With the boom in interest in YA literature thanks to popular novels/series such as Harry Potter, Twilight, 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.
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.