Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

What Do Teens Mean When They Talk About an Aesthetic

The Teen wants you to know that she is not into Cottagecore, but she did take this recent senior photo and I needed a photo for this post and she said it “kinda works”

Like many people, I spent a great portion of the mid-pandemic listening to the new Taylor Swift album, Folklore, on repeat. It was haunting and melancholy and fit my mood. Last week I saw a post about how the album was “Cottagecore” and about the “Cottagecore Aesthetic” and I fell down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what that meant. I have always believed in trying to understand that current things my tweens and teens are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, I was vaguely aware of the idea of a social media aesthetic for a long time, I just hadn’t given it a lot of thought. And when I looked at Cottagecore I figured it was mostly an adult thing, turns out I am wrong. It is not the first time I have been wrong, and it won’t be the last.

Having been married to an art major for some 25 years now, I am familiar with the term aesthetic. But I wanted to know more about what it means to teens specifically and to social media. Here’s what I’ve learned.

In the most basic definition, aesthetic means: concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty (that’s the dictionary definition). When applied to teens and social media, it means:

Image result for social media aesthetic definition

“In reference to social media, the term “aesthetic” is usually used to refer to the overall visual theme and mood of an account. Most often associated with Instagram.” (source: https://stayhipp.com/glossary/social-media-aesthetic/) This definition mentions Instagram, but it also applies to Tik Tok, Snapchat, etc.

As I mentioned above, Cottagecore is one of the currently popular aesthetics which is highlighted by the newest Taylor Swift album. Cottagecore is an aesthetic that is pastoral leaning. You’ll see lots of pictures of nature and picnic baskets and girls in long, flowing prairie dresses. Cottagecore is vintage and antiques in outdoor spaces with pastel flowers and sheets hanging on outdoors drying lines. The Teen says it’s has bright, soft lighting. You can find out more about Cottagecore here: https://foryouaesthetics.com/blogs/news/cottagecore-aesthetic. I also want to make sure we really look at and examine the various aesthetics and stumbled across this article about Cottagecore and the Far Right: https://honisoit.com/2020/09/cottagecore-colonialism-and-the-far-right/.

Corragecore is not, however, the only popular aesthetic. Last year I was asked to buy Thing 2 hair scrunchies and Hydroflask water bottles because of the VSCO aesthetic. You can even find articles and ideas about VSCO girl starter packs on popular teen sites like Teen Vogue: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/vsco-girl-starter-pack. (I bought her scrunchies but made her save up her own money for the Hydroflask because those are super expensive.)

There are other aesthetics popular with teens: soft girls and dark academia and afrofuturism. The list over at aesthetics.fandom.com of aesthetic types is actually quite long: https://aesthetics.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Aesthetics. And YPulse has a really good look at the influence of, well, social media influencers and aesthetics here: https://www.ypulse.com/article/2019/07/31/e-girls-instagram-baddies-and-vsco-girls-the-social-media-styles-influencing-gen-z/. Buro247 has a list of popular 2020 aesthetics here: https://www.buro247.my/culture/buro-loves/from-vsco-girl-to-e-boy-these-are-the-aesthetics-o.html.

Aesthetics is about branding. Branding oneself. But also, brands have latched onto the idea of aesthetics to market to Gen Z as well. I even used this concept recently, without really knowing I was doing so, when I created an RA list of readalikes for Billie Eilish fans and one for Taylor Swift fans. I was applying the concept of the aesthetic with book recommendations.

When reading about aesthetics you will quickly find that a lot of the aesthetics being talked about in the media are very white centered, as unfortunately a lot of the media always has. As teen librarians, a field dominated by white women, we need to be really careful when reading about and thinking about using the idea of aesthetics as promotional tools not to become too white focused and exclusionary. So engage in research and promotion with intention and an eye to inclusion, as you should all things.

