FIVE STARS: THE POWER OF TEEN RELATIONSHIPS
Editor’s note: Year after year, the Library Journal Index of Public Library Services, a public library rating system, has designated Telluride’s Library a five-star institution. And it just earned its fifth star in a row, which puts The Wilkinson Public Library into an elite club of 30 libraries that have seen stars five years in a row and third in the nation among public libraries with annual budgets of $1 – 5 million, hence the name of library director Barb Brattin’s semi-regular column, “Five Stars.”
Looking over our annual circulation statistics, I was surprised to find that while adult reading remained steady, we saw a slight decline in use of both music CDs and DVDs. In fact, despite the perception that DVDs are our primary business, only 11% more DVDs went out than books this past year. Since the loan period for a DVD is typically only one week and the loan period for a book is typically three weeks, the circulation figures are even more skewed. Under the same loan period, DVDs would take a second seat to books, which is good news for traditional library users who believe that the book remains the most powerful form of literacy.
More dramatic than any of these numbers is what circulation statistics reveal about how our teen visitors are improving their relationship with reading. Our small teen population read over 3,000 books last year, a 54% increase from the year before. And they’re doing it based on the personal recommendations from three terrific library employees who use literature to help teens sort through the confusion of those tender years.
One way Tony Saab engages teen readers is to challenge them to a game of chess. If Tony loses, he buys the winner a soft drink. If Tony wins, the teen must read the book of Tony’s choice. Invariably, that same teen will come back to Tony for the next recommendation.
It may look like there’s a lot of hanky-panky and no edification going on in the teen section after school, but you’d be wrong to think so.
Each month, Elissa Dickson, Teen Services Manager, provides me with an uplifting story describing teens’ interaction with books. Allow me to share a few with you:
For my reader’s advisory anecdote of the month, I would like to highlight a teen who came into the library scene last May. Though this particular teen is very shy, I caught her one day looking at the new fiction and told her about the upcoming visit from bestselling YA author Alyson Noel. I encouraged her to take a copy of “Evermore,” the first book in Alyson Noel’s New York Times Bestselling series, “The Immortals.” This teen blew through “Evermore” returning a few days later for the second in the series. During the casual lunch with Alyson Noel that we hosted at the high school, this teen listened quietly, interjecting with thoughtful questions here and there. Over the summer, she read the other five books in the series as well as Alyson Noel’s most recent book, “Fated.” The other day she sought me out for a new recommendation and left with Laurie Faria Stolarz’s “Deadly Little Secret,” a novel that like “Evermore” features thrilling paranormal romance and mystery.
For my reader’s advisory moment this month, I’d like to highlight how the relationships the Teen Services staff builds with specific teens allows us to tailor our collection and get that perfect impactful book into the hands of a teen who needs it. “The letter Q: queer writers’ notes to their younger selves” is an anthology featuring 63 award-wining authors writing notes to their younger selves and illuminating what they would have liked to know then about their lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people. One of our most involved teens had just come out to her family and had suffered through a tough visit with her grandparents who were, shall we say, less than supportive of the fact that she is a homosexual. Dennis, having spoken with her about what she had been going through, researched relevant books and thought “The letter Q: queer writers’ notes to their younger selves” would be especially appropriate since this particular teen is also an adamant writer herself. When the book arrived, we showed it to her and she was so pumped she sat down and started reading it on the spot, later checking it out to take home. In this way, the Teen Services staff truly offers personalized and profound resources to our community’s teens.
So don’t be fooled by the energy and noise coming from the teen area after school. Your children are reading more than ever! And next time you see a teen services employee at the library, I suggest you thank them. What they do every day makes a huge difference in the lives of your children!
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