During the holiday season, young adults are inundated with advertising and seasonal campaigns. It may be harder at this time of the year than any other time to capture the attention of teens in the library. At last month’s YALSA Symposium, Sarah Amazing, Carrie DiRisio and Samantha Helmick provided inspirational tips and tricks for marketing teen library services. Their preconference “Marketing Library Programs for Increased Impact” prepared teen library marketers for the seasonal competition for teen eyes and ears and offered predictions on social media marketing trends for 2017.
Sarah Amazing discussed concentrating on the importance of fandoms, marketing trends and designs to create an inviting space for teens. “Social media that tries too hard turns off teens,” said Amazing. “Think about trending colors and fonts. Great examples are movie posters for the season and YA book covers for the year.”

Examples of what to do as well as what not to do were provided during her presentation and included concepts like brand recognition with the use of special fonts for Harry Potter and Doctor Who events. Sarah imparted the notion that any librarian can keep their designs neat and clean with just a little research. “Even basic MS tools like Publisher can prove useful to those aware of style, trademark and popular culture,” Amazing concluded.

Read More →

Make the most out of mobile social marketing apps to promote your Summer Reading Program by using Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr this summer. As 21st century librarians are always on the go, even more so during the summer months, mobile social marketing apps can be effective tools of communication. Here is a breakdown of three high-traffic platforms to engage your audience in real time with a few simple taps.

1. Snapchat is a photo-messaging app that launched in September 2011. Today, 46% of Americans ages 12 to 24 years old use it. As of May 2014, Snapchat users send over 700 million pictures and videos each day.

Snapchat is unique in its ability to create short (1 to 10 seconds long) images or videos, which can be enhanced with graphics or text, and sent privately and ephemerally to your friends, followers and family. Once the message has been reviewed it is permanently deleted from your account, your recipients’ accounts and from the Snapchat servers.

Read More →

As we all know, it can be a bit difficult to get guys, especially teen guys, into the library to read great books, enjoy services and events and explore their world. To gain a bit of insight, we’ve talked to YA author and all around great guy, Trent Reedy.

Trent Reedy is the author of Words in the Dust, an extraordinary novel about a courageous girl in Afghanistan who was inspired by a real girl the author had met while serving in the military.

What stories interested you the most during your teen years and do they influence your worldview and work today?

TR: I wish I could be like all those cool writers who read every book they could get their hands on while they were growing up. I read a lot in my teen years, but not, I think, nearly as much as many of my fellow authors. I was blessed with some wonderful teachers and dedicated librarians who encouraged reading, but in the small Iowa town where I grew up, sports seemed to be the main emphasis. We were often told about the benefits of lifting weights and shooting many baskets, while but not quite as much importance was placed on reading, and almost none was placed on creative writing. I might be inclined to complain about this, except that even though I was an absolutely terrible athlete, my experiences in sports and particularly in football have been useful since football is featured rather prominently in my two young adult novels Divided We Fall and If You’re Reading This. Our country’s sports obsession intrigues me, and I expect this will come up in some of my future writing projects.

Growing up, when I wasn’t engaged in a futile effort to improve in sports, I loved science fiction and fantasy stories. I read a lot of super hero comic books like Spider-Man and The New Warriors. The Warriors were a super hero team billed as “Heroes for the ’90s, a title which curiously didn’t last. I loved Star Trek novels. I read a few “knights-and-castles” fantasy books. Looking back, a lot of those stories involved combat or adventure of some sort, and those elements are important in a lot of my writing.

Finally, were I to be really honest, I’d have to say that I’ve always been a sucker for a romance element in the stories I’ve enjoyed. In the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, I’d always try to make the decision that would help my character get the girl. I believed the cheesy and improbable romances in all those ’80s teen movies. From those films and from music like REO Speedwagon’s hit 1984 power ballad Can’t Fight This Feeling I accepted the disastrously erroneous idea that if a guy just tells a girl all about his feelings, she’ll come around and like him back. All of this led to some seriously embarrassing missteps in my own early romantic endeavors, but I still believe that a lot of guys, if they’re being honest, would admit that the first kiss, those early relationships, are life changing experiences, a part of who they are. So no matter what sort of novel I’m writing, it’s a safe bet that there’s at least some aspect of a romantic relationship in there somewhere.

