The Six Emotional Stages of Weeding a Teen Fiction Collection

For the last week, I have been weeding the teen fiction collection in preparation for 2016 and all of the wonderful books that haven’t been printed yet. As I do so, I find that I have some very conflicting emotions. Any of you who manage a print collection probably have experienced a similar roller coaster while weeding.

  1. First I feel glee! Finally! I will be able to fit all of the books on the shelf again and still have some space! They’ll also be in order because let’s face it, those teen volunteers do a good job at shelf reading but there’s nothing like a librarian’s over-sensitive eye to put books in their place. It’s going to look nice and clean and organized like it hasn’t for a few months.
  2. Then I feel fear. What if I’m about to weed a book I shouldn’t. Maybe it’s going to show up on the high school reading list! Maybe they’ll turn it into a movie or a tv show and people are going to be demanding copies of the book to read. What if this book right here is the next [enter super popular YA title here] and i’m making a terrible mistake?!
  3. And then it’s on to rationality. Well, if it was going to be a sensation, chances are it would have happened earlier on. I mean, this book was published in 2008. What’s the likelihood it’ll kick off now? And really, how many copies of The Hunger Games do we really need?
  4. And then it’s back to smug happiness. Look how pretty the shelves are all organized and orderly and with room to spare. It makes the teen area look bigger somehow.
  5. And then fear again. Are people going to look at the shelves now and start to ask where all the books went? We already have those people who tell us that the world is coming to an end because ebooks are the downfall of all humanity and blah blah blah. Will they take this as the harbinger of doom and start demanding that the libraries do this or that or the other to counteract the scourge of the ereader?
  6. And then I just feel fine because I’m a librarian and this is what I am good at. I nurture my collection to reflect the community I serve and as tastes and interests change, so do the items on the shelf. I listen to my community and I am confident that my decisions are in accordance with their needs and interests.

Confidence wins! And the teen space really does look nicer this way. I should do this more often.

Creation Club

Creation Club is an after-school club for middle schoolers who are interested in digital creation. At the FFL we have a room called the Creation Lab. In this room there are three desktop computers (2 PC and 1 iMac). On them we have audio, video, image, photo editing, and 3D modeling software. You can also find cameras, iPads, microphones, a green screen wall, and various other odds and ends relating to digital content creation.

Creation Club meets twice a month after school. There are usually short instructional workshops on how to do or use something in the Creation Lab at the beginning of the meeting and then the teens are given the rest of the meeting time to experiment with this new knowledge. Since spring of 2012, Creation Club has created stop motion videos, photoshopped themselves into their favorite movies/computer games, created 3D models, recorded podcasts, created original videos, and wrote and recorded an original song.

Starting in February of 2014, we changed it up a bit away from the purely digital and delved into how digital designs can be transformed into physical objects. The first week of February began with learning how to use the vinyl cutter in the FFL Fab Lab to turn line art into a decal. We used an image editing program they were already familiar with from the photo editing workshops last year  to create original artwork. Following that were two weeks of exploring 3D design using 2D drawings and the FFL Fab Lab’s laser cutter, and then a whole series on video game design (by popular demand).

Gamestar MechanicTo learn about video game design, we used Gamestar Mechanic. They actually provide an excellent set of teacher resources with lesson plans, so you can just jump right in with the kids having no previous knowledge of game design. For four weeks, the Creation Club played games to learn about game design and then had a chance to build their own games and have their peers playtest them and give appropriate suggestions.

Creation Club is now on break for the summer, but I look forward to starting back up again in the fall with some new and interesting projects.

