As the school year winds down for me, it’s easy to get caught up in the last minute whirlwind of final exams, papers, coercing materials returns, and talking my wonderful faculty off the proverbial ledge.

But when I’m really on my game, I begin thinking about the first couple of months of the next school year and cataloging what, if anything, I need to do to lay a foundation for successful programming. Teen Read Week is always an event that sneaks up on me (and I’m on the committee, for goodness sake!) since it usually happens mid to late October and I’m in full project swing by then.

After over a decade of being a school librarian, I can chalk up my success to that much-overused word, collaboration. For me, collaboration just means using the network of relationships I already have with my teachers and students and searching for any new relationships in my community that will help me do my job which, in the case of Teen Read Week, is promoting recreational reading.

Read More →

As professionals who work with youth, we understand that volunteering is one way that teens can increase their social and academic development while giving back to the community at large. With many high schools instituting service credit criteria for graduation, teens are in need of opportunities to fulfill these requirements. What better time to evaluate your library’s volunteer opportunities for teens than at the beginning of a new year! What better place than the library, the hub of the community, at which to volunteer! Here are just a few of the ways that libraries can help teens make a difference: Read More →

A major goal of every YA librarian is to increase her market share, that is, to increase the number of teenagers using her library and those teens’ level of engagement in the library.’  In my experience, the most reliable and lasting way to accomplish this goal is for the YA librarian to actively embed herself in her community.

Read More →

I’m back with another month’s worth of interesting research and writing on scholarly and popular topics related to teen culture, literacy, and library services. I’ve decided to expand from just summarizing research to also linking you to fascinating articles, blog posts, or other more easily-accessed tidbits that might spark meaningful conversation, programming, or reference/advisory transactions. As always, if you have a topic you’d like to know about, or if there’s a journal you miss having access to, comment here and I’ll do some digging for you.

  • The Lilith blog, an online supplement to the Jewish feminist magazine, reports on a “freedom ride” in Jerusalem protesting the ultra-Orthodox custom of requiring women to board and sit in the rear of the public bus only. Sound familiar? If you’re looking for a way to allow your diverse patrons to connect with each other, try bringing this up as a topic and talking about the similarities with the freedom rides in the American South.
  • Read More →

    Many librarians spend a lot of time plotting and scheming ways to get teens in the door. It is sort of a “develop the programs and they will come” mentality. That is nice, but let’s be honest. What we really dream is having our teen spaces be hangout places; spaces teens feel comfortable spending free time. The main way to make this dream a reality is to build a sense of community within your teen department. There are several ways to jump-start the process:

    1. Create a Welcoming Space

    The first step is to create a place in which teens will want to gather. Often, our library buildings are older and were not created with specific teen spaces in mind, so spaces have been carved out of nooks, corners, and crannies. If you have a teen specific space, Hooray! It should be easy to make your department teen friendly. If not, here are two tips to help make your space appealing to teens: Make sure teens can be a little loud, without disturbing other patrons and make sure teens have a feeling of privacy. Notice I said Feeling of privacy, not complete privacy. While teens need to feel comfortable enough to relax, it is probably unwise to give them a closed off corridor far away from any adult eyes.

    2. Build on Existing Communities

    The simplest and quickest way to develop community is to build onto an existing community! Several YA authors and books have sparked interest groups that have developed into powerhouse communities. Though there are many such communities, two in particular are Nerdfighteria‘ ‘ and the Harry Potter Alliance. Nerdfighteria sprung up around the YouTube vlog of John Green (2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award and author of Looking for Alaska and other best-selling titles) and his brother Hank Green. Nerdfighters are people who try to decrease “world suck” and increase awesome. ‘ The Harry Potter Alliance mission statement says they take “an outside-of-the-box approach to civic engagement by using parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights.” You can let teens know the library has meeting space available for their group, or, depending on your libraries policies, your TAG could recruit other teens to help start a chapter of HPA or other group.

    3. Use your Teen Advisory Group

    Another way to build a sense of community is to use your Teen Advisory Group. Of course, you should meet to develop programs and plans for world domination, but you can also meet just to hang out. Get your teens to bring a friend to a meeting. When the newcomers see how much fun everyone is having, they will want to be a part of the group too!

