ALA Annual 2014 Recap

Monday, July 7, 2014

This year’s ALA Annual Conference was my fourth. I also attended in 2007, 2008, and 2012, but this was my first time attending as an employed librarian. (I actually did my first round of interviews for my current position back at Annual in 2008!)

Friday

An early morning to get to the Flamingo hotel for the YALSA Pre-Conference Workshop. There was some disorganization on YALSA’s part — there were not originally enough chairs for participants because they let in people who had not pre-registered. They eventually got it all worked out, but not the best way to start the day. The workshop ended up not really being what I thought it would be (I was expecting a more hands-on workshop related to collaboration and connected learning), but all of the presenters were fantastic and it was an invigorating start to the conference. I wrote up a full recap for the YALSAblog, so check that out for more details related to the content.

To kill a bit of time, I visited the Polaroid store (fun!) and got a Sprinkles cupcake (yum!). Then I met up with a library school classmate to hit the exhibits opening, which was, as usual, a complete madhouse. (And, as usual, I never found the free champagne.) I was very judicious with which ARCs I picked up, but I did get a couple that interested me including Garth Nix’s Clariel.

Saturday

First thing Saturday morning, I hit up Guerrilla Storytime. This was hands-down the best conference learning experience I’ve ever had. Though I’m solely a teen librarian at the moment, I still hold a torch for children’s services. Kudos to all of the storytime ninjas for coming up with this format and spreading it far and wide over the last year. There were so many great ideas shared and now I want to be a children’s librarian! All of the notes from the weekend are already up on the Storytime Underground site. I would also love to use the format to share ideas for teen services. (Maybe look for a future post on this topic?)

Later in the morning, I also hit up a Reader’s Advisory panel, since I’m on my system’s Reader’s Services committee. Some of my takeaways from this presentation:

In the afternoon, we had our first in-person Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers discussion. I’m the administrative assistant for the committee, so I don’t get to discuss titles, but I help keep the meetings running smoothly. It was fun to meet everyone in person and there were some lively discussions about the first half of this year’s nominated titles.

After our meeting concluded, we zoomed over to the Wynn for the Penguin Young Readers cocktail party. We had a special cocktail called “The Librarian” (delicious) and got to hear from several authors, including Jandy Nelson (love), Marie Lu, Katherin Howe, Ally Condie, and Meg Wolitzer. In the evening, I was treated to dinner by Egmont USA with some other librarians and Len Vlahos, author of The Scar Boys.

Sunday

More authors were in store for Sunday morning at the YA Author Coffee Klatch. This is basically speed dating on steroids, with dozens of tables full of librarians and YA authors rotating around every few minutes to talk. At my table we had Marcus Sedgwick, Paolo Bacigalupi, Matt de la Pena, Mary Pearson, Caragh O’Brien, Ryan Gaudin, Jim Di Bartolo, and Jonathan Maberry. I also hit up the The Future of Library Services for and with Teens session. I didn’t take any notes, but I did do a couple tweets!

In the afternoon, we had our second Quick Picks meeting to discuss the rest of the nominated titles so far. We don’t make the final list until Midwinter, so nothing to report yet. We love field nominations, so if you’ve read anything that might resonate with reluctant readers published between July 2013 and December 2014, please nominate! Then I was so tired from the heat and the walking around, that I lounged around my hotel Sunday night and did some reading.

Monday

Back home. Looking forward to Midwinter in Chicago (except for the cold)!

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Notes from a First-Time Book Talker

Monday, June 23, 2014

Last week I did my first real-life book talks as part of our summer learning program promotion. I talked to five groups of 6th-grade language arts classes over a full school-day. Most of the periods were two full class groups, so about 60 kids at a time in the school’s library. It was also the last full school day of the year, so I was a little apprehensive about the attention level, but they were great.

How I Prepped

I had about six weeks of lead time between scheduling the talks and the presentation. I had a few books in mind already, then looked for some inspiration from other librarians in my system. We also had a book talk sharing presentation at our spring teen services meeting, so I stole a few ideas from that. The hardest part for me was choosing books that would appeal to 6th graders, since they’re a little in between middle grade and YA. I tried to check out copies of all of the books I was considering, so I could read new titles or refresh myself on titles I had already read. In all, I think I seriously considered about 25 books before finally settling on 17 to share (odd number, I know!).