Were there any specific experiences or programs at your library, youth center, or school during your young adulthood that left a significant impact?

TR: When I was very young, our little town library had story time, and I still remember my frustration when the Yooks, who eat their bread correctly (butter side up) could never seem to defeat the Zooks, who ate theirs butter side down, in Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book. I was four or five years old. Maybe I was missing the point. But then again, so were the two dominant governments of that time.

My elementary school took part in a program called Read a Million Minutes. We were given assorted prizes if we collectively met certain reading goals. That was incredible fun! One year, there was a robot, maybe the “Read-A-Tron 2000.” (In those days futuristic names all had “2000” after them.) He looked a bit like a robot-shaped collection of foil wrapped boxes, but I was amazed when he used his FLAT RO-BOT VOICE to encourage us to read. Given that the most advanced computer (we had just one) in the school was a simple Apple II, I have since begun to suspect that the voice of Read-A-Tron 2000 might have been supplied by our principal using the intercom system.

Years later, caring and patient librarians introduced me to all kinds of wonderful books. As a result I will always love Robert Swindell’s Ghost Ship to Ganymede and Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books.

Outside of that, there weren’t too many library or reading programs. I’m very pleased to note that in recent years my tiny home town has constructed a enormous and beautiful new library, and I know that the librarians and teachers back there in Dysart, Iowa are working very hard to help connect each student with that perfect, magic book. Early in 2013, I had the chance to visit my old elementary and middle school to talk to the students about reading and writing. My stars, what a thrill it was to talk to some of these young and very serious writers. I hope I was able to encourage them to hold on to the Dream.

What has been the most impressive program or event you have seen at a public library during your touring as an author?

TR: We’re really living in a golden age of youth literature. It is such a thrill to see so many young people so enthusiastic about the books they love. I’ve seen readers dressed up like characters from their favorite novels and a whole gym full of middle school students go crazy for YA author Heather Brewer as if she were a rock star (which she kind of is, really). I think that any program that connects readers with the authors of the books they care about is bound to be effective. Authors really care about their readers, and I think authors of books for young people have a lot of potential to inspire youth to be excited about books and about writing as well.

I was very impressed by a program that brought me to a school where I did several talks to large groups, but in which students also participated in a contest by writing letters explaining why they should be one of the dozen young people who would join me for lunch. I feel like I have an enormous responsibility in those types of situations because many of the students are writers themselves and they take my answers to their writing questions very seriously. But I think such events can be quite encouraging for young people. These events place a premium on books and help reinforce the idea that books and libraries are valuable. I dream of a day when a culture of reading and writing is as valued and celebrated as sports culture. I think there’s enormous potential toward that end through the cooperation of teachers, librarians, and authors.

What information/library services do you believe could be improved to better assist and engage male teens?

TR: It’s a great time to be a young reader. Teens have so many stellar young adult novels and young adult series to enjoy. What I’ve found is that young people are very passionate about their many fandoms and often want to participate in these as actively as they can. They take their fandoms very seriously, and they want to be a part of the stories that they love. They are thrilled reading Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Harry Potter, and others, but they’ve also learned to love an interactive world, and so they want to use their wonderful creativity to produce, to compose, and to share their thoughts and feelings about these stories.

To that end, I’d like libraries to continue in the role of being a place where people come to consume media, but expand as a place for people to compose media. I’d like to see libraries be a place where teens are free to create videos, GIFs, websites, and other digital graphic expressions of their love for their favorite books. This might be an area where Skype or Apple Facetime could come in handy, digitally bringing in visits from authors or digital artists and graphic design professionals. Because of their literary and technological resources, libraries are uniquely positioned to serve as a hub for a unique and exciting fusion of consumption and composition, of celebrating and sharing the love of books and reading with the whole world.

What is one interesting fact about you that not many others know?

