Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Info Literacy and You

I am beginning to think that after the need to do YA Services runs its course through me, I may be very interested in moving forward with consulting or supervising or something that involves less direct service and more planning.

I promise you, that is not a complaint.

In the past couple of weeks, I have worked on a couple of projects that have my brain turned on and my interest tuned in -- both in ways that helping a customer use our print software just can't quite accomplish.

My projects have included researching urban literature for teens, building connections between gaming and literacy and, now, researching information literacy standards (I haven't yet found them for the State of California). This newest project will help my public library decide how to bridge partnerships with the local school district in coming months...and years.

I have, however, found some valuable resources that I will need to use in the near, they'll live here!

AASL's Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning

An Educator's Guide to Information Literacy (a book I need to buy)

Building a Partnership Between Public Schools and Public Libraries

Information Literacy Standards at Los Angeles Public Schools (not my school district, but it's a guide post)

WestEd's Evaluation of Workforce Readiness Programs

National Education Technology Standards for Students

California Technology Plan Requirements (as required by No Child Left Behind)

Chavez Bill

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sources on Urban Literature

I've dipped my toe into the world of buying urban/street lit for my library's YA collection, and now it's time to dive in all the way.

I'm going to make use of my blog (well, it is my blog, after all) as a repository for sources on YA "appropriate" street lit. For now, a lot of this information is coming from Teen Librarian, but I'm trying to pull together some other resources as well. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

More Books Like the Coldest Winter Ever

Library Success Wiki

Street Fiction for Teens

Hennepin County Library

Young Diamond Books (Street Lit for Teens)

Bluford Series

(that's what I've found as of 12/3/2007)

The teen librarians at my library are currently having a discussion about street lit. Well, I started the discussion, because I am responsible for selecting paperback fiction for all of our branches. Several librarians have requested street lit for their teen sections. The selection of "actual" teen literature that qualifies as street lit is limited, and many of these titles are more suited for the adult side.

At least, that's my perspective.

I'm doing the research. I'm finding the titles. But I am also wondering whether or not it is a wise idea to go out and create a brand new collection of books simply because someone asks for it. I'm sure there are people who would like to see Playboy on our shelves, too, but we don't stock that. Some of these street lit titles are even categorized as "erotica." I am having trouble stomaching the thought of placing "erotica" on the shelves next to Princess Diaries. It's a challenging walking the line between the grey censorship of collection development and true censorship.

I'm on the side of purchasing the most teen "appropriate" street lit and letting the adult selectors pick up the other titles.

But I'm willing to hear other opinions.

What do other YA Librarians out there think about this?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big Skies and Big Football

So, let's talk about books.

In preparation for a recent trip to Sooner Territory, I read The Knights of Hill Country by Tim Tharp. A teen had reviewed the book over the summer, and I found his review enticing enough to pick up the book myself. Hampton Green is a senior in high school, playing for a team in the fifth year of an undefeated record. If the Kennisaw Knights finish out the season undefeated, it will be the first time since their greatest historical days that the team has done this. To say that the Knights are poised on the brink of history is putting it lightly. Hampton is a solid player who rarely gets much credit, while his best friend Blaine is the star. Well, Blaine was the star until a bad hit to the knee in the previous season...a hit that caused damage Blaine never reported and never got fixed. Hampton's star is on the rise, and he's not entirely comfortable coming out from behind his best friend's shadow. The book captures the spirit of Oklahoma high school football and could work well for reluctant teen boys who need action to keep them engaged in a book.

I hope everyone is refreshed after a couple of days off for Thanksgiving and looking forward to a pleasant, busy holiday season.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is This a YA Book?

I trusted the School Library Journal review and purchased A Ghost at the Table for my YA collection. I was excited about the book, but it's taken me a couple of months to get around to reading it. I've read about half of the book, and I am having trouble seeing the relevance to teens. It's a good book about family secrets and family dysfunction, but the main character is a 40-something single woman who rarely reflects on her adolesence, with those rare spots being the time when her mother died after a long illness and her father took up with his would-be second wife.

I must give the book a chance and finish the second half before setting forth my judgment and handing the book over to one of my branch's Adult Services Librarians, but has anyone else read this book?

Update: I've finished the book. And I double-checked the review. Published in January, School Library Journal placed the review in their Adult/High School Section:


BERNE, Suzanne. The Ghost at the Table. 304p. Algonquin. 2006. Tr $23.95. ISBN 1-56512-334-4. LC 2006040073.

Adult/High School—Sisters, living and dead, loom large in Berne's tale of family secrets unraveled. Cynthia Fiske writes a series of historical fiction for girls, depicting the lives of remarkable women through the eyes of their slightly less-remarkable sisters. An invitation to her own sister's house for Thanksgiving in New England coincides with her need to visit Mark Twain's home in Hartford to research a new novel on the writer's daughters, whose story of a charismatic father and three troubled siblings parallels the Fiskes' history. Complicating the usual holiday tensions is the presence of their elderly father, once brash and manipulative, now disabled and facing a divorce from his much-younger wife. As the family struggles with generations of dysfunction and unspoken secrets, including the mysterious death of their mother decades earlier, Cynthia rebels by sharing the most sordid details of the long-gone Clemens family. Although she is nearing middle age, her feelings of isolation and rejection that began in childhood have left her a perpetual adolescent in relation to her family. Much like the child narrator of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend (Knopf, 2002), Berne portrays a confusing, comic, even sinister family dynamic and eschews a pat, happy ending in favor of a very real, if provocative, choice that will appeal to teen fans of family dramas.—Jenny Gasset, Orange County Public Library, CA

Has anyone successfully used this book in any YA sort of way?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teen Read Week, Take Two

It is Teen Read Week, which means major programming at a lot of libraries. Last year, my first as a YA Librarian, I had two programs - one was a success and the other was an utter failure and also resulted in me getting a wee bit of a talking to by my supervisor.

