Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Words: Whose YA Is It?

In the last few weeks, multiple blogs and listservs I subscribe to have brought up the question of YA question development in libraries and has it or should it change as a result of the rise in the number of adults reading YA. Let's take a look at both sides of the argument, shall we?

Librarians have to be selective when it comes to ordering. As much as many of us would love to be able to buy all the books, there simply isn't the money or the space for that to happen. And so the delicate dance of collection development comes into play - selecting items that you believe or know your patrons want, branching out and getting books that may be of interest to them, and trying to satisfy the wants and needs of as many as possible.

In that light, a library patron can often check out items from any area of their public library - age doesn't matter. Theoretically, a five year old could check out some seriously existential adult materials in the same way that adults can pick out books from the YA and children's collections. So a patron is a patron is a patron, and you have to pick books that you think your patrons will read. And if a lot of your YA books are being read by adults, the argument can be made that it's okay for those who do the selecting to go with YA books that have greater appeal for adults.

But on the other hand, it's the YA section. Young Adults, not Adults who are Young at heart, right? For example, at my local library, even though the collection is classified as YA, there's still a giant mural that proclaims the space as the Teen Center. Because the space is for teens. The books are about teenage characters. If adults like it, well that's awesome, but they aren't the target demographic or intended audience for many of these stories - the fact that they like them too is just like a fantastic bonus.

So what's a person to do? Personally, I'm lucky in that right now I work in a high school library so the majority of the book budget goes to YA titles and I can play around with this a bit. Do I get the series that my students love that I'm not sure you could even pay me to read? You bet. Do I also get the books that don't shy away from big questions and serious situations that teens may not necessarily jump up and down for now, but maybe they will someday because their teachers sure do? Yes I do. So I guess I lean towards the second argument, but if a librarian can support his or her answer either way, then rock on.

But what do you all think? Comments are always welcome - come on, don't be shy!


  1. Oh, this is a tough question...and an interesting one. I was just thinking about this the other day, because I read a YA book that I enjoyed but didn't think any teenager would ever read.

    I guess the best thing to do would be to get the books that appeal to both teens and adults, like The Hunger Games. But besides that, I think it would be better to pick the books that teens want over the ones that adults want. Like you said, it's their area. Also, teens are less likely to have the money to buy the books they want, I think, and need the library more.

    1. It is tricky, isn't it?! It's definitely a question that the answers can go a lot of different ways. Thanks so much for your comments! =)