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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Research, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Guest Post: Down the Research Rabbit Hole with Mindy McGinnis

Amie here first: Today we have a guest post from the lovely Mindy McGinnis, whose latest book, A Madness So Discreet, came out yesterday! She’s here to tell us about the entirely unreasonable demands of her muse, and the amazing book that resulted!

MadnessSoDiscreetCOVERUSEMy muse is fickle and unreliable, which is really frustrating for me because I’m the type of person that is constantly busy. I knit while watching TV because being still is not in my body’s repertoire. So when Miss Muse shuts down for a little bit, I tend to get frustrated with her, and she usually responds by dumping three to four great concepts into my lap at once, declares her job done, and disappears again.

She pulled this trick on me in 2013 when the barren waste land that had formerly housed my inspiration suddenly said, “Hey, you should write a Victorian Gothic novel set in an insane asylum about a girl who assists a criminal psychologist in catching killers. Also, she has to pretend to be lobotomized in order to escape her abusive father. That should be easy to deliver, ta-ta.”

To which I said, “Hey, thanks muse. Nice. How do I go about doing that?” But she didn’t answer because she’d already jetted off to wherever she goes when not spouting difficult-to-execute concepts at me. But I already knew the answer: research. I needed to know a lot of things in order to even come close to doing this the right way.

How did insane asylums operate in the 1890’s? How was criminal psychology executed then? How often was it right? Was the science accurate enough that a well-trained person could conceivably have caught a killer based on what they knew about the criminal mind at the time? How were lobotomies performed?

OOPS—snag. Lobotomies weren’t a medical practice in 1890. That’s a pretty huge roadblock for me since the plot hinged on my main character being (supposedly) lobotomized. Shifting the timeframe to 1936, when the first lobotomy was performed in the US, would screw up my plot even more. So instead I needed a feasible situation where a doctor could be aware of the benefits of a lobotomy-like procedure, without…you know…actually calling it a lobotomy. This train of thought ended with me reading this book, and this one. Yes, I was really popular on public transit.

I also read this book, and this book, this one (it has pictures—ouch), and to get the other side of that story, this one. And finally a slightly more relaxing one so that I was familiar with my setting. Then just to be thorough, I took a trip to the asylum where the book is set because I’m a big fan of knowing what the hell I’m talking about.

A year after Miss Disappearing Muse dropped the concept on me, I figured I knew enough to actually start writing the book. Except, no. This was the first time I’d ever attempted to write a historical, and because I despise anachronisms I had to get things as correct as I possibly could. From what kind of lighting was in the room my character waked into (Fire? Gas? Electrical?) to what she was wearing, to the question of whether she was working side by side with “policemen,” “cops,” or “constables,” I found myself in the position of not being able to finish most sentences without a quick fact check.

It was painful, torturous writing – and not only because of what I put the characters through. To make thing worse, I’d spent so much time researching that I’d painted myself into a pretty serious corner in terms of deadlines. I won’t tell you how quickly I wrote MADNESS because you’ll question my sanity, but I will tell you I gained almost fifteen pounds doing it because I basically shut myself in my room and wrote while slamming cheeseburgers. At one point I would’ve accepted a catheter just to get the job done more effectively.

A Madness So Discreet released yesterday, and I’m pretty proud of it. It marks a genre departure from my earlier works—Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust are post-apoc survival—but not a departure from what I do best. Which apparently is write rather stomach-churning scenarios while eating.

Told you I’m a multi-tasker.

Amazon Head ShotMINDY MCGINNIS is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, Not a Drop to Drink, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, In a Handful of Dust was released in 2014. Look for her Gothic historical thriller, A Madness So Discreet on October 6 from Katherine Tegen Books.

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2. Evolution: Some difficult problems

Two other major and largely unsolved problems in evolution, at the opposite extremes of the history of life, are the origin of the basic features of living cells and the origin of human consciousness. In contrast to the questions we have just been discussing, these are unique events in the history of life.

The post Evolution: Some difficult problems appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Teens and How They Use Technology – What’s Our Role?

This semester I’m enrolled in a Collaborations in Feminism and Technology class. It parallels the larger organization, FemTechNet. During our most recent class, our discussion turned to a frequently talked about: children/teens and technology. What sort of access to technology should they have and how will they use it?

Part of our class veered towards the idea of technocentrism (technology is the center of our world and it controls us. See Seymour Papert’s paper to read more) or technological determinism (essentially get on board with technology’s pace or forever be left behind). We discussed just giving kids and teens technology and counting on them to “just know” how to use it. We discussed restricting access because they aren’t old enough to really know how to use technology. And we discussed that teens simply don’t understand the permanence of putting something online.

However, some of my classmates (myself included) were not quick to jump aboard the technocentrism train of thought. I firmly ground myself in the idea of living in a socio-technical system – where I impact and shape technology just as much as technology is shaping and changing me. People in positions of power and privilege are making decisions on how they design and create technology and that has impacts on how we use and think about technology. So shouldn’t we be having some of these conversations with the teens we interact with?

I think we should take some responsibility for this education and problem posing of technology and its impacts. Because in many ways, the decisions we are making affect how current and future teens will use and think about technology (and the digital footprint that has been involuntarily created for them). Recently I’ve been hooked on WNYC’s podcast, Note to Self with Manoush Zomorodi. The focus of this podcast is our relationship with technology and a recent episode lets us hear first hand from a teen interviewed on her views of technology (and smart phones). Teens are actively using technology and making decisions about it and we should respect and think about those decisions (Manoush also has a great “back to school tech” post with links on [mainly] managing kids and educational apps and technology). These posts and podcasts made me think of participatory action research that people like Rachel Magee and others are doing that digs deeper into the relationships teens have with technology (a field I’m very interested in. Also Rachel is a new faculty member at the University of Illinois so I’ve been learning more about her work).

So how do we do this? How do we have those conversations? How do we talk about our permant identity on the Internet? How do we help teens to see the ways in which we shape and our shaped by technology. My main idea is through dialogue – both informal and formal. Everything from a passing comment to longer workshops (I wrote earlier this year about a week long Twitter workshop that could be led to show how information is distributed, biased, and controlled through Twitter and what users we select to follow). Or…how could we incorporate resources like YALSA’s 2012 Issue Brief on Keeping Teens Safe Online (or revise it for 2015)? How might we incorporate idea of connected learning into these conversations for a greater and long lasting impact? How can we take this Social Media Guide and turn it into an engaging program or informal conversation? Granted, I know these programs or conversations would take time – time to plan, time to think through the ideas, time to get to know the teens, and time to actually implement these ideas (I get a little tired thinking about how I would do that once I enter the working world of Library Land). But, what keeps me going is the idea that we too can impact technology. The sooner we have those conversations with our teens, the sooner we start engaging in that critical dialogue, the sooner we can start changing the world.

How do you do this in your libraries with your teens? How do you not get trapped in the idea of technocentrism and instead, strive to empower teens to think critically about technology and their technological footprint?

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4. Teen research trending: Margaret Mackey and the problem of finding your next read

This is the first of a series of monthly posts that the YALSA Research Committee would like to share with the YA LIS community. These posts will reflect some of the many publications that we encounter in the process of updating YALSA's Research Bibliography for the 2013-2015 period. The emphasis of the bibliography will be LIS research, but some of these posts will also share research from other disciplines such as Education, Media, Urban Studies etc., where teens are also protagonists. Posts will briefly summarize the article and highlight some important points for LIS practice, but each of the authors will bring a different flavor. Hopefully you will find them useful to inspire and support your work and knowledge about teens!!


