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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: New YA Booklists You’ll Want to See (January 2018)


2018 YA Diverse Books:

Notable Books for Teens about the Arab World:

11 Books about the South Asian Diaspora:

YA Books Hitting the Shelves January – March 2018:

Most Anticipated YA Debuts for 2018:

A Collection of Tweets on the Discussion of YA Books Set in College/Post High School


Over the past few days, there has been an ongoing discussion on Twitter about the need for YA books that highlight the post high school life and whether or not they should be marketed as YA. I tweeted a lot about it and have compiled those tweets below. I am also working on putting together a round table post from various perspectives to talk more about this issue.

A Discussion of YA Books Set in College

  1. @byobrooks This is where how we brand books get messy. Are adult YA readers (actual adults) or teen YA readers asking for YA books set in college? How do we define YA? Who is the target audience? And then, where do we put the 20 years olds, actual YAs btw

  2. @byobrooks Though the ship has long sailed, YA should have never been called YA. It should have been teen fiction. New Adult is a great place for college stories, but hasn't taken off in the ways that it looked like it might when it first cam into vogue.

  3. @dani_reviews @byobrooks From a library point of view. however, the problem is we have Pic Bks, J (MG), YA and then everything else is usually just fiction, though some libraries break them down by genre. So any contemp adult fic is just adult fic - ages 19-100+. Can be overwhelming. Thats were RA needed

  4. @byobrooks @dani_reviews I will say from a public library standpoint, we would have a hard time putting college set YA in a YA collection. We do get content complaints and it's easier to defend when set in MS or HS. Parents will read college as adult.

  5. @byobrooks @dani_reviews Now this is an interesting conversation because book stores are different than school and public libraries. Libs still get a lot of pushback about where things are shelves and how they are labelled/marketed in ways that stores don't.

  6. @byobrooks @dani_reviews I think this is also being driven by the dynamic of adult YA readers vs. teen YA readers. This dynamic is very challenging for libraries because of parental and community concerns.

  7. @byobrooks @dani_reviews I think it's a multi-faceted issue and should be discussed from all angles, for sure. I can only speak from a public library perspective.

  8. @byobrooks @dani_reviews Also, local community dynamics play a large part in all this as well. Larger, more progressive communities & their libraries will be able to adapt more quickly than smaller, rural ones. It can be challenging.

  9. @NerdyPam @byobrooks @cupcakeandy They definitely read ahead and are welcome to check out anything in the library. However, that's different then shelving and marketing adult books to teens as opposed to just having them available, when talking to concerned parents.

  10. @dancingofpens And I'm speaking from a public library stand point which is diff from a reader/writer/publisher/marketing/book store/school library perspective. It's all different.

  11. @byobrooks @dancingofpens Not just college either. What about getting first job, staying home but going to community college and working, etc. There's more than one route after HS and they should all be reflected. Focus on college reflect privilege in this discussion maybe?

  12. I do think true Young Adults, people just out of HS and in their early 20s, are underserved in so many ways in our world, including publishing and libraries.

  13. Problem 1: Who is Ya written for?
    Problem 2: Are adult readers of YA over influencing what's driving YA trends?
    Problem 3: How do we address the needs of teens? How do we address the needs of true young adults? In publishing? In libraries?

  14. Problem 4: Recognizing that Public and school libraries very much deal with parental rights and expectations, how do we promote/shelve, etc books that technically are adult (MCs over 18 are adults) to a teen audience? How do we label,

  15. market, shelve, etc. these books to balance real life tension of parental concerns about teens reading adult content?

  16. Problem 5: Do teens sometimes read up? They always have and they always will. But just because a teen reads Stephen King doesn't make it a YA book.
    Problem 6: Are we letting adults readers of YA over influence the YA market?

  17. Problem 7: We use the wrong terminology for these age categories. YAs have never been young adults, legally or in development. They are teenagers. They deserve to be served, understood, & valued. We are the only industry that calls them young adults.

  18. The term YA is and always has been problematic for this very reason. Even book stores now call it teen fiction in their signage, as do I in my library. When I say YA to my not in the online book community readers, they draw a blank.

  19. Please note: I have no problem with adults reading YA. Everyone should read what they want. I just want us having these discussions to make sure that teens don't get pushed out of YA because they need it.

  20. Should there be books written about and marketed to early/young/new adults and things like college, moving out, etc? Yes, definitely, we need all kinds of stories for all kinds of ages. Do they need to be labeled and marketed as YA? Maybe not.

  21. Yes, middle school readers are often in limbo here as well. YA has gotten older (again I would argue due to adult Reader influence) and MG is often too young, so what about our middle schoolers? …

  22. Yes, this issue could probably be solved if we embraced New Adult as an age category and made it broader than just erotica.

  23. Interestingly enough, we now know that the brain doesn't start really developing into an "adult" brain until around ages 24 or 25 thanks to brain science. But there are legal and real world difference between a 16 year old and a 21 year old.

  24. I can tell you as a YA librarian that I have never gotten asked by a teen about YA set in college but I frequently get asked for younger/less mature YA titles. So there's that.

  25. Yes because simply "adult" is too broad a category. New adults want to read different types of stories then adults in their 30s and 40s then adults in their 60s etc. Adult isn't a stagnant development either and is way too broad. But we do it. …

  26. Bottom Line: For a lot of libraries, if you put a book with an adult MC in a collection for and about teens, you will be on the nightly news and no library likes bad PR. The expectations for libraries are very different than a store/personal reader.

  27. Some publishers/authors/adult readers skew to the adult interests, because it broadens their audience which equals more $$$ Teens, parents, teachers & teen/ya librarians skew to the teen audience, because that is who they serve/are emotionally invested in

    Some publishers/authors/adult readers skew to the adult interests, because it broadens their audience which equals more $$$

    Teens, parents, teachers & teen/ya librarians skew to the teen audience, because that is who they serve/are emotionally invested in

  28. Also, teen readers not heavily involved in the online book community tend to call it teen fiction. Most people go, "but they're not adults" when you call it YA. B&N has Teen Fiction shelves. Many libraries call it Teen. YA was never the right term.

