In the April 2007 issue of American Libraries there is an article called “Buying into Gossip” by Jennifer Burek Pierce on page 76. Since YALSA and its Past President were mentioned, Judy Nelson felt that it was important to respond. Today she sent the following letter in to American Libraries at

On behalf of YALSA’s Board of Directors, I would like to express my disappointment in Jennifer Burek Pierce’s April article entitled “Buying into Gossip.” Pierce concluded that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) was not “endeavoring to lure them [teens] to a more high-brow literature” than Gossip Girl. This conclusion was based solely on the fact that in early 2006 YALSA disseminated a list of Gossip Girl “read-a-likes.” If Pierce had examined the list, she would have noticed that of the ten titles all but one were either recognized by an award or had been included on one of YALSA’s recommended lists.

It is even more puzzling that Pierce came to this particular conclusionconsidering that YALSA produces seven annual lists of recommended reading, listening and viewing for teens as well as four literary awards. YALSA’s Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature is the only national book award specifically for the young adult literature genre. This award was established precisely to promote and reward literary excellence in the genre as a means of ensuring that teens would have access to a wide variety of age-appropriate literature, including literature of high literary quality. To say that YALSA doesn’t encourage teens to read “high-brow” literature is simply not correct.

As adults and librarians, it also bears mentioning that teens should not be expected to read a steady diet of “high-brow” literature, however that may be defined. Teens, like adults, want to read what interests them when they are choosing materials for recreational reading. Sometimes that means reading Virginia Wolf and other times that means reading Us Weekly. To hold teens to a standard that adults don’t adhere to is unreasonable, and a library that excludes popular titles from its collection is not customer focused.

On behalf of the 5,548 YALSA members who are not only dedicated to
ensuring that teens have access to excellent library services and
resources, but to helping teens become life-long readers and thinkers, I would hope that Pierce would retract her statement about YALSA.

Judy Nelson, YALSA President

(posted by Beth Yoke)

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