TR: I don’t know how interesting this is, but it is something that not many others know, and it is potentially embarrassing. I like to sing. I sing a lot. I’ve been known to rock out at karaoke, but also, like my grandfather, my father, and my sister, I sing in my daily life pretty much constantly. Some of the songs are pretty basic little ditties like “I make the most amazing coffee” and “Guy in the Blue Honda Civic, Won’t You USE YOUR SIGNAL” to longer, more complex hits like “The Fall of the Trapeze Artist.” After I saw Les Miserables last year, I spent the next two weeks reworking a lot of the lyrics to fit writers, making lines like, “…at the end of the day I’ll be doing revisions….” and “must my name until I die, tell just who this is written by? Who am I?”

I’ve found that being blessed to be able to work at home is very conducive to my private singing career. However, there are some original country music lyrics in my YA novel Divided We Fall, and if asked, I might just have to sing those bits when I’m doing book talks.

If you were a teenager again today, what would entice you into your local library?

TR: A librarian friend of mine once told me a story about a boy who showed up to the library with a bouquet of flowers in hand, asking if a certain girl had arrived yet and if they were having teen writer night. My friend had the unpleasant task of informing the boy that the last week of the program had been the week prior. I feel like my younger self would have had a lot in common with the guy in that story. I would have probably gone to a teen writer program like this because I love writing, but also probably to spend time with a girl.

I also would enjoy programs that connect me to other people who enjoy reading the same books or the same type of books as I do. I would love the chance to go to the library to talk with people who read a lot of Star Trek or Star Wars books. It would be fun to talk about which of the books are the best and to debate other important issues. Han Solo shot first! As I said, we’re in a golden age of books for young people, and I would love library groups dedicated to fandom for everything from The Hunger Games to Harry Potter.

Could you tell us a little about your current work and what we have to look forward to from you in the near future?

TR: I have two novels coming out in 2014, so it is shaping up to be a very exciting year for me. My first YA novel, available everywhere January 28th, is called Divided We Fall. This is the first in a trilogy about Danny Wright, a seventeen-year-old small town Idaho Army National Guardsman who loves football, rodeo, country music, his big truck, and above all his family, friends, and girlfriend. When the Governor sends Danny’s Guard unit to help the police stop a protest/riot in Boise, Danny is hit in his gas mask with a rock, causing him to accidentally fire off a round, and that starts a panic. When the smoke clears, twelve people are dead and nine are wounded. The President of the United States demands an investigation and prosecution, while Idaho’s governor protects his soldiers by refusing to comply. This places Daniel Wright at the center of a controversy that rapidly spirals out of control, leading to a second American civil war. Divided We Fall is what happens when today’s headlines become tomorrow’s nightmare.

Later in 2014 I’m releasing If You’re Reading This, a novel about Michael Wilson, a teen in tiny Riverside, Iowa, who receives a series of letters in the mail from his father, who had been killed years before in the war in Afghanistan. These letters from his distant past help Michael cope with the present and prepare for the future. As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and as someone who lost his father to a sudden, untimely death, this story means a lot to me. I think Michael and I are both working out some thoughts and feelings about our fathers through this story. Also, since this book is coming out ten years after I served in the war in Afghanistan, and since 2014 marks an ending to major American commitment in that country, this novel is my effort to say goodbye to the war. If You’re Reading This is a story of a family that has suffered the painful emotional effects of our long conflict, and how a father’s letters bring hope and a new peace.

Thank you, Trent for sharing your time, experience and perspective. We invite other guys (and gals) to share their ideas and inspiration on YA Library Services for boys. To learn more about Mr. Reedy and his work please visit, www.trentreedy.com.

It’s been said many times, that teen boys can be a difficult group to engage through library outreach and entice through traditional YA library programming. Therefore, it seems important to get to the nitty-gritty inner workings of the male, teenage mind and learn how to increase service impact. Our first stop is with talented YA author and hilarious guy, Mike Mullin.

SH: Thank you so much for agreeing to contribute to the YALSAblog series “Let’s Hear It From the Boys” which will showcase the male YA author perspective on library services, resources and programming for male teens.‘ 

Mike: Sure thing. Thanks for inviting me.

SH: I appreciate your time and effort to share your unique perspective and encourage you to answer any or all of the following questions as they appeal to you. Please feel free to pose your own questions and expand on ideas that I may be missing.‘ 

Mike: You sure you want to give a creative person carte blanche to ask and answer his own questions? Okay, I’ll bite.

(Mike tackles both interviewer and interviewee duties from this point on.)

