Tag: professional development

#ALA2013 follow-up: keeping up with ebooks

ala annual 2013 chicago logoOne of the things I did at Annual this year was lead a table talk at the Maintaining Teen E-Collections session where we discussed the difficulties in keeping up with what’s going on in the ebook world and good resources to follow to stay current. I came with some ideas, but I also learned a lot from participants! Here’s the final list of suggested resources:

(more…)

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Leave a Comment July 15, 2013

Thoughts from ALA Annual 2011 (plus a link to my YALSA blog post)

After returning home from ALA this year, I came down with a cold that I just haven’t been able to shake. It’s making catching up on my life and correspondence difficult, but I wanted to write down some of my impressions and thoughts from Annual before they fade too much.

Before I left for New Orleans, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted my conference experience to be like this time. Especially since the last time I’d been to Annual was also my first and I’d been a student at the time, I had a different perspective now that I have my own library to which I’m applying everything I learn rather than just trying to file everything away for later. And just by virtue of being in the field longer and finding more ways to get involved, I knew some of my responsibilities and experiences would change. (For example, in small groups, I was able to actually contribute ideas since I have hands-on experience that I didn’t have a year ago, and now that I’m on a committee, I had more official meetings that I needed to attend at specific times, which precluded me from attending sessions that looked interesting.) And for the first time, I was going to be rooming with a coworker, which turned out to be a lot of fun.

Anyway, my big goals this time were to be more fearless in just jumping into conversations and introducing myself and to learn more about YALSA and to find new ways to step up my involvement. (more…)

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Leave a Comment July 9, 2011

Save the CT state library plus thoughts from the 2011 Connecticut Library Association Annual Conference

Update: the state library may be safe, but the details aren’t settled yet.

As I write this post, Connecticut is facing the elimination of funding for its state library. While the mission of the state library is “to preserve and make accessible Connecticut’s history and heritage and to advance the development of library services statewide,” it does that in such important ways. From the CLA website:

If the State Library goes away there will be no more:

If you are a Connecticut librarian or resident, please please please call Governor Malloy at 800.406.1527 and tell him that you are a Connecticut resident, that you’re concerned about the elimination of state library funding, and that you want the state library to continue to be funded. Here’s a longer description of what the state library does and what will be lost [PDF] and some talking points [PDF] if you feel like you need them. At the very least, please sign this petition.


The 2011 CLA Annual Conference was last week, and I was able to attend on Tuesday, the second day. It was kind of fun because for the first time, I had an employer who paid my registration, and for the first time I knew people at the conference and didn’t have that awkward moment at lunch surveying the tables and trying to decide who looked friendly enough to welcome a stranger.

I attended four different sessions, checked out the exhibit hall, and then listened to the keynote speaker. Here are a few notes from the sessions I attended. (more…)

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2 Comments May 13, 2011

YALSA blog: Concluding thoughts about YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

All right, I promise this is my last post about YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium. Now that I’ve written all about each session I attended and had time to digest and discuss a little bit, I posted some final thoughts about themes that ran throughout all those sessions.

This symposium was a really great experience. I had a lot of fun, met some awesome people, and learned a lot. And oh man the author signing and happy hour on Saturday afternoon was so great! We each got a tote bag and five tickets and once the doors opened and we were let in, we were able to exchange each ticket for a signed copy of a book by the authors at the symposium. I walked away with copies of Looks by Madeline George, The Social Experiments of Dorie Dilts: The School for Cool by PG Kain, Ash by Malinda Lo, Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin Wayland (and I got to tell her I love her picture books, too!), and Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff. I wish I’d been able to get Christina Diaz Gonzales’s The Red Umbrella or Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray, but alas, the lines and the layout of the room and the number of tickets conspired against me. I really, really appreciated that we got time to talk to authors and get their books without having to pay for an additional event.

Anyway, since I’m going to be going to both Annual 2012 and Midwinter 2013, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be able to go to the third YA Lit Symposium in St Louis in 2012, but I so hope I can go. This was such a fantastic conference!

