As much as I’d love to read every book in my collection, it’s not a particularly realistic goal–nor is reading every forthcoming young adult book. Like all teen librarians, I have to pick and choose, and I often rely heavily on other people’s reviews and recommendations when it comes to collection development.

I’ve been pretty pleased with the success of my fiction choices, but every once in a while I buy something that looks great to me, but never leaves the shelf.

So how do you find the instant hits?

Use focus groups. If you have a handful of teens who seem to devour all your new books, try giving them your ARCs and galleys after conferences. You can get out ahead of new releases and find out if that title that was so heavily promoted by the publisher turns out to be a dud.

If you’re not a conference-goer (or you’d like access to free books in between big events), try going directly to publishers’ websites–many offer “free stuff” alert mailing lists or contests. The LibraryThing Early Reviewers group is also a good one to join, though your chances of receiving titles there improve if you regularly review them on the site.

Pay attention to film releases. Even when the movies turn out to be terrible, your circulation on certain books can skyrocket when there’s a film adaptation in the works. I had no idea my teens were even remotely interested in Nicholas Sparks books until Dear John came out, and by then it was almost too late.

Try to follow movie or book blogs that will cover adaptations. Even if the movie has already come out, it’s not too late to stock up on the book–Scott Pilgrim is seeing a resurgence of popularity here thanks to this summer’s movie. Check out Chasing the Frog for a list of book movies by year.

Ask your teens–early and often.
This year I have a new crop of voracious manga readers who had a great collection in their middle school library–and a pretty tiny one here. I’ve been building it, but there weren’t any manga titles here before I arrived, and it’s not my personal strong suit.

So I asked one of the ninth graders to suggest titles, and did she ever–this morning she brought in a four-page list! Now I have a great resource for ordering new titles, and a student who knows I take recommendations very seriously.

I also have an online suggestion form, which I highly recommend. Although mine doesn’t get a lot of use outside of library orientations (where I make sure using the link is part of the scavenger hunt), I’ve gotten some great title requests that way.

What do you do to find the next great book for your teens?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

2 Thoughts on “30 Days of Back to School: Teen Book Recommendations

  1. Not quite sure about the significance of the name, Chasing the Frog, but that website is awesome! Students were just asking me about that today so I jposted the link to my Library Facebook. Thanks!

  2. I rely a great deal on my local booksellers–especially University Book Store, Seattle–to keep me up to date on what’s coming up. Their new book displays are always excellent, and children’s/teen booksellers are all big readers who will start pulling books out when they see me coming. I order a lot of books from Follett, but my local bookstore is great for keeping up and having books that I can bring to school the next day, so I buy lots from them too.

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