Why We Love to Listen: YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults

Previously, you learned about what it takes to serve on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. Here, some of the current Amazing Audiobooks committee members explain why they love to listen.

Sarah Hashimoto is serving on her first year as a committee member:

I remember listening to The Hunger Games when it first came out on audio in 2008. I was new to audios at the time and was unprepared for how much of an impact they can make. I was listening and gardening when I came to the scene just after Rue has died, when Katniss receives the bread from Rue’s people. It’s such a poignant scene, but the audio version really brought it to life for me. I ended up weeping into my garden gloves, creating a scene of my own!

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A Look at YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee

Each year after the Midwinter conference, YALSA releases a list of 25-30 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. The list is the result of hundreds of hours of listening, discussion and debate by the nine-member Amazing Audiobooks committee. The committee also names the top 10 best titles of the year. Committee members generally serve two year terms. We are librarians, professors, and retirees. We work for public libraries, universities, schools, and community colleges. In addition to the nine committee members, we have one extraordinarily hard-working administrative assistant who does not cast votes, but does receive titles and can listen as much as she chooses.

In February, the committee begins gathering possible titles for the next year’s list. We get audiobooks in a number of different ways. First, we make suggestions. Any audiobook published in the last two years with relevance for teens is eligible for the list, so we seek out recent titles. We love to get suggestions from other librarians! If you’d like to nominate a title for Amazing Audiobooks, the form is here. We also receive boxes (and boxes and boxes) of submissions directly from publishers.

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District Days 101: Planning an Event with a Politician

By: Annie Schutte is Director of Libraries and Center for Inquiry at the Maret School in Washington, DC.

Libraries are doing amazing work in our communities, so don’t you want your elected officials to know about it? Your senators and representatives are your direct link to federal policies that determine library funding, and they’re more likely to support programs when they have first-hand knowledge of how they work for their (and your) constituents. The best way to educate your elected officials is to invite them to an event at your library (see: District Days 101: How to Get an Elected Official to Your Library).

Follow these eight easy steps, and you should be well on your way to hosting a successful event for your elected official, your patrons, and your library.

1. Start with a pre-existing event. You don’t need to create something special for your elected official. Pick an event you’re already doing that would give you an opportunity to show off a library program or educate your Congressperson about the type of work your library is doing. An example would be asking a Congressperson to participate in the culminating summer reading event at your library.

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District Days 101: How to Get an Elected Official to Your Library

By: Annie Schutte is Director of Libraries and Center for Inquiry at the Maret School in Washington, DC.

It’s August in Washington, DC–four glorious weeks when the nation’s capitol empties out as congressional staffers sneak off for vacation and their bosses head back home to shake hands, kiss babies, and maybe even visit your library. But how do you get an elected to agree to come to an event at your library? Just follow these five easy steps:

1. Remember that elected officials work for you. Members of Congress may spend a lot of time off in Washington, but they’re there to represent you and your library patrons. They get long stretches of time away from DC so that they can connect with their constituents back home. One of the best ways for them to do that is to attend local events, but they’re probably not going to come to yours unless you extend an invitation. So what are you waiting for? Find out who your elected officials are and how to contact their local offices here: http://cqrcengage.com/ala/

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ALA Annual 2014: Great Graphic Novels For Teens


Among the many selection and award committees choosing books at ALA Annual in Las Vegas this year, Traci Glass and I (pictured) served on Great Graphic Novels For Teens June 28-29 and put together this Q&A to give people an idea of what selection committees are like.

Rather than come up with our own questions, I asked some of my library’s Teen Center residents to prompt us. As it turns out, they didn’t know quite what to ask. I rephrased the task: “Imagine I just told you I was one of eleven people to vote on the Oscars. What would you want to know?” The following questions were rapidly delivered.

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Planning for District Days

By: Rachel McDonald

As teen-serving library staff, we see the value of libraries in our communities every day. Whether it’s through job readiness workshops, STEM programs, or book clubs, we can attest to the ways in which our programs engage teens, offer them safe spaces, and prepare them for adulthood. But how often do we think to share our successes with our elected officials? District Days is our opportunity to do just that.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t thinking about District Days way back in March when my manager emailed asking me to identify two summer programs that I thought would be good events to invite our local representatives to. He explained that the best events are ones that you will personally attend, where you expect good attendance, and will generate photo ops. I chose the two robotics workshops for tweens that our library was offering in partnership with a local FIRST robotics team (yay, Skunkworks 1983!). Since the workshops had been super successful at other libraries and we were requiring patrons to register, there was no chance of an elected official showing up to an empty room. My manager gathered program information from all the children’s and teen librarians across four libraries, compiled it, and sent invitations to our elected officials, from the mayor to our state representatives.

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YALSA’s 2014 Maker Contest


By: Amy Boese, Member of Makerspace Resources Taskforce

Summer is so full of riches – sunshine and gardens and summer reading programs are all happening fast and furious. So share the wealth!