Actually, they both resulted in sit-downs with my supervisor.

The first, the successful program, was a martial arts demonstration that went along well with the 2006 theme of "Get Active." The martial arts expert who gave the demonstration was one of our own, a library employee who also happened to be a black belt in several different types of martial arts. I had over 70 people attend the program, more than 35 of whom were actual teenagers and not just the little kids or parents who also happened to wander by the demonstration. The talking to? Oh, that came as a result of parents complaining about the gigantic knives and graphic descriptions of what could be done with said knives.

The second, the program that resulted in a whopping two attendees, featured our local state assemblywoman speaking about how the state government works and how people can "get active" in politics. The event wasn't a total failure, because one of the attendees actually ended up getting one of the very rare high school-level internships in the assemblywoman's office. The talking to? I didn't really inform anyone that the assemblywoman was coming. My direct supervisor knew, but the director didn't know, and there was no grand welcome for this important fan of libraries. She felt slighted, and my library director felt concerned that I was going off and doing my own thing, not following the appropriate channels.

Did I mention that my first teen read week happened less than two months into my tenure as a rookie YA Librarian? I had a lot to learn.

I still have a lot to learn.

This year, I'm having an open mic the evening. I realized with startling clarity last week that I should have planned the event for the after school hours, but I had originally wanted to encourage whole families to attend.

In any case, I'm the only person who has to know about it, though I've advertised it far and wide. I'm keeping it low key and not even offering prizes - just certificates or ribbons for participating. I've grown a little cynical in the last year, and that means I don't necessarily feel that I'll have a big crowd. So, I don't feel inclined to plan for a big crowd. If I'm blessed with more attendees than I could imagine, well, then they'll all have to make do without seconds on the snack food.

I'm excited, but I'm also realistic that this may be one of my last opportunities to try evening programming. If people won't come, it's difficult to convince my supervisor that my time wouldn't be better served working at the reference desk.

I'm optimistic, but it's more of a cynical optimism than last year.

At least this shouldn't result in a talking to...and there shouldn't be any knives.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

They're Back

It's September.

And the teens have returned in their full glory.

This fall, my second as an official, actual, degreed librarian, I have a different plan. I'm not trying to lure them in with promises of great programs, prizes and snacks. Ah, no, instead I'm going out into the community and trying to develop partnerships. So far, I have two successful community partnerships that directly involve me and one that's more passive on my part.

There's the teen mothers' program, a continuing program that I'm totally stoked about, and a new program where I get to do a once-a-month read-aloud and craft with one of the local high school special ed classes. These are both programming at their finest and offer me the relief of a built-in audience.

The passive program is a partnership with Kaplan - they come in every other month to do a practice SAT and PSAT test followed by a results/study seminar a few days later. Those folks are great, and at my most recent program, there were thirty participants! I don't have to do anything but reserve the room. FANtastic!

Since I've got some wiggle room and some space for creativity, I don't mind the less guaranteed programs, the ones that leave me hoping and praying for attendance.

They're back....

and I'm ready.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Read This Book

I asked the reps at Random House which of their books I should read. Of course, they first said that all of them for the upcoming months were excellent. I told them that I honestly wanted to pare down my reading and pick up the wonderful books I know are out there just waiting to be read.

The reps looked at each other, nodded their heads and one said, "Before I Die." They handed me a plain white ARC, one of those books that gives you no idea what the cover will look like.

It's been two months since they handed me the book, but when I finally picked it up to read, it captured me immediately.

With writing like, "I miss him as soon as he goes. When he isn't with me, I think I made him up," Jenny Downham captures something that I have not had the pleasure of reading before.

Before I Die is the story of Tessa, a sixteen-year-old girl in England, long ago diagonosed with leukemia. She has a list of things she would like to accomplish. Like many young adult novels, the book opens with Tessa getting herself into a bit of a complicated situation. First up on her list is sex, so she has her best friend Zoey take her to a club and help her pick up a guy. She does have a one night stand with that boy, and Zoey begins something of a relationship with his friend. But that's the only part of the book that is stereotypically YA. The writing is lyrical, and, yes, Tessa dies, but the way the author handles it is fitting, not over the top. I read the Lurlene McDaniel books with great interest as a teenager. Teen girls with fatal or chronic illnesses craving attention, affection and love, craving the chance to make a difference. Those books were just what I needed at the time, but they always had a soap opera feel to them - close ups with teary, wide-eyed faces. Before I Die, on the other hand, has a Louise Rennison/Georgia Nicholson edge, giving us the humor we need to continue reading about a dying sixteen year old girl.

Tessa's best friend, Zoey, neighbor, Adam, brother, Cal, father and mother all play important roles in the story, but Tessa remains, as she should, the focus.

