Making a Difference in the Garden State

The Teen Advisory Board (TAB) of the Montclair Public Library has come a long way since its inception. This group of teens has sought to create a welcoming environment, not merely for themselves but for children and adults as well. new-jerseyThey have implemented successful programs such as a Wii & Board Games day and Minecraft; during which they invite people of all ages to interact and play together. TAB is also a strong advocate of literacy, especially at an early age; so much so, that they host various events such as a Fairy Tale pajama story time, Star Wars Reads Day, as well as a book buddies program in celebration of Read Across America. In addition, TAB has created and maintained their very own bi-monthly newsletter called, The TAB Chronicle. This has proven to be a great outlet for the group to share their thoughts and talents through their poetry, artwork, and opinion pieces. Read More →

Members of my Teen Advisory Group (TAG) are lovingly called minions. While it started as a joke I called my core group long before TAG got started, I decided to make it mean something when TAG officially began. The point reward system encourages them to get involved in the teen department beyond TAG and quieted the fights over who claimed the title of “top minion”.

IMG_0512How it works

To become a minion you have to attend at least one TAG meeting. No matter how active a teens is, they cannot earn any minion points until that first meeting. Here is how the point system works:

  • Come to a program: 5 points
  • Bring a friend: 10 points
  • Write a review for the website: 5 points
  • Record a review for the website: 10 points
  • Create a book trailer: 15 points
  • Create a book poster: 10 points
  • Submit something to the Teen Creations: 5 points
  • Participate in Summer/Winter Reading: 5 points
  • Complete all 3 levels if the Reading Program: 5 points

I do assign other points for special projects as well. For example, this summer I had the teens help me create the Summer Reading Promo Video; each minion that was involved earned 20 points. I’ve also given points here are there for teens that have helped me clean up, decorate the department, or some other small job I’ve needed done.

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?

Title: Bluefire Reader
iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch with OS 3.0 or higher
Android app is coming soon!!’ According to’ MediaBistro‘ AND’ Bluefire Facebook page‘ ‘ ‘ 
Cost: Free!

As a school librarian, summer is one of my favorite times to catch up on professional development and read as much as possible. This year I was lucky enough to attend ALA Annual (post on this coming soon) where I was showered with galley after galley of upcoming summer, fall and even winter titles. I left New Orleans with an entire extra suitcase full of finds.

Only occasionally during my rounds through the exhibit hall was I reminded of the great service NetGalley, which allows “professional readers” ‘ (i.e. librarians and other’ eligible persons) access to DRM and DRM-free Galleys of upcoming titles.

The list of publishers in NetGalley’s arsenal is long, and I’ve found out about many great titles through this service. ‘ I turned a few books down when I discovered they were on NetGalley…less to carry.

Upon my return from ALA, I learned that the iPads we ordered for the coming school year were in, so I picked one up with plans to try it out. I’ve put several different reading devices on the iPad; Kindle, Copia, Stanza, Bluefire have all been added, to name a few.

All are free apps, and all have their benefits,* but I’m highlighting Bluefire for a few reasons: Read More →

While many of you were at Annual, I was in the process of moving and changing jobs. ‘ I have gone from being a school librarian in a K-9 school, to a YA librarian in a public library. ‘ Over the course of my budding library career I have worked with teens and I have worked in public libraries, but this is the first time I am working with teens in a public library. ‘ Which is a convoluted way of saying theoretically I know what I’m doing, but in practice I am still inexperienced.

I think the acknowledgement of transitions is important in a profession where many of us have several different jobs over the course of our careers. ‘ ‘ This transition has landed me exactly where I want to be. ‘ Aside from an Anime club that plans to start back up again in the fall, YA services here is pretty much a blank slate. I have a lot of freedom, but I don’t have a lot of direction. ‘ It feels good and I think it will prove useful in terms of growing the YA program, but for the moment, I’m not really sure where to begin.
Read More →


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, a Best Book for Young Adults

Aleksandar Ferdinand is a prince and heir to the throne — but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when your own people want you dead. On the eve of the Great War (WWI), the Austro-Hungarian Empire uses their Clankers, great steam-driven iron machines filled to the brim with guns and ammunition, while the British Darwinists get their fabricated animals ready for war.

Clanker Aleksandar is on the run with nothing but his clanker, a crew of loyal men, and an unknown payload to keep them alive — but he’s not the only one with something to hide. British Darwinist Deryn Sharp, a brilliant airman, has a secret as well… mainly, that she’s a woman hiding in an all-male navy.

The British Leviathan, the most formidable being in the sky, is a living airship — and it soon finds itself in the middle of more than its creators ever dreamed of it as a Deryn and Aleksandar, sworn enemies by country, cross paths, bringing them both on board the Leviathan and praying that the world as they know it does not fall into the Great War.

–Joe Kaufeld, Allen County Public Library Teen Advisory Board

Like many people digital photography has opened up a whole new hobby to me: photography.’  I love being able to take as many pictures as it takes to get just the right shot and when I learned how to use the macro setting on my camera, well, suddenly all my photos were extreme close ups.’  And, like many of you, I share my photos with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers via email, photo album sharing (i.e. Picasa, Flickr, Shutterfly, etc.), Facebook, and my personal blog.’  Just yesterday I noticed that WordPress had a new theme specifically for photoblogs (Duotone.)’  Hmm…a blog that is simply a new photo each day.’  I had thought about doing a “365” project for a while and this was the incentive I needed.’  I signed right up for yet another blog. Perhaps you’re wondering what this has to do with teens and libraries? Well, after I posted my first two pictures I started thinking about how much fun it would be to do something like this at the library. I like it that it wouldn’t take up extra space on your website.’  You could just have a link on your front page to your “Picture of the Day” that would take you to the photoblog.

You could photograph all kinds of things at your library: people doing different activities (reading, using the computer, etc.),’  beautiful or unusual parts of the building, staff and patrons interacting, children responding to programs, and whatever else might capture your eye. ‘  And why not get teens involved in this? What a great way to empower the teens who use your library and support their point of view and art.

Aside from just being a cool project, this is a great way to show the many facets of the library and your community.’  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! Have a 365 project? Why not leave a link in the comments?

Sarah Debraski

YALSA Immediate Past President

Imagine this: all your life, you’ve been underestimated. You’ve been patted, petted, cooed over and kept in an imaginary cage. Always back by curfew, only had one boyfriend. You’re never allowed to do anything “cool”, and you go to one of the most prestigious academies in Massachusetts. Oh, yeah- and your family calls you “Bunny Rabbit”.

That’s the life of Frankie Landau-Banks. And she’s had her fill of it.
This year, all that is going to change. Read More →

It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. In this book, it takes an unusual village to raise an orphaned child: a graveyard full of spirits from all walks of life and different time periods. Each ghost brings new adventures to young Bod’s life. Meanwhile, the murderers of Bod’s family are determined to kill Bod in order to prevent the fulfillment of a prophecy. Read More →


‘ Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith, a novel set in the same parallel world as her previous book Tantalize, is not the typical vampire romance. Instead it is a breath of fresh air as it explores a new fantastical pairing.

The story is told by Miranda, a high-schooler turned vampire (“Eternal”) princess, and Zachary, her adoring guardian angel. After Miranda joins the legions of the undead, she is adopted by the King of the Mantle of Dracul, otherwise known as the reigning Dracula. Because Zachary reveals himself as an angel while attempting to protect Miranda the night she is taken, he is stripped of his wings. Read More →