2013: Time to Go!

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Happy New Year all!

I get excited every New Year’s because it’s a fantastic reason to look back at the year, be grateful for what we have, make plans for the future, and let go of what didn’t turn out the way we want.

2013 is the year I’m going to graduate from grad school! I’m excited for this journey to be over and can’t wait for the adventures that are about to begin. I’ve made several NY resolutions (or even better, made NY aims) to strive for in 2013. I aim to finish strong with school, let go of petty problems, push myself to create more programs and build work relationships, and to READ. I’ve enjoyed reading blog posts and Twitter feeds today of librarians resolving to read a certain number, etc. of books for 2013. I don’t have an amount I want to read but I do aim to read widely (not just read within my favorite genres) so that I’m even better prepared to do readers advisory with kids at the library. I also aim to say YES more this year: yes to opportunities, spur of the moment events, whatever comes my way. Soon I could be tied down by more than just a job-I want to make sure that I have no regrets.

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013!

Down with Censorship

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I always have interesting feelings when it comes to censorship, and reading Christine Jenkin’s chapter “Censorship: Book Challenges, Challenging Books, and Young Readers” brought up all the feelings–good and bad.

How can I have mixed feelings about censorship? First, let me assume you’re a librarian (or will be one shortly) and assure you that I’m not pro-censorship, not in the least. But Christine brings up important aspects of ordering materials where you debate in your mind a purchase of something and that you might not end up buying it because of potential issues down the road. It’s not selection in this case but censorship.

Sometimes you have these reactions without even realizing it. I order materials for our YA section (really it’s the middle school collection). My coworker orders for High School. Things that are on the cusp we’re consistently sending back and forth to each other–is this you? is it me? It’s not that we would consider not getting it but we don’t want it to go to the wrong collection–it needs to get into the hands of the people who want to read it. It’s very easy to slip into this way of thinking so you always need to second guess yourself on why you’re not buying something. I’m lucky that I have someone to bounce titles off of. When in doubt, I always order it. I can read it and if it’s wildly inappropriate it can be added to the high school section.

The second reaction I always have to censorship is my reaction to the people who want a material removed, not because they’re worried about their child but all the other children who might read it. Or who might read Harry Potter and want to practice witchcraft. Or who might read any number of things can get the wrong idea.

Now, I don’t have children but a long time ago I used to be one and I still think like one. The things that had the most influence on me growing up were my parents and friends. Not books. And I read a LOT. Do not be concerned about children reading books and getting ideas. Spend time talking to your children and passing along your opinions, morals, and ethics if that’s what’s important to you. Read books together and have conversations about how this fits into your family’s values. Or how the character does something wrong (whatever wrong may be) and what your child thinks they should have done instead. Be a parent.

Imagination is okay. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Not only is censorship awful because who is one person to decide if something is okay for all children and teens (everyone and every family is different) but remember: the moment you tell that kid or teen that they can’t read something because it’s bad for them, they are going to try extra hard to get a hold of that book and pass it along to their friends.

Okay, rant over🙂

48 Hours of Awesome

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It’s hard to believe that it’s Monday and I’m back at work. While on one side I’m inspired and anxious to read, read, read after attending the conference but on the flipside I’m back to catching up on everything that happened this week and the feeling of librarian togetherness just isn’t the same as being surrounded by 500+ librarians who are excited about a lot of the same things that you are.

I saw so many interesting panels, got to talk to several awesome librarians, meet and geek out at some of my favorite authors–this event is like a rock concert for librarians. I think I had only two complaints–and neither had to do with the quality of the symposium. Each panel was unique and different and at the end of the sessions on Saturday and Sunday I was beat because my mind was so excited from everything that was racing around in it.

I’m fairly certain I’ll add in another post about what I went to and links to what was talked about, but I wanted to write about the panel that impacted me the most. Surprisingly, it was the fanfiction/art one. Hearing the panelists speak brought back these memories of me when I was a teen. It was 1997 and the TV show Spy Game was on. No, not the movie but the TV show. I loved this show so much I wrote a letter (actual snail mail) to the network begging them not to cancel the show. Heartless people they were, they canceled in anyways. So I looked for people online who also loved the show and discovered people wrote stories where the two main characters got together. Yes, I was “shipping” even back then, even before I knew what it was.

The panelists talked about how teens seek how fanfiction, write it themselves, or create art because they are not ready for the world they have discovered to end. That was how I felt about Spy Game. And just like teens now, I thought I was the only person in the world who felt this way. I had completely forgotten about this time in my life until the panel brought it back to me and I’m grateful.