  29. In an ideal library, you would have pic books flow to beginning readers flow to chap books flow to middle grade flows to twee fic flow to teen fic flow to true YA/NA flow to adult flow to later life fic. There are no ideal libs. We work w/what we have.

  30. @charlotteapaige I would not be able to and I would not be able to defend that choice. I buy them and put them in adult. Any patron can read them. But I can not market a book with an adult protagonist in my Teen/YA collection or define it as such.

  31. So from a librarian perspective, yes write and pub your post HS stories. Definitely. Just know that a lot of libraries will not be able to put/market a book with an adult protagonist as Teen/YA. It will often be shelved as adult. Teens will still read it.

  32. Libraries are diff than book stores and have a different accountability because they are tax supported public entities that have to answer to their patrons in ways that are different then a for profit business does. This disctinction matters in policies.


Sunday Reflections: That Delicate Balance Between Quality Patron Services and Employee Personal Boundaries

Please note: This post will share a bunch of stories of patron interactions in public libraries and no names or locations will be shared. Some of them are stories from friends, social media, and my own. None of them will reveal that communities in which they occurred to help protect all parties involved.


The man sits at a public computer and when he sees the staff member that usually helps him isn’t around he yells out, “hey, where’s my woman?” You know that she hates how he refers to her as “my woman”, you also know that she is afraid to say anything to him because all it takes is one patron complaint. We live in fear of patron complaints, especially if they get to the board of directors. It’s hard to fully explain a bad patron interaction and in many libraries, the patron almost always wins. And sometimes, you have learned, what one staff member feels is a derogatory statement others feel the staff member should just accept as a compliment. This is part of the tension you see happening in public discussion about sexual harassment at work. Many women want to be able to go to work and not have their looks/sexuality/desirability/etc commented on. They just want to feel safe, supported by administration, and able to successfully do the job they love without being objectified.

She sits behind the reference desk, swollen, pregnant belly announcing to the world that she is expecting. But what the world doesn’t know is that this pregnancy follows a devastating loss and she is full of anxiety, doesn’t like to talk about her pregnancy with family, let alone strangers. So a man asks, “do you know if you are having a boy or a girl?” And she does, but she doesn’t want to engage. This is not a conversation she should be expected to have with a total stranger, so she tries to deflect and asks, “how can I help you?” Later that day, he calls to complain that she was impolite and wouldn’t engage in normal daily pleasantries.

A staff member walks through the library carrying a donut to their office, found in the staff lounge. Library staff lounges are famous for all kinds of goodies. But a patron sees this staff member with the donut and, noting their body size, comments that they shouldn’t be eating it. They are lectured about food and body and health. If the staff member tries to shut the conversation down or to simply just walk away, they risk a patron complaint.

Another patron walks in and asks if you’ve had your flu vaccine yet. It’s a personal question, what you choose to put into your body, and you never know where the topic of vaccines is going to go. So again, you try to deflect, but the patron is enraged when you try and suggest that this is a personal issue that you would prefer not to discuss. You hear them stop by the circulation on their way out and complain about how rude you are.

Another patron calls you sexy.

Another patron asks you if you are saved.

Another patron asks you if and where you go to church.

Another patron asks you if you have kids.

Another patron tries to talk politics with you.

Another patron wants to know what you think about transgender people using the restrooms.

Another patron asks you how you feel about Black Lives Matter.

Another patron asks you about the border wall.

Another patron asks if you think we should drug test welfare recipients.

Another patrons tells you that they think libraries shouldn’t have LGBTQ materials, that the library shouldn’t support the “gay agenda”, and that gay people are sinners who should be shot so they can just go ahead and go straight to hell because that’s where their headed anyway. They then ask you what you about “the gays”.

And each time the questions are asked, staff are faced with hard decisions. In some libraries, there are clear policies in place forbidding talking about personal politics or religion. But those policies won’t stop angry patrons, patron complaints, or the call into your manager’s office where you are forced to defend your right to help the public without making every moment of your interior life public; your right to have personal boundaries.

In many libraries, we become familiar with our patrons. For many patrons, they come almost daily to escape boredom and loneliness, just trying to find a friendly staff member to talk to. But this need is one of the trickiest parts of the library profession to balance. Sometimes, patrons reveal too much about their own personal lives, try to monopolize staff time and take them away from other patrons. Other times, they ask invasive questions and make judgmental statements. Working with the public is emotionally hard, fraught with not often discussed mine fields, and the customer is always right mentality that has permeated our society makes it difficult and terrifying to know when and how to draw and clearly articulate those personal boundaries.

The Important Emotional Labor of Librarians

There are certain entitlements that exist in our world. Men feel they are entitled to women’s minds and bodies in ways that they shouldn’t. Patrons feel that they are entitled to library staff in ways that they shouldn’t. Good customer service in public libraries shouldn’t and can’t involve asking staff engage in discussions about their personal lives or to accept inappropriate comments or conversations from the general public. But anyone who works in public libraries knows that this is tricky. Patrons have expectations in libraries that they don’t have in any other businesses. For example, patrons would never tell someone to call them at the bank, but they will tell someone to call them at the public library on the public library phone line. Because of the type of organization that a library is, it can be difficult for patrons to understand that there are still policies and procedures in place that everyone should be expected to follow. These policies and procedures should include protecting employees just as much as they care about protecting patrons.

Good patron service is not dependent on a patron knowing what staff members eat, about their health or medical decisions, about their family or family life. Good patron service is not dependent on accepting rude, belittling, or sexist comments from patrons. Good patron service is not dependent on library staff listening to patron stories about their sordid affairs, their deadbeat husbands who don’t pay child support, or about their neighbor’s nephew’s second cousin who just landed in jail – again – because of drugs.