Mackey, Margaret. “Finding the Next Book to Read in a Universe of Bestsellers, Blockbusters, and Spin-Offs.”  Academic Quarter (Akademisk Kvarter):  The Academic Journal for Research from the Humanities, 7 (2013): 216-236. http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/pdf/vol7/15a_MargaretMackey_Finding%20The%20Next.pdf

Respecting mass choices but not being confined to them requires walking a fine line, but it is an important space to find. (p.133)

Margaret Mackey is a Canadian scholar who has been writing about reading and literacies in a broad sense for the past 25 years. If you are familiar or enjoyed the work of Eliza Dresang, I think you might also enjoy this. Yes, this is a blatant attempt to do reader's advisory about research.

The quote that introduces this post reflects a struggle with which many librarians must contend everyday. We would like to see that important space of reading selection not only found, but also clearly occupied by libraries and librarians. In exploring how to take over this space, Mackey examines the role that bestsellers play, especially when they are becoming increasingly adapted into diverse types of media.

Before digging in, it is important to note that her analysis is framed around an important issue: if you cannot find your next book to read, you will likely become a dormant reader or a non-reader. Mackey situates her discussion with a description of the different ways that readers might choose to tackle this adaptation issue. Some prefer to read the original first (p.318). Others would rather consume reviews, people's opinions, and other paratexts (see Gray, 2010) to the point that they can feel like they have committed to a text they have not even yet read or watched. The myriad of official and unofficial booktrailers or booktubers makes this process manageable for books, not just movies. An important topic that is just briefly mentioned is that of the effect of technology in this ocean of paratextual works, especially in the case of blockbuster franchises (for more see Rushkoff's last Frontline documentary). It is also important to mention that the paratextual approach is intimately related to the culture of unfinish, (p.220) a contemporary phenomenon where narratives never actually end, but are kept alive in a never-ending loop of texts, including adaptations, prequels, fanfiction etc...

But let's come back to Mackey. For her analysis, she explores two texts, one clearly for youth, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and another one which is also popular with the YA population, Fifty Shades of Grey. As case studies, she examines their similar origins and the paratextual explosion around them to exemplify the complexity (or easiness) of choosing/committing to a text in a world where, potentially, a favorite text never ends. For example, Wimpy Wonderland was an on-line paratext marketing the movie version of the book that was created out of the online story (p.225). This analysis makes evident the (potential) complexity of the contemporary reading experience. The following rather lengthy quote exemplifies this complexity, especially if we situate it in a discussion that would involve teen librarians:

In part, the mind-blowing numbers associated with The Wimpy Kid and Fifty Shades of Grey are a reflection of the fact that many people do not have more subtle selection skills than to read what everyone else is reading. In making this comment, I am not saying that these novels and other number 1 titles do not have something to offer to a very wide range of readers; clearly they do. But I think it is also true that many people enjoy reading bestsellers in part because they do actually like to read and a headline hitting title that is being read by all their friends and relations provides a shortcut to finding the next book that will offer genuine reading pleasure. (p.229)

Mackey points to the impact the works emerging in this culture of unfinish might have in reading practices, such as traditional understandings of intensive and extensive readings (p.230). She wraps up with a brief comment on 4 (attention, participation, collaboration, and network awareness) of 17 items for 21st literacies from Education scholars Cathy Davidson and Howard Rheingold and how these items have potential roles in a reader’s selection process. In the end, we cannot shy away from these complexities but must instead try to understand them in order to be able to find the space where we respect mass choices while also creating tools to expand the media universes of our patrons.

To keep thinking about teen media and reading, you can browse Mackey's publications or read the recently published article about Dresang's work and Harry Potter at YALSA's Journal of Research in Libraries and Young Adults.


Lucia Cedeira Serantes, Assistant Professor at Queens College (CUNY). Recent member of the YALSA Research Committee.

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5. Jellyfish in the Sun

It's happening again!  Books with similar themes end up on my list right next to each other.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is narrated by Suzy who can't believe that her oldest friend could just drown.  "These things happen" is NOT an acceptable explanation.  Suzy becomes convinced that a rare jellyfish is responsible for Franny's death. 

Suzy is a fact person who inundates the reader with math and facts about jellyfish and the people who study them.  But this book also chronicles the all too frequent trauma that occurs when one person outgrows another - as Franny outgrows Suzy by the end of 6th grade.  This relationship break makes Franny's death so much harder for Suzy to accept. 

Her search for someone who can understand the horror of jellyfish - as she sees it - leads Suzy to start out on a dangerous and possibly illegal journey.

Her parents, her older brother and an unexpected friend help Suzy to move into a life without Franny.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff    Ok.   In fifth grade, Trent killed someone during an ice hockey game.  Total accident.   Trent's parents and older and younger brother seem to think Trent should move on.  Trent's Dad, especially, has little patience for Trent's surly attitude.  Dad's new wife is expecting their first child any time now.  So, it was an accident. Get over it already.  (Not actual words from the book.)

Trent reacts to the guilt and the anxiety he feels by making sure he gets into trouble at school, and with his Dad.  He even refuses to enter into prank wars with his little brother.

Luckily, Fallon, a girl at school with a noticeable facial scar befriends Trent after she peeks into his Book of Thoughts and sees the pictures he draws there - pictures of what the boy he killed might be doing at that very moment.  Fallon wants Trent to draw a picture for her.

How Trent manages to make things worse and then how he manages to make them better - with the help of sympathetic outsiders - makes an engrossing and emotional read.

These books have totally different styles, despite their similarities - see below.  Jellyfish is awash with facts and musings on facts - the type of book that will lend itself to STEM curricula.  But there is an immediacy to Suzy's pain, even as she carefully plans her science report and her journey,  and her need to find explanations for her friend's death.

Sun, on the other hand, concentrates on Trent's emotional struggles.  Trent speaks in a matter-of-fact voice, referring to the accident almost casually.  And all the time he is seething and unable to see that he is till a worthwhile human being.  

Here is a list of other similarities:
New friends:  Both of the new frends have problems of their own that they seem to have overcome. 
Older brothers: Aaron - yeah, both of them.
Nice teachers:  Suzy likes her science teacher right away.  Trent hates everyone but his homeroom teacher really is pretty old.

Read 'em both, except you might want to read other books in between.  OK?

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6. Historical Research

Whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, if your book takes place in the past you need to do your research.


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7. research: book 3 sixties trilogy (TRIBE)

I'm gonna do occasional posts on research as I move deeper into Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy. I house research links on my Pinterest boards, but I also want to document my process, thinking, and resources here. I'll label all research posts as such.


Full disclosure: I am stuck with book three. I don't know my story. I'm frustrated. So I'm contenting myself with research, which I've been doing intensely (ebb and flow) for about a year now, which has been mostly reading, and with no real focused objective but to understand the late sixties.

I did this with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN as well -- I read for about a year. You can find my bibliographies on Pinterest -- they are incomplete but will be added to as I can get to it.

So I'm working on scrapbooks today -- the non-fiction pieces of the documentary novels. I need about seven songs, one to anchor each scrapbook. They will change as the story is known and changes, but I need something to get me started, and I'm wondering if listening to the songs of the late sixties might also help me with finding my way into the story itself.

I spent most of my research day listening to the Billboard hits of 1967, 1968, and 1969. I dipped into 1970 as well. I want book 3 to be (in part) about ROCK-AND-ROLL. We've not had the chance to really do rock-and-roll with COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION, so here is the chance to Go Big Or Go Home, and I want to revel in the music. Maybe I have a character who does the same (that's what I've been playing with, anyway).

