Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Celebrating Seven Years of TLT: A look back at favorite posts

tlttabgraphicThe older I get, the more I think the passage of time is the fastest, most puzzling thing ever. Where do the days go? Where do the years go? Multiple times a week, my husband will exclaim, “How is it 8:00 already?” and I will almost always follow that up with, “How are we in our FORTIES already?” So when Karen said we were coming up on the 7 year anniversary of Teen Librarian Toolbox, I thought, but didn’t I just write a post for the 6 year anniversary? I did… if you consider one year ago to be “just.” Given that in my brain the 9os were, at most, ten years ago, I may not be the best judge of the passage of time. Last year for this same anniversary post, I reflected a bit on why I love writing for TLT and what it means to me. This year, I’m going to share some of my favorite blog posts that I’ve written. I feel a little weird writing that sentence, but you know what, I am so grateful to have this platform to share books and ideas I’m passionate about. So, here we go!



svylaitprojectMy first blog post for TLT was in September 2014. It was called “Talking about sexual violence in young adult literature with a teen book club.”  I don’t think I need to expand upon that—you get what it’s about. Here’s a snippet from that post:

After the meeting, some of the members chose to send me further thoughts. One member shared with me that this was the first time she discussed sexual violence with a group. “I liked how comfortable I felt discussing what I had read with the group. In other situations, mentioning to someone that I had read a book about sexual violence usually ended with an odd look and an abrupt ending to any discussion I had hoped to spark.” She goes on to say that she valued the open discussion we had. “It’s what I wish I could have with a teacher, a friend, even a sibling without feeling weird for bringing it up.” She says she wishes we had had even more time to discuss our books and this topic because talking “about a topic that society seems to shy away from isn’t an opportunity I get often.”


SUPERNEWEST PURPLEI have loved working on larger projects we have done like the Mental Health in YA Lit project and the Sexual Violence in YA Lit project. It’s so great to see what comes from people who guest post for us and how we can expand conversations on these important topics. I particularly loved coordinating the posts in the Sexual Violence in LGBTQIA+ Young Adult Literature series. Those explored some ground I don’t think we’ve seen covered a whole lot yet. Those posts ran the first two weeks of August 2015.



MHYALitlogoofficfialThe Mental Health in YA Lit project has been especially important to me. I’ve loved seeing so many more books coming out that accurately and compassionately portray mental health. The work on the project and my continued focus on this subject has lead me to presenting on this topic at NerdCon, Teen Lit Con, and for the International Bipolar Foundation. It also lead to many great real-life discussions about books that address mental health, like this one with my former teen book club.  Here’s a bit from that post:

I asked if having more fictional characters facing mental health struggles helped actual teens. They all agreed that it normalizes these experiences and gives teens a peek at someone they might be able to relate to. They said that by seeing characters struggle in stories, they can see into other experiences, especially if they themselves don’t have this particular issue. They said that it helps them know how people suffer and it shows how they might be able to help or react. They said they often worry they’ll say the wrong thing to someone who is struggling and like to see examples of how to be supportive. “I like it when books teach me how to treat people,” one girl said. (Have I mentioned I heart my teens?)



GLSEN-NSCS-2015-Cover_0I also am grateful to have this platform to share the National School Climate Survey results about LGBTQ students’ experiences in school. The report is long, but I condense much of it to just the highlights to help remind educators what the school climate looks like for so many kids.


One of my main focuses over the years at TLT has been to write about as many LGBTQIA+ YA books as possible to help get these books the exposure they need and to aid in collection development. This tag will take you to those books and posts. 




I’ve had a blast writing book reviews, coordinating guest posts, taking part in blog tours, doing cover reveals, hosting giveaways, getting endless book mail, and meeting tons of people through connections with this blog. Here’s to many more years of TLT goodness!

Happy Blogiversary! Karen’s Top 10 TLT Posts

TLT is 1!

Although I began the TLT Facebook page in May of 2011, this blog went up and I did my first post on July 15th of 2011. {Insert confetti and streamers fanfare here} The first post was really just a post to say hi, and it was only uphill from there. Since that day there have been 330+ blog posts and they are no longer all done by me.  Some of them are done by my fabulous Co-Blogger Stephanie Wilkes. {Insert enthusiastic clapping here}.  Other are done by various TLT contributors, and we have had some fabulous guest blog posts by authors and librarians alike.  Today I am going to share with you my favorite 10 posts from this past year.  It was hard choosing a Top 10, but here we go . . .