    4. Create a Common Goal

    Whether it is a reading challenge, a fundraising activity, an outreach plan, or even a fitness challenge, having a common goal is a great way to create a sense of belonging.

    5. Give them a Voice and Listen

    All of your planning and hard work will be for naught if the teens in your community don’t feel like they are being heard.

    If you have tried everything and you still can’t Pay teens to linger in your fabulously designed department, Don’t Give Up! Keep trying different ideas to see what resonates with the teens in your area. My hope is that by creating a sense of community among the teens in our libraries, we will create a greater community for our cities and towns.

    As always, I would love to hear what You are doing in your library. What things have worked for you? What has failed miserably, but you think would work for someone else?

    Talk to Your Legislators!
    One of the key factors in gaining library support is making sure your legislators know what’s going on in libraries in their districts and states.

    To find and contact any member of the House of Representatives visit To locate a senator visit
    Each site provides an option to look up any member by state.

    So how else can you make them aware? Here are some easy tips involving just a little of your time –
    1. Put a link on your library website to allow your patrons to more easily contact
    legislators. Many have email addresses and websites.
    2. Friend them on Facebook. Many have accounts in Facebook and Twitter.
    3. If you publish newsletters or annual reports, send them a copy.
    4. Involve them in your activities – ask for pocket Constitutions to give out to patrons;
    invite them to be part of a special event, such as a building renovation dedication
    or an exhibit opening.
    5. Ask them to be part of a local READ poster initiative – they may be willing to pose
    with their favorite book.
    6. Create a video! – Let your patrons tell them why their library is so important to them
    and their community.
    7. Ask to host them the next time they visit your city or district – the library is an easy
    place to find.
    8. Issue them an honorary library card during National Library Week or Teen Read Week.
    9. Regularly post in your library any pending legislation and encourage patrons to
    contact their legislators.
    10. And most importantly – ALWAYS take the time to write a thank you to them for
    supporting legislation for library services.

    Many thanks to Betsy L. Blankenship, Library Director and Head Librarian, The Ohio State University, Marion, OH, for compiling these suggestions.

    With all the talk of advocacy in ALA, you might ask yourself: “How can I be an advocate? I’m just a librarian.” No one is “just a librarian.” Each voice counts and everything you do for your teens affects not only them but your community.

    Librarians can be advocates by speaking out. A well thought out email or letter to a legislator can be persuasive. I talked to one legislator and she said that she hears from the same people all the time. Most people do not have the time or inclination to write their legislators and so only a minority of voices gets heard. Also, it is usually the same people who always go to open forums like a city council meeting. If you feel you have something to say, thoughtfully write it out and bring it to your council. Bring your teens along with you as it gives them an opportunity to participate in the political process as well as let officials know who they are helping.

    You do not only have to speak out to people in government but your own administrators need to hear your voice too. Many times they do not know the problems or concerns among their staff. Some members of administration may only see teens as a nuisance instead of important patrons at the library. It is important to talk openly with administration to dismiss these beliefs, let them know what your teens are doing, and what administration can be doing for them.

    While it can be frightening to speak out to those that give us our paychecks, it is necessary if we desire change. The more you speak out, the easier it will come.

    As a part of our community outreach each fall, my public library sends representatives to as many “Back to School Night” open houses as we are able. ‘ Library staff bring posters and flyers describing our programs for children and teens, library card applications, giveaways like our nifty color-changing pencils, and raffle tickets. ‘ Students and parents can see what’s going on at the library, get a card and a fancy writing implement with the library’s name on it, and fill out a raffle ticket to win some books.

    Since I am new, and the first full-time young adult librarian my library has had, I want the teens, parents, and teachers in my community to see me and have every opportunity to say hello. ‘ So, I have volunteered to go on five of these visits. ‘ The first two were this past week and the experiences were vastly different.
    Read More →

    Several months ago I was on a conference call and part of the discussion focused on the role of libraries. (A fairly common conversation these days.) One person said that libraries are about books and another person said that libraries are about space. ‘ As I think about services to teens in school and public libraries, my thought is that libraries are about connections. The concept of connections does not preclude books or space, yet the idea of connections allows librarians to support some traditional services while at the same time leave traditional services behind and focus on new and emerging technologies and techniques.

    If libraries and librarians are about connections then they connect teens: Read More →