You can’t send everyone a jar of your grandma’s dilly beans, but you can certainly tell the YALSA world what went down with your latest and greatest making project. Ready to go? You can find all the details here.

Making in the library comes in all shapes and sizes. From basic circuitry and LED-infused clothing, to building bridges out of rubber bands and robots out of toothbrushes, you’re making some amazing things out there in libraryland.

Often for me, the pieces of a great idea comes from a tweet or a fleeting image on Instagram, (I’m forever grateful, paper rollercoaster pioneers!) but filling in the substance of those programs can require more work. The YALSA Maker Contest 2014 wants to pull all the greatest making ideas together so we can send out the details and *everyone* can be more successful.

Plus, you can win fabulous prizes and the accolades of your peers!

To sum up, here are the basic criteria:
- Did you introduce making in your library? (See the Making in the Library Toolkit)
- Were you specifically reaching young adults? (ages 12-18 years)
- Did your program happen this summer? (June-August 2014)
- Did your program demonstrate an innovative approach to engaging teens through making?

You have until Sept. 1, 2014 to submit your application.

I am so excited to see what you’ve made with your summer!

District Days

Are you ready for a late summer tradition? It’s not the end of SRP or back to school shopping, it’s District Days. Not quite sure what District Days are or need a refresher?

District Days are when congressional representatives return home to their districts on recess. The recess this year is from August 2-September 7. It is during this time that representatives will have office hours at their local offices, attend town hall meetings, and meet with constituents to speak with them about their issues and concerns.

This is a great opportunity for you to advocate for libraries and teens! You can demonstrate to your representatives why libraries are a valuable asset to their constituents and communities. District Days provide you the ability to let your voice as a librarian be heard before the representatives head back to Washington, D.C.

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10 YA Fantasy Books for Teen Gamers

I’m Rob Lockhart, the Creative Director of Important Little Games.  If you were to follow me on twitter, I’d be grateful.

Any adaptation from one form of media to another is bound to cause friction.  If you travel in the circles I do, you’ll come across people who greet the various adaptations of the stories they love with either love or hate (and very occasionally indifference).  You might meet someone who loves The Lord of the Rings films, but not care for the books, and disdain the mention of The Lord of the Rings Online MMO.  Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that a good adaptation is one that preserves the spirit of the work, rather than the specifics.

Recently, I’ve embarked on a project that combines two great loves.  It is an educational videogame which borrows tone and themes from some of the greatest YA fantasy novels I’ve encountered.  Researching that project has given me the opportunity to make observations about videogames, fantasy novels, and the commonalities between them.

In this blog post, I’ve undertaken to map some popular games to books which I feel carry the same spirit, if not the details.  And while Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones inspired games of their own, many great games and novels in the fantasy genre have never crossed media boundaries.  Lets take a look at some great games that might suggest some great books to read.  Basically, I think if you like the game on the left, you’ll like the book on the right.

A quick note: Some of the games on this list are pretty violent, and I’m not endorsing the violence in these games.  But, given the reality that teens are playing these games, I’m perfectly comfortable using them as touchstones for book recommendations.  Please consult the ESRB and PEGI ratings of a game to determine whether it is age appropriate.


Fable -> The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


Both Fable and The Name of the Wind depict a young boy, adrift and nearly alone in a hostile city.  That is the lowest that the main characters get.  From there, the characters use their wit and their skills to escape poverty and the city itself.  After that, they learn to use magic, and to defend themselves against others who know magic, too.  They also share a frame story – that all of this is a tale being told of a legendary hero.

Even beyond the plot, Fable and The Name of the Wind share a fundamental tone.  There is, for example, an underlying optimism in both.  A layer of tension and dread coats it over at times, but is always scraped off to let the hope shine through.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft -> The Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill


Much has been written about this 10-year-old online gaming phenomenon, but there is much to learn just from the title.  Though you may choose to play otherwise, the primary occupation in the World of Warcraft is War.  War is also the subject of the Icemark Chronicles.  In both cases, the war is turned mostly by diplomacy, as treaties must be made between factions in order to tip the balance of victory.  In both cases the world is full of truly odd creatures (and you might be one of them).


Dishonored-> Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson


Dishonored is a fairly recent game about an assassin who gains magical abilities.  In Mistborn, Vin finds out she has magical abilities and uses them to become, in essence, an assassin.  Both have stealth and combat as major components of the experience, and the magical abilities wielded by the main characters are very similar in function.  From what I hear, Mistborn is also set to become a videogame of its own.  I can only hope they are as successful in portraying the power and the vulnerability of being Mistborn as well as Dishonored unwittingly did.


Bioshock Infinite -> His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass etc.) by Philip Pullman

In all the most superficial senses, these two have nothing in common.  The reason I paired them was because they both have a deep sense of–the word that comes to mind is brokenness.  Both of these tales introduce a self-consistent world, and then break it.  Only tiny cracks appear at first, but over the course of the story, the reality that the author has created comes away in shards and reveals a deeper reality beneath.