If you only have time for one new book in September, pick up Before I Die by Jenny Downham.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SRP Wrap-Up

This post contains two main points, one that my first SRP could have been better and could have been worse. If I'd spent more time planning individual programs and less time trying to pack in as much as possible, I think I could have reached more teens. This summer, I cast a wide net and caught rather few fish. In the upcoming year, I'll be concentrating more on the programs that work (book club, Dance Dance Revolution, etc.) and only sparingly introducing new programs. My volunteers will get more of the attention they deserve, and in cooperation with the children's librarian, we'll be be offering service opportunities for teens and services to children. Homework Help! Computer Docents! Reading Buddies! Oh my!

The second of my points is that I think I've reached that point in my life where I want to stop teenagers, give them a shake and tell them a few things. I want to tell that 15 year old girl running around vastly pregnant that her life is about to CHANGE and that she needs to spend a wee bit more time figuring out how to be a mother and a bit less time running amuck and rolling her eyes at librarians. I want to congratulate that 17 year old who has turned his life around and is now concentrating on improving all skills from typing to library research just so he can graduate. I want to stop the seventh graders, force a book in their hands and tell them to get off MySpace.

Of course, I can do none of those things, save quietly encouraging the 17 year old, putting up interesting and enticing book displays for the fifteen year old and the middle schoolers and offering exciting programs that lure kids away from MySpace (a daunting task, I know).

This has been a professionally challenging summer for me. I'm grateful for my supportive supervisor and my patient family and friends who have listened to me whine (because honestly, that's what I did, whine) all summer.

Now, I'm heading into a new season. I'm excited about pursuing more outreach opportunities and dropping fruitless programs.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

And So It Is Done

and fittingly so.

My heart is satisfied, and I can move on.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter


This is a Children's/YA/Adult book with which I have absolutely no problem.

Nothing negative to say.

Simply great smiles all the way around.

I must go now...have to frizz my hair for our branch Harry Potter Party (I'm going as Hermione, you see. Dedicated, aren't I?).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nich & Norah Save the Day

I am re-reading Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, as my teen bookclub is reading it this month. And Nick & Norah saved the day. Rachel Cohn and David Levithan put together a book that is uniquely adolescent and of truly excellent quality. Whether or not you can handle the F-bomb several times on each page, it is easy to see how this book is better than any of those Nannies Move to New York or Hollywood and Fall in Love with Their Boss's Son and have Sex on the Pool Table and May or May Not Be Vampires books that are on offer to (and being read in bulk by) teens. The book really captures that teen (and early twenties/college) sense of a night that lasts forever, of every experience, ever moment mattering much. And this book could not possibly have been written for children and certainly not for adults. It's a book that captures the adolescent experience without patronizing teens or forcing formulaic nonsense down their throats.

And there's no way it could have been done any better or any different.

And reading this book for a second time has reminded me why we have YA Lit and why YA Lit matters.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

YA Librarians are Cool....Aren't We?

I may be a bit biased...

but in the recent article in the NY Times about hipster librarians, there is not one single mention of a Young Adult Librarian. They've got a couple of law librarians, one who works at a museum and another who's a librarian at Entertainment Weekly. Don't get me wrong, I know that the word "librarian" brings up all kinds of stereotypes, but I tend to think they generally apply to those who more often interact with the public. I just don't think that the stereotype of a shushing librarian came about because of a moody old woman working at an entertainment magazine.

So, in some ways, yes, I do think that those who work in public or school libraries, encounter the most negative feedback as a result of the stereotype.

And I also think that we deserve a mention in an article like this. Seriously, have you see any librarians who tend to be more "hipster" than YA Librarians? Honestly, have you? At ALA, I saw more tattooed, pierced, pink-haired, great-shoe-wearing librarians at YALSA events than I could possibly have imagined even existed.

In any case, it was interesting to read the article, and I was curious about the alcoholic beverages labeled only by Dewey Decimal Number. I wonder if I could use that for a program? That would make some people happy...

Friday, July 06, 2007

What Actually Works

Last night I tried to have a Warcraft III program. The computers freaked out on me, and so, the program was cancelled.

This morning, I told a couple of co-workers and my supervisor that the program was a no-go.

"Oh, no one showed up?" They said, down to a person.

"Well, actually...," and I explained what had happened.

Their initial reaction, though, sparked something within me. They know that it's hard enough to get teens into this library on a Thursday evening, but getting them into play a game that's WAY more fun to play when you pay for it and it's called World of Warcraft? Now, that's a tough sell.

Sure, I'm one of those truly dedicated YA Librarians who has learned how to use My Space (blech), Facebook (yay!) and has even played World of Warcraft (I'm a rogue! yay!), all for the sake of teens who visit my library.

If I were to offer free My Space access for three hours on a Thursday Night, I'd likely have a better turn out...and I wouldn't have to rely on software. Now, there's a thought. Open, supervised My Space.

Wait a minute. That's just a regular day.

p.s. Why is M.T. Anderson so freakin' awesome? Well, because he's a great writer, he's funny, AND because he said that my teens could e-mail him any questions they have about Feed, which we're reading in August (plus, making this face in public? how could he not be awesome?).

Author M.T. Anderson

Sunday, June 24, 2007

YA Authors

M.T. Anderson is so freakin' awesome.

That's all.

