24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: information communities

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: What I Really Do Meme

We’re all familiar with the “this is what my mom thinks I do, this is what my friends think I do, this is what society thinks I do,” and so on meme. This week, I was challenged to take on the perspective of my information community (readers of YA) and develop my own. Check it out below and then read on for some additional commentary!

Meme

With all of the controversy around adults reading YA literature (see here and here for a few thoughts on it), I figured I’d start with the perspective of that particular part of the YA-readers community. Understanding how adults may feel when approaching librarians for assistance in finding a YA book can help us to better serve them. Even as a teen, I remember being terrified that the librarians or circulation staff would judge me (silently or otherwise) for picking up books that I considered “brain candy” (Twilight, for example — certainly not spectacular literature, but enjoyable all the same) or books that may be considered inappropriate for my age by some (nonfiction on the psychology of sex, for instance). So it wasn’t too difficult to imagine adult readers of YA seeing librarians as a sort of judge. Of course, we’re trained to not be judgmental, but patrons don’t necessarily know this.  So this skeptical, judgmental woman is likely an accurate representation of what many adult YA readers perceive or imagine us to be. If only they knew we read YA, too! (Hey, adult YA readers — let’s be friends, okay?)

I drew from my own experience a second time when I chose the second image. YA authors — or, aspiring ones, anyway — may see the librarian as a sort of teacher. My public library regularly held teen writing clubs and the librarian hosting them was expected to do some sort of creative writing exercise and lead the group as a teacher and mentor, whether or not they had any kind of creative writing background. Of course, some YA authors may also expect librarians to not only teach them the ways of writing well, but how to engage the YA audience, who the YA audience is, how to get an agent, and perhaps even what content will best catch the attention of YA readers. Of course, we do teach in some ways, but creative writing instructors we are (for the most case) not.

Let’s face it — everybody likes to eat. You know who likes to eat the most? College kids. After that, high schoolers. And a program is no good if there’s no food. This is something I’ve learned both during my coursework for my MLIS and my work as a resident assistant at Hollins University (a women’s college in Virginia where I also earned my BA). If you wanted your residents to come to a program, you better be sure there’s a pizza or chips or something. Otherwise, there was no incentive for them to come out for your little party, even if it was an event they had specifically requested. And we all love pizza, don’t we? Maybe being a pizza delivery person wouldn’t be so bad — no one is ever unhappy to see you, unless you’re late!

I can’t tell you how many middle school, high school, and college class periods were spent in the library learning for the umpteenth time how to correctly cite my sources in MLA. Hours and hours were wasted because (a) I wasn’t listening — why should I? I could look it all up online later and (b) most of the time the librarians didn’t seem to enjoy it much, either. They were mostly just glad to see someone using the library, I expect. Yet teachers set up these class periods time and time again and the librarians tried so hard to get us excited about putting periods after incomplete sentences in our works cited page. And remember, kids, it’s not a “bibliography” anymore! This sums up the librarian in the fourth image, instructing some students on a computer. By the way, I’d put money on those kids knowing how to use the computer better than the woman in the picture.

In addition to all of us liking pizza, we also all like to think we are crusading for some better good. Whether we employ our hobbies, our discussions, our volunteer work, or our jobs to make the world a nicer place, most of us humans want to leave the Earth better off than when we got here. Particularly in America, we strive for Freedom of Speech and Intellectual Freedom among other freedoms. Those things are hard to have when other people challenge and ban books for their own personal agendas. As an MLIS student and future librarian, I hope I’m doing my part to do just as this little girl in the fifth image: tell the world, “Don’t ban my books!” Or anyone else’s, for that matter.

And of course, the reality of it all — paperwork. Isn’t that the truth with every job? Well, except pizza delivery person. (That job looks better and better!) While the paperwork is split up among the staff and the majority of it is left for directors, there’s always enough to go around. Submitting orders for books, making note of disturbances, filing maintenance requests, it’s never ending. But we do it anyway because even ten hours of paperwork is worth that one happy patron with the book they’d been searching for.