I first started with a Prezi to show the book covers and summer program information, but ended up using Powerpoint based on how I wanted the presentation to flow and some audio-visual elements I wanted to include. For example, there were a couple animated gifs I wanted to use, but I couldn’t figure out how to get them to show in Prezi. In my Powerpoint, I just put a cover image and title/author information on individual slides. I also used some audiobook clips, so I had to rip some files and clip them down using Audacity before inserting them into the presentation.

I wrote out all of my book talk summaries in Word at first, either writing them on my own or pulling some wording from the book jackets, other publisher blurbs, or the book introductions for non-fiction titles. I also re-wrote the summaries onto individual index cards, both to have to refer to during the presentation and to help with memorization.

The night before, I made sure I had my Powerpoint loaded up on a flash drive, as well as uploaded to my Google Drive. I also brought along some of the non-fiction books with lots of pictures to use as props, a copy of our summer reading log, my note cards, and a bottle of water.

What Worked

The audiobook clips were a hit. Hat tip to Emily for her awesome suggestion of Zombie Baseball Beatdown as an audio for middle schoolers. I also used a bit from Etiquette and Espionage, though that didn’t go over as well with these 6th graders. This also gave my voice a bit of a break!

Using pictures from graphics-heavy non-fiction books and graphic novels was also a nice way to break up the parade of book covers. Both Unusual Creatures and One Big Happy Family were big hits, almost entirely due to the animal pictures. I also found some cool images from some of the book websites, including an animated gif of the exploding wicker chicken from Etiquette and Espionage (they liked this much more than the audio clip that referenced it!)

I incorporated a few audience participation bits. At the beginning I asked for shows of hands for who had library cards and who had visited some of our local branches. In the middle, I asked for the students to volunteer book recommendations to their peers. ‘Recommend a book to a friend’ is one of the activities on our summer activity log, so this was a good tie-in, but it would also work in any context. I asked them for the book title, author (if they remembered it!) and one word to describe the book. Some classes were much more into this than others, but overall it worked well. At the end, I also asked for volunteers to share what book they heard about from me that they were most interested in reading. This was a good on-the-fly way to gauge interest in the books I was promoting. I’m pretty sure at least each book was mentioned once over the course of the day, but the most students expressed interest in Cinder, Steelheart, and Zombie Baseball Beatdown.

All of the books I talked are below!

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Program Idea: Escape the Room Game

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

You are locked in a room with 11 others. The room is filled with mysterious and puzzling objects. Can you put the pieces together to find the key and escape in one hour?

A few weeks ago, I went with some friends to try Puzzle Break in Seattle, a live escape the room game. I can’t give too much away (spoilers!), but you have to work together to solve puzzles of various sorts to find a way out of the room you are in. This was super fun and I can’t wait until they release the new puzzle, so I can go again. There are also variations in other cities, including SCRAP Entertainment, which puts on events in Japan and on the west coast, and Escape the Room NYC. Adventure Rooms Canada even offers it for classroom groups. I also thought it would make a fun teen library program!

It would take quite a bit of planning to set up a cohesive game, but I think the concept would be easily scalable for a group of teens. I think of it as a mix between a murder mystery game — there should be a cohesive theme or story that the puzzles revolve around — a scavenger hunt, and puzzles. It could be set up in a meeting room, or even done in the whole library after-hours.

According to Wikipedia, these are some common escape the room game tropes to possibly include in a real-life scenario:

If you’ve ever played any of the Professor Layton video games, those would be a great source of puzzle ideas that utilize different learning/thinking styles and are appropriate for a teen audience.

If I get around to implementing this idea in my library, I will share how it goes!

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My First Four Months as a Teen Services Librarian

Monday, March 3, 2014

I just passed the four-month mark in my first professional library job. I work as a teen services librarian for a large system in Washington state and I split my 30-hour week between two small branches, with a couple shifts a month at a larger branch for reference desk coverage and one shift a month doing outreach visits on our small bookmobile. The biggest learning curve has been learning the system’s policies (and there are many!) and culture. I look forward to continuing learning and developing as a librarian!

What I’ve Been Working On

Programs at Branch 1

My “home” branch has some history of teen programming, though it took a bit of legwork to get info about past events and I have only anecdotal info about attendance. This is a small branch, not really near any schools, so it doesn’t get tons of traffic from teens. On any given afternoon/evening, I might see 5-10 teens in the library using the computers or checking out books. They are often with families, though we do see some independent teens hanging around.