Thank you.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Familiar Face

Luckily, the second half of my Emerging Leaders experience made me feel much less like a guilty teenager struggling to stay awake. I'll admit that it wasn't the content but my jet lag that had me feeling a bit drowsy (and perhaps a bit cranky). The Diet Coke at 10:30 a.m. also may have helped :).

As we were wrapping up our poster session, my library director walked into the room. She had told me that she likely would not be able to make it to the program, so I was so pleased to see her. And she was a face from home!

We hadn't moved our poster out of the way yet, so she get to see that and chat with my group members. She had traveled with someone important in the library community (not that she's not, but someone with a more direct position of power), and I got to chat with her a bit, as well.

All in all Emerging Leaders was an incredibly worthwhile experience. I'm sad to say goodbye to the constant communication with my group members, but I'm also happy about getting to talk to them about more than our project!

Alright, it's off to the exhibits and then a committee meeting.

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 22, 2007

At Heart

At ALA now...learning oodles about leadership and all that good stuff.

I'm also realizing why I make a halfway decent YA Librarian. I'm still a bored teenager at heart.

I really WANT to pay attention. I want to care. I want to write down every last word, but I find my mind wandering, my fingers reaching for my cell phone to check for messages (there are none, as I'm currently three hours ahead of anyone who cares about me), and I just feel guilty.

In a room full of real adults, it's still hard to believe I am one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Librarians on the Loose

Librarians! Everywhere!

Okay, so I got to DC day early for the conference, but I swear I saw some Librarians on the plane. I think I may have even seen someone from my Library School, but it was 2 a.m., and I could be wrong.

So, what happens when the YA Librarian flies the coop and goes to play amongst her peers? Well, right now, all it means is that my suitcase hit the weight limit due to the various items I needed to bring to meet my various responsibilities while at the conference.

Upon picking me up, my friend said, "I thought you just showed up at a conference."

"Not when you're on a committee,"I replied, "Then you have to bring stuff."

My suitcase will be lighter on the return trip. Noting my box full of books brought back to Seattle, though, someone else commented, "You know that books weigh more, a lot more, than the stuff you brought right."

"I'm not going to get that many books. This time I'm bringing them back for other people, not to keep my own stack going."


So, we'll see. I've arrived with my 51 pound suitcase, have recovered from reading what I believe may well be the worst YA book I have read since some of the forced reading in Library School, have taken a nap to overcome the red eye flight and am raring to go for Emerging Leaders tomorrow.

Raring may not be the right word. But it will be after a good night's sleep!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hey, Whatever Happened with that Mentoring Survey?

Remember this?

Well, we're done with the project, just putting on those nice, shiny, final touches.

Come visit us at ALA Annual to see what your answers to the survey helped us do! The poster session and the reception will be from 3-5 PM on June 22 (Washington Convention Center—Room 144 A-C.

Drop by, say hello and see what all the fabulous Emerging Leaders Project Teams have accomplished in the past six months!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Dead Father's Club

I attended a booktalking workshop a few months ago that was hosted by Michael Cart. He did a few outstanding talks, including one on The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (he cried), and another on The Dead Father's Club (he didn't cry). Not one to truly enjoy being moved to tears by a novel, I chose to go ahead and read the latter novel when it finally came to my library in April.

It was so worth the wait. Mr. Cart described it as in the same genre and narrative style as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and he was absolutely right. Although I'm a bit uncertain about the ending, I found this book to be utterly engaging and completely readable. It's certainly an adult book, but told from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy.

Alright, this needs to become more of a goes:

Eleven-year-old Philip Noble has major problems. Not only has his father just passed on, but his Uncle Alan is making a move on his newly widowed mother, and his father's ghost is pestering to kill Uncle Alan. No, not just because Alan's moving a bit fast, but because Philip's father believes that Uncle Alan clipped the break wires on his car, causing the accident that lead to his death. Philip has until his father's birthday, a few short weeks away, to get his father's revenge by killing Alan, or else his father will spend an eternity experiencing what he describes as "the terrors." Told in a narrative style reminiscient of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (although Philip is simply young, not a boy with Asberger's Syndrome), set in England, and something of a modern re-telling of Hamlet, Matt Haig's novel exceeds expectations and creates a marvelously engaging story that should capture the attention of older teens (yes, despite the 11-year-old narrator, older teens may well enjoy it), as well as their parents.

This could also make for an interesting companion piece to teachers using Hamlet or The Curious Incident in their classrooms.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Seattle, Summer and Six Stories

I finally made it through the stack of books I chose to keep from the pile I collected at ALA Mid-Winter in Seattle. I gave a few away to other YA Librarians and even more to the moms of Teenie Boppers.

But I kept a few.

And they were sadly and suspiciously all far too much alike. I believe that I fell back into the tastes I had as a teenager, and I think I've made myself sick on chic-lit in the past several weeks. That said, some were better than others. Here are six titles with brief summaries. If you've read them too, let me know what you thought!

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
Mena Reece believes that high school might provide a fresh start. After all, it wouldn't be possible for her friends to still hate her, would it? Mena's Christian Right friends have turned against her for defending a possibly gay teen against their attacks the previous year. Now, she's starting all over with no friends, until she meets Casey, her fabulously geeky lab partner, their passionate science teacher Ms. Shepherd, Casey's mom, sister and a group of lab puppies. Just as life seems to have some positive life for Mena, Ms. Shepherd begins teaching about evolution, and the Christian group in the class begins to protest.

