Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

That’s a wrap, part 2

Last blog post we were discussing my unconventional top 10 list, and today I present you with items 1 through 5.  Those of you who read TLT will not be surprised by #1.  Enjoy.

5.  Teens find their voice (especially in politics)

Even though teens younger than 18 can’t vote, it is important for them to be aware of what is happening in the world around them and speak up.  After all, the things we are deciding today are affecting them, both now and in the future.  This year we saw the Occupy Wall Street movement take off and we discussed why it was important for teens to see others take a stand.  It’s important for teens today to find their voice and start learning how to use it.  As mentioned earlier, Mtv’s True Life did a show about teens/young adults involved in the OWS movement.  And Mtv has always been good about encouraging teens over 18 to vote with their Rock the Vote campaign.  Recognizing the rise of political activism as teens everyone wait and worry with their parents if the sky really is falling, Time magazine named the Protestor as person of the year.
This year also saw a return of the protest song, designed to make us think and Dorian Lynskey wrote a book (and a blog) called 33 revolutions per minute to highlight the history of the protest song and some of the best of 2011. 
See: Occupy the Capitol: Engaging teens in politics

4.  Pinterest

Us teen librarians are always looking for great craft ideas or just inspiration in general, and Pinterest is a great place to find it.  It is also a vortex of time suck, but it is creatively energizing time suck so it is all good.  Pinterest allows you to create a variety of boards and you pin your ideas in various categories that you create for yourself.  Teen librarian Heather Booth even created a collaborative board called Teen Programming in Libraries that you will want to check out.  To use Pinterest you have to request an invite and wait for them to contact you.  I got my log-in information the very next day and have been happily pinning away since then.

3. Bookfessions


While using Pinterest I noticed I kept coming across these similarly formatted book quotes:  they all have a block of color, a number, and then simple text that says something about reading.  It turns out that these are the product of something called Bookfessions.  Bookfessions is an open site on tumblr.com that allows posters to create and share their quotes about books and reading.  As a librarian I of course LOVE them.  It is also a great project to share with teens electronically and even get them involved in.

2.  Booktrailers (as long as they aren’t made by James Patterson)

As more and more people are creating booktrailers, including the publishers themselves, they are really jumping up in quality.  Well done booktrailers can really spark interest in a book.  You can create your own or give teens the opportunity to create theirs.  And they are great for sharing on your website or social media pages. 
See: Now for a word from our sponsors: Booktrailers

1.  Zombies

These past few years we have really seen an increase in the amount and quality of teen fiction being published – to which I say woohoo!  And although I love the trend of dystopian fiction being produced right now (it makes me giddy with reading pleasure), I have to say without a doubt my favorite is zombie fiction.  I am especially loving the Rot & Ruin series (although Jonathan Maberry did make me very mad in the Dust & Decay book and if you are reading it you know why).  I also appreciate how zombie fiction really captures our current zeitgeist and allows me the opportunity to talk with teens about deep subjects but in fun ways: what is evil?  What makes someone a monster?  It also makes for some cool programming opportunities.  Who doesn’t love a good zombie party?

See: What’s the deal with zombies anyway ; TPIB: Monsterfest

Looking forward to what 2012 has to offer – especially the Hunger Games movie, more great teen lit, more programming, and The 2012 Project.  It’s a great time to be a teen librarian.  Happy holidays.

And that’s a wrap: looking back on 2011

It’s almost the end of the year, which means everyone is putting together their “best of” lists.  I could tell you about my favorite books, but you know that’s not how we roll here.  I don’t think I could get my favorites down to just 10.  Plus, I think libraries are about more than just books and your best of lists can be – and should be – more, too.

School Library Journal went beyond books in their various best of lists.  Entertainment Weekly did too.  Both of these talk about apps among other things and I recommend you look at them; there are some that can you help create great images for your marketing and web presence and some that will work well for creating book trailers.  Step beyond the pages and share with your teens your favorite books, movies, apps, games, websites, causes and more.  Don’t be afraid to share the fun stuff.  It has no bounds – share your favorite viral cat videos if you want.  Remember that teens are visual creatures living in a visual world so share, share, share!

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things in 2011.  These things inspire me as a teen services librarian, help me get great ideas to be successful, provide things for me to share with my teens, and sometimes – they let me just have a moment to remember what it is like to be a teen and connect with my audience.

10.  Instagram

Instagram has succeeded in bringing creativity and personalization to social media with incredible ease.  I have spent many blog posts talking about my favorite creative apps that I use to create marketing pieces, but Instagram takes the cake.  You just click, snap, choose a filter, and upload.  Teens are visual creatures, so this is a great tool to use.  The Instagram phenom helped inspire The 2012 Project (read about it and join).

