YALSA’s research agenda

As a youth services librarian for 17 years, I focused some of my research on teen services. I was the lucky recipient of the 2011 Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA Research Grant, which I highly recommend for new researchers looking for a $1000 grant. The deadline for this grant is Dec. 1, so you have some time to think about your 2012 proposal.

YALSA is incredibly helpful in telling researchers exactly what sort of research they are looking for. Since it’s still a fairly wide-open field of research, you can find a lot of ways into both theoretical and practical topics that thousands of teen librarians will find very useful.

Check out YALSA’s National Research Agenda. It gives firm examples of the sorts of questions we need to answer to better serve our patrons.

Some of the questions I find most interesting are:

Are budgets for young adult library services positively comparable with budgets for other departments within the library?

Is there a measurable difference in college readiness between young adults who are library users and those that are non-library users?

Taking into consideration such factors as the increasing diversity of the teen population as well as rapid changes in information technologies, what are the most important skills and knowledge young adult services librarians need to have when entering the field?

The role of young adults as creators and producers of information. “The nation is at the beginning of a revolution in youth-produced media, yet current scholarship eclipses any view that young people are increasingly producers of information” (p. xvii).

Beyond the education community’s agenda to advance curricular goals and beyond the library community’s goals connected to “information literacy skills,” how do young adults themselves enact, create, and produce literacies?

You may find different questions reflect your research interests or align with the things you do in your library.



Why Buy Sexy Lit for Teens

You mean teens like to read about sex? *gasp* Who knew?

Tracy Clark-Fiory made some great points with her Salon piece the other day. The fact that there are sex scenes to make the Mormons blush in nearly all teen lit isn’t exactly news. The fact that teens like this fact isn’t news either (though the fact that they actually READ tends to surprise people). The fact that teens can learn both ethical choices and physical/mental safety and responsibility through sexy teen lit is the big shocker, evidently.

At least it appears to shock some parents. I’ve been grateful that I’ve not had any complaints thus far about sex in the books I’ve purchased at my library. I’ve bought quite a bit of sex-positive informational lit. Thanks Heather Corinna! (Who, by the way, I went to college with before she was a sex guru.) And I’ve bought more LGBTQ literature than is supported by my circulation figures, though not as much as I could. (In other words it doesn’t get checked out all that often.)

I’ve been waiting for the shoe to drop for years, and some furious parent to wave the this book is about SEX  or the more recent Sex: A Book for Teens furiously in my face.

The humping cows book--often passed around amid giggles at my library

Hasn’t happened. Why?

I think Clark-Fiory‘s quotation of Heather Corinna circles the reason no one has, in over 12 years, ever complained about the plethora of sexy books in my small-town, Republican-voting library.

Heather said:

… I think some of this, ‘OMG, sex is just everywhere, everywhere, everywhere where my children can see it!’ stuff from American parents is often really more like, ‘Dammit. It’s getting harder and harder for me to justify not talking about sex with my kids.

It’s my completely unsupported opinion that a lot of parents just want to dodge the issue od sex and are secretly relieved their kids are reading about it instead of asking about it. That’s why I think no one has complained.

Because it’s pretty hard to miss the cow-humping book cover on display in the teen area.

On a more interesting and factually-based note, a friend is working on some research on the GLBTQ holdings of several local libraries. I was interested to note that my teensy tiny library has more books for teens identified by keyword searches of “gay,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” and the same amount of books with the keyword “lesbian” than the next-door library which is about 5 times as large.

This fact may be due to the fact that I am an OWL-attending parent of teens, or the fact that the larger library has no teen librarian, or the fact that I feel more confident in my small town than the larger-town librarian does that I won’t be absolutely flattened for purchasing books like It Gets Better & GLTBQ. I am fascinated by the possibilities. Why are so many librarians reluctant to buy books that frankly discuss sex, anyway?

In any case, my colleagues pilot study has made me aware that, even though I’m doing well compared to the neighboring large library when it comes to GLBTQ materials, I’m still doing a lousy job. So my current book order includes more GLBTQ-friendly fiction, including:

Hopefully parents and community members will continue to either turn a blind eye to the content of these books, or they will support their teens and their need to read honest, representational reflections of what it means to be a teen.