24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: assignments

LIBR 200: Reflection

I have spent a lot of time in my life on the patron side of the YA/librarian relationship. I am just now starting to have the opportunity to flip that. As a result, I am immensely grateful for the research I’ve been able to undertake as a student in LIBR 200: Information Communities. The most important piece of advice I learned throughout all of the reading and interviewing I did for this class was that it is crucial to personally communicate with your information community about their wants and needs.

Relying on published research can be helpful and used as a springboard, but ultimately, every community is unique. Inner-city teens and rural teens may, in general, be very similar, but their information needs can be vastly different. Their interests, too, may vary depending on geographic location. We can do all we want to try to bring teens in with flashy program titles, switching up our vocabulary, and offering help for school projects. However, the best thing we can do for young adults is listen.

The same goes for adult readers of YA. This population has grown — or, at least, it’s population of openly-YA-readers has — greatly in the last ten years. Little research has been provided on this audience, though. Perhaps we are under the impression that adult readers of YA are no different from adult readers of adult fiction. This doesn’t seem to be the case in what little research is available. In many of the popular articles I’ve explored (some of which I’ve referenced in previous posts) this semester, it has been abundantly clear that adult readers of YA can feel lost with feelings of doubt and even shame. Librarians must take it upon themselves to help diminish these feelings, assuring adults that it is okay — wonderful, even — to read YA fiction.

Patrons may not be experts on finding information, but they are the experts of themselves. It’s time to recommit to communicating with patrons regularly in order to better serve their wants and needs and, consequently, build a stronger community with the library as the hub.

LIBR 200: YA Readers and Technology

Because many YA readers are teens, most of the group has grown up with the technology they use to find YA materials. Computers in libraries has always been common for them, as has the ability to view reviews of and purchase books on Amazon. Most modern YA readers have never known a time in which libraries used cards in their books to track borrowing rather than RFID scanners. With such familiarity with technology, most YA readers are perfectly comfortable utilizing it to find information regarding YA content and other information.

In a survey of seven YA readers (all between the ages of 18 and 35), the most common place people went to find information was the Internet. This included websites such as Tumblr, Goodreads, Amazon, NetGalley, fanfiction websites, and Google. If pressed, these readers could surely list additional technological resources through which they find young adult content.

YA reader Grace (22) has noted in the past that she relies on author blogs on Tumblr, like that of Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater, in order to keep up with what authors are up to, new book releases, and recommendations. Other Tumblrs allow Grace to find genre-specific content. Sick Lit, for example, provides information for its followers about books regarding illness. For Grace and plenty of other YA readers, there is so much to be found on Tumblr, including those maintained by libraries.

Kacee (22) who also reads YA has used the electronic catalog at her local library since she was eight years old. She has become increasingly comfortable with technology, having learned to do some HTML and CSS coding in college and regularly using the internet to communicate with other lovers of YA. Like Grace, Kacee uses Tumblr as well as the site for National Novel Writing Month, for which she writes young adult novels with help from the forums, the statistics functions, and the validation feature to help her write a young adult novel within the span of one month (November).

Young adult readers are in a good position to take on new technologies, particularly with their ability to adjust to new technologies as they are released. This community uses technology to generate new content, communicate with each other via comments on blogs, forums, instant messaging systems, and statuses (such as those on Twitter and Facebook). Authors sometimes communicate with their readers through blog posts, Twitter replies, or even commenting on content created by their readers. All of this helps to increase the size of the community, help members discover new content, and encourage a thriving and engaging community.

LIBR 200: YA Readers as an Information Community

With the boom in interest in YA literature thanks to popular novels/series such as Harry PotterTwilight, and The Fault in Our Stars, libraries are in a position to provide more and better services to YA readers. YA librarianship, it seems, has become something of a fad. This does not mean, however, that meaningful and important research can be done for the YA readership.

In fact, it is because of the explosion of interest that we need to more critically evaluate how we approach YA readers. First, YA readers are probably more likely to use new forms of technology to communicate compared to many other information communities. Because YA readership is composed largely of their “intended audience” (that is, teens), it is the very population that has grown up with these various technologies and communication platforms and are therefor typically more comfortable using the technology/platforms.

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Some popular YA books have larger fan communities than others.

