TPIB: Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover
I am a huge fan of cover art. Like…HUGE. It’s no mistake that teen books have some of the best cover art out there and generally because most of our teens are looking for things that are visually appealing. But some of the books that I read and fell in love with didn’t have the best covers. When I would try to booktalk these books or hand sell them to my teens in the stacks, they looked at me like I was insane. The conversation would go a little something like this:
|Older covers on top…new covers on bottom. BIG difference.|
When the teens sat down, they received a worksheet and a book and then were asked to place a check in the column entitled ‘Front of Book’ if they would read this book judging only from the cover. Then, they had 15 seconds (I timed them) to read the jacket flap and see if that changed their mind. And then one full minute to read from any part of the book that they wished. Some started at the end, others at the beginning. When the time was up, they were asked to place a final check if they would read this book now, even with a cover they may not have liked or even a description that they thought wouldn’t interest them. Instead of discussing the books, they then passed them to the next person and the process continued until all books had been completed.
The end result? Most of the teens were surprised to find out that the books they didn’t think they would like became the ones they were wanting to check out when they left the program.
When we were done, I would let them eat and talk while I made photocopies of their sheets of paper. They were able to bring home a personalized ‘to-read’ sheet, and then I kept one on file because the chance of them making it home and keeping that sheet? Exactly. And many of the teens returned to ask to see their sheets so they could find another book.
This program did two things for us as a branch. First, it helped the teens make a match with books that they might not have picked up while browsing. But the second thing it did was for me as a librarian. It showed me where I needed to strengthen my book collection. After several months, I began to notice trends popping up with certain types of books: high fantasy, contemporary novels, and sports books. Most of the paranormal reads? They never checked them out. So, I started to buy with my teens in mind. Granted, this was only a small sector of my reading population, but most of us know that after a while, we don’t get to see many of the faces checking out the books and sometimes don’t get the interaction of finding out what our teens like and don’t like.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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