This was one of the better of the six novels. Mena's problems don't overwhelm her. She feels them like a typical young teen would, but she still goes to school, still gets good grades and doesn't turn to negative behavior a result of her friends' betrayal and her parents' anger.

Polly by Amy Bryant
More of an Adult book for teens, Polly examines eight significant sexual/romantic entanglements in the life of Polly Clark, a teen in 1980's Virginia/Washington D.C. The musical mentions bring to mind an old-school Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, but the specific romantic involvements may ring true more for those who grew up during the time period. References to roller rinks and the punk lifestyle are amusing and add a sense of place to the story. Polly is neither an over-achiever nor completely foolish. She is an average teen deeply involved in her own time.

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Probably a novelization of her real teen experiences, Ms. Hyde's descriptions of thirteen-year-old Cynnie's descent into alcoholism at once hard to believe and difficult to swallow. I want her story to be hard to believe, because Cynnie is too young to be dealing with everything on her own. Her older sister refuses to come around, because there alcoholic mother is more than she can stand. Her grandparents take away her brother, who has Downs Syndrome, but believe that Cynnie must stick it out with her unemployed, drunk all the time, mother. Her mother's boyfriends leave as the drinking gets to be too much. At 13, Cynnie turns to alcohol for comfort. The book details her descent and her recovery, which is realistic and certainly far from easy.

I would be okay with younger teens reading this book for the sole reason that Cynnie doesn't turn to sex for the attention she needs. Certainly she has her crushes, including one on her mother's young ex-boyfriend, but she doesn't use her body for comfort, only a bottle. Teens looking for a real story, instead of one with formulaic problems, should consider The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance.

Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie
A light-hearted romp through Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. April, the tall, blonde Nordic, main character deals with the ramificiations of her brother's love affair with the beautiful daughter of a neighborhood mafia don, her own feelings of affection for Dom, a n'er do-well musical type who likes to skip school and smoke pot, her passion for tennis and her desire to simply make sure her family is safe, happy and alive. Of the "soft" teen lit out there, this is a quality read. It reads like a romantic comedy, with many misunderstandings and heartfelt speeches. Brothers is also funny and makes for a nice summer read.

We Are So Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah by Fiona Rosenbloom
Another book that works as a light-hearted teen comedy, Crashing deals with the upcoming party of the season, the Bar Mitzvah of has-more-money-than-he-knows-what-to-do-with Eben and Stacy and Lydia, best friends who are dying to be popular this year. Away at camp for the entire summer, they didn't know that Kelly, the third member of their band of buddies had been adopted as a popular girl by the Chicas, the queens of Jefferson Junior High. Now Kelly's in, and Stacy and Lydia are more out than they've ever been in the past. Of course, Lydia and Stacy need to find a way into Eben's over the top party, and comic chaos ensues.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
In 8th grade, Deanna Lambert's father caught her having sex with her older brother's the friend's car. Living in small-town-ish Pacifica, CA, Deanna is granted the reputation of school slut. Her father won't speak to her, the boys won't date her, and her reputation is as low as it can get. Of course, no one blames the boy, only noticing that Deanna was a mere 13 when her father found her. Deanna is now a junior in high school, working at the town's worst pizza place to save some money to move into an apartment with her brother, her brother's girlfriend and their baby. Her life has not turned out how she expected, but she is truly trying to turn it all around. Of course, she has to go fall in love with her male best friend, who is already dating her female best friend. Deanna's problems are far from trivial, and she must face them in the most realistic way possible. Of all of the "issue" novels I've read in the past year or so, this is probably the best. Deanna made one bad choice, and not one that truly hurt anyone but herself, and has had to deal with the consequences for years. The portrayal of the length of memory in a small town is true to life.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pod People

My library is investigating whether or not to post podcasts on the teen page of our website. It's already been decided to post such things on the adult and children's pages, because the audience is pre-established.

Sadly, my investigation skills have not turned up any fantastically wonderful podcasts for teens. Or sources. Sources that could be posted, as is, on our page. Of course, we want to create our own podcasts, but that's a bit far off in the distance.

For now, we're looking at posting something like these reviews from Thomas Ford Memorial Library.

Does anyone know of other libraries with pre-existing reviews or booktalks posted on the web? Or other lovely resources?

Do teens even care?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Internet You

I recently reviewed a book called Chain Mail: Addicted to You by Hiroshi Ishizaki. It's an English translation of a Japanese novel published by TokyoPop, which should be a familiar company to graphic novel fans.

In the book, Sawako, a lonely Japanese teenager, receives an e-mail from Yukari, a junior high school student at another private girls’ school. The e-mail asks Sawako to help write a cooperative fictional story. Sawako eagerly accepts and mysteriously manages to recruit two other girls to participate. Mai and Mayumi have their own problems. Mayumi is overshadowed by her best friend’s athletic success, and Mai has too much money and time on her hands. When Sawako’s entries take a different tone and suddenly stop, Mai and Mayumi wrestle with the decision to breach their anonymity and speak in the real world.

The question they face is whether or not the concern they have for this online friend should transcend the computer and enter their day to day lives. These girls spend hours each day checking and writing on the Chain Mail site, but they don't consider it their "real" lives. The book is well-written and told in a distinctly Japanese style, but I connected more with the issues the book inadvertantly broached than with the story itself.