Weekly drop-in gaming program: This is a long-standing program that most branches in the system offer. We don’t have a dedicated teen space in my branches, so for two hours, once a week, I set up our meeting room with video game systems (Wii, XBox360, PS2) and teens can drop in to play. So far, I’ve run this for 10 weeks. Most weeks we have one or two teens stop by, though two weeks we had six. This seems to be in line with how this program went before I took the position, so I’m not sure if this is worth the time investment on my end. I will keep it going for the rest of the school year to possibly build up interest, but will probably re-think gaming programs for next year.

Book club: Oh, I so want to have a thriving book club! I have twice tried to hold a book club without a specific book to discuss (just come talk about any book!), but haven’t had any takers yet. I will try one more time before scrapping this plan. I have some feelers out at the middle school and high school in my service area about doing an after-school or lunchtime club at the school, but those plans might have to wait until the start of the school year due to some scheduling issues.

Craft programs: I am trying out doing once-a-month craft programs. My first attempt was a duct tape program in February, which brought out one very interested teen. I’m doing a BrushBots program for Teen Tech week in March, hoping to get some more takers!

SAT Prep: The system funds free SAT prep classes twice a year, so we are trying them out for the first time at this branch in the spring.

Volunteers: I’d really like to get a few volunteers at Branch 1, so I’ve been working on some materials related to that and will be doing at least one info session at the local high school to drum up some interest.

Programs at Branch 2

This branch is a tricky one! It’s one of the lowest use branches in the system, both by circulation and door count. It’s also on an Indian reservation, though it’s not exclusively for use by tribal members. The tribe has its own state-of-the-art teen center, so it’s difficult to draw teens into the library when they have transportation and friends already at the center. I have had some success with bringing programs there. I did a repeat of the duct tape crafts there and will be bringing a break dance group next month. As with any collaboration, there are some communication and scheduling issues with this as well.

I have had two presenter-led programs at the branch, one poetry related and one a craft program, that were not very successful. One very enthusiastic teen attended the poetry workshop and no one showed up to the craft program.

Outreach

I am actively working with the school librarians at the local middle and high schools (one each in my service area) to come to the schools to do presentations on databases and get students signed up with library cards. Right now, at the high school, I am lined up to do lunchtime visits related to eBooks and volunteer opportunities, and an after-school session about our free homework help resources. I will likely do some book talking in the late spring to prep for summer reading. I am also working with the other teen librarian in my area to meet with other community groups who work with youth to discuss collaboration. Luckily, the system is very interested in outreach, so we have a lot of time and freedom to leave the library and explore partnerships. This is both the most important and most challenging part of the job!

Collections

We have central purchasing, but I am in charge of maintaining the teen collections at the branches. I did a full weeding of both collections when I started, since they hadn’t been looked at in about six months. Now I do a scan about once a week for books in poor condition and a monthly look at specific sections. I can also request new copies of popular titles, so I have a tiny bit of purchasing power! The system is lucky to have a healthy collections budget and a great teen materials selector, so I have yet to come across essential titles that we are missing! The biggest challenge with collections is not having the books you want to recommend to teens right there on the shelf any time you want them, but that’s a problem in all libraries. Some teens are on board with holds, but I’ve found that most want something to read immediately. I definitely need to keep improving my knowledge of less-popular titles to recommend in reader’s advisory.

System-Wide Projects

So far, I’ve gotten involved with my system’s Mock Printz group and am on a team working on developing new RA services for the whole system (across children’s, teen, and adult). I will also be working on an advisory group for a new system-wide teen website to be launched in conjunction with summer reading.

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Teen Book Festivals

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It seems like I keep hearing about more and more teen book festivals happening around the country. These one- or two-day events usually feature a large roster of YA authors to talk about their books and teen lit in general, sign books, and interact with readers. It looks like most of these festivals are teen-focused and are often organized by librarians and teachers, with assistance from local bookstores. I’m a little envious that there isn’t one near me, so I figured I’d live vicariously by visiting a lot of their sites and rounding up the festivals! Let me know if I’ve left any off the list.

