Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Symposium in six words: Visuals and trust matter; reading’s social.

I was very happy to be able to attend this year’s Symposium in St. Louis. The hotel was right across the street from the Arch, which was thrilling,
and the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott decision began, is what I saw out the window each morning.  The Courthouse was an especially moving place to be. A courtroom had been restored to look like it might have during the case. Walking out of that room to see the sun shining through a skylight – just as Dred and Harriet Scott might have seen as free citizens – after the second case but before the devastating US Supreme Court decision took it away – was very powerful.

Aside from getting a history lesson I wished I had gotten in my own teen years, I learned a lot about what is happening for today’s teens. This was an incredibly useful conference, at which I took copious notes and tweeted like an actual Twitter person.  Instead of rehashing the excellent programs I went to individually, I’ll play off the six word memoir trend with this six word summary of what I learned:

Visuals and trust matter; reading’s social.

To further explicate…
The topic of the Symposium was “Hit Me with the Next Big Thing”, which each speaker interpreted differently. Across the many presentations that I attended or followed on Twitter (hashtag #yalit12 – check it out on Twitter or via Karin Perry’s Storify) I noticed several themes came up again and again, with similar messages approached in different ways.


Visuals matter

Teens are becoming increasingly visual and interested in visuals. They are content creators and use their bodies and adornments to display their taste, interests, and personality and they will expect their books and other library services to meet this higher interactive and visual standard in the coming years.  Additionally, they are comparing their reading material to similar content presented in other media.  If they have two hours, will they want to spend it reading a story, watching it, playing it, or creating it?  The image their reading material presents to others is another consideration.  What message does their own image send when they carry a gritty mystery novel as opposed to a glittery romance or a more ambiguously marked cover – or a PSP or smartphone or tablet?

 Trust matters


We need to develop trust with teens.  We can be amazing resources to them, but only if we first are able to establish an open and trusting relationship.  We need to trust the sources we use to select and recommend material.  We need to trust our teens to suggest or lead programs and services. Trusting authors to lead us in the directions their stories wander will assure us a more authentic experience, free of the limitations of genre, age group, gender designation, or format.

Reading is social

Teens select and read together, increasingly so as technology allows this.  The main way we find out about reading material is through other people.  What you are reading can reflect your social group and how you present yourself within that group. Technology offers us ways to bring our conversations about books into the digital format that is permeating much socialization, and being able to comment on books and book reviews online allows us to open the conversation and keep it honest. Books can bridge differences and bring people together, and the consequence of a lack of diversity in our collection can result in teens hearing us communicate that they do not belong – an undesirable message with potentially devastating consequences. (For more on this concept check out The Relational Reading Revolution and Don’t Underestimate the Value of Twitter.)

Did you attend?  What were your takeaways?  And most importantly — tell me what I missed so we can learn together!