24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: youth services

Show Off: Books with Bite

Around the beginning of autumn, it’s easy to fall into the spirit of the season. Pumpkin spice starts appearing in stores in absurd amounts, party stores suddenly become Halloween emporiums, and the idea of curling up with a spooky read and a cup of your favorite fall beverage is awfully tempting. Vampires, werewolves, and other monsters-turned-romantics might have somewhat gone out of style since the Twilight boom, but the pseudo-genre still has its fans. While at the James M. Duncan Branch of the Alexandria Public Library system in Alexandria, VA, I put together this book display of books featuring our fang-toothed friends. While many of of the titles include elements of paranormal romance, several are your standard young adult horror fare.

Young Adult Horror Novels Book Display

The sign for this display was inspired by this incredible large-scale piece. I was totally blown away by that work and, with my limited space, wanted to do something similar. This worked pretty well and added a nice three-dimensional aspect to a small space without overwhelming it. Plus, it was creepy and horror-inspired without too much gore. I really love the thorny background, which beckons feelings of fantasy.

Young Adult Horror Novels Book Display

Using the beloved “Chiller” font, I inserted some super-simple bookmarks that alerted browsers that the books were on display to be checked out.

Young Adult Horror Book Display

Young Adult Horror Book Display

Finding books to include was easy enough — quick subject searches of the four kinds of monsters I focused on yielded tons of results and even browsing what was on our shelves for books with the horror genre sticker led to several finds.  This is the time to start thinking about Halloween and horror displays. You might find some of the forgotten novels of last year’s (okay, 2007’s) genre find new hands and eyes with something fun and spooky!

Show Off: Crisis Contacts

I’ve seen nifty posters for where to find help in the library on tough topics floating around the internet. Sometimes, these resource lists will be on bookmarks, instead. I love the idea of these lists — we know people, teens included (or especially) will avoid asking right out for these kinds of resources. It can feel embarrassing or cause other distress. But when we tape posters in small print with this information or put out bookmarks, we require a person to go up to the poster and examine it in full view of whoever else might be in the library in order to get any use out of it. This is a step toward anonymity, but we can do better.

So I had the idea to post some resources in a much larger font in the teen area at Alexandria Public Library in Alexandria, VA. The theory was that teens visiting the area could be easily sitting at the table in the middle of the bookshelf-enclosed space and easily be able to glance up and see a resource and a phone number or simple URL without being obvious about it if they preferred to do it without notice.

The door included both local and national resources for the topics that I felt would be most relevant to the community. This, of course, doesn’t mean I didn’t miss some potentially important resources. The placement of the door and the fact that past “displays” had a history of being destroyed or marked up with crayons (particularly lower pieces) meant I was pretty severely limited with size. And because it was important to me that the text was reasonably readable at a distance, I could only fit so many resources on the board.

Another challenge was making the board interesting. Because of the serious nature of it, I didn’t want to go overboard with cutesy designs or glitter. Instead, I went with simple speech bubbles with encouraging phrases like, “I hear you,” and “You are important.” The orange borders complemented the blue accents on the resource pieces.

I gave the display a title of “You Matter.” Looking back, I might use a different phrase, since I later realized this might be seen as an attempt to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement, which was of course not my intent. I left this up longer than I do most displays on the door, and ultimately chose to permanently keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at the top right corner of the door regardless of what other displays I put up.

The limitation of space kept me from including more variety in the forms of resources. While online chat and text resources exist, they were not largely featured in this list of resources due to those limitations. I can’t offer any kind of indication as to how successful or useful the board was since much of the point of this resource was anonymity, but I hope it helped a few at least. I’ve since left my position at Alexandria Public Library, but hope the suicide prevention number remains. Any library considering a similar project should consider how to improve anonymity and access to these resources for their own community.

Show Off: April Showers Bring Superpowers

Summer means blockbuster movies mean superheroes! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrives in theaters next week, so what better time to feature some of the library’s materials on superheroes than now? I put together this board for April, which gave me the excellent opportunity for the “title” of the board — April Showers Bring Superpowers. While I featured a few graphic novels, I also included some fiction and nonfiction to give readers who might read exclusively graphic novels the option of something related, but in a different format. Although this door display is located in the teen section of the James M. Duncan Branch of the Alexandria Public Library system, some of the materials are located in the adult section.

At this library, teen nonfiction is interfiled with adult nonfiction (which is located on the other side of the library). I hoped that teens who might venture over for the adult nonfiction titles featured in this display might come upon some familiar YA stickers on the spines of the YA nonfiction in the stacks and realize those materials were available to them as well. Plus, the adult section of the library always felt so forbidding to me — perhaps if we specifically invite teens to that side, their transition from teen to adult fiction might be that much easier. Of course, the transition need not be a complete transition — my reading is still YA heavy and there’s no shame in reading YA as an adult. But for readers looking for something outside the usual YA parameters, this might strike them as an opportunity.

Take a look at the door below and let me know what you think!

And, for those of you who want to cry out, “You can’t include Batman! He doesn’t have a superpower!” Consider this: Batman’s superpower is being super-sad.