More: Things you didn’t know you could do with your Instagram pics

9.  Social Activism

Every where you look in the media they seem to be discussing the amount of time that teens spend on the Internet and on social media sites, usually with a lot of concern.  I bring good news:  World Vision recently teamed up with Harris Interactive and determined that teens that use social media sites are MORE LIKELY to be aware of the needs of others.  This is just one of the benefits of social media (let’s face it – it is a good marketing tool.)  And online teens can find a wide variety of ways to be involved and take a stand for causes they believe in.  They can even start their own and spread the word.
Here are some teen oriented campaigns that you can share with your teens (and there are tons):
delete digital drama – The ABC Family campaign against cyberbullying
Do Something – Promotes activism of all kinds by highlighting projects created and promoted by others
donatemydress – In partnership with Seventeen magazine, encourages teens to donate used prom dresses for those in need
Friends for Change – A Disney campaign that focuses on environmental projects; encourages tweens and teens to start local projects
It Gets Better – A large scale campaign against bullying of gay youth in response to the large number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens who have committed suicide as a result of bullying.
The Free Child Project has a list of links and resources about youth-led social activism that you may want to look at.

8.  Creativity Lives!

Many people bemoan the death of arts and creativity with our current flood of technological teens, but the truth is that technology is simply a tool and you can do creative things with it.  Picnik.com allows teens, or teen librarians, to upload pictures and do some simple editing – for free.  You can also download GIMP – for free- and use it as a photo editing software tool.  GIMP is comparable to Adobe Photoshop; you’ll spend a lot of time teaching yourself to use it, but once you do you’ll appreciate all that you can create. 

Of course the Internet is more than just photo editing.  One Sentence.org challenges participants to tell a story using only sentence.  The stories can be funny, heartbreaking, or make you think – but they can be only one sentence.  This is the type of site I like to share with my teens, and you can present the same challenge to your teens and invite them to tell a story on your FB wall with using only 1 sentence.  (Note: not all of the content is teen friendly)

Post Secret invites participants to make creative (and anonymous) postcards and share their deepest secrets.  Although many teens love Post Secret, it’s content is not always appropriate for teens.

All over the web you can find contests that invite teens to flex their creative muscle and share their talents.  These posters about teen dating violence were created with the input of teens.  This is when technology really shines.  Having contests and encouraging teens to be creative with technology is a great way to promote teen involvement in your library and to generate content for your teen web presence.

7.  Teen Nick

Teen Nick has taken quality program to new and interesting levels, in part because it is home to Degrassi.  Degrassi is an ongoing “soap opera” aimed at teens that deals realistically with teen issues.  They are afraid to go no where with their topics and treat their audience with the respect that many teen fiction authors do – they recognize that teens are in fact on their way to adulthood and dealing with and thinking about things that many adults want to pretend they aren’t.  In addition to Degrassi, Teen Nick has brought about a revival of awesome 90s shows including Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Freaks and Geeks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Anything that introduces Buffy to a new generation of teens is all right in my book.

6.  Mtv’s True Life

True Life is a long running show that appears regularly on Mtv.  It’s focus is highlighting unique things in the lives of teens and young adults and bringing them to light.  Past topics have included various forms of addiction, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, various sexual dysfunctions and more.  This year True Life had episodes focusing on the rising prevalence of teen food allergies and a disorder known as EE (look for my upcoming article about this in the February 2012 issue of VOYA) and on teen participation in the Occupy movement.  You can view past episodes online and find a schedule on the website.  Although this show focuses on the emotional aspects, I think it succeeds in helping teens step into the unknown worlds of other teens and develop compassion. (Aimed at the more mature end of the teen spectrum).

Coming soon, my top 5

The 2012 Project: because teens love libraries and libraries love teens!

Pleaes note: You can see all information including updates and links to the project pictures here

This year e-readers have really taken the world by storm.  Many people interpret this as another nail in the coffin of libraries.  We don’t need books and libraries they proclaim, and yet every day teen services librarians – you – are making the difference in the lives of teens, and in your communities.  So let’s SHOW the world that libraries are still a vital part of teen lives.  Your teens can help, too.  Read on for what I am calling The 2012 Project.

Instagram, Twitpics, Facebook – social media is used every day and sends a powerful message, so let’s use it.  Our goal is to get 2,012 pics of teens in the library or reading books during the year 2012.  You can take pictures or your teens can send them in on their own.  Each month I will take all the pics and put them here in a visual blog post demonstrating the power of libraries in the lives of our youth.  We will need to collect approximately 6 pics per day to get to 2,012.  But what a powerful, visual message we can make!

