YALSA ELECTION: AN INTERVIEW WITH YALSA 2018 PRINTZ AWARD CANDIDATE TRACI GLASS

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 15 through April 22, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2016 YALSA Governance and 2018 Selection Committee candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2018 Printz Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of nine members including a chair. Four members and the chair are appointed and the remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Printz Award committee’s primary job is to select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book. A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot and YALSA Election FAQs here.

Today we have an interview with Traci Glass.

Name and current position
Traci Glass, Teen Services Librarian II, Eugene Public Library, Eugene, Oregon

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
At the Eugene Public Library, I am the sole Teen Librarian/Coordinator in our 3-branch system; therefore, I am responsible for all things teen that go on in our libraries. I am the materials selector and yearly budget manager for the teen library literature collections at our three branches which includes selecting, evaluating and purchasing teen fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, comics, manga, magazines and audiobooks. I am also the selector for the Oregon library consortium’s collection of eBooks for teens. I coordinate and oversee reference and readers’ advisory services for teens which includes developing, publishing and updating approximately 50 original booklists that include, but are not limited to, grade and age lists, genre lists, and award winners, as well as the overseeing of the teen library book review blog – a blog set up to showcase book reviews from Eugene’s teens. In addition to selecting and purchasing materials for our teen collections, I also routinely have to evaluate our collections due to the small spaces they occupy. Weeding and item removals are definitely my least favorite activities! Just because something isn’t “popular” or routinely checked out doesn’t mean it’s not important. I have to balance what I know or research of the book with space designations and circulation records to make sure that I offer my teens a well-balanced collection that includes everything from the flavor of the month to books that will really mean something to them when they need it. I run a monthly Teen Book Group where we meet to discuss the book of the month that I’ve chosen based on teen requests, inclusion on YALSA lists or hidden gems that I’ve enjoyed. I blog for YALSA’s teen book blog, The Hub, where recent posts of mine have examined suicide in recent teen literature and new and upcoming teen realistic fiction that I’ve enjoyed. I also review teen literature for School Library Journal on a monthly basis. I’m lucky enough to be a part of a pretty small Youth Services workgroup made up of very talented and dedicated staff. I’ve learned to be a better team member both through my collaborations with my work group as well as through my work on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee. I’ve loved the debates, the disagreements, as well as those few times when everyone agrees – ha! It’s made me a better communicator; I feel more confident speaking up, and the supportive environment I’ve experienced in both teams has made me a better evaluator.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact the lives of teens?
I have always spoken of the transformative power of books in a teen’s life to anybody who will listen! As someone who, through my mom’s guidance, found a book that spoke to me as a teen and helped me to identify issues that I was dealing with, I know that books can help a teen see the light through many dark situations. And, as a teen librarian, I have witnessed this many times. I remember one specific time when I was hosting my Teen Book Group at the library; we happened to be reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I choose the books many months in advance, but it just so happened that the month we were meeting to discuss this title, there had been a wave of suicides at local high schools where some of my book group members attended. We had quite a discussion that day; many of them had never had any personal experience with suicide, and the reading of this book seemed to allow a cathartic release of emotions that we discussed in a safe space together. Also, when my teens asked me if we could have a life celebration of author NedVizzini’s life after his suicide – we met, read It’s Kind of a Funny Story, watched the movie adaptation, and they talked about their feelings about his depression and death. Books give a voice to teens that feel voiceless. Books provide teens a way to see and identify tough things that are going on in their lives through the voice of the main character. But, books can also provide an escape to teens that want to not think about something for a while – and, all of those things are okay. All of those are superpowers that books hold that make it easier for teens to not only live through their lives, but to excel and move past hard parts along the way.

What are some ways award-winning titles can provide teens with a more expanded view of literacy?
A few years ago, I chose to use 2011 Printz Honor recipient, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King as a book group title. It’s always been a running joke in our group that whenever a book is heavily praised, my book groupers don’t seem to care for it. But, after we read that book – well, let’s just say I’ve never had a discussion group like that one again. They were blown away by the different writing style, the different narrators (the pagoda was a favorite), and the story itself – it was one of those book groups where I felt like we could talk forever. And, they admitted they were thinking it would be another book that they said adults thought teens would like, but wasn’t really that good. After that meeting, I’ve been adding more and more Printz titles to our discussion groups, and regardless of whether they like the book or not, these books just encourage a deeper and more meaningful conversation. I believe that when you expose teens to these wonderful award winning titles – a lot of which aren’t the most popular book in the collection – they can see that books can be so much more than they ever imagined. Books can tell stories of characters that feel real, characters that are going through the same things my teens are going through, provide food for thought regarding our world, our earth, other humans and those relationships that they might not have thought of before. It also shows them that by establishing and continuing to support awards for teen literature that it is an important part of the literary landscape – that literature for teens is something to be celebrated and highlighted.

