Tell YALSA what’s New with You & Your Library

Back in January YALSA released its report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action.”  The report provides recommendations for ways libraries can evolve in order to better meet the needs of 21st century teens.  YALSA would like to hear from the library community and beyond how this report has impacted you and your institution so far.  What changes have you made in regards to serving teens or new things have you tried?  What have been your successes and challenges up to now?  What ideas did the report spark as you read it?  Please take a moment to fill out a brief online form to tell us about what’s been going on with you and your institution since the report came out.   Some of the information we gather will be featured in upcoming issues of YALS.

Also, don’t forget that you can access free resources to help you and your organization learn more about some of the key issues in the report, like connected learning, cultural competence, and more via YALSA’s web site.  We’ll be adding even more resources there over the next few weeks, so check back often.

Let’s Hear It from the Boys: Mike Mullin’s Perspective on YA Library Services for Guys

It’s been said many times, that teen boys can be a difficult group to engage through library outreach and entice through traditional YA library programming. Therefore, it seems important to get to the nitty-gritty inner workings of the male, teenage mind and learn how to increase service impact. Our first stop is with talented YA author and hilarious guy, Mike Mullin.

SH: Thank you so much for agreeing to contribute to the YALSAblog series “Let’s Hear It From the Boys” which will showcase the male YA author perspective on library services, resources and programming for male teens.‘ 

Mike: Sure thing. Thanks for inviting me.

SH: I appreciate your time and effort to share your unique perspective and encourage you to answer any or all of the following questions as they appeal to you. Please feel free to pose your own questions and expand on ideas that I may be missing.‘ 

Mike: You sure you want to give a creative person carte blanche to ask and answer his own questions? Okay, I’ll bite.

(Mike tackles both interviewer and interviewee duties from this point on.)

Mike: What was the greatest author presentation you ever saw?

Mike: It was that time when Mike Mullin went to the Burlington Public Library with his troupe of five singing alligators. Well, at least until the alligators got hungry. That part wasn’t so good.

Mike: You do not have a troupe of singing alligators.

Mike: But I wish I did, doesn’t that count?

Mike: No, it does not count.

Mike: But it seemed so real in my head!

Mike: You need to have your head examined.

Mike: I have!

Mike: The school nurse checking you for lice didn’t count.

Mike: But it was a head examination.

Mike: I meant brain—you need to have your brain examined.

Mike: Jeez, for a writer, you’re not very precise with your word choice.

Mike: Now you’re just being insulting.

Mike: Whatev. Why don’t we answer the real questions now.

Mike: Okay. Who’s this “we” you’re talking about anyway?

Mike: NOW!

Mike: Okay, okay already.

What stories interested you the most during your childhood and do they influence your worldview and work today?

Mike: From age two to four my favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. My younger brother and I had a special ritual for it—when Mom reached the words, “’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” we would begin to dance. We didn’t need any music, just the example of Max and his subjects over the three full-page spreads that followed. The other book I loved at that age was Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, for perhaps obvious reasons. When Darla is geeking out over construction equipment in ASHFALL, I’m definitely writing what I know.

By kindergarten, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie had supplanted Sendak. I even went so far as to organize a production of it in my backyard. I recruited classmates to act, held rehearsals, and scheduled a big opening night (well, afternoon) with parents and classmates comprising the audience. When Mom asked why I didn’t have a role in my own play, I told her indignantly, “I can’t act—I’m the director.” The young actor assigned to play Captain Hook froze up with stage fright so bad he peed his pants. I convinced Dad to jump in and improvise the role.

Our family was firmly middle class, and I got all the usual stuff for Christmas: Lincoln Logs, Legos, even a bicycle one year. But the best Christmas gift of my childhood was the one I got while I was in fourth grade—a boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the series eleven times over the following year, keeping count with hash marks inside the front covers. That year I’d been placed in a gifted and talented class with a particularly vicious and mean-spirited teacher, Mrs. Walsh, and C.S. Lewis provided me with a much-needed escape. Once, I escaped in a literal as well as figurative sense—Mrs. Walsh interrupted her excruciatingly boring lecture about reading to scream, “Michael Mullin, if you’re just going to read that book under your desk, you can go out in the hall to do it!” Busted! So I calmly got up, left the classroom, and settled in one of the study carrels in the hall to finish The Horse and His Boy.