Here’s how it will work:
Take your pics.  You can use your cell phone or a digital camera.  You can use an app or a photo editing software.  You can be creative or take a straightforward pic.  Text, no text.  It doesn’t matter.  This is a great time to be creative and inspire creativity in your teens.

You can tweet your pic @TLT16 or post it on the TLT Facebook wall.  No names will be included to protect every one’s privacy.  We will simply create a strong, visual image that sends a clear message.

Get Your Teens Involved:
You can print off this poster (it was originally created in 11×17 size) and put it everywhere.  You can also send it out electronically or put it on your webpage.

Be sure and take pictures at your programs.  When you see teens hanging out ask them if they mind you taking their pic.  Take pictures at TAB meetings, SRC kick-offs, school visits, and more.  Don’t hesitate to click the pic.

But wait, you can make it fun . . .

Have a photo taking party.  You can provide spare parts for teens to get creative and make costumes for the pictures.  Better yet, create a photobooth.

Have tech workshops where you teach teens to use basic photo editing software.  Picnik.com is a free, easy to use online photo editing program.

Have a photo scavenger hunt through the library. Create a list that works for your library: have teens find hidden treasures, unique library landmarks, and of course their favorite titles in the stacks.  Other challenges can be to find items in the library by genre, letter of the alphabet, etc.  You can make it a contest at your library: post a new photo challenge each week or month on your FB page and then ask your teens to submit their pics that illustrate the challenge. 

Have your school art club create a backdrop for your pictures; you know, the kind where you poke your head through a hole and take a pic.  Then invite teens to drop in and have their pictures taken.  To make it really fun have a new background for each month: January could be a snowman, February could be a romance novel cover, March could be science fiction aliens, April could be Steampunk, and May could be a graphic novel/comic book themed illustration for Free Comic Book Day.  You could also just do this digitally.

This is a great opportunity to have your own in-house picture contest and provide incentives to your teens.  Then, when you are done, take the winning pics and make them into wall art to decorate your teen area.  Check out this post on 10 Things You Never Knew You Could Do With Your Instagram Pics to learn more ways you can use the created artwork and reward your teens.

Have a local photographer come in and do a lesson or a series of workshops.

Encourage teens by creating your own photo diary and sharing it online.  You can take your cues from celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Tony Hawk, avid Instagram users.  Remember that teens are visual creatures living in a multimedia age – speak their language and make your pages visually stunning.

Be sure to check out these previous posts for some ideas:

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps
Here I discuss my 10 favorite iPhone apps for creating amazing images.  Since I wrote this post I have also decided I love Instagram and Pic Collage.

Picture It: 30 Days of Art Activities, part 4
This post has links to creating a photobooth.

Check out these The 2012 Project updates:
January 12th
January 20th

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: blogs 7 through 12

What, you ask, are the 12 Blogs of Christmas?  Go here to read all about it and find out what blogs 1 through 6.  And now, blogs 7 through 12 . . .

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #7 – Y Pulse
YPulse provides you with a wealth of information on everything teen; from marketing to research and even trending topics. There are several tabs you can look under at this site, but you’ll want to make sure and check out the marketing channel. After you have read what’s on this page, check out the exhaustive list of marketing sites linked on the right hand side. Marketing is an important part of what we do, and yet we often have inadequate training and resources in this aspect of our job. YPulse will help.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #8 – Guys Read
Guys Read is the brainchild of Mr. Jon Scieszka. Yes, THAT Jon Scieszka. The site’s goal is to help connect guys with books. There is a news blog on the site also (which I how I am stretching to put this site on my “blog” roll); but the real gold is the way you can navigate the site to help match reader to books. Guys Read also produces short story collections for guys around themes, the most recent release being Thrillers. With the glut of paranormal romance that is currently dominating today’s teen book marketplace, it is really important to take a step back and put some emphasis on making sure we have balanced collections that will appeal to the guys as much as the gals. This site can help you do that. Also, it is really well designed.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #9 – TeenReads.com
Once again I am stretching the definition of blog here, but they do technically have a blog on this site so I am going with it. Teen Reads is a great place to find book reviews and information about upcoming teen releases. Awesome added features include Coming Soon lists, On Sale this Week lists, Books on Screen, and Adult Books You Want to Read. And they usually have a lot of fun contests. In fact, right now you can enter to win their Holiday Cheer contest. If you aren’t visiting TeenReads.com regularly then you are really missing out.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #10 – Rookie Magazine
Rookie magazine calls itself a magazine, but given the way it is formatted and updated I am going to go with blog. Rookie is a site for teenage girls by teenage girls. Many entertainment outlets have compared it to the old Sassy magazine (let’s have a moment of silence here to contemplate the awesomeness of Sassy magazine – okay, moving on). Rookie was started by a 15-year-old girl named Tavi but now there are a host of contributors and it is affiliated with the Walt Disney Corporations (don’t they own the world yet?). The content is arranged around monthly themes, with the month of December being ‘Home”. Again, it’s a good place to get idea, know what teenage girls like and think, and find things to share with your teens.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #11 – Daily Infographic
I really recommend you check out Daily Infographic for a few reasons:
1) We deal in information and it is interesting to see what others are thinking and talking about;
2) They are often good for sharing on your teen social media pages;
3) They are good examples and inspirations for design ideas;
4) I strongly encourage you to create your annual reports to your co-workers, admin, and community in infographic form as opposed to traditional pages of text and numbers. They show professionalism, are easy to interpret, and they can really convey the message of what you are doing; and
5) If you check some of my previous blog posts, they can make some good programming idea (graduating teens can infographic their lives, all teens can do their year, etc.)

