Tag: speakers

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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5 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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3 Comments November 7, 2010

Patsy Allen on corporate librarianship

On Friday we had our third and final ALISS Luncheon Lecture of the semester. Patsy Allen, an IU SLIS grad and the research librarian at Roche Diagnostics, talked to us about her career as a corporate librarian.

She actually began as a part-time contractor before her position was developed into a full-time one four years later. When Roche was creating the position, there was a lot of debate about what to call the position before they finally settled on “Research Librarian.” Many people in the company handle information of some sort, so they wanted what she is available for to be very clear. She said that some of the older employees didn’t like the name because they still regard librarians as the shushing guardians of the stacks, but that the younger employees who were being hired straight out of school were excited to know that Roche had a librarian for them to come to with their information needs.

Patsy described her position as being “a solo librarian in a global environment” since she’s the only librarian in a company that employs thousands of people. Employees of Roche ask her to find articles and papers, patent data, and lots of other highly specialized information to assist them with their research in biology, chemistry, and engineering, mostly via email (which can be tricky when she’s trying to tease out exactly what a client needs!).

Her manager isn’t a librarian (he works with patent information), so she has a lot of autonomy in her work, which she said she really enjoys. Like Ellen Summers of the NCAA Library, Patsy emphasized the importance of the Special Libraries Association in feeling connected to the profession and having other librarians to help her, although she did point out that corporate librarian positions can be radically different from one company to another. She also talked about how important continuing education is for her, whether it’s through courses at a university or seminars through SLA.

She talked a little bit about how she can’t talk about a lot of her work. Since she works for a corporation that does scientific research, she’s privy to a lot of information that she can’t disclose. The work Roche does is also highly regulated, which introduces further restrictions on what she can talk about. Patsy also talked about the importance of professional integrity: while she may know that two people are working on the same sort of project based on the questions they’re asking her, she can’t tell them about each other.

Patsy spends a lot of energy monitoring copyright issues and explaining them to her clients. Many of them come from an academic environment and are used to being able to pass information to other colleagues fairly freely under the Fair Use guidelines, but copyright rules in a corporate environment are much more restrictive. The general guideline she gives clients is “assume the answer is ‘no’ unless I tell you otherwise.” She also showed us some of the different levels of permission different publishers grant for copying and distributing articles–some allow only paper copies to be made while others allow for electronic copies to be distributed. Roche can be sued by a publisher if an article is posted to the company intranet without permission, so complying with copyright restrictions is really important, and she’s the primary person to educate employees on what they may and may not do. The library also won’t order reports for employees since it requires the recipient to sign off on how they’ll be using the document. She’ll get a client a complete citation, but their department must be the one to order it. She also has to be careful about exactly what she advises people to do, since in Indiana offering legal advice counts as practicing law, which you can’t do unless you’re a lawyer.

Patsy also talked about some of the tools she uses in her work including Medline, Embase, Biosis, SciSearch, Current Contents, ScienceDirect, Wiley InterScience, Google and Google Scholar, PubMed, OCLC FirstSearch, FDA, EBSCOhost Databases, and other STM, business, and legal resources. She said that she works to be really proactive in constantly scanning the media and news alerts and blogs for items of interest and then forwarding them on to clients who might find the information useful before they even ask for it or need it. She said that this not only reminds them of the library’s usefulness but also gives her a chance to show potential new clients what the library can do for them.

Despite Roche being on the cutting edge in their industry, they are by necessity technologically cautious in some ways. Since Roche is a gigantic company, they need to be reserved in how quickly they adopt new technology and new versions of software, so she’s trying to make do with Internet Explorer 6 and old versions of other software packages. She’s also lost her physical library: she used to work in a room full of books but was moved to a cubicle with a computer and a book cart. While lots of information–especially the most recent of research–is available online and she does conduct most of her correspondence via email, she said that she missed being in a proper library.

Although the slow adoption of new technology and constant assessment of copyright compliance seemed at times exasperating, Patsy said that she loves her job. Since she’s helping clients with their scientific research, she learns new things every day just by seeing that information go by. She did emphasize knowing one’s limits in a special library and being able to tell clients that what they wanted was too advanced for her to do, but that she could put them in touch with another person or resource that could help them. Her job is fast-paced and she never knows on a given day what she’ll see thrown at her and she loves being kept on her toes. She also mentioned the social aspect of her job, pointing out that her life isn’t just research and information all day long, but that there’s a human element, an opportunity to help people and to teach them. The analogy she provided was that of being an information bartender–I think that’d be a great thing to put on a business card!

Patsy closed with a quotation from Neil de Grasse Tyson that’s appropriately scientific but also blends with the librarian’s life:

In life and in the universe,
may your signal be high
and your noise be low.

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4 Comments April 26, 2010

PLA Blog: serving pregnant or parenting teens

This post was originally written for the PLA Blog. ALA holds the copyright to this text; it is reproduced here with permission.

