Young Adult Programs and Services

Natalie Cole and Virginia A. Walter share insights into transforming summer library programs

Summer 2018 might be winding down, but children's and YA librarians are already beginning to think ahead to next year's programming. In their recent book Transforming Summer Programs at Your Library: Outreach and Outcomes in Action, Natalie Cole and Virginia A. Walter detail case studies of several California libraries that have successfully reimagined their summer initiatives. These include Summer Matters, which works to provide equitable summer learning opportunities, and Lunch at the Library, a public library summer meal project. In this interview we discuss their collaborative approach, the biggest challenges to summer outreach and participation, and the inspiring lessons librarians can draw from the summer programs the book covers.

Was this your first writing collaboration?

Virginia A. Walter: We collaborated on a youth development manual for Los Angeles County Library almost authors Natalie Cole and Virginia A. Walter with their book "Transforming Summer Programs at Your Library: Outreach and Outcomes in Action"twenty years ago! More recently, along with Eva Mitnick, we wrote an article for Public Libraries (March/April, 2013) called “Outcomes + Outreach: The California Summer Reading Program Initiative.” But yes, Transforming Summer Programs at Your Library is our first full-length published monograph.  

Tell us a little bit about how the book project started and what it was like working together on it.

Virginia A. Walter: Like so many good ideas, I think it started at lunch. We had both been so inspired by the ways in which California librarians have taken these new ideas and put them into practice; we just wanted to share the story more broadly. We are a good team. Natalie has all of the first-hand experience through her work at both CLA and the California State Library. She is a great administrator and a natural change agent. I always say she could be running whole countries if she set her mind to it. I’ve got the academic background from my PhD in Public Administration and my years of teaching graduate students so I can articulate the theories behind the practice. It was easy to divide up the chapters that played to our individual strengths. We each took the lead on our assigned chapters and reviewed what the other had written.

Describe the biggest challenges to summer outreach and participation.

Virginia A. Walter: Change is always hard. The summer reading program has been a tradition in public libraries for more than a hundred years. It is a popular program in most libraries, with large numbers of participants. It has always been about reading promotion, but the new focus on “summer slide” from the education community highlighted a big problem. The very children who would most benefit from summertime reading and learning were often the ones who were not participating in large numbers. This growing awareness led to a need for more outreach, and that created another challenge because outreach takes time and resources. Outreach requires looking at the community in new ways, designing programs that will appeal to underserved people, and promoting those programs in appropriate ways. Taking on this extra effort can be challenging for librarians who are already working hard and serving large numbers of children who have already developed the reading and library habit.

How have libraries in California tackled these challenges?

Virginia A. Walter: Training, training, training. We have conducted many workshops and webinars that help librarians develop strategies for assessing their communities, identifying underserved people, finding effective ways to reach out to them, and evaluating their outreach efforts. We provide training on developing community partnerships. And we encourage people to “think small” at the beginning.  Can you reach five Spanish-speaking families this summer?  Ten Somali children who have never set foot in the library before? The success of the outreach and outcomes approach has also been helped tremendously by the group of librarians from around the state who have been advising us since the beginning. They are the best advocates for taking the time and trouble to do the right thing with summer programming.  Their testimonials are inspiring. These librarians also contributed in a major way to the development of four Quality Principles and Indicators that serve as practical guidelines to implementing an outcomes -and outreach- oriented summer reading program. (They're in Chapter 6 of our book.) Together, the quality principles and indicators make it easy for librarians to engage in reflective practice.

What was the genesis of the Lunch at the Library program?

Natalie Cole: The Lunch at the Library program grew out of great work being done in public libraries! Several years ago, my colleague, Patrice Chamberlain (director of the California Summer Meal Coalition and co-author of the book's Lunch at the Library chapter), and I became aware of a few California libraries serving summer lunches to children. We saw immediately that libraries are ideal spaces for serving free meals while school is out: they are trusted and welcoming spaces at the heart of the community, providing learning and enrichment activities, free of charge, all summer long. So we worked with a team of librarians to develop a program that would expand best practices and successes statewide (and in some cases, beyond!).

Are there any positive outcomes of the program that have really surprised you?

Natalie Cole: The program has grown more quickly than even we imagined! This year, meals were served at almost 200 library sites in California, and the number of meals libraries served increased from 21,800 in 2013 to 228,600 in 2017. The program has fostered new community partnerships and collaborations for libraries. And we consistently hear positive feedback from families. A positive outcome that we didn’t plan for at the start is the teen development component. Lunch at the Library provides great volunteer opportunities for teens—giving them workforce readiness skills and helping support their social-emotional development.

Have the programs you cover in the book affected overall library usage? Did you see increases in visits by new patrons or repeat visits by existing patrons?

