Identifying a “Tween” Library Collection

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Whether libraries are considering the question, “How do we create life-long library users?” or “How do we keep rowdy kids busy in the afternoon?” the answer can come back to library services for tweens. “Tweens” are generally considered to be children ages 8 to 12, a population that some libraries see aging out of their children's programming, but are exactly the right audience to engage with fantastic children's literature.

This is a hot topic right now.  In October, School Library Journal published an article  What do tweens want?, touching on the opportunities and difficulties in creating separate programs, spaces, and collections for tweens and Publisher's Weekly addressed the question, "What do middle schoolers want to read?".  This age group is one that frequently needs a lot of librarian guidance and readers' advisory help, sometimes feeling lost between the juvenile and young adult collections.

As expressed in the articles, there can be a real disconnect for kids entering middle school; they want to read more challenging books, more romance, more action, but don't know where to look. These kids and their parents may feel more comfortable staying in the room with the younger children rather than the teens, and the more sophisticated themes and situations in teen literature may not appeal to them quite yet. The real challenge is whether or not libraries can or want to find the space to create a unique spot for these readers. Librarians that I’ve talked to are trying strategies across the gamut; from passive bookmarks and one-on-one book talking, to creating a special “Tween Reads” display area, to creating completely separate spaces with colors and furniture to differentiate it from both the children's and teens' areas.

In publisher catalogs, reviews, and in Bibz, identifying the right books for tweens can be challenging. These books can fall in the age groups 8-12, 10-14, and even 12-18, depending on content and interest. The most diligent selection librarian has trouble deciding whether to place some books in juvenile or young adult. Even after reading them, sometimes! These challenging books that straddle the groups are perfect for tweens.

All of these factors were taken into account when creating Brodart's tween selection lists. I was recently asked to suggest a tween starter collection for one of our public library customers. I dug deep into the reviews, my memory, and talked with other children's librarians to identify which books would appeal to this age group in particular, rather than just younger or older. It was such an interesting and timely project, I thought we should share it with you. Our tween lists encompass popular authors and series, terrific stand-alone titles, graphic novels, and high-interest non-fiction.  These, of course, are just suggestions; this age group is really open to interpretation.

If your library is looking to create a separate tween collection, trying more passive tween recommendation displays, or simply seeking fresh readers' advisory suggestions for this age group, our tween selection lists can help you find inspired titles to add to your collection.  

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