In Short…

Why do you want to be a YA librarian?

I often get asked about what I learn as a student pursuing a Master of Library Science degree. More than once, this question has been followed by, “So you’re learning about the Dewey Decimal System?” Ha. Well, I’ve learned a lot after two semesters. I’ve learned about cataloguing and how to retrieve accurate research. But I’d have to say that one of  the most fascinating and valuable things I’ve learned is how important reading motivation is for children and adolescents. That’s why learning about how hard it can be to advocate for teens in the library was so frustrating to me. It’s sad to know that YA librarians have to fight extra hard to give teens the resources and space they need in the library.

Research has shown that technology and skim reading internet articles have caused our brains to develop differently. We can’t process longer, denser texts the way we used to. Going back to the conversations I’ve had with people about my career choice, I’ve often been asked if I worry libraries will become obsolete now that we live in the digital age. My response, in addition to mentioning that libraries have adapted to this change, is that because we live in a digital age, libraries are more important now than ever. We need libraries, and we need to continue to fight for our teen patrons especially.

I felt the need to write up a longer response, to help me craft my much shorter elevator pitch.  And so, TL;DR:

  • I want to be a YA librarian because, in an age where we are so glued to our computer and phone screens, reading motivation for adolescents is essential. I hope to find that one special book every reluctant reader needs, and to put it in his/her hand. I want to advocate for teens in the library, so that they will be drawn to a place that offers them so many valuable resources.

Limited Budgets, Burnouts: Welcome to YA Programming

You Are an Army of One, the Only Teen Services Librarian In the Library System.

This section was perfect (read: scary) to read as I was working on the program proposal. The program proposal has forced me to really examine the challenges of organizing a program, and doing so when you are the smallest department in the library. Never mind a lack of budget, something far too many YA librarians are familiar with. Never mind the challenge of actually getting the program approved and struggling with feeling like you are alone in your work. Once your program is established, bringing it to life is an entirely different challenge.

For example, the program my partner and I proposed involves cooking. This brought about a whole list of questions I hadn’t been prepared to answer at first. Questions like:

– What recipe is simple to cook for a group of 10 teenagers?

– How many ingredients should the recipe have?

– Does the library have an appliance that can be used for cooking?

– Is there a space you can use to cook it? A basement? A community room?

I hadn’t realized what a challenge it would be to answer all of these questions! I’d taken developing a program that involves cooking for granted, because I’d seen other libraries pull them off (Seemingly without any effort. Impressive.)

Ms. Kitchen, the sole YA librarian at her library, must have her work cut out for her when she’s developing a program. When you have a small staff, questions about your program become much harder to answer.  I’d like to think that when I’m a librarian, there will be more than one of us in the YA department!  I think this section gave some very important advice on how to deal with these obstacles. A positive attitude, perseverance, and good networking skills goes a long way.

Teens and Boundaries

This is one issue where I can honestly say I’m not entirely sure where I stand just yet. I don’t work with teens. I work with kids, and so I think the rules of boundaries are different. By different I mean, most of the kids I’ve had programs with are too shy to ever ask me for a hug, but are perfectly fine with practically stepping on my feet while getting a close up view of a picture book they find especially eye catching.

I found the advice in Real-World Teen Services a little awkward. The instructions come off as very rigid, in a way that makes me think it would make the incident even more awkward. Put into practice, however, I could see it as a necessary way to avoid uncomfortable physical contact with the teen. I believe that the way one should behave in this kind of situation depends both on the library’s policy and and what the librarian is comfortable with. The library staff may have already established a way of handling teens who are comfortable with physical contact.

I’m new to my job, but I have seen a teen patron come to visit another librarian in the children’s room. The librarian was around when the teen patron was a child and using the children’s room, so they have known each other for a long time. Whenever the teen visits, she immediately hugs the librarian. It doesn’t seem to be a problem to anyone.

Going back to myself, I think that if I’ve already established a friendly relationship with a female teen, I wouldn’t be uncomfortable hugging her. A male teen I would actually feel more uncomfortable with. Culturally, female bonding generally encourages physical affection, regardless of age. For males, it’s different. When I thought this over, my initial thought was that if a male teen wanted to hug me, it would mean that he’s too attached to me. I would assume that he had a crush on me, or felt too emotionally dependent on me in a way that was inappropriate for a librarian-patron relationship.