Natalie Cole: Across the state, summer meal programs are bringing new families to the library and providing library staff with great opportunities to connect families with library services. Each year, around 90% of the children, teens, and adult who fill out Summer @ Your Library surveys tell us they plan to return to the library after the summer. And many of the case studies we feature in the book describe creative book cover for "Transforming Summer Programs at Your Library: Outreach and Outcomes in Action"summer programming that has increased both program quality and participation in California libraries.

What are some of the ways libraries can extend the successes of these initiatives to the remainder of the year?

Natalie Cole: The strategies we describe to help library staff carry out outcomes-based planning and evaluation, conduct community outreach, and develop community partnerships can easily be applied to library programming for all ages and at any time of year. Once libraries have honed these techniques during the summer, they will definitely be able to apply them at other times! Similarly, the tenets included in the quality principles and indicators framework—building strong communities, providing opportunities for learning, celebrating reading and literacy, and designing programs that are intended to reach and engage everyone—can guide program development and support reflective practice at any time of the year. More specifically, we encourage Lunch at the Library sites to offer after-school snacks, too, to help ensure children in our communities are nourished and engaged all year round.

Learn more at the ALA Store.

LGBTQAI+ books for children and teens: an interview with Christina Dorr and Liz Deskins

There is a rich and varied body of literature for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, asexual/allied and intersexed young people; in fact, within the past decade there has been a veritable explosion of new titles. A new book, LGBTQAI+ Books for Children and Teens: Providing a Window for All, surveys the landscape, not only spotlighting dozens of recommended books but also offering guidance on how to share them with young people. We caught up with authors Christina Dorr and Liz Deskins to talk with them about how their book came together, ways in which reading builds empathy, and some "desert island" picks for their favorite LGBTQAI+ lit. 

So, this is your second book together. What was the genesis of the project? Was anything different about your collaboration this time around?

We are both passionate about human rights issues, and gay rights is a large part of that. It was amazing ALA at 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade; photo by American Librariesserendipity that we were at the ALA Annual conference in San Francisco in 2015 on the day the Supreme Court handed down the ruling making marriage legal for same sex couples. We saw the celebrations in the streets and the Pride Parade, and realized that the time had come to provide a resource that would support and encourage public and school librarians, as well as classroom teachers to provide and share quality LGBTQAI+ literature with their patrons and students. This book was an amazing collaboration, as we both worked on all chapters, adding titles and annotations. Some of the ancillary portions, we divided and conquered.

Why is this topic so personally important to both of you?

This book was truly a labor of love for both of us. We each have someone near and dear to us in the gay community and saw the challenges they faced growing up. In a joyous event last summer, Liz’s son married his partner in a legal marriage. As school librarians we do our best to choose books to be windows and doors for all of our students. We believe in the power of empathy and understanding through good literature, and are hopeful this book will encourage other librarians to make these books available as well.

You’ve mentioned that LGBTQAI+ books act as mirrors and windows—what do you mean by that?

This is a concept put forward by Ohio State University professor emeritus, Rudine Sims Bishop, under which we both studied. She contends that It is so important for children to be able to see themselves in book cover for LGBTQAI+ Books for Children and Teens: Providing a Window for Allbooks, to know that they are not alone. But it is just as important they read books where they see characters different from themselves. Reading builds empathy and understanding, two qualities worth cultivating.

What advice can you offer libraries that are dealing with community objections to LGBTQAI+ books or outreach? Or who may be self-censoring to avoid potential conflicts?

Our job is not to only promote those books we like or find interesting; our job is to present a whole and balanced curated collection of materials. In this case, the issue is respect and basic human rights for everyone. Sexuality and gender identity are types of diversity, among many, but neither of these are the impetus of for this book, or the books we suggest. Everyone has a right to see themselves in a book, or their family, or their friends. And everyone has the right to be treated with understanding, empathy, and respect. Our book shares quality titles, conversation starters, and other resources that could assist in the defense of the book, if you should need it.

Okay, desert island time! If you could choose only three LGBTQAI+ titles to recommend, what would they be?

Christina’s picks: This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman (for young children), The Best Man by Richard Peck (for middle grade children), and Queer, Here, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager (for teens); Liz’s picks: The Straight Line Wonder by Mem Fox (for young children), The Misfits by James Howe (for middle grade children), and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (for high school).

Learn more about the book at the ALA Store.

Books hot off the press, Meet the Authors at the ALA Store in Orlando

Located just inside the Shuttle Bus Entrance at the Orange County Convention Center, the ALA Store offers products that meet the widest range of your promotional and continuing education/professional development needs—as well as fun gift items. Make sure to carve out some time in your schedule during the conference to stop by and examine the many new and bestselling items available!