This is a screenshot of a recent RA tool I made to discuss the various genres and subgenres with my coworkers as we walk through learning about YA lit

I wanted to check and see if this idea of an aesthetic was just something adults were putting on to teens or if it was a thing teens talked about, so I went and consulted with my sources. They immediately began to talk to me about various aesthetics and seemed pretty interested in the concept. Sometimes the media talks about teens in ways that don’t resonate with teens, but the teens I talked to were very much aware of the concept of aesthetics on social media.

For iPhone users, the newest update even allows them to personalize their homescreen to fit their personal aesthetic: https://www.cnet.com/news/from-tumblr-to-ios-14-how-aesthetic-home-screens-became-a-trend/. This is something that apparently Android users have been able to do for a while.

Here are some more articles on the topic of aesthetics for you, should you too want to jump down this rabbit hole.

Vox: Cottagecore and Dark Academia on Tik Tok

Girls Life: Popular Tik Tok Aesthetics explained. Which one is you?

What I’ve learned is that aesthetic is about branding, in some ways, but it’s about identity. And teens have always been about identity and wearing your heart on your sleeve to make your identity known. From punk kids to emo kids to jocks . . . teens have always had an aesthetic. Well, most teens do. It’s just now they have taken those identities and that aesthetic online and onto social media. So in many ways it’s the same thing as always, just expressed differently for a new generation. Which doesn’t mean it lacks value, because it does. Who you are and how you choose to share that with the world is and always will be very important to teens. It’s exciting to see the ways that teens are using new tools to express themselves.

I asked The Teen if Book Nerd or Doctor Who fan could be my aesthetic and she said, not really but sure.

Sunday Reflections: Boyfriends, Breakups and Blocking – Oh My! Talking with teens about a different type of access

tltbutton5As a librarian, I spend a lot of time talking about teens and access. Access to books. Access to information. I’m all about access. And then a new discussion of access came up and I had a decidedly different message for my teens.

The Scene:

Three of my teens are sitting in the Teen MakerSpace and each one of them have recently been broken up with. One of them felt sudden and without explanation to the heartbroken teen. Not only was said teen “dumped”, but the boy blocked them on all social media and asked them not to talk to them at all.

The Conversation:

So here sat these teens, discussing how unfair that was and what the rules to blocking someone on social media were. Their argument was that there had to be some reason, some explanation, and some type of real violation.

It was here that I interjected as someone that they were talking with that just because you want access to a person, their time, their social media, did not mean that they owed it to you. People can block people or decline social media requests for whatever reason they wish and, though it may be difficult to deal with, they don’t owe us an explanation. We are not automatically granted access to other people’s time, space, thoughts, or attention. No matter how much we may want it.

And no matter how much it may help us deal with the loss and heartbreak, we aren’t even owed a reason for why someone is breaking up with us. They just get to opt out because that’s what they want to do. And yes, it hurts and it’s hard, but it’s the truth. In the end, I hope everyone breaks up with kindness and preferably in person, but we can’t control the actions of others. And we’re left to deal with our pain on our own.

The summer after I graduated high school my long term boyfriend broke up with me and the reason was simple, I just wasn’t “fun anymore.” Dagger to the heart. It burned, it truly did. I did not cope well with this loss. But the young man who broke up with me owed me nothing. He was kind enough to answer a few calls from me, and I’m not sure if that made things better or worse, but it was a kindness he did not owe me.

This idea, however, that there are rules about who gets to block whom were interesting to me. But at the end of the day, I don’t think you automatically get access to someone, and I bet there are a lot of teens (and adults!) who need to be having these discussions in this era of social media.

So for possibly the first time in my life as a librarian, I found myself arguing in favor of the right to deny someone access. Welcome to 2017.

Tech Talk 2015: Index to TLT Posts on Technology, Social Media and More

Technology is a HUGE part of what we do everyday.  Whether we are helping our teens use technology, using technology to connect with our teens, or trying to put together teen programs – there is no escaping it, and no escaping how often it changes.  Since we write about it, I thought we would make it easy for you to find it all in one place – HERE!  After all, geek is the new black.

