Tag Archives: teen library services

Links Round-Up: On Work Experience, Teen Involvement, and a PRIZE DRAW

9 Feb

When YA Library UK reaches 100 email followers to this site (and, hopefully, 400 Twitter followers!) there will be a prize draw for followers in the UK! So far my ideas are as follow: 1) YALSA’s Cool Teen Programs for Under $100 (plenty of stuff in here that still applies in translation) or 2) a bundle of new YA releases! Or, 3) I could pick several winners for several new YA releases. There’s also 4) Something else (activity packs? Promotional materials?). What do you think? What would you most like to win? Comment, tweet, et cetera. (There are currently 98 email followers, so it’s very close!)

Now back to your regularly scheduled links round-up:

New research suggests work experience reduces the drop-out rate, leads to greater employability of young people.

How to put ‘the “Teen” in Your Teen Space’, a post about getting teens involved and excited about your library’s activities.

In response to The Hunger Games‘ pending release, Springfield-Greene County Library has created Hunger Games website, and a roster of a week’s worth of library activities for teens.

Pinterest is the “rising star of social media”. It’s easy to use, highly visual (like Tumblr!) and worth getting your library involved with while it’s hot.

A new book website called Small Demons finds and lists all the things mentioned in your favourite books: places, people, other books, movies, music, et cetera. The site is still in its nascent stages and doesn’t have many books added yet, but in time it could serve as a great help in planning programmes and displays (for example, I can imagine around a popular book of “books and/or music and/or films enjoyed by the characters”).

This is from 2011 but it’s new to me (and thus maybe to you): Sherman Alexie on why the greatest books for young people are “written in blood”. Alexie writes, “I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as ten have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I’ve ever read.”


The Future of YA Library UK: A Conversation

25 Jan

I used to work at a public library. I don’t anymore. In fact, right now I don’t work in any library at all.*

Last year, the local council cut my (former) library’s budget exponentially. The library was allowed to cut any aspect of its services except one: we couldn’t close any branches. It was decided that meant cutting all of our enquiry desk staff and reallocating them to outreach positions (at a pay cut for those who had been librarians). After minimal training, library assistants were reallocated to the few remaining reference desks.

The local council knew branch closures are such a hot-button issue. They were likely aware that both staff and the public would put up a fight if they closed a branch. So instead, they went for something without a public face: cutting staff essential to providing a quality service.

The cuts were announced around the same time that certain necessary government services went online. The government failed to provide training programmes for those with low or no computer literacy skills, so local council employees referred the baffled and upset to the library with the vague words, “they might be able to help you.” New patrons flocked to the library. Demand increased while staff numbers began to dwindle. It was disheartening and put a tremendous strain on all of us. I had no idea what to do about it, or whether I could do anything at all. In the end I left.

YA Library UK will continue to run, some changes need to be made. This site was created for people who had the enthusiasm to provide teen services in their library, but who faced barriers like inexperience, limited budgets, and staff resistance. People who needed a demonstrable outcome to get real support for teen services, but didn’t have a clue where to start, or any guide to teach them. People who were doing the YA ordering and trying to figure out how to get the books young people actually wanted to read.

In many cases these concerns have become subordinate to cuts and closures. Without a library, a staff, or a budget, how can we provide a service to anyone, let alone teenagers?

I want to hear from you: what are the main challenges you’re facing in your library? Closures? Budget cuts? Staff cuts? If you’re still running a teen library service, what are your challenges there? Budget? Local (dis)interest? Colleagues who laothe teens? In some libraries, I know that many of these issues intersect.

In response to your feedback, I will formulate new directions for YA Library UK that respond more effectively to the current climate in public and school libraries. So please comment below (anonymous commenting is on!), tweet or email me and let me know about the challenges you’re facing.

*If you’re wondering what I’m up to these days, you can visit the updated about page.

Who’s Reading YA Literature? (Plus Some Thoughts On Collection Development)

20 Jan

A little note: I often use the term “young adult” interchangeably with “teen,” but in this post I’m using “young adult” to refer to those ages 20-25 (or 20-28 or something – any opinions of who still constitutes a “young” adult?).

