ASSOCIATES (vol. 4, no. 1, July 1997) -

Table of Contents

                     *YAC - YOUNG ADULT CRITIQUES:
                       Cynthia Herrington

Several years ago, we started a young adults section at the
Chapin Memorial Library in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with two
wooden bookshelves moved from a storage area and some books that
had been ordered by the children~s librarian but were found
to be more appropriate for young adults than children.  A
~teenage-looking~computer-generated banner was hoisted above the
shelves to herald the new attraction.  Within a year we had a
small budget in place with a plan to improve the young adult
section and the young adult services.
The young adult programming began with a summer reading project
and reading promotion.  We  created a video project that included
a tribute to the retiring director of our library, Shirley Boone,
and also created a tribute to a local young author.  The reading
promotion ended with a small party for the participants and with
a drawing for a portable CD player that was donated by a local
business.  Since that summer, the end-of-the-program parties have
grown to full scale with a disc jockey as well as hot dogs for
the entire families of the participants.
The young adult section has had many additions in the last few
years.  Every improvement has strengthened our commitment to
provide our community with an opportunity for our young people to
have access to age-appropriate materials and programming.  We
hope that these efforts will build a bridge to adult services.
After the children~s staff completely created and implemented the
young adult reading program (along with a young people~s
volunteer program), I returned to my duties in the reference
room.  Though it sounds as though I no longer had the opportunity
to participate in young adult programming, this was not true.
The high school students could not take part in the summer
reading programs because of time constraints.  Since the city in
which we live is a resort community, the labor force for the
summer consists of young people of high school and college age.
These young people also felt that library programs were targeting
the younger YAs.  They wanted more mature programming but, again,
time elements were a problem.
At the same time, we were approached by the librarians of the
local high schools to include their students in our reading and
discussion program series for adults.  We were not entirely
opposed to the idea but, after much discussion, we decided to set
up a program just for the high school students.  I was asked by
the director to come up with a program that was suitable for the
young people that would incorporate the critical time
constraints.  The concept of YAC, Young Adult Critiques, was to
come to fruition.
It became apparent that the time element was the first problem to
overcome.  After talking to teachers and high school librarians,
it was decided that the program would not be a summer program but
would  best fit during the school year.  Since the teachers had
asked for the program, it was assumed the students could
participate during the school year.  We decided to ask the school
librarians to act as coordinators of the program at the schools.
The school librarians would contact the English Department heads
and explain what we were planning, and would find out which
teachers wanted to participate.  The first year we limited each
school to twenty students.  The schools would have to decide who
could attend the programs.
The next decisions had to do with the structure and nature of the
program.  We decided to pattern the programs after the reading
and discussion programs we have had for adults.  The books
selected for the series all would reflect aspects of a theme.  A
different scholar would be contracted to make a presentation on
each of the books selected and to provide discussion questions.
We still had to add an element that would allow some type of
accountability to the schools if this program was to function as
an independent study program.  We added a writing topics section
to our program.  The scholars would include suggestions for
writing topics with the discussion questions.  The students that
participated would write a paper using one of the topics, turn
the paper in to their teacher and obtain a grade.
I then decided that the books selected for this program generally
should be adult.  That would take care of the mature programming
issue.  One other rule I undemocratically stipulated was that all
books selected for the program must be available in paperback.
The Chapin Foundation had granted funds for the program, so I had
book sets to buy, scholars~ honorariums, mileage and possible
overnight accommodations to pay with the funds.  I selected three
possible themes and presented the ideas to my superiors to see
what they thought.  Together we selected the theme ~Growing Up In
America: Aspects of American Life~.  In order to explore the
topic, I selected novels that reflected growing up in America
through the eyes of young people with different ethnic
backgrounds.  Three adult titles and one young adult title made
the cut.
The program would consist of a 35-40 minute book presentation
prepared by the scholar.  Depending on the number of students, I
would divide them into five or six small discussion groups for a
15 to 20 minute discussion.  A leader always arose from the group
so no one person monopolized the time, and everyone had an equal
opportunity to contribute.  The scholar and I sat in on each of
the small groups for just a few minutes.  We answered questions
posed by the group, or we supplied information if asked.  Those
few minutes were especially helpful for the scholar because his
or her closing statement addressed questions or ideas posed by
the small groups.
Before leaving the library the day of the program, the students
would exchange that program~s book selection for the next
program~s book.  If they needed the book to finish the assigned
paper, they could keep the book and return it later.  The
programs were three weeks apart.
Our technical services staff members, Lesta and Earnestine, were
very helpful in developing a cataloging system for the book sets
used for the YAC program.  We wanted the books consecutively
numbered and identified as belonging to the program.  They
created two identical spine labels for each book.  The processors
applied one label to the paperback spine and the other on the
first inside page.  To protect the spines during heavy use, they
applied three inch book tape.  They stamped the books with the
Chapin Memorial Library ownership stamp in the usual places so
that school librarians could quickly identify the books as
belonging to us.  At the end of the program the students
would sometimes return the books to the school library, and the
librarians would return the books to me.
Our administrative secretary, Sharon, worked very hard to make
sign-out sheets complete with the logo she designed for the
program flyer and correspondence.  Since the books were
consecutively numbered, the management of  the books was not that
difficult.  The first half of the book set was assigned to one
school, the second half to the other.  The students had to pick
up the first book in the series at the library.  Each student was
assigned a numbered book and received that number book each
program.  The check-out sheets served to keep track of the
school, the student~s name and phone number, and the book.  We
required those without library cards to get one and those with
cards to update their information.  We lost only two books out
of 160 our first year.  However, we did sell some students their
copies of the book at the discount price the library paid.  I
designed letters and permission slips for the teachers to use to
inform parents that their children were participating in a
program outside of the school setting.
Not knowing what to expect, the first year of the program I
invited only two schools to participate.  Our program took place
in the fall, so a few days after school started, I dropped off
flyers and letters to the school librarians for distribution.
The English Departments approved the students who wished to
participate, and at least one teacher from each school chaperoned
the students to the program.  The school librarians took care of
arranging the school buses and transportation to and from the
The first year we averaged fifty students at each program.  The
students were given an evaluation to return to me at the last
program of the series.  Many good suggestions for future programs
as well as suggestions for improvements to the program were made.
The students also had an opportunity to evaluate the scholars.
I was asked to make a presentation on the YAC program at the
annual meeting of the South Carolina Friends of the Library.  The
president of the organization thought that Friends~ groups would
be interested in assisting their libraries with the speakers~
fees and thus allowing other libraries to have similar programs.
The director of Chapin Memorial Library, Cathy Wiggins, agreed
that book sets could be loaned to libraries wishing to do a
series for young people.
The South Carolina Humanities Council took an interest in the
program as well.,  One library in South Carolina expressed a
desired to do the program, and the Humanities Council gave them a
mini grant to complete the project.  I was able to assist the
grant writer with information to lessen the burden associated
with writing a grant proposal, and I received a grant of my own
for the second year~s program.
In the initial series, the scholars were from colleges and
universities outside of the area.  This practice was expensive.
The second year I found talent locally.  The presentations were
just as wonderful, and travel and meals did not cause additional
expense.  We averaged 45 students a program.
We completed the third series in the fall of 1996 and are
planning another series this fall.  Two other libraries in
South Carolina have borrowed our book sets and have begun YAC
programs of their own.  Currently I am offering the book sets to
any other library that would like to use them as well as help to
get other programs started.  The schools, students and library
have formed a lasting bond, and we believe these students will
continue using the library for many years to come.