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3 Comments November 9, 2010

Lauren Myracle and Ellen Hopkins on Censorship: the Closing Session @ YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

I attended the 2010 YA Lit Symposium in Albuquerque. This post is a summary of the closing session. Check out other posts tagged yalsalit2010 for more session recaps.

Lauren Myracle and Ellen Hopkins spoke at the closing session about censorship. Lauren took a more humorous approach with touches of seriousness, reading letters from parents that included phrases like “peddle your trash to eleven-year-olds,” but also reminding us of the importance of the work librarians do to keep books on shelves (“fighting for books, even if they suck, is part of the librarian’s creed and soul”). She said that people who want to censor literature for young people have usually lost touch with how it really felt to be a teen, and that they’re operating from positions of fear. So when those angry would-be censors come to us wanting to challenge a book, we need to see them not as adversaries, but as people giving us the opportunity for dialogue. To drive this point home, she read us a series of emails she exchanged with a parent who started out angry, then confessed that her anger came from fear, and eventually found common ground with Lauren as a parent and a reader.

Oh, Lauren also mentioned that all of the girls from the Flower Power series (which starts with Luv Ya Bunches and continues with Violet in Bloom) have Facebook fan pages, and that if you were to rank them by number of fans, the white girl would come first, then the Asian girl, then the black girl, and then–after a huge drop-off–the Middle Eastern Muslim girl. So go, be friends with Yasaman.

Ellen Hopkins’s talk was more serious, in part because of the subject matter of her books. She reflected on how she was disinvited not only from the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas but three other times. She recognizes that her books take on really tough things, but reminded us that teens are absolutely dealing with exactly those things (bluntly saying, “Kids have been forced into prostitution at six years old, so my books are totally appropriate for thirteen-year-olds.”) and then read us letter after letter she’s received from readers telling her that her books saved them. These teens have gone through absolutely hellish experiences, but they found comfort in reading Ellen’s books, even if it just let them know that they weren’t alone (“I pick up one of your books and know I am OK,” wrote one reader), and it brought them back from destructive behaviors, from suicide, from despair. There were people in the audience who were moved to tears by these stories. And Ellen said that if any of us were ever fighting a challenge to her books, she’ll provide copies of these letters and emails–which she receives daily–to help us make our case for her books to stay on the shelves.

I was surprised while Ellen was speaking that when she mentioned her disinvitation from the Humble Teen Lit Fest and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak being referred to as pornography that there were people in the crowd who gasped, having not heard about those incidents. While it may seem like “everyone” in the YA library world knew about these controversies, that’s clearly not true. We need to keep spreading the word about things like this–and finding new ways to get the news to people who don’t read or watch or listen to the channels for dissemination that we are using.

Lauren Myracle and Ellen Hopkins both did a great job of showing us the perils of censorship, the need for teens to have literature that reflects their worlds, and how we can fight to keep those books on our shelves and in teens’ hands. We can draw on resources like Ellen’s reader letters and the Office for Intellectual Freedom and we need to make sure to see challenges as chances for conversation and not as conflicts between adversaries. It’s encouraging to hear from the very authors who have been banned that librarians and libraries make a difference.

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3 Comments November 9, 2010

The New Gay Teen, Disability in Graphic Novels, and Diversity in Historical Fiction @ YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

I attended the 2010 YA Lit Symposium in Albuquerque. This post is a summary of three of the sessions that I attended. Check out other posts tagged yalsalit2010 for more session recaps.

My notes for the other three sessions I attended aren’t as extensive, so I’m going to cover them all in one post. First up is my third Saturday session, “The New Gay Teen: Moving Beyond the ‘Issue’ Novel” with Alexandra Diaz, Madeline George, PG Kain, Carley Moore, Lauren Myracle, and Stephanie Hopkins.

