Tag Archives: library outreach

Links Round-Up: A Call for Interviews, Training Opportunities, a Day in the Life

16 Jun

Call for Interviewees

Ana Silva, an MA student and aspiring librarian is currently writing her thesis about library services for young adults. She would like to interview librarians and literacy professionals who work directly with teenagers. Interviews would be brief, via online chat, and take under an hour. If you are interested in increasing the body of teen library services by contributing an interview, please contact Ana at ANA-LUCIA.P.SILVA (at) stu.mmu.ac.uk.


Two upcoming courses of interest: the first, for librarians who want to work with secondary school teachers, takes place on 21 June. A course for working with young offenders will be led by John Vincent and Anne Harding on 29 September 2011.

There is also a free webinar, But Graphic Novels ARE Reading!: Partnering with Teachers and Parents being offered by the American School Library Journal on 21 June, 7-8 PM GMT.

Teen Librarian Thrills and Skills

For those looking for a little perspective, YA Librarian Tales’ Day in the Life of a Teen Librarian.

The latest issue of Teen Librarian Monthly contains some useful information about making, reading, and collecting ‘zines. Zines are often popular with teens, and are worth knowing a bit about!


Giving Teen Genre Readers Time (or) Fighting Tyranny of Reading

4 Apr

Last week when I updated about the YALSA symposium session on Street Lit I forgot to mention one of the most crucial pieces of knowledge I gained from the session.

One of the presenters (I believe it was Beth Saxton but can’t be certain) mentioned that teens who begin reading Street Lit usually branch out from the genre after a time. How long? Usually about a year after they begin to devour street lit novels.

A year is such a brief period of time, especially if it is that period of time that reifies reading as a lifelong habit. On the other hand, it can be difficult to watch a reader who is clearly capable of reading more sophisticated work returning repeatedly to a genre or author they are already comfortable with. Some teens I work with read virtually nothing except the Twilight saga for an entire year. They would cycle through the saga, and then, as soon as they were finished, start the first book again! These teens also wanted to relive details of the books, not debate their underlying themes. The only teen in my reading group not taken with Twilight was a diehard horror fan who refused to read anything else. It was a trying time.

Since then, I have seen every member of the group blossom into readers with great curiosity and diverse interests. It seems that’s how many of us become readers – we experience a passion for a subject or genre of stories or even a certain book that is so consuming that we must read everything within that area, repeatedly, until we feel exhausted with it.

It’s easier to place a measurable value on this if the teen in question is a history buff instead of, say, a paranormal romance fanatic. The former is academic and might lead to an illustrious career whereas the comprehensive value of the latter is more rigorously questioned and debated[1]. Devising a critical theory of the value of the romance story is beyond the scope of the this blog. However, based on what Saxton and Honig said, it seems that readers of any genre will benefit from having access and encouragement to read in the area in which they are passionate. After a time, they are likely to become curious and branch out. As mentioned before, when teens say “I want a book just like it” doesn’t mean “I want a book with the same plot” but one that makes them feel as intensely as the book they just finished did.

It has taken me a long time to conquer my own bibliophilic impulses and learn that the best reader recommendation is one that fits the individual, not one that molds them to my idea of who a reader should be or what they consume (I have come to think of the process of forcing books upon poorly matched readers as The Tyranny of Reading). The keys to readers advisory are flexibility, knowledge, an open mind, and active listening.

[1] For those interested, Read React Review is an excellent blog on romance novels. Its author is a philosophy professor who both enjoys the romance genre and interrogates its ideology and general theories of desire.

On a Shoestring: Creating a Teen Offer without Staff or a Budget

23 Feb

This is the first post in YA Library UK’s On a Shoestring series. The series is designed to give advice to librarians struggling to develop teen library services amidst budget and staffing cuts.