Mike: What was the greatest author presentation you ever saw?

Mike: It was that time when Mike Mullin went to the Burlington Public Library with his troupe of five singing alligators. Well, at least until the alligators got hungry. That part wasn’t so good.

Mike: You do not have a troupe of singing alligators.

Mike: But I wish I did, doesn’t that count?

Mike: No, it does not count.

Mike: But it seemed so real in my head!

Mike: You need to have your head examined.

Mike: I have!

Mike: The school nurse checking you for lice didn’t count.

Mike: But it was a head examination.

Mike: I meant brain—you need to have your brain examined.

Mike: Jeez, for a writer, you’re not very precise with your word choice.

Mike: Now you’re just being insulting.

Mike: Whatev. Why don’t we answer the real questions now.

Mike: Okay. Who’s this “we” you’re talking about anyway?

Mike: NOW!

Mike: Okay, okay already.

What stories interested you the most during your childhood and do they influence your worldview and work today?

Mike: From age two to four my favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. My younger brother and I had a special ritual for it—when Mom reached the words, “’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” we would begin to dance. We didn’t need any music, just the example of Max and his subjects over the three full-page spreads that followed. The other book I loved at that age was Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, for perhaps obvious reasons. When Darla is geeking out over construction equipment in ASHFALL, I’m definitely writing what I know.

By kindergarten, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie had supplanted Sendak. I even went so far as to organize a production of it in my backyard. I recruited classmates to act, held rehearsals, and scheduled a big opening night (well, afternoon) with parents and classmates comprising the audience. When Mom asked why I didn’t have a role in my own play, I told her indignantly, “I can’t act—I’m the director.” The young actor assigned to play Captain Hook froze up with stage fright so bad he peed his pants. I convinced Dad to jump in and improvise the role.

Our family was firmly middle class, and I got all the usual stuff for Christmas: Lincoln Logs, Legos, even a bicycle one year. But the best Christmas gift of my childhood was the one I got while I was in fourth grade—a boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the series eleven times over the following year, keeping count with hash marks inside the front covers. That year I’d been placed in a gifted and talented class with a particularly vicious and mean-spirited teacher, Mrs. Walsh, and C.S. Lewis provided me with a much-needed escape. Once, I escaped in a literal as well as figurative sense—Mrs. Walsh interrupted her excruciatingly boring lecture about reading to scream, “Michael Mullin, if you’re just going to read that book under your desk, you can go out in the hall to do it!” Busted! So I calmly got up, left the classroom, and settled in one of the study carrels in the hall to finish The Horse and His Boy.

As a teenager, I needed the escape books provided even more desperately. I voraciously read adult science fiction and fantasy, but my favorite book was one written for teens: Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. It described my perfect world—one without adults, where teens could live without the oppressive constraints of parents and teachers. Like the protagonist, Rod Walker, I was interested in primitive survival at that time. I practiced building shelters, foraging for edible plants, and matchless fire starting, both on my own and with the Boy Scouts. Today I prefer a lighter or matches for starting fires and hotel rooms over improvised shelter, but I still enjoy foraging for edible wild plants.

At twenty (and today), I still was reading science fiction, but my tastes were a little more sophisticated. My favorite book was probably David Brin’s Startide Rising. It’s a novel brimming with strange creatures and ideas, populated by aliens and humans both sympathetic and viciously self-interested. I’ve reread it several times since then, and it still ranks among my favorites.

Everything I read influences me and my work. I’m striving to create worlds as engrossing as those Heinlein, Asimov, Cormier, Blume, and Peck created. Striving to give my readers what those authors gave to me—a few hours of escape from a childhood that was sometimes kind of crappy.

Were there any specific experiences or programs at your library, youth center, or school during your young adulthood that left a significant impact?

Mike: I remember the public library I frequented until I was nine—the Broadway branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. It was in a square box of a building with bland white walls and water-stained ceiling tiles. My most vivid memory of that library is of the time the librarian ordered a book from another branch for me, and when it came in she invited me into the glassed in office to retrieve it. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, the inner sanctum, the secret lair of superhero librarians. That stuck with me better than any of the programs I attended.

