While trying to get an overview of library services offered in my area, I spoke with a high school librarian who brought up an idea that seemed revolutionary to me. The librarian had previously been a special education teacher, so she purposely made her library services welcoming to this population.

Note: This particular high school still has a "Special Education" program. Most schools are inclusive, so students attend classes together, and those who have learning disabilities or special needs may have a tutor for certain subjects, or attend other learning activities to get extra help.

Because of her background, the librarian reached out to the current English teachers to form a book club for students with disabilities. She wanted to hold a weekly book club in the library during English class. Holding programs during school hours can be difficult, because there is already so much to do during a school day. But it increases participation, since many students ride the bus or have other after-school obligations, and often can’t stay late.

For the book club, students chose a book from three the librarian suggested—no required school reading, but instead books that were of an appropriate age level, deemed “fun” reads. She read aloud one chapter a week, and they were responsible for reading the next two chapters on their own, to discuss at the beginning of the next week’s meeting.

The librarian used the rest of the period to relate the book to skills that would help the students in English class. Sometimes they would have informal quizzes to help with reading comprehension. Students also learned how to pick a thesis and write a short critical essay, which the teacher accepted at the end of the semester for bonus points.

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The Young Adult Services Symposium is not only great for networking, broadening your horizons but as well as meeting great authors! The author I would like to talk a little about is Dhonielle Clayton. Clayton has recently released her first novel, which she wrote with Sona Charaipotra entitled, Tiny Pretty Things. Clayton will also be releasing a fantasy book series, The Belles, in 2016. I am certain that if you are a teen librarian, you have heard the hot topic about needing more diverse teen books. Well, that's where Dhonielle and Sona Charaipotra’s expertise comes in handy. They have cofounded CAKE Literacy. CAKE Literacy is described as a "commitment to creating delicious and diverse concepts for middle grade, teen and women’s fiction readers".

Why CAKE? Well, usually when these two ladies would meet to discuss books and writing, they always had a slice of cake with their discussions. CAKE Literacy came about because they both shared love for the TV series The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars and noticed how there wasn't any diversity in those shows. Come to think of it, nearly all the fantasy genre books I have read, also lack diversity. With that in mind, I agree with Dhonielle and Sona and support CAKE Literacy! If you haven't check out their website, please do! It's visually stimulating. Don’t forget to visit Dhonielle Clayton at the 2015 YA Services Symposium.

The 2015 YALSA Young Adult Services Symposium will take place November 6-8, 2015 at the Hilton Portland & Executive tower. Register today!

--Annie Snell, YA Services Symposium Marketing and Planning Task Force

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday, Sunday, September 27 and Instagram users are posting photos in celebration of their fREADom to read. Running from September 27 through Saturday, October 3, this year's Banned Books Week focuses on young adult books. It may be easy to call to mind cases of challenged books and censorship that made their way to media outlets, but both the YALSA wiki and the American Library Association's Challenges to Library Materials page remind us that a challenge can also include a patron expressing concern over an item or requesting that it be shelved in another collection. YALSA's The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report lists intellectual freedom as one of the core values librarians should hold as they protect the rights of teens to access information and educate the community about intellectual freedom.

Are you doing something to celebrate Banned Books Week? Book lists, displays, games, posters? We want to know! Share with us in the comments section below.

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With our youth patrons returning to school, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your community’s demographics and set goals to “Get Away” and connect with those underserved populations. As you consider where to start, the first step may seem daunting, but tackle the unknown in a way that is most comfortable for you. We’ll be sharing our ideas about setting goals during our Teen Read Week Twitter chat Setting Goals to Reach Underserved Teens onFriday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. If numbers and statistics read like a first language, you’ll probably have your own plan of action in which to gather information and compile results into charts and graphs. However, many of us need a different approach in order to ease our way into such unfamiliar territory and we offer a few ideas here.