Imagine that you’re just waking up and you realize your hands are tied. What’s happened over the last few hours is sort of hazy–you remember something about a fire and your friends. You don’t know where Robin is. And not only are your hands tied, you’re blindfolded, too. From the slight sway and the smell of the sea, you think you might be on a ship. Have you been captured by pirates? Will you have to fight them? Could you become a spy? You definitely remember a fire and pirates and maybe even space aliens–but none of that matters because you’re gay.

That’s how Alexandra started off this session and while it drew some laughs, it also drew attention to the way that stories with LGBTQIA characters are often focused on the character’s sexual identity or preferences as the primary conflict or issue in the story. In fact, Alexandra summed it all up really nicely when she said, “If [a character’s sexuality] continues to be the issue, it will continue to be an issue.”

This session was mostly a panel discussion where authors read from some of their books with LGBTQIA characters and talked about the way sexual preferences and identity played out in their books and in YA lit in general. Madeline George’s reading from her upcoming novel (currently untitled, due out in spring 2012) about a butch lesbian who, through her relationship with two other young women, learns to go beyond identity politics had the audience nearly in tears with laughter and I am seriously dying to read it.

Some of the common ideas that emerged were that of ignorance, of the gap between teen’s experiences and their language for those experiences, and the desire of LGBTQIA teens to read stories that have LGBTQIA characters who do something other than wrestle with their sexual identity. We also got a fabulous booklist with LGBTQ titles in YA lit that I cannot find online. Does anyone have a link?

My final session on Saturday was “Images and Issues Beyond the Dominant: Including Diversity in Your Graphic Novel Collection.” This was a booklist-heavy session, but the sheer range of things we saw was fantastic. Graphic novels and manga can portray race and ethnicity, disability, and body shapes in a different way than prose or poetry can, and that makes some stories incredibly powerful. Again, we learned that readers are getting tired of “issue” stories and just want characters who are like them having interesting adventures.

Oh, and we were pointed to webcomics as the new frontier for library graphic novel/manga/comic collections. Some will never appear in print, so how do you make them available to your patrons?

Here’s a list of the fabulous titles we were shown.

And my final session of the symposium was on Sunday morning. I attended Melissa Rabey’s “Doomed to Repeat It: Diversity in Historical Fiction” with authors Christina Diaz Gonzales and Ruta Sepetys. Melissa identified diversity in historical fiction as telling the stories of lesser-known cultures and civilizations, considering famous events from alternate perspectives, and looking at a group’s past beyond the events most associated with that group (so that not every historical fiction story about a Jewish character takes place during the Holocaust). In general, there’s been a slow improvement in the range of explored culture, and some groups have received fuller treatment than others.

Melissa then shared with us a bunch of interesting titles and concluded with what we need to see with diversity in historical fiction (Hispanic historical fiction set in the US; stories from Africa, South America, and the Middle East; and fresh takes and recent history) and what she sees coming up (mashups between historical fiction and other genres and blending historical fiction with current trends like paranormal elements), but left open the question of where diversity fits.

This session ended with a really awesome author panel. Christina Diaz Gonzales recently wrote The Red Umbrella, which is about a fourteen-year-old girl who travels from Cuba to the US in 1961 as part of Operation Pedro Pan and is based on her parents’ story. Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray comes out in March and tells the story of a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941 whose family is sent to Siberia during Stalin’s “cleansing” of the Baltic region.

They both talked about the research they did, the importance of authenticity, and why historical fiction matters. Ruta had a very difficult time getting survivors to tell her their stories since they fear repercussion (the Balkans only got their independence in the ’90s, so stories are still emerging), and as part of her research, she participated in a simulation of what it was like in a gulag during which she was beaten and wound up rupturing two discs in her back and going home in a wheelchair. She was shocked by how quickly she put aside her values in the interest of self preservation. (You can see her and videos of survivors at the official site for the book.) But at the end, she said that by sharing history with teens through fiction we can try to create a more just future. On the role and importance of historical fiction, Christina said, “Teens want a good story. If it also teaches them about history or their own families’ history, that’s our goal.” She also pointed out that authors tell the stories that are in their hearts, but they have to be told authentically. If authors don’t have a personal connection to a culture, they need to do their research.

