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Badges? Do we need your stinking badges? Karen and Christie discuss the YALSA initiative to enter into the realm of digital badges

YALSA Discussion

Last week, School Library Journal reported that YALSA was soft launching a project to offer badges to Young Adult Librarians.  If you don’t know about badges, they are a tech trend where you receive a digital display – a badge – that alerts users to the facts that you have demonstrated a skill or knowledge set.  You can learn more about badges here.  What YALSA is proposing is below, excerpted from SLJ:

“To earn a badge in a particular competency area, a participant—regardless of career level or library specialty—must prove his or her knowledge by creating and then posting an original “artifact” to the site, which could be anything from a Twitter professional learning network to a plan for a new program to a video, Braun says. YALSA expects that, to create most of these artifacts, a potential badge-earner will have to work directly with teens and one’s own local community.

The site will offer YALSA members an unprecedented window into what their colleagues are doing, as they will be able to review the posted artifacts, provide feedback, and assess whether a potential badge-earner has appropriately demonstrated skill in a particular competency area. Potential badge-earners will be able to edit and update their artifacts based on the feedback they receive.”

From http://www.slj.com/2013/11/organizations/ala/yalsa/yalsa-badges-aim-to-quantify-youth-librarians-competencies/

What you can do with badges (according to YALSA):

What Does it Mean to Me?

Since badges are virtual, when you earn them you can add them to a variety of web-based spaces. You can:

•       Add badges to a Facebook profile.
•       Include them in a blog on a variety of platforms.
•       Point potential employers to your badge page on the YALSA website.
•       Include badges on your resume.

By displaying these badges in these virtual spaces you will be able to easily and visually inform colleagues, employers, potential employers, and others about your teen services skills and knowledge.  You can also point colleagues in and outside of teen services to the badges so that they too can learn how to best work with teens.

In the long run, the badges will help guarantee that all library staff have the skills and knowledge necessary to provide high-quality services to adolescents.

Christie’s Thoughts: 

I believe in the YALSA competencies- don’t get me wrong. However, I don’t understand how badges are going to help showcase things in a way that are going to be equitable and usable in the library world.

Who is judging these original “artifacts”? I have years of experience, and I share my “artifacts” through this blog, listservs, and other avenues, and I really don’t need someone judging whether or not my programs or ideas have “merit” enough to earn a badge.  Is it going to be a rotating committee? Who’s going to judge who’s qualified to be the judges on this committee? I already went through that to get my master’s degree, and they were doctorate holders. I get judged yearly on my performance reviews on the programs that I do, and the content that I create. And what about the legalities of submitting content created for work (such as those that school librarians do) that are considered work product and thus product of the company that hires them?

What happens when someone judges a project insufficient for a badge- or what happens when someone takes an idea someone already has (pop up makerspaces, for example) and twists it and then submits it? It’s not an original idea because someone already thought of it, but it’s a unique twist because it has their library’s stamp on it.

What about those librarians and library staff (of which there are many) who cannot AFFORD the dues for YALSA? Or for ALA in general? The trend is still going to hiring PART TIME staff for YA positions (if there is a stand alone YA position at all- in my area it is combined into a youth services position) and with salaries stagnant while inflation rises, people are having to make choices between health insurance, car payments, credit cards, student loans, OR association dues. Are these badges available for non-YALSA members? I wouldn’t think so if your badge page is on the YALSA Website.

How many of these badges are there going to be? Is it going to be like collecting ribbons at conferences- see how many you can until you trail them to the ground?

Wouldn’t my job experiences on my resume count more than virtual badges? I don’t know how many employers would put stock in I earned “developed appropriate relationships with teens” badge on my resume, but I know tons that would appreciate the programs that I build with my teens.

Do you earn badges through YALSA courses and webinars? If I have the extra money to attend preconferences, do I get badges as well? Is this going to be another perk for those who have the money?

Karen’s Thoughts:

I am actually a firm believer in the YALSA Competencies.  I think they make a great rubric for employers to assess YA librarians yearly performance, and for YA librarians to do self-assessment.  And I can see where there can be benefits for newer librarians in particular, it’s a quick, easy, and visual selling point.  But as Christie mentioned, there are some definite concerns.

