Middle School Monday: Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 2

Last Monday, I talked about the benefits of a middle school collection in a public library, and how we chose a name, chose a collection size, and gathered feedback for my Library’s new Middle Ground.  Our next steps were to get into the specifics of what exactly belonged in the Middle Ground versus the Juvenile and Young Adult Collections.

As I said in my last post, the way you structure and build your collection is going to depend on your community.  I’m providing an account of how I did it as an example, to give you some things to think about while creating your own collection.  For more guidance, check out YALSA’s Collections and Content Curation wiki page.


We learned through surveying that many of our middle school patrons were interested in nonfiction and graphic novels.  Nonfiction and graphic titles tend to appeal to a wider age range of readers than fiction.  In Middle Ground Fiction we were collecting books that spoke directly to middle schoolers, but such books are few in nonfiction and graphic novels.  We wanted to include these collections in the Middle Ground, but chose to tweak the rules a bit for them.

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Middle School Monday: Building a Middle School Public Library Collection, Part 1

A year and a half ago, I was tasked with creating a collection of reading materials aimed at middle schoolers for my public library.  These types of collections—sometimes called junior high or tween collections—are becoming more popular in response to growing demand from patrons, but creating them poses some unique challenges.  In my next two blog posts, I’ll share some information on my Library’s process: we did, why we did it, what we learned, what, and how you might begin your own process of creating such a collection.  This can only serve as a guideline.  You will need to develop your own methods to build a collection that meets the specific needs of your community.

In this post, I will discuss reasons for having a middle school collection in the public library and first steps to creating one.  The next post will be about selection guidelines for the collection, and how to use those selection guidelines.

I will use the term “middle school collection” to refer to any collection designed to serve readers in the range of ages 10-14.

This is my library’s Middle Ground collection as it currently appears. We are working on expanding it to some additional shelving.

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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

Resources for Youth Services

Summer Reading is over! Many schools have already cranked up, and more will be getting going in the next couple of weeks. Fall, to me, means planning. I love doing long-term planning and reading materials that inspire me.  I’ve compiled a list here of a few more non-traditional resources that we could all benefit from. I hope one or all of these sparks your creative ideas for the fall!

Think Outside the Stacks – This is a TinyLetter newsletter written by Beth Saxon, also known as BethReads. Beth uses this newsletter to compile information that is relevant is YS librarians from outside the usual library sources–family blogs, news sources, museums, craft sites, educators. The title is apt. We have a lot to learn from people who aren’t librarians that also have interest in serving children and family, and Beth beautifully curates current, pertinent information.

Fairy Dust Teaching Blog – Fairy Dust Teaching is a resource site for teachers that actually offers online courses. But the blog is free to browse and is chock-full of classroom fun that can easily be adapted to library programming. She also highlights what educators all over the country are doing.

Planet Esmé – You might know Esmé Raji Codell from her book, Educating Esme, and her site is a wonderful resource for books, teaching, and other fun. You could get lost in those archives.

Podcasts are having their moment in the sun and I, for one, love them! Here are some great resources for podcasts that can help you be a better librarian:

Podcasts to Help Build Your Teen Collection: a post by Anna Dalin over at the Hub about great podcasts for collection development!

Secret Stacks – a podcast about comics in libraries by Kristin Lalonde and Thomas Maluck.

I hope this gets you started. Happy planning!


Our guest blogger from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a Library Consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.

Spring is here!

It’s springtime! In Mississippi, at least, it’s been spring for quite some time and actually hit 80 degrees last week. In celebration, let’s highlight some springtime tales for your displays! These books either have or are coming out this spring!

It’s the latest Penderwicks book! These are so lovely and the latest one is no exception. Available now, the fourth book in the Penderwicks series has a lot of heart and surprises for each family member. Your kids that have loved the last three books won’t be disappointed by this one.

