felt ruined her. Emily finds punk rock in her small town of Carlisle, Wisconsin and it changes her life. As her band finds success and fame, Emily can’t help but wonder if her music will bring her mother back to her. The reader gets Emily’s mother’s side of the story as well, which reveals insights into her difficult life choices. A story of teenage feminism, family, and midwestern punk rock that older teen readers will love.

The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

Written by one of the co-founders of legendary record store Amoeba Music, The Vinyl Princess tells the story of Allie, a 16 year old independent record store employee and vinyl junkie who writes a blog and zine. In the midst of sharing her love for music, Allie must deal with her crush on a mysterious boy, a mom who is jumping back into the dating scene, a best friend’s boy troubles, the danger of working in a neighborhood that’s being targeted by robbers, and figuring out just what (and who) it is that’s truly important to her.