Before I leave this post for the day, I just want to mention the other moment that struck me from the symposium. It was in the Fickle Future panel, and two authors (Ellen Hopkins and Beth Fehlbaum) made me tear up as they described the teens who approach them after visits, when everyone else has left to tell them how their stories helped them. The authors mentioned how important it is to have stories like theirs in libraries, and to fight for them to stay, because there are so many teens like this, much more than we realize. That broke my heart a bit.

It was these moments of intense empathy and connections with my inner teen that helped remind me of why I love working with tweens and teens. The symposium reawakened my energy and enthusiasm. I’m excited to read more, create more, and engage the people who come to my library. The next symposium won’t be until 2014 in Austin, Texas. I’ll be there–will you?

Conference Bound!

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I’ve been looking forward to this since I learned I would be going in July, but it’s hard to believe that it’s just a few days away. That’s right, I’m going to YALSA’s Young Adult Literature Symposium!

I’ve been to conferences before (Reaching Forward, ALA annual in Chicago) but this is the first time that I’ll be going to an event for my people. Teen librarian is my dream job and knowing that I’ll be in sessions with tons of dedicated librarians who are passionate about the same thing makes me so happy. [Disclaimer: Of course, being a children’s librarian is also my dream job. But I think teen librarian edges it out for the number one spot.] I’m going to be going with my coworker, our library’s fantastic Teen Librarian and my mentor. Road trip!

I’ve printed out the list of programs and trying to decide on my favorites. As of right now, these are the ones I’m most interested in seeing.

  • YA Literature and Fan-Created Work [It’s being presented by Robin Brenner, of No Flying, No Tights fame–it’s a no brainer, I have to go]
  • The Future of Review Guidance [It’s been presented by several people, one of which is Carla Riemer a classmate from my LEEP cohort 14.1!]
  • When a Book is More than Paper: Transmedia Trends in Young Adult Literature [I’m really interested in these kind of mashup style books that tell a story via multiple formats–apps, texts, videos, etc.–and I want to hear more about them.
  • Make it Pop: How to Use Pop Culture in Your Library [I’m torn between this one, because I love pop culture and this other program that’s going on at the same time: The Next Generation of Author Visits. I’d like our library to do more author visits so I think this would be beneficial. I’m hoping my coworker and I will split and each go to a different session.]
  • Get Real: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction as the Next Big Thing [I feel that title says it all.]
  • A Fickle Future: YA Authors Discuss Trend-spotting and Timeless Keys to Literary Success when Facing the Disconnect of the Digital Age [What is the future of YA lit? Are the big trends predicted or created?]

I’m anxious to hear what everyone has to say and come back with some great new ideas to improve our YA (for us, this is our middle school section) collection. I can’t wait to brainstorm with our Teen Librarian, to have tons of planning time on the drive so we can come up with some great new ideas. And I’m excited to meet a group of amazing librarians!

I plan on posting a recap post next week of what I’ve learned. If you’re interested you can follow everyone’s thoughts by checking out the hashtag #yalit12 on Twitter. I’ll also be posting on Twitter at @whirlysquirl. See you next week!

This Week’s Challenges–and it’s only Tuesday!

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I have to take a look and see if there’s a full moon coming because this week has already thrown me for a loop and it’s only Tuesday!

1. A boy last night was doing a one minute talk and needed research about how carpenters were like in New Jersey during Colonial era and could only use Internet resources. After I found out he could eventually use books and we looked at our “career” books from the Colonial section and while it had information, it didn’t have information about New Jersey and he felt very strongly that he also needed New Jersey carpenter information. This is where I failed as a librarian. I was able to give him books that talked about the middle colonies and books about carpenters, but not the two combined. Did I mention that this was for a very short piece?? When I told him “Wow, this is some very specific information you’re looking for” he very seriously replied that “I have Mrs. So-and-s0 and she is VERY particular.” No kidding. He waved hi to me today and said he was back for more research so I hope the project was going okay.

2. I had a mom with a small baby ask “For the book, I can’t remember the author, called Red Hat Green Hat.” I searched for that book, different variations, asked questions about the plot (was there other clothing involved?)–then grabbed my coworker when she came back to the desk and asked her if it sounds familiar. “Oh that’s the book by So-and-so.” WHAT? She walked to show the lady the section. I didn’t get a chance to follow up with my coworker about what that book exactly was, but you can bet I’m going to do that when I next see her.

3. I had a mom ask me if I thought there were any value to comics. As the person who orders graphic novels I take that section extremely seriously and don’t like when people look down at the collection–and the way she phrased her question indicated what her preconceptions were. Luckily, I had some info to back up my point and showed her some of my favorites. I think she walked away feeling better about the collection. Some of them she was really impressed by the artwork so that was a plus! What could have become a very uncomfortable situation ended up all right in the end–but it was a little uneasy there for a bit.

