ROAR FOR EPL’s LIBRARY PROGRAMS!
Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Emily Dagg!
I’d like to roar about our renovated and improved youth services area at our Main Library, which opened in November of 2011. We now have a teen seating and computer area, in addition to our well-established YA fiction collection. Space for the Teen Zone was carved out inside our existing building. First, by knocking out two walls from the very small and windowless old Storytime Room. Then, the seldom-used magazine archives behind the juvenile stacks had been a magnet for illicit activity. So, when many physical magazines were retired in favor of magazine databases, those dusty stacks came down and the new Activity Room went up; double the size of the old Storytime Room. We also made the entire youth services space feel more open by carving out a central aisle through the juvenile stacks, and cutting down stacks to improve sight lines.
A nearby high school and middle school suggested names for the new teen space, and voted on their favorite. “Teen Zone” was the clear winner. The entire youth services section of the library is now a magnet for families with kids of all ages, and a popular hangout spot with teens after school and on the weekends. Our two full-time youth services librarians hardly have a moment to think anymore! As we like to say, being crowded and busy is a good problem to have, because that’s what we’re here for.
It’s a three-way tie between the books, the kids, and the teens. I especially enjoy collection development and reader’s advisory. Finding the perfect match between a reader and a book is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I’m always thrilled when a child or teen returns to the library to tell me about reading a book I recommended, and then they ask for more suggestions. When their parents start asking me for recommendations of juvenile or young adult books they themselves might enjoy reading, that’s a wonderful bonus.
This goes way back to my first full-time job after library school. I was working at the old High Point Branch Library, with The Seattle Public Library. Back then, the library occupied the main floors of 4 townhouses with the interior walls torn out to connect the four units. These were originally World War II defense worker housing, but were now considered “The Projects” for low-income families. Many of the families were refugees from northeast Africa and Southeast Asia.
There is a part two to that story. That little library had only 1,200 square feet of public space and after school, we were wall-to-wall kids. We were so full every day; I was told there had already been two written warnings from the fire department for being over capacity. I never verified this fact, but allegedly, if we were caught violating fire code again, the library would be fined $10,000. So, we counted heads every day after school, and when we hit building capacity, which was around 45, we had to post a staff person at the door. We couldn’t let anyone else in unless somebody else left. It was so heartbreaking to tell a child, especially a child from that housing development, “I am so sorry. I can’t let you into the library right now, it’s full.”
That entire housing development has since been demolished, along with that overcrowded library. There is now lovely new housing with a large and beautiful community library.
Our storytimes in Everett are often at maximum capacity, so we don’t need extra promotion for those. In 2012, we did a soft launch of a monthly Saturday program series for families and youth. We hired children’s performers and entertainers, and even scheduled some authors. Attendance varied widely from month-to-month, from 5 people to 75 people. Although our program budget was reduced this year, we are trying to continue these Saturday programs. We’d love to see them full!
Sadly, whenever we host a children’s or teen author program, we usually don’t get same high turnout that we do for a puppet show or for performing animals. We had an Alien Author Party last September, with Bellingham (WA) author Clete Barrett Smith. He talked about Aliens on Vacation, and Alien on a Rampage. We encouraged the audience to wear alien costumes, served alien snacks, and after the author’s very humorous presentation, we did alien crafts. There were only 9 kids there, plus their parents, but those who attended had a fantastic time.
“A book is like a roller coaster ride, you read it and want to read it again.” Audryanna, 6th grade
Teen boy: Where is the vampire section?
Me: Let me walk you over to Young Adult fiction …
Teen boy (interrupting): Same thing.
Young Adult series continue to dominate, these are three of the most popular YA series with both teens, and adults.
Allyson Condie’s Reached, book three in the Matched Trilogy, was one of the most hotly anticipated titles this winter. We pre-ordered 12 copies long in advance so people could start putting holds on the title, and we had to lock them up until the official release date. We are a two-branch library system, so having that much demand for a single title is fantastic!
There has been a waiting list for Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, book two in the Divergent Series ever since it was released. Our 7 copies are always checked out.
Teens are really into dystopian fiction, and also alternate histories and alternate futures. I have never seen teen science fiction as popular as it is now, although it’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish fantasy from SciFi, it’s blending together.
Authors and publishers are hooking readers with book one in a series, the teens all tell their friends, and they all wait in anticipation of the next book, fueled by online hype and buzz, social networking, and the media. Some new YA fiction is being promoted heavily in the popular media, publications like Entertainment Weekly, and even in teen fashion magazines. The link between YA books and the movie industry also helps fuel the demand for teen fiction. I love it when readers require themselves to read the book BEFORE they go see the movie. Although there are some kids and teens who don’t believe me when I tell them not every movie is based on a book.
Our library is dedicated to getting popular books into the hands of kids and teens when they want to read them. When a young reader is in the mood to read a book, we want to capitalize on that and not discourage them by putting them on a long waiting list. Waiting for weeks or months feels like FOREVER to a child. Think about it: for a nine-year old, a 12 week wait for a book is equal to about 2.5% of their entire lifetime. It would be the equivalent of an adult my age being on a waiting list for more than a year. It’s way too easy for kids and teens to say, “Forget it! I’ll just go play a computer game.” Our goals is to hook ‘em early and keep feeding them books! If we can keep young readers supplied with what they want, when they want it, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle and they will hopefully grow up to be lifelong readers.
Library Website: www.epls.org