Minecraft in the Library

Minecraft at the FFLLast summer began my (and my library’s) odyssey into Minecraft. As my desk is in the teen space and my primary responsibility is to serve teens, I had been overhearing a lot of chatter about Minecraft. So, I determined that this was something the library should look into since it was not only entertaining, but educational (so much STEM I could talk your head off). The biggest problem I saw was that you needed to purchase an account in order to play it with others. But hey, you can play the free demo on their webpage and we have a bunch of laptops so… let’s play it in the library! Every Friday of our summer reading program in 2013, I pulled out the library’s laptop computers and all of our iPads for drop-in play. If there ever was a crash course in Minecraft and network infrastructures, this was it. Things I learned:

  • Gold is called butter or budder. It is important to understand the proper terminology.
  • Monsters only come out at night.
  • Teens love to show you what they made and how.
  • TNT is “da bomb.”
  • You can download the full version of Minecraft on your computer and play it offline without having a Mojang account – BUT you can’t play multiplayer without one. 
  • There is actually a maximum number of devices that can be simultaneously connected to the library’s network.
  • Nobody likes it when they can’t access the internet.

At the end of the summer our library had discovered that we had opened a veritable Pandora’s box. Teens and children had developed a taste for Minecraft and they wanted more and they wanted it now and they wanted it (most amazingly) at the library. The rest of our patrons wanted what they always want: the internet on their preferred computers or devices at the library. In order to provide access to Minecraft and to prevent overtaxing of our network, we came up with some solutions. Firstly, we invested in an organizational license for MinecraftEdu and several Mojang accounts for library use. Secondly, we increased the number of individual licenses our network was able to manage. And lastly, we installed the MinecraftEdu launcher on the computers in the library’s teen space enabling access to Minecraft without taking up any extra licenses.

sxC6sSo what’s MinecraftEdu?

MinecraftEdu is a modified edition of Minecraft that is primarily designed for schools and educational institutions to use as a teaching tool. I’m not even going to go into all the things educators are using Minecraft to teach, you can read about that at the MinecraftEdu website. We chose to implement MinecraftEdu so that we could provide access to Minecraft without inadvertently providing access to content that is in violation of our own patron code of conduct. With MinecraftEdu, our patrons can play multiplayer in our library-hosted server with other players in the library. Our server can only be accessed from within our library, which means that we can be sure no outside player can troll our server. That also means that we are able to moderate our server easily; the players must be within the walls of our library to enter, so if there is a case of griefing the culprit can be easily identified and asked to modify their behavior to abide by our patron code of conduct.

Long story short… it’s Minecraft and it’s in the library.

What’s about network licenses?

Our library has one adult computer lab, one teen computer lab, two computer areas in the children’s room, and additional desktop computers in various places throughout the library. These computers each need a license to connect to the internet through our server. Additionally, every cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc. that is brought into the library and accesses the internet through our free wifi network uses a license. Before last summer we had never (to my knowledge) had a case where there were more computers and devices accessing the internet through the library network than we had licenses for. I admit that I am not entirely sure what it means, but I do understand that there is a max number of things that can connect to the internet through our network and we went over. When we had 16 laptops and 4 ipads using the library’s wifi in addition to the existing computers during the summer at peak times (more people with more mobile devices), we had so many connectivity errors in the Minecraft program and out in the library which caused so many complaints and frustrations, that every Friday afternoon just before these programs we would go through and clear out the cache of connected devices just so we could attempt to get the laptops online.

Should you contemplate incorporating Minecraft into your library offerings, I recommend that you have a discussion with your IT person(s) about what this might mean and anticipate the problems so that you can solve them easily. We have since increased the number of active licenses our network can carry (which was especially important since we wanted to use the laptops for programs more often).

Playing TogetherI really love that we have been able to provide Minecraft to the teens and children in our library. Not just because I love overhearing them talk about chickens in the bathtub and zombie pigmen attacks, but because of the STEAM literacies they are building through play and they ways in which they use their fandom to other areas of their lives. In the course of 5 months, teens in our library have built 7 civilizations that I am aware of each with a government system, a currency, a real estate ownership method, and a justice system. They have formed alliances, participated in government coups, fought together, and made peace. They have made truly creative structures which are controlled through a specially designed series of redstone circuits and switches. I am awed by what they have and are creating and I can’t wait to see what they decide to do next.

