Tales from the Land of Teeny Boppers

I’d imagine that for most librarians, the thought of several thousand screaming middle schoolers is more a nightmare than a dream come true. But for pop idols Jesse McCartney and Jordin Sparks, each hysterical 12 year-old is the bread and butter of their professional life. Such is the land of teeny boppers, a cultural and marketing phenomenon of pop music, fashion, and celebrity aimed at adolescent girls.

As teenybopperism doesn’t necessarily hit where its aimed, I was obsessed with the New Kids on the Block when I was a kid (Joey was my favorite, of course). I collected shirts, buttons, posters, pillowcases, trading cards–you name it. My friends and I practiced the moves to “Step by Step” in algebra. So when I had the chance to nab free tickets to Jesse McCartney and Jordin Sparks’ Pittsburgh tour stop, I seized the opportunity.

Jesse McCartney is a product of the “boy band” explosion of the late 90s, debuting with the group Dream Street in 1999. The 15 year-old Jesse launched a teen-pop solo career in 2002, releasing the platinum album Beautiful Soul in 2004. After a lackluster follow-up in 2006 (Right Where You Want Me), Jesse McCartney became reinvented as a electro-pop/R&B hybrid act and just recently had a #1 single with the song “Leavin’.”

Before winning American Idol‘s sixth season in 2007, Jordin Sparks gained notoriety in her home state of Arizona as a talent show contestant and winner of a plus-sized model contest (to this day, lots of Jordin’s communications with fans are about maintaining a healthy self-image). After a tour-de-force win in which Jordin never finished below the top three in voting, she signed to Jive Records and put out a successful self-titled album featuring such singles as “Tattoo,” “One Step at a Time,” and the immensely popular “No Air,” a duet with R&B superstar Chris Brown:

As my friend and I experienced the show, full of impressive choreographed dancing and legions of hyperfans screaming their lungs out over the two hours that the show commenced, I wondered how libraries can help incorporate teeny bopper fandom into their services and collections.

In addition to the obvious array of music (which you can learn about through its flagship radio station Radio Disney), magazines are still a major vehicle within which teenyboppers get the scoop on their favorite stars. Check out J-14, M Magazine, Right On!, and Black Beat. If you’re struggling to provide a successful discussion group for teens, try a magazine discussion group and pore over the celebrity news of that month.

You can even load up your shelves by cross-referencing the latest stars against the biographies available from your book vender of choice or stocking such fiction as Grace Dent’s LBD (Les Bambinos Dangereuses) series.

Your library can give teeny boppers a forum to share not just gossip but their excitement about the stars and songs that shape their lives. This can be a great way to involve teens in your library services as they transition out of the children’s department… and who knows? Maybe the next time you visit their schools, you’ll be the one greeted with hordes of screaming fans!

~Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen

Published by

Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.

3 thoughts on “Tales from the Land of Teeny Boppers”

  1. Good post! When I do school or library visits, I love doing them with a real model who can tell her stories as I read excerpts from the Violet books. I show them a photo shoot scene, then she tells a real photo shoot story. It ups the glam factor and fans their fandom a bit–fun for everyone. Having this real-life experience to tie into fiction can be helpful and enlightening in any genre!

  2. Melissa, that is SO COOL! Thanks for the comment! For those of you who don’t know what the Violet books are (as I didn’t until I looked it up), it’s a “fun, fashion-filled, fast-paced read!” written by Melissa Walker. The main character, Violet, is an international model who’s trying to balance the high-stress modeling life with the typical demands of the teen years.

  3. I love incorporating arts and crafts into book discussion groups with kids, tweens and teens, whether it be music from or related to the book, getting them to all sing a popular song or theme song, creating postcards or posters or short stories about the places and people in the book, and, if we’re discussing historical fiction/classics, comparing their lives to those of the characters – our ‘then and now’ segment!

    I recently reviewed a title that tweens (especially Disney fans) will like: Princess of Gossip by Julia deVillers and Sabrina Bryan. It’s clean, it’s fun, and it’s timely – lots of mentions of current TV, film, and pop stars that are in that just-a-tad-older-than-the-fans category.

Comments are closed.