As a teenager, I needed the escape books provided even more desperately. I voraciously read adult science fiction and fantasy, but my favorite book was one written for teens: Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. It described my perfect world—one without adults, where teens could live without the oppressive constraints of parents and teachers. Like the protagonist, Rod Walker, I was interested in primitive survival at that time. I practiced building shelters, foraging for edible plants, and matchless fire starting, both on my own and with the Boy Scouts. Today I prefer a lighter or matches for starting fires and hotel rooms over improvised shelter, but I still enjoy foraging for edible wild plants.

At twenty (and today), I still was reading science fiction, but my tastes were a little more sophisticated. My favorite book was probably David Brin’s Startide Rising. It’s a novel brimming with strange creatures and ideas, populated by aliens and humans both sympathetic and viciously self-interested. I’ve reread it several times since then, and it still ranks among my favorites.

Everything I read influences me and my work. I’m striving to create worlds as engrossing as those Heinlein, Asimov, Cormier, Blume, and Peck created. Striving to give my readers what those authors gave to me—a few hours of escape from a childhood that was sometimes kind of crappy.

Were there any specific experiences or programs at your library, youth center, or school during your young adulthood that left a significant impact?

Mike: I remember the public library I frequented until I was nine—the Broadway branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. It was in a square box of a building with bland white walls and water-stained ceiling tiles. My most vivid memory of that library is of the time the librarian ordered a book from another branch for me, and when it came in she invited me into the glassed in office to retrieve it. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, the inner sanctum, the secret lair of superhero librarians. That stuck with me better than any of the programs I attended.

What has been the most impressive program or event you have seen at a public library during your touring as an author?

Mike: I’ve participated in many amazing programs since ASHFALL came out two years ago. But the standout was the Teen Read ‘N’ Feed organized by Staci Terrell at the Anderson Public Library in Indiana. She gets a grant to do the program each year—the year I participated the local Rotary Club funded it. Anyway, she arranges for authors to attend the program—I was on the bill with Stephanie Bodeen and Steve Sheinkin. Then Staci buys a few hundred paperback copies of the authors’ books—in our case she was using ASHFALL, THE BOMB, and COMPOUND.’  She goes out into her local schools and booktalks the selected books. And here’s the kicker—any student who promises to read the book and attend the event gets a free copy of one of the authors’ books—whichever book interests them most. More than 250 teens turned out for the event on a Saturday at 10 am! And they were a crazy-enthusiastic crowd. The ones who’d chosen ASHFALL were busily trying to get everyone else to read it. The bookstore sold everything they’d brought to the event, and my signing line after my talk was half a block long. It was wonderful!

What information/library services do you believe could be improved to better assist and engage male teens?

Mike: The libraries that are doing a great job reaching teenagers (including guys) aren’t doing anything particularly revolutionary—they’re doing the basic block-and-tackle work that most teen librarians do, but doing it particularly well. They have strong teen advisory groups and great relationships with school librarians and classroom teachers. You can rarely reach these librarians on the phone, because they spend so much time in the schools. Many of them are hauling huge carts of books to and from the schools, checking them out to students right in the students’ classrooms.’  The programming at the library is different at each library, because it’s chosen and planned by their teen advisory group, not imposed from the top down. I’ve seen book clubs, technology clubs, teen writers’ groups, and movie clubs—they work because that’s what those particular teenagers are enthusiastic about and willing to help sell to their peers. This is critically important work by the way—teenagers who read for pleasure are less likely to become involved in crime, less likely to abuse illegal drugs or alcohol, and more likely to delay sexual activity—all things that pay big dividends for the library’s whole community.

What is one interesting fact about you that not many others know?

