Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Introduction: Diversity Discussions with Jayla from LadyBlueJayReads

Today I am very excited to announce a new monthly contributor to TLT, Jayla.  She has been gracious enough to add her perspective as a new librarian to the mix here at TLT.  She has also decided that she would like to start a new monthly column called Diversity Discussions.  So join us the last week of each month for her posts.  
Meet Jayla . . .
Hello fellow librarians and young people advocates! I’m Jayla Parks, a book blogger and future (hopefully) youth services librarian! My journey to librarianship came out of nowhere really. As an undergraduate, I majored in Theater and received credits towards a minor in English. The two English classes that I absolutely loved were the Adolescent and Children’s Literature classes. During my time in college, I also worked at the school’s library and really enjoyed helping people find what they needed and being generally surrounded by books. Toward the end of my time at school, I expressed interest in working with children to one of the reference librarians. His response — “Why don’t you become a children’s librarian?” and I thought “Children’s librarian? That’s perfect!.”
So there you have it. My MLS will be in my hands in May and I couldn’t be more excited about the field I’ve chosen to work in! In the last year or so, I’ve become heavily involved in joining professional organization where there are wide ranges of topics discussed relating to librarianship and youth advocacy.  Now, I’d like to extend my reach to contribute to those discussions! Particular on the topic of diversity.
It’s no secret that diversity in libraries and literature is becoming a hot topic. People want to see more books that represent people just like them. And it’s not a strictly racial issue. Diversity topics include sexual orientation, physical disabilities, and mental disabilities. In the coming months, I hope to present you all with lists, discussions, and ideas that will not only supply diverse populations with the information they need, but also educate ourselves so we can provide tweens and teens alike with solid, colorful information.  

You Know What TLT Needs? A School Librarian!! Introducing our new co-blogger Robin Willis

Our mission is libraries and teen services, but TLT is very public librarian heavy.  Christie and I, although awesome, work for the same library system here in Texas.  Heather works at a public library in Illinois.  And Stephanie works in Louisiana.  She also just had a baby, she is blogging less and changing a ton of diapers (and sewing).  I have been wanting to talk more about school librarianship for a while now, but have to admit that I am not really qualified.  BUT, I talk often online with Robin Willis.  She is a school librarian, and an awesome one.  So I am very excited to introduce her to you here today.  She will be bringing in a MG and younger YA focus for us here at TLT.  She’ll give us some insight into school librarianship.  And she will be doing a weekly link roundup for us on Fridays.  She is passionate about books, reading, tweens and teens and libraries.  Basically, she was born to join us here at TLT.  So, let’s meet her, shall we?   

1) Share your background and experience with us. How long have you been a librarian? Have you always been a school librarian?

Twenty + years ago, I graduated from college with a degree in Religion and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Growing up, I’d never had any particular career ambition – I was too busy reading. I happened to visit a friend who had gone straight from college to Library School, and it was a revelation. Of course! Of course this is what I should do with my life. Looking back, I was remarkably clueless. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science in 1993 into a horrible job market. It took two years for me to find a library position in a small elementary school in Durham, NC. I spent the first three years of my career there, working with students living in abject poverty, in a school system in constant turmoil. It was difficult but rewarding work, and it showed me where I really wanted to go – middle school.

I’ve always enjoyed middle school students. Yes, my friends think I’m crazy. I was finally able to find a position in a middle school in Garner, NC, where I worked for 5 years. Then I was given the opportunity to transfer to a middle school in Raleigh, NC, where I have worked for the last 10 years. 
2) What are your top 5 favorite reads?

Aaaah, so hard! Can I list my favorite authors instead?

I will forever read anything written by Jasper Fforde, and was so excited when he started his YA series The Last Dragonslayer. I’ve been to see him all three times he’s come to speak at my local book store. I’m a bit of an author groupie…

Some other authors I love include: Libba Bray, Holly Black, Shannon Hale, Rebecca Stead, Lish McBride, David Levithan, Rachel Hawkins, Ally Carter, and Sarah Rees Brennan. That’s not nearly all, but I think I should stop there or I might go on all day.

3) What do you think are the rewards/challenges of being a school librarian?

By far, I think the biggest challenge of being a school librarian is helping people understand exactly why you’re there. It can be difficult working for an organization where you are the only person in the building who knows what you are there to do. The other challenges are not so different from those faced by other libraries: falling budgets, diminished staff, the expectation of continually doing more with less.

The biggest reward is working with the students, always. Regardless of the daily struggles I face, I still really enjoy the students. I get to influence their attitudes and opinions about reading. I get to help them do their work, but better, by introducing them to ways into the world of information. It’s a constant source of joy in my life.

4) What do you think are the biggest issues affecting young teens today? 