Listen, Slowly is a gorgeous tale of a California girl who spends her summer with her grandmother in Vietnam. She must learn to find the balance between her two worlds. An excellent follow-up to Lai’s National Book Award Winning Inside Out and Back Again, this one is gorgeous and evocative. Your students that love to read about other places will devour this one.

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Comics, Comics, Comics!

It’s a great time to be a comics fan.

There are loads of amazing ones coming out right now. The Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz committees all recognized graphic novels as honor books this year. People are starting to sit up and pay attention to the world of comics and graphic novels, so I am here with a list for your kids (AND YOU!). Happy reading! And welcome to the comics life.

Lumberjanes is by  Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen. It’s published by Boom studies in single-issue format, but the first trade paperback (collecting issues 1-4) is out on April 7th. Y’all, this one is so incredible. Feminist, funny, and constantly focused on friendship, this series is set at a summer camp and shouldn’t be missed.

PrinceLess by Jeremy Whitley has been a relatively new find for me and I’m obsessed. Princess Adrienne is tired of sitting around in her tower waiting for a prince to slay her dragon and rescue her. So she and her dragon decide to go do the rescuing themselves. Completely turns sexist and racist tropes on their head, as displayed by this panel:


PrinceLess hasn’t been checked in since we got it. Your kids are gonna love it.

The Explorer books (there are three) are comics anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi, whom your students already know because they adore amulet. This trilogy asks well-known comic artists like Raina Telgemeier, Emily Carroll, and Faith Erin Hicks, to write comic shorts based on a topic. They’re amazing. There’s something for everyone in this series!

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenager in Jersey City who suddenly and quite accidentally becomes empowered with extraordinary gifts. She has to figure out how to handle being a typical Muslim teenager–who’s now a superhero.

Honestly, when I discovered these (there are two so far), I bought them based solely on the tagline: “Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl.” Basically, that’s enough to sell me, but Mirka is fun and amazing and her religion is shown as something that’s part of her life, not something to be overcome or chafed against. Plus, dragons.

This is just a really small cross-section of all of the wonderful comics for kids that are being published right now. I hope you and your kids love them as much as me and mine do!

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 6 years.

Planning for Tweens

Like many of you, I’m feverishly planning for summer reading. My complete schedule is due at the end of this week and even here in the Deep South, everything has been thrown off by ice and snow and power outages and missed deadlines…as crazy as Summer Reading is in a public library, I’m definitely looking forward to summer.

My library isn’t large enough to have separate programming for tweens in the summer, so I encourage rising 6-12th graders to come to my teen programming. Which means I’ve had kids as young as 11 at teen programming. This can work. This is good for socialization and some of your kids will really enjoy it. Fun mentor-type relationships have sprung up among my group. You just have to remember a few things.

  • Adult Supervision. I’ve never had any issues at teen programming among the actual teens, but y’all, there is a big age gap between 11 and 18 and we have to be responsible around that. Make sure your programs are staffed properly. Safety first.
  • Participation, not humiliation. Try not to plan any programs that call anyone out specifically, but do encourage participation. Last year I talked about my photobooth program, which was well-attended and wildly popular. Kids were able to participate without feeling like I’m going to call on them at school.
  • Casual forever. My tween/teen programming is MUUUUCH less structured than my kids programming. Part of this is numbers: I’m never going to get 100 kids at a teen program. But part of that is that junior high and high school kids have their lives structured down to every single second and having a place where they can come make a craft or watch a movie without having to ask permission to use the restroom.
  • Have fun with them.  My main problem in the summer is that while I’m trying to do multiple programs a week, I forget to sit down and actually enjoy myself. The teen and tween programs are an ideal place to do this, as they ARE less structured and require less of me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I try and take this hour every week during the summer to relax and have a chat with my kids. I love it.

Good luck on those summer plans, fellow public librarians! You can do it!

Our cross-poster from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 6 years.

YMA Favorites

When you’re reading this, a lot of us will be heading or preparing to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter. There are many things to be excited about during Midwinter–meetings, exhibits, seeing friends.