1. What do badges tell you about WHO I am a a librarian and what I am capable of?

Many of us in this profession are seasoned professionals who have spent years building a solid resume, attending a variety of professional development events, and putting together a strong cabinet full of programs, ideas and experiences.  I have done well over 100 programs, delivered over 1,000 booktalks, put together staff training days, presented at state and national conferences . . .  I feel like my resume gives a richly developed portrait of who I am as a librarian, a community mover and shaker, a passionate advocate for both libraries and teens.  Will badges give a good representation of who we are as librarians?  I would love to see this be more fully discussed.

2. Who awards the badges?

I would really like to see more information about the process of being judged by YALSA members who determine whether or not a person’s project is deemed worthy of earning a badge.  What qualifies them to judge in a particular category?  How will YALSA account for things like personal bias, popularity and existing relationships, etc?  I think that this area in particular has the potential for a more fuller discussion because it has the potential for the most problems.   Also, see concern 5 for another part of this issue.

3. Who do we serve?

Librarianship is an interesting profession.  We have state level and national level organizations.  Our local libraries are part of a network of libraries that are working towards common goals – information access – but each local community is unique.  And at the end of the day, our emphasis must be on meeting the immediate needs of our local communities.  Yes, we think big picture, but what works at one library does not work at another and if we make our focus turn more towards national recognition and broad standards, we can forget those in our immediate community that we are tasked with serving.  Some communities are more focused on tech right now and building innovative 3D printing Makerspace labs while other libraries are more focused on job support, basic literacy, and providing the most basic of access (often on much smaller budgets than that library with a 3D printing lab has).  Which brings me to point 4.

4. Not all libraries are created equal, are they?

A corollary to number 3 is a simple fact: not all libraries have the same resources, budgets, etc.  So while librarian A may be trying to meet different needs than librarian B, librarian C may be trying to accomplish the same goals as librarian A BUT with a much smaller physical space, number of staff, and/or overall budget.  This is one of the reasons why my Makerspace is a rolling cart full of LEGO and Duct Tape while another library’s consists of remodeling an actual section of the library to create a 3D printing lab.  Both are completely legitimate ways to meet the same needs and accomplish the same goals, they just utilize different tools to get there.  I want to make sure that people who are creating “artifacts” to receive badges are able to create artifacts that they can actually use in their local communities – I’m practical that way – and that those artifacts will not someone be judged less worthy because they are coming from a system with less money and resources.  We already see shades of this when we look at who makes things like the Movers and Shakers list, when we discuss innovative libraries, etc. – we tend to reward systems with more resources and flashier projects and not acknowledge the amazing though seemingly simple things that smaller, less well funded libraries do with way less resources.  What steps will the badging process take to make sure that we aren’t comparing apples to oranges but making sure all involved look at individual projects?

5.  Is YALSA membership a requirement?

This is a huge issue that concerns me.  As a librarian, I am very much about the FREE AND EQUAL access to information.  I also understand that there are finances tied into that.  I like to get paid, and I would love to get paid an actual livable wage.  So yes, in order for us to have a national professional organization, there must be money tied into it.  But, participation in ALA/YALSA can not be a requirement for something that may determine whether or not someone gets a job like badges.  I will use myself as an example.

I have been a member of YALSA in the past, but I am not now and for one very simple reason: I can not afford the various membership fees.  Two years ago we moved from Ohio to Texas for my husband’s job and in the local area of his job I have only been able to find a part-time librarian job.  I love my job and I love my library, but I work 19 hours a week.  I do freelance work on the side to help supplement my income.  So, while I have a small but reliable steady paycheck, it’s not enough to pay for the gas to commute to work, buy professional clothes, pay for housing, and feed my children and pay dues to a variety of state and national professional organizations.  So I have to make decisions about what to cut: cable TV and dues into national professional organizations are places where I can cut, food and housing not so much.  Which has me concerned: If badges become the standard for professionalism and affect one’s ability to get a job, where does that leave librarians freshly out of library school with low funds, librarians from smaller, underfunded libraries, and people like me whose jobs have been affected by the economy?  I am not clear at this point exactly how the badging process will work, but I think we need to be making sure that all librarians have free and equal access to something that we want to tie their performance into.  If it is the standard we hold for our patrons, then we can certainly hold it for each other. 