One of my favorite graphics – Twilight Zone inspired. Bonus points if you can name the episode.

The ABCs of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, an unconventional picture book
Some life experiences just leave you aching with a need to talk about it and, in the case of HG, to make sure others know about it and understand that it is real and you can’t get better medical care.  At the end of 2011 it was announced by the Hyperemesis and Education Research Foundation (www.helpher.org) that they would be having the first ever National HG Awareness Day.  I knew that I need to do something.  I needed to share my story for me, I needed to share it for my baby that I had lost, I needed to share it for the two daughters that are likely to have it, and I needed to share it for the teen HG sufferer I had seen one time at the mall.  So I poured my heart and soul into creating a post that would really tell my story in the only way I knew how, with words and pictures.  I spend months drafting, re-drafting, and taking pictures.  In the end, this would be TLT’s most clicked on post to date.  It is raw, it is real, it is honest . . . it is my story.

TLT quoted on book promo materials

A Letter to Lauren Oliver
Sometimes when reading, you just have one of those experiences that makes you want to shout from roof tops.  I had only just recently been introduced to Delirium, having listened to it on audio book in my commute to and from my new library job.  I loved it so much I pre-ordered Pandemonium for my Kindle and waited anxiously for it to arrive.  I read it that first day in one day and laid in bed that night for hours laying in bed and writing this letter to Lauren Oliver over and over again in my head because I was so afraid I would forget it.  Finally, at about 3 a.m., I finally just got out of bed and wrote the letter as a post so I could get some sleep.  Later that month I actually got to have the chance to meet and have a glass of wine with Lauren Oliver and I’m not going to lie, it was an amazing life experience.  Since writing my letter to Lauren Oliver I have only been compelled in that same way to write a letter one other time, which is how I came to write a letter to A. S. King after reading Ask the Passengers on Mother’s Day.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of “Hanging Out”
From the very early stages of my library career I was first forced and later desired to create some programming that was less staff intensive, less structured, and provided me a greater opportunity to meet with and talk with my teens.  Over time, as I became familiar with the 40 Developmental Assets, I began to understand why, exactly, there was indeed value in this type of programming.  This post let me put my experiences together and really outline why it wasn’t always necessary for libraries to have such structured programming for their teen patrons.  It made me really think it through and articulate, and research, what my gut had been telling me all those years.

February 21, 2012: TLT does a guest blog post on Book Brats

Live Angry Birds (Heather Booth)
Not that there isn’t value in structured programming, because there is.  In fact, I have put together over the past year a little over 30 Teen Programs in a Box (TPIB) for everyone to use here at TLT.  But hands down my favorite TPIB came not from me, but by teen librarian Heather Booth.  She posted pictures as part of #the2012project a program that she called Live Angry Birds and it looked, well, AWESOME! So I asked her to do a TPIB for us and she graciously did.  I have since done the program twice and it is, well, AWESOME!

Favorite @TLT16 Twitter Quotes:
“The right book in the right hands can make all the difference”
“Sometimes we worry so much about what teens are reading,
we forget to worry if they are reading at all”
“I burnt the bacon.”

Racial Steretyping in YA Literature, a reflection by Stephanie Wilkes
I have worked in 4 library systems now and each one has such a distinct and different clientele.  It was very timely, then, that my awesome co-blogger Stephanie put together this blog post right at the time that I began working at a library system where probably 80% of my patrons are African American.  But these are not urban, inner city kids.  No, they are suburban kids who come in after school with their parents who are helping them choose library materials and I began to cringe as I realized the only books I had to hand to them were things like Monster by Walter Dean Myers and books about pregnant girls.  There were just not enough books in my collection that represented these kids that didn’t have a blond hair, blue eyed girl in a flowing dress on the cover.  So Stephanie blogged about it and it seemed like people kept talking about it on Twitter and, well, it was a moment of serendipity for me in my collection development.

TLT talks censorship on Lisa Burstein’s blog when a national teen magazine refuses to print a review of the book due to drug use.

