I just returned from my first day of book talks at one of the local middle schools. I’ll admit, going into this, I was really nervous. I am not a public speaker. And I had to talk to a full class of seventh and eighth graders. For forty minutes. Six times in a row.
And it. Was. AWESOME!!! These students were respectful, engaged, and asked great questions. They liked hearing about books to read for fun, and about our digital resources (Freegal was really popular, and the teachers were all pushing Tutor.com along with me). Working the Information Services desk, I don’t often get to interact with teens who are excited about reading; those who come for a book usually know what they want and find it themselves. So seeing them give enthusiastic thumbs-ups to the books I brought was awesome.
But more than getting teens excited about reading, book talks are the most effective outreach I’ve ever done. I got to talk up the library to 130 teens who were a captive, engaged audience. Those students now all know me as the teen librarian. They’ve talked with me, and will (hopefully) be comfortable approaching me at the library. They know about our programs, and left class talking about game nights and edible bugs (yes, we’re having edible bugs at an Eat Around the World program in a couple weeks). Even if only ten percent of them come to these programs, that’s thirteen teens I hadn’t seen at programs before.
And, book talks gave me a chance to meet some awesome teachers! I had an opportunity to show them some of the library’s resources that can help their students. And when I found out about a series their students like that we didn’t have at the library, I was able to tell the teachers and the students that we could get those books. Two teachers even offered extra credit to students who show them their public library card. And hopefully, these teachers will vouch for me when I want to visit their colleagues’ classes.
If you’re a youth librarian, and there’s a chance for you to do book talks at your local schools, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to build or strengthen partnerships with educators, and to show a lot of students what the library has to offer them. Plus, it’s just really fun to meet and talk with the students you might not already see at the library.