Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

You Mock My Printz! The 10-1 Book Club

This past October, sixteen freshmen and sophomores got together in their school library, after school, with the express goal of finding the best teen book of the year over the four months that would follow.  It’s a big job, but they had plenty of help on hand: five librarians, four public and one school, that had come together to make the job a fun and easy one.  Recently, I wrote about the benefits of networking with teen services librarians in nearby locations.  This school year, one of my networking projects has been this multi-library book club that began as a combination joint TAB and Mock Printz book discussion group.  The 10 to 1 Book Club meets between October (10) and January (1) and narrows the field from ten books to the one it thinks is the best of the bunch.  It’s been a real success, and we are extra excited heading toward the Youth Media Awards to see how close we came to matching the Printz award and honors books.

It’s not always straightforward to connect teens with the newest, best reviewed fiction.  Library budget and processing cycles mean it may be months before a newly released book makes it onto the shelves.  Heavy course loads and highly demanding extracurriculars limit the amount of time teens have to read recreationally.  Busy teens have difficulties making it to the library between school, sports, extracurriculars, jobs, family responsibilities, and doing that essential teen task: hanging out.  Additionally, we have noticed that while participation may be strong early in the school year, as obligations mount, attendance can dwindle in the springtime.  Our book club took both of these factors into account.  We have structured the group for the teens, making it easy for them to get to the meetings by spreading them around at the four local libraries as well as the school library, and only meeting between October and January.  We have all made a commitment to providing multiple copies of the books, and using displays, and the same bookmarks, posters, and stickers to promote them at all of the libraries.

All involved libraries used uniform signs, spine labels, and bookmarks to highlight the titles.

Choosing the books

In selecting the list, I say it is a balanced selections of contenders because though we are trying to encourage teens to choose the best YA book of the year, we stacked our list in hopes of appealing to a wide range of readers.  We included speculative and realistic, contemporary and historical, guy and girl appeal.  Our list was drawn from our newest favorites, and relied heavily on Karyn Silverman and Sarah Couri’s Someday My Printz Will Come blog and reviews.  From a long list of possibilities, each of us read and previewed and then chose our top twelve.  The votes were tallied to come up with a shorter list, which we then tweaked and balanced based on the interest of our local teens.

Setting the meetings

Understanding that we were asking teens to read above and beyond their schoolwork and hoping they would choose our books for their recreational reading, but knowing that we’d be pushing some out of their comfort zone, we wanted to make the meetings as simple as possible.  The four public libraries are all in communities that feed into one public high school.  Meetings were scheduled roughly once a month, distributed across each public library, with more meetings happening at the school.  We promised to feed them at every meeting, providing lunch at the meeting on the half day of school and at our final meeting, the voting party.

Finding participants

We drew on summer reading participants in the public library, and our amazing school librarian hand delivered invitations to each of her top readers – many of whom made up our group.  We used a uniform flyer for promotion, and branded the program with the same logo at each location to give it more of a presence.  Several of the teens knew one another, but as it is a large school, there were some new friendships formed as well.

Discussing the books

This part was a cake walk.  Once we provided the list, we invited teens to read any and all of the books on their own schedule, so each meeting was full of teens talking up the books that they had read and persuading one another to read the good ones or skip those that didn’t resonate with them.  Very little guidance on our part was needed, as the teens were wonderfully articulate and informed.  We did have lots of opportunity for readers’ advisory and offering further reading suggestions, and the teens swapped suggestions too.

Our vote

Our final meeting was January 21st.  It was a day off of school, so we meet at a local lunch spot where the librarians treated the teens to lunch, collected their votes, and thanked them for participating by raffling off an autographed copy of Ask the Passengers, which I was fortunate to pick up at the YALSA YA Literature Symposium.  If you think autographed books are appealing to teens, you should have seen the dropped jaws when I held this carrot out to the teens.  Don’t get jaded — ARCs and autographs, Skype chats and simple notes from authors are HUGES to teens who are not as connected to the world of books and authors as librarians are these days.

And the winner was….

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
The two runners-up:
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Every Day by David Levithan

Next steps

Since we are located in the Chicago suburbs, we are hoping to bring some teens to the Exhibits at ALA’s Annual Convention this summer.  Offering the opportunity to meet authors and get galleys was incredibly exciting to our teens, and helped to persuade several to join.  But there are still more ways to keep the teens engaged for the 2-9 portion of the year, such as…

  • involving them in choosing next year’s ten books
  • trying to arrange a Skype chat with winning authors 
  • encouraging the teens to involve their friends with “bring one – get one” incentives with small gift cards to local businesses or first dibs on ARCs
  • getting their feedback on the development of the school’s summer reading list (something that was a big topic of conversation at lunch on the 21st)
  • drawing on their enthusiasm to drive our Summer Reading Clubs (they didn’t know they were actually signing up for a stealth TAB group!)
  • inviting them to review books for our library webpages and blogs.

If you think setting up a Mock Printz for teen readers is beyond your abilities, it’s not.  Invite some other librarians to join you and jump in.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had this year.
Please feel free to share your experiences with teen book groups and Mock Printz programs in the comments.