Describe a time when you’ve advocated for books to be more influential in connected-learning spaces.
Connected learning and its integration into my library is something I’m very passionate about. How exciting is something that gets teens interested in a concept that could lead to their career pathway or major in college or just general new interest that sustains them through their adult life? Our library collections have always been our strong suit, but working with teens one on one is my passion, and I integrate Connected Learning concepts into every program I plan to make sure that I’m not only providing teens with something fun, but something that could spark their curiosity in something that might change their future. We are just beginning to build our maker space here at EPL which will definitely enrich our ability to provide a connected learning environment for teens, and I know that my teen literature collections will always be a part of that since I’ve been incorporating them into all of my teen programming for years. We see the highest amount of teen program attendance during the summer – of course! They have nothing to do, and I like to think I provide programming that makes them just want to spend all their free time at the library. From programs like having a local author come in to talk about writing fanfic and turning that into a career with displays and giveaway copies of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl to our intern and volunteering program where teens shadow me as a librarian and I show them all the reference materials that drew me into becoming a teen librarian to our crafting programs where our presenters are sharing their passion of crafting with teens, and I’m providing books from our teen collection for check out or giveaway to give them more ideas about crafting they might want to do for a career or hobby – I feel like I have consistently integrated books, both nonfiction and fiction, into my programming. I feel that when you work with teens in a library, you are always providing them with the knowledge and exposure to ideas that will lead them forward in their future; in other words, connected learning is something that teen librarians have been doing since forever! By pairing my programs with books, I make the idea more concrete and something that they can continue to pursue through literature.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
I hope that YALSA members choose me to be a member of the Printz committee because I really love working for and with teens. Anything I can do to enhance a teen’s view of literature or their life is something that I want to be a part of! The Printz committee, I believe, confirms and highlights the importance of teen literature and can bring a light and a voice to all teens – regardless of their ethnicity, gender identification, socioeconomic status and more – through the books that are chosen. I have been a member of YALSA for 10 years now, but I was always too nervous and afraid to get involved. But, one day I just decided to do it, so I applied to blog for The Hub, and I applied for a position on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee. The work I’ve done for both groups has been some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my professional career. Knowing that you could make a difference in a teen’s life by recommending or standing up for a powerful book is something that makes me so excited to be a part of all of this. I love the power of books, I believe they can change a life if they can just be put in the hands of the teen that needs them. By spotlighting the multitude of books YALSA does through its selection and award committees, it makes that task all the easier for all the people who work with teens and teens are the ultimate winners!

Talk about a time when someone shared with you how a book written for teens influenced them.
I have become friends with one of my teens, Cady, after she shadowed me for a few months as a part of our teen internship program here at the library. From there we have talked about life, books, interests, how I became a librarian and so much more. She usually comes in on Saturdays to chat and through those times, we started talking about feminism and riot grrrl and literature after she learned that my minor in college was Women’s Studies. She wanted “feminist” teen literature to be able to share with the feminist club at her high school (I know! A feminist club at a high school – I wish I had one of those when I was her age!), but after exhausting all the literature I shared with her from my college days, we ruminated on the fact that none of it was literature written specifically for teens. Then, I started seeing the advance press for A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future and how it was openly marketed as feminist teen lit. I immediately got a copy into Cady’s hands and we read it simultaneously. Our faces upon seeing each other after finishing it must have been something to behold for other library patrons! Cady told me that after reading that book, she felt so proud to say she was a feminist – that it wasn’t a bad word or something to be embarrassed about admitting. Just the fact that it was a book for teens where the main character actively identified as a feminist and focused on just how much one teen girl can do to save a potential future world showed Cady that she had the right to proclaim and fight for what was important to her. The fact it had been written for teens seemed to legitimize the concept to her. Teen literature truly has the power to not only introduce new ideas, but also to legitimize already known concepts to teens. How wonderful and powerful!

Published by

Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.