This is the kind of day where I have 24 windows open online at once and jump back and forth between YouTube and Wikipedia for lyrics and cursory information about The Rascals, Chicago (can only use their first album), Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth" is perfect, about the Sunset Strip riots in 1967 -- I can use it for larger meaning), Jefferson Airplane (which leads to a lengthy side-trip down the "San Francisco Sound" tunnel), The Fifth Dimension, The Isley Brothers, Steppenwolf -- yes, I can use "Born to be Wild," now that I have moved book 3 from 1968 to 1969.

Last year, anticipating the long flights to Hong Kong and back, I invested in Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and they are perfect for this task. I'm listening a lot right now, trying to find a way in, and pulling out a line here, a line there, of select songs (not scrapbook anchors) for inclusion somehow -- don't know how yet. I'm going on faith here that I'll figure out a way to do this, and if I don't, it's not time wasted.

Delicious lines like "It appears to be such a long long long long time before the dawn." Know it? "And the beat goes on." "The past is just a goodbye." "All the world over it's easy to see, people everywhere just got to be free." And many more.

I've been wondering if I can put more of myself into this book, like I did with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN. I've said I'm going to the Bay Area for book 3, but I lived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1969, my dad flew into and out of Vietnam, our high school was integrated - in spite of Strom Thurmond's defiance - by the National Guard, boy picketed to grow their hair long, girls picketed to shorten their skirts, and I loved Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Beatles and many more... the music was fresh, new, energizing, and amazing.

I was 16 years old and wanted to see the film Easy Rider. I didn't have the $3 it cost for a movie ticket. My dad said, "I will not give you three dollars to support Peter Fonda's drug habit." He forbid me to see Easy Rider. So I told my parents I was off to somewhere or other on a date with Jim (that took care of the $3, and besides, it was JIM), and instead went into downtown Charleston, South Carolina to see Easy Rider.

It. Was. Thrilling. Imagine sitting in the theater, a sheltered child of strict Southern, military parents who didn't even want rock-and-roll in the house -- I'd had to "audition" rock-and-roll in order to be allowed to play it -- I chose my 45 of "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles and got a reluctant okay.

Imagine this kid sitting in the theater and watching Easy Rider unfold. Born to be Wild indeed. Here is the beginning of the movie with Steppenwolf's signature anthem (if you can call it that):

That's it for today. I've listened until my ears hurt. And we've got to get myself back to the garden....

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Many of today’s teens spend hours each day online communicating with friends. They visit their online friends in social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter; they share photos and videos via services such as YouTube, Vine, and Snapchat; and they send each other text messages throughout the day – and night – via their ever-present cell phones.

In a recent research grant funded by IMLS, we set out to study how public and school libraries fit into teens’ increasingly online information lives, especially when it comes to searching for information. To that end, we collected data through interviews, focus groups, and surveys from two populations of U.S. high school students. One population attends an urban public science and engineering magnet high school which is known for its award-winning integration of technology throughout the curriculum and its 1:1 laptop program. The school enrolls about 500 students, about 30% of whom are economically disadvantaged and 65% of whom are minority students. The second student population attends a suburban public high school located outside of a major U.S. metropolitan area in a different region of the country. About 55% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 75% are minorities. This second school also supports a small science and engineering magnet program within its total student body of about 2500. Our research sample from this school included both magnet and non-magnet students.

A total of 158 students from the two schools took part in the study. As a group they were heavy social media users, and the majority had used social media services such as Facebook and Twitter to ask (77%) and answer (61%) questions. More than half of the participants had asked or were willing to ask questions about 20 common information needs topics, ranging from social activities and entertainment to careers and health information. School was the most common topic they asked about online, with 77% reporting that they had used social media to ask questions about school-related topics such as homework and class scheduling.

These findings demonstrate that – contrary to common belief -- teens are not just wasting time when using social media. Often they are seeking information and sharing what they know with others. Recognizing that teens are using social media for beneficial uses such as information seeking and sharing can help libraries to better support teens’ information needs. Libraries can develop policies that support teens’ use of social media and consider providing informational content through these outlets. Library staff can also encourage teachers, school administrators, and other adults who interact with teens to consider the value of using social media for information access and sharing.

Based on this research, we’ve put together an infographic that summarizes some of the main points we learned in direct contrast to common myths about teens and social media. The infographic uses direct quotes from teens in our study to contradict five common myths about teens and social media:

MYTH #1: Teens talk about everything online and have little regard for personal privacy.

MYTH #2: Facebook and other social media just distract teens from schoolwork.

MYTH #3: Teens’ use of social media is frivolous.

MYTH #4: It’s dangerous for teens to interact with adults online.

MYTH #5: Internet in schools and libraries is just for finding information.

You can find the infographic at: http://youthonline.ischool.drexel.edu/.

Would you like to display the infographic in your library so that parents, teachers, other library staff, and even teens can learn some of the positive benefits of teens’ social media use? We’ll send you a free poster of the infographic if you contact us at youthonline@drexel.edu (first come first served, while supplies last).

Also, please let us know what you think of the infographic in our brief survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MXKDSXR). This will help us to develop our ongoing research about teens, social media, and libraries, and to improve the ways we share our research results with library staff, teachers, parents, and others.

And…there’s more from this project! We also talked with teens about their perceptions of libraries. We focused on this part of the study in our Spring 2015 YALS article “The Teens Speak Out: What Teens in a Tech High School Really Think about Libraries…and What You Can Do To Improve Their Perceptions.”

You might also be interested in our short quiz for assessing the quality of your teen services: 10 Questions to Ask about your Teen Services.

Lastly, for more information about the research team and our work, visit the Drexel University Youth Online Research Group website.

(This work is based on research conducted by Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS], Award #LG-06-11-0261-11, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Grant No. 2011121873.)

By Michelle Purcell, Rachel Magee, Denise Agosto, and Andrea Forte

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9. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week - August 7, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between August 7 and August 13 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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Are you struggling trying to find ways to engage teens at your library? Look no further! As part of our ongoing research relating to teen library services, we talked with teens across the country and have answers for you in “10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services.” (For details about the research, see our recent YALS article: Denise Agosto, Rachel Magee, Andrea Forte, and Michael Dickard, 2015, "The Teens Speak Out: What Teens in a Tech High School Really Think about Libraries...and What You can do to Improve their Perceptions." Young Adult Library Services 13 (3): 7-12.)

10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services

  1. Can teens find quiet spaces for reading and studying in your library and vibrant spaces for hanging out, socializing, and creative activities?

It’s important to remember that teens use libraries for all sorts of activities - social interaction, quiet reading, collaborative school work, and hanging out with friends. Your library space needs to support all of these diverse activities. When asked why they use libraries, some of the teens we’ve worked with talked about schoolwork. For example, Kacie* (age 18), told us that she hadn’t visited her public library in years. Then she stopped in one day and realized that it was a great place to do her homework. She realized that: "'Hey! The library is quiet. There's everything I need [for studying].'… It was like: 'Hey! The library's kind of awesome!'" On the other hand, other teens told us about using libraries as spaces to connect with their friends or to engage in creative pursuits. As Jamie (age 18) explained: "People usually just go to the library to play music or just chill out, eat lunch, or read a game magazine. I have used it for that. They have cool magazines there." Your library should provide clearly marked spaces to support each of these different activities.

  1. Do you avoid charging fines and other penalties that can keep teens away from the library?

Our work with teens has taught us that worries about possible fines and fees even as small as thirty cents can keep teens from using their public and school libraries. As Jenny (age 16) told us: "I used to [use the public library]. What ended up happening was a thirty dollar fine for a video that I didn't even check out, so I never ended up going back and finding out how to solve the problem.” Patrick (age 18) explained that: "Personally, I know that I'm really bad at remembering due dates, or I'll just be really lazy one day and be like, 'I don't want to return this book right now.' So to save myself money and know I don't have to worry about that, I don't bother using real libraries."