Has anyone working in a public library noticed the trend of 20-30-somethings, borrowing copies of the latest paranormal romance from the teen zone, borrowing a dystopian YA with nary an excuse (“it’s for… my little brother”)? It looks like Young Adult fiction is now read by at least some… young adults. The most famous online are probably Forever Young Adult – “for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A.”

Teens are reading it too. They’re the target demographic, and they still appear to account for the majority of YA lending. Traditionally teen books have functioned as a bridge for, well, teenagers. Now these books are aimed, or at least read, by both teenagers and young adults.

Perhaps the slight demographic shift has to do with expectations of the place of YA literature. For decades YA lit has been considered a functional bridge between children’s and adult books, a set of books whose level and reading matter was mainly aimed at tweens and young teens to ease them into reading adult books. Ostensibly at some of these books were intended to function as moral primers for the adolescent and adult worlds.

In the last decade the YA market has exploded, and the content – and indeed, audience of the books – has changed. There are now a number of YA titles. The tween books are still there. Moral instruction is still present, but has dropped of the pages of many books in favour of but are books with complex or ambiguous morality. There are more serious topics, and more books aimed primarily at older readers. There are highly controversial books, like Melvin Burgess’s Doing It.

As a result, the demographics are different. Teens are reading these books, but so is an older audience drawn in my the types of stories, plotting, characters, and probably also the serialisation, which urges readers to read them all. Moreover, adaptations of YA books to into films and television has reached an adult audience, too. The explosion of paranormal romance has also changed demographics: some adult Twilight readers move on to YA books of a similar ilk.

Is this a problem? Not necessarily, although it does present library with some challenges. Specifically: how does the presence of this audience inform the way that we buy for our YA collection?

At the library I worked at, we bought based on our understanding of our local demographic. This information came primarily from two sources: 1) direct conversation with patrons and 2) number of loans for a book or author. (There are also other factors, such as how infamous a book has become through media promotion or recent cinematic adaptation; and speculation based on gaps in the collection and our knowledge of the local community.)

I don’t know what percentage of YA loans are actually due to 20+ borrowing (1%? 5%? 20%?). I have noticed that these people don’t hang around in the teen area of the library – they nip in, grab their books, and nip back out again (similar to the way that adults borrowing children’s books behave!). What I do know is that it’s easy to look at borrowing stats and draw conclusions without considering that readers of YA literature and teen users may have divergent interests.

For example, nonfiction is often denied space in teen areas, and many public teen library spaces lack exam books (which would be most useful as “reference only” copies, especially during exam time!). Part of the problem in that nonfiction being offered by book suppliers often seems poorly matched to teen interest: we are offered scads of skinny hardback educational books on the same four topics, but a dearth of up-to-the-minute careers advice, DIY/crafting/how-to books, biographies, et cetera. Lending information is an excellent guideline, and a timesaver, but it’s easy to overlook problems (like whether parts of the collection not lending are up to spec) or demographic nuances.

I don’t think we should stop purchasing YA fiction because of its upswing in popularity and wider demographic. After all, many young teens continue to read some children’s literature alongside YA and adult books. It makes some sense that older teens and young adults might continue the YA habit even as they begin reading more adult literature as well. (Of course, there are also adults who read YA for other reasons – reasons I’ve heard cited include preference of characterisation, plotting, wide variety of certain sub-genres like dystopian literature.) It is important, however, to consider who is doing the reading – and how we choose to target different groups with our collection development and events.

One last word about older teens and young adults: It’s often assumed that young adults have access to books through their university libraries, but this is only true for the third of the population that attends uni. Working young people, NEETs, and young adults who have not gone on to university still have a use for the library’s services.

Who is using your teen/YA collection? Do you think the books have changed, and if so, how? For any YA authors in the audience, what demographics do you imagine writing for? When you meet them, what ages are your fans?

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!