Mike: I have a troupe of five singing alligators that opens for me when I do library shows. Or I wish I did. Also, I’m not too sure what this word “fact” means.

If you were teenager again today, what would entice you into your local library?

Mike: Books. You have books at the library. You couldn’t keep me away with a stick. In fact, I worked as a page for the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library when I was sixteen and seventeen. It was a terrible deal for the library—I spent most of my time hiding in the stacks and reading.

‘ Could you tell us a little about your current work and what we have to look forward to from you in the near future?

Mike: Well, I just finished reviewing the copy-edits for SUNRISE, the conclusion to the ASHFALL trilogy, which will be out on March 17th, 2014. I’m drafting a new novel now, a young adult thriller about a teenager who sees a group of terrorists crashing a plane (from the ground). He’s the only one who knows how they did it. And they saw him watching them, so they want him dead. It’s tentatively called SURFACE TENSION. I don’t have a contract for it, so I have no idea when or if it will be released. Wish me luck!

Thank you, Mike. We appreciate your willingness to share your insight and wish you the best of luck! To learn more about Mr. Mullins, please visit mikemullinauthor.com.

New Year’s Resolution: Getting to Know Fellow YA Librarians

I don’t know about you, but I love the days when I get to hang out with youth services librarians and talk shop. I’m pretty shy, so it’s hard for me to get to know people. At conferences and hanging out on Twitter, I’ve heard/read remarks about librarians wanting to get to know each other. But it can be hard when we’re so spread out. I’m lucky if I get to see some of my fellow Connecticut librarians once or twice a year. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all knew each other?

So I came up with this idea – that we should get to know one new person a month. I created this questionnaire – it’s pretty short, with just 10 questions. Take a look here and fill it out.

And help us get the word out so we can meet more of our people!

Instagrams, Tumblrs and Vines, Oh My!

Just four or five years ago, I would send out postcards to remind teens of our monthly Teen Advisory Board meeting but today this method of communication would be completely foreign and unfruitful for my purposes.

Today, the library, like many other components of a community, is largely an intangible presence existing entirely as mobile communication. Today, I can save the postage and send out a Vine or Instagram to engage my teens up-to-the-hour of a library event. Today, I’m seeing many more new faces at my library events because of my digital presence as a librarian.

As Facebook and Twitter intersect with more instantaneous rivals, such as Snapchat, that offer more content options, such as Tumblr, it can be a fun challenge for librarians to keep up with the nomadic sprawl across various platforms of mobile teen connectivity.

We learn as we go, break new grounds, we talk with our teens and remember to never reinvent the wheel.

Here are my top three Vines, Instagrams and Tumblrs that worked as kick starters for my own YA librarianship in 2013:

Vine

1. Metropolitan Library in Oklahoma County describes their vine as “your inviting innovation link to the world,” and gives us insight into their teen programming, services and displays. Continue reading

Heading to Mid-Winter? You MUST visit the Reading Terminal Market

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Heading to Philadelphia for ALA’s Midwinter Meeting? Looking for some great food away from the Conference Center? You HAVE to try the many wonderful delectable delights at the Historic Reading Terminal Market.

Just a stone’s throw from the Convention Center, this market has something for everyone. Whether you are looking for an Amish homemade meal or an authentic “Philly Cheesesteak,” the Reading Terminal Market will have. This local gem not only sells delicious food, but is also peppered with many shops that may just have that perfect gift or souvenir you didn’t even know you were looking for. Find all the information you need to plan your perfect “break” from the conference here.

Hope to see you there!!

Teen Read Week: Using Pinterest to Plan Terrific Programming

One of the best things about using Pinterest for me is that I never know when inspiration for library programming is going to strike. Whether it happens when I’m actually surfing through my feed of pins from boards I follow (and following a diversity of interests is key here) or when I’m combing through my RSS feed in the morning, I invariably find ideas that would make great programs. But how do you use Pinterest when you are actively trying to plan specific programs, particularly with Teen Read Week in mind?