Melissa kindly made her booklist and other resources available.

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4 Comments November 8, 2010

Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: YA Lit and Disability Diversity: How Far Have We Come? @ YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

I attended the 2010 YA Lit Symposium in Albuquerque. This post is a summary of one of the sessions that I attended. Check out other posts tagged yalsalit2010 for more session recaps.

The second session I attended on Saturday morning was “Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: Young Adult Literature and Disability Diversity: How Far Have We Come?” with Dr. Heather Garrison, Dr. Katherine Schneider (founder of the Schneider Family Book Award!), and author Terry Trueman.

This was another really outstanding session. The speakers opened with an explanation of disability as a social construct (it’s society that disables people by not providing allowances and through the perception of others) and a short examination of different models of disability, including the medical model (there is something wrong with people with disabilities’ bodies), the moral model (there is something wrong with or shameful about people with disabilities), and the minority model (disability sets someone apart, but it’s something one can be proud of and that person can lead a full life).

With a bit of a theoretical groundwork, they next talked about the importance of the depiction of disability in literature. Since 20-30% of the population has a disability, it’s not something that we can ignore or not address. Positive depictions of people with disabilities counteract Othering, and reading stories about characters with disabilities may be a reader’s first exposure to disability. (Making this point later, Terry Trueman said that he hoped that after someone read his book Stuck in Neutral, they might see someone with cerebral palsy and think, “Maybe that person is like Shawn, which means that maybe that person is like me.”). Futhermore, seeing characters with disabilities means that people with disabilities are worth writing about. Characters with disabilities can be leaders, have girlfriends, and go on adventures–they’re more than just their disability. And finally, having characters with disabilities in good stories provides positive role models for people with disabilities.

We find a lot of stereotypes of people with disabilities in literature, many of them contradictory. For example, characters with disabilities are either asexual or hypersexual, victims or vengeful, infantile or “supercrips” with powers beyond that of “normal” people. We see a lot of this especially in classic literature, and we were encouraged to instead of glossing over a character’s disability, to address the potentially problematic depiction of that disability and how the disability was perceived during the time in which the book was written. We shouldn’t ignore problematic depictions of disability, but should instead use them as a chance to discuss and education.

When we’re evaluating books that include a character with disabilities, we should consider:

  • Awards like the Schneider Family Book Award or the recently revived Dolly Gray Award
  • Attitudes: are the characters with disabilities equally active but not a super-person? Are they accepted without having to overcome their disabilities or prove themselves?
  • Accuracy: what are the credentials of the author (including personal experience)? Is accurate information given in a variety of settings? Are equipment, accommodations, adaptations, and support all depicted correctly?
  • Appeal
  • Accessibility

If you’re reviewing a book that includes mention of a disability and you’re not sure if the depiction is accurate, ask someone with that disability. The slogan “nothing about us without us” is helpful here–people with particular disabilities are the best authority on that disability because of their lived experience. You can also pair potentially problematic books with a memoir by someone who also has that particular disability.

There was also a great list of what is and isn’t available in both nonfiction and fiction:

  • Available in nonfiction: “living with…” books about particular disabilities, books about sibling issues and self-esteem issues, and biographies and autobiographies
  • Not widely available in nonfiction: books about sex, jobs, manners, histories, Daring Book for Girls-style books, and “and” books address disability and race or class or gender
  • Available in fiction: relationships, drugs, alcohol, sex, school issues, teen community, and books in both realistic and sci-fi settings
  • Not widely available in fiction: the transition to college, historical fiction, intersection with other identities (e.g., LGBTQIA, poverty, teen parenting, race/ethnicity, religion)

Finally, we were asked how our libraries do with accessibility. Can people with disabilities use your website and electronic products? Can they attend your programs? What are staff attitudes like? And are our conferences accessible to people with disabilities? This was the only session I attended that had large print handouts and discs with the handouts in formats that assisting devices for the visually disabled can read.