Using Apps in Your Marketing
Giffer App Review (making GIFs with Legos)
Social Media 101
Relational Reading Revolution: Using social media to connecting readers with authors
The Beginners Guide to the Hashtag
Harness the Power of the Hashtag 
A Scientific Guide to the Best Times to Tweet, FB, Blog, etc. 
The Science of Social Timing 
Executing Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
6 Steps to Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan
Examples of People Using Social MediaWell:

You can view the slides of the presentation that I did with JenBigHeart, Jenny Martin and Naomi Bates at TLA 2015 on Radical RA, which includes social media, at Tinyurl.com/Radical-RA

Online Tools

Tech Review: Online Creation Tools Piktochart and Canva

Take 5: Comic Book/Strip Creation Tools

Facebook

Ongoing changing in policies are causing some users to defect, less popular now, teens are defecting, can now use Hashtags

Instagram
Tumblr
5 Things You Can Do with Tumblr :Craft Tutorials: Example, TardisCostume ; 2.Booklists: Example, 10 Things I Learned About Surviving the Apocalypse from YA Books; 3.New Books: Share the  covers ;4.Program Pics ; 5.Book Quotes

Twitter

YouTube
A BookTube Crash Course by AbbyRoseReads
TPIB: When Books Inspire Art (Using Apps to Create Book/Library Related Art)
The Relational Reading Revolution Revisited: Using social media to connect teens w/authors and get them invested in the reading community
Little Bits, Makey Makey, Raspberry Pi and More!

Technology and MakerSpaces

Creating and Using an iPad Technology Lab as Part of a Library Teen Makerspace

Take 5: 5 Tools for Movie Making in Your MakerSpace

Resources

Make

Robot Test Kitchen

www.slashgear.com – tech news
www.buzzfeed.com – great example of content; find content to share
www.mashable.com – fave info resource
www.hypable.com – sharable content
www.ypulse.com – news about teens & millenials
www.socialmediatoday.com – all about social media

Webinars

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/184293860/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-1xvdtlg0g9lqpqmp41zg&show_recommendations=true

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/201441563/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-2985p557m789s5payarx&show_recommendations=true

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/224133986/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-MegAVhyOMCTGgMCpozy5&show_recommendations=true

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/234865862/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-QkxGLSMWvCjoLZQ6GOLw&show_recommendations=true

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/244749503/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-1wGDDKaCytZF9iOa7tQE&show_recommendations=true

STEM and STEAM Programming for Teens in Libraries (an Infopeople webinar)

Full STEAM Ahead with Tween and Teen Programming (a Florida Libraries webinar)

 

Early Word YA Galley Chat

Every month Early Word hosts a Twitter chat for YA librarians and readers to gather together and discuss upcoming titles. You can follow the hashtag #ewyagc to see yesterday’s discussion. Or you can check out the handy Storified version of the conversation.

What is Early Word? It’s an online tool for collection development and reader’s advisory. They have both an adult and a YA galley chat:

Join us each month for GalleyChat, to talk with fellow librarians about your favorite (and not-so-favorite) recent galleys, in two versions:

Adult Titles — held the first Tuesday of each month from 4 to 5 p.m, Eastern, the next one is Feb. 3. You’re welcome to join us at 3:30 for a “pre-Chat” —  virtual cocktails will be served. Hash tag, #ewgc.

Young Adult Titles — the third Tuesday of each month from 5 to 6 p.m., Eastern, (also with a pre-Chat session at 4:30, with virgin cocktails, of course). Hash tag, #ewyagc.

We use Twitter for GalleyChat, so if you’re new to Twitter, now’s the time to set up an account and begin honing your 140-character skills. Source and More Information: http://www.earlyword.com/galleychat/

Take 5: YouTube 24/7

If you spend any time with Tweens, you know that they are obsessed – OBSESSED – with YouTube. And Vine and Instagram. But seriously, YouTube. When The Tween’s friends come over their favorite thing to do is sit around and watch YouTube videos. YouTube – and social media in general – is so popular that the Teen Choice Awards recently added several categories giving out awards to a new type of star that has circumvented traditional pathways to superstardom. 

