I have spent a lot of time in my life on the patron side of the YA/librarian relationship. I am just now starting to have the opportunity to flip that. As a result, I am immensely grateful for the research I’ve been able to undertake as a student in LIBR 200: Information Communities. The most important piece of advice I learned throughout all of the reading and interviewing I did for this class was that it is crucial to personally communicate with your information community about their wants and needs.
Relying on published research can be helpful and used as a springboard, but ultimately, every community is unique. Inner-city teens and rural teens may, in general, be very similar, but their information needs can be vastly different. Their interests, too, may vary depending on geographic location. We can do all we want to try to bring teens in with flashy program titles, switching up our vocabulary, and offering help for school projects. However, the best thing we can do for young adults is listen.
The same goes for adult readers of YA. This population has grown — or, at least, it’s population of openly-YA-readers has — greatly in the last ten years. Little research has been provided on this audience, though. Perhaps we are under the impression that adult readers of YA are no different from adult readers of adult fiction. This doesn’t seem to be the case in what little research is available. In many of the popular articles I’ve explored (some of which I’ve referenced in previous posts) this semester, it has been abundantly clear that adult readers of YA can feel lost with feelings of doubt and even shame. Librarians must take it upon themselves to help diminish these feelings, assuring adults that it is okay — wonderful, even — to read YA fiction.
Patrons may not be experts on finding information, but they are the experts of themselves. It’s time to recommit to communicating with patrons regularly in order to better serve their wants and needs and, consequently, build a stronger community with the library as the hub.