Developing Book Clubs – Teen Girls

I’ve already talked a little bit about how I’ve gone about revamping our library’s boys’ book club – read about that here.

For the teen girl book club, I’ve had to do a little more plotting. I’ve been able to connect easier with the guys, because I’m pretty geeky and share a lot of interests with our boys, but I have fewer points of contact with the girls.  We’re friendly but it’s a work in progress, so my big task here was to come up with a hook that they’d find intriguing.  I started by asking if it would be ok if I held meetings in one of our two study rooms, since that tends to be the place where the girls congregate – my theory was that if I set up shop where they are, I might get an audience for the first meeting just out of the curiosity of me being there.  Being based in the study room also gives me the opportunity to offer some illicit incentives, as food is not allowed in our study room and book clubs usually involve snacks.

I’m keeping my structure for picking materials loose, in order to invite lots of input from attendees. I’m picking our first book (I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter) but I’m also bringing a box (decorated with colorful wrapping paper) to take suggestions. Depending on how many I get, we’ll either vote on them or I’ll pick from their suggestions.

I’m also turning over in my head the idea of incorporating social media into the club – inviting them to instagram their reading experiences, which I could pull up to use as discussion points. I’m trying to get the teens to use our instagram account more often ANYWAY, so two birds with one stone, and all that. We’ll see.

I started this entry a while ago but haven’t gotten around to posting, which is kind of good because I just got word that I might be getting some ARC support from Penguin Random House for this club!  I definitely think being able to offer free books to the girls will be a good incentive for them to participate, since many of our teens either don’t have cards or can’t use their library cards presently. I’m in the process of setting this up through a bookstore rep that my library has a relationship with, so hopefully it will pan out!


Developing Book Clubs – For Teen Boys

I’m in the process of transitioning my job duties at the library, changing over from younger/more generalized services to teen services.  It’s very exciting to be focusing my responsibilities (although I won’t be doing baby storytime anymore, which does make me sad – I’ve worked hard to grow my audience and I hope they continue to come after another librarian takes it over!), and one of the things I’ll be doing immediately is taking over some of the full-time teen librarian’s programs (especially on days when she’s double-booked, which really only happens on days that end in ‘y’).  This includes taking over the two teen book clubs.

So I’m now tasked with restarting and revitalizing the boys’ and girls’ book clubs that used to meet once a month, but petered out due to lack of participation.  Step one: re-branding them into something fresh, with an intriguing hook that will get teens in the door.  Step two: structure them in such a way that gives them control over the direction the clubs take.  Step three: get a repeat audience.

It’s a little daunting, honestly.  But I think I’m on the right track.

First off, I kind of hate that we have a “boys” and a “girls” book club, but I get why – our teens (as most do, I think) tend to segregate themselves into boy- and girl-groups, with some crossover but not a whole lot.  And the teens we have that would be prone to attending book clubs tend to hang out in small, tightly knit groups; marketing programs becomes about marketing to these groups, rather than to individuals (which doesn’t preclude any crossover audience, by the way – but we want teens to come to our programs, and if they can bring their friends we have a higher chance of getting all of them).  But I don’t want any potential participants to be scared off by an explicitly branded “boys” and “girls” club.  So when I started thinking about a way to re-brand the book clubs I tried to think of names/themes that would appeal to the two groups without alienating potential participants.

For the boys, I’m combining the ideas between two existing groups (the current boys’ book club, called Recently Returned Items, which encourages discussion on books/movies/games that teens have read in the previous month, and Talk Tights & Capes, my comic book discussion group which has a debate structure where teens can argue and defend their favorite heroes/villains/titles) and forming Recently Returned Items: Enter Thunderdome.  The idea here is that teens come ready to pitch me whatever book/movie/game they experienced in the prior month, and after a period of debate, I pick a winner and commit to reading, watching, or playing that item for the next meeting.  Anyone else who also commits to doing that gets a small incentive award at the next meeting if they actually do, and the winner of that day’s meeting also gets a small incentive prize.  The next month will start more like a formal book club, and the second half will be the next round of pitches.

The goal is to not only get my kids talking about books they’re passionate about, but to start picking reading material with a critical eye – “How can I sell this? Is this something worth debating?” I think there’s a lot of critical analysis skills that this is going to help develop, as well as getting them to think about why they enjoy the stuff they do in an analytical way.

I haven’t launched this yet – if all goes well I’ll be able to start it up on April 27, but I’m pretty confident about this structure.  It both encourages discussion, reading new things, and isn’t close-ended with a specific  book the guys would have to read (which would be a turn-off for this audience).  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned for a break-down of what I’m planning for our girls!

Graphic Novel Collection Development for Teens

I had a couple of teens tell me how great our graphic novel collection is yesterday, which is pretty much the best compliment I can receive from them – I’ve been in charge of Youth and YA Graphic Novel collection development for about a year now, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.  Since graphic novel selection can be intimidating, I thought I’d put together some thoughts about how I approach it, that you might find helpful.

Picking what to put on the shelf can be tricky.  For a long time, when I would browse the graphic novel collection at my home library, I noticed that instead of separating YA graphic novels from the adult collection, they would all be on the same shelf – which is one way to do it, but not the best way to get them into the hands of teens, especially when you’ve got Youth and Adult Services on different floors.  Deciding what actually qualifies a graphic novel as being YA instead of Adult can be a tough call, but like YA Fiction, you get better at identifying what’s going to be a good selection with practice.

