Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: My First Fandom (a guest post by Cindy) (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

Photo used with permission by Sarah Stumpf

One true thing is that you will never forget your first big fandom. Growing up as the weird kid in my school, I loved Beauty and the Beast and I adored L.J. Smith whose books started me on my love affair with reading. Nothing could and will never compare to my love of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I was obsessed to put it mildly. I had watched it off and on during the first season, but it was the second season that hooked me.

‘Becoming’ Part One and Part Two changed everything for me.

It was hard loving something so much, because I knew people who liked the show, but I knew no one who I could really talk to about it. I would have friends who would listen, but I knew no one really understood it. I had trouble finding my tribe. The internet was blooming and I would go on the Bronze, which was a popular message board for the show on the WB website.I was too young to really post and was scared of interacting. I would read as much fan fiction as I could find, which was a lot, but I will always remember feeling like I was annoying everyone around me about Buffy, but honestly I did not care. Buffy made me happy. I was going to talk about it no matter what.

That is what fandom is too me– strongly loving something so much that you just don’t care about what other people think about the object of your fandom or you. This is one reason why we have so many fandom related activities at my library. It gives the teens a place to express their love of something whether it is Hunger Games, Black Butler, or Dr.Who. I want teens to feel like they have found their place and their tribe. Buffy was and is my home.

About Our Guest Blogger:

Cindy Shutts is a Teen Services Librarian at White Oak Library District. She has guest blogged with us before sharing her Divergent library program and a display she put together for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can follow her on Twitter @cindysku

More About Fandoms:

Check out the Fanlore Wiki to learn more about Fandom

Huffington Post: A Complete Guide to the Tangled Web of Teen Fandom

Mtv: Decoding Millennials and Fandom

Style Caster: Teenage Fandom in the Age of Twitter (this takes a specific look at online bullying in the world of fandom)

Robin Brenner presents on Fandom and the Teen World (with resource links provided)

Yes we do, in fact, need negative book reviews

This weekend my Twitter feed was overflowing with discussion about an article that Kathleen Hale wrote in the Guardian this weekend (Do Not Link provided). And while I won’t talk here about the particulars of the article, because many have already discussed it eloquently and thoroughly, I want to discuss one trend I saw repeated over and over again in my timeline in response to this article: PEOPLE SHOULDN’T WRITE NEGATIVE REVIEWS.

That, apparently for some, was the take away. Don’t write negative reviews. This is a dangerous speech suppressing idea and it concerns me greatly. The truth is, we need to be having thoughtful, critical and yes, sometimes negative, discussions about books.

Sometimes books contains negative and harmful gender stereotypes, racial stereotypes, and sexual stereotypes. Sometimes books are misogynistic, participate in slut shaming, or suggest that rape is something other than rape. There are a number of ways that a book may have some type of issue that we should in fact be discussing.

Take, for example, Kathleen Hale’s book itself and one of her issues issue with the review in question. The reviewer said she didn’t like that the book had a problematic rape element yet Kathleen Hale maintains that there is no rape in the book, thus this reviewer must not have even read the book correctly Hale criticizes. Yet there is a teenage character who is revealed to have a sexual relationship with an adult man. This is rape. It is, more specifically a type of rape known as statutory rape. Almost all states have a law which states the legal age of sexual consent is often 16, though sometimes as high as 18. And a great many of these laws further stipulate that the adult that the teen is in a relationship with can not be more than 3 or 4 years older than the teen. The laws vary by state, but by almost all state laws the relationship presented in Hale’s book would legally be considered rape.

And here’s why having that conversation is important. As I read comments about the John Grisham statements of last week, far too many people suggested in those comments that Grisham’s friend shouldn’t have been in trouble for looking at pornographic images of a 16-year-old girl because 16 is the legal age of consent and his 60-year-old friend could legally be having sex with her. The truth is, these commenters were wrong because in a majority of the 50 states there is no scenario in which it is legal for a 60-year-old man to have sex with a 16-year-old girl. And they are further wrong because child pornography laws are a federal law and individual state laws regarding the age of consent are a moot point. You may disagree with the law, but the actions of Grisham’s friend are still illegal and the relationship presented in Hale’s book does technically qualify as rape (several discussions yesterday suggest that yes, I am in fact remembering this book detail correctly). Leaving Hale’s rape in the book unchecked, as I did when I reviewed it because this was before the #SVYALit Project and I had not yet begun thinking so thoroughly about this issue, contributes to the cultural misconception that adult sex with a minor is okay. (See previous posts about the age of consent at The #SVYALit Project)

