My Top 5 Posts of 2023
Here we are starting our fifth year in a pandemic and I’m not going to lie, 2023 was a rough one for me. I got Covid for the 2nd confirmed but probably 3rd time in January and developed Long Covid. My husband took 2 new jobs – both times they came and sought him out – and both times after 3 weeks on the job those companies laid off every single manager, including my husband that had just began working there at their request. He was laid off the second time the Monday before Christmas. I have strong negative feelings about this year, but through it all I had Amanda and we had TLT and we had you, and I am, as always, grateful. And in the midst of all of that, I did manage to write some posts that I’m both proud of and made a big impact.
#5: The Mini Kitchen of Your Dreams for Teen Programming
Just this morning I used some leftover Christmas ham, eggs and cheese to make what’s called a “Chaffle” in my mini waffle maker for breakfast. It was delicious by the way. One thing that has brought me personal joy and helped me bond with the teens in my life are mini kitchen appliances. Having done teen programming for around 30 years now, I stand by the amazement and wonder that is mini cooking.
#4 The 5 Biggest Issues Teen Librarians are Facing Moving into 2024
This year there were a lot of big issues that started us out, and frankly some of them are getting very big and undeniable. The biggest, perhaps, is the massive movement of book censorship, challenges and banning taking over our current political landscape. What began in the public schools a couple of years ago has grown so much bigger and is starting to spill over into public library and book stores. Other issues mentioned include AI and the role of technology in our profession and the lives of teens, teen mental health, the middle grade wasteland (which will come up again in this post), and the pandemic, which is currently in a massive surge with health officials now admitting that it is in fact negatively impacting the health of our youth. If I was going to write this post today, I would also add the current movement to pass new teen worker laws, to the detriment of teens, and how far too many of our current leaders see teens not as someone who should be protected, but exploited for their labor.
#3 My Child Deserves Representation in the Library
I have always been proud of my kids and my oldest, Riley, has chosen to live a very open life and to participate in this blog. Long time readers have watched her grow up and come out. I love this kid – technically an adult now, but always my kid – with all of my heart and all I want is a world in which she is safe and allowed to be happy, healthy, and in love with whomever she chooses to be. So the emphasis of book banners to target and erase the LGBTQ+ population is, in fact, very personal. I wrote about how all kids, including kids like mine, deserve to read about themselves in the books in their libraries. Representation matters. And the push for the elimination of books for and about LGBTQ+ youth makes the world less safe for kids like mine.
#2 The Mind the Middle 2024 Project Announcement
Based in part in some of the trends that are discussed in our number one post about book sales and specifically middle grade fiction, Amanda and I decided to announce a new project for 2024 highlighting middle grade literature. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response. In fact. I’m a bit behind in answering emails and requests due to the holidays so hang in there! But we’re really looking forward to talking about middle grade in 2024.
#1 A Treatise on the State of Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature
This post was a couple of years in the making. In fact, an earlier, less fleshed out version appeared just a few months before this one did. I wrote that up into a missive for the youth staff at the library system I work in. Then I fleshed it out even more here. And I turned this into another missive for the youth staff at the library system I work in. The truth is, by many accounts, book sales, book circulation, youth reading for pleasure and youth reading scores are all in crisis. I have a lot of thoughts about why that is. Professional peers, both online and in person, have been having some of these discussions for years. At the same time, a huge anti-book, anti-education, anti-public education/library culture has risen up which presents some new and unique challenges. The pandemic had its own impacts, including causing a lot of us to shift to digital devices and online communities, which by all accounts are impacting mental health, executive function, and just the ways we participate in life and community. Executive function is a very important and necessary component for reading to happen, so as our teens struggle with growing mental health issues and become more online, it impacts both the ability and desire to read. Then there are the decisions that publishers are making themselves.
Do kids still read? Yes, obviously, many of them do. We all have personal stories that we can share. My own dyslexic child who has always hated reading is now an avid murder book readers and asks me daily to buy her a new book. She even started using my library’s digital services, something she had no interest in doing in the past. But the reality is also that, there is a shift happening and we need to examine it, talk about it, and working to right it before we lose a generation of readers. And we all know what kinds of short- and long-term impacts that has on society, none of them good.
I realize, looking at this list now, that there are some very big, seemingly negative posts dominating this list. But we have to engage in our profession honestly and thoughtfully, it’s not always sunshine and roses. But there has also been a lot of fun here: sharing of books we loved, Barbie and other media tie-in book lists, and so much more. I hope you will join us in 2024 for all of it! Happy New Year!!
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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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