Friendliness and approachability are not the same thing as we must be social workers and counselors and personal truth tellers. In truth, most staff members don’t have the training and knowledge they need to be those things and their attempts to do so can put the library itself in a capricious position. All it takes in one miss-step and the library can find itself in the midst of a very public PR nightmare. Respecting employees and developing and enforcing consistent policies, procedures, and expectations can, in fact, minimize patron dissatisfaction and complaints and help keep the library from those very PR nightmares we want to avoid.

Professional social pleasantries do not mean that a library employee has to discuss with patron what they did on their day off, their personal political opinions, or their thoughts on the state of the world. Sometimes, a polite no I’m sorry I don’t want to discuss that with you how can I help you IS in fact the right answer. Though we have all had patrons who have taken great offense at this. Sometimes the delivery doesn’t matter, there are many people who just don’t like to hear the word no.

But it’s a delicate balance trying to navigate these types of patron interactions, especially in smaller communities and library systems. The reality is, we are closer to some patrons than others. Employees and patrons are people with personalities and we click with some and not with others. And each employee has their own personal boundaries, which can be difficult for patrons who don’t understand why staff member A will discuss with them what they did over the weekend but staff member B just wants to have a polite, small chit chat conversation and help you find the book that you want. If you’re the staff member who doesn’t want to discuss their high risk pregnancy with a patron after another coworker just did, you are now the bitch who gets complained about. This is where it’s important for managers to do the work of standing up for employee rights and differences. Neither employee did anything wrong, the patron just didn’t like being denied the personal information that they sought and did not receive.

It’s also true that we don’t know what’s going on in a person’s personal life. I will reveal to you now that I am the person who had the pregnancy experience. Not all of the above experiences are about me, but that one is. I have been pregnant three times and have two living children. I was pregnant at the same time as some other co-workers. My last pregnancy was high risk, followed a loss, and was a nightmare for me. I did not talk about it, even to my family. So I certainly wasn’t comfortable talking about it with patrons. And when a patron asked me about my pregnancy and I refused to answer, they were angry and reported me. The complaint was simply that I was rude and thankfully, in that instance, I was able to fill in the details about what happened and what I had refused to discuss that had made that patron call me rude. I also happened to be on the Reference desk with another staff member who could corroborate my side of the situation, which is not always the case. Other library staff members may be perfectly willing to discuss their pregnancies with you, and that is certainly their right, but I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. I was just trying to make it through with my baby and I alive. It was one of the most difficult times of my life and it was not open to discussion with strangers or even regular patrons.

It’s true, we often to get to know our regular patrons in different ways. But just because a patron likes staff and likes being in the library, that doesn’t mean that they still don’t get to have personal boundaries about what they will and will not disclose, who they will disclose it to and when, and what type of abusive behavior they have to deal with.

Staff should never have to:

Deal with any type of sexist, racist, offensive or demeaning conversations

Discuss their personal health

Discuss their families

Discuss how they spend their time outside of work

Discuss how they think or vote

Discuss their personal spiritual choices

Be asked to accept violent or offensive comments and language

If a patron gets angry because a staff member refused to engage in these types of conversations, then the administration should back their staff members and remind patrons that staff are allowed to have personal boundaries.

So what does good customer service look like in a public library?

Staff should be friendly, polite and approachable.

Staff should answer any patron questions about successfully using the library and any of its resources or services to the best of their ability or refer them to someone else who can.

Staff should performs their duties as assigned to the best of their abilities with a positive attitude and take any concerns to the appropriate supervisor.

And what does library administration owe their employees?

Clear policies that outline their expectations and training on quality customer service.

A clear statement against patron harassment or abuse of any nature.

Their assurance that they understand, respect and value their employees rights to personal privacy.

An opportunity to discuss any patron complaints to make sure that a full investigation is done before any action steps are taken.

A formal process for and training on how to handle and report any patron incidents.

We’re having a lot of very public discussions these days about sexual harassment in the workplace, about racism and sexism in our culture, about human rights and more. I feel it’s important that we be having these conversations in public libraries as well. No two libraries are the same. Each community is different, the culture of the library is different, and the ways in which they train their staff to work with patrons is different. But one thing that should not be different is that we maintain and assert our employees rights to personal privacy, personal boundaries and personal safety in the workplace. The balance between good customer service and employee privacy and rights can be a difficult balance to maintain, which is why we should never stop having these conversations, never stop listening to staff, and never stop training.

MakerSpace: DIY Metal Stamping (A metal stamping kit review)


Jewelry making has been pretty popular in our Teen MakerSpace, and I really wanted to give metal stamping a try. However, the individual components always seemed more expensive then something I wanted to spend just to try something out. Fortunately, I found a complete metal stamping kit at Target for only $24.99, and that seemed like a more reasonable price, so The Teen and I bought it and tried them out at home. Here’s what happened.

metalstamping5 metalstamping4Target STMT Kit, $24.99

The kit includes individual jewelry pieces to stamp, a small hammer, a block that you need for leverage and a complete set of alphabet letters. It also comes with a small pair of pliers and a few findings to turn your little metal pieces into jewelry. It’s a pretty good kit for getting started. We found additional pieces to stamp at Michael’s, where they also have larger letters. After trying out the little letters in this kit, I highly recommend the larger letters. These letters were very small and hard to read. We were not entirely happy with the final product, though I must admit that it took some time to learn how to hit hard enough to get a good imprint. Still, the letters are a really fine print.

Getting started, a work in progress

Getting started, a work in progress

What we created

What we created

The pieces themselves are fine for learning, particularly for making a small charm necklace or ear rings. However, you can’t really put more than initials on them. Again, it’s fine for trying it out, but you will definitely want to invest in better tools if you want to create a better product.