Given the serious cuts and closures public and school libraries are currently facing, creating or improving your teen offer may seem nearly impossible. This can be hindering and highly discouraging. However, the situation is not impossible! Even if you have no staff hours or budget dedicated to teen services, there are some steps you can do to improve to improve the teen offer in your library.

Working in partnership with other organisations is a wonderful way of boosting your available programmes for teens. However, the suggestions below can be implemented without external assistance.

By improving your teen space, running passive programmes in your library, and working with other staff to devise a formal plan for teen services in your library or authority, you can invigorate teen services in your library.

Improving Teen Space in Your Library

Whether the library you work in is a sprawling central library or a cramped one-room branch, you can make the teen space awesome. If you work in a very small branch–or a mobile library–your entire teen area may be a shelf of books (hey, some spaces are just small!). If your have a shelf of books with, considering soliciting reviews of YA books, graphic novels and manga from teens who visit your branch regularly. Display the reviews by their respective books. The only cost there is for a piece of paper and a piece of tape. If you want to be especially fancy you could always laminate the review, or find a plastic wallet to display it in. Larger libraries can create entire review shelves or, if you have an area where you can put a book display, an entire review stand.

Alternately, ask teens who come into the library to help you think of themes for book displays (and ask them which books they think should be on it!).

Similarly, cork boards or an area of wall for posters can improve a teen area quite a lot. This space should be designated for information on teen events happening in the library and elsewhere in your community. It can also be used to advertise books, DVDs, graphic novels, manga and music of interest to teens. You can make short themed book recommendation lists and post them here. If film adaptations of YA books are being released, promote books and media that tie into the film (or relate to its theme). Make interesting posters of book lists and reviews to place in the teen area. Recruit talented teen artists and designers to help you.

Make a suggestion box for your teen area and put forms next to it. Bring teens’ attention to it whenever you have an opportunity, and encourage them to add their suggestions for the area (and the library).

Even small improvements to the area can make a large difference to teens who use it. Ask teens who use your library regularly what types of changes they’d like to see to the teen area. Teens in Essex Libraries have suggested that books in the YA section be divided by genre. Depending on the size of your YA collection, dividing the books may not take much staff time, but it can make a huge difference to readers.

Have passive programmes available in or near the teen area in your library.

Passive Programmes for Teens

Passive programmes are activities for teens that will help invigorate the library but put few demands on staff or budgets. While I don’t recommend comprising your entire offer of passive programmes, they can certainly help make the library more active, engaging, and teen-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started:

+Keep board games behind the library’s counter. Teens can borrow these when they come into the library and return them when they leave. If you lack the funds for board games, you can make basic packs of cards available (again, behind the counter, to minimise the chance of cards getting lost), and display information about card games and tricks. If you lack a card budget, you can always make pens and paper available and display instructions for paper-based or homemade games (please comment or email yalibraryuk@gmail.com for details of these kinds of games). You can also encourage teens to bring their own games from home to play in the library, and provide a space for them to do so.

+Post a poster advertising a writing or drawing competition, and offer a prize. Teens can submit their work to a reference desk or counter. Post winners (and winning drawings or pieces of writing) in the teen area! (Unless you are offering library vouchers or ARCs as prizes, you will probably need a small budget to purchase a small prize.) I’ve even heard of librarians simply putting jars of candy on (staffed) desks, and having teens guess the amount of candy in the jar. The teen with the closest guess wins a small prize.

+Provide a cork board (usually £4-14) and review cards for an Add a Review board. The Add a Review board is quite similar to the displays mentioned above, except that any teen can submit a review to be posted on the board. This is a great way for teens to be acknowledged in the space. It also promotes literacy.

+Start a review, writing, or library blog to which teens can submit reviews, writing, or art.

+Start a Facebook page for teen library services in your authority. It will take some time to develop a following, but a virtual presence still helps promote library services to young people.

