Fandoms Unite! – Teen Summer Reading Club

Teen Reading Club launches June 1, and this year’s theme is right up my alley – Fandoms!

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Teen RC is all about celebrating teens’ passions for reading, whether they’re obsessed with manga, dystopian fiction, historical novels, or a little bit of everything. Teen RC is a predominantly online program where teens can post and comment on book reviews, participate in discussion forums and opinion polls, chat with authors, share their creative projects, find out what’s happening at different InterLINK libraries, and enter to win prizes. It’s run by Public Library InterLINK, though teens don’t need to be library members to participate in many of the online activities. Teens can also follow along on Instagram (@teenrc), Facebook and Twitter. I spent my morning making some of these awesome buttons, perfect for handing out to the branch Teen Advisory Group.

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I belong to a few fandoms myself, so it was hard to pick just one button to add to my lanyard, but I settled on the “Manga Fan!” button, in honour of my teenage otaku self. Teen RC is such a great program because t it allows teens to participate on their own schedule, at their own pace, and in whatever way they feel comfortable. Let’s face it, despite our best efforts, the library isn’t always the coolest (or most welcoming) place for teens to hang out. Now teens have the option of participating in great library programming without ever having to set foot in the library.

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Teen Books We Like – Bookmarks!

I have been sick as a dog for the past week, and I’ve missed two story time sessions, which has just broken my heart! I miss my little ones so much!

I’m going absolutely stir crazy sitting around the house, coughing and feeling quite sorry for myself.

I though I’d share another aspect of the teen fiction display that my colleague and I have been working on. The teen section is a never-ending work in progress – the shelves are always crammed to the point of bursting, requiring almost constant weeding. To add a bit of visual interest, and maybe encourage some teens to try new reading material, my colleague printed out these “teen books we like” bookmarks, which we’ve been putting in books throughout the teen section.

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My colleague and I have very different taste in reading material, which is great, because it means there’s always a great variety in the kinds of books we highlight. Some of the teen books I marked this time around were “Such Wicked Intent” by Kenneth Oppel (yay Canadian content!), “Terrier” by Tamora Pierce (girl power!) and “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness. My colleague tends to prefer more realistic fiction, so between the two of us, there’s a great bunch of books on offer.

The book marks look pretty snazzy sticking out of the books, dotted throughout the stacks.

We planned it, and they came.

In honour of NaNoWriMo, my teen librarian colleague and I hosted a teen writing event. Local published YA author and NaNoWriMo participant Denise Jaden would give a presentation, take questions and lead a writing exercise, and we would continue the experience with more creative writing activities. There would be door prizes, everyone would leave with some free swag, and as with any teen event, there would be snacks.

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We promoted the event on social media, plastered posters throughout the library and scattered handbills on every exposed surface. We bribed a few of our TLC members with service hours if they agreed to help set up and clean up for the event, which would ensure at least a few bodies in the room. But the real question was – would the teens come?

Well, come they did. 12 of them, to be exact. 12 participants, for a two-hour after-school writing workshop. We were impressed. And while some of the participants were familiar faces, there were a number of teens who had never been to a library event before, and who had heard about us from friends or through our marketing. Success!

The event itself went really smoothly. Denise is a very engaging speaker, and her writing exercise was pretty brilliant. I used the magazine clip out writing exercises I mentioned in a previous post, and the teens thought it was pretty hilarious. We shared our creations in small groups, and there was a lot of laughter, as the teens had come up with some pretty crazy characters.

We were also able to send every teen home with a book, which the teens were pretty stoked about. We get a lot of book donations from the public, which is pretty awesome. If we already have enough copies of a donated book in our system, we either sell the book in our book sale, which raises much-needed funds for the library, or we give the book away, either at a program or through outreach (at a food bank or shelter, for example). I love being able to send kids and teens home with their own books, particularly when working in challenged neighborhoods. The excitement in the teens’ eyes when I told them they could each pick a book was really pretty awesome. Adults may be wondering about the future of the printed word, but as far as most teens are concerned, there’s still something special about physical books.

Working with teens – lessons learned (so far)

As a library school student, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to work with children. I love, love, love sharing my passion for books with children and their caregivers, I’m a pretty high-energy person, and I naturally sing all the time anyway, so it seemed like a natural fit. What I never really thought about as much was working with teens. This past summer I was offered an opportunity to co-facilitate a teen “maker’s camp” program, and this fall I’ll be co-facilitating the Teen Library Council and teen programming at a pretty large urban library branch. Although excited, I initially felt a little bit intimidated by the prospect of working with teens. Let’s face it, it’s been more than a few years since I was a teen (I’m not telling….), and I was such a nerd in my youth anyway that I was really more like an old lady in teen clothes than an actual teenager. And life was so different then! The internet was a shiny new thing that we had to connect to using our telephone lines, and very few of us actually had cell phones, which were really only capable of making calls anyway. We were exposed to so much less back then than the average teen is today. How could I relate to these youngsters? I found myself worrying pretty much the same worries that I had when I was actually a teenager : will the group like me? Will they think I’m cool, or will they laugh because I’m lame?

Wearing a Domo-kun t-shirt that reads "Nerdy by Nature" may or may not up my coolness factor with the young folk...

Wearing a Domo-kun t-shirt that reads “Nerdy by Nature” may or may not up my coolness factor with the young folk…

Now, I am by no means an expert at working with people between the ages of 12 and 20, but here are a few things I have picked up along the way. 1. You are not cool. Get over it.

  • Being uncool is like being stuck in quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper in you sink. Just accept that being over the age of 20 makes you an old timer and thus inherently out of touch and worthy of pity. The more you try to act or look “cool” (i.e., like a teenager), the lamer you in fact become in the eyes of your audience.

2. You are not there to be everybody’s friend.

  • Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friendly, or that you shouldn’t have positive relationships with your teen group. What I am saying is that teens for the most part already have friends – they don’t need or even want you to take on that role. What they do need is for you to be a role model, a supporter, a guide and a leader. Someone who will be firm with them and honest with them when it’s appropriate, even if it means coming across as uncool or boring or lame. Someone who will be there for them even if their friends have turned on them or labelled them uncool. It’s important to be liked by your teens, but it’s even more important to be trusted and respected.

3. Laugh at yourself and the world laughs with you.

  • Don’t take yourself or your programs so seriously that you can’t laugh at your mistakes or shrug off your failures. In my first teen program, there were times when my best-laid plans just completely fell through. I’d planned activities with a certain audience in mind, which turned out to be not even close to the audience that actually showed. What can you? By laughing at life’s little hiccups, dusting yourself off and making the best of the situation, you’re not only making your own life a lot less miserable, you’re also providing a pretty positive example for your group. I want my teens to know that although you can’t always control what life throws at you, you can control how you react, and how better to illustrate this than by living it (most of the time…) myself?

So, that’s just a little bit of the totally non-earth-shattering wisdom I have gained in the past few months. Here’s hoping the next few months prove just as enlightening.

An example of how cool I look when I’m working with teens!