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #12 – The Hub
The Hub is the teen reads blog of YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of ALA). And today is a good day to include this blog as it was just announced that it was nominated for an Edublog Award. Go YALSA! YALSA is a good to source for teen services librarians. You’ll want to make sure you join the list-serves, visit the wikis, and more.

Guest Blog: Teen Issues – Teen Pregnancy and Complications

A little over 1,000 teens gives birth every day.  Just yesterday I held the 5-week-old baby of one of  the teens that visits my library.  The majority of teen fiction that deals with teen pregnancy focuses on only one part of the discussion: will the teen mother keep the baby or will she either end the pregnancy or decide to give her baby up for adoption.  But what about pregnancy complications, where is that depicted in the literature?  In an earlier blog post we discussed pregnancy miscarriage and infant loss, but that is only part of the story.  Because at the end of the day pregnancy is pregnancy, there is a chance for a wide variety of complications such as eclampsia, placental abruption, gestational diabetes, hyperemesis gravidarum and more.  When teens suddenly find themselves facing not only a pregnancy, but a complicated one at that, where do they turn for information and support?  Information regarding pregnancy complications tends to be complication specific, not age specific (with the exception of dealing with pregnancy after the age of 35).

The other day I was walking through the mall and saw a pregnant teen who was quite obviously very ill carrying a backpack that carried a feeding tube that was keeping her and her baby alive; she had a pregnancy complication known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  HG is a debilitating, life threatening illness that is marked by extreme vomiting which can result in dehydration, malnutrition, and a wide variety of health complications including kidney and liver failure.  Today’s guest blog is by a woman named Shelley.  This is her story of what it is like to be not only a pregnant teen, but a teenager with pregnancy complications . . .
When I was 18 years old, I got pregnant and sick. Very sick. This is my story.
“Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” (helpher.org).
Labor Day weekend in 1992, my boyfriend at the time came home from college for a long weekend. That was the weekend we conceived. We had unprotected sex and when people tell you “it only takes one time”, they are telling you the truth. That was the one time we had had unprotected sex and the one time I got pregnant.
I had no idea at first. I was completely oblivious to what had happened (and what was going to happen). I was a freshman at the local community college full-time, while working 30 hours a week at a local daycare center. At the time, I thought my life was pretty good.
In early October I started to notice that I wasn’t feeling so well. It started with a headache that just would not go away. Later more symptoms came and increased. Headaches became migraines, vomiting once a day became on and off all day, light and sound would just make these symptoms worse. I honestly thought I had the flu. On October 16, 1992 I went to my family doctor with complaints of vomiting and migraines. The first question he asked me was, “Do you think you are pregnant?”. I was in shock. No, I didn’t think I was pregnant, I’m too sick to be pregnant. I saw girls in high school that were pregnant and none of them were vomiting all day. No, I definitely was not pregnant. My doctor insisted I get a pregnancy test before I left the office, just to be certain. He also gave me a prescription for migraine medication. I left his office still sick. I filled the prescription at a local pharmacy and took one of the pills. Within 15 minutes I was violently vomiting. The pills did not help and I couldn’t keep them down long enough for them to even work.
The following day (Saturday) my boyfriend came home from school. At 9 AM the phone rang. It was the blood lab with my results. I’ll never forget her voice. It was soft. She said, “Michelle, your test results came back positive. You are pregnant. I am so sorry.” Her voice silent as I started to cry. She said again how sorry she was. I hung up the phone and cried.
The vomiting had increased over the next two days. The pain from the migraines was horrendous. I was now confined to my room with a puke bucket. I couldn’t even sit up without vomiting. My boyfriend and I told my mom about the pregnancy. That disappointed look in her eyes as they welled up with tears was the worst day of my life. Without words, I knew I hurt my mom terribly. Even though she was disappointed in me, she was concerned. She was concerned with how sick I had become. She called the family doctor who had seen me two days earlier. She explained to him that I could not stop vomiting and that the pain from the migraines were debilitating. She begged him to give me something to stop the pain and vomiting. He refused, saying that I was sick because I was too young to be pregnant. The only way to stop being sick was to terminate the pregnancy. There was nothing more he could for me.