So, I am interesting in seeing how this plays out and how these questions will be answered.

See Also: YALSA, going back to school with badges

How I Survived Conferencing with Teens and You Can Too

The other day I talked about how ALA 2013 was going to be a commuter conference for me, and mentioned that I would be bringing teens along for the first time.  All of this contributed to an e..x..h..a..u..s..t..i..n..g weekend, but honestly, I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity and would do it again in a heartbeat.  What’s the tradeoff that makes it so worth it?  Let this picture tell you the thousand words of why:

She met Ellen Hopkins!
Oh my gosh! The teens were so over the moon excited about it all, it was better than Christmas.  In the pic above, she had just met and spoken to an author (Ellen Hopkins) for the very first time.  If you could bottle that excitement and joy, you’d be a millionaire.  

Our trip wasn’t just about hobnobbing with authors and picking up galleys, though don’t get me wrong – that was crazy exciting for these teens.  The six teens I brought to Chicago were there to share their opinions and perspectives about the Best Fiction for Young Adults nomination list
The mic and crowd were intimidating, but the teens shone.
And share, they did. You can view the whole session on YALSA’s blog, or read the Storify of tweets of comments and impressions during the session.   
So how does all of this work exactly?
For the BFYA teen session, be on the lookout for the callout from YALSA this fall for teens in the Philadelphia area for the Midwinter Meeting, and next spring for teens in the Las Vegas area to come to the Annual Conference.  The application process involved describing my teen group and including some reviews and opinions on the nominees from my teens.  It’s helpful to plan ahead if you think you might want to do this so that you have some reviews at the ready when the time comes.  
If you’re not near one of the upcoming conference cities, that doesn’t mean your teens can’t participate in something similar.  You could host a teen book summit with libraries nearby, work to get your teens involved in any reader created selection lists in your state, or play off of the Teen Top Ten nominees during Teen Read Week.  
I was fortunate to have partnered with a school librarian on this endeavor, and she had access and practice in the nuts and bolts of moving teens around.  Permission forms and parent contact was her domain!  We were also lucky to be able to walk and take public transportation to get around, which eliminated a lot of my worry over driving teens around or ensuring that they arrive safely on their own.
Some tips: 
Remind them to bring water and wear comfortable shoes.  
Explain, in as much detail as possible, what you expect from them and what they can expect from the event
Communicate your time table clearly with parents.
Collect cell phone numbers from the teens and give them yours.  This is not a level of intimacy I’m typically comfortable with, but when one of our teens was separated from the group on the Exhibits floor, wow was I glad she had my number and quickly found us!
Plan timing carefully and build in some cushion so you are sure to arrive where you need to be when you need to be there.
Take a deep breath, and have some fun — that’s what your teens are doing!
What seemed most valuable to the teens was being taken seriously.  
Is it possible to convene a teen committee to review potential summer reading titles for the school?  Could you create a yearly Local Favorites list that is similarly teen informed?  If so, what about opening the deliberations on the titles up to the public so that the teens get a wider audience and a chance to demonstrate how informed and thoughtful they are?  Bring in technology too!  You could encourage Vine submissions for teen book votes for a barrage of six second platform videos that could loop on your website or in the teen lounge.
The author connection
Truth: meeting authors and getting galleys was a HUGE draw for our teens.  We were fortunate enough that Simon & Schuster and Penguin both hosted events that teens were invited to, which lead to  signings and conversations with Ellen Hopkins, D.J. MacHale, Julie Berry, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.  Visiting the Exhibit floor got the crew up close and personal with Frank Beddor too.  This was big (see photo above if you’ve forgotten already how amazing it was for teens to meet an author).  But Annual is not the only place to meet an author.  For many of us, hosting an author event at our own library is simply cost prohibitive.  But partnering with other local public and school libraries might make it possible.  
Frank Beddor, author of Looking Glass Wars
Don’t limit yourself to the library world either.  Check out your local book stores for author signings and coordinate a trip for a handful of teens.  Be on the lookout for smaller regional conferences and events.  Here’s the deal: one thing librarians can offer even the most jaded teens is access.  We offer them access to information and resources, books and their authors.  Staying connected to the book world around you and enables you to extend that information to your teens.  You become the conduit through which they can delve even deeper into their favorite books, and forge connections to other teens who share their interests.  
Teens from several library groups connected and immediately bonded over books.