What has been the most impressive program or event you have seen at a public library during your touring as an author?

Mike: I’ve participated in many amazing programs since ASHFALL came out two years ago. But the standout was the Teen Read ‘N’ Feed organized by Staci Terrell at the Anderson Public Library in Indiana. She gets a grant to do the program each year—the year I participated the local Rotary Club funded it. Anyway, she arranges for authors to attend the program—I was on the bill with Stephanie Bodeen and Steve Sheinkin. Then Staci buys a few hundred paperback copies of the authors’ books—in our case she was using ASHFALL, THE BOMB, and COMPOUND.’  She goes out into her local schools and booktalks the selected books. And here’s the kicker—any student who promises to read the book and attend the event gets a free copy of one of the authors’ books—whichever book interests them most. More than 250 teens turned out for the event on a Saturday at 10 am! And they were a crazy-enthusiastic crowd. The ones who’d chosen ASHFALL were busily trying to get everyone else to read it. The bookstore sold everything they’d brought to the event, and my signing line after my talk was half a block long. It was wonderful!

What information/library services do you believe could be improved to better assist and engage male teens?

Mike: The libraries that are doing a great job reaching teenagers (including guys) aren’t doing anything particularly revolutionary—they’re doing the basic block-and-tackle work that most teen librarians do, but doing it particularly well. They have strong teen advisory groups and great relationships with school librarians and classroom teachers. You can rarely reach these librarians on the phone, because they spend so much time in the schools. Many of them are hauling huge carts of books to and from the schools, checking them out to students right in the students’ classrooms.’  The programming at the library is different at each library, because it’s chosen and planned by their teen advisory group, not imposed from the top down. I’ve seen book clubs, technology clubs, teen writers’ groups, and movie clubs—they work because that’s what those particular teenagers are enthusiastic about and willing to help sell to their peers. This is critically important work by the way—teenagers who read for pleasure are less likely to become involved in crime, less likely to abuse illegal drugs or alcohol, and more likely to delay sexual activity—all things that pay big dividends for the library’s whole community.

What is one interesting fact about you that not many others know?

Mike: I have a troupe of five singing alligators that opens for me when I do library shows. Or I wish I did. Also, I’m not too sure what this word “fact” means.

If you were teenager again today, what would entice you into your local library?

Mike: Books. You have books at the library. You couldn’t keep me away with a stick. In fact, I worked as a page for the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library when I was sixteen and seventeen. It was a terrible deal for the library—I spent most of my time hiding in the stacks and reading.

‘ Could you tell us a little about your current work and what we have to look forward to from you in the near future?

Mike: Well, I just finished reviewing the copy-edits for SUNRISE, the conclusion to the ASHFALL trilogy, which will be out on March 17th, 2014. I’m drafting a new novel now, a young adult thriller about a teenager who sees a group of terrorists crashing a plane (from the ground). He’s the only one who knows how they did it. And they saw him watching them, so they want him dead. It’s tentatively called SURFACE TENSION. I don’t have a contract for it, so I have no idea when or if it will be released. Wish me luck!

Thank you, Mike. We appreciate your willingness to share your insight and wish you the best of luck! To learn more about Mr. Mullins, please visit mikemullinauthor.com.

Just four or five years ago, I would send out postcards to remind teens of our monthly Teen Advisory Board meeting but today this method of communication would be completely foreign and unfruitful for my purposes.

Today, the library, like many other components of a community, is largely an intangible presence existing entirely as mobile communication. Today, I can save the postage and send out a Vine or Instagram to engage my teens up-to-the-hour of a library event. Today, I’m seeing many more new faces at my library events because of my digital presence as a librarian.

As Facebook and Twitter intersect with more instantaneous rivals, such as Snapchat, that offer more content options, such as Tumblr, it can be a fun challenge for librarians to keep up with the nomadic sprawl across various platforms of mobile teen connectivity.

We learn as we go, break new grounds, we talk with our teens and remember to never reinvent the wheel.

Here are my top three Vines, Instagrams and Tumblrs that worked as kick starters for my own YA librarianship in 2013:


1. Metropolitan Library in Oklahoma County describes their vine as “your inviting innovation link to the world,” and gives us insight into their teen programming, services and displays. Read More →