My mom, my boyfriend and I talked at length about what to do. Do I continue being confined to my bed, sick from pregnancy, or terminate the pregnancy? I can tell you that it was not an easy decision. I wouldn’t wish that conversation on my worst enemy. We decided together that my doctor was right, I was too sick to continue. We were too young to have a baby.
On October 21, 1992 I terminated my pregnancy. Three days after the termination, I was still sick, although the vomiting and migraines lessened. After about 3 weeks, my symptoms of vomiting and migraines cleared. I had no more pain. No more vomiting. No more symptoms that I was pregnant. I told no one. It was my secret.
I never knew in 1992 that what I was experiencing was Hyperemesis Gravidarum. For 14 years I was lead to believe that I was sick during pregnancy because I was too young to be pregnant. I believed that. I had watched my sister get married and have two pregnancies with no illness. It confirmed what I had been told. Too young to be pregnant. You will get sick.
In 2006, my husband and I conceived our daughter. After 8 long months of trying, we finally were pregnant. And then it began. It started with the headaches, then the migraines, and then the vomiting. My mom, who had been so disappointed years earlier was concerned. She was the one who pointed out how sick I was in 1992 and how my symptoms now were so similar. She was determined to find out what was wrong with me. While I lay in bed delirious from vomiting 20 times a day, she was 8 hours away in another state desperately trying to find answers. She found it. She told me, you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum Michelle. Call your Ob and tell them you have this disease. Tell them about 1992.
Although my treatment was much better than in 1992, my disease was recognized and I was treated for Hyperemesis Gravidarum. My daughter and I are survivors. I will never forget 1992 or the horrific disease Hyperemesis Gravidarum is.  
In my 18 years working with teens, I have spent time consoling a 16-year-old girl who developed eclampsia and was rushed to the ER; she lost her baby and almost her life 22 weeks into her pregnancy.  I have seen a teenage mother bring her toddler into Children’s hospital to get a heart scan because he had Down’s Syndrome with heart complications.  The doctor that day told me that one of the things you don’t hear discussed very often is that young teen mothers have a higher incidence of Down’s just like older mother’s because their eggs are not yet fully matured when they conceive (a brief research of the topic shows that this is a questionable fact) .  What must it be like for a teenager, who tends to live with the myth of “it can’t happen to me” due to the unique brain development of the teenage years, to suddenly find themselves faced with very grown up realities of pregnancy complications?

For more information on teen pregnancy complications:
WebMD: Teen Pregnancy, medical risks and realities
March of Dimes
Livestrong.com: Complications with Teenage Pregnancy
TLC: Pregnancy Complications in Teenage Mothers

As you can see, the information regarding pregnancy complications for teenagers is short and lacks depth.  You’ll want to refer teens to more informative, disease/complication specific sites.  For example, the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER Foundation), specializes in information on HG.  The March of Dimes is actually another good resources for a variety of complications.

Teen Issues: Because You Gotta Have Faith

I began working in libraries as a young adult “librarian” when I was 20 and an undergrad student at a local Nazarene college trying to complete a major in youth ministry.  I remember very distinctly there was a moment when I had to really analyze how being a librarian fit in with my (then) very conservative world view.  I understood implicitly that my foray into librarianship meant that I must purchase and provide access to materials that I may be offended by. I wondered if in doing so I would be accountable for leading the very teens that I was trying to serve onto a dark path.  And when we talk about issues of faith, we are not only talking about the Christian faith as we serve all people of all faiths, including those who choose no faith.

I think that true faith development is about taking the spiritual journey of life and finding ways to become a deep, authentic person who understands their place in the world and seeks to find ways to use their gifts and help the greater good.  When we discuss teens and faith (spiritual) development, we must understand that it is greater than simply deciding to read your bible and pray – it is about choosing how you will live in the world and in relationship with your fellow human beings.