How do you work to connect teens with authors and the larger book world?  Have you hosted authors that work easily with libraries?  Taken teens to author signings?  Escorted them to conferences and events?


Happy Hour? When what we do is different than what we say we do

In case you missed it, Heather, Karen, Robin and I were on Twitter on Thursday night (and on email too but you can’t see the emails, poor you because they had way more sarcasm and snark) discussing the YALSA Happy Hour that will be going on in Chicago. 

Disclaimer: Heather and I are members of YALSA and have been since library school. Karen is an on again and off again member as finances allow.  We have worked on a variety of YALSA committees. We are BIG YALSA supporters here on Teen Librarian Toolbox!

The problem we’re having is not the Happy Hour.  Meeting and mingling and drinking with YALSA people is awesome and should be done more often – let’s start local meet-ups!  Our problem is with the evening’s “entertainment.” 

(Screen capture from the YALSA blog as of 6/22/2013 8:15am CDT):

Now, I know that the YALSA Office, President & Board always work hard to do fun things when the conferences and meetings come into town, and it’s a huge job. Trying to find a place to hold all of us is hard, trying to find a time that doesn’t conflict with the majority of YALSA meetings, and the things that we know in advance that publishers are doing is difficult, and trying to balance that with the non-existent budget and the fact that everyone is spread everywhere in the hotels all just makes you want to pull your hair out.  We appreciate the work YALSA, President Jack Martin, and the Board do.  Really.

Here’s where I have issues with the whole message coming across in this.


First, there’s the inconvenience.  Everyone’s coming from conference things on Saturday, so you want us to either wear what we’re going to wear to the fashion show ALL DAY, or run to our hotel and change then come to the fashion show. Um, yea. Then, there’s the fact that anyone who’s not local is going to have to PACK special clothing to be in the categories (because I don’t know a lot of people who wear GALA attire to conferences- actually, I don’t wear anything that would remotely fit any of the four categories to conferences, but that’s beside the point).  Karen doesn’t even own anything that resembles gala attire because she can’t afford it on a librarian’s salary.

Second, and most importantly, you’re telling me that AFTER I go to all this trouble, someone is going to go around and pick the best of the best based on appearance, and that if my appearance isn’t good enough, we’re all gonna know it in the extra special round. Now, I spend a LOT of time and energy telling teens that the need to work on their self esteem and not let their looks (and what they were born with) make them feel second best. That is part of what we do as teen specialists. We are on the battlefield of diffusing the hurt and confusion from bullying and name calling, and trying to stem the tide of suicidal thoughts, cutting, and other self harm because of body image issues, and yet my organization wants to have their event so that we can show off the best dressed and the prettiest, because that’s what a fashion show is.

Third, you’re stepping all over Librarian Wardrobe, which is actually fun and interesting and breaking ground, and something people opt into specifically because they are interested in the fashion angle. I wanted to go to the one in Anaheim last year but didn’t make the conference due to surgery recovery and hope to make their event this year.


I have nothing against drinking. I had a lovely time in college, did a number of bar bands (going around the night before games to the local bars and performing for alumni), I have wine with dinner, and I currently have limoncello and some other alcohols in my fridge. 

BUT.  Let’s look at the last line again:

Remember to bring plenty of cash for the bar. That way when Jack taps YOU to participate in the fashion show, you’ll be able to say an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Expect FUN and HAPPINESS at this always-exciting YALSA event!

I’m guessing it’s really trying to be a cute way of saying it’s a cash bar so bring money, but it comes across as slimy and gross and fits right into all the wrong things that we’ve been pointing out here on TLT. It acknowledges that we’re uncomfortable being judged on our appearance!  It points out that under normal circumstances, professional women and men aren’t tapped by the President of their professional organization for reasons so surface and irrelevant to the work we do.  It comes across like this:

Be liquored up so that when the President of the association comes around to tap you, you can say yes without any hesitation because now you’ll agree to do stuff you wouldn’t if you were sober!   