Demographics from an insider view

Consider your teen patrons’ habits as a diving board into better knowing your community. For instance, if your teens often ask library staff for change to spare for food, comment about not eating breakfast, or are eager to attend library programs especially for the free snacks, you may want to further explore this trend. Start by investigating the nearby school’s stats on free and reduced lunches, the city’s poverty percentages, or the state’s caseload counter for food stamp families. The location of these resources will also provide other relevant data that may offer a more detailed view into the issue. Once you have a baseline of data, connect with local food pantries and other social service providers and start a conversation. You may discover any number of ways to partner with these organizations from creating a bookmark for the public listing the location of these services to facilitating meal programs.

Demographics from a bird’s eye perspective

Map the government, parks, nonprofit, and other community agencies within your library’s service area. If a particular trend in services exists, investigate its related statistical topics and connect with those organizations. Also, the types of businesses in your service may offer a starting point into better understanding your community. If you notice an unusual number of liquor stores in your area, you may check the location of rehabilitation centers or AA groups and connect with them. Another way to address your map of agencies, is to first connect with the organizations located nearest to your library, as those service are directly targeting your immediate area.

Take action with us in better understanding your community by joining the Teen Read Week Twitter chat on Friday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. Come ready to share your goals and gain new ideas and resources from your peers. When joining the Twitter chat, be sure to use #TRW15. See you there!

Amanda Barnhart is the current chair for YALSA’s Teen Read Week committee, an MLIS student, and a Young Adult Associate for the Trails West branch of The Kansas City (Mo) Public Library.


A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

This week we're looking at two ways to spice up your library's Instagram account and engage users with library memes and opening lines of books. With websites that allow you to create your own memes using popular themes or uploaded images, the possibilities for witty library humor are endless! For #firstlinefriday or #firstsentence posts on the first of each month, some libraries share opening lines of books as a way to engage followers with trivia, to advertise an upcoming book club, or showcase new materials in the collection.

Have you created memes for your library's social media accounts? Have a preferred go to meme generator? Posted any opening lines? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Teens strive for independence, branching out to explore new interests and behaviors. They depend on their friends for support and feedback, leaving their parents in the dark about what they’re doing, thinking, and feeling.

Teens with disabilities often don’t have the same opportunities to test their independence. They might depend on their parents or caregivers for help getting around or being understood. Their parents might prefer to stay close, in case their teen has a behavior or needs special medical attention. “Inclusion and integration of children with special needs is based upon a strong collaboration between the parent and the librarian” (Feinberg et al. 20-21). Parents know their children best, and librarians can watch that interaction to learn how to effectively work with teens with disabilities in the library.

As a librarian, you can offer inclusive programming that welcomes all teens, with or without disabilities—and also includes parents! By encouraging family fun, you’re getting families to explore and enjoy the library together, regardless of ability level. You’ll also be giving teens with disabilities a place to let loose and be themselves around peers, but to still have their parents close by without looking childish to others.

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Get Away @ Your Library can mean a lot of different things to different people. When I think of it I think about why I read. One of the best things about reading is how it takes you to new and exciting places. Whether it is books about other cultures, time travel or historical events, books take us beyond our everday lives.

I love to read historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction because I love being taken outside my normal day-to-day world. With historical fiction, I learn so much about other time periods and get some insight into what it must have been like to be in that period. Certain periods are so far removed from our current world that they may as well be classed as Fantasy or Science Fiction. Speaking of which, when it comes to Fantasy and Science Fiction I am amazed by the worlds created by the author.

My newest interests are reading about books that take place in other cultures or countries. Sometimes you don’t even have to go very far away from home. Reading books about people from rural areas when you yourself live in an urban area or vice versa can take us into a place we have never experienced. Other cultures also help us to be more empathetic and knowledgeable about what we do not understand.

Some of the books that have taken me to other places that I highly recommend include The Precious Stone trilogy be Kerstin Gier, The Colours of Madeleine by Jaclyn Moriarty, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo and so much more. Please check out the TRW Pinterest page for more recommendations!


Kristyn Dorfman is a School Librarian at Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY.