And although there are some legitimate concerns about tweens and teens using social media, particularly about things like online privacy, digital footprints and online bullying (cyberbullying), social media is also allowing teens to be creative, learn technology skills, think proactively, and take initiative. 

Here are a few YouTubers that are super popular, and you can find a full list of the Teen Choice Award social media nominees at SugarScape to get more information on who is popular right now.

Bunny

Bunny goes by the handle Grav3yardgirl. She is a woman in her 20s (almost 30s) who shoots a variety of YouTube videos including a segment called Follow Me Around and Does It Really Work. For the follow me around segments, she literally goes into a store and you follow her around. And for the does it really work segment she tests out various products to see – you guessed it – if it really works. Here she is testing out the Soda Stream product:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nul0L4itTa0]


Bethany Mota


Bethany Mota is a teen and fashion blogger from California. She is so popular she has a line of clothing at Aeropostale and she recently guest judged on Project Runway. I know this because we watch PR every week and as they panned over the guest judges The Tween squealed, I think that’s Bethany Mota. She was instantly recognized. You can visit here channel here.

Ricky Dillon

The Tween and her best friend are in lurve with Ricky Dillon in the same way that many others are screaming over 5 Seconds of Summer and One Direction. He was one of the award winners at the Teen Choice Awards. You can see his YouTube channel here.

Jack and Jack

Jack and Jack are teenage comedians who were recently featured on the Teen Choice Awards. They have a draw bigger than many of the music and film stars that the media celebrates. You can see their YouTube channel here.

Challenges, challenges everywhere

I know the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has kind of taken the world by storm, but the truth is challenges of all sorts are kind of a big deal on YouTube. This is how The Tweens in my library spend their time, doing the challenges and watching them. There is a smoothie challenge, where you mix gross things together and have to drink it. The blindfold make-up challenge, which is all the rage in my household. You basically blindfold yourself and put make-up on someone. Yes, even I have been on the receiving end of an epically bad make-up. If you do a YouTube search for the word “challenge” a big list will come up. Abandon your fear and put some tarps on the library floor and you could have a challenge day at the library. But if the weather is nice, I recommend going outside. Seriously, some of them can get messy and a lot of them require being willing to trustingly allow others to put gross food in your mouth.

This is what happens when you do the Blindfold Make-Up Challenge on your 5-year-old sister

There is a new documentary out called Instafame: A Documentary About A Teen’s Relationship With Social Media Fame that highlights the way ordinary teens are rising to fame quickly and in nontraditional ways thanks to the reach of social media. There is a lot of attention in the press about the sudden rise of social media fame among teens, which is definitely something I am paying attention to both as a parent and a librarian. The Tween and her friend spent the night brainstorming recently about starting their own YouTube channel. I eventually told them they could do crafts from books to see if the instructions were easy to follow on this blog and that they had to use nicknames. They spent the rest of the night coming up with names, mascots, etc. It will be interesting to see if they will follow through or if they move on to the next trend quickly.

And although I spend a lot of time telling The Tween to put down her phone and go outside and play, I keep reminding myself that I used to spend an inordinate amount of time watching MTV to see which video would come on next. And yes, I am old enough to remember when MTV still played music videos. So I guess I’m not freaking out about watching YouTube too much, because everything I see these tweens doing I know we did it all before, just in slightly different ways. 

What are you tweens and teens obsessing over on YouTube? Share in the comments.

Friday Finds: #SVYALit Project Edition

Two things happened this week and I really want to talk about them.

Earlier this week, the news broke out that Joanie Faircloth had retracted her statement that Conor Oberst had raped her. I wasn’t really familiar with this story until news broke out about the retraction, but I want to take a moment to talk about this in the context of the #SVYALit Project.