Some libraries have recognized this and taken advantage of various media to better connect with their young patrons. While the content is not always geared toward your typical YA reader (see, for example, the Arlington Public Library’s Tumblr page which has content relevant to all patrons), the use of this platform can help libraries find their way to a number of patron “types.” By reaching this larger community, public libraries and can better serve adult readers of YA literature, who may otherwise be too embarrassed to engage in the YA community due to the negative reputation attached to YA lit (eg., that it is unintelligent compared to “adult” literature). YA readers, both young adults and adults, therefor can be greatly motivated to make use of various technologies to communicate — one (young adults) because they are naturally drawn to new technologies as a result of their age, and the other (adults) because of the anonymity internet communication can provide.

YA readers may also use a number of platforms to collaborate in seeking more information about the literature they enjoy. Fans of the popular YA science fiction/fantasy Gone series by Michael Grant have collaborated to create an extensive wiki, as have the fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Other fans choose to work together in different ways, such as fanfiction big bangs, in which fans (often of a published YA work), commit to writing a novel-length piece of fanfiction for the enjoyment of the community and with support from that community (editors, co-writers, readers, etc.). Fans of the Animorphs novels arranged such an event at LiveJournal in January. Readers may also rely on collections of reviews of books, such as A Certain Slant of Light at Goodreads to determine whether or not they are interested in reading the book. This would be impossible without the collaborative effort of readers to provide varying opinions of the content.

The informational needs of YA readers are unique to those of other information communities. YA readers, again because of the relatively large percentage of teen readers making up that population, are more likely to require information regarding vocabulary used in the novels they read. This, of course, is not indicative of their intelligence, but rather the amount of reading they have had the opportunity to do and number of words they’ve had occasion to learn and use compared to other information communities, which may be composed of older individuals with larger vocabularies as a result of their age. Publishers have keyed into this market and offered “SAT” editions of previously-published YA novels. The content of these novels remain the same, but unusual or “difficult” words may be pointed out and defined within the text or the margins. Others, such as Brian Leaf, have written companion books to solve the same problem. Teen readers of YA fiction may also find that they require critical analysis of the books they choose to read for school projects.

The various barriers which the YA reader information community encounter are often met with solutions using the available technology. Both teen and adult readers can easily obtain internet access, be it through personal connections, school or work connections, or at the library. Geography then becomes a small thing when a reader wishes to communicate with fellow fans of YA literature. Meanwhile, translation abilities on internet browsers make it possible for fans who speak different languages to communicate about their favorite YA reads.

It is not uncommon for YA readers to share a similar mentality. Some YA readers choose to help their favorite authors promote new books. Others get involved in larger communities, such as Nerdfighteria, which formed as a result of YA author John Green and his brother Hank Green creating videos on their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. People of the Nerdfighter community are often dedicated to various forms of community service, education, and “decreasing world suck.” While the Nerdfighter community is not composed entirely of YA readers, many YA readers are attracted to the community (and may form sub-communities) because they read Green’s novels and wanted a community with whom they could discuss the books. Of course, all YA readers who communicate about whatever novel or series they enjoy naturally are connected by their enjoyment of that text.

While the YA readership is mainly composed of teen readers, adults, too, participate in the resulting information community. Some of these adults may be YA writers who read the material and participate in the community in order to improve their own authorship, others may do the same to create better relationships with the teens in their lives, and still others may read simply for their own entertainment. Although the information needs of adults tend to differ greatly than those for teens, in the YA readership community, those needs blend and become more similar.

LIBR 200: A Brief History and Future of Me

For those of you just joining me, here’s a bit on me and my goals to get you up to speed.

I grew up in the great but small state of New Hampshire, a fact of which I typically remind people around me daily. While I now live in Virginia, I’m a bit of an elitist when it comes to my home state. Live free or die, right? After eighteen years and some months in glorious New England, I headed south to Roanoke, VA to earn my BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology at the ever-supportive Hollins University. Hollins is basically unknown, so here are some quick facts:

  1. Hollins is a women’s school with a co-ed graduate program. There are a few trans* students on campus (F to M), though I do not know of any M to F individuals there.
  2. Hollins is tiny, both in campus size (you can get to one side to the other in six minutes, walking slowly) and population (we’ve got fewer than 650 undergrads).
  3. We do not have a mascot and, because this fact got us on Jeopardy once, we never will.