 

Works Cited

Arnold, Karen. (n.d.) Yellow polka dot background. Digital image.Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1tQQa3v

b$/ram. (2008). Don’t ban my books. Photograph. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1wCz36s

cybrarian77. (2011). Teacher at chalkboard. Photograph. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/13SIdkz

marcusbep. (2009). Dogimos 1. Photograph. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1u7iazL

megnificent! (2010). So much paperwork. Pphotograph Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1tJ9v5j

Mullins, C. (2010). @velveteenmind aka “judgy Megan face”. Photograph. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1u7iHBI

UBC Library Communications. (2008). IKBLC group study43. Photograph. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1u7iXAQ

 

LIBR 200: Ethical and Legal Issues in the YA Information Community

When you search for a code of ethics on the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) website, the search results offer to redirect you to the ALA (American Library Association) page for their Code of Ethics. This suggests that young adult readers are deserving of the exact same service as adult readers.  Of course, different libraries and different communities may have opposing views on whether or not young adults are entitled to the same rights as adults. This is most particularly the case with the second statement in the ALA’s (2008) Code of Ethics which reads,

We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

A nice sentiment. Even in the 21st Century, however, it’s not realistic to apply this statement to all library patrons. In a perfect world, libraries and communities could reasonably expect all patrons to handle all materials in a mature and productive fashion. And this may often be the case — the guy checking out ten books on how to effectively kill a nation with biochemical warfare is probably doing research for a novel he’s writing, after all. Yet libraries (and schools) regularly encounter challenges to censor reading and other materials available to and intended for young adults.

In the ALA’s observation of material most-often challenged, about half of the books listed every year are YA books. Previous publications listed include The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Other books in the list might be considered adult books, but are often found in high school classrooms, such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

If a library is fully supportive of access to all materials regardless of age,  other issues arise. Does this “permission” override the exclusion of minors to “mature” content from outside sources? Fan fiction sites, for example, are often generally accessible but require affirmation of age when the user tries to access material marked as “mature.” Popular Harry Potter fan fiction website, Harry Potter Fanfiction, prompts its users with this dialog box before allowing them to continue to stories rated “mature” by their writers:

hpff

This box isn’t legally binding and, to be sure, many ignore it. But if a young adult were to attempt to access the material following this box in a public library, what might be the appropriate response? Would the response for textual mature material be the same for visual mature material? The library might argue that the viewing of such content in the library creates a hostile work environment, as the Minneapolis Public Library did (Hansen, 2014). This is much harder to do with textual material such as fan fiction, of course, unless a user prints the material and leaves it on the printer, allowing individuals to approach and read it. It’s a difficult point to argue how much agency the “victim” in this situation has, however.

The line becomes blurrier with content that would not be cause for citing a hostile work environment. The websites of alcohol manufacturers often require a verification of age in order to access the website. It’s easy enough to lie about an age and, while there is information available on the manufacturer’s alcohol, you can’t actually drink (or even purchase) alcohol by visiting the website. Again, the age verification, such as at Budweiser’s website is not legally binding. But who has the authority to say who can access this information? Does the website’s rules trump those of the library’s support of freedom of information, even for those under the legal drinking age?

There are no clear answers to any of these. While supporting freedom of information in all users is ideal, to do so at the cost of ignoring the “rules” of others, such as the Budweiser website, comes at a cost — impressionable as they might be, young adults and others may takeaway from this allowance that ignoring some rules in favor of others is okay. Perhaps they must understand the complexities behind the deliberate disobedience. Or, perhaps we should trust. It all comes down to a case-by-case basis and maybe one day, we’ll have an all-encompassing answer.


Works Cited

American Library Association. (2008). Code of ethics of the American Library Association. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics

American Library Association. (n.d.). Frequently challenged books of the 21st Century. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

Budweiser. (2014). Budweiser beer. Anheuser-Busch. Retrieved from http://www.budweiser.com/

Hansen, D. (2014). Lecture 2 Intellectual freedom and the web: A troubled history. Retrieved from course materials of LIBR 200 Module 9.