You see, when we talk about rape – when I have talked about rape – inevitably someone will come out and ask, “but what about false accusations?” The truth is, false accusations happen. Current research indicates that 2 to 8 percent of rape and sexual violence reports are a false accusation. That means that more than 90% of sexual violence reports are real reports.  This commonly cited statistic is the source of some debate, but even the highest of estimates are around 25 to 40% of rape accusations are false, which means that a majority of all rape charges filed are not false.

False accusations are really problematic for two important reasons:

1. It obviously seriously messes up the life of the person falsely accused, and this is a problem. A huge one. If formal police charges are filed then Faircloth will be charged with a crime. In addition, Oberst can and most likely will file civil charges against Faircloth because she has in fact put him through tremendous pain and suffering and I imagine things like loss of income.

2. It makes it that much harder for the victims of sexual violence to come forward and have their stories heard because the tendency is for people to reply, but what about false accusations. In fact, this happens with rape in a way that it doesn’t happen with other crimes. There are false reports of theft, violence, etc. And yet, if you go to the police and report these types of crimes you are still usually taken pretty seriously; your case will be investigated. It is currently estimated that sexual crimes are still vastly under-reported, with the figure being as a high as 60% of sexual crimes going unreported, due in part to the way victims of these crimes are treated as they go through the process of reporting. In a world where victim blaming is already so rampant, false accusations make it that much harder for real victims to seek justice.

Both of these are equally horrifying results of false accusations. Every time someone makes a false accusation against another person, they aren’t just hurting that person, they are hurting every single victim of sexual violence.

Also this week news broke out about Jada, a 16-year-old who discovered that she may have been raped by watching pictures of herself passed out go viral on Twitter with a Hashtag. She went to a party where drinking was involved, passed out, and woke up in a state of undress. She was told at the time that she had vomited on herself and that someone had cleaned her up. Later, however, photos appeared online that suggested that something very different had happened. And to make matters worse, people began taking pictures of themselves in a pose similar to hers with a Hashtag (which I will not mention here), mocking this girl. In a moment of tremendous courage, Jada went public, telling her story and using that same social media to try and raise awareness and reclaim herself. And because sometimes social media is awesome, people are choosing to proclaim #IStandwithJada.

The Relational Reading Revolution Revisited

Earlier today author Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink, In a Handful of Dust) and I presented at TLA on the ways that you can use social media to get teens connected with authors and invested in a rich, rewarding, and affirming reading community.  You can read the initial post here.  And here is a look at our presentation:

Some additional notes:

Some hashtags to follow on Twitter includes #yalit and #amreading

Even if your library policy prevents you from having a library or school account, set up your own accounts so you have the information and can share it with your teens. Some of the information you can find includes new book release news, cover reveals, book trailers, movie adaptation news, etc. For example, the other day Scholastic Tweeted information about the title and release date for the next The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. When kids come in and ask for these titles, you can prove how cool you are by letting them know the news. You can also share book trailers in the library or in the classroom without having a social media account but the social media will help you know what trailers are new and hot.

19 Authors to Follow on Instagram

When teens see that there is such a vital and passionate reading community out there, they see how cool reading can be.

Take 5: DIY on Tumblr

Tumblr is an awesome place to hang out.  It’s visual, fun, and easy to use. And believe it or not, it is a great place to find DIY outlines.  Just last week author Tahereh Mafi shared a tutorial on how to make these glorious Shatter Me inspired shoes.  I myself have shared several DIY tutorial on the TLT Tumblr.  So today we’re going to talk DIY and Tumblr.

DIY on Tumblr usually takes 2 distinct forms. Sometimes, like Tahereh has done on her blog, that entire tutorial is right there in the Tumbl post.  Other times, the Tumblr is simply used to reblog and curate DIY activities, similar to what many people do with Pinterest. Libraries, particularly libraries that have Makerspace themes, should consider starting a DIY specific Tumblr blog as an information resource for teens in their local communities.  In fact, you could even get teens to help you put together tutorials of library craft programs for the Tumblblog.


