Emily Dagg in the Teen Zone the night of the donor thank-you reception, for supporters of the project.
I have been working at the Everett Public Library(WA) as the Manager of Youth Services and Outreach for almost 5 years. Working in Everett is special, because not only was EPL my childhood public library, but my mother was also a librarian there. Coincidentally, this is now the third library where my mother, now retired, worked before me. The other two were the Northeast and Lake City Branch Libraries in Seattle.
EPL is a medium-sized library system, in a city with a little over 100,000 residents. We are only 25 miles north of Seattle, however Everett is not a suburb, it is its own, distinct city. When our parent’s generation was growing up, Seattle was an hour and a half away. That was before the Interstate, now I can get downtown in about 28 minutes. We have a large Main Library, a medium-sized branch library, a bookmobile, and an outreach van that provides cart service to seniors.
(Coffee shop entrance on the South side of the Main Library. The original 1933 portion of the building is on the right; the perpendicular wall on the left with the wide gray stripes is part of the 1991 expansion and renovation.)
Let’s Hear Your Roar!I’d like to roar about our renovated and improved youth services area at our Main Library, which opened in November of 2011. We now have a teen seating and computer area, in addition to our well-established YA fiction collection. Space for the Teen Zone was carved out inside our existing building. First, by knocking out two walls from the very small and windowless old Storytime Room. Then, the seldom-used magazine archives behind the juvenile stacks had been a magnet for illicit activity. So, when many physical magazines were retired in favor of magazine databases, those dusty stacks came down and the new Activity Room went up; double the size of the old Storytime Room. We also made the entire youth services space feel more open by carving out a central aisle through the juvenile stacks, and cutting down stacks to improve sight lines.
( The new aisle through the juvenile stacks, leading to the new, multipurpose Youth Services Activity Room; used for both children’s and teen programs, in addition to library staff meetings, book discussion groups, and community groups.)A nearby high school and middle school suggested names for the new teen space, and voted on their favorite. “Teen Zone” was the clear winner. The entire youth services section of the library is now a magnet for families with kids of all ages, and a popular hangout spot with teens after school and on the weekends. Our two full-time youth services librarians hardly have a moment to think anymore! As we like to say, being crowded and busy is a good problem to have, because that’s what we’re here for.
(View into the Teen Zone from the Youth Services librarian’s desk the night of the opening celebration. Everett High School’s Battle of the Bands winners, Ohmega 3, were the featured performers. Nov. 2011.)
(Teen computers and seating, with the Children’s Library in the background, top right. The purple wall is magnetic, and so are the galvanized steel back panels on the custom-built movable shelving.)
What do you love most about your work?It’s a three-way tie between the books, the kids, and the teens. I especially enjoy collection development and reader’s advisory. Finding the perfect match between a reader and a book is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I’m always thrilled when a child or teen returns to the library to tell me about reading a book I recommended, and then they ask for more suggestions. When their parents start asking me for recommendations of juvenile or young adult books they themselves might enjoy reading, that’s a wonderful bonus.
Library LaughsThis goes way back to my first full-time job after library school. I was working at the old High Point Branch Library, with The Seattle Public Library. Back then, the library occupied the main floors of 4 townhouses with the interior walls torn out to connect the four units. These were originally World War II defense worker housing, but were now considered “The Projects” for low-income families. Many of the families were refugees from northeast Africa and Southeast Asia.
One little girl from Somalia finished reading her favorite picture book for what seemed like the hundredth time. She was about five or six, it was the first book she learned to read on her own, and she asked us to find it for her every day. She hugged that book tightly to her chest, sighed with pure book bliss, and gazed happily up at our branch manager, Christy Tyson. “I love reading! Reading makes you gooder.” Christy, who was one of the original YALSA board members, has passed away since then, but whenever I have an exhausting day at work, I remember Christy who mentored me, and I remember this girl who is now a young woman, and I remember that libraries make the world “gooder.”There is a part two to that story. That little library had only 1,200 square feet of public space and after school, we were wall-to-wall kids. We were so full every day; I was told there had already been two written warnings from the fire department for being over capacity. I never verified this fact, but allegedly, if we were caught violating fire code again, the library would be fined $10,000. So, we counted heads every day after school, and when we hit building capacity, which was around 45, we had to post a staff person at the door. We couldn’t let anyone else in unless somebody else left. It was so heartbreaking to tell a child, especially a child from that housing development, “I am so sorry. I can’t let you into the library right now, it’s full.”
After hearing this unwelcome news one afternoon, a teenage boy stormed off, waving his arms and shouting loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear, “What d’ya mean the li-berry is full?!? How’m I suppos’t get my ed-u-ma-ca-tion!?!” And yes, he spoke that way intentionally, he was normally very well-spoken, and also quite the comedian. One of the things I love about libraries is that libraries can help make the difference between “edumacated” and “educated.”That entire housing development has since been demolished, along with that overcrowded library. There is now lovely new housing with a large and beautiful community library.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs:Our storytimes in Everett are often at maximum capacity, so we don’t need extra promotion for those. In 2012, we did a soft launch of a monthly Saturday program series for families and youth. We hired children’s performers and entertainers, and even scheduled some authors. Attendance varied widely from month-to-month, from 5 people to 75 people. Although our program budget was reduced this year, we are trying to continue these Saturday programs. We’d love to see them full!
