This post was written by Jill O’Connor who was a school librarian for 12 years before making the switch to a public library and, as the Youth Services Librarian at the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth, Maine, she is loving the freedom to craft programs for a willing audience. She is an avid reader of YA and middle grade books and a book reviewer with the Maine State Library Book Review group. When not thinking up glorious new STEM programming, she can be found driving to her son’s hockey games or her daughter’s dance classes, routing for the local baseball team, or cooking up new foods to tantalize her family.
As a former school librarian, I am new to the public library world. In the public library setting, programming looks very different than it did in school where you are a teacher, on par with all other educators in the school with learning objectives and curricula in hand. A school offers an audience of a knowable set of bodies in your class every day. You plan classes (programs) that hit your objectives and you present information. You don’t have to know everything, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, let’s look it up,” but for the most part, I always felt that I had to be the one in the know and in the position of teaching my audience something.
Fast forward to this past fall, I am the shiny new Youth Services Librarian at a public library, excited to try new things in a completely different setting, no longer hostage to the multiple classes-per-day grind. My domain is 3rd through 12th grade, and I am in charge of collection development, reader’s advisory, and all programming for the patrons within my assigned demographic. I know that I have to offer some STEM programming; it’s being asked for by parents and it’s a sensible and sought-after topic for all kids to be participating in, but what to do?!
In November, I was able to attend YALSA’s Young Adult Services Symposium with one of my coworkers. It was a wonderful experience, and we came home full of ideas for the 6-12 independent school library where we work. One idea we immediately wanted to try at our library was book tastings, which we heard about in a session led by Alicia Blower, librarian at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School.
I like to think of book tastings as the library equivalent of free samples at the grocery store—you get teens to try a bite of various books, hoping they will find one they want to take home. The basic setup involves putting books out at tables, and having teens rotate through the tables in groups. At each table, they “taste” a book that looks interesting to them by reading the blurbs on the cover and the first few pages.
We had the perfect opportunity to run a book tasting just one week after we got back from the Symposium. All of our seventh grade English classes were coming in to check out books, so instead of the usual book talks we give to feature certain genres, we decided to set up book tastings based on the genre of realistic fiction.
First, we decided on our physical layout. Five tables was a good number for us, given the class sizes (18) and how much time we had to run the activity (40 minutes). On each table were books related to a specific theme within realistic fiction, based on what’s popular with our students. Once we decided on the layout, the next step was to pick the books for our tastings. I wanted to have six books at each table, one for each student in a group of four, and a couple of extras to give them alternatives. We also needed to replace the books that got checked out during each class, so I accounted for that when pulling books..
While making book selections, I also had the goal of providing a strong representation of diverse books. To do this, I got a piece of paper and tallied up numbers as I pulled books. How many books had I selected with main characters of color? How about LGBTQ+ main characters? Characters who were differently abled? What about books that were #ownvoices? I had to go back to the shelves quite a few times before I felt I had acceptable representation, and some tables still ended up with less diversity than others. For example, we simply didn’t have enough diverse books for the theme of survival (as in surviving the wilderness or a natural disaster), so now that’s on my watch list for collection development and content curation.
I made place cards to go at each table, with the theme of that table printed on the card. My coworker made tasting forms where students could write down the title and author of a book they looked at, give it a rating from 1-5, and put any comments they had. (See linked documents for examples.)
Finally, I went out and purchased some real “tastings” to go along with the books. I got a variety of Hershey’s kisses, some miniature fruit-flavored candy canes, and a huge bag of Life Savers. At each table, we put two cups. We filled one with the candies; the other was for trash. I am proud to say that our students didn’t leave even one candy wrapper for us to pick up.
In the end, all of our work paid off. The students really enjoyed the experience. A lot of our selected books were checked out, and we were able to highlight the diversity in our collection. It took a little more time to prepare than book talks, but now that we have done it once, there won’t be as much prep required next time.
Does anyone do book tastings in a different way? I’d love to hear about it!
Whitney Etchison currently lives in Maryland and is in her tenth year as a school librarian. The best part of her job is readers advisory, although teaching research skills is pretty cool too. She loves horror novels but can’t watch scary movies.
Volume 9, Issue 2 of of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA) is now available online at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/.This issue features research papers relating to library digital services and peritextual elements.
JRLYA is YALSA’s open-access, peer-reviewed research journal, located at: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya. Its purpose is to enhance the development of theory, research, and practice to support young adult library services. JRLYA presents original research concerning: 1) the informational and developmental needs of teens; 2) the management, implementation, and evaluation of young adult library services; and 3) other critical issues relevant to librarians who work with teens. Writer’s guidelines are located at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/author-guidelines/.
This blog post was written by Marijke Visser, Senior Policy Advocate in the ALA Washington Office.