Dr Garrison kindly sent me handouts from this presentation; I’ve uploaded them so everyone else can access them, too.

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Leave a Comment November 8, 2010

Beyond Titillation: Sexuality in Realistic YA Fiction @ YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

I attended the 2010 YA Lit Symposium in Albuquerque. This post is a summary of one of the sessions that I attended. Check out other posts tagged yalsalit2010 for more session recaps.

Saturday was the first full day of the symposium and I attended four different sessions that I’ll summarize here. First up is “Beyond Titillation: Sexuality in Realistic YA Fiction” with Jason Kurtz, Dr. Nicholle Schuelke, and Jamie Kallio.

Jason started out with a discussion of why it’s appropriate to include sex in realistic YA novels. He provided quotations from authors, librarians, and educators that you may have seen on Twitter. The few that stood out for me and that I think capture the main arguments Jason made were:

  • Pam B. Cole, author of Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century: “[…] any realistic novel about adolescent development that does not include sexuality is incomplete.”
  • Professors Katherine Butcher and Kaavonia Hinton, authors of Young Adult Literature: Exploration, Evaluation, and Appreciation: “Well-written realistic fiction novels do not dictate specific moral and ethical beliefs. Rather, they challenge readers to learn the importance of moral and ethical behavior by drawing their own conclusions after they consider the events and facts from their own personal perspectives using their own moral and ethical judgments.”
  • Dr. Amy Pattee (“The Secret Source: Sexually Explicit Young Adult Literature as an Informational Source.” Young Adult Library Services, 4(2), 30-38): “Because the sexual content of young adult literature can be explicit and detailed, and because these passages may even stir the senses and be considered erotic, I argue that these fictional texts should be considered as unique information sources that can offer young readers both realistic and needed information about sex and the sex act as well as a private, safe place to try on new feelings of sexual desire.”

YA lit reflects teens’ worlds, allows them to develop their own system of morals and ethics, gives them the opportunity to experiment sexually in a safe way, and provides information about sexual encounters (so long as authors write authentically).

Nicholle discussed the history of YA lit as instructional and didactic and used this to explain parents’ discomfort with sexual content in YA lit today. She argues that teens are becoming more behaviorally autonomous; are dealing with emerging sexuality; are developing their own moral, ethical, religious, and political principles; and are resolving issues of identity and values–and that all of these things prepare them to encounter sexuality in young adult literature. Adults are uncomfortable with teens being sexual beings because they want to protect teens, but understanding sex is part of developing into an adult, and teens’ perceptions of sex are more ambivalent, including both parents’ warnings about pregnancy, pain, disease, and powerlessness as well as more positive associations like passion, intimacy, and desire. She ended with the conclusion that to assume that teens lack the intellectual capacity to handle sex in books is to undermine their astuteness.

Finally, Jamie explored how YA lit has “grown up” and become more complex in the last few decades and an exploration of the motives of would-be censors. YA lit is no longer dominated by 200-page problem novels with a real coming-of-age structure, and teens and YA lit are more complex than they’re often given credit for. Censors assume that kids can’t handle sex in books, that particular content in a book predicts a particular response, and that all readers will respond the same way to the same material. But teens put down things they’re not ready for: our own lived experience is what informs our reading, and if teens don’t have a context into which they can put sexual material in books, it doesn’t really stick with them or interest them. In general, there’s a difference between the parent lens and the librarian or educator lens, and we need to keep that in mind when talking to upset adults.

There were no handouts, but there are links to the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations, the YALSA Blog liveblog of the session, and Jason’s blog on the Ning.

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Leave a Comment November 8, 2010

Body Positivity and Fat Acceptance in Contemporary YA Fiction @ YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

I attended the 2010 YA Lit Symposium in Albuquerque. This post is a summary of one of the preconferences that I attended. Check out other posts tagged yalsalit2010 for more session recaps.

