Anna Ruhs, Starkville Public Library, MS
Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for Libraries and for the outstanding Librarians serving Children and Young Adults in Schools and Public Libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest Anna Ruhs YA Librarian at the Starkville Public Library in Mississippi.
In just 3 years Anna has raised the circulation from 50 YA books a month to currently over 600 YA books a month! How did she do it? “By moving and expanding the collection to a more inviting part of the library created a teen hang-out spot that our city didn’t really have.”
Anna used a few Wild incentives. “All of my teens think I’m crazy. Last year, as a reading incentive, I told my teens that if they read a huge number of books, I would let them cut my hair off! About twenty teens read over six hundred books in two months, and they celebrated by buzzing off my hair at our end of the summer party.
After my hair was buzzed off last summer: Teen said: “You look so very goth. But without the goth.” Me: “You mean my short hair?” Teen: “Yeah, except you’re not wearing black and you’re happy.”
What I love most about my work is what I wanted as a teen—I am able to find books that teens actually want to read and provide a place that is specifically for them. Helping a teen find a book and a niche is incredibly rewarding, especially when he or she goes from “I don’t like books” to “Do you have any new books? I’ve read all of these!”
We all have to work double duty at the library, so one day while I was working at the circulation desk, an older gentleman came in and asked for a book of poetry. When I asked him what kind of poetry he wanted, he laughed and asked me how many kinds there were. Then he asked for “chicken poetry.” I thought that was strange, but I actually started looking for “chicken poetry” when I realized that he meant poultry. I’m pretty sure he thought I was insane!
~Teen: “Tubular is like awesome, but like in surfer talk.”
~Teen: “I really need to wear glasses, but I don’t because I don’t want to. That’s why I’m such a good actress.”
~While playing a game during book club: Teen: “I don’t get it. Why would we look for the ghost if we don’t want it to get us?” Me: “It’s just a game.” Teen: “But it isn’t true to life.”
A Lion’s Pride of Programs:
We keep our library busy with both children and youth programs all year round. I have two regular teen book clubs that meet year round. One is a “classics” book club (we use the term “classics” pretty loosely), and one is a sci-fi/fantasy book club. The teens pick what we read, and we meet every week for discussion and fun! Our summers are jam-packed with two teen book clubs, two library events, and a books-to-movies club every week. I usually collapse after July is over!
One of my most popular summer programs is my annual Henna Tattoo Program with a talented local artist named Lisa Rickels.
I also partnered with our local Barnes & Noble for a Mad Hatter Tea Party program, during which the teens made hats and tasted different types of tea.
During a Surf ‘n’ Spray(paint) art program, teens designed surfboards, experimented with spray paint and water, and popped water balloons full of paint on a large piece of drywall.
I do my best to find out what teens want to read instead of pushing something on them. I’m honest about the books I’ve read. Teens take my opinions more seriously when I’m not trying to tell them that I love every single book in the library!
I also communicate with students at the schools in the area, use library facebook profile, and a library twitter. Facebook is the most effective because of the level of interaction it allows, and teens can get their friends to come to library programs by showing them pictures and events on my facebook profile.
Readers Roar: What are your Teen Readers saying?
~“Before I started going to book clubs I was super shy. Getting into the library and meeting some of the people I now call friends really helped.” –Becca, Grade 11
~“Books are my escape from this world. Without them, I would lose my mind. I have to read a little every day or else I feel like I’m trapped by reality and I can’t be creative.” –Sarah, Grade 12
Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?
~The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Teens really connect with this book. The characters are believable, and the plot keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Guys and girls find Katniss’s dilemma appealing, and they often have very serious discussions about which of the male characters she should choose. The third installment in the series comes out at the end of the summer, and it’s probably one of our most requested books right now.
Teen Review:“The Hunger Games is a chilling dystopic novel with a subtle basis in Greek mythology. Katniss is a not-quite-ordinary girl living under the reign of the All-Powerful President Snow. When Katniss is selected for the Hunger Games, she determines to be not just your ordinary girl.”–Magdalen, Grade 7
~The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer. Vlad Tod is a funny and engaging character. It’s a great series for many of my teen, who are often looking for vampire books that aren’t primarily romance stories.
~Bleach by Tite Kubo. In general, manga is doing really well in our library right now because we recently received a large grant to purchase a lot of new titles. Bleach is probably the most popular of the manga series we currently have in circulation.
Library Lion’s Roar:
Libraries are incredible places! Through my library, teens who might never have socialized together (or with anyone) have found a place and a group of friends. Getting teens to read books they love now keeps them reading later; I have “graduates” of my YA programs who still come by to visit and talk about books and life! I think librarians are an incredible group of individuals who love books and people, and find a great deal of joy in bringing the two together.
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Thank you, Anna for your terrific interview!
Win a new paperback copy of Stealing Death.
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WOW – what great stuff you’re doing at your library! Those teens are so fortunate to have you, your enthusiasm and guidance, and a place to love books (and make friends!) I think we adults underestimate how few places teens actually have to interact socially that are non-commercial and positive – Libraries are an absolute good for teens, and frankly, for all of us!
I agree, Lee, Anna has created an outstanding program for teens. How many librarians set incentives like letting the teens shave their heads? That’s going out on a limb. Congrats to Anna for her ongoing service and lucky teens who congregate at Starkville public library
This is so inspiring! It gives me hope about writing for teens.
Whoa, yay for the good work, Anna, in Starkville. I spent part of many of my childhood summers just south of you in Louisville, MS. I’m actually a descendant of General John Stark who your town is named after. I’ve got deep roots in your corner of the world.
It was sad to read that kids were only checking out 50 books a year. I mean they are from Mississippi. The great story tellers of planet Earth come from Mississippi. You are my hero for waking them up these kids to who they are. I’m so glad you are connecting them with books. I’m so excited you created a place and community for kids to dig into story. Kudos!
I have a secret hope that you are raising up another of the world great writers. I’m crossing my fingers.
Yay for Anna! 🙂