Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teen Novel Team (TNT) is Dyno-Mite!

As the only Teen Librarian in my library I often feel like a lone ranger when it comes to juggling the many balls required to advocate for and provide excellent service and programming for my community's teens. One of the biggest challenges I face in my project management is trying to preview books for my In BeT(w)een Book Club. Ideally, we are asked to schedule out our programming on a quarterly basis. In order to find 3 suitable books for the book club, I often have to read upwards of 12. I read all of the usual professional review journals and scope out teen literature blogs, but sometimes that's just not enough. This can become overwhelming on top of listening to audio books for my role on the Odyssey Award committee, reading books to book talk during my Summer Reading Club Burritos & Books program, covering desk hours, keeping up with collection development, managing my other ongoing programs, and the other day-to-day tasks that come along with running the Teen Department.

During a recent pity party with my mentor, she reminded me that I am NOT alone and that I should tap into the wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm that exists among staff members in other departments. And thus was born the TNT - Teen Novel Team.

I sent out a call to our entire library staff - from pages all the way up to the City Librarian - asking for people who enjoy reading teen fiction and would be willing to help me select books for my book club. I received very positive responses from 5 people right away, and I'm expecting that a few more will join up soon.

I didn't ask for any kind of commitment or give them a specific time frame. I simply asked them to keep my criteria in mind as they read the teen novels they already enjoy and then email me a short summary if they think their book fits the bill. The criteria I use for selecting book club books are that they:

  • Are appropriate for ages 11-16 (note any gratuitous sex, swearing, drug use, etc)
  • Available in paperback (I purchase a copy for each teen to keep)
  • Have enough depth to generate a discussion 
  • Cover a variety of different genres (so I wouldn’t plan two sci fi books back to back)
  • I always provide a snack related to the book, so as you’re reading if you can keep that in mind and make note of any foods that’re discussed that’s also very helpful.
  • I always plan an activity to go along with the book in case the discussion falls flat. So if you keep that in mind as you’re reading and suggest any fun things that tie in with the book that’s great.
Creating this inter-departmental team has not only lightened my workload, but it has also allowed me to engage members of other departments who have an interest in teen culture thus breaking down some of the departmentalization (and negative stereotyping of teens) that exists in my library. This, in turn, will hopefully make them more willing to champion our causes, staff our events, and forgive the minor indiscretions that teens sometimes commit.  So if you're feeling overwhelmed or like a lone ranger fighting the good fight by yourself, try asking your coworkers for their input. You never know who has a hidden talent or passion that could benefit you and your teens.