(Seattle “Kindie-Rock” musician, Caspar Babypants -- AKA Chris Ballew, of the band The Presidents of the United State of America -- was one of our most well-attended family programs at the Main Library.)Sadly, whenever we host a children’s or teen author program, we usually don’t get same high turnout that we do for a puppet show or for performing animals. We had an Alien Author Party last September, with Bellingham (WA) author Clete Barrett Smith. He talked about Aliens on Vacation, and Alien on a Rampage. We encouraged the audience to wear alien costumes, served alien snacks, and after the author’s very humorous presentation, we did alien crafts. There were only 9 kids there, plus their parents, but those who attended had a fantastic time.
(Clete poses with a nine-year old fan. We believe this alien is named William, his brother Zachary was also there in similar attire.)
Readers Roar“A book is like a roller coaster ride, you read it and want to read it again.” Audryanna, 6th grade
“The library is like Wonderland where we areTeen boy: Where is the vampire section?
with a new discovery around each corner.” Kali, 8th grade Alice
Me: Let me walk you over to Young Adult fiction …
Teen boy (interrupting): Same thing.
Teen girl last July 5th, knocking on my office door: I’ve read ALL the new YA fiction you got in June, where are the July new books? (I ran and grabbed an armful from the processing area, she checked them all out.)
Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?Young Adult series continue to dominate, these are three of the most popular YA series with both teens, and adults.
Allyson Condie’s Reached, book three in the Matched Trilogy, was one of the most hotly anticipated titles this winter. We pre-ordered 12 copies long in advance so people could start putting holds on the title, and we had to lock them up until the official release date. We are a two-branch library system, so having that much demand for a single title is fantastic!
There has been a waiting list for Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, book two in the Divergent Series ever since it was released. Our 7 copies are always checked out.
Boys were asking for The Kill Order, prequel to Maze Runner, by James Dashner months before it came out, so we ordered 14 copies to meet the demand. I recently re-ordered 7 more copies each of The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure to replace the copies that had fallen apart.Teens are really into dystopian fiction, and also alternate histories and alternate futures. I have never seen teen science fiction as popular as it is now, although it’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish fantasy from SciFi, it’s blending together.
Another popular sub-genre is fractured fairy tales, especially if it’s futuristic with science fiction elements, like Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Books with just a touch of the paranormal, such as Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater are doing well. And a dash of romance always helps the books fly off the shelves, like The Selection, by Kiera Cass.Authors and publishers are hooking readers with book one in a series, the teens all tell their friends, and they all wait in anticipation of the next book, fueled by online hype and buzz, social networking, and the media. Some new YA fiction is being promoted heavily in the popular media, publications like Entertainment Weekly, and even in teen fashion magazines. The link between YA books and the movie industry also helps fuel the demand for teen fiction. I love it when readers require themselves to read the book BEFORE they go see the movie. Although there are some kids and teens who don’t believe me when I tell them not every movie is based on a book.
Library Lion’s Roar: ONE LAST BIG ROAROur library is dedicated to getting popular books into the hands of kids and teens when they want to read them. When a young reader is in the mood to read a book, we want to capitalize on that and not discourage them by putting them on a long waiting list. Waiting for weeks or months feels like FOREVER to a child. Think about it: for a nine-year old, a 12 week wait for a book is equal to about 2.5% of their entire lifetime. It would be the equivalent of an adult my age being on a waiting list for more than a year. It’s way too easy for kids and teens to say, “Forget it! I’ll just go play a computer game.” Our goals is to hook ‘em early and keep feeding them books! If we can keep young readers supplied with what they want, when they want it, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle and they will hopefully grow up to be lifelong readers.
We’ve been experimenting with what quantities of popular titles it takes to reach the saturation level. A level where there are almost always a few copies on the shelf, with no waiting list. When the Hunger Games movie came out, I ordered 100 paperback copies of the book, and for a while, we still had a waiting list! For Diary of a Wimpy Kid book 7, The Third Wheel, we didn’t talk about how many books we should order, we talked about how many CASES of books we should order. We have 60 of that title, by the way, and only 4 copies are on the shelf right now at our Main Library. We keep ordering, in bulk, replacements copies of the first 6 Wimpy Kid books, because they are continually being read to pieces. This method is still being refined. We want to keep titles well-stocked, but we also don’t want to end up with a lot of shelf-sitters 2 or 3 months after the book came out.
Let’s Link:Blog: http://areadinglife.com/
Library Website: www.epls.org
Thank you, Emily, for your terrific interview!
Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at email@example.com for an interview slot.