I’m the first Teen Services Librarian my library has ever had. When I started, we had a YA fiction collection and a week-long summer knitting camp for middle schoolers, but that was it. No book lists. No staff presence near the YA books. No programs, no TAB, no teen summer reading club. That’s now changed. Over the last two years, I’ve built a lot.

Since YALSA President Jack Martin’s theme for the year is “Connect, Create, Collaborate,” I thought it was a good time to reflect on some of the ups and downs of creating a teen services program (nearly) from scratch. My hope is that it’ll inspire others in similar positions and maybe even give us a way to connect and collaborate to learn from one anothers’ experiences. Read More →

Now that fall has arrived and school has started again, life is returning to normal after a hectic summer. I just reached my two-year anniversary at my library (the longest I’ve ever worked for one organization!), so I’m finding myself in a contemplative mood, reflecting on what I’ve accomplished and where I’d like to go from here. With everyone back in town after summer vacations, it seems like it’s time to connect or reconnect with other youth-serving organizations in my community.

While building these connections can take time, I know that they’re going to help me reach teens who aren’t already using the library — and that’s how I make my program grow! When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just think about it in small steps: I have time for one extra email today. I can make time for a meeting this month. I can work on this project for these fifteen minutes I have before lunch, and if I do that each day this week, I’ll have made significant progress.

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I’m the only YA librarian at my library, and despite the things I do to stay in touch with my colleagues locally and nationally, it can sometimes be very lonely work somtimes! If you’re in the same boat (or if you just love the chance to be with your people), add YALSA’s Speed Networking for YA Librarians to your Annual schedule.

The speed networking event is a fun, simple way to connect with others who work with teens in libraries. It’s inspired by the speed dating model of getting to know someone: everyone will be divided into small groups and seated at tables. Every few minutes, groups will swap tables, giving you a chance to get to know a lot of your fellow teen-serving librarians in a more personal way in short period of time.

You’ll talk about great ideas, swap stories of successes and failures, and have the opportunity to meet people from across the country who are at all different points in their careers and professional involvement. Conversations will be informal and fun. Bring your expertise and your curiosity!

This session will be held on Sunday, June 24th at 1:30 in the Pacific A room of the Hilton Anaheim hotel. I hope I’ll see you there!

Shortly after Midwinter, YALSA published its selected lists, signaling the end of one committee year and the beginning of another. Last year I served on AmazingAudiobooks, and as I take over as chair and gear up for a second year, I’m finding myself reflecting on last year and what I’ve learned.

That's a lot of audiobooks!I learned a lot about audiobooks. Over the course of the year, I listened to audiobooks in the car, at the gym, during lunch, while getting dressed in the morning, while making meals, while doing housework, and while sitting on the couch feeling like maybe I would never finish all of the listening that I needed to do (look at all of the titles we received last year!). But all of that listening helped me develop a more sophisticated sense of what makes a good or poor audiobook (you don’t always like something, even if it’s really good).

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We’re halfway through November, which means we’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month. For the first time, my library’s holding programs and providing resources for our local NaNoWriMo participants, and it’s gone well so far.

In early October, a teen patron asked if we were doing anything for NaNoWriMo. We weren’t, so some of the adult services librarians and I worked together to reach out to our Municipal Liaison (a regional representative that coordinates local NaNoWriMo events for participants). He was finalizing their schedule and was actually looking for a venue for a few events, so we arranged to host a meet-up (an hour and a half session for WriMos in the area to meet one another and work over coffee–and a chance for us to advertise library resources they might use) on the first Saturday of the month and a write-in (five hours of buckling down and cranking out words) two weeks later.

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Image by flickr user benessere

Teens can feel (and genuinely be) pretty marginalized in their communities and in their own lives. Part of what we can do as librarians is to empower teens and to advocate for them within our institutions and our communities. This kind of advocacy is also one of the evaluation criteria YALSA provides in its Teen Services Evaluation Tool. Today, I’ll be providing some ideas on how to be an advocate for teens.
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Like 20,000 other people, I attended Annual this year. It was only the second time I’ve been, so before I left, I sat down to think about how I wanted this experience to be similar to and different from my last/first time (Chicago 2009). I knew I wanted to be bolder in approaching people I didn’t know so that I could meet and talk with more people, and I definitely feel like I succeeded in that! Another one of my goals for my Annual experience this year was to learn more about YALSA as an organization and to find out more about what YALSA does beyond what I’ve experienced so far.