ALA Store hours:

  • Friday, June 24            12:00 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, June 25       8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26          8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, June 27        9:00 am – 2:00 pm

ALA Graphics will feature a selection of popular posters, bookmarks, and promotional materials, including new 2016 Teen Read Week and Banned Book Week items. And stop by early to get your pick of conference t-shirts—they sell out fast! We’ll also be introducing several brand new items and exclusive gifts:

  • Libraries Transform Expert Badges
  • CSK Book Award T-shirts
  • CSK Book Award Pashmina (limited quantity and only available at the Conference Store)

ALA Editions and ALA divisions are excited to offer several new titles hot off the press, such as “RDA Essentials,” by Thomas Brenndorfer; “Engaging Babies in the Library: Putting Theory into Practice,” by Debra J. Knoll; and “The Librarian's Nitty Gritty Guide to Content Marketing,” by Laura Solomon. Come by the ALA Store for these special Meet the Author events:

Saturday, June 25      

Sunday, June 26      

Remember that you can now find titles from ALA Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing in the ALA Store. You can also get free shipping on all book orders placed in the ALA Store (posters, bookmarks, and other gift-type items are not eligible for this offer).

Stop by the ALA Store to learn more about our eLearning opportunities. You can also arrange for a live demo of RDA Toolkit—just contact us by June 20 to request an appointment.

Prices at the ALA Store automatically reflect the ALA Member discount, so there’s no need to dig out your Member number. And remember that every dollar you spend at the ALA Store helps support library advocacy, awareness, and other key programs and initiatives!

Continuing the Conversation: Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs (Part 2)

We just wrapped up the second session of Jennifer Velasquez’s  Workshop Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs. We had some great discussion during the event--here are some more questions to discuss. Whether you attended or not, feel free to join the conversation!

Jennifer’s Monthly Report Worksheet:
Teen Program Monthly Report
Today’s Slides (in 2 parts):
Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs Part 3Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs Part 4

Continuing the Conversation: Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs

We just wrapped up the first session of Jennifer Velasquez’s  Workshop Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs. We had some great discussion during the event--here are some more questions to discuss. Whether you attended or not, feel free to join the conversation!

Take a look at Jennifer’s worksheet (embedded below) if your attending session 2.

The Preliminary Readings from Today’s Event: Jennifer’s Worksheet:
Collaborating With Teens Worksheet

Today’s Slides (in 2 parts):
Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs Part 1 Collaborating with Teens to Build Better Library Programs Part 2

Tips for Young Adult Readers' Advisory

Jessica Moyer and Michael Cox included in the following tips in a presentation at the 2008 YALSA Symposium. It's a brief example of content that will be discussed in Moyer's upcoming ecourse Young Adult Readers' Advisory, which starts on July 5, 2011. 


  • Stock popular materials and replace them when they wear out or walk out
  • Have nonfiction, graphic novels, magazines and audiobooks in your YA collection
  • Read nonfiction, graphic novels, manga, magazines and adult fiction, and listen to audiobooks of all types, even if it is only in “10 Minutes”
  • Keep a journal to remember what you “read”
  • Suggest nonfiction, graphic novels, manga, audiobooks, and adult fiction
  • Be specific, not abstract when describing your suggestions
  • Admit your likes and dislikes when asked – be honest with your teens!
  • EVER make any kind of judging statement when talking to teen readers
  • Suggest really old materials (as in I loved that when I was a teen)
  • Push your favorite books
  • Encourage teens to read “quality” books or “move them up” to better books
  • Tell teens only books (or fiction) count as really “reading”
  • Read only YA books
  • Forget the Rules of Leisure Reading

"A gem of a book ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country"

The stated mission of the American Library Association is, “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” New from ALA Editions, How to Pay for College: A Library How-To Handbook is an effective guide emphasizing the help that the local library can offer in this process, using its reference materials, the Internet, and the advice of experienced researchers.

Gail Buckner, writing for FOXBusiness, agrees; in her rave review she notes, "The publishing arm of the American Library Association has assembled a gem of a book that  ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country. How to Pay for College is only slightly larger than a paperback and a bit more than a half inch thick, yet the editors who pulled the information together manage to cover more material than books that are four times larger and twice as expensive. And they do it in plain English. This is not only a book that parents should read, but they should also share it with their teenager."

Check out the full article and then surf on over to the ALA Store and order a copy for your library today!

Twelve-Step Program for Becoming an Urban Fantasy Heroine

Are you tired of your boring, every-day life? Are you dying to live the exciting, adventurous life of an urban fantasy heroine. Just follow these twelve easy steps. You won't even recognize yourself by the time the transformation is completed (and neither will your friends and relatives).
1. Be adopted, or be an orphan, or have at least one unknown parent. (Don't whine about this. In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, "Make it work.")   

