Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CONVERSATION WITH A LOCAL TEEN LIBRARIAN

I could read articles about what’s “hot” for today’s teen readership until my eyes fall out…or I could just go straight to the source! Sarah, a teen and tween librarian located here in Springfield, Missouri, was kind enough to share her thoughts on daily life at the library, how the YA genre has changed over the years, and what teens (and tweens) are grabbing off the shelves…





* Give us a little background—how did you come to be a teen / tween librarian?

I've always been a reader and library goer, but never thought about becoming a librarian. Then one day after college, I was in a job I didn't enjoy and trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I came across a site from the American Library Association called "So You Want to be a Librarian?" I thought "yes I do!" and when I moved to Springfield, looked for a job at the library.

* Describe a typical day at the library—if there is such a thing! What's your favorite (or the most rewarding) aspect of the job?

No day is typical-you never know what the day will bring!:) But I spend my day assisting patrons of all ages, helping with homework, finding books to read, and generally answering any reference question that's thrown my way. When I'm working off desk in the YA area, I'm working on planning programs then running programs, reading up on what books are being released, making an order wishlist and submitting it to our collection development team, updating the teen blog, updating the teen facebook, organizing the YA department, writing up booklists and booktalks, and meeting and talking to the teens that are there that day.


* You come across as a lifelong book junkie (like myself)! What are the main differences between teen bookaholics today and teen boookaholics when (I hate to use this phrase) we were that age? 

I think the biggest difference is the amount of materials they have targeted just for teens. And libraries have become more aware of how important services to teens are and changing. When I was a teen, we had one shelf that was the "teen shelf" at the library-now there's an entire department dedicated to YA. It's a growing genre and there are so many more books to choose from now. More authors are realizing how fun it is to write for teens and more publishers are realizing what a great market it is.


* What are the biggest challenges you face as a teen librarian?


Advocacy!! There are many times I feel like I'm the only one who is passionate about teen services, so it feels like a daily fight at times. It's especially hard when I encounter patrons who don't understand or don't care that we have a space for teens and argue about why they can't hang out and have a meeting there. But I love what I do and I think teens need a space just for them, so I put up with the grumps just for them!


* What timeless themes do you find consistently requested by readers?


I think books about growing up, discovering who you are and navigating life never go out of style. I think YA is popular with teens and adults because there's more hope in the story-adult books tend to be more bleak and depressing and whine about how the world is terrible and life is terrible. That's still there in YA, but there's often more hope in the story. Also, romance never seems to get old.:)

* How do teen readers react to slightly older books? (When I was in junior high, I gobbled Christopher Pike. But now, I look at books like Chain Letter, which is about teens receiving threats in the snail-mail, and I wonder if it doesn't just seem archaic to tech-savvy young adults.)

It really depends on the cover. I have some older books on the shelves that teens will snub, even though it's a great book-the cover is just awful. Publishers are smart though, and they know we often are drawn to a cover first-so they've been re-releasing older books with new titles and covers. And when they've got the updated covers, the teens will check them out. Some books will get an update in the text too and update the language, technology. But I think as long as it's a great story and draws them in, it doesn't matter about the age.


*What type of book do teens seem to be gravitating toward right now? Tweens? What's the attraction?

Romance, adventure and humor seem to be the biggest thing my teens and tweens are wanting. The Wimpy Kid series is popular with tween readers and we can't keep them on our shelves. Same with the Percy Jackson series, which has more of tween and teen fanbase. And paranormal romance still is going strong, although more and more of my teens have moved on from Twilight and are now going for other paranormal books-Shiver, Hush Hush, and Evermore have all been popular.


* How does blogging influence you / help your job?

I read a lot anyway, but with my blog, I can have ready reviews to booktalk to my teens-which is great and very helpful when I have school visits. It also helps when I draw a blank on what I've been reading! I've also noticed that I analyze books more-I think about what it is I like about them, what I think my teens will like about them, who I can give it to, etc. I still read for fun, but there's always a layer of reviewing going through my head.


* What's been the biggest surprise since you became a teen librarian?


I'm always a little surprised about how little people know about the library! I guess I shouldn't be, and maybe I'm different because I grew up going to the library and am from a family of readers. But it always shocks me a little when people are surprised the library has movies and downloadable audiobooks. And they laugh at me or look shocked when I say I'm a librarian-they think I'm too young (I'm 27)! It makes me laugh and gives me a chance to hopefully breakdown the library stereotypes they're thinking of.


Thanks to Sarah—and to all the tireless librarians who spread the love of literature! You can find Sarah’s incredible book blog at GreenBeanTeenQueen, and you can check out the latest for area teens at the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s TeenThing page.

6 comments:

  1. Great interview. Sarah's blog is great, too.

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  2. Wow, this was great to read! I enjoyed it because I'm currently in school to be a librarian. Woohoo!

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  3. This is so weird to me....I'm in Springfield, MO studying at Missouri State University. Does anyone else feel weird when you meet people online who are from your area that you didn't know before? Lol. And I've been following GreenBeanTeenQueen for awhile, but I never knew Sarah was from Springfield! Small world, right?

    I've never actually gone to the Springfield Library. (surprised, right?) I guess my own TBR pile is just so big that I haven't really looked for a library down here. I should probably look into getting a card.

    This was a great interview guys! Especially since it talked about something that was in my area! :)

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  4. Great interview, but I am a bit biased as I am a big fan of libraries and librarians.

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  5. Yay! I LOVE the library.
    This was great. :P

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