Library staff are some of the strongest advocates for teens. The encouragement and support library staff provides helps inspire youth to pursue new opportunities and undiscovered talents. This includes preparing teens for discovering college and career pathways. The ALA Libraries Ready to Code initiative and NCWIT AspireIT are joining forces again in 2019 in a project that will directly increase the meaningful participation of girls and women in computing. We are building on what we’ve learned through our pilot working with local libraries to build capacity for youth programs
This post is written by Allison Shimek, a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. Allison is the Director of the Fayette Public Library and Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives in La Grange, Texas Contents of this post were originally published on the Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice.
Yesterday was my first Career Cruising event for the Future Ready with the Library Project and I want to share my experience. This event was held at a local bank from 9:00 am – 3:00pm. We had 17 teens pre-registered and 12 showed up. There were seven males and five females ranging in age from 11-16. Everyone that showed up on time was entered to win a gift card and then we did a drawing and talked about why it was important to arrive on time. The entire morning was spent in small groups rotating through different areas of the bank. The teens worked the teller line and assisted the tellers help customers while learning how they count money, roll coins, and balance their registers. The second station was the loan department. Teens were given loan applications and got to decide what they would like take an imaginary loan out for and went through the process while learning about what a loan officer does. The next station was the bank’s boardroom where they learned about the Board of Directors and important decisions they are required to make. Lastly the teens went to the new accounts department where they learned what they needed to set up a bank account, how to write a check, and viewed safety deposit boxes
The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School and Public Library Cooperation is now focusing its work on equity, diversity, and inclusion projects that include library partnerships. This blog post is the first in this new series.
The YALSA Call to Action Futures Report challenges libraries to “leverage new technologies and become kitchens for ‘mixing resources’ in order to empower teens to build skills, develop understanding, create and share, and overcome adversity.” In Hampstead, MD, a small town in Carroll County, the media center at Shiloh Middle School assumed that “kitchen” motif on Monday afternoons once a month, as Media Specialist, Holly Furhman, and Amanda Krumrine, Library Associate II, Carroll County Public Library (CCPL), partnered to provide a variety of STEM experiences to middle schoolers on Makerspace Mondays.
Makerspace Mondays was born out of the realization that tweens attending this middle school did not have transportation to the CCPL during the week or on weekends when Maker programs were offered — due to lack of public transportation in the community, dual working parents’ schedules, and the distance of the nearest library branch to many neighborhoods. The goal was to expose students to a variety of Maker opportunities in a relaxed environment.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
By Daniel Brown
Penguin Books, 2014
Looking for some holiday reading that features protagonists overcoming adversity and challenge? The Boys in the Boat is a go-to title for my teens who are required to read narrative nonfiction in the thematic categories of community or sports. Written by a Seattle author, it is the true story of how nine young men from the Pacific Northwest went from obscurity to the Olympics. Set during the Great Depression it is a testament to grit and determination, and–best of all for my readers–it reads like fiction. It’s also a title that was featured on the YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners 2014 list.
Achieving good results is rarely accomplished in a vacuum. Coaches Al Ulbrickson and Tom Bolles were key figures in the success of the UW rowing crew that took a different kind of battle all the way to Hitler. Like Joe Rantz and the other boys in that boat, I have been fortunate to have good mentors. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I attended my first conference came from Patti Tjomsland, retired librarian and book jury committee member extraordinaire: make sure you go to an awards session. Awards sessions represent hundreds of hours of reading and discussion on the part of committee members, and culminate with the Morris and Nonfiction Award Program and Presentation from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Monday, January 28.
For those who have never attended an awards session, they are pretty special. The mood is celebratory, filled with discussion of the titles that have won and acceptance speeches by the recipient and their publisher. (One of my most memorable awards sessions was at the Odyssey Awards in Las Vegas when Kirby Heyborne–amazing narrator of audiobooks–busted out a rap in homage to librarians–look it up on YouTube, it’s priceless!) The Morris and Nonfiction Award Program and Presentation will include some light refreshments and a copy of one of the finalist titles. Tickets are $25, and are well worth the opportunity to share good memories with fellow librarians, authors, and publishers, and come home with a great book.
Jodi Kruse is a Teacher Librarian at R.A. Long High School.
It’s hard for me to believe this book is almost a decade old because it’s still a personal favorite.
Piper is deaf, but she can still tell that the band named “Dumb” stinks despite its local popularity. Ever the determined teen, Piper suggests that she become their manager so she can lead them to success in a Battle of the Bands. Set in Seattle, author Antony John incorporated a path of musical history (including the home of the iconic Jimi Hendrix–though that has now been demolished) that readers can follow along with Piper. Aside from the obvious “feedback” pun connected to music, Dumb and Piper are gathering feedback from an audience in order to win a recording contract.