Five DIY Themed Tumblrs:


Buzzfeed DIY

Buzzfeed is pretty epic all on its own, but they do have a DIY Tumbl blog.  It can cover anything and everything.  My favorite is when they have lists of DIY around a particular theme – say a holiday or just the theme of books – and they link to something like 25 DIY posts on that topic.  Great for program inspiration or planning.

Daisy Pickers

Daisy Pickers shares original and shared tutorials for a variety of craft ideas, many of which have a country chic feel to them.  There are tutorials for making things like craft floss tassels, half log bookends, and tin can stilts.

DIY Hoard

Like Buzzfeed DIY, DIY Hoard is an awesome and eclectic look at DIY around the Internet.  There are a lot of full tutorials right there on the Tumblr (easy to reblog and share).   

True Blue Me & You

True Blue Me & You has a variety of craft/DIY tutorials on their Tumblblog.   For example, they show you how to make these stacked rings, which are epically cool. On the right side bar you’ll see that this person also has a Tumbl blog on Kids Crafts, Halloween Crafts, and Christmas and Holiday Crafts.




Why Not Just DIY

So, interesting note here.  Cussing is pretty rampant on Tumblr.  In fact, there are a lot of Tumblr that are named “Fuckyeah whatever the topic is”.  You can have a Tumblr address and still have a different Tumblr heading.  So this Tumbl blog’s address is Why Not Just DIY (probably what the originally named it), and when you go to the Tumbl blog the title is Make Your Own Shit.  So, there are cool craft resources here, but you probably want to be aware of the title when sharing with teens – especially younger teens – on your library’s professional page.  Having said all that, I really like their tutorial on how to turn paper lanterns into glitter lamps.  Very cool.

How to Do DIY on Tumblr

So in addition to sharing these cool DIY resources from Tumblr, I wanted to point out that Tumblr is a great way to be incorporating more tech and social media into your teen services.  I highly recommend having a DIY themed specific Tumblr blog for your teen services.  As I mentioned in the open, when you do a craft program, you can even get the teens present at your program to help you make a DIY tutorial for your Tumblr blog.  Take lots of step by step pictures (and you can take them over the shoulder if you are worried about privacy issues), outline the steps, and put up your post as you would make a craft instruction sheet.  I would also include a bibliography of some craft books on the topic that can be found in your library.

If your library has a Makerspace or a craft heavy emphasis on programming, this is a great way to highlight what you are doing to the community and be a resource.  Making – arts, crafts – are important I believe because they inspire creative thinking and problem solving, and innovation can not happen without these.  Creativity also is a great way to get teens involved in self-expression and to boost their sense of accomplishment and self worth.  Craft programs also are a great way to have some active programming – as opposed to passive programming, where teens sit and listen to someone speak – while still meeting their social needs because craft programs are ripe for sitting and gabbing while crafting.  In short, maker programs create a library environment that is very 40 developmental assets friendly.

The Twitter Dictionary

New technology allows us to invent new words.  Here are some of mine for Twitter.

Twitterhunt: verb and noun; when you find yourself at the end of a rant and you have to hunt through someone’s timeline to find the beginning so you understand just what they are ranting about.

Example: When I stumble upon Maureen Johnson in mid rant, I have to go on a Twitterhunt to find out what she is ranting about.   I Twitterhunted all through it before I finally found the beginning.

Twitterjack: verb, when you stumble across and interesting conversation on Twitter and you just have to add your two cents.

Adjective: When I read their discussion about one of my favorite books, I had to Twitterjack so I could tell them what I thought.

Twitterpated; adjective; that feeling you get when someone you admire RTs your Tweet or indicates that you have said or done something cool.

Example: When A. S. King reteweeted me, I got all Twitterpated.