What's more important: attracting teens to libraries, or collecting fines? We think you’ll agree that encouraging teens to use libraries is far more important. It’s time we work toward finding creative non-monetary alternatives to fines and fees. Possible solutions include providing volunteering options for working off fines and scheduling periodic amnesty days instead of insisting that teens pay up.

  1. Do teens help you decide what you stock in the library?

Some teens told us that the materials their libraries stock are irrelevant or uninteresting to them. For instance, Amani (age 16) said that libraries "don't necessarily have the books you might be looking for," so she prefers going to bookstores or looking for reading materials online. Public and school libraries should set up a communication channels to encourage teens to ask for the materials they would most like to use—not just books, but magazines, music, gaming equipment, and any other types of materials you consider purchasing.

  1. Are you fighting against the stereotype of libraries as just book providers?

Many teens we talked to expressed the idea that "library" equals "books"and nothing else. This limited perception meant they would mainly think to use a library when looking for a paper book, not for socializing, for entertainment opportunities, for homework help, or to take advantage of the many other services that libraries offer. As Hannah (age 15) stated, she goes "to a school that doesn't use books as much [for class assignments], so that's another reason why I've never used [the library]." As librarians and other library staff know, libraries offer much, much more than just books, but this message doesn’t seem to be getting through to teens. As a field we must work to fight against the outdated image of libraries just as book providers and help teens learn the full range of services that today’s libraries offer.

  1. Are you going to where the teens are (outside of the library) to market your services?

Most library research takes place in libraries and uses library users as study participants. Our research took place in high schools with random groups of students who did not self-identify as library users. Sadly, the teens in our studies were largely unfamiliar with their libraries and were mostly infrequent public and school library users. Jamie (age 18) even suggested that "today's youth have quit libraries," in part because "usually everything is done online." This finding highlights the importance of moving library marketing outside the physical library boundaries. After all, why focus your marketing efforts on teens who are already using libraries? Moving outside the library to other places where teens go, such as shopping malls, churches, community centers, sports fields, and online to social media and any other popular online teen hangouts makes for much more effective marketing by spreading the message of how great your library is to teens who don’t already know it.

  1. Are you working to ensure that all library staff exhibit positive, welcoming attitudes toward teens?

We learned that some teens perceive libraries as having unpleasant, unwelcoming staff members—people who don’t seem to like teens all that much. For example, Meghan (age 17) noted that the previously pleasant atmosphere of her school library was ruined by a new "librarian that was like, 'No food! No drinks! No talking!' [After she was hired] people were no longer interested in going there." Once the library gets the reputation of being unwelcoming to teens, it can spread quickly throughout the teen community and keep teens away.

  1. Are your policies framed in positive language?

We also learned that negative language in library policies can send the message that the library views teens as potential troublemakers. A sign that says, “No cell phone use in the library!” sends an angry, distrustful message. A sign that says, “Please take all phone calls to the lobby to avoid disrupting others who are working” means the same thing but sends a message of trust and mutual respect. Library staff members’ actions when enforcing policies can also have a major effect on teens’ perceptions of the library. Kacie (age 18) described returning to the library after having a positive experience with library staff waiving a fine: "Yeah, the one time I had sixty cents [in fines]. One book was late, but they forgave that. That was very nice. That's why I keep going. I've been at least five times in the last two months." Framing library policies in positive language can go a long way toward promoting the image of the library as welcoming to teens.

  1. Are you matching your services to your teen community’s unique needs?

We all know that community needs and interests should drive collection development and programming, but it’s a rule that bears repeating. For example, there has been strong push in the library literature to think of public and school libraries as technology providers, but in economically-advantaged or technology-saturated communities, teens are likely to have reduced needs for technology access. As Maisha (age 15), a student in a technology magnet school, told us: "I really don't need to go to the library because I have everything at home," including several digital devices and full access to a range of online tools and resources at home and at school. In these types of communities, the more effective approach to teen library services might be to focus on providing community engagement opportunities, civic participation outlets, social activities, recreation, information literacy education, etc., instead of focusing on information resource provision and on technology access. For more disadvantaged communities, however, public and school libraries might better serve teens by focusing resources and energy on providing technology access, infrastructure, and education, and by providing information resources teens can't get elsewhere.

  1. Do you provide opportunities for teens to demonstrate their knowledge and accomplishments, such as avenues for displaying teen fiction, teen photography, teen computer game designs, teen music compositions and performances, etc.?

Libraries are perfect places for celebrating and encouraging teens' creativity and their creations. Teens in our studies described deep levels of engagement with creative endeavors like writing, photography, and music. Taahira (age 14) explained that, "I just take pictures, because I want to be a photographer when I grow up." She went on to detail her photography and to describe her efforts to find good outlets for sharing her work others. Isaac (age 16) explained that he plays "drums, guitar, and bass…. We started a [music] club, too." Libraries have the opportunity to provide community spaces where teens can share their creativity and knowledge with other teens and with their community at large, both in the physical library and online via the library’s website or social media accounts.

  1. Do you work hard to bring the teens in your community together at your library, either face-to-face or online?

The teens in our studies told us that the social support aspects of libraries are key to engaging their interest, especially for those with limited transportation options or limited access to places where they can safely or easily hang out and socialize. Public and school libraries interested in increasing teen participation should look toward providing services that facilitate social interaction and focus on promoting libraries as social organizations. Victoria (age 16) described a successful program at her local public library: "They have these things every Tuesday, these teen programs that they have. And all these teens from different places come and meet, and they play all these games, and eat, and just hang out. We actually started going on Tuesdays, because it was really fun." That’s what teen librarianship should be about at its core: bringing teens together and providing them with a wide variety of opportunities for positive social, intellectual, and personal development.

Were you able to answer yes to all 10 questions? We hope so!

Please tell us if you found this information useful by completing a short, three-question survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GRN5PMQ. For more information about our research with teens, visit our homepage: Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group.

Thank you!


By Michelle Purcell, Rachel Magee, Denise Agosto, and Andrea Forte


*Note: All teens’ names are pseudonyms. Quotes come from our interviews and focus groups with high school students, conducted between 2013 and 2015 in U.S. public high schools.

10 Questions to Ask about Your Teen Services” is based on research conducted by Drexel University’s Youth Online Research Group, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS], Award #LG-06-11-0261-11, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. 2011121873.


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11. Applications open for 2016 Bechtel Fellowship

ALSC Professional Award

Applications for the ALSC Professional Awards are opening this fall (image courtesy of ALSC)

ALSC and the Special Collections and Bechtel Fellowship Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2015 Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship. The Bechtel Fellowship is designed to allow qualified children’s librarians to spend a total of four weeks or more reading and studying at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, a part of the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The Baldwin Library contains a special collection of 130,000 volumes of children’s literature published mostly before 1950. The fellowship is endowed in memory of Louise Seaman Bechtel and Ruth M. Baldwin and provides a stipend of $4,000.

Each applicant will be judge on the following:

  • the description of the topic of study for the fellowship period;
  • the applicants’ demonstration of ongoing commitment to motivating children to read;
  • the applicants’ willingness to spend a total of four weeks in Gainesville. The time spent does not have to be successive weeks.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 1, 2014. For more information about the requirements of the fellowship and submitting the online application please visit the Bechtel Fellowship page.