Setting Clear Goals

Creating a plan for teen library provision does not require a formal budget. Sit down with other staff and establish goals: how many teens do you intend to get into the building? What would it require to do achieve this goal? Do you need to raise or apply for money in order to implement aspects of the plan? What are staff fears and how can they be allayed in a manner respectful to both staff and teens? (There will be a post addressing the latter question tomorrow, and one about writing a detailed teen plan on Friday.)

Please note that the above is not an advocation for reducing staff or budgets. It is intended to help librarians working in less than ideal conditions. Hopefully these suggestions will assist you in creating a foundation on which a more robust teen programme can be built.

Look for Part 2 of the One a Shoestring series next week! If you have any passive programmes or staff/budget-free projects that you’ve done, please comment or contact me!

The Portable Library: Teen Services to Take Away

11 Feb

We know that getting teenagers into the library, getting them readings, increases their quality of life. Now the question is, how do we get teenagers into the library? Or, more importantly, how do we get teenagers who don’t currently use the library to read for pleasure?

One of the many answers: we meet them where they are.

I have only recently realised the importance of delivering library services outside of our hallowed public building. This past week I visited a local youth centre and spoke to teens who use it regularly. The youth centre is beautifully equipped with a media center, a music production lab, art spaces, a garage for working on cars and bikes, a careers advice office, a volunteer outreach programme, gym and sport equipment, a cafe, and caring adults.

The one thing it was missing, however, was reading material. There was nothing to read: no books, no graphic novels, no manga. There weren’t even magazines.

It was clear that young people in the local area felt safe and comfortable in the youth centre, and enjoyed being able to access its excellent facilities. Why, I began to wonder, would they consider regularly going to the library when they already had a local space outfitted with interesting equipment, and where they were able to spend time with friends?

Thus, the idea of bringing library service to the youth centre, rather than making the youth leave their safe space and come to the library.

Portable or pop-up libraries are by no means a new concept. Book exchanges and library outreach programmes – to youth centres, sports clubs, juvenile detention facilities, workplaces and schools – have been going on for decades. However, with a couple of exceptions, few of the portable library projects target teens.

When I asked teens at the local youth whether they’d like to have reading material (or a portable library) available, the group got quiet. After a few moments, they began to nod, and then begin to give tentative comments and suggestions. In truth, they had never considered that the library could meet them where they were. For most of them, the library was a last resort, when the Internet, parents, friends, and at-home reference books failed them. It had never occurred to them that the library could not only maintain a presence in a space they already used, but might also supply reading materials they were interested in (such as magazines and hand-selected books and manga).

The value of this type of outreach is two-fold: first, it gets teenagers reading for pleasure. Second, it familiarises them with the library and puts a human face on library services. For the time being, they may not be interested in visiting the library. After some time, as they become familiar with members of library staff who visit the centre and work with us to access material they like, they may eventually begin to feel curious about the library, and comfortable visiting and exploring the other types of materials offered.

This type of partnership can be brokered not just with youth centres but with any place teenagers congregate, such as schools or clubs. The most important thing is to first establish contact and broker a respectful partnership with an adult in that organisation. Find out what the needs of that particular teen community are, both by exploring the currently available resources and by speaking to the teens there. For example, a secondary school that has a library may not be in need of additional reading materials, but might perhaps be interested in partnering to offer a lunchtime reading club. A sports club might appreciate a frequently changed selection of athletes’ biographies and sport magazines. Partnerships could be brokered with Jobcentres to allow teens out of school and looking for work to access collections about careers, further education, and varied material for pleasure reading.

Of course, librarian participation and visibility is also important. Introducing yourself to teens, asking their opinion and gauging their needs can put a friendly, human face on the local library service.

Getting teenagers reading is paramount. Once they are reading, and feel comfortable with the idea of library services, they are far more likely to venture into the building. Reading and learning start with small, simple steps. Meeting teenagers where they are and putting reading materials in their hands can make all the difference.

