Guest post!!!! Today I welcome my colleague Linda Jerome, teen services librarian here at La Crosse Public Library. Linda has an amazing way with teens and knows teen lit inside and out. An avid reader, a woman with a curious mind and intellect, Linda creates magic for our teens. Currently chairing the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association, she took time to share a marvelously successful book club that has been...more than a book club.
So…teen book clubs. I dearly wish I could say that we’ve had a teen book club at our library for years and it’s a staple of our programming for teens but if I said that, I’d be a big, fat liar. Book clubs for teens have been something we’ve tried many a time over the years but for whatever reason, they just don’t seem to stick. So what teen book club am I referring to? I’m talking about a teen book club for ADULTS who love teen books and aren’t afraid to admit it!
The idea started back in late 2008 when a former colleague of mine, Becky Rech, who is also a dedicated teen book lover, and I were discussing our love of teen books and decided it was time to declare our love to the world (or at least our fellow staff members) and see if we could find other people like us. And guess what? We did! We found not only other library staffers but also school librarians and teachers who were also lovers of teen books. Our first meeting was in January 2009 and we’ve read a different book pretty much every month since then. As it is with many groups, our numbers ebb and flow but our mailing list has been steadily growing and we’re up to 30 people who if, nothing else, just want to know what we’re reading even if they never manage to make it to a meeting.
We meet at a local coffeehouse which also just happens to serve adult beverages (one of the perks of being an adult who reads teen books) and we usually start with the cover of the book and work our way in. Do we always have high-minded discussions of symbolism and language to make our former English teachers proud? Heck no. We try and balance those discussions with the more practical side of our jobs by asking questions like “Will teens pick up this book based on the cover alone?” (And we all know that teens do exactly that) or “What teens would I suggest this book to?” or “What feedback have I heard from teens who’ve already read it?” And now that I’m thinking about it, maybe “discussion” isn’t really the best word (it sounds so formal and we are so NOT formal)…there are really more conversations centered (mostly) on the book that month.
How do we pick our books? Well, I usually select a group of 5-7 titles that I think would make for a good discussion and/or have been getting lots of buzz and then the group selects a title from that list. We always pick a book two months ahead (for example, at our December meeting we’ll be picking February’s title) so everyone has plenty of notice and time to read the book. Books stay on the list for a few months and if they aren’t selected in that time period, I take them off and add some new titles.
When we started this book club, we really just wanted to share our passion about teen books with whoever would listen but there have been some unexpected benefits. First, we’ve seen many more of our library staffers reading teen books. This has led to some great book discussions with colleagues with whom I don’t normally work as well as seeing non-youth services librarians doing some teen reader advisory with patrons (both teen and adult). Not to mention when adults are checking out teen books sheepishly admit to liking to read them, our staff not only celebrates it but tells them about our book club! Second, it has been absolutely wonderful to connect with school librarians and teachers outside of the classroom/library setting. They feel like they “know someone” at the library and I feel the same way about knowing someone at their school and it provides lots of insight and connection on both ends. And these connections have led to collaborations and partnerships that I don’t think would have happened if we hadn’t gotten to know each other in book club. And when I think about teens and books and teacher and libraries, that’s what it all comes down to in the end—feeling connected.
So, if you’re like me and you love teen books, go find your fellow adults who also love teen books—they’re out there!—and start your own teen book club for adults…you’ll be happy you did!