Saturday, May 5, 2012

Young Adult services at Napa City-County Library

The Napa City-County Library offers a teen program that is headed by a young adult librarian, James Mah.

While he said there is no formal mission statement, a definition on its website comes close: “Napa City-County Library’s Young Adult Services are dedicated to providing materials and programs to teens in Napa County. Our Young Adult collection includes popular and informational books, manga, video games, DVDs and audio books” (Napa).

Teen services include activities and opportunities for volunteerism. Some recent activities include a teen video game tournament and a recently-formed teen book club. Meetings began April 2 with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

At the next meeting, on May 30, teens will discuss Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. The premise of the story, as outlined in a flier promoting the book club event, seems similar to The Hunger Games: a third-year high school class will be forced to fight to the death until only one survivor remains.

During my visit on May 5, brochures and fliers were promoting upcoming teen activities including a teen movie showcase on May 25, the teen summer reading program, which begins accepting sign-ups on May 29, and the next Awesome Alliance of Justice (teen advisory group) meeting on the first and third Wednesday of every month.

Services that were promoted include online help with homework and a new study center at the main library that serves both children and teens.

Asked if there are specific policies that govern teens, Mah said there are not, because he doesn’t want to see segregated rules. Teens are affected by the same rules that govern patrons as a whole.

Mah described the Awesome Alliance of Justice as a combined focus group and brainstorming session. Participating teens help to plan events for teens and provide advice about how the library provides teen services. The website invites any interested teens to drop in and participate (Napa).

Other types of volunteer activities are detailed on an application form that asks teens what sort of volunteer tasks they would be interested in doing: shelf organization, cleaning, book reviews, distributing fliers, office work and “other.”

From their description, I thought the Awesome Alliance of Justice and the other volunteer activities to provide just the sort of win-win that is described in our text: “The library gains teen input, interaction, and perspective; the community benefits from teens who have had valuable work experience; and teens profit from their involvement in activities that increase their work experience and opportunities that help build assets” (Gorman 320).

The teen services also relate to teens’ developmental needs as described in our text: the volunteer programs offer teens an opportunity to take on responsibilities. Book club, video game and teen movie activities help with the shaping of identity by allowing teens to express these interests.

Asked if he knows what young adults expect from their libraries, Mah said that polling has indicated many teens are unaware of the library and its services and they don’t know what to expect beyond knowing that it has books. Some of the ways in which the library does outreach includes working with the county’s school librarians: sending fliers to the schools. In addition to enlisting them for outreach, Mah said the library also works with school librarians so that its collection compliments the school districts’.

There is a weekly market in which the main street in Napa is shut down and the library has a booth. On one day during the market, the library’s booth will be devoted to teen activities.

Mah said he is also going to talk with school librarians about the library’s summer reading program.

Asked if there is something that teens would like the library to do that it is not doing, Mah said the library possesses X-Box and Wii and teens would like the library to provide the third major console: the Play Station 3. Mah said he has also received requests for book series, food and activities like a rock wall.

The teen collection is housed in its own room. During my visit I looked at the room and it included fiction, nonfiction and periodicals. These latter included Marvel comics and manga. There were cafe-style booths to sit at. There are laptops available for use but only when Mah is present.

Mah said the library received major donations from local businesses, which was how it got the room; before that, young adult collection occupied shelves in the regular part of the library.

The teen area is reserved for teen use; while an adult may go and retrieve a book, adults are not supposed to hang out in the teen area so that teens will feel comfortable using it.

The young adult program has its own budget. Mah said it is guided by the general collection plan of the Napa City-County Library, which is geared toward popular works.

The success of teen programs is measured by attendance. Mah said that poetry slams have been successful in the past. One blowout success got teachers involved as well as teens. Other popular activities include the video game tournament and a food fair.

Works Cited

  • Gorman, Michele and Tricia Suellentrop. Connecting Young Adults and Libraries. 4th ed. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2004. Print.
  • Mah, James. Personal interview. 5 May 2012.
  • Napa City-County Library. “May Book: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Teen Book Club. Flier. Print.
  • ---. Napa City-County Library Teen Volunteer Application Form. Application form. Print.
  • ---. “Teen Volunteer Opportunities.“ County of Napa — Napa City-County Library — Teens. Web. 5 May 2012
  • ---. “Young Adult Collection and Programs.” County of Napa — Napa City-County Library — Teens. Web. 5 May 2012

Originally compiled for a Cuesta College class assignment, LIBT 118, Connecting Adolescents with Literature and Libraries

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