My second preconference was Angie Manfredi’s “Body Positivity and Fat Acceptance in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction”.

Angie started us off with a discussion of the general dehumanization of fat bodies in our society and the distorted view of what is normal and acceptable in body shape. She then introduced us to the Fat Acceptance movement (which I didn’t know has been around since the ’60s). Since more than half of 18- to 25-year-old girls would rather be hit by a truck than be fat, and two-thirds would rather be mean or stupid, we need to address body positivity and fat acceptance in YA lit. Teens are looking for themselves in the books they read, so Angie summarized how fat characters are (and aren’t) portrayed in YA lit.

She took us on a tour of books that positively portrayed fat characters, books that had good intentions but didn’t quite make it, and books that were problematic in their treatment of fat characters. The books on the “positive” list had multifaceted characters whose fatness usually wasn’t the primary issue in the story, or whose fatness was completely unrelated to the character’s struggle. The “good intentions” list included titles that seemed to want to treat fat characters fairly, but maybe had them lose weight to be happy or had covers with skinny characters on the front or occasionally used a character’s fatness as a crutch. The “problematic” books were problematic because they focused on weight loss rather than health, put everyone in fat camp and then totally fell apart, or conflated fatness with being a slob or some other character defect.

Angie also shared with us adult titles that treated fat characters positively that would appeal to teens and books that dealt with disordered eating in new ways. All of these booklists will be available on Angie’s blog, Fat Girl Reading, in the next few days.

After getting a taste of the good and bad in treatment of fat characters in YA lit, we talked a little bit about other fat acceptance resources and how to promote positive body image among library teens. One organization in particular that’s working for a broader range of body types is Delta Delta Delta through their Reflections Program. Every year at the end of October, they sponsor Fat Talk Free Week, which aims to eliminate “all of the statements made in everyday conversation that reinforce the thin ideal and contribute to women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies.” This includes things like “Do I look fat in this?” and “She’s too fat for that dress” and “I need to lose ten pounds.”

In your library, you can make a display or host a discussion group during Fat Talk Free Week. One audience member suggested bringing boys into the conversation and talking about what it means to be a man, since men are expected to adhere to restrictive body shape options as well. Angie also suggested using–with a little adaptation–the Reflection Project’s “Things Your Chapter Can Do to Promote Positive Body Image” with your library teens, too. She also said that Operation Beautiful has been popular among teens in her library. But above all, you should advocate and integrate by including fat lit in booklists, book talks, and book displays.

The second half of the session was an author panel with Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Madeleine George (Looks), Susan Vaught (Big Fat Manifesto), and Allen Zadoff (Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have). It was really interesting to hear from the authors what their motivation was in writing their books, what they hoped the books would convey to readers, readers’ reactions to their books, and some of the struggles they’d had in writing. Some of the themes I noticed running through their responses were:

  • feelings of being watched, being judged, and being acceptable
  • the “paradox of visibility” that Madeline especially talked about where being fat makes you both very visible and simultaneously completely invisible at times
  • books having alternate titles before being published: Big Fat Manifesto was originally titled Diary of a Big Fat Fat Girl, but marketing didn’t think that’d sell, and Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have was originally Invisible
  • covers not matching the contents of the book and publishers being unwilling to have fat characters on the covers of books
  • these books that didn’t stigmatize fatness weren’t about struggling with being fat: they were about finding where you fit, finding connection with other human beings, dealing with family relationships, handling change, and being lovable. Allen said of his protagonist, “it’s not his body that changes–it’s his eyes.”
  • a universal sense among all teens (and grownups, I think, if we’re being honest) of feeling different and unacceptable

This was one of my favorite sessions of the symposium. I thought it was a great introduction to fat acceptance and a good selection of good and problematic titles with excellent explanations of what makes for a positive or problematic story. And hearing from the authors about their motivations and why their books unfolded the way they did really reinforced a lot of what Angie had been telling us earlier. Themes of authenticity, visibility/invisibility, and moving beyond issue books also surfaced in later sessions.

