Every five years YALSA and ACRL collaborate on Outstanding Books for the College Bound. Committee members select the best non-fiction, fiction, and poetry in five different academic areas. This time around some of my librarian friends were involved in the process and I really started to think about how useful this list could be, even if it often doesn’t get as much buzz as the yearly selection lists and awards.
First, it helps us do non-fiction reader’s advisory which can be a challenge for most of us. The gap in quality non-fiction on academic subjects between highly illustrated books whose complexity is more suitable for upper elementary students and adult materials is real.
That’s not to say that nothing exists, or that there is anything wrong with the high interest pop culture books we also need, but it can be challenging to serve the serious teen non-fiction reader. The OBCB list not only helps us serve these readers looking for the next step of reading, but it gives us the tools to turn open-minded readers onto reading non-fiction for pleasure.
The YALSA report The Future of Library Services For and With Teens points out teens need libraries that “Leverage teens’ motivation to learn.” It states that “Libraries live outside of a school’s formal academic achievement sphere and offer a space where interest based learning can occur in a risk-free environment.” Watching teens develop what may become lifelong interests and supporting them with the information and resources they need is one of my favorite parts of being a teen librarian.
The OBCB list is an amazing tool to do just that. Imagine introducing a young math whiz to Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t or placing a hold on a copy of Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays for a budding activist. Broadening a young person’s sense of a subject beyond the parameters of the classroom into real world applications is one of the greatest motivators for learning.
Finally, the OBCB gives us another tool to open communication with schools and teachers. Growing emphasis on non-fiction and increased pressure for students to read across the curriculum provides an excellent opportunity for public and school librarians to promote our collections and develop partnerships with classroom teachers. Having a vetted list of titles to offer, one developed along with ACRL colleagues, is a great starting point.
Last week YALSA announced the list of Teens’ Top Ten nominations for this year. That got me thinking about how these kind of lists are really helpful to librarians. If you are not familiar with it Teens’ Top Ten is a really neat program that lets groups of teens around the country get books before they are released and vote on their favorites. The nominations are then put up for an online vote with winners announced for Teen Read Week. It’s a great example of youth participation and you can learn more about it here http://www.ala.org/yalsa/teenstopten.
No teen librarian worth their duct tape is going to stop reading professional reviews and ordering a diverse collection because they see what avid outspoken (and largely white and female) readers put on the list.
The value of the list to us is something a little different. Teens’ Top Ten is basically telling us what authors/books/series have a fandom, and that’s another another way for us to connect with teen readers. If John Green and Cassandra Clare’s fans can connect online to vote in an poll don’t you think at least a few of them in your community can be connected via the library?
Okay, so what now?
At the very least spend a little time online learning the basics so you can talk to teens about the titles. What do fans call themselves? What are the big ships? What are the big events for fans like cover reveals, new releases, movie announcements?
Reach Out With Social Media
Follow the authors and some of the bigger fan sites if they exist. Retweet or Reblog things of interest to fans with your library media accounts as appropriate. Post your events in the right places and you might even reach fans who aren’t already library users.
Talk about having a built in audience for a program. Here are just a few ideas:
- General fan meet-up
- Trivia Contest
- Fanart Contest
- Fanfiction Writing Group
- Cosplay Event
- Theme Party/Release Party
- Movie Marathon
- Book Discussion
- Tshirt or Button Making
- Fandom specific crafts (Try Pinterest!)
- Fandom related Summer Reading Prizes
- Watch fanmixes, parodies, and other related YouTube videos
These popular series can serve as benchmarks for reader’s advisory since they are so widely read. That means even if you don’t have time to read all of them, or your copies are never available, you should still familiarize yourself with the appeal factors. Lists and displays of similar titles are a great way to promote lesser known titles in your collection.
Why stop there? Once you are familiar with the book or series you can do character based reading lists as well. What would Hazel read? How about Prince Kai? What kind of books would Tris like?