Fifteen people gathered to discuss teens, music, libraries, and more as part of the Teen Music Media Interest group. After we all introduced ourselves (thanks to a reminder from one of our more aware members), those of us who brought digital music players came up to play a random song and tell a little story about where they first heard the song. We then used it to spark our discussion. Below, you’ll find the artist and song title as well as the discussion it sparked. Even though we would not really consider these songs of teen interest, per se, it got some really great ideas going from our members.

Yellowcard’s “Lights and Sound”

This song was first heard on a younger brother’s stereo system and later picked up.

We considered the idea of playing music out loud at the library, as a way to drive home the idea that music is accessible in the library and spark people’s interest in the collections. For those of us who don’t have a library which would allow such a thing without reason, we talked about playing music at programs (through traditional radio or some of the social digital radio options that we talked about in our To iPods & Beyond program), as both a way to promote music and liven up our pre-existing programs. We discussed music listening stations, which could be anything from a vendor-supplied machine to a few cheap portable CD players lined up on the shelf. We also discussed public computers as music listening stations and having headphones at the desk so that teens can take them back to the computer to listen to music. Due to sanitary considerations, it might be preferred to buy cheap headphones and sell them, in lieu of loaning them out.

We also talked about other ideas, such as having mix CD swap nights, doing impromptu “What’s on your iPod?” sessions, and doing a “New Music Tuesdays” program. A New Music Tuesdays Program involves buying new releases from stores on the day they come out (generally every Tuesday) and having a program that afternoon or evening which raffles off the CDs.

We also talked about the nature of our AV collections. Some of us had dedicated teen CD collections, whereas others had general AV collections with CDs for all ages. (Some of us had general AV collections with NO popular music, because their library was frightened of potential theft issues. Yeesh!) If your library has a general AV collection, it’s important that you make sure the CD selectors communicate what they are buying, so you can be knowledgeable. You also want to make sure your teens’ desires are being communicated to that person.

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “You Can’t Take Love for Granted”

This song was first heard live at last year’s ALA scholarship bash.

Of course, we talked about holding concerts at your library. It’s important to look for local teen bands (through such means as the Myspace music page) to play your shows, as it’s important to pay them. One library pays their teen bands $100, and those of us in touring bands joked that was more than we ever received to play a show. Having local bands play is great so that they invite their friends and get a lot of teen word-of-mouth promotion. We talked about the advantages of holding it outside, if possible, and where the equipment will come from–library-owned? rented? from the teens?

We also talked about booking library-specific bands, such as The High Strung, who’ve played 57 public libraries in 42 states in 2006 and will play 40 in 2007 (we were lucky that one of their associates happens to be part of the group). There’s also all of the Wizard Rock bands, such as Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, and The Remus Lupins. There’s also a band Bloodhag, a grindcore band available to play shows on the West Coast. We stressed how important it is to get local openers involved, for word-of-mouth and an overall satisfying experience for the teens.

We talked about how we can help our teens be in wild, screaming bands without hurting themselves. One person mentioned Melissa Cross’s The Zen of Screaming. We also talked about karaoke programs, which can be great for connecting with youth of East Asian descent. How to get teens to actually do it? Well, you can go up there and embarass yourself first. You can also host a more formally-structured “Library Idol” event.

Fountains of Wayne’s [song title missed in the note-taking process]

This song was first heard on a local radio station.

We talked about inviting radio station to take their promotional vehicles out and give schwag for teens (or anyone) presenting a library card.

But are teens even listening to radio? That might determine your focus in this area.

We also talked about high school radio stations. Do any of your local high schools have one? Would they be willing to feature songs from your recent acquisitions? We talked about what stations teens are actually listening to. Of course, that is going to depend on the teens in your community, though it’s important not to overlook the resurgence of interest in classic rock for teens! In this way, your teens can help put together a radio guide for stations that play music they are or might be interested in.

We also talked about how teens have the most diverse listening interests than any other generation!