Heather pointed out that this is at least the second time IN CHICAGO that YALSA has had a fashion-themed Happy Hour. We are supposed to be the creative people- where IS that creativity?!?!?! I talked with That Guy this morning, and we came up with a list of things that could get people pulled up to award prizes that would involve little/no effort for bring materials and still make a Happy Hour fun. (forgive if they get geeky- That Guy was working, and I am off today, so we go to the engineer side a little)

  • Best Use of the Color Cerulean
  • Best Use of Scarves
  • People with Prime Numbers of Nametag Ribbons (those association ribbons people tag onto their badges like flags)
  • People with n Letters in their Names, where n is a perfect square (16 letters, 25 letters, etc)
  • People who are named after literary characters
  • People who dress after their favorite literary characters
  • People holding a book (not an ARC)
  • People holding an ARC (not a book)
  • Most extravagant shoelaces
  • Dress as your favorite author
  • People dressed as Doctor Who companions (could actually be anyone but the person choosing could say a Doctor quote and see if the person would actually go with them- thereby being a Doctor’s companion)
  • Most shocking/tasteful/colorful SOCKS
  • Best use of skulls
  • Best use of the current Collaborative Summer Reading Theme
  • Twitter/Blog bingo- make up cards with YALSA members twitter/blog info, and then people have to go around finding those people to win prizes
Or, ya know, we could do what other associations within ALA, or other non image based professional organizations do. Go to a location (bar, coffee shop, restaurant), rent out the back room, ask for donations, serve hors d’oeuvres, charge for drinks and let people pay for their own real food, invite the authors who are in town to come join us, and have a good time.  No demeaning gimmicks required.

Heather’s note: 

Am I a killjoy?  Probably.  But WOW am I tired of the librarian conversation rolling back around to what we as librarians wear & how we present ourselves physically.  The YALSA Happy Hour is probably the biggest regular informal gathering of YA librarians in the country.  I’m disappointed that we’ll spend it talking about how we look or don’t look — even in the professional attire categories that are listed — instead of what we do.  

What we do is exciting and diverse and innovative, and we can learn so very much more from one another than where we bought that scarf.  I would love to see YALSA focus the Happy Hour on encouraging the kind of sharing that is possible when you get a whole bunch of us together, and I’m disappointed in this focus on image.  

So hey, YA librarians out there – I don’t care what you’re wearing.  Are you comfortable?  Are you approachable?  Are you, um, not smelly?  Then I say you’re dressed just fine.  Let’s not further sort ourselves by those who match the folks on stage and those who don’t.  That is not what our profession is about.  I want to hear how you connect with your teens, what the last book was that blew you away, which app you can’t stop telling people about, how you handled that horrible situation at your library the other day, what that teen said to you that had you crying tears of joy the whole way home.  I didn’t get into this profession for the comfortable shoes or the cardigans, the colorful hair or the tattoos, the punny t-shirts or the tote bags.  Did you?

Karen’s Note:

I spend my time telling my teens that you are more than how you look.  That “It Gets Better.” That women and men are equal.  Now I am going to go to a professional conference where apparently I will be an unwitting participant in a fashion show, just by showing up.  This is part of everything that I preach against (even in jest or fun, because we can find ways to have fun that don’t emphasize looks or dress).  And to make it even worse, a man (YALSA President Jack Martin) gets to choose who will or won’t be in the fashion show.  That’s right, once again a man is deciding who is worthy.  I am sure that Jack is an awesome guy, but I am tired of living in a world where guys are the deciders, where looks, dress and appearance are primary motivators, and where a gathering of young adult librarians seems to focus on a message radically different than the message we are (I hope) preaching to our teens.  We spend enough of our lives worrying about whether or not we look right or “good enough”, having anxiety about whether or not we will be chosen (you remember picking teams in PE, right?) – I don’t want to pay to go to a conference with my PEERS and have to worry about these things all over again, as an adult.  As everyone tweeted about who wore what at the Oscars this year I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why aren’t we talking about these actresses accomplishments in the arts as opposed to judging what they wear?”  That’s what I want you to judge me by, my accomplishments as a librarian, not whether or not I have an awesome gala outfit.  