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12. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week - July 10, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 10 and July 16 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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13. 48 days, day 18: bountiful moon

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

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14. Giving Every Child a Fighting Chance #alaac15

There was hardly a dry eye in the audience following Saturday’s screening of the new PBS documentary, The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation. This illuminating film featured moving testimonials from families living in poverty or just barely getting by due to the high cost of quality childcare. The film included facts about the critical brain development that occurs during ages 0-5, and how many children in struggling families are missing out on access to stimulating and education-rich environments and opportunities. Instead, stress (in the form of cortisol) is passed on from parent to child, which leaves a lasting imprint on the child’s development and functioning. This stress follows him or her into adulthood…setting the scene for a cycle that can continue for generations.

Clocking in at about an hour, the documentary was extremely powerful and will provoke libraries–and anyone who cares about nurturing a nation of strong, smart, and independent children–to carefully consider ways we can work together as a community to level the playing field for all children. As the film points out, that moment almost came in 1971, when Congress passed a bill for universal childcare and developmental services for young children. Unfortunately, Nixon vetoed it. Imagine the ways this country may be different today had those services been available for all these decades. Isn’t it time for that change to happen now?

Resources at the panel included:

The Raising of America Web site – Features clips from the documentary series, resources, and ways to take action. The documentary DVD was released in June 2015 and will air on public television soon (time TBD).

For Our Babies – A national movement focusing on efforts to support children age 0-3. A book, For Our Babies: Ending the Invisible Neglect of America’s Infants by J. Ronald Lally, is available and a suggested book club choice and conversation-starter.

Early Learning 2.0 with Families: Enriching Library Services for Families – Co-presenter, the California State Library, offered information on the ELF (Early Learning with Families) initiative. Through ELF, California libraries may receive training and resources to support family-friendly and developmentally appropriate services to aid families with children ages 0-5.

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15. Guest Post: Research and the Imposter Monster by Elle Cosimano


IvyWallMediumYou’re a writer.

So why is it so hard to say it out loud? Why is it that every new person who walks through the door of my local writers’ group introduces herself, and then immediately disqualifies her attendance by adding, “But I’m not really a writer”?

Some refer to it as the Imposter Monster, and it took a big nasty bite out of my confidence early in my writing journey. Hell, it still does if we’re all being honest. I’m guessing we all suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point, whether it’s because we don’t yet have any published titles in our sig, or because we’re uncertain if we’ll ever have another.

I first faced-down my monster when I was conducting research for a book, before the release of my debut. It was a crime thriller, and I had no background in law enforcement. Books and blogs were helpful, but limiting, leaving big gaps in my research that felt flat on the page. I was lacking the richness and depth of experience, and I would only get that from hands-on, interactive research – the kind that required me to get out of my writing chair. And this meant introducing myself.

9780803739260_NearlyGone_CAT.inddI had to make phone calls and send emails, and I put off this step for a long, long time. Not because I was afraid of the research. But because I was afraid to say it out loud…

“I’m a writer, and I’m conducting research for a book.” I could have stopped there. After all, this was all the qualification I needed. And yet, I had to fight the urge to add, “… a book I haven’t written yet. And no, I am not published.”

Turns out, all that time, the only real gatekeeper between me and better research was the Imposter Monster inside my own head. Before my first book published, I toured a forensics lab, conducted a ride-along with a sheriff’s deputy, played a part in a firearm simulation, took classes on evidence collection, searched a mock-prison cell for contraband with a correctional officer, and interviewed a defense attorney. Not one single person asked for a bibliography or a resume as a prerequisite. And no one declined to help me when I told them I was not yet published. To my surprise, they were all more than willing to share their knowledge and time. People like to talk about things they’re passionate about, and you are a captive audience.

NearlyFoundOfficialCoverHands-on face-to-face research opportunities are available to all of us, but the first step to getting through the door is giving yourself permission to try.

Here are a few research sources open to all of us that you might not have considered before.

  • Audit a class through your local university, trade school, or community college. Or ask to interview a professor as an expert in their field.
  • Visit a museum. Call ahead or send a letter and ask to meet with a curator or museum expert while you’re there. They might offer an interview, or a personalized tour. Not near a museum? Try a local Historical Society.
  • Call or email the Public Relations Department. Many corporations, governmental agencies, and public service offices offer tours, or opportunities for the public to learn more about them. (Note: there will be some that are off-limits to the public. I was turned away by juvenile correction centers due to the ages of the inmates and their legal rights to privacy. I was also denied access to a medical examiner’s office and the autopsy suite. Don’t let these minor setbacks deter you. There are always alternative sources for the information you need. Interviews with industry experts can give you a unique snapshot behind the curtain.)
  • Sign up for a workshop. Your local chapter of a larger professional writing organization may offer a variety of guest speakers, panels, and workshops featuring experts in various fields, and catering to a particular genre. Most workshops are open to the public for a reasonable fee.
  • Offer to volunteer and get your hands dirty, in exchange for the experience to shadow a resource for a day.
  • Ask friends and colleagues for referrals. You know that old saying about 6 degrees of separation? Chances are, someone you know knows someone who knows a whole lot about something you want to learn! Facebook and LinkedIn are great resources for identifying people who can offer you a warm hand-off to an expert in a specific field.

Now get out there and say it!

You’re a writer. And you have a lot of research to do.

twilight writer

ELLE COSIMANO writes YA mysteries and thrillers. Her acclaimed debut, NEARLY GONE, was recently nominated for an Edgar Award. The sequel, NEARLY FOUND, releases on June 2. Elle lives in a grass hut on the Riviera Maya with her husband and two sons. For more information, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or visit her website.


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16. Inspiration from the Library of Congress

As a researcher, one of the places that inspire me is the Library of Congress (LOC).   The building itself is a national treasure, but the collections it holds are even more precious.   No matter what you are interested in, chances are that the Library of Congress has some material that relates to it.  It is a gold mine of primary source material for teachers, students, and writers. 

The LOC has a vast amount of material online, but let me give you an example of just one small slice of it.  Let’s take photographs from the Civil War.  When I look at this collection I see powerful, amazing images of people on both sides of the war.  While I’m interested in photos of the famous people like Lincoln, Lee and Grant, I’m even more fascinated by images of average soldiers who are often unidentified.  When I look at their faces, I wonder what they experienced and if they survived the war. 


Photos of soldiers are not the only type of images in their collection; many are of women and children.  This touching image of a young girl in a dark mourning dress holding a photo of her father, says a lot-silently.


This morning I found an unexpected collection at the LOC:  eyewitness drawings of Civil War scenes.  There are lots of battle scenes and landscapes, but the one that drew my eye was this sketch of a soldier.  It makes me wonder who this man was and why the artist sketched his image.  Was he a friend or brother?   Was he a hero or a deserter?

Images like these can teach students a lot about history.  And they can inspire both fiction and nonfiction writers. 

Carla Killough McClafferty


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17. Insights Gleaned from Jane Yolen

A critical part of developing your craft as an author is research. Research involves a wide array of activities. It includes reading as much as you can in the genre you’re writing in. It involves attending writing conferences, networking with editors, agents and other authors. Part of it includes taking classes or reading the latest and greatest books on how to improve your writing. It also includes learning what other authors have to say on being an author.

As part of my recent research activities, I’ve been visiting the websites of some of my favorite children’s authors, one of which is the notorious and supremely talented Jane Yolen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read one of her books only to say to myself, “Wow! That’s exactly the kind of book I wish I had written.”

In reading Jane Yolen’s “Random thoughts on writing and on children’s books” found on her website, here are a few highlights that resonated with me.

“I generally do not think out plots or characters ahead of time… I want my own writing to surprise me, the way someone else’s book does.”