Show Off: Banned Books Week

There are, as you might imagine, a lot of rules around political involvement and being an employee of local government. Librarians and other library staff are often employed at the town or city level by the local government, making them subject to these rules. This means no speaking to patrons about personal political leanings, who you’re likely to vote for, or what your stances on particular issues are. This means no wearing t-shirts that proclaim loyalty for a candidate, disdain for another candidate, or anything else that might be politically suggestive.

What’s interesting to me is that libraries and librarianship are inherently political. Despite how we may be required to refrain from sharing our political opinions, libraries are — or, at least we try to be — democratic. We’re about equal and equitable access to information. We’re about standing in solidarity for the right to free speech and the reception of that speech (intellectual freedom). We’re about protecting privacy, as many libraries pushed back against the Patriot Act and its implications. And so, annually, we celebrate this with Banned Books Week in September.

This year, Banned Books Week begins today, September 25, and runs through October 1. Given the opportunity to put together a display about banned books in the young adult section of one of the libraries where I work, I got straight to planning. Teens are probably on the receiving end of book banning more than other populations. Sure, children’s books And Tango Makes Three and King and King among others have faced a fair amount of challenges, but teens encounter challenged books for both teen and adult audiences, the former frequently found in school and public libraries, the latter often used in the classroom. So, to promote awareness of Banned Books Week and intellectual freedom, I put up the display below in the teen section of the library, complete with bookmarks that offer further content in the form of eBooks available through the library.

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I’m happy to say the books have been flying off the shelves and have needed replenishing each day I’ve gone in. One of the important bits, I think, is to make sure visitors are aware that they can check out books on the display, so the bookmarks with eBook options were inserted into each book on display with “Check me out!” at the top. I used print books (both fiction and graphic novels) as well as audiobooks and the eBook collection. What are you doing for Banned Books Week?

Out and About: National Book Festival ’15: What It Taught Me about Youth and Literature

I have the great privilege of living in the greater Washington D.C. area, which provides me with many spectacular opportunities, not the least of which being the annual National Book Festival. Completing its fifteenth run today (as of four minutes ago, in fact), the National Book Festival brings together authors and their readers. This year, authors included astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Today meteorologist (and did-you-know mystery writer?) Al Roker, popular biographer David McCullough, television journalist Tom Brokaw, We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh, YA author Jenny Han, and current U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera among many, many others.

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Courtesy of PhotoPin

But there was one group of authors who were not listed by name in the program. Students in fifth and sixth grade (and one high school student) had the opportunity to present their winning essays to a crowd of a few hundred during the Letters about Literature/a Book that Shaped Me awards ceremony. As my boyfriend pointed out, there was little point in watching the ceremony — we neither knew any of the kids who won nor have children of our own (except for Oopsilon, of course). However, I was interested in seeing books from the perspective of the population I’m most interested in serving: youth. The perspectives I was treated to today are, arguably, atypical. These essays were, after all, award-winning. I didn’t let that deter me. I still saw a shining nugget of value in this session and so we got in line until the pavilion was open and ready for a new audience.

Gabriel Ferris, the fifteen-year-old winner of Letters about Literature, chose to write a letter to biographer Walter Isaacson regarding Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. Ferris’ insight to Isaacson’s writing and Jobs’ life is astounding. His letter-essay, which can be read here, discusses the cost at which Jobs achieved his success and the mistake many fans make in their desire to emulate Jobs. While I haven’t read this particular biography, I can’t say that I would have picked up on this poignant understanding. I tend to read biographies as factual pieces of information that don’t necessarily require thought-provoking or critical considerations. Isaacson, who was present at the reading of the essay, responded to Ferris and his letter live on stage. He clearly appreciated Ferris’ interpretation and that Ferris took the opportunity to ask questions about the book and Jobs to himself. Isaacson noted that many adult readers did not achieve this level of reading and, instead, read the book and come away with a greater determination to become the next Jobs, despite the extreme personal costs.

Later, younger students took the stage to read essays on books that shaped them. As fifth and sixth graders, these students spoke on difficult topics such as loneliness and genocide. One essayist described her grandmother’s escape from horrors in Ethiopia, discussing the injustices in a calm and mature voice. The essayist’s efforts to go beyond the text of the book which meant so much to her and interview her grandmother about the experiences of her grandmother and ancestors shows a dedication to a topic many adults prefer to avoid. Her own history and that of her people became an important piece of her own identity thanks, in part, to a piece of children’s fiction. Another young runner-up talked about how Harry Potter helped her cope with a number of personal struggles as a method of escapism, of instruction, and of commonality between herself and her peers as she encountered the difficulties of making new friends.

We too-often imagine people younger than ourselves to be less-smart versions of ourselves. We imagine them to be unworldly and unwise. We do ourselves a grave disservice in believing these lies. Children and young adults are far wiser than we give them credit for. We must, as John Green often advises his readers and viewers, try to imagine people complexly, those who are younger than ourselves included and, perhaps, especially.

As library professionals, imagining youth patrons as lesser-than in one way or another or one-dimensional, we fall short in providing meaningful services and materials. The solution is to let younger patrons lead the way. Encourage them to become involved in their own futures at the library. This can be done in small and large ways — from picking which books that are to be featured during story time to doing the bulk of planning for an upcoming program. Youth members of the community have the intellectual tools to make these impacts and so many more if we only give them the opportunity.

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