I will also be completely honest with you and share that The Teen was not into this at all. She found trying to line up the letters infinitely frustrating and tedious. It didn’t help that she was not impressed with the final product. Other teens, of course, will have different feelings about it.


Impress Arts seems to be a major manufacturer of metal stamping supplies. A basic set of letter stamps at Michael’s costs around $20.00. The set I bought at Target was purchased for $25.00 and contained more than just the letter stamps. In addition to the stamp set you need a small hammer, a base to stamp on, and, of course, your additional supplies to create your jewelry including the metal you will be stamping, chains or cord, and clasps. You’ll also need some type of closure. Finals costs end up being more than I want to spend in our Teen MakerSpace.

Some Basic Info

Metal Stamping Projects DIY Projects Craft Ideas & How To’s

DIY Metal Stamping: 10 Steps (with Pictures) – Instructables

Make Your Own Hand-Stamped Necklace – A Beautiful Mess

67 best DIY Jewelry | Metal Stamping Tutorials and Inspiration images

Final Thoughts

In the end, I decided that metal stamping would be good for an individual program in our more isolated program room, but it is not a good fit for our centrally located Teen MakerSpace because it’s loud. It takes some hard hammering, which is both noisy and repetitive, to really create a good finished product. So if you have a more isolated MakerSpace where the noise wouldn’t annoy library patrons using the library, give it a try. But for us, we decided not to make it a regular component of our Teen MakerSpace because it didn’t fit our situation and it cost more than we wanted to spend for a TMS station.

So if you want to give metal stamping a try, this kit is a good starting point with clear limitations. If you are serious about metal stamping, spend the money to buy better tools and, most importantly, better (and bigger) letter stamps. Just keep in mind that it’s noisy. The final product is cool, but it’s not necessarily a best fit for public libraries.

Teen Summer Reading Planning 2018

If you are doing the Libraries Rock theme for your 2018 Teen Summer Reading Program, please note that metal stamping guitar pick jewelry looks fantastic. Here’s a link to just one example:

Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

trulydeviousPublisher’s Book Description:

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

Karen’s Thoughts:

I’m a big fan of mysteries so I was really looking forward to this one, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, it did disappoint, only in that it’s the first book in a trilogy so the mystery wasn’t solved. I can not wait to read the next book.

Let me start by saying The Westing Game is one of my favorite childhood books. It is the only book that I have re-read multiple times. I used to re-read it once a year and am getting ready to read it out loud to Thing 2 (age 9) in hopes that it will also be one of her childhood favorites. TRULY DEVIOUS REMINDED ME A LOT OF THE WESTING GAME IN TONE, IN LANGUAGE, AND IN THE WAY IT COLLECTED SUCH AN INTERESTING MIXTURE OF INTERESTING CHARACTERS INTO ONE SPOT AND SET UP A MYSTERY THAT YOU WERE INTERESTED IN SOLVING. As I’ve mentioned, I have no idea how this particular mystery is solved, because it isn’t yet. And to be honest, this is two mysteries in one as it has a historical mystery and a contemporary mystery.

I love the MC Stevie, who struggles with anxiety in very realistic ways. She is just one of many quirky, intelligent and ambitious teens who come to the Ellington Academy to learn in a very nontraditional environment. Each character is very unique and fully fleshed out in complex ways. I can’t help but wonder who among them may be an evil doer? I liked the people, I liked the school, and I am glad that we are getting more of it, though I’m not going to lie: When the book “ended” I threw it down yelling, “what kind of ending is that?” I want more of these characters and this school, but with a new mystery. I wanted answers. I am impatient, I don’t want to wait. Alas, wait I must.

I highly recommend it. Teens looking for a fun, engaging mystery will enjoy it.

So, You’ve Just Tweeted That Nobody Uses Public Libraries Anymore . . .

Hi There,


So, you have just tweeted that nobody uses public libraries anymore and we don’t need to fund them, but I’m going to stop you right there.

First of all, I’m going to assume that what you really mean is that you don’t use your public library anymore so because you don’t, you assume that nobody else does. Either that, or you really look down on the type of people who do use public libraries, which is an issue in and of itself because there is not one just type of public library user. Both of us are doing a lot of assuming here, and you know what they say happens when you assume. But the facts are, people do in fact use their public libraries, so I’m not sure why you are stating it as a fact that they don’t. But because I’m a librarian and I believe in facts, not just broad generalized statements, let’s discuss this further.

To begin with, I want to acknowledge that not all public libraries are created equal and there is a chance that your local public library isn’t widely used. This could be for a lot of reasons. One, some smaller communities have underfunded, under developed and under staffed libraries. A small town rural library often doesn’t have the same type of resources as say a branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and it does no one any favors to compare apples to oranges. So your experience with your public library is not a universal experience. No two libraries are the same and no two library users are the same.


Second, if you’re argument is no one uses public libraries anymore because of technology, you are either speaking from a place of privilege or with a gross misunderstanding of what all is available via technology. In the first instance, it is important to note that not every person has the same access to technology, and a lot of this has to do with finances. Technology and the access to it requires money, and in a country where 1 in 5 children goes to bed hungry, it is important for us to acknowledge that the digital divide (or digital gap) is very real. So no, not everyone has equal access to technology.

10 Reasons Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library

Digital Divide | Pew Research Center

Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor

It’s also a mistake to believe that because of the Internet all information is available at our fingertips with just the click of a button. The truth is, something is only available online if it has been uploaded and made available on line. Historical data, for example, is not as readily available as current data. Not every book, resource, etc. is available with just the click of a button. A lot of the data is only available behind a paywall, which brings us once again to finances. So while there is a lot of information available to us via technology, it is important for us to recognize that the whole of human knowledge is not readily accessible via the Internet. It is a tool, an important and a good one, but it isn’t the only one and it’s important that we keep it in perspective.

