Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

ALA Exhibits Highlights, part 1

This past Saturday I got to spend the day in the librarian version of heaven – the ALA Midwinter exhibits hall.  Here I mingled with my fellow geeks and ran into people I have known for years online, learned about some new products and services and picked up a ton of ARCs (which will be subject of my next post).  AND – I got to touch an ARC for Pandemonium, the sequel to Delirium by Lauren Oliver (sadly, they did not understand our need to possess it and they were not giving them out so I had to make do with just touching it).  So here are some of the highlights from Saturday . . .

1.  VOYA
I have been very honored since 2001 to be a reviewer for VOYA and in the past 6 months they have made my dreams come true by publishing two articles written by me (look for Karen Jensen in the October 2011 and February 2012 issues of VOYA) – BUT, I have never met a single person from VOYA in person.  Ever.  We always just talk via e-mail (usually to ask really Karen, are you going to turn in that review anytime soon). That all changed on Saturday when I met Edward Kurdyla and RoseMary Honnold. They were incredibly nice and we talked about things like the erosion of the English language and library budgets. RoseMary has been such a presence in the Young Adult/Teen Librarian world (I have even used some of her programs over the years) and it is always nice to meet peers who share your passion and understand your geekiness.  Part of the reason I began the TLT blog, FB and Twitter account was because I think there is tremendous value and inspiration and support in being involved in a community of teen librarians and you definitely get that with VOYA.  I have said it before and I will say it again, VOYA and School Library Journal should be your #1 tool in your toolbox. Also, please be sure to participate in YALSA and the various YALSA listservs.

2.  Figment
On Saturday I met and talked at lengths with two young ladies promoting a new social networking site called Figment; it has been active now for a little over a year. Figment.com is a free online community for teens and young adults to “create, discover, and share new reading and writing.”  They are in the business of encouraging teens to write, share and edit one another’s works.  They also have some great tools for teen librarians across the platform, but especially for schools that include discussion groups and daily writing prompts.  A lot of amazing teen authors are involved sharing their writing stories and giving tips to help teens become better writers.  You can learn more about their services for educators at www.figment.com/educators.

Some of the upcoming programs and contests they will have include:
Figment daily themes
Digital Learning Day: Now through February 1st
Girls with Grit Contest: Now through February 29th
Meg Rosoff will be making an appearance beginning January 24th and running through February 10th
Shannon Hale contest: January 24th – February 6th

The site is well designed, colorful and appealing, and easy to navigate.  You will definitely want to check it out and share it with all of your teens.

Without a doubt Fantasy and Science Fiction is dominating teen publishing these days (although I suspect there will be a renaissance of contemporary fiction fueled in part by the success of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and some of our other favorites) – but what I keep noticing is that there are not enough mysteries for teens (although do check out the Sherlock Holmes series by Maureen Johnson, The Name of the Star was just nominated for an Edgar Award for best mystery for young adults).  This year the Texas Teen Summer Reading Challenge is mystery focused so I am looking hard.  SOHO TEEN will be launching in January of 2013 with an emphasis on publishing mysteries for teens (so yay!!!!).  You can read a sampler of some of their titles online.

4. Guildcraft
Like many of you, I get my craft supplies primarily through Oriental Trading or by hitting my local craft store.  However, Guildcraft is adding more tween and teen crafts to their catalog so you may want to add it as a place to look for craft ideas and supplies.  They did have a craft kit to make bottle cap necklaces which I have done with my teens before and I highly recommend.  Also, I bought my daughter a necklace that tied a washer onto a string as the main component of the necklace.  Then, they made various bottle cap charms and put a small but strong magnet on the back of each so that the necklace can easily be changed.  Better explanation can be found here.

5. Discussion Guides
Throughout the day I was able to pick up discussion guides for a variety of titles including Girls Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls, The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and more.  If you have a book you are looking at using in the classroom or in your public library programming, be sure to check the publishers websites to see if they have discussion guides available. Many publishers are aware that we are looking for them and creating some good guides to help us use their titles in our libraries.

