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."