Me: OMG I just read Bloody Jack and it's about this girl who cuts off her hair and joins the Navy as a boy in disguise but then...she falls for one of the guys on the ship. Except he doesn't know. Because he thinks she is a dude. It's awesome.
Teen: This book looks like it needs to go in the Children's section. That cover is stupid looking.
Me: But trust me...it's really good. And here's a good book called Mare's War about a girl who has to travel cross country in the car with her grandmother and learns that her grandmother was one of the first African-American women to participate in WWII.
Teen: Is it a picture book?
So you can see the dilemma. And my teens aren't the only ones who thought the cover was crazy. It was changed for BOTH books on their paperbacks to a much more appealing cover. See for yourself.
|Older covers on top...new covers on bottom. BIG difference.|
So, I decided to take book speed dating and turn it into something else. I created a book speed dating program of sorts and called it 'Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover'. I would then grab 20-30 books, depending on how long I had for the program, and type the titles and authors on a little worksheet I created.When the teens sat down, they received a worksheet and a book and then were asked to place a check in the column entitled 'Front of Book' if they would read this book judging only from the cover. Then, they had 15 seconds (I timed them) to read the jacket flap and see if that changed their mind. And then one full minute to read from any part of the book that they wished. Some started at the end, others at the beginning. When the time was up, they were asked to place a final check if they would read this book now, even with a cover they may not have liked or even a description that they thought wouldn't interest them. Instead of discussing the books, they then passed them to the next person and the process continued until all books had been completed.
The end result? Most of the teens were surprised to find out that the books they didn't think they would like became the ones they were wanting to check out when they left the program.
When we were done, I would let them eat and talk while I made photocopies of their sheets of paper. They were able to bring home a personalized 'to-read' sheet, and then I kept one on file because the chance of them making it home and keeping that sheet? Exactly. And many of the teens returned to ask to see their sheets so they could find another book.
This program did two things for us as a branch. First, it helped the teens make a match with books that they might not have picked up while browsing. But the second thing it did was for me as a librarian. It showed me where I needed to strengthen my book collection. After several months, I began to notice trends popping up with certain types of books: high fantasy, contemporary novels, and sports books. Most of the paranormal reads? They never checked them out. So, I started to buy with my teens in mind. Granted, this was only a small sector of my reading population, but most of us know that after a while, we don't get to see many of the faces checking out the books and sometimes don't get the interaction of finding out what our teens like and don't like.
Edited to add: Stephanie no longer works at this particular library so she no longer has access to the form to mail it out to you. Her example, however, is provided above and you can use it as a model to create your own personalized version.