Things I Never Learned in Library School: The Backside of Being Involved

Librarians are unique in that they get to their degrees in a variety of different ways. Not everyone steps to their master’s right after undergrad- I know I didn’t, and I wasn’t the only one in my courses who took a roundabout path, either. That Guy and I married right after our undergrad graduation, and we moved to Texas for his job, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I was able to enroll into a MLS program. I was on a commuter schedule, and so were all of my MLS classmates- we didn’t stay on campus, we all drove, so there wasn’t that band of activities that I had had during undergrad and I missed it. There were study groups, and groups of friends that got together, and we had our GLISA (Graduate Library and Information Studies Association- our student chapter of the ALA), but that was it. And I had been a student member of ALA, and a member of our state association, and going to the state conferences for the library job I was in all during my master’s degree, but none of this membership or attendance was really active.

When I graduated, I got my first job with my degree in hand, and then wondered, what do I do now? I had my job, but I wanted to do more with the professional community.

I have to credit my library’s administrator with getting me involved in ALA. He sent out an email to people detailing information about The Amelia Bloomer Project, and I cleared it with him and my manager at the time, and with their OK I sent in my resume and information. Lo and behold, I was accepted, and served on that committee for a number of years. Since then, I’ve been on a variety of committees for YALSA (including the Midwinter Institute in San Diego, and will be serving on Teen Tech Week), I’ve co-chaired The Amelia Bloomer Project, and I am chair this year for The Rainbow Project. But I wouldn’t have even known where to start within the professional organizations without their help.

Getting involved with committee work has been incredibly rewarding to me. I’ve made a ton of friends, some family, and a lot of connections that I would never have made otherwise. It has brought me out of my shell, and made me a better librarian and manager because of it. Do I think I would be where I am now if I hadn’t gotten involved in committee work? Possibly. However, I know that I wouldn’t have had a number of opportunities to meet and form personal relationships with authors and other librarians around the country if I had just attended conferences.

Getting involved is important because we *can* and *do* make a difference. There are ways to get involved that fit any budget, large or small or non-existent (trust me, I’ve been there). 
The first thing to do is to take a look at yourself- really know what it is that you want to do, and what your limitations are within yourself and within your position. 

  • Do you have the commitment to read an insane amount of a specific type of books over the year, and talk about them fully without getting your feelings hurt?  Book committees, no matter what the type, can get personal without people ever meaning to.
  • Do you have the backing of your boss and your administration? Will they honor the commitments that you have to make to attend conferences? If not, investigate virtual committees.
  • Do you have the personal time to devote to a committee? We don’t know about family emergencies, but will your significant other / family get upset if there’s a chat every Wednesday night or you *have* to read and comment on a certain number of books before Halloween, or you have no sleep a certain week of the year due to a presentation or a lost author contact?
  • Can you keep yourself organized and your work life, personal life, and professional life separate?
  • Do you have the finances to keep up with your commitment? If you’re thinking about an ALA committee, you’re not only looking at the ALA dues and the section dues; if you have to go to conferences you have the registration, travel, food, and housing as well. If you’re thinking about a state committee, the cost can be the same or higher. Does your position allow you to get paid back for any of it, or is it all coming out of your pocket?
  • Do you think you want to blog? Do you have access to a computer, and to books/materials that you want to blog about? Do you have a thick skin?  Things can get pretty nasty at times with comments and criticism.
  • Have you thought about doing something outside of your current wheelhouse? We know we all love teens, but if you’re feeling punchy look for things in other areas that might interest you- Office of Intellectual Freedom, Social Responsibilities Round Table, GLBT-RT.

Ready to get involved?

  • YALSA does theirs in two groups:  virtual process groups are appointed in the spring, while selection committees are appointed in the fall, so if you’re interested in selection (book committee) work, NOW is the time to get your info in.
  • ALSC has nearly 60 committees that need volunteers, split into seven different groups.
  • GLBT-RT has two book committees taking applications for fall appointments (The Rainbow Project and The Stonewall Awards), as well as other committees that have spring appointments.
  • SRRT has a number of committees, including the Amelia Bloomer Project. To learn more about the committees, contact one of the leaders or attend a meeting and join in.

Friday Finds News Roundup, 4/5/2013

A few things of note this week…

Tweens are having (were having?) beauty contests on Instagram.  Not too surprising, but the grassroots counter movement is certainly worth noting.  A mom ruminates on the issue, and coincidentally I spotted this piece this week too, “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life“.