Or, take for example, Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. This is a book that I overall really liked. However, there was one scene that was very problematic for me and I discussed it at length in my review: “Here’s the deal, it stinks of misogynistic overtones, it is disrespectful and it is downright dangerous,” I stated. In one scene, a boy who works at a coffee shop puts additional spices and such in a girl’s drink because he just really wants to. I discussed in my review how this was problematic because it is a dangerous practice (1 in 12 kids now has some type of food allergy) and because it reinforced what is known as rape culture by suggesting that it is okay to put something in someone’s drink. I think it’s important for us as a culture to be having these types of conversations if we ever want to change the status quo.

Or take for example the book Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin. This is another book that I overall enjoyed but it has a moment of casual racism aimed at what a character calls “Dirty Mexicans”. My service population is 80% nonwhite, with a great number of them being Hispanic, and they face this type of casual racism on a daily basis. These are issues, valid criticisms, I think it is important to discuss.

And here’s another example Cindy mentioned on Twitter:

Social change happens because people stood up and said no, this isn’t right. So this idea that we can’t or that we shouldn’t write negative reviews is alarming. It inhibits not only free speech, but it suggests that we would rather remain in a place of stagnant intellectual growth because we don’t want to think critically or have complex, sometimes difficult conversations.

And the truth is, sometimes you just don’t like a book or a movie or a restaurant and that’s okay to say as well. We all have differences of opinion and I think it is important that we get to talk freely about those. As author Lisa Burstein reminds us in this post about EMBRACING the ugly, not every book is for every reader, but every book is for the right reader.

Some people would even suggest that you should review a book but not attack the author, which in most cases is true. But I also think it’s fair to make stands and say things like, I’m never going to read another John Grisham book because what he said about child pornography is so disturbing to me. The truth is, I think John Grisham will be fine despite my stating publicly that as a consumer I am choosing to exercise my right and not purchase his books for myself (although as a public employee I will of course have to purchase his books for my library because I don’t get to impose my personal beliefs on the patrons that I serve). Mel Gibson still makes movies, Charlie Sheen still is on TV, Chris Brown is still releasing records, and Michael Vick is back on a football team. So while I think we should be careful about how we talk about those who create the art we consume, I don’t necessarily agree that we should never say anything negative about them or the art that they create (though do keep in mind that there are in fact slander and libel laws in place that you’ll want to be aware of). (More about why authors matter here.)

And trust me, I get it: Creating something for the public is a scary endeavor. I have gotten a wide variety of negative feedback on posts I have written, Tweets I have tweeted, etc. I lost a good professional friend who disagreed with an opinion post I wrote who attacked me with screams of “I’m so f’ing pissed at you.” I have been called a “liberal c*nt” and a wide variety of slurs for feminist. Sometimes the negative criticism is soul crushing, sometimes it is terrifying – but sometimes I have engaged in meaningful conversations with someone who had a different point of view and have even changed my mind about some things. If we are approached in the right way and are willing to engage in discussion with those who disagree with us, sometimes we learn new things. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

So I share all of this with you today because I was troubled when so many people on my timeline were suggesting that negative book reviews were a harmful thing. The truth is, suggesting that we can never express a negative or critical opinion about the art in our world is a much more harmful thing. Critical thinking and discussion can lead to tremendous social change. And sometimes, you just really hate a book and want to talk about it in the book community that you have built around yourself, and that’s okay too. And to be honest, sometimes a negative review will get someone to read a book much more quickly than a positive one because some of us are contrarians who don’t like to be told what not to do or we want to read it for ourselves to decide what we think. So let’s talk about books; Let’s talk about them truthfully and passionately as a group of people who just like to dive into the world of story and believe that sometimes – those stories can change our world.

Edited to add the line regarding Lisa Burstein’s post because I think it is a good point.

Why you need to be following the news about Sam Pepper, a discussion of the YouTube community and teen culture

Teen culture and celebrity is dominated these days by a force that many adults don’t pay enough attention to: YouTube. YouTube isn’t just a place where Tweens and Teens go to watch the latest music video, it is producing legitimate stars who make a serious amount of cash. YouTube culture is so big that the press has recently began running articles about how it is changing the way that tweens and teens become celebrities and many awards shows are including social media and YouTube awards in their categories. There are entire conferences devoted to YouTube, including VidCon which was created in part by John Green and his brother Hank.