Angie’s going to put handouts and booklists and resources on her blog in the next few days.

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6 Comments November 7, 2010

The Teen Readers’ Advisory Toolkit @ YALSA’s 2010 YA Lit Symposium

I attended the 2010 YA Lit Symposium in Albuquerque. This post is a summary of one of the preconferences that I attended. Check out other posts tagged yalsalit2010 for more session recaps.

My first preconference was the Teen Readers’ Advisory Toolkit, presented by Crystal Faris, Stephanie Squicciarini, and Jerene Battisti.

We started out with an overview of readers’ advisory (RA) for teens, drawing from Heather Booth’s Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory. When we do RA with teens, we need to use our active listening skills, be conversational, and make sure to use the right tone. Does the patron want us to be friendly, business-like, chatty, or sarcastic? Tailoring our delivery helps our teen patrons feel welcome and comfortable.

We also need to make sure to describe a book’s appeal (talking about setting, pacing, tone, characterization, and so on) rather than just saying, “oh man, this book was so good! You’ll love it.” Readers of fiction are less interested in what the book is about and more in how it makes them feel. If someone comes to you and gushes that they loved Twilight and want something exactly like it, it might not be vampires and werewolves that they’re looking for; they might want to read another story where the heroine is in constant peril, where the love is forbidden, and where you just can’t stop reading the next page and the next and the next to see what happens. Understanding appeal and being able to articulate it will help us find the right book for a reader.

Doing RA for teens is different than adults because there are three basic kinds of RA:

  1. One-on-one RA: this is what we think of when we first think of RA. Either in person or online, you’re helping a reader find a book her or she will like. Since this kind of RA usually involves patrons coming to us, we need to look both authoritative and approachable. We can use Booth’s four “getting started” questions to get things rolling: Are you looking for something specific? Do you read a lot or not so much? What was the last book (or movie or game) you really liked? Have you read something recently that you really liked or hated?
  2. Doing RA for teens via an adult: this is when a parent either comes in looking for books for their teen or does all of the talking with the teen standing next to them. When the teen patron is actually present, we want to make sure to address the adult’s concerns, but also to turn the conversation to the teen patron since he or she is the one we’re trying to help. And if a parent just wants their kid to read more, try high-action, fast-paced, dialogue-heavy books and audiobooks or downloadable books. Provide lots of options and tell the parents that if none of them work, to bring the teen him- or herself in.
  3. Indirect RA: this includes booklists online or in the building and book displays. Consider what book stores are advertising and how they’re advertising them. Look at your library as a patron: what’s the first thing you see when you walk in? Keep in mind that displays are the responsibility of all staff members, even if they’re not officially YA. Provide a list or pile of materials to refill YA displays when you’re not around.

Some other RA suggestions were to try putting adult, teen, and children’s materials on the same subject all in one display together, to have book trailers playing on digital devices throughout the library, to have patron and staff recommendations on the shelves, and to be willing to suggest adult books to older teens to help guide them into adult reading. We also need to remember that teen RA can be very fiction-centric, but plenty of kids want “reality reading,” so we need to know our nonfiction and how to recommend it.

We next learned about listeners’ advisory, where we suggest audiobooks to teen readers. This part started off with a defense of audiobooks. While some adults (and kids!) feel like audiobooks are “cheating,” they’re not. They’re a great way to reach kids who might otherwise be non-readers (e.g., those with a visual impairment or dyslexia). They help readers connect with the story. They also help listeners learn to pronounce words and author names they’ve only seen in print. And teens are the fastest-growing segment of audiobook listeners, so we can’t ignore them. They can listen to audiobooks while doing chores or cleaning their rooms. (Mary Burkey is a great source for statistics and arguments in favor of audiobooks.)