Each day in my downtown branch, I see teens logging onto MySpace, Spin the Bottle and dozens of other social networking sites. They also play massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), like World of Warcraft, in which they truly create completely alternate realities. In these games, it's most likely the character won't even be human!

The mass exodus to an online reality reminds me of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, in which one character takes some sort of "vacation" pill to escape reality. The pills are only meant as a temporary respite from the modern world, but this character comes to depend on them, comes to prefer the respite.

In Chain Mail Mai and Mayumi must decide whether they want the real world to permeate the life they have created for themselves online, and I actually worry that the teens I encounter would often have the same moment when they wonder whether they want the real world to intrude upon their carefully constructed non-reality online.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

DDR Revolution

Yes, I know that's redundant. But there is a revolution in my library, and it's all surrounding Dance Dance Revolution. On the second Tuesday of every month, we have "DDR Tuesdays," and this means that from 4-6 p.m. I host a DDR tournament. During the first half hour, the teens can practice. They organize who gets to practice by "duking it out," as I call it, because I care more about how the tournament flows than who gets in extra practice time before the official tournament begins. They are pretty good at self-regulating. The tournament begins at 4:30, or when everyone has finished practicing, whichever comes first.

I have hosted this tournament three times now, and each time, we have had more and more teens participate. At one point during yesterday's event, I had over 30 people in the meeting room, and for a teen program in my town, that's fairly extraordinary.

What does this have to do with books? Well, I'm not entirely clear on that, and I'm grateful that no one has asked me to defend the program. Mostly, it gets the teens up and active and OFF OF MYSPACE. Yesterday, I saw faces that I had seen in the library before but never at a program. I also am pleased to say that two of my teen volunteers are practically running the program. They are in charge of "the board," the foam board that contains the "brackets" for the tournament as well as the final scores. I dole out the prizes (a mix of freebies from conferences and some various ALA related swag), and I announce the winner, but the teens are gradually learning how to run the program themselves. And that's a good thing! I want them to know what the library offers, but I don't want them to depend on me to make all of the decisions.

So, DDR is revolutionizing what my library can do for teens and how local teens view the library.

It's Spring break here.

I was worried about how many teens would actually show for the tournament this week.

I told this to my volunteers and warned them that they might end up doing something else for their two hour shift.

"It's okay," they said, "We brought people."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mentoring in Progress

Do you read this blog regularly? Are you a working YA or school librarian? Do you intend to be a working YA or school librarian? Have ever been a working YA or school librarian, and you're just dying to share your wisdom??

Yes, there is a purpose to these questions.

In November, I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of ALA's Emerging Leaders, one of just over one hundred (relatively) new librarians selected to work on various projects for ALA. My group is designing a mentorship program for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and American Association of School Librarians (AASL). We will design the program, present it at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington D.C. in June, and after that, it's up to YALSA and AASL to decide whether or not to implement the program.

We have decided that, since no librarian works in a vacuum (although, don't you wonder what that might look like? Would it be like the moon, or the inside of a hoover?), we ought to get some feedback from the people who would actually participate in a mentorship program. This will both strengthen our final paper and presentation and offer YALSA and AASL some real-life feedback on some possible responses to a mentorship program.

If you are interested in helping us shape our project, answer the following questions (or at least the ones that apply to you) in the comments by Monday, April 8.

Here are the questions:

1) If you are new to young adult or school librarianship (in the field for less than five years or still in library school), how interested would you be in having a mentor to orient you to your profession and to your professional organization?

2) If you have been a librarian for longer than five years, did you have a mentor? Do you think you would have benefitted from participating in a formal mentoring program?

3) If you have been a librarian for longer than five years and active in either YALSA or AASL for three years (active means any and all of the following: participation in online listservs, attendance at professional conferences, participation on a committee or board), how interested are you in sharing your knowledge with a new librarian?

4) What are your general thoughts on mentorship programs and their place in the field of libraries?

Thank you so much for your help with this! I will be sure to let you know if and when this program gets off the ground so that you can be involved!

Thank you for your help...and I promise to review something next week :).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Graphic Novels

I know nothing about graphic novels. I have happily read American Born Chinese and muscled through Blankets, but I know nothing about the substantial number of series to which my library subscribes.

I should know.

It's not that I've ignored the genre. It's not that I believe that teens should be reading books without pictures. It's that it seems like such a huge undertaking to learn about each of these novels. I understand that it's my job and my duty to know how to do readers' advisory on each of the genres in my collection, but how much of my personal reading time should this job take? I know that if I ever plan to be on a YALSA Selection Committee, I'll need to be prepared to read anywhere between 3 and 5 YA books a week.

But right now, I feel like my adult sensibilities are being tossed by the wayside by an onslaught of teen fiction, and reading about a boy who turns into a girl when doused with water and whose father turns into panda bear is asking more from me than I feel ready to give.

Diving into that big, deep pool that is graphic novels seems like more than I can handle at the moment.

Does anyone have any suggestions for making graphic novel reading more enjoyable? Or do you just want to join me in whining about the above-and-beyond forty hour work week?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Summerland by Michael Chabon

All that matters is baseball. Of course, Ethan Feld hates baseball, and that's what makes this all so difficult.

In order to save the world from a Coyote (who is more than just a little wiley) and keep the four different parts of the world all functioning, Ethan is going to have to get good at baseball and fast.

