We’re on the way back to Boston… (again, not really – I have been home for a week now – but this post covers the return journey.)
This leg of the trip was less structured than the beginning. We’re staying with family (my brother in Ohio) and friends (my friend Katie in Kansas) and my wonderful second family in Rochester, the parents of Maggie Levine, one of the children’s librarians at the main branch of the Boston Public Library.
I also received a surprise phone call from my mom telling me that, while on vacation, she read all my posts. They inspired her to visit the Pitkin County Library in Aspen, Colorado to check out their collection. More about them later in the post.
On the way back home, we visited seven libraries: one in Oklahoma, two in Kansas, one in Missouri, one in Indiana, one in Pennsylvania and one in New York State. Despite what I had seen on the first two legs of my trip, I was unsure of how the Midwest would approach teens and collection development of LGBT YA novels.
What I found was surprisingly similar to what I had observed elsewhere. Most of the libraries had great teen areas and lots of LGBT fiction. Only one library had absolutely nothing, and the final library had a few fiction titles and no nonfiction. I was most impressed with the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. The library is currently being rebuilt, so the available collection is being housed in an old Border’s bookstore. Considering the current space and how amazing it is, I am so excited for what the finished building will eventually look like. Of all the libraries I saw on the trip, the temporary space for the Lawrence Public Library was in the top few, and it isn’t even the permanent space!
They have ten or so computers dedicated specifically for teen use, iPads, video games, a teen librarian and three part-time assistants. The assistant I met, Molly Wetta, told me that many of the teen patrons enjoy reading and talking about LGBT stories and that she often recommends them to kids, regardless of whether or not they identify as LGBT. Of all the libraries I have visited, they have the largest collection of LGBT nonfiction books for teens, with ten titles on the shelf (and this didn’t include the titles in the regular nonfiction section). This was also the only library where I saw “safe space” stickers up on the walls, indicating that the library was a safe space for LGBT teens. They also had the largest fiction LGBT YA section I have seen with over 32 titles on the shelf. So to Lawrence I offer my heartfelt congratulations!
I did not visit the Pitkin County Library in Aspen, Colorado, but from what my mother told me, they have a great teen section, as well. It is completely separate from the children’s room, in fact it is on a separate floor. They have a dedicated teen librarian and the space is reserved for teens only. My mother had noticed the list of titles I searched for in the comments of a previous post of mine, and she asked the librarian if they had those titles – they had every single one of them. Additionally, they created a display in the teen room that included two nonfiction titles that dealt with queer issues. So though I did not get to visit this library for myself, I’m happy to know that libraries in other parts of the US are doing a great job serving teens.
So what did I learn? The main thing I learned from this experience is that public library services for teens are alive and thriving across the United States. To personally witness that the majority of libraries I visited providing wonderful teen spaces is incredibly exciting and very promising for the future of library services for teens. Although some libraries still have some work to do in collection development for LGBT resources for teens, they are doing a far better job than I had anticipated. If you want to learn more you can watch my interview here and on the YALS website, which should be available soon.