The most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, you should be buying books you legitimately think your teens will want to read.  Like any other area of collection development, it’s not about what YOU want to read – it’s about them!  Listen to your teens when they make requests, and pay attention to what else they’re reading, watching, and playing.  Has the new Tomb Raider game been as popular in your library as mine?  Did you know that Dark Horse is publishing an ongoing Tomb Raider comic?  And if they enjoy that, Cory Doctorow has an excellent new release called In Real LIfe that I can recommend, after which you should probably start the World Trigger series…

All that, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push their boundaries or make selections that might be outside of their immediate interests.  That’s ALSO our job – not just to find the stuff they KNOW they want to read, but also to find the stuff WE know they’ll want to read, as soon as they know about it.  Like my Tomb Raider example above, this works pretty much like readers advisory for any other genre or format.

Remember, there’s more to the comic world than DC or Marvel (which is not to say that both publishers aren’t doing great things; they TOTALLY are, remind me to tell you how much I love Ms. MarvelUnbeatable Squirrel Girl, and Gotham Academy/Gotham by Midnight).  Look into Boom!Studios, Archaia, IDW, and First Second, among others.  Boom!Studios especially is doing some great stuff for younger audiences (including the Adventure Time comic series and Lumberjanes, one of my personal favorites).

Here are some of my favorite picks that have also been really popular with my teens:

– DC’s Batgirl (we started with the New 52 run, written by Gail Simone, but I’m very excited for when we start getting Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl of Burnside run)

– Attack on Titan series by Hajime Isayama

– The Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley

– Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn

– Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

– In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

– Strobe Edge by Io Sakisaka

– Hoax Hunters by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley

– Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima

– Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Comics and Things

I haven’t updated in a while because things at the library have been super busy, and I’ve been right in the middle of the action.  Things I’ve been doing with my time:

– I started a comic-book based discussion group for the teens, and the first meeting went well.  I learned some stuff that will improve our meetings going forward, like to have more targeted questions prepared to keep us on track.  I also want to start incorporating video clips into our discussions, because I think comparing the way heroes are handled in cartoons, movies, and comics has a lot of potential for exploration.

We got a lot of the “If X fought Y, who would win?” conversation out of the way, which was good – I want to see if we can get into meatier discussion topics, and I think that will be easier with that kind of groundwork already laid.

– I made a booklist brochure for the graphic novel sections, basically promoting the crap out of it because I’m ordering a lot of new things that are really exciting (to me, anyway).  I want to make sure the section gets used, and unfortunately, most of our teens aren’t always the most…literate, I guess.  So my thought was, if I highlighted some topics and genres of interest (romance, sports, horror, etc.) it would make the section as a whole more accessible.

– Summer reading starts soon, and every librarian knows that can be a HUGE amount of work.  I’ve been trying to make myself an indispensable employee by volunteering for everything, and it’s paying off in a huge way – our public relations manager asked if I would help her put together a community scavenger hunt (which is going great, I put together a prototype passport and we have six businesses already who are interested in helping us out).  I’ve been keeping things on track getting the supplementary materials together and just generally have my hands in everything.  It’s a great feeling be such a big part of things.

A Small, Temporary Negative Digression

Things have been going well at the library. The weather has been getting better incrementally, which means people have actually been showing up to storytimes – I’ve had my usual attendance of two or three kids, which isn’t exactly a booming turnout but it does give me a chance to really focus on each kid, which they respond very well to.

The longer I work here, though, the more of a particular off-putting trend I see in the way that our patrons respond to and treat us as the librarians. I feel weird commenting on it at all, except…well, you’ll see.

I see it mainly with our teens, but also with their parents. Adults are guilty of it too (as I’ll mention).  Younger children might be the worst about it, but the most easily redirected. The problem is this: it seems sometimes that people expect us (us being the librarians) to be able to solve all of their problems, and be on hand to assist them with any need, at any time.

Even reading that makes me feel ridiculous. I’m a librarian. I help people. It’s what we do. But should that extend to, say, providing personal answering service to our patrons? Because every day, especially after school hours, our phone rings off the hook with parents trying to reach their kids, leaving messages for them that we are expected to deliver. Just this afternoon, I had a gentleman call looking for his wife, and when I couldn’t locate her in our department he asked me to, if I saw her, ask her to call him.

I frequently have kids ask me for things that either we don’t own or doesn’t exist (I’ve been asked for light boards, better computer mice, cups, forks, and other dishware, etc.). Multiple times a day, I’ve had patrons ask if we had phone chargers they can use – and as a follow up, since we don’t, can they borrow mine?

This is not to mention every time a kid or teen asks if we can bend or ignore a rule so they can check something out (despite hundreds of dollars in fines), exceed the person-limit in a study room (despite it being a safety hazard), let them have more computer time (despite the line of people waiting for their turn). Also adults feeling entitled to use our spaces with little to no warning, regardless of whether we’re hosting or preparing a program in the space they want to use. I don’t know how much of this is intentional or not, but there comes a point when it feels like patrons expect us to accommodate their every need, regardless of how plausible, possible, or inconvenient it may be.

I’m proud of the services we offer. I’m proud of how well we serve our community and patrons, and every time a patron thanks me for my help I am proud that I made a difference in their day. Is there a limit to how much we should accommodate our patrons? Should there be?