Chiron "Ringfinger" Brown, a hero from the negro league days, has recruited Ethan from his bench-warming days in Clam Island, Washington, to play a game he won't soon forget, a game that involves sasquatches, ferishers, shadowtails, changelings and a wide variety of other creatures he never even thought existed.

And of course, Ethan's father has also gotten pulled into the mix, because the pico fibers he used to create his Zeppalina, the first family-friendly Zeppelin balloon, are what Coyote needs to kill end the world. Of course.

Will Ethan, the boy who hates to play baseball, come to appreciate it when he has to save the people to which baseball means everything?

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why Program?

There are some weeks when I look at my low levels of attendance at a particular program, or I get just one too many eye rolls from the teenagers abusing their computer privileges, and I wonder, "Why do something for a group that doesn't even want anything done for them?"

If they really don't want me around, then why bother?

And then there are days like today.

I walked into the classroom of teen moms. A few rolled their eyes at my pink sweater and flat shoes. Others just kind of yawned when they saw I was from the library. Two girls who met with me last month, though, hurried over to see what books I'd brought, what advice I had to offer. Soon, the other girls caught on that something interesting was about to happen, and they sat down to listen.

The conversation started out slowly. I gathered some information from the girls who had completed a homework assignment from the last session. The two talked excitedly about the books they've read for fun, the books they read to their babies and books in general. Another girl said reading just wasn't "her thing" and so she didn't read.

Since this particular session focused on collge and careers, I started out asking the girls what they want to do after high school.

That classroom contained one future doctor, at least two future nurses, a merchandise buyer, a pre-school teacher, a police officer and a cosmetologist. These girls have dreams, some more definite and thought out than others, but dreams nonetheless.

As the girls left to go to their next class, they called out their requests for next time: more information on scholarship programs, cosmetology careers and child development. The two teachers called out their thanks, and I walked to my car filled with joy.

This is why we program for teens.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reading for Teens

No review or booktalk this week, just my toughts on reading teen books. I read books for teens for professional development. Reading these books helps me understand what is popular in YA literature and to evaluate new titles that I may like to order for my branch or for my entire library system.

With each book I read, I write a booktalk and fill out a form that goes into my "YA Literature Database" (otherwise known as a giant MS Word file that lives on my laptop and a packed full binder that lives in my closet). If I'm reading the book for my teen book club, I also print out any activity ideas or questions I write or find online.

So, picking out the book is the easy party. Finding the time to read it is almost as easy - I can legitimize reading a teen book during my off-desk hours at work, because my job title is YA Librarian.

I had fallen into the habit of evaluating the books, writing a booktalk and doing each of my other "post-read" tasks, only after I had a pile of books to process. Now, I work on each book one by one, and I find my life much saner as a result.

I've just finished reading three books for School Library Journal and am currently reading a book meant for adults (it's fun, from time to time, to remember that I am not actually a teenager anymore). But soon I'll dive into yet another YA book...and I'm sure I'll have no trouble deciding which one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ender's Game

This amazing book (which I just finished reading for the first time) will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year.

The questions and issued raised still matter. Do we ask too much of our teens, of children? Do we put too much weight on their potential as world leaders? As contributing members of society?

Not that I am anything like Ender Wiggin, not that adults put a monitor on the back of my neck and watched my every move and heard my every thought for three years, but my friends and I were labeled the "cream of the crop," and teachers had bigger, badder expectations for us and refused to step into make our lives any easier.

"And that some members of this conspiracy, notably the boy named Bonito de Madrid, commonly called Bonzo, are quite likely to exhibit no self-restraint when this punishment takes place...And you, fully warned of this danger, propose to do exactly --"


The teachers watching Ender in Battle School believe they know best what he can accomplish, what will be too much for him and when they should or should not step in and assist. They generally do notstep in and assist.

Ender Wiggin is seen as "the one" or "The Wiggin," the one child who will save the world from evil and destruction. Origins in Christ? Of course. But it's also more. It's about the burden we place on the shoulders of the generation that will follow us.

I'm still young enough to be one of the ones who will save the world, but I can already see myself waiting to find out what those who come after me will do differently in the quest to do this thing called life...better.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I am the Messenger

So, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief got tapped as a Printz Honor Book, and one of his earlier books was an honor book last year. It's one of the first books I read as an "official" YA Librarian way back in August. I also wrote up a mock-review of the book as something to submit to SLJ.

Here you go:
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

As in John Greene’s Looking for Alaska, lead character, Ed Kennedy, is in love with a young woman who seems incapable of loving him in return, but that’s the least of Ed’s worries. 19-year-old Ed’s life is changed completely after he thwarts a poorly planned bank robbery. The underage cabdriver thought his life would return to frequent walks with his 16-year-old, smelly dog, The Doorman, and poker games with his pals Ritchie, Marv and the lovely Audrey, but just a few days later, Ed receives the first of four aces in the mail. Each ace has three clues that need deciphering, three messages that need delivering. The first, the ace of diamonds requires Ed to inspire a beautiful 15-year-old girl to run as well on the track as she does during her barefoot, morning runs, to pretend to be the long-dead soldier still loved by a World War II widow and, quite possibly, to kill a man who abuses his family. Still, each ace demands more of Ed than the last. Messenger offers subtle but important lessons, delivered in a unique way. Some strong language and mature concepts make this a fine read for older teens.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Probably my favorite YA book to come out in the last several months...