I will stress, however, that this is just my initial thoughts on a matter I haven’t faced yet. In the moment, I might have different opinions. To prove my point, our children’s room had a just turned 18- year-old male page who left the library to go to college. He came home for the Thanksgiving holiday to visit us, and went to give me a hug as soon as he saw me. I had no issue with hugging him back. I think much of how you feel depends on circumstance.

Manga Monday: Fruits Basket!

Most of you shoujo fans are probably familiar with the hit anime Fruits Basket, but have you given the manga series a read? The 23 volume series takes the story far past where the final episode of the anime leaves off, and you learn so much more about the characters! Seeing how author Natsuki Takaya’s develops over the course of the series is also a real treat.


Recently orphaned Tohru Honda has met hard times when she resorts to living in a tent in the woods. When she stumbles upon the Sohma family home, she is offered to work for the family as a live in maid. But there’s something off about this family. The Sohmas are cursed. When they each hug a member of the opposite sex, they transform into an animal of the Chinese Zodiac!

All 23 volumes of Fruits Basket are available for checkout from Nassau County libraries!

Annotated Bibliography: Mental Illness is Not Weakness

Although conversations about depression and mental illness have received more attention over the years, “Most of the recent research on stigma reports that adolescents with mental disorders are personally affected by stigma in at least one area of their lives” (Lippman, n.d., para. 4). Stigma causes people to feel that their condition is their fault or that they’re “just being weak.” This results in low self-esteem, shame, and makes people more likely to hide their illness rather than seek help. Apply these stigmas to a sixteen-year-old, and you can imagine how damaging this can be.

The good news is that one of the most effective ways to fight the mental illness stigma is to educate others. “The National Annenberg Survey of Youth conducted a large scale study on these negative attitudes and found that youth who were informed with facts and able to dispel myths about individuals with mental health disorders were less likely to discriminate against them” (“Attitudes & Discrimination,” n.d.). The more educated we are, the easier it is for us to understand and show support.

I chose this topic because there is still much work to be done to raise awareness about mental illness, and teens need to know that there are resources available to help them. Specifically, this bibliography focuses on depression, as it is extremely common in teens, “As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression” (“Depression: Understanding the Facts,” n.d.). Many of the sources I’ve compiled can help teens understand, diagnose, and then treat mental illness. However, I’m aiming for more than just that. It is my intention to list sources that also help teens understand the stigmas associated with mental illness, and how to move past them. The sources include fiction, nonfiction, music, and documentaries about depression. There have been criticisms against music, especially “emo” music. Some will argue that music that covers dark subject matter may influence teens and drive them to suicide. Based on the research I found, this is not true. “…for a large majority of teenagers and youth, listening to music has a positive mood effect”  (Definis-Gojanović, Gugić, & Sutlović, 2009, 174).

Two of the resources listed are found from library websites. The rest are found throughout libraries across Nassau County. Any teen with a library card from a Nassau County library can check out these materials from any library in the county, regardless of what library he or she belongs to. Teens can also order these materials through the Nassau County web catalog here, or download online materials here.



Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tyler is weird and everyone knows it. At school he can’t get any girl, never mind his crush, Bethany, the most popular girl in his grade. At home, his family is seriously dysfunctional. After he gets into trouble for spraying graffiti on his school, people finally start to notice him, including Bethany. But after a chain of events, Tyler’s world gets complicated, and he starts to miss being the weird, ignored kid. Deals with: depression, abuse.


5152478Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

After Cassie and Lia compete in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest, Cassie pays the ultimate price. Left to her own devices, Lia is haunted by the ghost of her friend. As she loses more weight, she also loses more and more control over her life. Deals with: depression, self-harm, eating disorders.





I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Cody and Meg were best friends, until Meg suddenly took her own life. Cody doesn’t know what to do after a death she didn’t see coming at all. That is, until Cody decides to investigate what Meg’s life was like at college. There, she learns that Meg’s life was more complicated than she first thought, and as Cody uncovers more secrets, she realizes that her best friend may not have been the person Cody thought she was.