It is also important to note that to date 18 YouTube celebrities have been accused of sexual impropriety, often against their teen fans that they meed at these very conferences. See also, The DFTBA Sexual Abuse Scandal.

Which brings us to Sam Pepper.

Sam Pepper is a UK YouTuber who is known for pulling of a variety of pranks. As pranks often do, they often cross a line that puts others into uncomfortable and sometimes into unsafe positions. Some of Sam Pepper’s previous pranks have included handcuffing girls to him against their will and demanding a kiss in order to be let loose. In another incident he used a rope to lasso girls and pull them into an embrace with him.

Earlier this week on Twitter the hashtag #ReportSamPepper went viral as Sam had posted a video called the Fake Hand Ass Pinch. Basically, he approached girls and as he engaged them in conversation he used his hidden hand to pinch their bum. As many observers correctly pointed out, this is in fact sexual harassment and it is something that many organizations are working tirelessly to end. See Stop Street Harassment for example.

But as the rallying cry went out against Sam Pepper, he produced another video with the notation that it was 2 of 3, although it is interesting to note that the original video included no such notation indicating that it was part of a series. In this video, women did the same thing to men.

[Read more…]

Take 5: YouTube 24/7

If you spend any time with Tweens, you know that they are obsessed – OBSESSED – with YouTube. And Vine and Instagram. But seriously, YouTube. When The Tween’s friends come over their favorite thing to do is sit around and watch YouTube videos. YouTube – and social media in general – is so popular that the Teen Choice Awards recently added several categories giving out awards to a new type of star that has circumvented traditional pathways to superstardom. 

And although there are some legitimate concerns about tweens and teens using social media, particularly about things like online privacy, digital footprints and online bullying (cyberbullying), social media is also allowing teens to be creative, learn technology skills, think proactively, and take initiative. 

Here are a few YouTubers that are super popular, and you can find a full list of the Teen Choice Award social media nominees at SugarScape to get more information on who is popular right now.


Bunny goes by the handle Grav3yardgirl. She is a woman in her 20s (almost 30s) who shoots a variety of YouTube videos including a segment called Follow Me Around and Does It Really Work. For the follow me around segments, she literally goes into a store and you follow her around. And for the does it really work segment she tests out various products to see – you guessed it – if it really works. Here she is testing out the Soda Stream product:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nul0L4itTa0]

Bethany Mota

Bethany Mota is a teen and fashion blogger from California. She is so popular she has a line of clothing at Aeropostale and she recently guest judged on Project Runway. I know this because we watch PR every week and as they panned over the guest judges The Tween squealed, I think that’s Bethany Mota. She was instantly recognized. You can visit here channel here.

Ricky Dillon

The Tween and her best friend are in lurve with Ricky Dillon in the same way that many others are screaming over 5 Seconds of Summer and One Direction. He was one of the award winners at the Teen Choice Awards. You can see his YouTube channel here.

Jack and Jack

Jack and Jack are teenage comedians who were recently featured on the Teen Choice Awards. They have a draw bigger than many of the music and film stars that the media celebrates. You can see their YouTube channel here.

Challenges, challenges everywhere

I know the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has kind of taken the world by storm, but the truth is challenges of all sorts are kind of a big deal on YouTube. This is how The Tweens in my library spend their time, doing the challenges and watching them. There is a smoothie challenge, where you mix gross things together and have to drink it. The blindfold make-up challenge, which is all the rage in my household. You basically blindfold yourself and put make-up on someone. Yes, even I have been on the receiving end of an epically bad make-up. If you do a YouTube search for the word “challenge” a big list will come up. Abandon your fear and put some tarps on the library floor and you could have a challenge day at the library. But if the weather is nice, I recommend going outside. Seriously, some of them can get messy and a lot of them require being willing to trustingly allow others to put gross food in your mouth.

This is what happens when you do the Blindfold Make-Up Challenge on your 5-year-old sister

There is a new documentary out called Instafame: A Documentary About A Teen’s Relationship With Social Media Fame that highlights the way ordinary teens are rising to fame quickly and in nontraditional ways thanks to the reach of social media. There is a lot of attention in the press about the sudden rise of social media fame among teens, which is definitely something I am paying attention to both as a parent and a librarian. The Tween and her friend spent the night brainstorming recently about starting their own YouTube channel. I eventually told them they could do crafts from books to see if the instructions were easy to follow on this blog and that they had to use nicknames. They spent the rest of the night coming up with names, mascots, etc. It will be interesting to see if they will follow through or if they move on to the next trend quickly.