One of my favorite recent professional development conversations, the #readadv Twitter chat, now has a blog.  This is great, because there has been many a Thursday night that I’m in the weeds and can’t participate.  I’m hoping this will help the conversations continue throughout the interim weeks as well.

Let’s connect teens with books!  YALSA has a few ways – their Books For Teens program is accepting applications, and if you’re near Chicago, you and your teens can get free Saturday exhibits passes for ALA Annual this June by participating in the Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Session.

Speaking of Chicago, we lost a great Chicagoan this week with the death of film critic and thoughtful human, Roger Ebert.  Jennie at YAReadingList.com has put together a list of books about teens who love movies in his honor.  If you have a hand in ordering movies for your library, please check out the offerings from Ebertfests past and present, which highlighted some of Mr. Ebert’s favorite, often overlooked films.  He understood, as many of us do, the incredible humanizing, unifying, transformative power that creative works can  have in peoples’ lives.  His quote below, from a 2005 interview on NPR, highlights what we in the teen lit world often say about books:

“If you only see films about people just like yourself, why even bother to go? Because you already know about yourself.  You can only find out about yourself by learning about others.” – Roger Ebert

This is the end of the first week of School Library Month.  A big shout out to our school librarian readers from all of us at TLT!  Thanks for all you do for your students and communities and for contributing your expertise in so many ways!  I spotted this great and growing wiki project that addresses school and public library partnerships.  Good for all of us to keep in mind.

Happy Friday everyone!


Symposium in six words: Visuals and trust matter; reading’s social.

I was very happy to be able to attend this year’s Symposium in St. Louis. The hotel was right across the street from the Arch, which was thrilling,
and the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott decision began, is what I saw out the window each morning.  The Courthouse was an especially moving place to be. A courtroom had been restored to look like it might have during the case. Walking out of that room to see the sun shining through a skylight – just as Dred and Harriet Scott might have seen as free citizens – after the second case but before the devastating US Supreme Court decision took it away – was very powerful.

Aside from getting a history lesson I wished I had gotten in my own teen years, I learned a lot about what is happening for today’s teens. This was an incredibly useful conference, at which I took copious notes and tweeted like an actual Twitter person.  Instead of rehashing the excellent programs I went to individually, I’ll play off the six word memoir trend with this six word summary of what I learned:

Visuals and trust matter; reading’s social.

To further explicate…
The topic of the Symposium was “Hit Me with the Next Big Thing”, which each speaker interpreted differently. Across the many presentations that I attended or followed on Twitter (hashtag #yalit12 – check it out on Twitter or via Karin Perry’s Storify) I noticed several themes came up again and again, with similar messages approached in different ways.

Visuals matter

Teens are becoming increasingly visual and interested in visuals. They are content creators and use their bodies and adornments to display their taste, interests, and personality and they will expect their books and other library services to meet this higher interactive and visual standard in the coming years.  Additionally, they are comparing their reading material to similar content presented in other media.  If they have two hours, will they want to spend it reading a story, watching it, playing it, or creating it?  The image their reading material presents to others is another consideration.  What message does their own image send when they carry a gritty mystery novel as opposed to a glittery romance or a more ambiguously marked cover – or a PSP or smartphone or tablet?

 Trust matters

We need to develop trust with teens.  We can be amazing resources to them, but only if we first are able to establish an open and trusting relationship.  We need to trust the sources we use to select and recommend material.  We need to trust our teens to suggest or lead programs and services. Trusting authors to lead us in the directions their stories wander will assure us a more authentic experience, free of the limitations of genre, age group, gender designation, or format.

Reading is social

Teens select and read together, increasingly so as technology allows this.  The main way we find out about reading material is through other people.  What you are reading can reflect your social group and how you present yourself within that group. Technology offers us ways to bring our conversations about books into the digital format that is permeating much socialization, and being able to comment on books and book reviews online allows us to open the conversation and keep it honest. Books can bridge differences and bring people together, and the consequence of a lack of diversity in our collection can result in teens hearing us communicate that they do not belong – an undesirable message with potentially devastating consequences. (For more on this concept check out The Relational Reading Revolution and Don’t Underestimate the Value of Twitter.)

Did you attend?  What were your takeaways?  And most importantly — tell me what I missed so we can learn together!