On Friday I did book talks all day for high school students of varying abilities. I must confess - book talking is not my strongest skill. I feel that it requires showmanship skills that I do not possess. When I interviewed for this position I was asked to rank the elementary, middle and high school positions that were open in the order of preference. I chose high, middle, then elementary. I said that while the K-2 position might be interesting after dealing with teenagers for so long, but I don’t do puppet shows. Research and edtech are my things, not entertaining or doing sales pitches.
Over the last eight years I was lucky enough to be in a MS/HS library with another librarian. We shared teaching duties, but I handled the technology things and she handled the print-related things when it came to acquisitions. Throw in coaching and grad school and let’s say I fell a bit behind on the YA lit. This is embarrassing, I must confess, especially when a student asks for a recommendation and I feel like I’m always referring the same five or so authors. I can really be in trouble when they ask for a book similar to one of my go-to recommendations. As a solo librarian I have been trying to rectify the situation, but it isn’t always easy to do so. Especially when you are learning the school culture, curriculum and collection yourself.
It isn’t that I don’t like YA lit. I do. The problem for me has been that it was just a low priority in my crazy life the last few years. One thing that has helped me (ok, forced me) to read more YA lit is the local librarian’s book review session. In return for writing a review, you can receive books that were donated by publishers for free for your library. With a shrinking budget, I grabbed as many interesting titles as I could and, although I had to read them in a very short time, found myself with about 20 new titles that I could talk about with my students. I also created “cheat sheets” - paper folders with lists of recommended authors for chicklit, science fiction/fantasy, sports, adventure, etc. It was easy to do and popular with the students. I saved the lists as a Google Docs file so I can updated it easily when I need to. Resource lists in the card catalog are useful, but sometimes I think I’m the only one using them. The students can take the folders to the shelves as they browse and I’m not blanking on author’s names when they ask me for suggestions.
One of my goals next year is to do better book talks. I have bookmarked a lot of websites that share tips for book talks and book trailers. I also want to use the book review feature of Destiny with students. This is a necessary skill for all librarians and an area I will freely admit I need improvement in.