In one of my adolescent development classes we learned that 80% of all decisions for Christ are made in the teenage years; which isn’t surprising when you recall that adolescence is the time of identity formation.  What I have come to understand over the years is that if we want teenagers to make authentic decisions about who they are, what they believe, and how they want to live their lives, then we must allow them access to a wide variety of materials to help them really address the issues.  You can’t intellectually or spiritually address issues without really diving into them.  There has to come a moment in everyone’s life when you  really challenge the beliefs that you have grown up with, analyze them, and decide to internalize or reject them.  You have to make them deeply your own.  I am often surprised by how many people, young and old, are afraid to face this life challenge.
We often hear in the media that we should not read a work because it is offensive to us as people of faith; but if we do not read it, how do we know that it is offensive?  When we hear that something is offensive, what that individual should be saying is that it was offensive to them.  The truth of the matter is that everyone reads and interprets a work differently. You need to read a book to truly be able to talk intelligently about it. 
In terms of faith, you often hear teens say that they are not allowed to read things like Harry Potter, for example, because it involves magic.  Yet oddly, there is much magic in a lot of books considered Christian fiction, including the Chronicles of Narnia series by notable Christian writer C. S. Lewis.  As I read Harry Potter, I read a rich, layered look at what it means to be noble, to honor your life’s calling, to be a friend, to stand firm in the path of righteousness.  And although I don’t quite buy into the idea that HP is an allegory for JC, I do believe that he is a good model for all readers in how to stay the course and be willing to make great sacrifice for the greater good.  (As an aside I also really appreciated as someone who understands adolescent development those chapters in the saga in which HP went full on whiny teen and felt it was a realistic portrayal of the teenage years.  It may have been difficult as a reader, but it was an authentic expression of what adolescence – especially adolescence under a great deal of stress – is often like.)

In comparison I, and I am going to brutally honest here, I find that most Christian fiction written for the teen audience lacks any effectiveness precisely because it is afraid to be authentic.  In trying to be safe for the reader, they fail to acknowledge the truth of the teenage existence.  The teenage years are messy years; they are years full of hormones and emotions and desires that we are often told are wrong and yet we can’t control that we feel them because biology is at work (but we can control what we do about those feelings).  How do we expect teens to understand these intense emotions and learn how to address them in healthy ways if we won’t allow them to talk about them and read about them and really consider them?

I feel that people of faith should also read about other faiths before they can really have a conversation with someone of that faith.  We can not intelligently discuss that which we haven’t read or really don’t know anything about.  The greatest gift we can give to anyone, especially our teens, are the tools they need to develop a firm foundation, and the wisdom and security that comes from having that firm foundation.  Their foundation can not be firm if we are not honest with them about the realities of life.  We have to equip them and help them make the baby steps into successful adulthood; otherwise we are simply pushing them blindly off of a cliff when they reach the age of 18.  Does something change overnight on the eve of their 18th birthday?  Does a flip suddenly switch: not an adult, adult?  No, they make a slow and steady progress through the teenage years into the world of responsibility and accountability.

I feel that my job as a librarian is to help them develop the tools they need not only to live in the moments of their teenage years, but to navigate the whole path of life successfully.  The moment an individual fails to explore themselves internally and the world around them, the moment they choose to stop growing, is the moment that they choose to give up and start slowly dying.  Your faith can grow stagnant, and yes it can die.  So can your mind, your intellectual curiosity.  So can your character.  So can your zest for life.  But you can stop all of that from happening when you enter into the doors of a library and choose to read, to explore, and to continue on life’s intellectual – and its spiritual – journey.

For more information:
Adolescent spiritual development by Donald Ratcliff, Ph. D.
Article: Study finds teen faith shaped more by hands-on ministry than worship by Ken Camp
CPYU: Center for Parent/Youth Understanding articles on Adolescent Development (some good resources)
Inspirational Fiction bibliographies
The Teen Christian Fiction page at Christian Book.com
An interesting discussion of inspiring books vs. inspirational fiction from Provo City libraries

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: blogs 1 through 6

A huge part of being a successful teen librarian is staying current on teen reads, pop culture, marketing tactics, teen issues and more.  Honestly, we have to be informed on a wide variety of knowledge.  Part of my daily routine is to visit a series of blogs – I just pop in and take a quick glance to see what’s hot right now.  For the Christmas season I thought I would do a play on the 12 days of Christmas and share the 12 Blogs of Christmas and highlight 12 blogs that I check in with regularly to help keep me on my toes.  These 12 blogs (plus this one right here, shameful plug insert) are essential tools in your Teen Librarian’s Toolbox (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #1 – YA Books and More
Naomi Bates is a high school librarian in Texas, an amazing one. On her blog, YA Books and More, Naomi reviews the latest teen titles and often makes book trailers that you can share with your teens. Her blog is also a great place to visit to learn how to make booktrailers of your own because like every good librarian, she shares how she does it in a tutorial.