No, Not Everything is on the Internet

Why Everything Isn’t Available Online and Free – Cornell University

I’m also going to assume that your lack of support for public libraries either means that you are not a big recreational reader or that you have the means to purchase whatever book you want, whenever you want. I realize that I am again making some huge assumptions, but hear me out. It is recommended that children read around 1,000 books before the begin Kindergarten in order to have the brain development and access to vocabulary that they need. These books will usually be picture books, which cost on average let’s say $15.00 a book to make the math easy. This means a family trying to reach this goal would need to spend $15,000 on picture books before their child started Kindergarten. It also means they would have access to a book store, transportation to get to a book store or the financial means and a credit card to buy the books online. Granted, most kids are going to read some of the same books over and over again, so let’s cut that number in half; that’s still $7,500 dollars in books in the first 5 years of your child’s life. Plus there is the nonfiction they will need to do school reports, the books they’ll need throughout 12 years of primary and secondary school, and then whatever they books they may need to successfully get a college degree. And this is just for kids, it doesn’t even cover adults trying to fix their cars, trying new recipes, trying to figure out how to garden, or just plain reading for pleasure. Most people don’t have the individual financial means it would take to create a personal library that matches that of a public library.

Public Libraries Help People Save Money

How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities

How public libraries help build healthy communities

So to be clear, public libraries have great community value. They provide for the educational and recreational needs of a community. They uplift the intelligence of a community, they support democracy, and more. Plus, a good public library will provide a variety of programming that brings members of the community together in additional fun and educational ways. There are storytimes, after school programs, teen programs, music programs, lectures and more. These types of programs help keep our youth engaged and off the streets while providing adults with a chance to get together to learn from and support one another.

So public libraries have intrinsic community value, but does anyone still use their local public library? According to current research, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Most librarians could get on here and give you anecdotal data from their own libraries, including circulation statistics and yearly visitors numbers. I can tell you that just teen circulation at the library that I work in went up around 5% last year. We can give you data about how many people use our public computers, visit our storytimes, or walk into our makerspaces. For a broader picture, you can access a variety of readily available data sources:

Explore Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Data | Institute of Museum and Library Science

Public Library Use | Tools, Publications & Resources

The 2017 Public Library Data Service Report

Pew Report on Library Usage

It’s interesting to note that Millenials, accused of killing diamonds, chain restaurants, and whatever else, are actually among the highest public library users.

Public library use in U.S. highest among Millennials | Pew Research

Also, your state library will probably have state specific data available for you. For example, you can find the data for Ohio here:

Ohio Public Library Statistics – State Library of Ohio

However, even this data is suspect because if anything, public libraries tend to both under count data and use ineffective measuring tools. For example, one of our biggest means of evaluating use is through circulation statistics. This means we do an electronic count of items checked out of the library. These figures do not, however, count for all the items that people come in and look up the answer to a question in and then place back on the shelves. They don’t count the teens that come in and sit in the corner and read a pile of graphic novels and then stick them back on the shelf. They don’t count all the newspapers and magazines that get used in house. It is, as a measuring tool, a pretty fairly inaccurate one because there is a lot of material use that it doesn’t count.

We also try to count for the number of people who walk in our doors, but this number doesn’t tell us about things like, how many questions they asked, how long it took us to successfully answer those questions, and what level of service we provided for them. So again, it’s a data point but it doesn’t tell the entire story.

Many libraries will work on building more complex pictures of who is using their local public library and why, but this information is hard to collect and even harder to convey in a way that easily transmits to a society that wants quick facts and figures. It doesn’t tell you the story of the teens who come in after school and learn to use technology that they have no other way to learn about because they lack access to it. It doesn’t tell you about the woman who researched how to find out if her family survived hurricane Katrina.  It doesn’t tell you about the numerous men and women who were able to apply for and find employment when they were barely surviving and could not afford the technology to do it at home. It doesn’t tell you about the elderly couple who came to every single brown bag chat so that they could learn, grow, stay engaged and not sit at home alone. It doesn’t tell you about all those kids who were able to read 1,000 books before Kindergarten and got that head start on their education. Facts and figures don’t tell you anything about the impact that public libraries have on individuals and local communities.

You could also read the testimony of others who responded the last time someone said nobody uses libraries anymore:

People on Twitter drag reporter who claims nobody goes to libraries

Dispelling Some Myths about Public Libraries, One Tweet at a Time (TLT)

But what I highly recommend is that, before you make a universal declaration, you take some time to visit your local public library. Visit in on a variety of different days at a variety of different times. Really look around and see what all your library has to offer, how it helps the people in your community, and how they respond to it. And if you have concerns about your local public library, instead of simply declaring that no one uses libraries anymore, maybe take some time to express your concerns to the people who run your local public library. Maybe you can help them lobby for better funding, maybe you could donate your time and expertise for a program, or maybe you can help them spread the word because marketing is, in fact, a huge challenge for a lot of libraries.

Return on Investment for Public Libraries – Library Research Service

But even if you don’t use your public library because you personally don’t need to or don’t desire to, please know that many of the people in your community do and it helps make their lives and thus your community better overall, with a high return on a very small investment. Supporting public libraries is a win-win situation for everyone.

YA A to Z: Let’s Talk About . . . Aromantic and Asexual, a guest post by Bridgette Johnson

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about aromantic and asexual with librarian Bridgette Johnson.

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.


Before we delve too deep into our topic, let’s have some super basic broad definitions:

Asexual: a person who experiences no sexual attraction

Aromantic: a person who experiences no romantic attraction


It’s important to remember these two terms are only a starting point, an umbrella term, especially in regards to asexuality. For example, two more super basic broad definitions are:

Demisexual: a person who experience sexual attraction only after a strong, personal, emotional bond has been established

Demiromantic: a person who experiences romantic attraction only after a strong, personal, emotional bond has been established

The terms above are arguably the four most broad identities. What some people still don’t realize is that you can experience any range of romantic attraction (hetero, homo, bi, pan, etc.) and be asexual. The terms are not one or the other. They are all that feel applicable to you. You may be a romantic asexual. You can be a demihomoromantic asexual. You can be aromantic asexual (often referred to as aro-ace). These identifiers are for romantic and sexual orientation only, not gender identity, which is an entirely separate topic. For the sake of explicitness and clarity, asexuality is a sexual orientation, just as gay, lesbian, bi, and pan are. For romantic asexuals, it’s not either/or. Sometimes it’s multiple things or all of the above.