“Sometimes [a work in progress] seems promising, sometimes brilliant, sometimes just plain stupid. And that may be the same piece on alternate days.”

“Intuition works best when you remember that “tuition” is part of it.”

“Know this about being published: it is out of your hands. Even if you do everything you can think of to affect that outcome, you cannot make an editor take your work.”

And perhaps my favorite;

A writer puts words on a page. An author lives in story…  Learn to write not with blood and fear, but with joy.”

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18. Crafting Nonfiction: Conducting Research and Organizing Information

Melissa Stewart, award-winning author of more than 150 nonfiction books for children, steps into our Author's Spotlight today. In her post, she shares about the chunk and check process, which will help your students conduct research.

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19. Why Do We Need Diverse Books in Non-Diverse Schools?

In this guest post, Taun M. Wright, CGuest BloggerEO of Equal Read, lays out some of the arguments for using diverse books in all schools, regardless of student demographics.

DeAvian was a disengaged student, more interested in socializing than academics. Her school had well-known books like Ramona but it wasn’t until her Big Sister gave her a book with an African-American girl on the cover that suddenly, “DeAvian’s eyes opened wide with excitement and a smile filled her face. She held the book tightly, looking up as if to say: ‘Here I am, at last!’” Now, DeAvian continues to read, and her academic performance has improved dramatically. The impact of representative literature can be profound.

In a year with so much important attention to discrimination, the call for diverse children’s books is clear. However, diverse books aren’t just essential to students from minority or marginalized backgrounds. We need diverse books in schools with students representing fewer racial groups just as much as we need them in more diverse schools.

Research shows that the less contact students have with people from other racial groups, the more likely they are to retain higher Why Use Diverse Books in Non-Diverse Classrooms?levels of prejudice. While equity and inclusion are necessary, especially for those of us too long without them, social change is more likely to happen when everyone understands how they will benefit directly from increased diversity and, what’s more, why their ability to embrace the benefits of diversity will be a key determinant of their future success. Here are a few key benefits to adding diverse books to a collection, regardless of the demographics of students:

  1. INCREASED ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: In their book Identity-Safe Classrooms, Drs. Dorothy Steele and Becki Cohn-Vargas show that “Identity-Safe Classrooms” result in increased achievement for all students, not just those from marginalized groups. Stereotype threat – anticipating being negatively stereotyped based on negative attributes associated with an identity group you represent – has a direct impact on achievement for students from all identity groups. Having many diverse books can offer a “density of cues” to counter stereotypes and reduce stereotype threat, increasing identity-safety for all students.
  1. ENGAGEMENT IN READING: Everyone agrees reading ability is a key predictor of future success. The key route to engaging kids in reading is to offer them books they find interesting and kids want to read about what they don’t know, not merely what they know. As part of its Classrooms program, Equal Read assesses students’ interest in diverse books, as well as their feelings of identity-safety and other measures. Students overwhelmingly answer, “I like reading about people that are different than me” and say that “books about kids that are different than the kids in my class are interesting.”*
  1. BETTER PROSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: In 2012, Loris Vezalli and his colleagues demonstrated that adolescents who read a book concerning intercultural topics showed not only a reduction in stereotyping and more positive feelings about students representing identities other than their own, but also an increased desire to engage in future contact. Clearly, diverse books are a powerful tool for improved prosocial development.
  1. COLLEGE AND CAREER READINESS: Educators at all levels recognize the need for students to develop key “21st Century Skills.” While their lists may differ around the edges, all include collaboration and communication as essential 21st Century Skills. As the total number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students will be over 50% this fall, all students will need to be able to collaborate and communicate with people from multiple identity groups, if they are to succeed. Businesses are well aware of research that shows diverse teams are more creative, innovative, and productive than homogenous teams. Silicon Valley companies, for instance, are now investing significantly in recruitment efforts geared to diverse employees. A recent study by professors from Cornell, UC Berkeley, Washington and Vanderbilt Universities even demonstrated that “political correctness” has a positive influence on creativity. Students accustomed to respectfully collaborating and communicating with people from many different identity groups will be better prepared for college and career success.

Just because a school’s population is not very diverse, does not mean it should be similarly restricted in the books available to its students. Kids like great stories. All kids deserve to read the most engaging books available, books that expand their imagination of what’s possible by telling a wide variety of stories, featuring characters with differences beyond phenotype (observable differences) to include different ethnicities, nationalities, languages, gender expression, family structures, abilities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, religions and beliefs, ages, body types, learning styles, and experiences.

Through its Classrooms program, Equal Read creates broadly diverse book collections that are balanced for gender and representative of all of a classroom’s learners, offering teacher professional development and parent education about the role diverse books can play in increasing cultural competency.

Because every child deserves an equal read.

*Note: Equal Read also surveys parents and teachers, and overwhelmingly, both groups say they want to know more about diverse children’s books. Clearly, they already recognize the benefits of diverse books to the students they serve, yet it is difficult for them to find these books – this is no surprise considering how few children’s books feature diverse characters. We’re also working on ways to help parents and teachers more readily find the most outstanding books featuring diverse characters through Equal Read’s Books program.

EqualReadTaun Wright founded Equal Read in 2013 as a nonprofit organization to increase diversity in children’s literature, so all kids can “see themselves and a world of possibility in the books they read.” A former teacher, nonprofit consultant and administrator, and a parent and grandparent of a multi-racial family with multiple and varied abilities, nationalities, ethnicities, family structures, socio-economic backgrounds, languages, sexual orientations, ages, body types, education levels, learning styles, and experiences, she has first-hand appreciation for the wonders of different identities and the value of diverse children’s books in sharing them.

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20. Risks and rewards

2015 is my year for risks.  I have risked speaking up.  I have risked grappling in a tournament with people who were 20-40 years younger than me.  And last week I took an Urban Escape and Evasion class in Los Angeles.  It was amazing/scary/fun.

The first day, we learned how to get out of duct tape, zip ties, rope, and even handcuffs.

If you're duct-taped, hold your arms close together, then bring your hands high over head and and hit your elbows hard across your own ribs.  I learned the hard way that if your arms are too far apart, this doesn't work. This trick also works for zip ties, although it can hurt your wrists (which is why the instructor made "Wonder Woman" bracelets out of duct tape first).  If that fails, try rubbing your bound hands on a sharp edge like a door..  Above, author Hannah Jayne demonstrates the correct technique for breaking duct tape, as well as how you can use paracord (a lot of preppers replace their shoelaces with paracord, or wear it as a bracelet) to saw through paracord by bicycling madly in the air.  Later, we practiced shimming or picking our handcuffs using bobby pins or broken off barrettes with pillow cases over our heads.

Here's what happens if you get handcuffs/duct tape/zip ties etc. wrong:

We also learned how to pick locks and steal cars, although we didn't practice that last one.

We learned how to figure out if you are being followed and how to weaponize anything.  We learned that most people think they are in a survival situation if they miss lunch.

The last day, we were kidnapped, hooded, stun gunned (I still have marks!), and then your captors go for a “smoke break” and you have to use everything you just learned to make your way to a certain point, collecting information and photos along the way.

We learned that if you are full of adrenaline, you dont feel as much.  At the start of the exercise, we got caught in a parking lot surrounded by 10 or 11 foot high chain link fences.  And we were being chased by a real-life security guard.  Hannah started climbing the fence, which meant I had to, too.  At the top, the chain links had been cut off, forming a pointy barrier.  I have some crazy bruises, one for each point, on one leg.

