Interview with Jennifer Bisson Seattle Public Library
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 Jennifer Bisson, YA librarian at the Seattle Public Library.
Jennifer has been Youth Librarian for just over 8 years. She’s dedicated to changing the misperceptions about libraries one innovative program at a time. “I believe that libraries are the last public space and I think librarians should all be challenging outmoded ideas of what types of programs we should have in libraries. I have hosted something called All Ages Arts Night, which was a showcase of teen performers, dance, hip hop, spoken word and bands, a teen produced fashion show, teen produced film festival, and hope to do a an all teen fine art show with teen classical and jazz ensembles in the near future.”
I wanted a job that was never boring or monotonous, where I could do something that helped people, and involved working with folks of all ages from different backgrounds.
There are lots of crazy things that happen when you work with the general public, especially in a busy, urban library but one of the funniest that I can share here, involved a story time regular. This little boy never missed a story time, brought me homemade art, cookies, and admitted to his mom that he wanted to be my boyfriend. My “boyfriend” showed up super excited one day to show me his new… superman underoos! He almost had his pants off before his mom stopped him and had to explain why that was not appropriate at the library.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs:
We have been doing the Teen Center Advisors (TCA) for 4 years now. We have teens from all over the city representing public, private, parochial, and homeschooled teens who are gay, straight, Christian, Muslim and all kinds of backgrounds including new immigrants.
It amazes me how there is never any tension and the teens all treat each other with complete respect. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that they are a little bit nerds! As a proud nerd, I feel delighted to work with teens who are creative, funny, smart and far more together then I was as a teen.
One of my favorite things is seeing former TCAs when they stop by the library. Some sneak in to get teen book suggestion when they are overloaded with college reading. Others ask us to write recommendations for scholarships, internships or other opportunities. One just came to talk about co-hosting an event with an all youth created and led queer youth organization she is helping start. Still others just stop in and say hi. I know we do not get to spend loads of time with them but I cannot help but feel like we are a unique category of adult in their lives that does not give them homework, or tell them to clean their room. We get to know them a little, encourage them, ask them questions, and hopefully give them a venue to get involved a little or a lot in their community. Want to see some of the things they have to say? Listen to some of the podcasts we recorded with them –
or check out our teen blog
I am super excited about a programming I am piloting this summer. We are writing personalized reading lists for teens or (PRLs). Teens contact us through Questions Point (email would be just as easy) and tell us some books they have liked or not, and any genres they are interested in or anything else they want to tell us about their reading habits. Some are short, more like Twilight please, and some are detailed with a dozen or so books they have liked and hated. Either way each teen gets their very own list of 5-6 suggestions just for them. They can use the service as often as they like.
Since the launch on June 1st we have gotten about 20 requests, and this is before it has even hit our main webpage. So far we have advertised it on our teen web page, the summer reading booklet, and a few local blogs picked up the story. Four teen services librarian answer requests to cover 7 days, and keep suggestions fresh. In addition we are archiving the list for use at all reference desks to promote better teen reader’s advisory.
Our TCAs write at least one book review a month, here are 2 good ones for summer.
~What’s French for Ew? follows British teenager Emily on the school trip of a lifetime to France. She has it all planned; she will spend her seventeenth birthday in Paris with her boyfriend. However, chaos ensues when she must bring her “Baby Annoy” (a life-like baby doll for her health class) along for the ride. What’s French for Ew? is a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover. Although it looks like yet another dumb teeny-bopper book, it’s actually funny and witty. Emily is extremely likeable and Katie Maxwell is an excellent writer. This is a fast read I would recommend to any francophones in middle or high school – Hannah, 17
~Starclimber by Kenneth Opal, the sequel to Airborn and Skybreaker, follows the story of two young people, Matt Cruse and Kate De Vries, as they embark on a journey beyond the sky. This is a great book, with the same amount of action, suspense, and romance as the first two books in this series. I highly recommend this to readers of the earlier books, and everyone else in middle or high school should read the first two, as it is one of my favorite series. – Eli, 14
Book Brag: What three books are hot this year. Why?
~Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins of course! If you have not read Hunger Games yet, hurry up so you can be caught in time for this 3rd one to release later this summer.
~Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. – I have not read this yet but hear it is good for Twilight fans.
~Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld ; illustrated by Keith Thompson. I am on hold for this and it is taking forever!
Thank you Jennifer for your terrific interview and fun pics!
Give a roar for more Library Lions interviews. If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet on the Contact page on this website for an interview.