One Year

This month I celebrate one full year as a librarian. I officially began work as the Director of Innovative Family Services at the Fayetteville Free Library on September 1, 2012. Since then I have been involved in a great many things. I started two afterschool clubs for middle schoolers around STEAM subjects, I created LEGO robotics programs, I planned and ran the teen summer reading program at my library, I presented professionally on 6 occasions, was invited to join an ALA Committee, I pushed for a Minecraft server for the library, mentored an intern, was interviewed twice by MLIS students at Syracuse University, coached a First LEGO League team through our very first competition, managed 8 collections, and I can’t even remember what else. I could never have done these things if it wasn’t for the supportive and positive team environment at the FFL. Thank you guys!

I’ve done a lot, but it hasn’t been all work and no play. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of play (because who wants to plan a program for teens that won’t be fun to run). In fact, here you can see some teens playing video games at the Library Overnight end-of-summer-reading party. These boys were playing Let’s Dance and singing along to Katy Perry’s Firework.

Don’t think that I’m done yet! Oh no! I’ve still got a lot of ideas that haven’t been fleshed out yet and I am constantly being inspired to do more and better.

School Visits

Featured imageIt’s nearing the end of the school year here in central New York and that means it is time for school visits. As the teen librarian at a public library, I reached out to the middle and high schools trying to arrange either for me to visit the school or for the students to visit the library to learn about what resources we have and to talk about the summer reading program. Ideally, I would love to collaborate with the local schools on our summer reading program. In all, I was able to arrange for four 6th grade classes to visit the library. That’s it. I will be trying harder much earlier next year. So anyways, at these visits, Heather gets up and talks about responsibilities of library card ownership and then together we talk about the fun and awesome things you can do in the library over the summer (and all the time).

The four classes that visited the library came to the library knowing about books and dvds and music, but they left knowing they can use a 3D printer, play video games, volunteer, borrow an iPad, and play Minecraft. Mission accomplished: 107 minds blown. I know this is a little weird, and a lot of other librarians and human adults in general will not believe me, but, I like middle school aged teens. They are so cool. They have so much potential for enthusiasm without being too weighed down with the politics of student social hierarchies.

They also really loved the idea of earning badges by participating in our summer reading program. More on that later…

Cover Art Deja Vu

I recently cataloged some new YA fiction and included in the bunch was the title The Ruining by Anna Collomore. The cover of this book has a large mansion in the background and a young woman’s half-submerged profile in the foreground. Yesterday, I glimpsed a new Non-fiction title in my coworker’s office titled Shouting Won’t Help: Why I– and 40 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You by Katherine Bouton. It has a cloudy sky in the background and a young woman’s half-submerged profile in the foreground. I thought to myself how similar it looked to the YA book I had just added to the collection. Today as I was walking past the new books in the teen area I saw The Ruining again and was really struck by the similarity between the covers. So I went searching for the other and lo and behold, they are the same.

Side by Side Comparison

I have read blog articles about this kind of phenomenon but have never personally stumbled upon two (mostly) identical covers like this. Let alone two books published in the same month. I am very glad that these two books will be displayed in different parts of the library, so that people won’t be turned off or confused by the similarity of the covers.

In 2013 I Resolve to Blog Again.

Happy New YearI am, at last, exactly what I want to be: a full time public librarian. As the Director of Innovative Family Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in NY I manage children’s and teens fiction and graphic novel collections, plan teen programs, oversee volunteers, and basically get to be very very cool all the time. So far, for my job I coached a First Lego League team who won an award at our very first competition, went to NY Comic Con, trained patrons on how to use our Makerbot 3D printer, and designed some amazing new programs for middle schoolers. In 2013 I will be presenting at my first professional conference, running the teen summer reading program, making decisions, rearranging spaces, and making some very good things happen.

As I am becoming comfortable in my role I’ll be using this blog to talk about my successes, failures, ideas, excitements, disappointments, and learning experiences. I will also be posting reviews for children’s and YA fiction and graphic novels.

So stay tuned for good times and general library geekery (because that is just how I roll).