Kylie Peters is the Middle School Librarian at Geneva Public Library in Illinois. She is passionate about building relationships and community, social justice, comics, middle school literature, gaming, technology, and reader’s advisory. She writes about middle school literature at

YALSA Symposium 2016: Empowering Teens, Empowering Library Staff

A little over a week ago, I packed my bags for the 2016 YALSA Symposium. It wasn’t easy to rip myself away from the Cubs euphoria raging in my hometown of Chicago, but I was excited to share a weekend with people who were passionate about something even more important: serving young adults in the library. The Symposium theme was Empowering Teens, and there was lots of discussion about ways to fostering teen ideas, talent, and leadership in our libraries. Letting teens take charge may feel like extra work, but the benefit to them is worth every bit of effort.


Teen Library Team, assemble!

Teen Library Team, assemble!

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Stuck in the Middle: Serving Tweens and Young Teens

It wasn’t all that long ago that adolescence was first recognized as a distinct stage of life. But anyone who works with teens can tell you that a twelve-year-old’s adolescence looks a lot different from an eighteen-year-old’s. Over the teen years, the brain undergoes dramatic growth and change. The Office of Head Start and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (part 1 and part 2) point out significant differences in the mental, physical, and emotional development of younger teens versus older ones. One way for libraries to meet this variety of needs, and perhaps to better serve our patrons, is to offer services for tweens and young teens that are separate from those for older teens.

Special services for pre-teens and young teens are a growing trend, and they come under many different names: tween services, middle school services, junior high services, in-betweens. School Library Journal recently created a monthly e-mail newsletter called Be Tween, for “those kids who are not little children anymore—but not quite young adults, either.” Members of a large library system in my state just started a tween services group for staff serving these patrons to network and share ideas. Continue reading

Back to (After)School – Building a Positive Environment with a Library Afterschool Crowd – Part 2

This two-part piece looks at ways to manage large afterschool crowds in a library. To read about ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments, see Part 1. This post discusses behavior and discipline.

To keep things fair, orderly, and predictable in a busy library, consistency is key.  At Addison Public Library, Elizabeth Lynch has found great success using a system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She says, “The core of PBIS is…that kids really don’t know what appropriate behavior is, especially in a public setting. So the focus is to educate them on what expectations are and think about the systems we’re creating and whether that’s giving them the support they need in the space, or whether we’re making it impossible or difficult for them.”

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PBIS is not only a philosophy, but also involves a set of clearly-defined rules, consequences, and instructions for staff. These are discussed in the sections below. Having clear and explicit rules helps teens learn what appropriate behavior is, and creates consistency in staff responses to troublemaking. It also reduces friction among staff, since everyone is operating under the same rules about what is appropriate and how to respond to infractions.

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Back to (After)School – Building a Positive Environment with a Library Afterschool Crowd – Part 1


For some libraries, back to school is more like back to the zoo.

If your public library is in walking distance of a middle or high school, chances are you have what’s known as an “afterschool crowd”–a term uttered as often with alarm as it is with affection. While large groups of teens coming to the library is a gift and incredible opportunity, it can often leave library staff feeling out of control and create friction between Young Adult Services staff and staff from other departments, particularly those who value peace and quiet.IMG_6035 (960x1280)

While I was working on my Master’s of Library and Information Science, I had the pleasure of working for Elizabeth Lynch, the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Illinois. Every day, 60 to 120 kids troop across the street from Indian Trail Middle School to the library in a wave that calls to mind the Invasion of Normandy. The kids are hungry, chatty, sometimes cranky, and full of pent-up energy. Many come from low-income families and their parents work. The library is a safe place for them to stay until they can be picked up.

How do we provide these teens with education, fun, safety, and positive socialization—and keep them from damaging eardrums, property, or our relationships with other patrons and staff? I’ve drawn on my own experiences and advice from Lynch to offer some ideas.

In this post, we will discuss ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments in your library. In Part 2, we will discuss behavior and discipline.

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DeSTEMber: STEM Activities for Girls

This December, one organization is working to give girls a gift that will last a lifetime: resources to reach their potential in science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM is a prominent part of current educational models in the U.S., but girls are traditionally underrepresented in STEM-related professional fields. DeSTEMber aims to change that.

DeSTEMber is hosted by non-profit organization Girlstart. “Half of the world’s potential ideamakers—women and girls—are discouraged from developing their ideas because of social bias or inequity. More girls with more ideas create more solutions,” notes the organization. Girlstart has been working since 1997 “to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs.” Their work covers girls in grades K-16. (See their About Us page for more information.)

The DeSTEMber website offers a STEM activity for each day of December. The downloadable activity PDFs include instructions for the activity and a short explanation to go along with it. Each one also features links to additional resources, plus a Career Connection section that describes a profession relating to that activity. These are intended to be far more than one-time activities; they are springboards into the future, both for short-term learning and long-term education and career goals.