NoVaTEEN Book Festival
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Arlington, VA

Colorado Teen Literature Conference
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Denver, CO

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Houston, TX

Pasadena Teen Book Fest
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Pasadena, CA

Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Rochester, NY

YABFest
Spring
Round Rock, TX

Austin Teen Book Festival
Fall
Austin, TX

YALLFest
Fall
Charleston, SC

YAK Fest
Fort Worth, TX
Winter

Primarily for Librarians and Educators

YALSA YA Literature Symposium
November 14-16, 2014
Austin, TX

Young Adult Literature Conference
Fall
Naperville, IL

Major Book Festivals with a Large YA Component

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
April 12-13, 2014
Los Angeles, CA

National Book Festival
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Washington, DC

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YALSA Blog: What I’d Like to See

Friday, January 31, 2014

There was a bit of hub-bub this month about the news that the YALSAblog was re-booting. First Wendy Stephens, the outgoing blog member manager, posted on her blog that the Editorial Advisory Board had been sent email notices that their terms were ending early. Then the Midwinter Board documents went up last week with item #18 YALSAblog Reboot. The blog is also currently seeking a new member manager, though according to the board doc, there will be an interim manager from now until the position is filled.

I think it’s great that YALSA is re-evaluating the blog, though I wish it had been a bit more transparent to the advisory board and manager than it appears it was handled. As mentioned in the board doc, the blog has been pretty much operating as-is since 2006. A lot has changed in the way YALSA communicates information to members, not to mention the changes in the broader information media landscape. As a YALSA member, here are a few things I would like to see from a new YALSA Blog:

Those are just a few of my disjointed thoughts about the YALSA Blog. I have no idea if any of these things have already been considered or are completely outside of the realm of feasibility. I have nothing but respect for all of the work the past member managers, advisory boards, bloggers, and YALSA staff have put into the blog up until now. And yes, I’m considering applying for the open Member Manager position and thinking about ways I can contribute to the blog!

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The Politics of Book Links

Monday, January 27, 2014

links - Blank

When you click on a link of a book title, where do you expect to go? Ever since I started blogging about libraries and books about five years ago, the practice of creating links to books has been almost an existential crisis for me. Blogging is an interactive medium, so of course I want to link out to somewhere, but where?

The default most places on the web seems to be to link to Amazon. For many reasons, this is great. Amazon has loads of bibliographic information about specific titles, along with other book recommendations and the opportunity to buy with as little as one click. As a blogger, I could also use Amazon Affiliates links and even make money from linking to Amazon (full disclosure: I do have an Affiliates account, but do not currently use my links). But as a librarian and book-lover, the Amazon default kills me a little inside. Of course I do buy books from Amazon, but they are clearly a threat to the survival of physical bookstores, both independents and chains, and are well on their way to disrupting the publishing industry in general. Since I care about the continued existence of bookstores and traditional publishers, I choose not to link to Amazon on my blog.

I could instead make my book links go to an independent online bookstore. I’ve seen plenty of blogs and other websites link to Powell’s, an indie chain in Oregon, since they are large and have an extensive online selection. I think this is a fine practice, but I’m not so sure I want to favor one independent bookstore over another.

On the non-bookstore side, I see a few options. The biggest reading social network is Goodreads, which is an obvious choice when linking to a book. I’m an avid Goodreads user and when I’m reading about a book on a blog, it’s so useful to be able to click on the title, go straight to Goodreads, and add the book to my to-read shelf. Goodreads also has heaps of info about the title and links to a whole host of book-buying options. Of course, it’s not so great if you’re not a Goodreads user. Oh, and it’s now owned by Amazon, so it’s contributing to the factors already outlined above. (This does not stop me from using Goodreads though—it’s so useful!) Similar to Goodreads, LibraryThing is another social book site that could be used. While I am a user of the site, I don’t think it’s the best option for regular book links. Its user base is much smaller than Goodreads, so it won’t be as useful or familiar to most blog readers.

Another option I have used extensively on this blog, is Worldcat. This big online library catalog from OCLC provides bibliographic information and links out to other library catalogs based on your location. It also links to a few buying options and pulls in Goodreads reviews. I like linking to Worldcat because I see it as a neutral source and it promotes libraries (bonus!). My one hesitation with Worldcat links is that it’s not very familiar to most people, which could lead to confusion if someone is used to book links going out to Amazon or Goodreads.

I’m still clearly undecided about the best way to link to books from my blog. There are no industry standards for book blogs, so what do others prefer? Am I the only one who lets this issue keep them up at night?