I’ll confess that there have been cycles in my ten years of teen services where my creativity to develop innovative library programs suddenly depletes itself. It takes time until I kick my own butt back into gear. I’m sure you’re familiar with this feeling that can result from the graduation of most of your teen advisory group, or your programming budget substantially shrinks, or your energy lags after delivering an outstanding summer reading program. If you are a newly minted teen librarian, you may not have experienced this sudden loss of drive to deliver 100% amazing library services. We all have our secrets for how we regain that equilibrium, especially when feeling depleted from intense summer programming.

Here are just a few tips to energize your programming creativity before, during, or after Teen Read Week:

Challenge yourself to explore their interests. Have those card playing teens who are always in your library after school teach you how to play Vanguard or Pokemon. It’s easier to understand and own the argument that these games make reading, math, and strategy fun when you are actually having to do it yourself. Once you comprehend the reasons for their enjoyment, it becomes easier to develop creative programming because you GET IT. For instance, our middle school anime and manga group will make Pokemon balls out of styrofoam and bring in a favorite stuffed animal. They’ll create a new Pokemon name and ability for their animal and have them spar against each other.

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I have two new favorite teen program ideas – Blind Date a Book and Food Truck Menu Challenge.

Ok, Blind Date a Book isn’t very new; more often than not, you’ll see this in February for Library Lovers’ Month. Librarians across the country have taken this idea out for a ride and given it their own personal spin. Some benevolent librarians will give potential readers clues, by listing the genre or even a few spoiler-free sentences describing the plot or main character. Some have even successfully applied the speed dating concept to book choice – setting up tables with books at each station, allowing teens to sit with each book for a few minutes, then allowing teens to choose the book date to which they’re most attracted.

For my Blind Date a Book programs, I opt for complete “blindness” – offering up no hints at the contents of the wrapped tome. The “dates” I select tend primarily to be best sellers or YA classics that appeal to a broad range of ages, but I do include the occasional “acquired taste” titles. I decorate my stable of dates with stickers, stick-figure & smiley face drawings, and even phrases like “Short but sweet” (for the thinnest books) or “Can I hang out at your house?” The official rule is that the book must remain wrapped until it is checked out. Once checked out, the reader is free to unwrap the book – even if they’re still in the library. There are no penalties for returning their selected date right away. Sometimes, you just know you won’t be compatible, and that’s ok. I’ve included “rate your date” review forms and bookmarks that double as contest entries; both with varying degrees of success. However, my greatest satisfaction occurs when the books STAY checked out. To me, that means that the teen is reading something he or she would not necessarily have chosen or is re-reading a favorite. Either way, a teen is reading for fun – objective achieved!

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Dear YALSA community

I have been a passionate advocate for teenagers, and for their reading, for decades. Being passionate means caring -- which thus may also mean advocating, questioning, disputing existing rules and structures. That is why, many years ago, I worked with Michael Cart to bring about the Printz award, and with the Los Angeles Times to create their YA award. If there is one area about which I am equally passionate it is the grand and glorious field of nonfiction for all ages. And so, I have taken the liberty of suggesting to the YALSA board that it is time for us, all of us, to take a look at what truly constitutes excellence in YA nonfiction -- what are the kinds, and types, and subgenres of nonfiction, and what criteria should there be for evaluating them. In this article I discuss what I have proposed to the board, and why.  The official board document (.pdf) is available on the YALSA web site in the Governance Section.  I hope you all will add your voices to the discussion here, or in SLJ -- or that we can discuss this in person at Annual, or any one of the many conferences and workshops where I get to meet you. Nonfiction is growing and changing, teenagers need for quality nonfiction is growing, and thus it seems to me time for all of us to weigh in on what makes for true YA Nonfiction Excellence. What do you think?


Marc Aronson has been an avid advocate for teenagers and their reading for many years. He served on the committee that drafted, and later evaluated, the rules for the Michael Printz prize, and he suggested the YALSA Excellence in nonfiction award. As an author of nonfiction he won the first Sibert award and, with Marina Budhos -- his wife -- was a finalist for the YALSA Nonfiction award. Their next book, which will be published in 2017, centers on another couple who were artists and collaborators: the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. Aronson is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the MLIS program at Rutgers University.