Interested in participating? Although DeSTEMber is almost over, these activities are relevant all year long. Girlstart also maintains a link to the DeSTEMber 2013 activity page, meaning users can access 62 free STEM resources.

Librarians and other educators interested in getting involved with Girlstart should visit their educator page.

Collecting Marvel and DC Comics for Teens

Collecting Marvel and DC Comics for Teens

This October, DC announced its movie lineup through 2020, and Marvel did the same through 2019. Both publishers also have TV shows both on the air and in development.

The surge of adaptations has opened up the world of superhero comics to a whole new audience, as have recent reboots aiming to make these comics more accessible to new readers. (Note that I use the word “comics” as it is my preferred term, but calling them “graphic novels” is also appropriate.) Reboots make collection development easier for librarians who are understandably confused by the intricate histories, unclear chronologies, and intertwining universes of Marvel and DC. Librarian review sources tend to shy away from these publishers, making it even harder for us to know what to collect. Yet Diamond Comics Distributors’s industry statistics show that DC and Marvel together make up about 2/3 of the market. (Diamond is the largest comic book distributor in the U.S.)

I collect comics for teens in two public libraries, and I have found that building a solid set of Marvel and DC titles has not only provided patrons with reading materials they want, but has also drawn in some teens who might otherwise not be reading for fun at all. It takes a little time and research to become familiar enough with these comics to build a strong collection, but it’s well worth the investment. Here’s some info to get you started.

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Learning from Teens: Thoughts for Teen Read Week

Teen Read Week is coming up October 12-18, and libraries are encouraged to use the theme “Turn Dreams into Reality” to share our knowledge, resources, services, and collections with teens in an effort to promote reading for fun. As professionals working with teens in the library, each of us curates our own personal collection—in folders and binders, dog-eared books and browser bookmarks, or just in our haphazardly cataloged heads—of resources that guide us in promoting reading. Yet as we inform our patrons about the epic books in our collection, the multiple formats in which they can check out our materials, and the research on the college success of avid readers, let’s not forget that some of our greatest resources are the very subjects of our resource-sharing: the teens themselves.

It’s an easy thing to forget since, as library professionals, we like to think of ourselves as the experts. In many things, we are. And in some, we aren’t. You know that book that won dozens of awards but you just can’t get any teens to pick up? How about the poorly-written piece of fluff that they can’t get enough of? In the end, we can only guess at what will go over well. Each person has his or her own individual taste, but more often than not, teens’ tastes will be more similar to one another’s than adults’ tastes will be to teens’.

Our goal during Teen Read Week is to promote reading for pleasure, and the only way to do that is to help connect teens with books they like. There may be a time and place for encouraging teens to read “healthier” books than the ones they want—that’s up for debate. But this week isn’t that time. If we want teens to learn that reading is fun, we need to think like teens. And while we can’t entirely re-wire our brains (and probably wouldn’t want to, having been through that angsty stage of life once already), many of us are lucky enough to spend enough time around teens that we have easy access to two simple techniques: observe and ask. Continue reading

In the Know: August 2014

I was having a serious Cady-with-a-d Mean Girls moment two weeks ago as I walked into my first day in a new Teen Librarian position. Would the teens like me? Would they pity laugh at my jokes like the kids at my old job did? Or would I be just another crusty shushing-machine to them? It’s the time of year when teens across the country make that same terrifying walk into new schools, new grades, and new hormone-fueled social challenges, so let’s give them some extra special love from the library this week.

As for me at my new job, I discovered that a level 50 in Skyrim and knowing the lyrics to “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” can get you a long way. Sometimes all you need is to know a little bit about one thing that interests a teen and you can spark a relationship. Learn a little more, and pretty soon they’ll be saying “hi” to you by name. Keep at it, and they might start liking you enough to actually take your reader’s advisory suggestions.

It’s good to be in the know. Here’s some stuff teens are talking about in August 2014.

The band Five Seconds of Summer, or 5SOS (pronounced “5 sauce”), is currently touring the U.S. with One Direction and gaining popularity. The band, comprised of 4 Australian teenage boys, is often compared to their British your-mates, though they seem to be attempting a more punk rock image. (Attempting is a key word here.) Their self-titled debut studio album was released in the U.S. on July 22, and hit number one on the Billboard 200. Learn more about them here.

The 2014 Teen Choice Awards aired on August 10. Big winners were The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Divergent (films); Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (actors); Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and One Direction (musicians); Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and The Voice (TV). Selena Gomez received the Ultimate Choice Award. The show also introduced a new set of web awards honoring a new breed of YouTube and social media stars. See the full list of nominees and winners here.

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