“Working in Partnership: libraries and youth agencies”: A New Post on Teen Librarian

3 Feb

Emma Sherriff authored a guest blog post about libraries working in partnership with other organisations. The post was featured on Teen Librarian. Here’s an excerpt:

Librarians can learn a huge amount from observing the worker’s methods of talking to young people and addressing issues. The service has provided informal training opportunities which enable you to deliver at a level that suits the young person and that the young person can relate to.

Youth agencies shouldn’t be scared to give a librarian access to the young people at risk in their community. As long as the librarian is prepared, which means having a full understanding of what the young people are experiencing. An opportunity to represent the library at community events is also useful, as you can be considered to be giving them something, even if it is just your time.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s article (and to learn more about how her library teamed up with the Youth Offending Prevention Service)!

POP Culture Round-Up Announced! (Plus: Films, Scares and Glee)

10 Nov

The POP Culture Round-Up is a new feature created in response to YOUR demands for more posts about teen pop culture!

At the YALSA conference I attended last weekend, one librarian suggested that those who want to keep up with teen pop culture simply need to have teen magazines routed past their desk before being released to the public. For those whose libraries don’t yet subscribe to teen magazines, check out the magazines’ online presence. for example, Sugar magazine runs Sugar Scape, a website brimming with celebrity gossip and fashion advice. They even have a Sugar teen book club (the current Hot Read is, of course, Pretty Little Liars). In fact, right now Sugar is looking for new teen book reviewers!

Onward, to the first POP Culture Round-Up!

Don’t forget that I Am Number Four (a film based on a book of the same name) is coming to theaters in February! Within the next couple of weeks I’ll post some teen event ideas based on I Am Number Four . In the meantime, enjoy the film trailer:

Teen Librarian has launched 12 Months of Halloween (including the excellent Gothic Archies video featured below). Read the 12 Months of Halloween feature, an interview with horror/urban fantasy author Rachel Vincent.

Lee Wind (“I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?”) reports on Kurt from Glee’s first gay kiss and the potential to have multiple gay characters on the show.

Last but not least, in the (highly unlikely) case that you missed it, the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released on 19 November, and part 2 will be released in July 2011. More Harry Potter-themed program/event ideas coming soon, because yes, many teens still love Harry Potter.

Engaging Older Teens and Young Adults: A Success Story

8 Nov

Penny Johnson, Teen Specialist at Baraboo Public Library in Wisconsin, recently posted this inspiring message on the ya-yaac mailing list about her first ever meeting with a Teen and Young Adult Advisory Board of young people ages 17-25. I’m re-posting it here, with Penny’s permission. Thanks, Penny!

I wanted to share with all of you the results of my first advisory board meeting for 17-25 year olds. There were seven in attendance, and they were very excited about the prospect of having library events specifically for their age group.

I can barely find time to organize, publicize, and run regular teen programs. I had no idea how I was going to squeeze programs for older teens/twenty somethings into my schedule. But I feel we came up with a few solutions.

–We are now beginning my regular TAB [Teen Advisory Board] meeting a half hour earlier (6-7 PM), which gives us time to have TAB Plus (or TAB Sr. or YAAB, or whatever we are going to call it) on the same evening (7-8 PM)

–The older teens have organized a manga/anime group which meets twice a month, and a general book discussion group which meets once a month. They are doing all of the publicity and program prep, so it doesn’t take any of my time.

–They found a solution for something that has plagued me for years now. Our monthly teen game night is extremely popular. We regularly have 30-35 teens in attendance, and I am the only adult in the room. Yeah, it’s a big challenge for me. The older teens have become increasingly annoyed with the middle schoolers [ages 10-14], but because my hands are full I can do little to change the situation. So here is the new plan. The older teens and twenty somethings will help me run the game night. They will monitor each console, bake and serve the pizzas, keep the garbage under control, etc. In exchange, we will start the event a half hour earlier, end it an hour earlier, then give my OTYA assistants an hour of game time without the younger teens around.

I am discovering I can indeed find time to provide programming for older teens and twenty somethings. And they are so appreciative!