Jasmine Callahan is nearly six feet tall, and that’s before she slips on her favorite pair of cowboy boots.

In other words, it’s hard to miss Jas, and maybe that’s why it’s so easy for trouble to find her.

Simply lounging by the pool at the Venetian in Las Vegas with Sheri!, her twenty-five-year-old step-mother, Jas certainly did not expect to have an enormous three-legged cat launch himself at her and imbed his claws in her chest.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Jas had merely been eyeing the tall (yes, tall enough for her), guy at the Snack Hut, but the three-legged orange furball stuck on her body pretty much killed the mood.

And how can it be her fault that in trying to disengage the cat’s claws from her chest she interrupted a Vegas wedding, knocked over a five-tiered wedding cake and watched in horror as the bride, in full regalia, jumped into the pool to try to save it? Quite simply, it cannot.

But try telling that to Jas’s dad and the security staff of the Venetian when they request that you, your father, step-mother, aunt, uncle, cousin and cousin’s dippy friend, all leave the hotel as soon as possible and please, don’t return.

All because a cat jumped out of nowhere?

A cat that belongs to Fiona Bristol, the Fiona Bristol whose husband is on the lam for killing his wife’s boyfriend?

Oh, there is definitely more to this story, and Jasmine Callahan will get to the heart of it. Yes, Jasmine Callahan, seventeen-year-old aspiring detective will get to the bottom of this mystery.

Of course, first she’ll have to outwit her father, who insists that she stay out of trouble, handle her evil cousin Alyson and Alyson’s equally evil friend Veronique and address the surprise appearance of her best friends, Polly, Roxy and Tom, in her suite in the Venetian. All that and maybe find that hot guy from the Snack Hut again.

Certainly that’s not too much for one weekend in Vegas.

Not for Jasmine Callahan, it isn’t.

But remember, this all started with a Bad Kitty.

Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What it Means to be a Hero

I recently (as in this morning)finished reading The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. This series of five books, written in the mid-1960s, encompasses all that is good about fantasy novels. Like The Lord of the Rings, we have a funky looking character who turns out to be of a decent sort (that would be Gurgi in the Prydain novels), an unlikely hero in Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper and a few wise mentors in the form of Prince Gwydain and Dallben.

And what hero novel would be complete without someone like Eilonwey, a princess and enchantress who refuses to be left at home to embroider while all of the men go off to battle?

I have enjoyed reading the five books, and I can understand why my boyfriend (the person who recommended them to me in the first place) searched far and wide for more in the series when he read them as a kid. I don't want to stop knowing Prydain. I want to know what happens to Taran and Eilonwy in the future.

I also want to know if being heroic really means choosing "a kingdom of sorrow over a kingdom of happiness"?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

2007 Printz Award Winner

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Jin Wang moves with his family from San Francisco’s China Town, where he had friends to watch cartoons with every Saturday morning, to a suburb, where he is only the second Asian person in the classroom

Eventually, a third, Wei-Chen Sun, arrives from China.

Wei-Chen is brand new to America, and Jin Wang tries as hard as possible to avoid being lumped in with this boy who prefers to speak a Chinese dialect, rather than converse in English. Jin Wang just wants to fit in.

With the class bullies refusing to admit Jin Wang into classroom society, though, Wei-Chen becomes his best friend by default.

But even best friends who stick together through bullies and name calling cannot always overcome…girlfriends.

Throughout the book, there is also the growing presence of the Monkey King and the problem of cousin Chin-Kee…

Jin Wang may just want to fit-in, but at what price?

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Booktalk: An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton.

Colin Singleton has just been dumped by Katherine XIX, the 19th Katherine to dump him in the course of his short life.

Colin Singleton, former child prodigy, has just graduated high school, as the valedictorian, of course, has $10,000 from his winnings on a little watched children’s quiz show, and no desire to do anything other than lay in his bedroom floor and try not to vomit.

Luckily for Colin, his best friend Hassan, an overgrown Arab guy with a taste for Hardee’s Monster Thick Burgers, is fresh from his gap year, the year after high school in which he did nothing at all but watch Judge Judy every day, and raring for some action. Well, not so much raring for action as sick of watching Colin wallow in his rejected love for Katherine XIX.

So, they embark on a road trip in Colin’s broken down old car, affectionately referred to as “Satan’s Hearse.” After leaving Chicago, they pass up the opportunity to see the world’s largest crucifix in Kentucky, but Colin insists that he and Hassan go out into the middle of nowhere, to Gunshot, Tennessee, to see the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the man whose death sparked the start of World War I.

While they do find a grave in Gunshot, Colin and Hassan’s encounters with a girl named Lindsey, another guy named Colin and the folks that work at factory that produces tampon strings determine the outcome of the entire road trip.

…and then there are the abundance of Katherines who have dumped Colin, and he will use this trip to determine the theorem, the mathematical equation, that will predict the course of all relationships and explain his tendency to be the dumpee. And why wouldn’t a theorem make it possible for him to get over Katherine? It will. Of course it will. Won’t it?

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

And so, here I am

After two years (well, 18 months really) in library school and a lifetime of experience dealing with teenagers, it's official, I am one of them.

I am a professional teenager. I am a Young Adult Librarian.

I will use this blog to post my booktalks, book reviews, thoughts on programs and some insight into the profession in general.