Tweetstalk: verb; following someone you admire in a totally non scary but yeah stalkerish way.

Example: Why yes I do in fact Tweetstalk Sean Beaudoin and Danile Kraus, because they have a lot of cool things to say.

Tweetrant: noun; a serial list of Tweets where a person rants about a topic.

Example: Did you read Maureen Johnson’s Tweetrant about the New York Times article? She made some valid points.

Please add to the Twitter dictionary in the comments.  I know you have some of your own Twittervocab to share!

Extra! Extra! 6 tips for talking with local press

Don’t wait for the press to come to you – go to the press!

As hyperlocal news gains a foothold in more and more communities and grows in popularity, you will undoubtedly be called upon to offer a few quotes to local — or not so local — media in your position as a teen services librarian.  Teen programs can make great press and offer terrific photo opportunities – and since photo essays and slideshows are often what drives readers to these news sites, the likelihood of a local reporter popping in to snap a few pictures and ask a few questions is good.  Positive press is great publicity for your program, a nice feather in the library’s cap in the eyes of the Board, and a decent ego stroke too.  But if you come across poorly, bad press is really worse than no press at all.  How can you best represent yourself and your services in these situations?

1.  Get in front of the story

If you know you’re hosting a program with great photo opportunities, present it to your local Patch.com or neighborhood weekly representative.  Cosplay events, knitting for the troops, haunted gingerbread competitions, or live action gaming events like my large scale Angry Birds program all offer great visuals.  Promote the events that you want to see covered if you want to see them covered.

2.  Don’t be afraid to delay
Occasionally, the local paper has a few inches to fill and will call on the library.  Maybe they caught wind of a brewing YA lit controversy, or maybe a teen author is coming to the area, or maybe they just figure that it’s time to include a few great reads for the holidays.  If you get a call out of the blue and it’s not a good time to talk, or you’re not ready to formulate an answer, don’t be shy about it.  Ask the reporter to call back when you’re off desk, or when you’ve had some time to think about the questions.  There’s nothing worse than realizing twenty minutes after getting off the phone that you didn’t actually say the thing that would best represent your services.

3.  But don’t delay too long!
Be respectful of deadlines.  If you can’t be counted on to return a call in a timely manner, you just won’t be called back until there’s some kind of a controversy or a problem.  Far better to get your introduction to the community during good times!

4.  Don’t try to be funny
If you actually are funny, and that’s a known fact confirmed by someone other than your mom or four year old nephew, by all means – go for it.  My humor leans in the direction of self deprecation and sarcasm, neither of which translates well into sound bytes.  Remember, there are no emoticons in newspaperland.  Think carefully before you try to make a joke, because inevitably that awkward attempt at humor will find its way into the paper.  Like the time I compared my adult crafting group and my preschoolers — it doesn’t matter how hard you shake the paper and say, “But that’s not what I meant!”, that’s what people will read.

5.  Brevity is better
You could go on for ages about your favorite authors, philosophies behind your services, the role of libraries in the community, and the importance of reading for pleasure.  But unless you are writing your own op ed, focus the core concepts you want to convey and phrase them neatly and briefly.  This is the time to fall back on the adage that if you really know a topic you can explain it at a 2nd grade level.  Shoot for simple eloquence.

6.  Say what you mean; mean what you say
You never know which line the reporter is looking for, what angle they already have in mind for the story, or how you fit in.  If you don’t say anything you don’t mean, you won’t be misquoted*.  Take a breath and pause before replying to a question that has you stumped instead of talking through your thoughts like you might do if a colleague asked the same question.  Remember that though you are the “expert professional” in the article, you don’t need to have all of the answers.  Only say what you know and what you believe.

*Ok, that’s not entirely true.  You can always be misquoted and you always have a chance of your words being taken out of context.   It’s the difference between, “It’s the best!” and “It’s the best in a field of really sub-par offerings on the topic.”  But this helps a lot.

-Heather