Curating Information

The first use for Pinterest is as a visual board to present pre-curated ideas, one I use quite frequently with my Library Advisory Board when we are discussing possible ideas for special events. When we planned our Night of Writing Dangerously last year (an evening where kids came to do nothing but eat and write in a fun environment), I first projected my Writing Tips & Tricks Board as inspiration for their thoughts. Not only did my students have fun picking out the t-shirts and mugs that would become our prizes, but the infographics and tips had them asking if volunteer teachers could be “grammar police” someone could flag down with a question, or if we could use one of our glass walls to chart the rise and fall of a short story. My Hunger Games Library Programming Ideas Board absolutely made our party when the first movie came out (over half our school came to it) since it enabled students to plan Capitol hair and make up stations, Wii archery tournaments, and a Facebook Profile picture corner with life-size cardboard cutouts of the actors – and I owe it all to Pinterest.

Adding students or other faculty (or librarians) to a collaborative board is a terrific way of putting the power of idea generation in their hands. YALSA traditionally adds members of the Teen Read Week committee to the Teen Read Week 2013 Board and you can see the theme of “Seek the Unknown” played out largely in the areas of science fiction and mystery-related pins, the two pieces the majority of librarians identify as their intended focus for next week. Many minds are usually superior to a measly single mind, so collaborative boards often build off each other, and you can set your account to notify you by email when someone else pins to the board in question. There have been many instances that I see what someone pinned in an email notification and it makes me think of a whole new search term to try, a fact which brings us to our next (and most crucial) point regarding Pinterest. Continue reading

How Do I Get Involved?

Think fast. What’s the last thing you’ve purchased online? It’s probably easy to come up with an answer, because it’s something many of us do quite often. You quickly fill out a convenient form, and something appears on your doorstep, practically’ the next day.’ YALSA’s new Opt-in Opportunities form is not exactly like unwrapping a new pair of warm slippers, but it’s close. Continue reading

Meet the 2013-14 YALSAblog Advisory Board: Andrea Sowers

Andrea or Drea (either is fine!) Sowers, Joliet Public Library (IL) – Teen Services Librarian

Where you’ll find me…. Online: Twitter: YALibrarianDrea Blog: www.bookblather.net

When I’m not working, I… playing geeky board games, reading, writing, knitting, taking pictures, or just catching up on shows/snuggling with the puppy & kitty.

My favorite things to do online include… play games & chat

Last awesome YA book you’ve read… Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

What you want to bring to the YALSA blog? Information that can help our members’ job easier/better. Continue reading

Meet the 2013-14 YALSAblog Advisory Board: Jennifer Rummel

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Jennifer Rummel, YA Librarian, Otis Library (Norwich, CT)

Where you’ll find me…. I’m on Pinterest,’ my Blog, and’ Twitter

When I’m not working, I… read a ton of books, across genres and ages, play with my puppy. I’m a die hard Celtics fan. I like to bake and do crafty things. I relax at night by watching TV – my top three favorite shows: Castle, Elementary, and Big Bang Theory

My favorite things to do online include… right now I’m addicted to Candy Crush. I love browsing Pinterest for things to bake or crafts to create. I love reading twitter and blogs to catch up on the latest book news.

Last awesome YA book you’ve read… Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas – It drew me in and refused to let me go. I devoured the book and I’m still thinking about it days later.

What you want to bring to the YALSA blog? My passion for reading and sharing ideas for great services to teens. Continue reading

Meet the 2013-14 YALSAblog Advisory Board: Angela Frederick

Angela Frederick, Elementary School Librarian in Nashville, TN

Where you’ll find me….‘ twitter.com/angelina41‘ or’ http://pinterest.com/angelina41/boards/

When I’m not working, I…’ am reading, watching TV, or dreaming about travels to far-away places.

My favorite things to do online include…‘ tweeting and pinning things while listening to music

Last awesome YA book you’ve read…‘ Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

What you want to bring to the YALSA blog?’ An exploration of the joys of Teen Services. Continue reading