Forgive me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

On the day of his eighteenth birthday, Leonard brings a loaded gun to school. He will shoot his former best friend, Asher, and then himself. But first, he’ll give four gifts to four people who’ve impacted his life in some way.


Mental Health Information for Teens: Health Tips About Mental Wellness and Mental Illness, Including Facts About Recognizing and Treating Mood, Anxiety, Personality, Psychotic, Behavioral, Impulse Control, and Addiction Disorders by Lisa Bakewell

A handbook with all the information you need. This book includes information on understanding mental health and how to recognize the warning signs, and ways to treat many common mental illnesses. You will also find a list of suggestions for further reading, and a directory of related organizations and crisis hotlines.

Hyperbole and a half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

This book is a collection of hilarious artwork and stories by blogger Allie Brosh. Perhaps her most successful and significant stories are “Adventures in Depression” and “Depression Part 2”. She describes her downfall, and how difficult it was for friends and family to understand or offer advice. You can also find her stories about depression on her blog:

46815Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher

A New York Times bestselling, Pulitzer Prize nominated memoir about a young woman’s struggles with eating disorders. Hornbacher also struggles with bipolar disorder, which she was diagnosed with after Wasted was published. In Wasted, Hornbacher warns that recovering from mental illness isn’t easy, but is possible.




6777964When Nothing Matters Anymore: A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens by Bev Cobain

Bev Cobain, cousin of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, explains how depression affects your brain, depression in adolescents, and how it can lead to substance abuse and suicide. There are also chapters that explain how to get help, and survival tips for staying strong during times of hardship. Kurt Cobain committed suicide due to mental health issues in 1994. This book is Bev Cobain’s way of reaching out to those who may find themselves struggling with similar issues.


17918009Depression and Other Mood Disorders by Jon Ebon Field

This guidebook features information on diagnosing, treating, and dealing with depression. However, the chapter, “Dealing With Stigma”, is especially helpful in helping yourself, and others, to understand the difference between just “feeling down” or “having an off day”, and mental illness. This book is geared specifically toward adolescents.






Nothing More by Nothing More

This hard rock band’s debut album features the single “Jenny”, which frontman Jonny Hawkins wrote in response to his family’s history with mental illness. The band has also started a campaign in hopes of raising awareness about mental illness. Check out #IKnowJenny on Twitter.



“Make It Stop (September’s Children)” by Rise Against on Endgame 

The single is featured on the Rise Against album Endgame. The song was written in response to the LGBT children suicide rates, but ultimately the ending features an empowering and triumphant message. Rise Against also allied with It Gets Better Project, an organization that reaches out to LGBT people experiencing depression or who have suicidal thoughts. The music video features clips from contributors to It Gets Better Project.

Online Resources

Help Guide for Teens

The Brooklyn Public Library website has a Help Guide for Teens, where you’ll find links to websites that can provide answers to questions about various issues, including mental health. There’s also a directory for crisis center hotlines, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Teen Issues

The East Hampton Library has a directory with a list of helpful organizations and their locations, hours, and phone numbers. You can find this under the Teen Issues tab.

Movies and Documentaries 

Of Two Minds 

Of Two Minds is a documentary that tells the story of several Americans dealing with bipolar disorder. The documentary details the periods of extreme highs and crippling lows associated with bipolarity.

The Silver Linings Playbook

This critically acclaimed film is the story of Pat, who was just released from a state institution and has a broken relationship with his wife. When Pat meets Tiffany, a young woman dealing with her own issues, she offers to help Pat reach out to his wife, if he returns the favor.


5 Documentaries About Mental Illness – Best Counseling Degrees. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from & Discrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2016, from

Even When It Hurts ‘ALOT,’ Brosh Faces Life With Plenty Of ‘Hyperbole’ (2013, November 12). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from

Definis-Gojanović, M., Gugić, D., & Sutlović, D. (2009). Suicide and Emo youth subculture–a case analysis. Collegium Antropologicum, 33 Suppl 2, 173-5.