God of War

God of War -> Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

I haven’t seen the ‘Percy Jackson’ films, but two aspects of the books are, it seems, totally indispensable.  The first is the presence of aspects of ancient Greek mythology.  The second is the feeling of taking on an invincible enemy and, against all odds, winning.  Battling Gods in forms that are a hundred times larger than oneself and infinitely more powerful is an exhilarating feeling (with the safety and security you can only get by experiencing a work of fiction), and both of these works illustrate that feeling exceptionally well.


Minecraft -> Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Minecraft has certainly become a phenomenon.  You can hardly swing a pickaxe these days without hitting a grade-schooler playing Minecraft.  Narratively, there’s almost nothing going on in Minecraft.  Players fill that void with stories of their own, literally crafting their experience to taste.  So how, in his right mind, can someone recommend a book — a linear narrative — based on that?

Firstly, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an excellent book, and I hardly feel I need a reason to recommend it outside of its own merit.  However, there is something I think that makes the link between them a logical one: The feeling of exploring a world anew and learning to shape that world, bit by bit.  In the game, that’s the virtual space you find yourself in.  In Ms. Clarke’s novel it’s the realm of the supernatural that Jonathan Strange dives into.  In both cases, that new realm is a hostile one, but after earning a measure of mastery one begins to delight in its strangeness.

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy -> The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

An epic and well-loved series of games deserves an epic and well-loved series of books.  While there have been a few games set in the world of Narnia, none truly captured the feeling of managing a group of people with unique strengths and weaknesses.  Final Fantasy games are often chess-like in their tactical decision-making, and The Chronicles of Narnia, too, often feel like a game of chess being played against the White Witch.


The Legend of Zelda -> Redwall by Brian Jacques

The Legend of Zelda is one of the longest-running game franchises, created by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto (who also created Donkey Kong and Mario).  The franchise stands apart in its depiction of a high fantasy world with an innocence that few others match.  It’s fairly unique to have a hero who wields so many deadly weapons and yet commits so few acts of actual violence.  I think Redwall shares that innocence, not because it casts the characters as field rodents and other small animals, but in the manner of adventures they have.  Freeing, unambiguously righteous, and always more about love than hate.


Skyrim -> Beowulf by Anonymous

Admittedly, Beowulf was not written as a work of Young Adult Fantasy.  However, there are several modern translations which bring the prose into a similar milieu as The Wizard of Earthsea or Juniper.  It is clearly a fantastical tale of heroism, with a healthy dose of Messianic prophecy.  It’s also a sprawling tale, involving travel to the bottom of a lake and across Scandinavia.  Both are also primarily concerned with the business of kicking butt, including Dragon Butt.

Dark Souls

Dark Souls -> The Abhorsen Trilogy (Sabriel, etc) by Garth Nix

Behind enemy lines,the main character must use unique abilities to defeat hordes of undead enemies.  The fate of the world depends on the ringing of a few magical bells.  At this point, I could be talking about either Dark Souls or The Abhorsen Trilogy, which is why I think fans of Dark Souls will enjoy Garth Nix’s fantastic series.




Academic musings in summer

By: Carolyn Chen

As we move into the middle of summer and the stirring thoughts of the upcoming school year, libraries become ever more important as resources for students to take advantage of. In this blog, I want to specifically address two aspects of student life, namely summer work and college prep, that local libraries can assist in. Although most schools do not start until August, almost all students generally have some form of summer work, parts of which include book readings that they must finish beforehand. Usually, summer reading books are fairly popular books or classics, and thus can be found at local libraries. Although some teachers require that students buy a copy of their summer reading texts so that the students can annotate or highlight within the pages, many do not. As a student who generally borrows her summer reading books, I think that librarians can help out in the book-finding process. For example, it may be useful for the library to get a list of summer reading books beforehand from nearby school districts, and then put all of those books that the library has in a certain area. That way, librarians will not have to be constantly finding books for teens that cannot find them right away, and rather can direct them to the summer reading books area. Furthermore, teens can come into the library and find their books much more efficiently. In terms of college prep, I know that some teens do not have the resources to buy all the different prep books for different standardized tests (SAT, ACT etc.). Sometimes, this discourages them from attempting to study much for these tests at all. It would be very useful for these teens if libraries can have more than one copy of SAT or ACT study books, as summer is generally the time when upcoming juniors or upcoming seniors have any time to really study or review at all for standardized testing. Just having the chance to borrow and look over the practice tests on one test prep book is definitely better than seeing the test for the first time when taking it, and these books also include some valuable test-taking strategies as well. These two ideas are just something librarians can keep in mind and students can take advantage of. I hope I can address more resources that libraries can provide over the summer into the beginning of the school year in the next installment!