Top 10 Things I Learned About Surviving the Apocalypse from YA
Sometimes blogging is just plain fun.  I have a tendency to read a lot of Dystopian fiction and I kept noticing the same trends in my reads.  I would tell The Mr., today I learned that you should never visit a FEMA camp in the event of the apocalypse.  So I decided to put a post together about the survival tips that I had learned from reading YA.  I know I’ll keep reading more YA, so I’m sure I’ll keep learning new survival tips.  When the apocalypse comes, I’m golden – unless it involves fast zombies.  Don’t forget rule #1: Cardio!

TLT talks collection development with upcoming debut author Victoria Scott on her blog.

If You Give a Geek a Computer: Variant by Robison Wells
Outside of Dystopian, I am a big fan of contemporary teen fiction.  I feel that contemporary fiction is part of the heart and soul of why I am a teen services librarian; I want teens to be able to read the stories like theirs and be validated, to know that they are not alone, to know that there is reason to hope.  Anyhow, so one day I am on Twitter and Robison Wells tweeted about having OCD.  I was so moved by his openness and honesty that I went to his blog and yep, there it is – his heart, or in this case his mind, laid bare for all the world to see.  There are people out there, like The Bloggess who struggles with depression, who choose to share openly their experiences and struggles to create understanding and help build a world of compassion for their fellow sufferers.  I was so incredibly impressed that Robison Wells choose to be one of those that shared openly and I wrote about it.  Plus, I like the way the title and structure of this post mimics the popular children’s books.

I went to ALA and met authors John Corey Whaley (above), Michael Grant, Lex Thomas, Libba Bray and more

Harry Potter and The Fault in Our Stars as discussed by Leah Miller
So there was this guy, Joel Stein, and he said that adults shouldn’t read YA.  I wrote a piece defending YA and then I invited others to share their favorite YA titles and why adults SHOULD read them.  I have been very blessed because several ya librarians and authors have written them, but two of those posts got really very personal and really chose to share themselves in honest ways and they definitely have received the most clicks and feedback.  The first of those posts were written by Leah Miller as she talked about sharing both the Harry Potter books and The Fault in Our Stars with her father, who later passed away.  I dare you to read the post without crying.  I am so thankful everyday with how much Leah really chose to allow herself to just be vulnerable and honest.  The second post was written by upcoming debut ya author Craig McClachlan where he talks about being a child of divorce and the book Where the Red Fern Grows. Again it is touching, powerful and raw.

Another favorite graphic of mine, this time about Reader’s Rights
Check TLT out on Pinterest or Facebook for all of our free graphics

Thinking Out Loud: Marketing and the Library Lock-In
The last 10 years of my library career I have really spent focusing all my professional development energy focusing on marketing and advocacy.  For five of the years as my last library position I wrote marketing plans, did newspaper ad layouts, put together programming, and worked hard to build a relationship with the local newspaper.  I even spent every Friday morning for 5 years doing a local radio show to promote my library (which I loved).  So the teen librarian in me sometimes struggles with the psuedo-marketing person in my and wrestles with the idea of the messages we are sending – which is how I came to write this post on marketing and the library lock-in.  Hands down one of my most controversial posts to be honest.  In fact, there was a follow-up post to better clarify what I was trying to say and a rebuttal from a fellow librarian who does library lock-ins.  You can read them all, and my other posts about advocacy and marketing here.

Stephanie and Karen appear on Greadsbooks The Blogger Behind the Book

Atticus Was Right: the amazing story about a bully, a boy with autism, and a book (guest blog post by Amianne Bailey)
If you are a regular TLT reader you know that I have a passion for autism awareness and library services.  This is, in part, because I am an aunt to 3 boys who have severe autism.  They are in fact very low functioning socially and it impacts the lives of everyone around them, including their “typical” sibling.  My friend Amianne Bailey is a school librarian and our tweens are in Girl Scouts together.  One day, as we sat at a cafeteria table and waited for the GS meeting to end, she began to tell me this story about a young man that came into her library while one of her autistic students was in the midst of having a meltdown.  As she told me this story, tears began to fall – it is a beautiful story about the power of a book.  Don’t just take my word for it, read it.  And be sure and check out all of our posts about Autism and Libraries.

What’s your favorite TLT post?  Tell us in the comments.  And thank you so much for being with us this past year and giving us the opportunity and the forum to share our passion for teens, libraries and BOOKS!

In terms of clicks, these are the top 10 posts in the first year of TLT