When we’re doing listeners’ advisory, we need to consider more than just the appeal of the text. How is the narrator’s pacing, emotional distinction, and distinction between speakers? Are there flaws in production like background noise or being able to hear the narrator swallow? Can these flaws be overlooked because the story and delivery are so compelling? Does the narrator help make up for a boring story, pulling you through to the end? Are there additional features and benefits like bonus features at the beginning or end, author interviews, or historical notes?

We need to watch out for narrators who become so associated with a particular story that they become a character, because if that narrator does another book, it might feel like that character is in the story. Sometimes listeners need a cooling-off period between books or series by the same narrator. We also need to know if the narrator changes partway through a series. And having the author narrate their own books can be either awesome or awful, so make sure you give the story a listen or read a review to find out.

Swear words, sexual situations, and violent scenes all have more impact when they’re read aloud, so we need to be especially sensitive when suggesting audiobooks, especially if it’s intended to entertain on a family vacation with an intergenerational audience, or even just kids over a wide range of ages. You’ll also want to find out how long the family drive is so you can find an audiobook that’s an appropriate length.

The question of format came up. Audiobooks are available on cassette, CD, Playaway, and via download, and all of the formats have their various advantages and disadvantages. For examples, Playaways are expensive, but they don’t require additional hardware. The bottom line here is to know your community to know what format will be best for them. Audience members also recommended pooling resources with other libraries in your area and seeing if your state library can help. And as a great tip, since there aren’t ARCs of audiobooks, if you can get a gig reviewing them, you’ll be able to develop your library’s collection for free.

Beyond just doing listeners’ advisory, you could do a “read it, listen to it, watch it” program at your library where you have readers and listeners both enjoy a story and then watch a film adaptation and discuss it. It’ll be interesting to see what each group likes and dislikes in the adaptation, and it’ll provide a great discussion. You can also allow teen listeners to write reviews of audiobooks for your teen blog like you let readers review books. Teens are our best tools, after all!

In general, I think keeping up with what’s out there–in books, in audiobooks, in programming, everything–can be tough. We were given handouts (which should be available on the Ning soon) with recommended review sites and also directed to the Odyssey Award (given by the ALA) and the Audies (awarded by the Audio Publishers Association). Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read has also spun off the Guys Listen project to get boys listening to audiobooks.

During the break, we all selected books and used the “read a book in 10 minutes” guides in Booth’s book to get an idea of what the book is about, what the pacing and characterization and tone are like, and how the storyline unfolds by reading selectively and considering blurbs and summaries.

We also talked about the importance of keeping up with pop culture. It may be daunting to do so, but pop culture will shape demands on your collections and programs and you should be able to be proactive. You may want to have premium cable shows available when they come out on DVD. The songs and artists that are featured on Glee should influence your CD collection and displays. You can recreate popular shows (Survivor and Fear Factor before, Iron Chef and Minute to Win It now). Your summer reading program prizes should be desirable. And more and more YA books are being made into movies–and you should know about them.

To keep up with pop culture, the speakers recommended having pop magazines routed to you first before they go up to circulate so you can flip through them and see what’s going on. Check out the nominees and the winners of the Teen Choice Awards. Check Yahoo top stories to see who’s in the news. Read Pop Goes the Library (or get the book). And take VOYA‘s three-times-yearly pop culture quizzes.

During the Q&A session, a few other things were addressed.

  • You don’t have to read fiction to be a reader.
  • Reading manga is absolutely reading. You have to be able to decode the flow of the panels and text, and especially if the manga is right-to-left, you need real visual literacy skills to be able to read. If parents or teachers are dubious, have them try reading a manga.
  • Having a nonfiction browsing section in your teen area is really great. It allows teens to read books on uncomfortable subjects without having to ask about them, and it gives you a place to put high-interest books for “non-readers” (who’ve fallen prey to the reading = fiction fallacy).

For the final part of the preconference, a lot of recent and upcoming titles from different genres were shared with us. Handouts and the recommended books should eventually be available on the Ning.

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