I’m not sure what it is, but I seem to really enjoy the early morning sessions. Today the first one I attended was “Pregnant/Parenting Teens: Promoting Library Services Among the Underserved” with Maryann Mori, the director of the Waukee Public Library in Waukee, Iowa. She addressed the needs of pregnant and parenting teens, what libraries already have for those teens, and what libraries can do to further their service to these patrons.

In some ways, the needs of pregnant and parenting teens are similar to a lot of public library patrons’ needs: they want help with their education, with finding a job, and with entertainment. But they also have more specific needs like learning parenting skills, being put in touch with other community organizations that can help them, and just having someone in their lives that they can trust. We can meet these needs with our usual materials and services that provide for the educational, informational, entertainment, and lifelong learning needs of all of our patrons, but we can also provide a friendly staff, contact names and addresses for community organizations, and storytimes that also teach parenting and reading skills–especially by using the Every Child Ready to Read framework.

With the principles of ECRR in mind, Maryann designed a four-session program that emphasizes the six aspects (print motivation, vocabulary, phonological awareness, print awareness, letter knowledge, and narrative skills) and also explains the general benefits of reading to your baby.

The first meeting is an introduction to ECRR and provides statistics about the benefits of reading to your baby. The second meeting focuses on children’s books, choosing books for your baby, and print motivation. The third meeting covers phonological awareness and vocabulary. The final meeting reviews the first three and touches on teen parents’ reading memories and provides encouragement for the future. Each session combines storytelling and songs and rhymes and fingerplays with parenting skills that include aspects of child development.

Maryann also spent a lot of time talking about partnering with other organizations in the community. Such a partnership might be something as simple as creating a bookmark with information about the classes and good books for babies in the stuff that gets sent home with moms when they leave the hospital, but it can be as much as going to shelters and group homes and correctional facilities to do the classes. There are so many other organizations you can partner with to make these programs a success including high schools, the local WIC agency, the crisis pregnancy center, churches, the department of health, even the grocery store (advertise in the formula aisle!).

Serving pregnant or parenting teens also exists at an interesting intersection of teen services and children’s services, so it can be an interesting collaboration between librarians or departments.

There are some barriers to library access that some of these teen patrons may have. They may be balancing school and work. They may be living in temporary housing. They may be totally dependent on welfare. They may not be strong readers. They may lack transportation. They may not know what good parenting looks like. They might not even be able to get a library card without a parent’s signature since they’re underage–and what if they’ve been kicked out? Does your library have a policy that would provide for them?

Despite these stumbling blocks, this is an important demographic to reach because as they see what’s available to them and their babies at the library, they’ll come back. And Maryann’s program works: she’s not only seen these teens come back for more library services, but they’re also more likely to graduate and more likely to start reading more themselves, and their children develop better reading and language skills through the program.

What does your library have now for pregnant or parenting teens? What more can we be doing to serve them?

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Leave a Comment March 26, 2010

PLA Blog: queering the library

This post was originally written for the PLA Blog. ALA holds the copyright to this text; it is reproduced here with permission.

[Please note: throughout this post, I’ll be using “queer” to refer very broadly to the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex, and asexual/ally) community.]

The first session I attended today was Spanning the Generations: Serving the GLBTIQ Community of ALL Ages. Unfortunately two of the speakers, Nancy Silverrod and KR Roberto, were unable to make the event, but we were left in the capable hands of Allan Kleiman and Angie Manfredi. They talked about how libraries can–and should–serve members of the queer community and how queer patrons’ needs differ by their ages.

Allan told a story about reading what few materials on homosexuality were available to him growing up in secret at the library, always in the reading room and never by checking out the books. While he acknowledged that materials have improved drastically since then and that society as a whole has become more accepting of queer folk, he did tell us that people are still reluctant to ask for information on queer materials or queer resources, so our focus with adults should be making the library an openly welcoming place and making materials available without asking. We can do this by including books about queer characters in displays on other topics, by including queer authors in our book displays, by partnering with community organizations and participating as a library in pride parades, and by linking to queer resources on our library websites.

Angie addressed service to queer teens, tweens, young people, and their families. There’s been a sharp increase in the number of YA titles published recently about queer teens and the content has become much more accepting as well, but we still have a long way to go. One of the ways we can work to see more titles like these are to make sure our library buys these books (or nonfiction titles like GAY AMERICA: STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY) or at the very least thanking publishers who make these materials and things like GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND QUESTIONING TEEN LITERATURE: A GUIDE TO READING INTERESTS (part of the Genreflecting series that will be published at the end of the month). She also mentioned the Rainbow List as a good resource.

Angie also talked about how one of the most important things we can do for queer patrons is to make our library a safe place. Refuse to tolerate hate speech. Partner with your local gay-straight alliance–or create one. Be supportive of openly queer teen and tween patrons. And make use of GLSEN’s toolkits.

When serving children, Angie recommended doing both overt things and working to normalize queerness. One overt way we can support the queer community through our youth service is having a Rainbow Storytime that includes stories not only about queer families but also stories about differences, diversity, acceptance, bullying, and originality. We can also include books about queer people in history and in our culture in displays and storytime because just treating queer people like everyone else sends the message that queerness is a part of our society and has been and will be and that that’s totally fine. Supporting queer families should also be a focus in our service to young people.

