Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Books For Teenage Girls Are A Little Too Popular

The New York Times weighs in on the Gossip Girl series with the article Books For Teenage Girls Are A Little Too Popular. (Interestingly, it appeared in the Around the Region section.)

The point of the article isn't so much that the books are eeevil, but rather that younger and younger girls are "clamoring for the books, too, upsetting parents and leading some bookstores to move the books out of the children's section."

So? I'm more concerned that the books weren't in the YA/teen area to begin with. To be honest, I've often wondered at the number of teen titles, including older teen titles, that I've seen in the children's section of bookstores, sometimes spine to spine with picture books or chapter books. Moving books for teens to a separate section: It's a good thing.

It's unclear from the article what the booksellers use to guide their initial placement judgment; but the article repeatedly refers to age of the intended audience according to the publisher. (I hesitate to use the booksellers names, knowing how out of context quotes may be.)

Librarians (and many booksellers) don't rely ONLY on what the publisher has to say about a book. Most professional reviews provide a better, and often less broad, age guideline, as well as additional information about the plot and content. And these reviews aren't top secret. Any librarian or bookseller should know about them. And if you're interested, as a parent, then Barnes & Noble online is your new best friend, because B&N includes the text of these professional reviews. Looking for guidance on what Mallory or Matthew is reading? Go to B&N.

B&N shows that for Gossip Girl, Publishers Weekly says ages 15 plus; and School Library Journal grades 9 plus; looking at the third book, Kliatt says Senior High and School Library Journal now says grades 10 plus. The text of the reviews is also included, so you can see why the reviewer attached a certain age to a book. Similar age recommendations are given for the A List. What that tells most book professionals is that these books don't belong in the children's section. (Oh, and just so you know -- many of these reviews may be very spoilerific. Which is a good thing if you're using them to guide you on what is right for what age and what child or teen, as opposed to your own personal reading.)

One of the bookstore owners says that fourth and fifth graders want to read these books. The bookseller tries to steer the girls to more age appropriate books. But the girls "are adamant." Not to be rude, but so what? These books are intended for an older audience; and just because ten year olds want to read them, doesn't mean that all books intended for a senior high audience should also be OK for their younger sisters. Some books are meant for high school students. Deal with it.

I do sympathize with the parents who are trying to keep up with the literature; one mentions that she thought the A List covers were young. While I disagree with that (I think that the photos of older teens in bikinis and evening wear says older teens, and are similar enough to adult chick lit titles to almost be shelved in adult), I appreciate the parent who is trying to keep on top of what her child is reading, and is concerned. To this parent, I say: use me. Use my young adult colleagues. Come in, ask for me, tell me what your child is reading and what she likes and let's see what we have to make you both happy. We can exchange emails, I'll look out for books she may like, we'll talk about what worked and didn't.

If your local library does not have a young adult/ teen specialist, ask the library why not?


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