It’s also worth noting recent bills that encourage communities to have more low-watt low-watt independent radio stations.

The idea that teens don’t listen to music on the radio still has display possibilities for our collections. We can highlight what teens won’t find on their local radio to up the “cool factor” of our collections.

Tara MacCla…nevermind, Tom Waits

One member was really hoping that Tom Waits would play, so we allowed it as a “gimme.” Tom Waits was first heard in Second Life.

Second life offers streaming music performances and deejaying capabilities. People can use Nicecast (Macs) and Shoutcast (PC/Windows) to stream music through Second Life.

In Teen Second Life, we can use this technology to stage concerts virtually in addition to in person. It could be a help getting teens to play when they know their audience could be worldwide through the web.

Dory Previn’s “The Lady with the Braid”

A member first heard this during intermission at a live concert venue.

What venues do your teens go to see music? Would they be willing to make announcements at intermission?

We also talked about “Yacht Rock”, a production of Channel 101 in California. It’s like a fake Behind the Music, where bands are portrayed ridiculously and often fighting each other. On iTunes, there’s a Yacht Rock essential mix. Would this be a fun possibility to let teens have fun with lambasting the bands they know and love?

Possibly not. Most of us noted that teens more sincere about their music than other generations. Because they might be using this music specifically to create their identity, they might not be ironic about it (like most of the 20-somethings in the room admitted to in their own tastes). We talked about the idea that the music you listen to between the age of 13-18 will be the most important to you in your life and that it servees as a reference point for everything else you will hear afterward.

We also asked how much work does it take for teens to learn about new music? The answer was not as much–kind of. Teens have access to tons of information about music and ways to distribute it. They don’t need the “expert” to tell them about new music anymore, even when they aren’t as interested in Top 40 (which many of us noticed with the teens at our libraries).

It also brought up the great point from one particularly astute member: is what the teen librarians think are important or popular with their teens the same as what’s actually cool with teens? Of course, like most things, the solution is to actually ask, ask widely and through various media, and keep asking. We noted the propensity for “teen” books to be published for librarians, not teens, which teen librarians then pass along and recommend voraciously among themselves. We talked about how we don’t want to replicate that with our own group. But there still might be times in which we’ll come across something we think is cool that teens aren’t talking about–at least not yet. It’s important, we discussed, to then imagine if we know one teen to whom we could recommend the music. If we can honestly convince ourselves of that, then why not?

We also talked about, and I am going to put this in bold because it’s important, actually listening to the music your teens recommend! You’d probably read the books, why not listen to the music? Considering it takes 3-4 minutes to hear a song–and you can do it while you do other things–it seems like a basic professional competancy and a really important means to connect with your teens. This of course isn’t intended to encroach on their interests, but at least show them you’re listening (in all senses of the word).

We then finally got down to business and elected our co-conveners for the next year! Given that we had a sizeable attendance and two willing participants, we are happy to name

Jaina Lewis &
Kate Pritchard

as co-conveners of the Teen Music Media Interest Group.

We also talked about our plans for ALA Annual 2009 (Chicago), including a program about popular music resources that Jaina and another member would like to put on in conjunction with PLA. It would be a great way to go with YALSA’s strategic plan of strengthening alliances with other divisions.

We also discussed staging a live concert with teens at ALA Annual 2009, either at a YALSA social event, as a “performance booth” set up somewhere in the convention center, or included as part of a program on putting on live music events for teens at your library.

Any other ideas? Feel free to discuss them on the ya-music list!

Last on the agenda was finding interested writers for a the winter issue of Young Adult Library Services, which will be focused on Teen Tech Week’s “Tune in @ your library” theme. It sounds like a natural partnership, so let’s do it! Have you done any interesting music programming? E-mail the list with your interest in writing or ideas for content, and we can submit an article proposal.

Thanks again for coming, everyone! While there were a bit of bumps, I was really impressed with everybody’s passion and really appreciate all of your ideas and consideration.

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.

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