And although I spend a lot of time telling The Tween to put down her phone and go outside and play, I keep reminding myself that I used to spend an inordinate amount of time watching MTV to see which video would come on next. And yes, I am old enough to remember when MTV still played music videos. So I guess I’m not freaking out about watching YouTube too much, because everything I see these tweens doing I know we did it all before, just in slightly different ways. 

What are you tweens and teens obsessing over on YouTube? Share in the comments.

Why Isn’t Katniss Everdeen Nominated in the MTV Best Hero Category? A reflection on the role of women in the movies

Look, no one is expecting the Oscars when it comes to the MTV Movie Awards. And in the history of MTV it is no secret that it is often unkind to women, at least it reflects the world’s often unkindness towards women. In fact, in the music world more than anywhere you can often see the sexualization and objectification of women more clearly. I mean, that’s why almost all female pop music stars (and female back up dancers) are overly sexualized while the men get to keep their clothes on while they sing. Seriously, rewatch this past year’s Grammys and note how many men sang completely clothed – often in suits – and how many women sang in some form of bra/panty swimsuit looking get up. Yes, you may argue it was their choice, but how much of that choice is being put upon them by our cultural expectations and influence and how much of it is a genuine expression of who they are? It’s an interesting question that I ponder a lot.

So the MTV Movie Award nominations shouldn’t surprise me, but they do disappoint me.

Let’s look for a moment at the Best Hero nominees:
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — “Man of Steel”
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man — “Iron Man 3”
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Chris Hemsworth as Thor — “Thor: The Dark World”
Channing Tatum as John Cale — “White House Down”

You know who is missing? Katniss Everdeen from Catching Fire. Or any other woman. Can women not be heroes?

Read more about the reaction to Katniss’ exclusion at The Wrap

 A woman did, at least, get nominated in the best villain category:

Barkhad Abdi — “Captain Phillips”
Benedict Cumberbatch — “Star Trek into Darkness”
Michael Fassbender — “12 Years a Slave”
Mila Kunis — “Oz The Great and Powerful”
Donald Sutherland — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

You know who I think is missing? Rinku Kikuchi playing the witch in 49 Ronin. Although it is possible that I am the only person on Earth who saw this movie and thus knows that she was an awesome villain. What can I say, I am a dedicated Keanu Reeves fan.

But don’t worry, a woman did get nominated in the best shirtless category. That woman would be Jennifer Aniston. Of course society does view a shirtless woman quite differently than a shirtless man, just ask any of the number of women who are trying to breastfeed their babies in public and are asked to cover up.

Jennifer Aniston — “We’re the Millers”
Sam Claflin — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Leonardo DiCaprio — “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Zac Efron — “That Awkward Moment”
Chris Hemsworth — “Thor: The Dark World”

And one woman is nominated in the best on-screen transformation category.

Christian Bale — “American Hustle”
Elizabeth Banks — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Orlando Bloom — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Jared Leto — “Dallas Buyers Club”
Matthew McConaughey — “Dallas Buyers Club”

In fact, if it is not a category designed specifically FOR women – say best actress – it appears to be a 1 woman to 4 nomination ratio, with a few exceptions in the best cameo and best scared as shit performance. Make of that what you will.

It’s no secret that like most industries, Hollywood is still dominated disproportionately by men. Did you know that Frozen is the first animated Disney movie to be directed by a woman? Actually, although women make up around roughly 50% of the population, there are very few female movie directors. Only 4 women have ever been nominated for a best director Oscar in 84 years.  There are very few female led or mostly female movies. And there is only 1 female Avenger in the movie and she has absolutely zero super powers.

I have a friend who was recently watching The Ghostbusters with her two daughters and the oldest one asked, “How come there are no girl Ghostbusters?” What’s sad is that as a kid, I never thought to ask that. We have been conditioned to accept that the girl will of course be the lobby receptionist while the boys are the scientists who develop the equipment and go out hunting for ghosts. Maybe that’s why many people think it is okay to overlook Katniss Everdeen in the hero category, despite the fact that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was a huge box office success and Katniss kind of rocks.

You can see a complete list of the MTV Movie Award Nominees here.

Also, I’m totally serious about the dedicated Keanu Reeves fan. I recently commented to my husband that we had been together over 20 years and his response was, “That’s a lot of bad Keanu Reeves movies I have seen out of love for you.” Thanks honey!