Harry Potter Fanfiction (2014). Harry Potter fanfiction. Fanfictionworld.net. Retrieved from http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com/

LIBR 200: UX in the YA Information Community

As the YA community is typically composed of its intended audience (teens), that the users of this information community might be more inclined to find the easiest route to their solution is entirely reasonable. Many YA readers are under strain for time as middle and high school students — from personal experience, I know well how busy they are with not only school obligations but sports, extracurricular activities, family obligations, developmental concerns, and, later, college applications, jobs, friendships, and relationships. A visit to the library for some is one of dread and they wish to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Kacee, a recent college graduate and YA reader, has a little bit of a different experience as a lover of libraries, but is often pressed for time and seeks shortcuts to obtain the information she needs. A seasoned library user, Kacee has been using the library’s electronic catalog system since she was eight years old. Inspired by her love of YA fiction,  Kacee is now pursuing an MLIS and occasionally seeks the guidance of reference librarians at the public library.

Meanwhile, she seeks more information regarding her interests in YA books in the comfort of her home with the help of the Internet. Here, Kacee reads and produces her own information relating to her pleasure reading. This sometimes includes “meta” or analysis from different perspectives regarding the material, fanfiction, academic analysis, and her own original fiction. All of this she shares on various platforms on the Internet with other fans. Of course, all of this she can do at a library, though time limits on computers, a lack of privacy, and a lack of home comforts (particular furniture, access to food, noise level, etc.) may dissuade her from doing so.

She notes, however, that her participation in the library and at home in the YA information community has improved her ability to use library catalogs. “I’ve actually learned a lot going through fandom archives and databases searching for [fanfiction],” she noted. She also found she was learning librarian skills by participating: “I learned how to use metadata (ie tagging) before I even really knew what that was called.” All of this, she said, has made her searching easier.

Although some may look down on the YA community, it clearly has its benefits as it teaches how to best use library services through practice and different venues.

LIBR 200: Interview with an Information Community Member

Although the YA readership/information community is made up largely of the intended audience of YA fiction (young adults, of course), there are plenty of “new adults” and adults who read YA fiction. Feelings of discomfort and embarrassment may sometimes bother such members of this information community, and so I decided to examine this issue closer by speaking with a “new adult” (Grace, 22) reader of YA fiction.

Like many other high-profile admitted readers of YA fiction (such as Holly Black, Libba Bray, and Michael Grant), Grace is a writer herself. Although she reads YA fiction for pleasure, it is also a form of research for her. By reading other YA works, Grace can more effectively create compelling and well-written fiction and poetry for young adults. In our interview, she mentioned that, “Research in general is likely to be dictated by my current writing project(s).” This, of course, may mean reading fiction or poetry with similar themes, characters, or plots to what she would like to write, or researching more practical issues such as historical information, scientific information, or any other subject that enters her work.

In finding books that spark inspiration for her own writing or better inform her work, Grace relies on the internet to bring popular books to her attention. She subscribes to a number of electronic newsletters which keep her up to date on recently released work, and she goes out into the blog world to find new reads. “…If I see a title or author come up enough times, it’ll start to stick.” This method is especially effective on Tumblr, where blog posts come to her dashboard in something like an RSS feed. If multiple blogs post about the same author/book — or even if one blog posts about the author/book multiple times — then the name/title starts to become more appealing. As the name/title appears multiple times, the question of “Why is this name/title appearing so frequently?” becomes natural and leads the audience — in this case, Grace — to seek more information on the author/book.

Grace also utilizes Goodreads to keep up with her long list of books to be read. “I obsessively use Goodreads for keeping track of books that I want to read that I’m afraid I’ll forget about.” Goodreads is certainly a useful tool for all readers, though the typical YA reader (young adult or new adult) may be more comfortable making use of it as a new technology. The website provides spaces for communities to grow around books and genres while allowing users to keep a list of books they’ve read, books they’d like to read, and books they are currently reading. Goodreads can also suggest books to users based on the users’ preference (for which Goodreads gathers rating data).

Though Grace may not be the typical YA reader, her information needs are equally important. With limited research on the YA community, there is even less research available on the atypical YA readers. Grace provides an excellent start to this often-overlooked sub-community and is only the beginning.

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.

photo

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.

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