Content Area 2 of the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Stafffocuses on youth services librarians’ Interactions with Teens and emphasizes the need for librarians to listen to and value teen feedback. Midwinter Conference provides one of the best opportunities to hear what teens think about the Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) nominees. I had the opportunity to chaperone a group of teens from a Washington high school the last time Midwinter was in Seattle, and it was a memorable experience. Students are given just a couple of minutes to advocate for their favorite titles, and their feedback has historically been integrated into the selection of the award winners. Students lined up–some of them conquering fears of public speaking–to eloquently argue for their top picks. It was truly a sight to behold. This year the Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Session will be held on Saturday, January 26 from 1-2:30pm in the Metropolitan Ballroom of the Sheraton. Don’t miss this unique opportunity! Questions? Mike Fleming (email@example.com) is a great resource for this event.
Jodi Kruse is a Teacher Librarian at R.A. Long High School
How is a Seattle-based graphic novelist related to ALA and the YALSA Midwinter Wiki? This is a story of resourcefulness.
The Pacific Northwest is home to a multitude of creative endeavors, but my personal brush with it comes in the form of a relationship built almost two decades ago. Once upon a time, I taught high school Marketing as well as Forensics (speech and debate, not dead bodies) classes. Ryan Fisher was one of my students who,incidentally, was invited to Artist’s Alley at the 2017 ALA Conference in Chicago.
Three things about Ryan stand out:
He’s a Seattle author/artist (the connection to the location is starting to coalesce)
The themes of his book Torchlight Lullaby resonate with our teens who have survived trauma (the connection to our work at YALSA is becoming more apparent)
He availed himself of the RESOURCES around him (and BOOM the main point of this posting)
Ryan has had to be resilient. Nothing has been handed to him. His success is the result of building relationships with a network of people who can connect him to needed resources. I got to be one of those resources. Even after he graduated from high school, we continued communicating about his ideas and how he might go about making the world a better place through his writing. After creating two successful webcomics, he focused his energy on creating Torchlight Lullaby. I display his graphic novel with pride in my school library, since it represents the fulfillment of a dream of a former graduate. Want a copy? They are tough to come by. Without the backing of a publisher and marketing team, Ryan promoted his self-published title (which currently enjoys a 4.5 rating on Goodreads) and sold out of the first run. While he is waiting for a larger publisher to pick up a second run, he’s working on The Night Crew, a new trilogy of graphic novels featuring teens that he describes as a drama/mystery.
The use of available resources makes for a much more successful and satisfying venture. As the date for Midwinter approaches, YALSA members have a great resource for discovering some of the exciting things that will be happening at the conference as well as some fabulous sights to see and restaurants to visit. For the past couple of weeks, the members of the Midwinter Marketing and Local Arrangements Task Force have been updating the Midwinter Wiki. Want to know if your favorite book won an award? Check out the wiki to find out when the awards session will be occurring. Questions about how much it costs to hop a bus or Light Rail? Look it up in the Getting Around section of the wiki. Is your mouth watering for the best vegan restaurants in the Seattle area? You guessed it, there’s a section for that on the wiki. YALSA members are some of the most welcoming, fun members of any professional organization of which I have been a part. We hope this resource will enhance your experience with YALSA and make your stay in Seattle memorable.
Jodi Kruse is a Teacher Librarian at R.A. Long High School.
One of the most difficult moments of the month was observing my English Learners come to check out books with their classes and not be able to find anything they could read at the high school level.It broke my heart to see dejection on their faces.It did not matter that I myself could not understand the words they were saying; I could just see it.Students perform better academically in literature courses when they see themselves in the materials and simply enjoy independent reading more. While I had some titles of interest for my Latinx students topically, all of them were in English. I set out to add books to my school library collection to assist my Spanish-speaking students. To purchase fiction in Spanish, I first posted a request on Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) for just ten novels.When the project was funded and the books arrived, I labeled each with a green S and shelved them above our fiction cases to aid new students trying to find them.After that success, I added another Donors Choose project to bring ten Spanish memoirs to West Haven High School, as all of our seniors must read a memoir.
This project garnered the attention of the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network (GBLN), a local organization working to feature Latinx success stories, encourage political activism, and support community endeavors.GBLN showcased the story on their website, and it was subsequently picked up by a local newspaper, the New Haven Register.It was my desire to inform the audience it was not just me, my school, or my district needing these materials and support from the Latinx community:
“Literacy is necessary for being a productive member of society.Volunteering time such as reading at a toddler story hour, helping at a resume writing class, or speaking on a vocation or cause are all ways to support local libraries, especially those serving predominantly Latino communities. Woychowski welcomes the donation of new or gently used books to her own library, but she also encourages readers to donate both books and time to their own local school or public libraries.” (http://gbln.net/books-in-spanish-needed-for-high-school-library/)
Sharing this story via social media has been a blessing in terms of the varied audience reached.Links to the story appeared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and were shared numerous times by personal friends and professional connections.Books began appearing on my home front porch and in my school mailbox from all corners of the community, from a prominent defense attorney to a small Catholic Church to a representative of the Hispanic Nurses Association of a large local hospital.Our community’s support of literacy is invaluable, and as school librarians, we must be willing to advocate for it on behalf of our students.
Jillian Woychowskiis a School Library Media Specialist at West Haven High School and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.