For the Love of Lists

It seems to me that it is in the nature of librarians to be interested in lists. Lists are a way of cataloging, qualifying, and creating memorable criteria- information that can be retrieved later- about a topic. This is similar to the way we approach our collections. What better way to organize and remember all of the books we want to share? Or apps? Or other resources? See, I’m making a list already.

In our professional organizations we devote whole calendar years, and sometimes longer, to the creation of lists. YALSA currently has lists recommending books, audiobooks, films, graphic novels and more. The lists and more information about them can be found at this easy to remember URL: www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists

These lists are intended to be resources for librarians and young adults alike (and will certainly be of use to the many adults who also enjoy YA books). They cover a wide range of formats and topics and many use alliteration in their titles so you will remember them time and again. Each list is formatted like an annotated bibliography. It has all the publication information so you can track down the material and add it to your collection, and a brief description that highlights why the work was chosen. The librarians on YALSA’s selection list committees put a lot of work and love into creating what they believe are the best possible lists for each of these categories.

Beyond the realm of YALSA, there are lists everywhere. End of year best lists are made by publications in print and online alike, and by just about any reader with a blog. Bestseller lists from sources as diverse as the New York Times to Amazon.com Blog lists of all stripes. There is a blog that I love called Reading Rants! , where middle school librarian Jennifer Hubert creates reader’s advisory lists with names like, “Historical Fiction for Hipsters” and “The Coolest Classics You Never Even Heard Of.” The site is geared towards teens with its catchy irreverent blurbs, but I think any teen librarian wearing their booktalk hat and a sense of humor will get a lot out of these lists. And it’s a great set of lists to point out to your teens.

In addition to reading and participating in lists, many of us create our own lists. We may do this by using a book focused social media site like, GoodReads, Shelfari or LibraryThing. I like GoodReads (you can visit me there if you like). Though the initial decision was probably arbitrary, I do use it, and I really like seeing what my friends are reading, especially if they post reviews. You can rank books from one to five stars as well, but my qualitative over quantitative preferences mean that I probably don’t notice how many stars people give something.

These sites allow readers to save, review and tag the books they have read, want to read, or even don’t want to read. On GoodReads each tag you make links to a list of books that have the same tag and these become your “Read-Alouds” or “Teen” or “Strange” shelf. You can create a tag for any kind of list you like, and you can browse the lists that other users have created. In addition to the lists you create by tagging, you can also browse and create listopia lists where others can vote on their favorites in a specific category.

Or we may make lists more specific to our own libraries or our own personal tastes. A personally crafted reader’s advisory list in the form of a bookmark is a pretty great thing to have on hand, for teens or colleagues. The last one I made was during last year’s job search, listing favorite fantasy books for Harry Potter fans. I printed them up on neon paper and handed them out to everyone I interviewed or networked with, sort of like a business card in reader’s advisory list form. It occurs to me it’s time to make a new one, since I am job hunting again. I am always making lists in my head. My first YALSA blog post was an example. These more personal reader’s advisory lists can be shared or accessed at the moment when you are trying to connect the right kid with the right book- to provide new material for the genre obsessed, to promote some aspect of your collection, to reach out to a particular group in your community. For every reason, there’s a list be it published in print, on the Internet, or in the ether.

While we’re on the subject of lists, here is your opportunity to join in compiling a very exciting list: The Top 100 Books of All Time for Teens. School Library Journal blogger and school librarian, Diane Chen, is compiling the votes of the masses to determine the top 100 books for teens. Anything goes- older books, nonfiction, picture books. All you need to do is submit your top 10 votes (click the link for specific instructions).

The poll is going on until Feb 14, Valentine’s Day, or as some are calling it Book Lovers Day. That means you have nine days from today to create your own top ten list. I will be really interested to see what this poll looks like when it is completed. I’m having a hard time coming up with my top ten. So far, and alliteratively, Post Secret and Paper Towns come to mind.

What’s on your list?

(And that clever conversation starter could include any of the above: What’s your favorite YALSA list? What other lists do you love? How do you use lists in your library? Which social book network do you use and why? OR what’s your top ten? But don’t forget to submit it first!)

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