4. Today was our first Book Blitz program (which I wrote about two weeks ago). Unfortunately, no teens showed up. My coworker, our amazing Teen Librarian, and I sat through and got a chance to practice what we would have done (which was helpful). So time to assess–what went wrong? Weather could have been a factor. It was storming/raining in the afternoon. When I came down to our youth internet computers at 5:20 when it’s normally very busy and noisy there were only 5 kids. Maybe something was happening at school that day keeping kids away? Was it the time? 4-5 might interfere with after school activities. Maybe they didn’t like the theme–horror books aren’t for everyone. The lack of food could have been a factor. We offer food at our other teen programs. I had the idea of turning it to a later program with decaf coffee and deserts but maybe I’ll start small with serving hot chocolate. I know once we get them here they’ll see how awesome it is and keep coming back on their own.

Needless to say, I’m disappointed with the lack of turnout for today. We’ll keep the same schedule for the program next month and hope tweens and teens show. Sigh.

Some weeks are just like this. You feel like a mass of obstacles has been placed in front of you and you have so far to go. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the week goes better, that next month’s program is a hit, and I figure out what carpenters did in New Jersey in colonial times. But first, I think I’m going to have an adult beverage.

Collection Development

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I was really interested in reading the collection development articles for this week because I’ve actually been buying for several different collections for the past few years. When I started at my library I was part of the adult department so I purchased for the High School collection (fiction and nonfiction) and graphic novels. Now that I’m in youth services I buy for the middle school collection (we call it YA) both fiction and nonfiction, graphic novels for all ages through 8th grade, and DVDs.

Collection development is something I’ve learned through on the job experience. But there’s always good new things to learn. I loved the tip from one reading this week to look at books that are marked as long overdue or missing–chances are that it’s missing because it’s a popular book and needs to be replaced. I also liked the idea of taking multiple copies off the shelf (leaving one or two of course) of required reading books for the summer. That way you can open up space for more new books and bring out the other ones next summer. I’m going to see if we can make that happen at our library.

Utilizing the teen advisory board is key. Knowing you have the input of teens to help let you know what’s popular at the moment and what’s fading is really useful. Right now we also use our Anime Club to get their insight on what manga series we should continue or let go. Let’s face it, we’re not the experts on it. But they are, so they’re input is crucial. It frees up time for us that can be put towards additional program planning and makes the teens feel an even deeper connection to the library.

Something that I haven’t always paid the highest attention to is our collection development statement. I’m going to make sure that I copy the pages relevant to my section and put them at my desk where I can quickly see it. It’s a really helpful and important tool when it comes to making a choice on whether to add something or not to the collection.

Making sure the collection that you’re purchasing for has what your patrons need is so key. It’s more than just putting materials in a cart and sending it off to be ordered. You’re creating access to materials for patrons, giving them new stories to discover, and making sure the collection stays healthy. It’s a fantastic responsibility.

New Program Jitters

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I love that my job gives me opportunities to create programs. But if I was truly honest, sometimes I would say that I hate that my job lets me create programs. Why? It’s sometimes so hard to tell what’s going to be a success or not. And when you invest yourself and put everything you have into a program, to see it fail can be hard.

Truly, creating programs is fun. The sky is the limit (but also in that limit is budget, time, availability of staff and space, and interest). You hope that turnout is going to be amazing but sometimes it just falls short. Teens (and in this I’m including the 6th through 8th graders that I mainly work with) don’t always show up. Connecting Young Adults and Libraries talks about whether or not you cancel a program just because one teen shows up. The answer? Of course you don’t because that teen made a choice to come to that program and this is your chance to start a relationship with this teen. But it’s hard in a numbers world to justify the cost and time when few teens show up.

This is why I get nervous about programs. I go to plan but I’m seized with questions: is this a good date? Will they like it? Will they come? Toddler and young grade school programs are easier–you know the parents are going to bring them. But that’s not likely to happen with teens. For teens either they’ll come on their own or their parents will force them and they’ll be unhappy while they’re there (for example, in my “Monsters, Wings, and Other Halloween Things” program where the young teen voiced his displeasure at the program, the movie we played–everything).

My new program jitters are happening again. Our new monthly program Book Blitz is going to be starting in two weeks. This book talk program will feature a different book genre each month (October’s is Scare Your Socks Off) and allow myself and our Teen Librarian to share awesome titles they might have missed. Teens will be able to share their favorites in that genre with us. Since we get asked about book discussion programs (but in my experience they never have time to all read the book) I’m hoping that this program will fill a need with teens who are looking for great books. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for teens to show up that day. And if it should fail after a couple months? I’ll dust myself off and try something new. It’s hard but you know what? It’s so absolutely worth it.