YA Clicks October 2006

Do You Blog? A New Way to Reach Teens

October 2006

REBECCA PURDY AND THE WEB SURFERS FROM CENTRAL RAPPAHANNOCK REGIONAL LIBRARY: COURTNEY BUZZARD, BRANDON HABRON, CHUHERN HWANG, LAURA HERNANDEZ, MICHAEL KONIECZNY, DYLAN VASEY, KIMBERLY ZEITZ, AND REBECCA ZEITZ

My very first YA Clicks column was written for VOYA’s June 2001 issue with a group of Web Surfers who are now high school graduates. The topic? Library Web sites for teens, complete with recommendations of the essential ingredients for any library planning its own site. Today, only five years later, an entirely new group of Web Surfers and I are exploring a new trend in libraries online—blogs. Blogs aren’t just for teens, and the Web Surfers have developed some suggestions for any library planning to enter the realm of teen library blogs.

THE WEB SURFERS’ GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL BLOG

Appearance
We’ve all read the incredible book with the horrible cover that we have to push and push before any teen will read it. The last thing we want is for teens to feel that way about library sites. Every Web Surfer has something to say about color; the majority feel that a site is too bland without it. Watch out for dark colors, though. As ChuHern says, “They can be way too dark and make users feel depressed.”There are other ways besides color to add impact. According to Rebecca, the Parma Public Library for Teens (http://pplya.edublogs.org) has “strong visual appeal by being creative in its titles and headings while posting a wide range of information that could appeal to a broad range of readers.” Laura wants to see an element of fun. Techno Teens LIVE (http://blog.ocls.info/teens), created by the Orange County Library System in Florida, has “quirky little drawings of robots lurking around.”

Content
On library Web sites, we promote programs, highlight books, and offer links to homework help and other sites with teen appeal. The Web Surfers agree that our content should remain the same when it comes to blogs. ChuHern even complained that one blog had “very few references to books.” Laura particularly liked it when a blog promoted recent additions to the library collection. I was impressed by how Stuff for Teens (http://www.bartlesville.lib.ok.us/blog/teens) from Bartlesville Public Library in Oklahoma incorporated bibliographies into their blog postings. Courtney reminds us, however, that although books are important,we need to do more: Libraries should be seen as more than just a lot of books on shelves. A blog should appeal even to those who don’t read often or at all. I think it’s great that a library can talk about music and TV and still be seen as a respected and fun source. Libraries should be more than just books. Pop culture is also an important addition to most teens, whether it’s a list of upcoming movies or a mention of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library blog from Virginia (http://jmrl.blogspot.com) makes a point of looking out for teen interests, mentioning opportunities that range from scholarship news to how teens can receive advance reading copies (ARCs) from HarperCollins. The teens also enjoy blogs with contests and polls. Another recurring piece of advice from the Web Surfers: Don’t take on a blog unless you are able and prepared to keep it up to date and willing to share the spotlight with teens. Brandon firmly believes: Blogs have to be updated regularly! I have learned from personal  experience that when you keep sites updated, more people will come. Also there should be more content from teens. I want to hear what teens really think about books and the site. A reviewing or guestbook system might increase the number of views.

Comments
An integral part of every blog is the ability for readers to share their thoughts and opinions in posted comments. The Web Surfers mentioned that it keeps things interesting if posts are by more than one person and that anyone should be able to comment, whether or not they come from that community. Comments are a large part of keeping a blog dynamic; they should be easy to find and access. Many libraries, of course, will feel the need to monitor posts before they “go live.”Yet Dylan cautions: Although I understand the need to filter out spam, posting and reading comments shouldn’t be difficult. Libraries need to use better, more convenient methods, resulting in more variety in the posts.

Organization and Navigation
As with anything on the Web, it doesn’t matter how great your content is if no one can find it. Out of all the blog components that the Web Surfers considered, they are most vocal about this issue. Information easily accessible from the main page, a menu of links on one side of the screen, clearly marked archives, and a search bar are all considered mandatory. Laura elaborates about YA Know at BCL (http://bclyaknow.blogspot.com) from Beaverton City Library in Oregon: It is very easy to navigate this site; you don’t feel lost or overwhelmed by the Web design. There is an index bar on the right side of the screen with the previous blog entries that make it super easy to find just what you are looking for. The Web Surfers have already indicated that they like blogs with lots of content, which they expect to find quickly. As Kimberly says: Libraries should keep the blog organized so that it is easy to zero in on a topic. Also, a site with many categories will appeal to teens with all types of interests—but the information should be easy to find! On one blog, I almost missed seeing all that the site had to offer because I did not immediately notice a link to go to another section. A bigger link showing a picture or telling about the page would make it more obvious that it is there. Several blogs, surprisingly, didn’t have clearly indicated library information, requiring some searching to learn who created the blog.