But we made it. We had been to GoodWill the night before and cached some outfits. (It is very hard to cache anything in Los Angeles and then go back and find it the next day. You always have eyes on you, and cacheing arouses curiosity).  First I was a nurse (I even looked like a nurse even though it was just a plain pink Tshirt layered over a white Tshirt, and Hannah was a goth girl.  Then Hannah was pregnant with some of her previous clothes, and I was her churchy-looking mom.  Finally, we were both tourists.

Even though we were hunted by 10 people who had our picture, and we had to stay with proscribed boundaries, we were not caught!

I'm so glad I took this risk.  I turn 56 in two weeks and I'm pretty pround of myself.

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21. Libraries--Better Than Ever

     On our first date, my husband-to-be asked what I did for a living.  I told him I was a school librarian.  "Well there's a profession that will be obsolete in twenty years," he chuckled. I did not chuckle. I did marry him and twenty five years later I am still waiting for his prediction to come true.

   OK, I admit that twenty five years ago I never dreamed that I would have a phone that could help me find my way around the zillion streets of Atlanta named "Peachtree."  Or a device that could download hundreds of books, cutting down considerably on overweight luggage fees. My 1989 school library had computers, but they were little more than fancy typewriters. Who knew that entering the right search words on my jazzy little laptop could find pictures of the battleships my father-in-law served on in WWII?  Or the history of the long demolished amusement park of my childhood, the genesis of The Roller Coaster Kid?  Yes, Craig was right...I could access all that information without setting foot in a library.

    But yet there are still libraries. In my neck of the woods, it appears that most people are there for free computer time and to check out videos. If I am there, it is to do research. Guess what? Not everything is available on the Internet. At least not for free.  When I wrote Jimmy's Stars and Yankee Girl I spent months reading newspapers from WWII and the 1960's....on microfilm machines.  While there are a good number of old periodicals available online these days, they never seem to be the ones I need or there is a hefty fee to join a database.  All the branch libraries in my immediate area were built in the last 15 years and don't have microfilm machines. But if I need one, all I have to do is go downtown to the main library.

   The library is a source of professional literature such as Library Journal or Publisher's Weekly. Usually they are kept in the librarians' work area, but they have always let me read them on the premises if I ask.  There are also databases and reference materials that I can't find anywhere else...at least not for free.

    I have had the good fortune to have worked in a university library which gave me access to all
kinds of information not found in a public library. My library allowed the public to use the collection for a nominal yearly fee. As an employee I had free reign, but even if I hadn't, I would have paid the fee.  It's something to investigate.

     I could go on forever about the information that you will find only in a library....but why tell you?  Check it out yourself. By the way, my husband has had to finally admit that libraries and librarians are not obsolete or likely to become so any time soon.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

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22. 2016 Debut Authors Share their Research Tips

Note from Julie: Today’s post is a compilation of advice on historical research from a few members of the Sweet Sixteens, a group of YA and MG authors who are debuting in 2016. You can learn more about the Sweet Sixteens and their upcoming books on their website. I’m very proud to be a part of this great group, and I’m excited to share some writing advice from my fellow debut authors!

The idea for this post came from a thread on the Sweet Sixteens’ discussion forum. Kali Wallace, who writes YA horror, posted a question for historical fiction writers. I thought it was great that a writer was reaching across genres to ask a question, and the replies were stellar! Thank you all for agreeing to let me share this great discussion with the readers of PubCrawl! (And stay tuned for more of Kali Wallace and YA horror in a future post!)

Kali Wallace pictureI have a question for writers of historical fiction:
How do you research for a historical novel? What sort of research do you do?
How do you balance getting the period details right with writing for a modern MG/YA audience?

~Kali Wallace, author of Shallow Graves, Katherine Tegen Books 2016. You can visit Kali’s website and follow her on twitter @kaliphyte.

Lois SepaSweet Sixteens Lois Sepahbanhban: My stories always start with a character, and I think that even in a historical setting, the character’s experiences are what make his/her story accessible and interesting for modern readers. But getting the setting details right does require research. Over a period of several months, I devour everything I can find about the setting–books, newspaper articles, diaries, documentaries, and museums. During those months, the story starts to slowly come together in my mind. So as soon as I’m ready to start writing, then I’ve already done most of the research.

I use a notebook to keep track of what I learn, and I always need to go back and dig up new details while I’m drafting.

By immersing myself in the history and culture before I start writing, I have found that the details come naturally as I’m drafting.

(Lois Sepahban is the author of the upcoming MG Historical, Paper Wishes, coming from FSG/Margaret Ferguson Books in Winter 2016. Learn more about Lois on her website and say hello to her on twitter @LoisSepahban)

Janet Taylor pictureJanet B. Taylor: When I FIRST started writing for REALS, I’d planned to write adult historical fiction. I was working with a hisfic author as a “writing coach” who told me–in no uncertain terms–that though I was a good writer, with potential…blah blah…my “voice” was too modern and too “YA”.
Now, at the time, I didn’t really know what “YA” was. And I certainly didn’t know what voice meant in writing terms.

Soo…I cried. A lot. Then I got to thinking. Okay. Modern voice. YA. Loves historical…..TIME TRAVEL!

I’ve been fascinated by the medieval period for years, and had studied it for a long time. Particularly England and France, and even more specifically, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. (I’d LOVE to write about her one day. Her teenage years are absolutely astounding. However, there are a LOT of wonderful books already written about Eleanor. And I’m not sure I have the chops to go up against someone like Elizabeth Chadwick or Sharon Kay Penman, for instance.)

Anyhoo, with that background, I basically did what Lois said. Total immersion for months. Websites. Read a lot. Traveled to Europe a few times. Read a lot. Castles, museums. Oh, did I mention I spent WAY too much money on books so I could read a lot? I got everything about anything to do with time period. I even got to spend the night inside Fontevraud Abbey in France, where Eleanor spent her later years, and is buried. I got to be alone with her (and Henry II and Richard the Lionheart) at night, in the cathedral, all alone. It was magnificent!

Now the sequel to my current book will take place in NYC during “The Gilded Age” 1895. That is requiring a LOT of new, very detailed, very intense research, as I wasn’t really familiar with that era. But it’s such a cool time and I’m enjoying it very much!

(Janet B. Taylor’s debut YA Adventure/Time Travel, Into the Dim, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Spring 2016. Visit Janet on her website and follow her on twitter @Janet_B_Taylor)

Patrick Samphire picturePatrick Samphire: Almost everything I write is set in one historical period or another. I’ve written short stories in Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, as well as in the first world war and prehistoric Britain. My novel, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, is set in 1816, and I’m also working on a novel set in the 1930s.
But the shameful truth is that I’m an absolutely terrible researcher. I hate doing it. I pick up some incredibly informative, vastly heavy reference book and I rarely get past the introduction before my brain melts into a puddle of supreme apathy. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Come on. I can’t be the only one, right?

So, I have developed a special method of Historical Research for the Historically Ignorant and Terminally Lazy:

1. Watch movies and read books set in the relevant period, to get a basic idea of what the period was like. You have to be careful that you’re not picking books and movies by people who are equally Historically Ignorant and Terminally Lazy. For my 1816 book, that meant reading Jane Austen, Bernard Cornwell and Georgette Heyer and watching lots of Jane Austen adaptations. Yeah, and some people claim this is work…
2. Write your book.
3. Figure out all the bits you should have researched and go and look them up. Wikipedia is, of course, not particularly accurate about many things, but admit it, we all use it… Alternatively, ask my wife (you’ll have to find someone else to ask; sorry). My wife loves doing historical research. She reads books like that for fun. She even has degrees in this kind of stuff.
4. Realise that what you have in the book can’t possibly have happened, because you didn’t bother to research it in advance.
5. Rewrite, making it less impossible.
6. Blame the wizards/fairies/aliens. My books tend to have pretty heavy fantasy or science fiction elements, so when I get something wrong, I just blame the influence of magic/technology for changes to real history.
7. Now no one will realize how little you actually know about your historical period. Unless you write a blog entry admitting it.