People experience varying degrees of romantic and sexual attraction. There is no one way to be and there is no right or wrong way to be. There are many, many terms for attraction and chances are there is a term for whatever way you might feel. For example, you might be lithromantic or lithsexual, which is where romantic or sexual feelings are experienced, but there is no desire to have those feeling reciprocated. It’s all a matter of finding the term that fits you, or ignoring all the terms and labels if that’s what makes you most comfortable. You’re also likely to hear/read the word ace used in regards to asexuality. For example, if someone says “I’m ace,” they mean asexual. For those people who are not asexual or aromantic, a couple of terms you’ll often see used are allosexual and alloromantic, which respectively mean someone who isn’t asexual and someone who isn’t aromantic.

You may identify as gray ace, which usually means someone who is asexual, but doesn’t mind reading/watching things about sex, many know a lot of information about sex, and may have sex in their lifetime. It’s also important to note that having sex does not negate a person’s identity as asexual. If you’re asexual, you’re asexual whether or not you have sex. On the other end of the spectrum, some ace people are sex-repulsed, meaning they want nothing to do with sex in almost any form. Everyone’s comfort level is different.

Like all romantic and sexual orientations, aromantic and asexuality are not new. People have always felt this way. We just didn’t always have the right words for it. And it’s super important to remember that romantic and asexual attraction is a spectrum, and like all communities, is not a monolith. What is true for one person may not be true for another.

All of these varied identities within one part of the LGBTQIAP+ community is one of the many reasons we need more inclusive books in YA. For some kids, reading about a character who is aromantic or asexual or aro-ace may be their first exposure, and if that reader sees themself in that character? It could be life-changing and affirming to know they are not alone in the world and their feelings. To discover there is a community for them and what they’re feeling has a name can mean more than could ever be put into words.

Now that you’ve a brief primer on some ace terms, let’s talk about one of the librarians’ favorite things: books!

The availability of aromantic and asexual characters in YA is, to put it nicely, not the best. As with pretty much every other marginalized identity we’re looking for in books, there isn’t enough asexual rep. There isn’t enough intersectionality within the rep, and there isn’t enough #ownvoies rep. But progress is being made.

lets talk about love

Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love has a biromantic asexual main character, Alice, who is a WOC. The cover is wonderfully designed in the colors of the Asexual Flag. I don’t believe it is #ownvoices in regard to Alice’s sexuality, but the author is a WOC and seems to really care about getting all of her rep accurate. You can read more about her editing process and worries here.


Another book that features POC characters is the upcoming Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. Now, Dread Nation is fantastic for about 80,000 reasons, but it’s even better for one specific thing. It has a character, Katherine, who is (minor spoiler) aromantic asexual. Those words aren’t used (this an alternate history where the Civil War was interrupted by the dead rising again as zombies) and no one really referred to people as asexual then. Through a conversation with the main character, Jane, it is clear that Kate is aro-ace. This is the first time I’ve ever read a character in YA that reads as, without any doubt, aro-ace. And it’s totally fine that she is. She’s reassured by her friend that it’s fine and the girls move one to talking about more important things. It is an impeccable scene.

tash hearts

Of course, there are other YA books with characters who are somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Just from 2017 there was Kathryn Ormsbee’s #ownvoices Tash Hearts Tolstoy (MC is romantic asexual), Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence (secondary character is homoromantic demisexual), Mackenzi Lee’s A Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue (Younger sister of the MC reads as asexual, maybe aromantic, and Lee has confirmed off-page she would be somewhere on the asexual spectrum if she has access to Tumblr. Plus, she’s getting her own spin-off book!), and Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue (a character is homoromantic demisexual).

So, progress, bit by bit, in fiction and in real life.

Again, the information here in barely the tip of the iceberg. It would next to impossible to cover aspect of asexual and aromantic in one post. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about someone who is aromantic or asexual is that they are not broken. They do not need to be fixed. They are not a late bloomer. They are not a robot or someone who can’t connect with another human being. They will not change when they meet the right person. They are not repressed. They don’t need to try “it” to know for sure. They are not celibate. They are not faking it. They are not broken. I’ll say it again for the people in the back

They are not broken.

For more information about asexuaity and aromantic, visit any of the websites below: (This is part of the Asexuality Visibility Network (AVEN) and has ton of resources along with forums for those who wish to join the site) (A list of books with aromantic characters) (A list of books with asexual characters) (A mock Stonewall book winner blog; this post specifically is about asexuality in YA. Check out their posts for great YA books with LGBTQIAP+ rep) (The Asexual Flag) (AVEN, mentioned above, has its own Wiki with some commonly used terms on the website and the forums) (An Introduction sections and many, many posts) (Features downloadable resources, FAQ, and will announce the 2018 dates for Asexual Awareness Week)

Meet Bridgette Johnson:

Bridgette Johnson has worked in Youth Services in public libraries for four years and bookstores for over nine. She received her MLIS from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2016. She writes fantasy for kids and teens and is thrilled to be a Author Mentor Match Round Three mentee with her middle grade fantasy novel. In her spare time, she loves to travel and attend geek and comic book convention. All opinions and thoughts are her own.

YA A to Z: Telling a Different Amputee Story, a guest post by Mindy Rhiger

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about amputees with the librarian and blogger Mindy Rhiger

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.


Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen to read Phantom Limbs so quickly after reading Shark Girl. But in my defense, who expects another shark attack story?  What are the odds?

shark girl

If you’re reading fiction, the odds are pretty good that there will be a dramatic backstory for each character. That’s what we want, right? Lots of drama? That’s how we end up with so many shark attacks in fiction. When there aren’t sharks, there are tragic accidents that loom over our amputee characters’ pasts. There’s always something, and that something has probably taken away the thing our character loved the most.

I get it. This is a good story.


But, if I’m honest, I almost stopped reading Phantom Limbs when it was revealed to be a shark attack that took Dara’s arm. While it’s true that trauma is the cause of the majority of amputations (77%) and less than 10% are congenital like mine, I am tired of reading the same story over and over again. Not all amputees are survivors of trauma, and I expect that shark attacks are the cause of very few of those traumas. Perhaps less than 10%.

That is not to say that Phantom Limbs is a bad story. Nor are the many other stories published for young readers that follow the tragic accident/recovery formula. I’ve really appreciated a lot of what some of these books had to offer. The search for identity outside what people see in Shark Girl, the difference a prosthetic device can make in A Time to Dance, and the mixed feelings that come from getting attention from your physical difference in The Running Dream.

Amputee Awareness: 10 Facts You Should Know

But I admit that what I really want are stories with amputee characters that move away from the tragic accident/recovery formula. I want the few titles I do know of that do this to be more widely read.

I want these things because I get the question “How did you lose your arm?” from kids on a daily basis.

Because I recently had a child reply to my explanation of having been born without an arm with “Um, actually, I’m pretty sure you broke your arm.”

Because most adults never ask about my arm at all. They just assume that disability equals some kind of tragedy, either past (tragic accident) or present (loss of a treasured ability or talent).

Limb Loss Statistics – Amputee Coalition

People think they know my story without ever having to listen to it. Even if they don’t ask they fill in the tragedy from imaginations fueled by pop culture, including books. The truth is that my story is not tragic, and I had no recovery or adjustment period to work through, no loss to speak of. I was born with blond hair, blue eyes, five fingers, and ten toes. It’s an interesting fact about me, but that’s it. It is—has always been—my normal. I have no phantom pain, literally or metaphorically. In my experience, that’s the hardest thing for people to understand.

Disability in Kidlit

I like to think that one day I’ll write a novel for teens that captures my experience in a way that helps people understand, but until I get around to it, I’ll continue to direct readers who are open to a different kind of amputee story to these books:

For Middle Schoolers:

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Red Butterfly by A.L Sonnichsen,

For High Schoolers:


Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Tripping by Heather Waldorf

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman.

Meet Mindy Rhiger

Mindy Rhiger is a librarian and a writer in Minneapolis. She likes to read books and spend time with her family. Also, she is a congenital amputee and uses a prosthetic arm in her daily life. You can read more about it on her FAQ: Fake Arm 101. Proper Noun Blog – Twitter

YA A to Z: Adoption Books – Being Discussed, Being Seen, a guest post by Eric Smith

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about adoption with the amazing literary agent and writer Eric Smith.

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.


There’s this look.

It’s hard to explain. I’ve never seen myself do it. Sometimes I feel it though. The way my brow furrows, my mouth tightens. I imagine my lips look like they are forming a straight line, like an emoji. It’ll happen, and my wife or my friends who are nearby will sharing a knowing smile.

Someone got adoption wrong again, and everyone is looking at me to see how I’ll react.

I see it all the time. Sometimes its in a book, or something on television, or in one of the many, many Lifetime movies I watch with my wife. You can tell, in that moment, when the writers have no idea what it feels like. What the real questions are. What the real struggle is.

welcome home

But there’s this other look. It’s an expression I keep inside. One that hits me and leaves me quiet and awestruck. My heart swells and I feel that warmth in my chest, as my eyes tear up.

When someone gets it so right.

When they see me.

Six Common Issues Faced by Adopted Adolescents – Adoptive Families

There’s a difference, you know. Between being used as a plot device, and having someone understand your story. Between being discussed and being seen.

Last year, for me, was a year of feeling seen.

Adoption – KidsHealth

I was lucky enough to publish Welcome Home, a Young Adult anthology full of adoption-themed stories from a wide array of contributors, with Flux. When my amazing agent was pitching the project around, a lot of the feedback we got from editors was along the lines of it being “too niche” or “a narrow hook.”

When over a hundred thousand kids are adopted each year in the United States alone, and four times that in the foster care system… that’s a pretty devastating piece of feedback to hear. Because the feedback suddenly isn’t about the book anymore. It’s about you.

You’re being discussed. You’re not being seen.

Adoption in YA Lit – The Hub – American Library Association

Every agent and editor and person in the publishing world will tell you not to take things personally like that, as a writer. It’s all subjective. This didn’t feel that way.

But, the book was picked up. And my goodness, am I endlessly thankful. Last year brought with it many of those quiet moments of awe. Of being seen. Not just because of my little book, but because of what I kept seeing in the world of books and art.

3 On A YA Theme: Adoption – Book Riot

My wife and I started watching This Is Us, a television series that prominently features a trans-racial adoptee who wrestles with his identity and his past. Someone like me. Novels like You Don’t Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow and The Leavers by Lisa Ko were published, stunning stories of adoption in the world of YA and adult literary fiction. I re-read Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi and the powerful See No Color by Shannon Gibney.


And my goodness, Far from the Tree by Robin Benway won the National Book Award. A YA novel about adoption won the National Book Award. I felt my heart wrench in my chest when I saw the celebrations on social media for that beautiful book. A novel that made me feel seen.

A book I wish I had as a teenager growing up.

All this art, all these words and images and stories… they all came at a time when my wife and I were getting ready, as best we could, for the birth of our first child. It’s an odd thing, promoting your book about adoption, with a number of people touched by adoption, right after your first blood relative in welcomed into the world.

