I am currently reading David Levithan’s new novel, The Lover’s Dictionary. This is the first of his novels, at least that I’ve read, that hasn’t been filed in the YA section. As I’ve been reading it I’ve sort of kept a check list of reasons for this in my head, but what I’ve found is that the major rationalization seems to be the age of the characters, who come across as just past young adulthood. My other thought while reading this novel is that it is probably one of the best solo novels I have read by David Levithan.
This got me thinking about cross shelving. My mother is a children’s librarian, and she has told me before that some novels (like the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books) are shelved in both the Children’s and YA sections. It makes sense to me; some kids are still okay looking for books in the Children’s section, but other kids who might not be ready for everything in YA would still like to start browsing there.
I wonder if the same can’t be done for books like The Lover’s Dictionary, shelving it in both Adult Fiction and YA. While I think that this would certainly work for some books, this seems like a much more difficult endeavor when it comes to content and the comfort level of some patrons. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to browse in the Adult Fiction section along with the YA section and I have found a few books that I think speak to a YA audience, some books that I think teenagers would benefit from reading. I once wrote a post about why I thought it was a good thing to see classic novels in the YA section, and this reasoning is somewhat similar. There are some really great books filed as Adult Fiction that I think teenagers would love and learn from, but that they might not ever find because they are not in the YA section. The problem this time, however, is that instead of the questions raised about how interested teenagers would be in the plotlines of classic novels, there are instead questions raised about the curse words and sexual content in novels shelved in the Adult Fiction section.
So, I suppose the question I’m left with is, is it even worth it? In a lot of cases I would argue yes, especially considering the wide range of interests and intellect present in the YA audience. On the other hand, it certainly seems like a call that needs to be made by each individual YA librarian, and each individual library. The main purpose of this post was to suggest the idea, see if any librarians are already putting it to use, and whether or not it was/is successful or helpful. Maybe a more realistic outcome would be for YA librarians to suggest books in the Adult Fiction section to their older and/or more mature patrons when it seems like they are ready for them. ‘ As a teen patron, this issue has been on my mind because I always worry that I’m missing a good book simply because I’m not looking in the right place.
I once worked in a library that did the opposite of this – it put items that were clearly YA in the adult collection to avoid challenges. I felt pretty squicky about that, since it basically amounts to censorship (hiding the books so that teens can’t find them). I have to admit, though, that I’m not too keen on having the same title in multiple locations; it seems confusing. I’m more amenable to the idea of posting finding aids in the YA section that suggest titles in the adult collection. I like the idea of encouraging teens to try things from the adult collection – seems like another great step in creating life-long readers.