2. Meditate at length on the circumstances of your extremely unhappy and chaotic childhood. 

3. Drive an eccentric car or motorcycle (for example, a 1970s muscle car, a bright yellow VW beetle, your grannie’s 1985 Buick, an ancient Mercedes, or a sleek Ducati) and be able to fix it yourself when it (inevitably) breaks down. 

4. Live in a unique location in a dark gritty city (for example, a converted warehouse, a walk-up apartment in an iffy neighborhood, or a de-sanctified church)—no suburban ranch or classy colonial for you. 

5. Develop an annoying addiction to a particular designer-label coffee (or tea) and complain bitterly when you are offered any other beverage. 

6. Suffer from crippling levels of guilt and self-doubt, and keep reminding yourself that every single bad thing that happens  to you and your friends and relatives is all your fault—and no  one else’s.  

7. Choose only extremely hot, sexy, tall, muscular, sardonic guys for boyfriends. (Average Joes and shy geeks can’t handle a chick like you.) 

8. Deny your supernatural powers for as long as you possibly can. You didn’t ask for them; you don’t want them. Keep whining, “I just want a normal life.” 

9. Develop skills with as many weapons as you can think of and carry all of them on your person at all times: down your back, beneath your jacket, in your shoes, holstered to your waist, under your hair, down your bra, and strapped to your arms and legs. 

10. Do not cook—not ever. Keep only beer and cheese in your refrigerator and only crackers and peanut butter in your cupboard. (Telephone numbers for local pizza and Chinese take-out are on speed dial.)

11. Wear only black clothing, preferably tight jeans and skimpy tank tops under a black leather jacket (with loops and pockets for weapons, of course),  and underneath it all—lacy silk underwear.

12. Be a redhead, preferably a natural one.

After growing up as the high school principal’s daughter in a small Ohio town (an adolescent’s nightmare),Patricia Mathews inexplicably pursued a career in public education, working as a teacher, program coordinator, and curriculum and assessment designer. She currently has the best job of her life—working behind the reference desk at her local branch library. Before getting caught up in paranormal fiction, her favorite readings were narrative nonfiction and character-driven fiction. Now, however, she can’t resist the heroes and heroines of urban fantasy. She lives in northeastern Ohio with her two cats, and although she watches them carefully, she has never caught them in the act of shape shifting.

Jessica Moyer on Young Adult Readers' Advisory

On January 17, ALA Editions is launching a four-week, facilitated eCourse, Young Adult Readers’ Advisory, with Jessica E. Moyer, an ALA Editions author and LIS adjunct faculty at University of St. Catherine in Minnesota. ALA Editions interviewed Jessica about the course. To learn more and enroll, see the listing at the ALA Store.

I had a chance to talk with Jessica about her background, and what students can expect from this course.

Patrick Hogan: What’s your approach to teaching readers’ advisory in an online environment?

Jessica E. Moyer: One of the reasons I enjoy online teaching is the opportunity for all students to be fully involved in the course, regardless of where they are.  I create weekly discussion topics and expect all students to contribute regularly - the more contributions we have, the better the discussion.  Every time I teach I find that I learn new materials from my students and their interests and experiences.  

PH: What are a few of the factors that distinguish readers’ advisory services with teens from adult service?

JEM: I find that adult readers often know more about they like to read where as teen readers can struggle to say exactly what kind of reading experience they are looking for.  This means librarians suggesting books to teens may need to ask more questions, work with dislikes instead of likes and provide lots of interesting suggestions.  

PH: It seems like establishing rapport would be the critical. If a YA librarian has a knack for that, what readers’ advisory skill would deliver a  big boost in service?

JEM: Knowing how to talk about books in ways that teen will not only understand but will entice them into reading.  Knowing which books are mostly likely to appeal to certain readers.  

PH: A popular perception is that teens have neither the time nor the desire for leisure reading. What is your research telling you on that?

JEM: Teens do want to read, but they are limited by time.  I’ve found, however  that they are more limited by access.  If they can get access to materials they like and want to read, at a time they have a chance to read, they will read.  But often there are too many barriers - not sure what to read, no easy way to get it.  This is one reason I am excited about ebooks and digital library services - anything that will make it easier to get reading materials to teens when they have time to read.  

PH: You’ve probably learned from questions and discussion boards from your previous teaching experience. What about readers’ advisory with teens do librarians find most challenging?

JEM: Knowing when and what adult books to suggest.  Lots of teen readers like reading adult books, but aren’t sure what to read that they will enjoy.  Most teen librarians are familiar with the YA collections but may not know much about adult books so they can be challenged when working with these types of teens.

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