(Patrick Samphire is the author of the upcoming MG Adventure, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, coming from Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt / Macmillan) in January 2016. Learn more about Patrick on his website and say hello to him on twitter @patricksamphire)

Heidi Heilig PictureHeidi Heilig: For starters, picking historical fantasy/time travel over straight up historical fiction made things easier when it came to research. In the world of the book, characters can travel to historical and mythological maps, so I am not tied strictly to widely-agreed-upon reality.

That said, accurate history can really make the fantasy aspect shine. When I did my research, reading was key for me, and I often went down the research rabbit hole for hours on something small that never made it into the final draft–or even the draft I was working on at the time. But that time wasn’t wasted–having all that information in a soup in my head made it easy to pick small things out and weave them into a detailed story.

Obviously, primary factual documents were very useful–boat time tables, newspaper articles–but I also found fiction of the time period very helpful for dialogue and speech cadence. Old pictures helped (the bulk of the story takes place in 1884 so there are some) and maps, of course, so I could see, for example, what areas of town smelled because they were near the tannery or how noisy things were due to proximity to the market. Paintings, art, or songs of the time helped me humanize the characters and understand what people filled their time with when they weren’t doing Important Book Things, because I have this tendency to see historical people as Very Serious.

In the future, I hope to be skilled enough to do straight up historical fiction. I love history. I think there are some issues that are universal. No matter when, teens are always growing up, or falling in love, or looking for their place in the world.

(Heidi Heilig’s debut YA Fantasy/Time Travel, The Girl from Everywhere, will be published by Greenwillow/HarperCollins in February, 2016. You can learn more about her on her website and follow her on Twitter @heidiheilig.)

What are your thoughts on historical fiction? Do you use any of these techniques when you research? Please share you thoughts in the comments!

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23. 30 Days of Teen Programming: The NILPPA Study: What We are Hearing about Teen Programming

As a librarian, you probably see the impacts of programming every day. You know your work is important based on interactions with your teens. And they probably make it clear – through their words or behavior – when a particular program has hit or missed the mark.

But what if you had more than anecdotal evidence? What if you had data to tell you what works, what doesn’t, and why?

In December, ALA’s Public Programs Office released a first-of-its-kind research study to quantify the characteristics, audiences, outcomes and impacts of library programming. The National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA) describes the current state of library programming and proposes an ambitious, eight-year research plan for further study. NILPPA also poses a number of questions, including: What counts as “success” in library programming? What impact does programming have on participants and communities? What skills must programming librarians hone to maximize impact and reach underserved communities?

But let’s back up for a moment. What is the Public Programs Office (PPO)? Located one story up from YALSA in ALA’s Chicago headquarters, PPO promotes cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service. Operating on grant funding, our 10-person staff offers professional development activities, programming resources, and grant opportunities to help libraries fill their role as community cultural centers — places of cultural and civic engagement where people of all backgrounds gather for reflection, discovery, participation and growth.

Library programming has changed since PPO was founded more than 20 years ago. Back then, support for library programs for adults was limited and fragile, and the title “programming librarian” was most likely to refer to someone in tech services. Today, there is a robust community of librarians whose job descriptions include the creation of programs for all ages.

The fast-changing nature of the library field is one motivation for the NILPPA study. We want libraries to have the knowledge and tools they need to successfully reach their communities through programming. We want to help libraries develop best practices to advance the field; enable them to “make the case” for funding and resources; and most importantly, foster support for lifelong learners of diverse backgrounds.

After the NILPPA report was published, we asked readers to weigh in with their own experiences on the NILPPA website, listservs and social media. We collected more than 170 comments – feedback that will help us decide where resources are needed most as we move into future phases of this project.

One question we asked – “What are your library’s greatest strengths and weaknesses in regard to programming?” – elicited several responses about teen programming. Below is a sampling:

“At [library name], our programming strengths are programs for children.  We can almost always get an audience and they are up for anything.  We still struggle to find audiences for tween and teen programs.”

“Our weakness is providing programming for the millennials. We have a lot of things for youth, but once they graduate we have nothing for them…”

“Strength - programs for younger children and families; Weakness - programs for middle school/teens…”

“Strengths: children's programming including story time and summer reading. There is great awareness of what is happening in the library regarding this age group.  Weaknesses: YA and Adult programming.  Our YA programming does not exist and we get limited participation in our adult programming attempts.  Our library is in an affluent area and there are many distractions for teens and adults outside the library.”

“Strength: all baby, kid, tween and teen programming. We bring it and they come. After school clubs for school-age kiddos is particularly hot these days. As is our monthly lunch-time book club hosted at the high school.”

“Strength: Lots of good programming for kids & teens (i.e. Children's Book Club, Teen Writing Club, SDC Storytime, etc.).  Weakness: Non adult programming (due to lack of interest).”

“Youth and Teen Services manage their programming themselves and balance staff time with program needs well.  Our Teen Librarian constantly looks for programs that will bring Teens into the Library.  We are looking to increase tech services available to them.  YS librarians reach out to schools, summer camps, and youth program organizers to increase our outreach to underserved youth.  Our membership of the [program name] brings every kindergarten class in [School District 1], [School District 2] and [School District 3] into the Library at least once a year for special programming.”

While at some libraries, teen programs appear to be thriving, others seem to struggle with this young adult demographic. Do these comments resonate with you? How is your situation similar or different? What is making your teen programming successful? Please share your reactions in the comments below. You can read the full report and comment at http://NILPPA.org.

YALSA’s Future of Teen Library Service report and the new Teen Programming Guidelines are so valuable to the Public Programs Office’s work in this area. We are eager to hear from you about how you are working with these resources as well.

You can also stay up-to-date on PPO programs and initiatives at our website, www.ProgrammingLibrarian.org, or sign up for a PPO listserv

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24. The ABCDs of Research

The last few posts from my fellow TeachingAuthors have been on poetry.  Each of them has written eloquently on the topic.  But trust me when I tell you that I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the topic of poetry.   So, I’ll share a topic with you that I do know about:  research. 

I enjoy sharing how to do research with students and teachers.  I offer a variety of program options including several different types of sessions on brainstorming, research, and writing.   I love to be invited into a school for a live author visit.  But that isn’t always possible.  In the last couple of years, I’ve done lots of Interactive Video Conferences as part of the Authors on Call group of inkthinktank.com. 

During these video conferences, I’ve come up with ways to teach students from third grade through high school how to approach a research project.  One method I use is to give them an easy way to remember the steps to plan their research using A, B, C, and D:





The earlier students learn good research skills, the better.  Learning some tips and tricks like my ABCD plan will help.  I hope it makes the whole process less daunting.

Carla Killough McClafferty

To find out more about booking an Interactive Video Conference with students or teachers:

Contact Carla Killough McClafferty


Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (search for mcclafferty or inkthinktank)

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25. My Twitter chat with an 8th grade class

I’ve done in-person school visits and Skype presentations, but this past Friday School Librarian of the Year finalist Colleen Graves and I tried something new: a Twitter chat between me and a roomful of eighth graders needing some help transforming their research into a story:

How did it go? I thought it was terrific, but you can see for yourself in this handy Storify recap of our conversation. I’ll be back soon with some additional thoughts on the experience.

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