‎12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #2 – GreenBeanTeenQueen
Besides having a cool name and cool design scheme, this blog is full of book reviews by a tween and teen librarian. You’ll want to check it out if you are not already following it.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #3 – YA Book Shelf
I stumbled across this blog one day doing a search for book trailers.  Here I found an article highlighting 5 of their favorite animated book trailers, ones that I had never seen, and I was hooked.  First, they were totally correct in how awesome those booktrailers were, proving they had good taste.  Second, they provide me with a lot of good information not only about booktrailers, but about books themselves. It’s a good site.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #4 – Popwatch
Popwatch is a pop culture blog on the Entertainment Weekly website. They cover everything: video games, books, movies, TV, and celebrity in general. Lots of Twilight and Hunger Games movie updates. Plus, it’s fun.  I have also gotten a lot of inspiration here for poll and contest ideas, sometimes just simply sharing what they already have put together.  And I love their “bite” of the night which features a quote from a TV series the night before; I think this would be a good ongoing book feature (it’s formatted in a very visual way, too, and I recommend you copy that idea.)  Although there are multiple contributors, I think they tend to have a good writing style and are a good example of how to appeal to a mass audience.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #5 – Teen.com
To work with teens you have to spend a little time in teen culture so I go to Teen.com. Teen.com is the Popwatch of teen culture. I think it skews towards the younger end of the teenage spectrum, but I appreciate getting a look at what’s hots with teens. Plus, a lot of their stuff is great for sharing through my teen services Facebook page, or getting some good ideas of things to do with my Facebook page.

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Blog #6 – Reading Rants!
Reading Rants is now over 10 years old and it is still fantastic. Here a middle school librarian, whose favorite flavor if you should care to know is blue raspberry, writes insightful but fun book reviews and puts her books in unique book categories like “Dead-heads and Moshpits” and “Fanging Around”. If you ask real nice, Jen will even hit the road and do some training at your library for you.

Guest Blog Post: On the Spectrum and @ Your Library.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Matthew Ross, he is the director of the Bucyrus Public Library in Ohio and the father of 3 children, one of whom is Autistic.  Alex’s mom, Angie, is also an MLS librarian.  Together they write this blog post for us with a unique perspective for librarians to consider when serving our tween and teen patrons on the spectrum.

On the Spectrum and @Your Library
Our son rubs his hands together in a ritualistic flurry. It’s called “stimming” and it is a strategy Alex uses to calm himself down when things get a little too intense for him to handle. Right now things are intense. Apparently, the lady in front of us at the circ desk is concerned because she has fines—she is sure she returned them on time.   Alex’s stimming grows faster. Sometimes that happens when he is really happy, but since we have been waiting for a good five minutes to get our movies checked out and be on our way, I’m pretty sure that happiness is currently not an issue. In fact, I get the feeling we are just moments away from a full-on autistic meltdown.
For a child with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), a simple trip to the library can be a difficult adventure. Sure, the library has lots of great stuff, but to access it, you have to pay a pretty big price in terms of anxiety. What if they relocated the movies? What if someone else is sitting in your chair? What if the books are not in the right order? When ASD is involved, things are never simple.
Alex was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder at age two. Taking him to the library was a challenge even when he was in a stroller. Let’s just say Alex was never too good at displaying proper reverence in Mr. Carnegie’s Temple of Quiet Reflection. As he got too old to be easily corralled, we were forced to stop taking him altogether outside of rare, quick trips in and out.
It still seems strange that we cannot go to the neighborhood library as a family and enjoy browsing the shelves before enjoying some of the great programs they offer. Maybe that’s because we know what we’re missing. Each morning, I commute a few miles up the road from my home to my job as the Director of the Bucyrus Public Library. My wife, Angela, spent six years as a Reference Librarian at the Lima Public Library before we decided that it was best for Alex if she stayed at home to take care of him. We are a family that loves libraries. I just wish my son could enjoy them.
If the statistics are accurate, chances are that you know a kid like Alex too. Since one in every 80 boys and one in every 240 girls are dealing with a disorder on the spectrum, that’s a lot of patrons who may find it difficult or impossible to enjoy the services, materials and programs you work so hard to provide. In fact, it’s more than the total number of people diagnosed with breast cancer and childhood diabetes each year combined. It is my hope that the profession will increasingly realize that this rapidly growing and often misunderstood segment of our community is underserved—and that is unacceptable.
Fortunately, librarians do seem to get it. They want to help. No one wants to see a population excluded from the library, but many staff members do not feel like they have the training or the tools to serve individuals with an autistic spectrum disorder. In New Jersey, Fanwood Memorial Library and the Scotch Plains Library have teamed up to create “Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected,” an awesome outreach for ASD individuals. Be sure to check out their training video to pick up great tips for staff interacting with the ASD community.
As I mentioned though, my wife and I are not just librarians. We’re patrons and parents and autism looms large in our lives. So I would like to leave you with a few tips from that perspective. Hopefully, they can make your library a welcoming place for families like ours:
1.     Be Sensitive: Teen Librarians are used to some pretty bizarre patron behavior, but a child dealing with a particularly difficult ASD moment can raise that to a whole new level. These kids and their caregivers are used to seeing shocked stares and obvious disapproval everywhere they go. Don’t let the library become associated with that scene.  If a behavior cannot be ignored, a simple, sincere offer to help would be appreciated.

