Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Monday, May 16, 2011

Life-Size Monopoly. Library Fun with Jessica Miller!

Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries and for the outstanding Librarians serving Children and Young Adults in Schools and Public Libraries across the U.S. Please welcome today’s guest Jessica Miller!

A librarian for five years, Jessica has spent the last three years running the teen department at New Britain Public Library, New Britain, CT.

Jessica created tween programming at her library. Prior to her arrival, children’s programming stopped at grade 4 and teen programming didn’t begin until grade 6. Programs directed specifically at tweens ( grades 4 to 8) bridges the Children’s Department to the Teen Department without losing readers!

More Roars for Jessica
We first met Jessica on her amazing book blog http://ireadtorelax.blogspot.com. She reviews middle grade and young adult materials for three different national review journals. For the past two years, she’s also participated as a judge for the Amazon Novel Breakthrough Award young adult section.

Jessica is currently one of the Young Adult section co-chairs for the Connecticut Library Association. She and her co-chair, Geri DiOrio (of the Ridgefield Public Library), plan the annual Young Adult section annual meeting for all YA Librarians in CT and plan the young adult programs available to all CT Librarians at the CLA annual conference.

The Skinny
Jessica says -- My absolute favorite part of my job is connecting readers with books. A lot of times, here in New Britain, the teens are not really enthusiastic about reading. If you can just connect a teen with one book, one, that really peaks their interest, then they will come back and ask for more. Having a teen say “Miss, you pick out the best books” brightens my day like nothing else! I love to go to the schools and book talk, because a lot of the teens in New Britain don’t have transportation to get to the library, so I have to come to them. It’s another way to reach them and to say, “Yes, reading can be totally awesome.”

A Lion’s Pride of Programs
I’ve already mentioned our Tween Time programs several times. I think that these programs are some of my favorites. We’ve done Life-Size Monopoly, Waterworks (outdoor water games!)

Summer Olympics, a Murder Mystery, a Library Scavenger Hunt, two “Camp-Out” movies complete with s’mores!

It’s a great age group…the tweens are old enough to do just about anything, are interested in just about everything, and they don’t yet have that “too cool to do that” vibe that the high school teens sometimes exhibit!

Some of my other favorite programs include our annual Spring Teen Creative Writing Contest, our monthly craft programs that have included altered books, decorated journals, “stained glass windows,” and beaded jewelry and the food related programs like cookie or cupcake decorating!

Readers Roar
~James – Our Library has a HUGE selection! It’s really great. I never have any trouble finding books I need for school projects or a movie to watch or a great new book. I’m really into science fiction and fantasy and the Library has a bunch of books like that that I can check out. Right now I’m reading my way through Ray Bradbury’s books.

~Blaze - The Library’s really good. I love the “Wii Fun” gaming programs and using the computers. I like to read WWE magazine and Game Informer. I want to be in the WWE when I grow up.

~ Jemima – I love all the new books in the Teen Section! Especially Cassandra Clare’s newest, City of Fallen Angels. I’m obsessed with that series.

Library Laughs
Just recently we did a Tween Time program called, “The Earth and Our Universe.” As part of the program, I decided to have the tweens create an alien…together. We had a whiteboard and a rainbow of dry erase markers and I asked each tween in turn to go up, pick a marker, and draw a part of their alien. At first the kids were a little shy. No one wanted to really do it, but as we added parts and started explaining why the alien had six wiggly arms, or googly stalk eyes or a barbed tail…the kids started cracking up.

At one point, Kaitlyn shouted out that the alien was holding bacon. When I told her that the alien wouldn’t have bacon because there would be no pigs in a gaseous environment, I have never seen a lip stick out further…but when I went on to explain that the alien would be able to eat something remarkably similar made from a “Rumschnautz” and drew an alien pig on the board, she danced right around the room! By the time we were done, the tweens were all snapping pictures of their alien on their cell phones so that they could look at it again later.

Book Brag: What three books are flying off the Teen/Tween shelves right now, and why?
~ The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan – Since The Lightning Thief, any book that comes out with Rick Riordan’s name on it is impossible to keep on the shelves here at NBPL. We have to order extra copies to keep up with the demand and house it in both our Children’s and Teen Departments. Both our tween and teen readers love the mythological aspects of Riordan’s books.

~ The House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast – This year’s books, Awakened (Jan 2011), Dragon’s Oath (July 2011), and Destined (Nov 2011) are in HUGE demand. Again we buy multiple copies of each and the hold lists begin months before they come out and run for months after they’ve arrived. The teens love the soap opera feel of this vampire series.

~ City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare. Our teen readers love the gritty urban feel of this fantasy. “It’s not in a fairy world. . . but it’s creepy and cool fantasy.” The dark romance, danger, and paranormal aspects of this series really appeal to our high school readers.

Author, Author!
Recently we experimented with doing an author visit via Skype. It was AWESOME. It was super easy and much cheaper than having an author come to the library. We were able to have author, Paul Volponi, do a demonstrative visit with the YA Librarians from around the state. Paul Volponi explained his writing style, other visits he’d done with teens, and then let us ask questions. It was a really great experience!

Through http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/ you can find a list of authors willing to do either free or very low cost “virtual visits” to Libraries across the US.

Library Lion’s Roar
Finally, I’d like to mention that we are located in a very urban, poor area of Connecticut. One of the things we are most proud to be able to offer at our Library is our Teen Department’s Homework Center. Generously funded by a grant from the American Savings Foundation (http://www.asfdn.org/) we are able to offer free one-on-one tutoring to students in grades 6 through 12 four days a week after school. It allows many students who would fall behind in school to get the extra help that they need at no cost to them. It is vital to a lot of New Britain’s families.

Thank you for the terrific interview, Jessica! For those of you who would like to explore more, here are Jessica’s Links:
Jessica’s blog – http://ireadtorelax.blogspot.com
The Library’s Teen Book Blog – http://nbplteenbookblog.wordpress.com/
The Library’s Teen Myspace Page – http://www.myspace.com/NewBritainLibraryTeens
The Library’s website – http://www.nbpl.info
The Library’s Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/nbpl.ct

Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at jlcarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot.


  1. Thanks, Jen! Loved your interview a few months ago...

  2. Jessica is amazing and a great example of a YA librarian.

  3. So great to have both Jen and Jessica here on Library Lions -- you Roar!