Some sites to check:

6. Zest Books
I am always looking for eye catching nonfiction for teens and, without a doubt, Zest Books has some.  They have a Teen Advisory Board that helps them in their title development and marketing which may help explain why their titles seem to be on point.  I have purchased a few titles before and they are smaller and if I am remembering correctly paperback.  Some of the titles I am looking forward to in 2012 include The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You should Know About . . . before it’s too late and Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends).  In November they will be releasing a title called Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves which has the potential to be powerful and amazing so keep your eyes open for it.

7. Egalleys
Many publishers are jumping on board with both feet into using egalleys to help promote their titles.  To see galleys be sure to sign up with NetGalley.com.  I use Net Galley and it is free and easy to use; you simply register and then select galleys that you would like to preview.  The only catch is that you must be approved by the publisher.  Some publishers, for example, are not currently accepting blogger requests. Random House, Disney Hyperion and the Lerner Publishing Group were just some of the publishers that were actively promoting egalleys at ALA Midwinter.

8. The End of Paper Catalogs
Many publishers mentioned that they were phasing out the physical, hard copies of their catalogs and would be going strictly to online catalogs.  Scholastic, for example, was encouraging librarians to go online as opposed to taking the catalogs and mentioned that soon there would be no option.  Without a doubt this is better for the environment and cuts down on marketing costs, but I imagine some will have a hard time making the transition. Although I am sure that many are already using the online versions to cut down on the amount of catalogs they get in the mail and have to try and find a place to store.

9.  Meeting Lauren Myracle

There were lots of debut authors at ALA Midwinter (I will introduce you to one at #10), but I was excited to meet popular teen author Lauren Myracle.  She was funny and humble and gracious and it was so cool to meet her.  She signed a copy of Shine for me and a ton of other fans.  I can’t tell you why Lauren Myracle called me a “naughty girl” in my signed book, but let me assure you that this girl is a ton of fun.  If you ever get the chance to meet her, jump at it. Throughout the day there were a variety of author signings and it was definitely a highlight of the exhibits.  Authors are our rock stars after all.

10.  Debut YA Author Jenny Torres Sanchez
Not too long ago we were talking on the YALSA-BK listserv about books about boys with weight issues – well, here one is.  The Downside of Being Charlie is the debut work of Jenny Torres Sanchez.  Charlie is an ex-fat kid who is having a hard time adjusting to the new him.  As a coping strategy for his complicated life Charlie turns to photography. I always love a book that encourages teens to be involved in art and self-expression and I see a natural promotional tie-in here with The 2012 Project. The Downside of Being Charlies has a June 2012 publication date.  Jenny was incredibly approachable and if she is going to be out doing author tours, or if you can get her to visit your school or library, I recommend you check her out.

And the most exciting thing, I ran into two local teens who had paid their own way into the exhibits because they loved books and reading THAT MUCH! They were excited to see a Clockwork Prince t-shirt and were big fans of Cassandra Clare.  I met them while looking at the Pandemonium arc and they too were bummed they couldn’t have it.  It was so great to see teens with passion and initiative.  And they agreed to have their picture taken for The 2012 Project.

Without a doubt, ALA Midwinter was an exciting, inspiring, and amazing learning opportunity.  It was also great exercise.  Later this week I will talk about some of the ARCs I picked up and some great upcoming releases in teen fiction.  Also coming this week, information about a great contest opportunity for you or one of your teens to win a copy of Girl Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls and signed by all 12 popular teen authors that contributed stories.


  1. Ahhhh! This all sounds like SO MUCH FUN!!! I haven't even heard of Maureen Johnson's Sherlock Holmes series, so I'll have to check those out. And thanks for the discussion guide tip! I stumbled across the discussion guide for Between Shades of Gray after I finished reading it, and felt like I got so much more out of the story by thinking through the questions. Plus, they would be super helpful to use with a class or a book club! Keep the updates coming 🙂

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