Hollins was a great place that encouraged me to do lots of things I wouldn’t have done on my own including, I think, trying an online program for my MLIS. I’ve known I wanted to be a YA librarian since I was sixteen. I feel very lucky knowing that I’ve had such a sure career path for a long time as I know this is not the norm. Despite the many comments I’ve received from people around me (“Libraries aren’t going to be around much longer, you know.”), I’ve stayed true to my path and am confident that libraries aren’t going anywhere.

All this to say, I’m very excited to start my adventure with SJSU. Already I am learning about things I had no idea about — information-as-* for example, is a totally new concept to me. For once, I am excited to learn about theory and other topics that are typically encountered with groans from students in all disciplines — foundation-driven topics and the like.  I’m interested in cementing a strong online presence and have considered opening an additional Tumblr account as I am already aware of the large LIS community on that platform. Pinterest, too, seems like a great opportunity that is currently being underutilized by LIS professionals, and so I will be making an attempt to pioneer my way through that path as well. As I continue to read for pleasure in what little free time I’m anticipating, I’ll also be documenting these books with brief reviews on this blog. Check in to see what I’ve read recently and what I recommend. While these goals develop, I’ll be taking on smaller goals of learning as much as I can and trying to stay up-to-date in the larger field and the more specific field of YA readers in public libraries.

This brings me to my next bit: For this semester’s community-driven assignment in LIBR 200, I’m interested in studying YA readers in public libraries. I phrase it this way because, although I am mainly interested in the “intended audience” of YA novels/programs/etc., I also recognize that people who are not strictly “young adults” (that is, middle to high school students) also read and enjoy YA materials. It’s important to create a space in which all categories of readers feel comfortable seeking material. Due to the nature of age-emphasized environments in many of the public libraries I’ve visited, I can see where “adult” readers may be uncomfortable browsing the YA section of a library. Of course, the section should focus on it’s young adult readers, but it should not alienate any group, either.

I’m looking forward to a great semester and, if you’re wondering what the person who wrote this looks like, look no further than below.

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Why I Want to Be a YA Librarian

When I was growing up, my mother brought my brother and me to libraries frequently. I spent a lot of time at the Derry Public Library and the Taylor Library, both located in Derry, New Hampshire. Not only were the libraries a fantastic escape from the heat and humidity of New England summers, but there were books everywhere and I could take them home for free.

As I aged, I began to appreciate the services my local libraries offered to young adults. Writing clubs, craft nights, summer reading programs, and a sense of peace that I struggled to find with my peers at school. At the risk of sounding dramatic and angsty, the library was a place of refuge for middle and high school kids who couldn’t find a place to fit in. What was more, I knew the librarians and people manning the circulation desk wouldn’t judge me. I check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream one week and Twilight the next and no one would so much as sniff at it.

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Libraries open new worlds, both physically and mentally.

I parted from the library for some time while I was in college. Despite studying for a BA in English, I rarely stepped into the campus library or the public library in Roanoke, Virginia. Like many other college students, I couldn’t find time in my schedule to do many of the things I enjoyed so much in high school, including reading for pleasure. Since graduating, I’ve redeveloped an appetite for fiction and a new interest in non-fiction.

My main interest remains, however, in YA fiction. The more I become engaged with “Tumblr activism” and issues of diversity, the more I realize how important representation — seeing one’s self represented accurately, in this instance — is. If I had not read so many dozens of books with characters with whom I identified in high school, I doubt I would have such a strong sense of and comfort in who I am now. While many people assume I want to become a YA librarian solely for the sake of interesting non-readers in reading, this isn’t true. I certainly hope to help find the right book to hook new readers, but I am more interested in providing a safe and non-judgmental space for the population we call “young adults” to read, learn, create, and grow. It was this space that was so important to my development, and so it must be for others. Many young adults do not get the support they need from school, parents, or peers. Librarians can play a huge role in providing mentoring, encouragement, and assistance in the lives of young adults. If I can pick up a few new readers along the way, fantastic. But first and foremost, I want to find the lost boys and girls. Then, I want to open new worlds for them, and help them open their own new worlds.

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