Depression: Understanding the Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

Lippman, B. L. (n.d.). Department of Applied Psychology. Retrieved November 6, 2016, from

Titus, C. (2015, April 4). Exclusive: Nothing More Premieres Highly Personal ‘Jenny’ Video. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

Wilson, K. (2016, May 4). 16 Nonfiction Books About Mental Illness. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

When Programming Goes Digital

At the library where I work, the summer reading program experienced a huge change. For the first time, the children’s department decided that the summer reading program would be done entirely online. That meant that instead of filling out a reading log using paper and a pen, the children created an online account and fill out their reading records online. With this feature, children were also able to collect badges and write online reviews for the books they read. When they reached the required amount of reading each week, they would be notified to come into the library to collect their prize.

This method drastically changed the program for many patrons in the children’s department. What’s interesting to note is how the program affected patrons in the children’s department versus the YA department. In our department, the children still had their parents help them with the reading logs used to record what they read. Many parents complained that they were sad to see the program computerized. They used to enjoy writing out the reading logs with their children, and felt a disconnect using the computers. There were also many adults who weren’t comfortable with technology, and they would come into the library to ask for help with the reading logs.

The teens, on the other hand, were much quicker to adapt to the change. The YA librarians received few, if any, complaints about the program. The teens had no problem logging into their summer reading accounts on the computer or on their phones. If they did come in with issues, it was often because there were glitches in the system rather than because they didn’t understand how to use it.

The teen response to our summer reading program shows that teens in our library are capable of adapting, especially when it comes to adapting to technology. This isn’t very surprising, as teens have grown up with technology, as opposed to the adults who may be more comfortable with the old way of things. The teens complained less about the new digital format than the adults did (how’s that for teens being the “difficult” patrons at libraries?)

Technology has become a huge part of the role of libraries. Most teens are comfortable with technology. It’s important for the library to note that when developing programs and services for teens. We can also take advantage of that. Perhaps that cool new program that involves heavy computer usage won’t be as scary to YA librarians, while librarians in adult programming might shy away from it. If programs that teach patrons how to use computers is like any of the other programs, than it is costly and time consuming to develop. YA librarians can likely skip over this one, and focus on other, more exciting programs for their teens.

On Embracing Teen Patrons

At a library I used to work at, I often would overhear interactions between patrons and librarians. More often than I liked to say, I’d over hear librarians complain to each other about having to help patrons. They would either criticize the patrons for making unreasonable requests or complain that patrons were interrupting the time they needed to prepare for programs. This always seemed strange to me. Now that I work as a trainee, I’d like to think I always do the best I can to make sure that the patron gets exactly what he/she came for, and if I can’t make that happen, I’ll try offering them the next best thing (not saying I’m perfect but, hey, I try). It’s my job and, on a bigger scale, libraries depend on patrons who want our help! If we don’t have patrons asking for help, then we don’t have jobs. Libraries depend on the needy. Why would we not want people to ask us for help? After reading the response to question eleven, I was reminded of all those times I’d overheard librarians complain. It is our job to assist the patron, teen or otherwise, regardless of the request.

Under question eleven, Velàsquez addresses how librarians sometimes will resist helping patrons by sending them to someone else, and how this can be an issue specifically for teen patrons. I currently work in the children’s room at my job, so I don’t get the chance to interact with teens. The YA librarians I’ve spoken to are enthusiastic about working with teens, but it sadly wouldn’t surprise me to hear of other libraries where librarians, both in the YA department and beyond, are less than thrilled to be assisting teens.

“But, this is also a moment when you can help your colleague to provide better service for teens and demonstrate how awesome you are with teens and what a great asset you are to the organization” (Velàsquez, 2015, p. 110). Sadly, YA librarians have to work extra hard to prove that teen patrons matter. However, I think Velàsquez does an excellent job of advising teen librarians here. Not only does she show us how to assist the teens so that they get the help they need, but she also shows us how to bring the interview back to the reference librarian to show them: Look! Teens aren’t so scary after all! This is not an issue with adult patrons. Occasionally I’ve heard complaints about children misbehaving, but on the whole, it’s always the teens who get the most resistance. It’s important to remember this when you’re a teen librarian, and to remember that a little enthusiasm goes a long way.

Velàsquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: ALA editions.