Allan encouraged us all to support our queering efforts by tying it to our mission (queer patrons definitely fall into the “underserved populations” category) and making it integral to our library service. He finished up by talking more about partnering with local organizations in the queer community and by pointing to successful work in specific public libraries (especially the San Francisco Public Library’s blog, Queerest. Library. Ever.) to support and engage the queer community.

Angie has compiled a list of resources for serving queer youth at delicious.com/youth.lgbtqia to get you started, and Allan emphasized the importance of taking what we learn back to our libraries, so I tell you: go forth! Queer your library!

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Leave a Comment March 25, 2010

My first synagogue library program!

I work part-time at a synagogue library in town and in the six and a half months I’ve been there, it’s been a really interesting experience. I’m not Jewish, so I’ve learned a lot about Judaism through my work and through long conversations with my boss, George, the education director. And since I’m the only person who works at the library, I’ve learned a lot about library work by doing everything: I select, catalog, and process all of the new books; I create book lists and book displays; I answer reference questions and help people find books; I do storytimes with the preschoolers; and I’ve been working on some other projects of my own, like cleaning up catalog records (there hasn’t been a lot of continuity in library work and not everyone who’s worked at the library has been a librarian so there are all sorts of discrepancies and irregularities in the catalog) and introducing a new shelf labeling system and doing a complete inventory (we still use a card system for checkout and there are no security measures, so books just walk away) and creating a library mission and a proto-collection development policy.

But the project that finally came to fruition today was my first fundraising program. Unlike in a public library, the programs that the synagogue library puts on often have a small admission fee to supplement the library budget. The library’s been nearly dormant for a while, so it’d been a while since we’d done any programming (fundraising or not). I came up with a list for George this winter of potential events we could do. He especially liked my suggestion of bringing Eileen Goltz, a professional chef and caterer and food writer (she does newspaper columns and wrote the excellent PERFECTLY PAREVE), to come do a cooking demonstration and talk about new ideas for Pesach/Passover, so I started planning that.

I have to admit I was nervous leading up to her visit. Since I only work there on Sunday mornings and on Thursdays, Eileen and I had been playing phone tag a lot and the idea for the event had evolved over time. We had to push the event back a week after booking her because of a conflict with other synagogue events. We didn’t have access to the kitchen since the synagogue’s had already been prepared for Passover and were going to have to make do with hot plates. We hadn’t had as many registrations by the end of last week as I’d been hoping to see and since Daylight Saving Time began today I was worried that everyone would show up an hour late. But Eileen was early and we had plenty of time to make handouts and get everything ready and catch up (I was friends in high school with one of her sons). And we had a great turnout!

Professional chef, caterer, and food writer Eileen Goltz speaks before an group at an event for the library at Beth-El Zedeck, a synagogue in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Eileen speaks to the attendees

After I did a little library promotion and then sung a few of Eileen’s many praises, she started off by talking about how intensive cooking and cleaning for Passover can be (but don’t necessarily have to be!), and then gave a great history of the availability of kosher foods in the US. Before the 1960s or so, you had to go to specialty stores to get kosher food and there wasn’t a lot beyond matzah, gefilte fish, and kosher wine that wasn’t very good. But in the 1960s and 1970s, kosher food because more varied, more widely available, and more delicious and now there are all sorts of options. She also talked just a little bit about all of the different organizations that issue hechsherim, those symbols on food that tell you whether or not (and to what extent) it’s kosher (check out this illustrated list of hechsherim). Then she walked us through some recipes that she liked for Passover, suggesting substitutions on the fly for one woman whose child was allergic to dairy products. She showed us some of the dishes that she’d prepared beforehand and we all got tastes of the crustless quiche and the macaroon-and-almond pie crust–and oh man was it delicious.

Everyone at the event seemed to have a great time and they all were comfortable enough to ask questions along the way and Eileen did a great job of handling those questions and organizing the presentation in general. She was a very engaging speaker and she really knows her stuff. George and I both had a number of people come up to us afterward to say what a great time they’d had and how much they’d learned, and the executive director of the synagogue said she wanted to have Eileen back again. By the time we’d cleaned up and met back at the library, George was waiting with a request that Eileen come back for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happen in the fall).

So despite some bumps along the way in planning, the program didn’t just go well, it went spectacularly. I was so proud of how well everything turned out and what a great time everyone had and how much fun Eileen had and how everyone wanted her to come back. And I learned so much from planning this whole thing myself about event planning in general and about working with other people in the same organization and the importance of good communication and all sorts of wonderful things that I’m sure will serve me well once I graduate. It was such a confidence builder to have it go so splendidly!

We made some money for the library, but more importantly we got the library back in people’s minds as a resource available to them and as a place that does cool things–I even had one man stop by that morning to say that he’d been a member of the congregation for years but had never stopped by the library and that now he wanted to check out a book he’d seen in the window display. I’m so proud of all the progress the library’s made in the last few months and I’m really excited to tackle my next project there.

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Leave a Comment March 14, 2010

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