THROUGH YA EYES

The Amplified Library: A Guide to Turning Up the Volume in Your Library
http://amplifiedlibrary.blogspot.com
3I 4R 5U M J S

A library blog with links to MTV, Rolling Stone, and vegan-related blogs? Yes, it does exist—and even more shocking, it is fun to read. When teens think “library blog,” they probably think about stuffy librarians posting about old books that they will never read. This blog shoots down that idea in a heartbeat. These librarians write about teen-related subjects such as the latest copy of Rolling Stone, who is on top of the charts, and the latest concerts. To make it even cooler (if that is possible) one post uses pirate talk—and who doesn’t like pirates? Brighter colors would be great, but teens are guaranteed to enjoy this blog.—Courtney Buzzard.
[Editor’s Note: Maintained by two music-loving librarians in Connecticut and Minnesota, this blog has no official library affiliation.]

Parma Public Library for Teens
http://pplya.edublogs.org
Hilton,New York
4I 3R 4U M J S

The Parma Public Library site for teens is eye catching, and provides information and entertainment on just about everything that one would want to know or find out through a library-related site. I like the fact that it offers information on programs, news, and current events. There’s a section of “Reviews for and by Teens.” For the older teen, there are links for the “College and Work Bound.” I applaud the creators for their ability to produce a quality site that’s entertaining with an emphasis on education, reading, and getting teens involved with current news and other social opportunities.—Rebecca Zeitz.

[Editor’s Note: Since this review was written, the librarian blogger moved the blog to a new location: http://parmateens.wordpress.com. The content is similar but the design has changed. The old site remains until its extensive contents can be moved to the new one. Both old and new blogs currently link to each other (as of October 2006).]

Sellers Library Teens
http://sellerslibraryteens.blogspot.com
Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania
4I 4R 5U M

Do you want to know what’s happening at your library and see what everyone’s saying about the latest new books? Of course you do, and if this is your library, then you can share your musings with other teens who have as great a passion for reading as you. Sellers Library’s blog, powered by eBlogger, titan among blogging Web sites, contains dozens of entertaining posts, which the librarian and several other contributors update almost daily. If “several” contributors sounds paltry to you, keep in mind that most other library blogs are updated by the librarian alone, and otherwise stagnate in quiet desolation.Viewing and posting comments on the site is easy, and some people are actually doing it. Also, assuming that most people don’t live in the area and are not in the least affected by GameBoy SP Night at Sellers Library (attended by upwards of twenty teens, by the way), the site also provides an abundance of links to reference sites, reading lists, author blogs, and even competing library blogs. Overall it’s the best library blog site that I found, the closest to achieving the library blog ideal of a community of teens sharing their thoughts in a friendly environment.—Michael Konieczny.

Techno Teens LIVE
http://blog.ocls.info/teens
Orange County Library System, Orlando, Florida
5I 5R 5U M J S

Techno Teens LIVE is well organized and provides an enormous amount of information on any topic imaginable. Very well composed, it has something on it for many teens’ interests—and they can even post their opinions. It provides entertainment and at the same time is very usable. It also has a link to their teen newsletter, called it or informed teens, which is loaded with everything: art, books, current events or programs, music, anime, and many other topics. Once you begin to read, you are hooked. —Kimberly Zeitz.

Teenthing
http://thelibrary.org/teens/teens.cfm
Springfield-Greene County Library,Missouri
4I 3R 5U M J S

Very modern for a library Web site—you can tell that the site is directed to teens of this day and age. Its best feature is the wide arrangement of book suggestions on booklists. Basically, whatever your taste, Teenthing has something to suit it. In the “Just the Classics Please!” section, I discovered a book that I am highly interested in reading. All libraries should look up to this site’s clever design. The main points that they want to advertise are very easily found, and I didn’t have to search a long time to find major topics.—Brandon Habron.

YA Know at BCL
http://bclyaknow.blogspot.com
Beaverton County Library, Oregon
4I 4R 5U M J S

This blog has a professional look, making you feel at home and relaxed, and it doesn’t totally drive teens away with horrible color schemes. It has tons of information about what’s new at the library, along with the programs and services they provide. I wish I lived near it! I really like how they have information about contests posted throughout the blog. It’s cool to be able to read about new books and also see some ways that you can use your talents to earn money as well. I’ve added this site to my favorites list and will definitely continue to visit it! It is updated often and talks about lots of different topics, so everyone can find something they like.—Laura Hernandez.

KUDOS FOR LIBRARY TEEN SITES

This month’s kudos go to every library that has bravely ventured into the world of blogs, especially those mentioned above.

[Note on the Kudos section: If you think your site is worthy of consideration, please e-mail me at rpurdy@crrl.org. The Web Surfers and I will surf submissions and choose one to showcase for each column.]

Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Manager at the Headquarters Library of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help all of you young adult librarians find some good sites for your Web pages.

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