10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know | HuffPost

This summer, my first in-print YA novel will be out in the world. The Girl and the Grove. It’s the story of an adopted teenager who finds her biological mother in a hidden patch of woods in Philadelphia’s largest city park… only to discover she might be a magical creature of myth. It’s a story about those “what ifs” that adopted kids think about it, and hold secret in their hearts. It took years to write.

I hope it can live up to some of the great adoption stories that have been coming out, and the ones we’re going to see this year. Like Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know, a memoir I am thirsting for, by one of my favorite essayists writing today.

I hope the story resonates with you, the way the short stories in Welcome Home hit me. How last year’s stories by Rebecca Darrow and Robin Benway broke my heart and gave me hope. I want those novels that came out last year, those books that won awards, to leave you feeling like a main character in your life story, and not just a device. Not a human MacGuffin meant to drive a plot.

Because you’re more than what bad stories have told you. You’re what the good stories have shown you.

That you deserve to be seen.

And I see you.

Meet Eric Smith


Bio: Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from New Jersey. His books include the Inked series (Bloomsbury) and the forthcoming novel The Girl & The Grove (Flux). He edited the adoption-themed YA anthology Welcome Home (Flux), and can be found talking about YA on Book Riot’s HEY YA podcast with Kelly Jensen. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, son, and corgi.

About Welcome Home

Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short stories, and brings them together in one anthology from a diverse range of celebrated Young Adult authors. The all-star roster includes Edgar-award winner Mindy McGinnis, New York Times bestselling authors C.J. Redwine (The Shadow Queen) and William Ritter (Jackaby), and acclaimed YA authors across all genres, like Adi Alsaid, Lauren Gibaldi, Sangu Mandanna, Karen Akins, and many more. (Flux, 2017)

An Open Letter to Logan Paul



On January 1st of this year, I logged on to my Twitter account to catch up on the latest news and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Instead, I learned that there was a lot of controversy surrounding a YouTuber and a video. That YouTuber was you and that video was of you showing a dead body in Japan’s “Suicide Forest”.

I didn’t watch the video and I never will. I did, unfortunately, see a screen shot of you standing in the foreground with a body hanging in the background. I will never unsee that image.

There’s something else you should know about January 1st. It’s the two year anniversary of the day that my high school best friend died from suicide. He was an EMS/First Responder and he suffered from PTSD, as many first responders do. You see, they are the first to arrive on the scene in the face of tragedy and they are tasked with trying to save lives. It’s stressful and often they fail and lives are lost. It’s a heavy burden to carry day in and day out. And my dear friend couldn’t carry that burden any longer. He was married and had children. He had friends that loved him. He is mourned and missed daily. Your video was the slap in his face, in his family’s face, in mine. It was an all too painful reminder on a day that was already so hard for us all.


You should also know that I am the parent of a teenager who works with teenagers. My teenage daughter has watched me struggle with my own mental health issues and there was a summer a few years ago where I too struggled with suicidal ideation. A few months ago she received a text in the middle of the night from a friend who said that he was going to end his life. She has been impacted in a variety of ways by the issue of suicide.

She looked at me a couple of days after your video went up and told me that many of her friends were talking about you on social media, and none of them were okay. You see, 1 in 4 people struggles with mental health. Even teenagers. This means the people who watch your videos and support you are somehow facing the issue of mental health, suicidal ideation and suicide. It could be them. It could be their family member. It could be a friend. But every single person who has watched your video has probably been affected by the issues that you made fun of.

Everyone loves a good joke. Humor makes life tolerable. But somethings are just not funny, suicide is one of those things. There is great shame and stigma associated with mental health and suicide. In some cultural and religious traditions it is still believed that a person who commits suicide will burn in hell. Surviving family members struggle with guilt and grief and shame and stigma. They wonder what they could have done differently, what signs they may have missed, if they had done just that one thing if that person would still be with them today. And yet you stood in front of a body hanging in a forest, violating that person, his friends and family and their pain, and any other person who has struggled with this issue in any way. It was vile, disgusting and offensive. It  was crass and opportunistic. It was unethical and vulgar.

It was dangerous.

1 in 4. 1 in 4 of the kids and teens who watched that video are themselves struggling with the issues that you mocked in your video. That means you were making fun and joking about 1 in 4 of your viewers. You harmed them. You used them. You violated them.


I am someone who uses social media and has an online presence. I have now for about six years. I have learned a lot in those six years and changed the ways that I do some things. I continue to learn. But the reality is, when you choose to go public you have a great responsibility in way you do with that. Words have weight and meaning. Actions have consequences. By choosing to live such a public life you are also choosing to increase your influence in the world and the ways in which you help shape or destroy our world. You are popular with young, growing minds who are trying to figure out who they are, what they believe, and how they will lives their lives. There is a responsibility that comes with that and you failed them. And because you failed in your responsibility, you do not deserve it. When you break trust, you have to work harder to regain it and maintain it. Right now, you do not deserve that trust. You broke faith.

And outside of the suicide issue, you went and mocked another culture. You boarded a plane and choose to make fun of and ridicule an entire people group and culture. Again, you hurt your fans. You mocked those who live in or share a Japanese heritage. And you reinforced negative views and racist stereotypes in the minds of growing youth. Maybe you are not aware, but racism and hatred are huge issues in our country and in our world and you did nothing to help make the world a more positive place. Your video is everything that is wrong with our world: you choose hits and likes and popularity and money over people, and that is despicable.

At the end of the day, it is people that matter. We must care for and about one another. We must work together to build a community. We must take responsibility for actions and understand the ways that the parts can affect the whole. Until you can do that, I hope you never get another hit on a video again.

It took me a week to be able to even talk about how the events of last week affected me. I had to give myself the space to feel once again the loss of my friend. But after talking to my daughter and hearing what her and her friends were struggling with, I knew I could not remain silent. I hope you listen to your fans and understand that you have hurt them in very real ways.