Image from http://www.displaysforschools.com/autism.html
2.     Offer Targeted Programming: For many kids with ASD, a typical library program might be intolerable. Literally. Too much stimulation—loud noises, too many moving bodies, crazy lights—can be painful and overwhelming. Consider spending a little of your programming time and effort on offerings tailored to the needs of kids dealing with autism. It could be as simple as doing a movie night with the lights on, the sound a little lower, and the expectation that there will be interruptions.  It is really hard to find appropriate activities for kids on the spectrum. If you make the effort, we will notice.

3.     Offer Targeted Materials: Individuals on the spectrum, as well as their caregivers, have unique information needs. Things that typical teens take for granted—such as handling simple social situations—can produce a lot of anxiety for patrons dealing with ASD. Parents are likely to find all kinds of materials on raising a young child with autism, but information on raising autistic teens can be a lot harder to come by. Get to know the specialty publishers and find out what’s out there that should be on your shelves. In an age of gaming, programming, and computers, we sometimes forget that a simple book on a shelf can be a real lifeline for our patrons. As a parent, I can tell you that a copy of Meeting Autism’s Challenges for Dummies does not come free with your child’s diagnosis.
Matt mentions in his post targeted programming with a special emphasis on adapted movie screenings; some big chain movie theaters are doing programs of this nature with great success.  There was recently an Autism friendly screening of Breaking Dawn for teens and adults on the spectrum.

Matt also suggests doing targeted materials; Toys R Us gives us a good example of a helpful list with its autism friendly toys list.  Without a doubt libraries could make the same type of lists highlighting books in their collections for people on the spectrum.  You can read my previous blog post on Teens/Tweens with Autism and Libraries which has a link to the Toys R Us list.

It is an honor in my life to be able to call Matt and Angie not only co-workers and fellow professionals, but friends.  I have gotten to spend time with them and Alex and not only appreciate him as a person but see the challenges that autism brings to a family.  They have recently started a special church ministry with their church to allow families with children on the spectrum the opportunity to go to church.  I appreciate them taking the time to write this blog post for us and help us understand from both a parent and librarian point of view some insight into what libraries can be doing to help kids and teens of all ages on the spectrum.

It’s a Contest! Win a signed copy of They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill by Dr. Joni Richards Bodart

I had the pleasure earlier this year to review Dr. Joni Richard Bodart’s newest professional title They Suck, They Bite, They Eat, They Kill.  This book is a must have for your professional shelf.  Joni discusses why teens love monster lit, analyzes some popular titles in depth, and provides a monster bibliography (pun intended) of books to help with your RA needs.  Want to know what book comes next in that series?  It’s here.  Have a teen that has read all your vampire books?  Here’s a list to make sure and give you some fresh ideas to suggest.  Have a parent or staff member questioning whether or not all those vampire books are healthy or safe for teen readers?  Joni gives you some good discussion tools to explain why teens love to read monster lit to your administration, co-workers and teen parents.

The best part?  Teen Librarian’s Toolbox and Dr. Joni Bodart herself are giving away a personally signed copy.

You Can Win!

Learn more about Joni and her booktalking at her website, Thebooktalker1.com, or by reading my previous blog post on booktalking.

Good luck! And thanks for being a reader here at TLT.