But not a lot actually meets the level of excitement, that the Youth Media Awards. This will be my first YMAs in person! I’m so jazzed. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on my favorite winners of past YMAs. Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about this, but I’ll just do a quick overview because y’all are packing or flying.  My very favorites of the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Printz Award Winners:

I know this is everyone’s favorite, but it’s totally mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It won the 1963 Caldecott award. This book was written over 20 years before I was born, but I adored it as a child. I remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over and over again. And it holds up. I use this one in storytimes often, and I’m lucky enough to live near the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi and have seen some of the original art. It’s as gorgeous as you think it is.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg won the Newbery Medal in 1997. This is one that I was wild about as a child. I was 9 years old when this book came out, and I was part of a program in my school that was similar to the Academic Bowl Team. Well, not entirely similar. But it felt similar. My fourth-grade self resonated with this one DEEPLY. I actually have not read this one as an adult. A part of me is terrified that it won’t hold up. But it will, right? Because Konigsburg? This is the first time in my life I remember being aware that the Newbery medal is something that was actually awarded, and that the seal didn’t just magically appear on books in my school library. I remember my school librarian telling us that this book had won and being very excited because I had read it and loved it so much. Maybe it’s time for a reread?


The Printz Award is a little different. It’s a much newer award. The first Printz was awarded in 2000. I wasn’t really aware of the existence of the Printz until college library school, but I quickly became obsessed. I actually wrote my master’s project on the Printz. In doing so, I read many Printz and Printz Honor titles. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 winner, is my favorite, and continues to be my favorite Young Adult title of all time. I understand that my approach to this book was different. I was an adult the first time I read it, upon the recommendation of a colleague at my library, unlike the other two titles, which I came to as a child. But this book, like the other two, changed me and stayed with me. Marchetta is now one of my favorite authors. I’m fond of telling friends that if she wrote ingredients lists on the side of cereal boxes, I’d have them shipped over from Australia to read.

That’s the thing I love about award winners, and all books. Remember this when you’re putting award seals on books next week and when you’re teaching classes about the Caldecott and Newbery and when you’re excitedly handing your tweens and teens the Printz Honor book you’ll know they love: these are the books that will stay with them forever. And we get to be a tiny part of that.

Our cross-poster from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with kids ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

Middle Grade and Young Adult: An Author(s) Interview

It’s a holiday weekend, hooray! I hope everyone has had a most excellent Thanksgiving. I thought for a holiday weekend treat, we’d do something fun here today, so I asked a couple of authors to participate in an interview just for ALSC and YALSA blog readers!

The two authors I asked to participate have something in common: they write both middle grade and young adult books. As a librarian who works with all ages, and especially with the “tween” ages (where ALSC and YALSA’s services overlap!), I find myself needing to be familiar with both types of books.

The exact definitions of Middle Grade and Young Adult are subjective and amorphous. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just say that the intended audience for middle grade is slightly younger than the intended audience of YA, but both can be enjoyed by all ages.

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Not SCARY scary

Halloween is this week. Isn’t that nuts? ‘ I’ve had kids in my department for weeks, asking for Halloween books, for ghost stories, for scary stories.

And then there are the kids that want something maybe creepy, maybe suspenseful but “not SCARY scary.” I love these kids. ‘ These kids are my kindred spirits because I hate being scared. I can’t watch a horror movie and I never read a Goosebumps book when i was younger. But I do enjoy suspense and a little gloom. ‘ Take a look at these books for your kids who want to have some Halloween reading but want to be able to sleep at night:

Source: Goodreads

The Theodosia Throckmorton series by R.L. LaFevers: Theodosia can see curses and get rid of them. This comes in handy as her’ parents work in a museum and there are artifacts with curses everywhere. ‘ This is a fantasy adventure and though there are some creepy parts, it’s mainly pure fun as Theo tries to save Britain from ancient Egyptian curses. ‘ There are four of these.

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