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YA Programming Blogs

Thursday, January 23, 2014

As a newly practicing teen librarian, I’ve found that reading about successful programs and services for teens to be especially helpful. Blogs are a perfect medium for sharing of-the-minute ideas, talking honestly about what worked and what didn’t, and generating responses from others. Unfortunately blogs come and go, so it can be difficult to keep up with what’s new and current. Here are a few of my favorite blogs written by librarians that feature programming ideas or other services for teens or tweens.

BethReads

Beth Reads

Beth is a youth services librarian in Ohio who posts about books and programs, mostly YA-related. Some recent posts I’ve found helpful have included: Ice Breakers for Teen Program Success, Doing More With Summer Reading Data, and Jump Start Your Book Club: A Change Will Do You Good. You should also check out her one-minute book talk series. Her posts are very thoughtful and coming from a place of experience, so it’s worth going through her archives.

MagpieLibrarian

The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian’s Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette

Ingrid, a children’s and teen librarian in NYC, blogs about books, programs, and other things of interest to the library world. I especially love her teen displays like It’s Time for a Body Positive Brooklyn: Look, I finished that display, finally., Queering up the Library: A finished display, and Oy with the Jokes Already: A totally jokey YA display with a totally broken color printer. You might also appreciate Tree Octopuses, Hate Sites, Agatha Ann Cunningham: The “Oh, C’MON!” Menagerie of Information Literacy, which discusses information literacy and a fake library ghost story crafted by two teen library interns.

teenbrarian

Teenbrarian

Sarah is a teen librarian from Michigan. She has been blogging at Teenbrarian for just about a year and posts a lot about her regular programs. She has some good insight about hosting Minecraft programs, a Trivia program, and Dungeons and Dragons.

youngadultactivities

Young Adult Activities

A group of librarians share program ideas suitable for middle and high school audiences. I particularly enjoyed Updated: Urban Legends (I’ll be incorporating this into my summer reading programming!),  How to Survive a Horror Movie, Bike Rodeo.

Zen

Zen and the Art of Teen Services

Sarah, a teen librarian from Ohio, talks books, programs, teen trends, and more. Her post about Anatomy of a Teen Event Flyer is a must-read for any librarians who design their own flyers. Other great posts include Beyond Anime: 100+ ideas to keep your otaku happy!, Feeding teens, and Beyond Book Clubs & Gaming: Creating dynamic programs to which your teens will flock!. I wish she would post more!

Find more librarian blogs on my links page or take a look at previous link roundups:

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Mock Printz Roundup 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

mockprintz2014

The Youth Media Awards, the collection of awards handed out by the American Library Association, will be presented Monday, January 27. For young adult literature, the Michael L. Printz award is considered the highest achievement. Awarded annually since 2000, it honors the best book (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or anthology) in terms of literary merit and up to four honor books that were published in the United States during the award year. A committee of nine YALSA members discuss the eligible titles at the Annual and Midwinter ALA meetings and choose the winner and honor books in a closed door session.

To promote the reading and discussion of quality YA books, many library systems and regional library groups organize Mock Printz events. Typically, librarians will choose a shortlist of titles that they think merit inclusion on the Printz list. They then meet to discuss the books and choose their own winner and honor books before the official ceremony.

I’m always curious to see what books look like contenders for the award, so for a few years (2012, 2011, 2010) I have compiled Mock Printz lists and winners. It’s not the best predictor of the eventual winner, especially since a lot of the groups share lists to some extent and most librarians aren’t reading as widely and extensively as those on the committee. It’s still an interesting exercise to see what’s buzzing before the announcement of the actual winners and honorees.

This year, I looked at 19 lists. Several titles appear on multiple lists, but there are a lot that only appear on one list. A total of 45 individual books were listed. Of the lists I looked at, here are all of the books that appeared and the number of lists they appeared on:

What do you think? Who will take home the big award next Monday morning?

The full lists from each library or library system appear below.

(more…)

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2013 in Books

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The last year has been a great year for reading! I set a personal goal to read 100 books and I surpassed my goal by 12 books for a total of 112. I started my first professional library job this fall, so I’ve really ramped up my YA reading even more than usual. I also work for a really big system that has a fantastic collection and I’ve been able to track down a more diverse range of reading options.

Of the 112 books I read in 2013, I read:

favbook2013

Top 10 Favorite 2013 Books

Non-2013 Releases That I Read and Loved in 2013

Reading Resolutions for 2014

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