Peggy Hendershot, Youth Information Specialist at the Johnson County Library, Blue Valley Branch, has just been awarded the 2015 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens with her program, the Young Adult Discussion Diversity Panel she formed with their Young Adult Advisory  Council (YAAC).  Peggy told me about her experiences.

What was the reaction to winning the award in your community?  How did your students react?

Everyone has been very kind and full of congratulations.  The Kansas City Star’s 913 (Johnson County section) requested an interview. It’s great positive publicity for the library.

We told the teens during our usual round of introduction questions at our February 7th YAAC meeting. We asked, “What was the most exciting thing that happened to you in the last year.” When it was my turn, I said, “Winning the YALSA Mae Award for the Diversity Discussion Panel!” Then we handed out a copy of the press release to the kids. They were very excited!  There was quite a bit of whooping and hollering going on, along with plenty of high fives! We celebrated with cake, ice cream and confetti poppers.  Then they wanted to talk about the next big event they could plan!

You mention in your application that your library’s YAAC takes advantage of the YALSA YA Galley program.  Could you talk about how that works with your group?

The Johnson County Library YAAC groups applied to participate in the YALSA YA Galley/Teen Top Ten book project and were accepted into the program. Publishers sent out galleys and review titles of new and upcoming books. At our monthly meetings, the YAAC teens selected the titles that interested them from the selections sent out. The teens then read the books and completed reviews for them, which were sent back to the publishers. They also rated the books, nominating their favorites for the Teen Top Ten best books. YAAC members also discussed the books they did not select and why they chose not to read them. This information was also sent to the publishers. Our term was up the beginning of this year, but we plan to reapply to the program at the first opportunity!

Your library’s YAAC touched upon the issue of the lack of diverse titles in teen literature quite independently of our profession’s conversation about needing diverse books.  How were you able to channel that frustration/energy to, as you wrote, “do something about it” for these teens?

The teens expressed their frustration with finding main characters in YA literature that reflected them. The discussion started with one comment from one of the teens in the group, but the discussion quickly grew and became very intense as it did.  I let them talk awhile, guiding and facilitating the discussion. Then I asked them if they wanted to do something about it and they said yes.  I asked them what and they didn’t know, so I suggested they brainstorm ideas and I would, too, and then we could discuss at our next meeting which ideas they particularly liked and which ideas were feasible to pursue. The teens were extremely excited about the idea of being able to talk directly with publishing representatives.

How will you use the MAE Award money at your library?

We plan to use it toward an author visit. The teens will be submitting their suggestions at the next couple of YAAC meetings.

Any advice to librarians or teachers thinking about applying for this year’s MAE Award?

Go for it! I didn’t expect to win and was taken totally by surprise. I told YAAC in December that I applied for the award because I was proud of them and the hard work they put into the panel. It was obvious that meant a lot to them. Whether or not you win the award, submitting their program is a wonderful way to reinforce to your teens that their programming is important and relevant. If you win, the publicity for the library system is also great.

Apply for the 2016 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens! Deadline is December 1.  Applications and additional information about the award are available online.

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