All the Sherlock Week posts in one place for you to easily get to them.

MG Lit Reading List for Sherlock Fans
YA Lit Reading List for Sherlock Fans
I am Sherlocked Program Outline/Craft Ideas
Discussing The Woman: Irene Adler
Discussing Sherlock Fanfiction
A Newbie Talks Sherlock and Elementary
Sherlock and the Case of the Diversity Problem
The Curious Case of the Doctor’s Wardrobe
On Loving Two Different Sherlocks, a guest post by…
On the BBC’s Sherlock: A Study in Character, a gue…
Sherlock Week: On Moriarty, a guest post by Jayla
A Newbie’s View on Sherlock, from guest poster Mar…
Sleuthing the Sleuth: Discussing The Sherlock Holm…
A Sherlock Holmes Themed Community Reading Event, …

TTW: Pop goes the information, everything you wanted to know about pop culture

Did you hear – Justin and Selena broke up?  Sound the alarm! This is just one bit of recent pop culture news that you needed to know about.  Not because you care, but because you work with teens and let’s face it – some of them care.  I know who One Direction are, who Rob and Big is, and more.  Some of it I even care about.  Some of it I just know enough to be able to acknowledge its existence in the life of my teens.

At the same time, the number of magazines in my teen area are dwindling, going out of publication.  (I still miss you Sassy magazine!)  More and more teens are getting all their information online.  To be honest, I do, too.  So here are some of my favorite sties to help me serve my teens.  Please share yours in the comments.

A part of Entertainment Weekly online, this is hands down my favorite pop culture blog.  Sometimes they focus heavily on certain trends (don’t go there right now if you don’t like Twilight).  It doesn’t focus on teen content exclusively, but they get plenty of attention there.  Check out the right side bar for picture slideshows.  And do remember to click on there Shelf Life feature as it features a lot of YA.

Just Jared, Jr.
Yes, there is a Just Jared Sr. Although it doesn’t call itself that, it’s simply Just Jared.  Just Jared Jr. focuses on young hollywood celebrity news.  Be sure to check out their partners by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.  They team up with other pop culture websites like Cambio, Wetpaint, PopCrush, and TooFab.com.

Want to know what teens care about pop culture wise? Teen.com is a great resource.  And here is my tip, scroll down the the bottom where they have links for a slew of similar websites.  Even just glancing at the headlines will give you a heads up about what your tweens and teens are thinking about.

Bop and Tiger Beat
I spent a ton of years skipping lunches so I could spend my lunch money buying the newest issue of Bop and Tiger Beat, but now you can just visit them online.  Think of all the hunger I could have avoided.  You can still subscribe to the actual magazines if you want to rip the posters out and decorate your wall.  What, you totally know you did that.  Keep in mind that most of your in-house teen magazines have a pretty well developed online counterpoint, and they often have great quizzes and such to share with your tweens and teens.

Mashable is a great way to keep up on all things tech related.  And as a bonus, they share things like25 Clever Twitter Keyboard Shortcuts and those funny memes that are great for passing along to your teens via your social media.

Alloy entertainment
Alloy was really popular for a while selling clothing.  Then they moved into publishing books.  Over the years they have built a very extensive online community.  They have fun quizzes (you know what I am going to say – great to share on your social media sites), celebrity news, and more.

Coming soon.net
Get announcements on movie rights that have just been purchased, see on set pictures, and get a first look at trailers.  This is great information to share with your teens on your varous social media pages.  Also check out Variety online, Vanity Fair online, and Zap2It

Aint It Cool News
This is geek news in all of its glorious geekery – we’re talking sci fi, fantasy, and comic book goodness.

They may not show videos any more (a brief moment of silence), but they are still connecting with teens.  They have a variety of shows that teens love, including Ackward and (shudder) Jersey Shore (which is coming to an end).  They also have some fascinating news shows including True Life, which shows teens and young adults living a variety of interesting lives.  Even if you don’t watch the shows, check out their webpage occassionally and get the 411 on teen life.

Rookie began as an online blog of a teen, and now that teen – Tavi Gevison – is considered a fashion expert, or so they told me on a recent episode of Project Runway where she was a guest judge. Rookie is a very cool online zine created by a teen, I think she is still a teen, and if you aren’t reading it, you should be.

Bonus Site: Ypulse.com
Ypulse is not a pop culture site, but it is a tremendously useful site that looks at trends among the Ygeneration and talks about marketing to them. I highly recommend it.