In the United States, I’d have to say poverty. So many of our students live at or below the poverty line, or within one missed paycheck of it. It has a devastating affect on their ability to perform well in school. As a school librarian, battling the impact of poverty on the lives of students can feel like trying to hold back the tide.

5) How would your middle school students define you if they were writing your bio for you here at TLT?

This could perhaps be summed up with the following quote:

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”
– Louisa May Alcott

My students think I’m a little crazy. How does the phrase go? You don’t have to be crazy to work with middle school students, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Honestly, I hope the students see me as someone who cares about them, who wants to share her love of books and her passion for learning with them.
In closing, I’d like to share my favorite literary quote. I think it explains more about who I am than anything else.

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

– Roald Dahl, Matilda

Robin Willis, MLS

I am a School Library Media Specialist in Raleigh, NC, currently at Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School. I have worked as a school librarian for 18 years, the past 15 in middle schools. Yes, I am one of those odd people who really enjoy middle school aged students! I know this makes me slightly unbalanced in the eyes of the world, but it is totally worth it. I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1990 with a BA in Religion (shout out to current most famous alum, Jon Stewart, who just barely edges out Thomas Jefferson in our nation’s consciousness.) Three years later I received my MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Other than reading, I count cooking and snuggling my friends’ children as top amongst my hobbies. My favorite author is Jasper Fforde; I’ve seen him speak three times at my fabulous local book store, Quail Ridge Books. Although I read a wide variety of novels, realistic fiction and fantasy are my favorite genres. I also enjoy anything with a warped sense of humor (shout out to Captain Underpants!) Some authors currently overflowing my personal bookshelves are Holly Black, Ally Carter, Rachel Hawkins, Libba Bray, Lish McBride, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Rebecca Stead. I will watch anything that has come into contact with Joss Whedon. I’m an avid Nerdfighter and user of social media. I spend way too much time on Twitter and am happiest when I can answer research-type questions from the authors I follow. I live with two very sweet, very spoiled cats. For updates about my cats and pictures of various homemade baked goods, you can follow me on Twitter @RobinReads (a personal account whose opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or TLT.) You can also reach me at robinreads (at) bellsouth (dot) net – although Twitter is probably quicker.

Teen Librarian’s Toolbox 101

Using the TLT
I created the TLT as a way to keep doing what I love to do – create teen programs and RA tools and discuss teen fiction.  Last year I created a Teens Top 10 Trends in Fiction poster which was shared on YALSA-BK and VOYA.com and got a very positive response and you all inspired me to create the Teen Librarian’s Toolbox (TLT).  In a time when many libraries are struggling financially, I am happy to help provide ready made resources for you to use with your teen patrons and staff.  The TLT is for teen librarians who are “short on time, short on money – but not short on passion.”  Please feel free to use any of my tools at your convenience.  If you do use a tool, please consider dropping me a line to let me know how you used it, feedback is good.

RA and Promotional Posters
All of my posters are made in Microsoft Publisher in a size of 18×24 using elements from PowerPoint, Gimp and more.  I then save them as a .jpeg and upload them to box.net for easy download.  You can follow the link to download the files.  If you have a printer that prints 11×17 sheets it will print out as 4 sheets and then you piece them together.  You can also get them printed at places like Office Depot and Office Max.  I have several of them decorating my previous teen area at the Marion Public Library and they print off well.  Since they are a .jpeg you can manipulate the size to your convenience and use them on Web pages, blogs and FB pages as well.

Mini RA Slides
All of my mini RA slides (or one-sheets) are created in Microsoft Powerpoint and saved as a .jpeg.  They are uploaded to FB and you can download them by enlarging the imaging and using the download option provided by FB.  Powerpoint allows for some different capabilities than publisher – like glow text and shape options – that I really enjoy.

The mini RA slides can be printed off as an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet, made smaller to fit into shelf talker frames (I am a big fan of these), etc. to decorate your teen area.  Often your most popular reads are checked out and this is a great way to let teens know you have the titles and recommend similar reads.

The RA slides can also be used in a powerpoint presentation for booktalks, staff development, and more.  I have presented them on a continuous loop on my laptop on for things like open houses and just in the background at programs.  You could also use them in a digital photo frame or computer in your teen area as a promotional devise.

And, of course, they can be uploaded to web pages, blogs, FB and more.  Teens are visual, so give them visuals.

After the great move, I plan on providing pre-packaged programs and include a ready made flyer which you can add your library info on.  I know that this is something that would be of great use to smaller libraries and libraries that don’t have a full-time dedicated teen librarian.

Contact Me

If you have any questions, ideas or needs – or if you want to send me pics and tell me how you used these tools – please feel free to contact me via FB or e-mail me at kjensenmls@yahoo.com