And what better way to do that, I thought, than to sit in on a Board meeting? ALA has an open meeting policy, which means that almost all of the business ALA and its divisions conduct are open to members with the exception of “matters affecting the privacy of individuals or institutions.” Thus, while you can’t sit in on the Printz committee’s deliberations, you can attend Board meetings and hear what issues YALSA’s governing body discusses and the decisions that they come to. Read More →

About a month and a half ago, YALSA members elected Jack Martin as 2012-2013 YALSA President. While he was interviewed for the YALSA Podcast during the elections as a candidate, I had some more questions for him now that he’s just weeks away from officially beginning his term as President-Elect. Jack kindly agreed to answer those questions for me.

What was the first thing you did when you learned that you’d won the election?

I called my husband and my mom to tell them the good news!
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As we get closer to Annual (just 38 days left!), maybe some of you have started to look through the schedule to choose the sessions you want to attend. Did YALSA’s Speed Networking for Librarians catch your eye?

Are you the only teen services librarian at your library? Tired of being lonely and want a simple way to connect with your peers? Attend this informal event to meet colleagues from around the country and exchange practical ideas and information to help you bolster your teen services program.

This program is inspired by the speed dating model of getting to know someone: participants will be divided into smallish groups and seated two groups at a table. Every few minutes, groups will swap tables, giving you a chance to get to know a lot of fellow YALSA members in a more personal way in a short period of time. The event will be on Saturday, June 25th from 1:30 to 3:30pm.

Here’s where you come in: we need volunteers to help facilitate conversations at each table. You’ll be provided with a list of questions and discussion topics ahead of time, so your basic responsibility will just be to keep the conversation going. This is a great chance to dip your toe into volunteering at Annual if you haven’t done that yet and to expand your professional network. It’s also an opportunity for more seasoned YALSA members to help out at an event where new members and students will be present, which will help them feel welcome within our organization.

If you’re interested in being a facilitator, please email me. And if being a facilitator doesn’t sound like you, at least consider participating in the speed networking event!

Last week was spring break, which means that this week, teens are dragging themselves back to school and back into their normal lives. I know a lot of them thought their break was much too short–but for me, it was much too long: there was absolutely no one at the library last week and I was lonely!

I should have known this was coming since the public schools also get a week off in February and the library was dead during that week (my library serves a very family-based area, so when the kids have vacation, everyone has vacation), but I’d also been attributing some of the February quiet to the weather being especially crummy and the families who were home wanting to stay out of the snow and ice and ick. I was hoping that spring break would be different.

But it wasn’t, really. We’re very firmly an after-school destination. The good side of that is that kids come to the library just to hang out, and in getting to know the regulars, I’ve cultivated a core group of kids that attend nearly every program I put on. But the downside is that if there is no school, we’re not a destination–and I think that above all else is the primary thing I want to change in the next couple of years. I want kids to come to the library not just because it’s within walking distance of school and they need somewhere to be until their parents get home from work. I want the library to be a place they want to go because there’s something specific here for them that they want to do or use or experience. I think part of it is the battle all of us fight to successfully advertise ourselves, but a big part of it is that our programs and services for teens are still really new.

I have some plans for how to do that (though I’d love more ideas if you have them!), but for now, I’m just going to revel in actually having my patrons back in my library after a long and lonely week! I was able to knock out a lot of planning and paperwork while they were gone, but having to do all of that boring stuff and go to meetings without the relief of being able to talk about Minecraft, joke around with my TAB kids, or do any readers’ advisory at all left me feeling out of sorts and made me realize that I am definitely in this profession for the kids, not for the library itself.

I’m really into the goals and ideals of our profession and I want to promote all of the great things libraries do that people might not know about and to make information more accessible and understandable to people. I like YA lit a lot and I’m interested in raising its reputation outside the YA world. But what really matters to me is what I can do to make my teens’ lives–both right now and in the future–more awesome.

I want to help them find reading material that is engaging to them. I want to help them totally nerd out in their interests and hobbies. I want them to be able to have fun, to have opportunities to grow as people, and to feel valued in our community. I want to be their advocates within the library and to everyone else in the town. As overly earnest as it sounds, I want to use the library as a force for good in their lives.

I was kind of surprised by how bummed a week without my patrons made me feel, but it’s shown me that they’re definitely what gives my job meaning. I like that I know that about myself now, and I’m really looking forward to building our teen services and getting the word out about what we do.