Terminology is always growing and changing and libraries are no exception. Tween, short for tweenager, is a fairly recent term with multiple meanings. Some use Tween to describe 10-12 years, those in-between adolescents, and the teenage years. Others use it to describe middle schoolers (typically 6th-8th graders aged 11-14).
Either way, many libraries have adopted the term and have used it for programming and/or collection development. For some libraries the question arises, should we have a separate collection for Tweens? Where should this section be located? Should tweens have their own area?
Some of us at Teen Services Underground are here to share with you the pros and cons we believe in when it comes to a Tween Section. Keep in mind it does ultimately come down to what works best for you and your library.
Some general Pros and Cons
|Middle School Students can easily identify books that are geared towards them||Middle School Students may be discouraged from reading books in the teen section, even if they are allowed to.|
|Parents can take comfort in knowing their child is reading a book that is geared towards them||Teens may be discouraged from reading books labeled tween even if the book may interest them. This can include continuing to read authors/series they love as they venture into high school.|
|Creates a bridge for those not comfortable with teen books but too old/don’t want to be teased by reading Children’s books.||As librarians when a book is geared towards middle and high school students we have to decide where to place it. The other option, if we should buy two copies if the budget allows.|
|There’s a big difference in maturity levels between middle schoolers and high schoolers, so having different sections is helpful to keep more mature/advanced titles together.||Libraries have limited space and there can be space/logistical issues with splitting the collection.|
I say go for it. Even if your Tween books are just shelved at the beginning or end of your Teen books, it allows for a nice comfort zone. Maybe add some signage indicating they are for Tweens and Tweens at heart for those who still want to read Tween as they head to Teen. Also, you can’t go wrong with the word recommend. As in, these books are recommended for this age or grade range. I also suggest doing it for not just fiction, but graphic novels as well. While a totally separate space for tweens would be nice, I get it’s probably a long shot.
I used to manage a bookstore, so I come at this from both a retail and a library perspective. As it was an overstock & closeout bookstore, I normally had the final say as to where books ultimately belonged. When it came to dividing up books for kids, tweens, and teens, it was easy enough to either look on the back of the book or look it up online. Books in the age range we’re discussing fall under the age ranges 8-12, 10+, 10-14, and 12+. When libraries minimize categories to just Juvenile and YA, Juvenile can contain everything from the Magic Treehouse books to Percy Jackson.
To me, it isn’t so much a matter of separating out ‘tween’ books from YA as it is allowing them to safely get out of Juvenile without putting them straight into YA. I’m going to stick with using Rick Riordan’s books, since most of his books are marked as either being ages 10-14 or grades 5-9, and most of us are familiar with them. While some might argue as to some of the ‘controversial’ topics brought up in his books, they aren’t overly gory, filled with anything explicit, or swearing. But YA has become increasingly open to books that fit one or all of those categories, especially with books that might technically fall under the category of ‘New Adult’ being shelved there instead.
So where does poor Percy get shelved? It depends. Say it’s a library that doesn’t want to risk it, and everything in the 10-14 range is put into YA. Maybe this isn’t a big deal for some kids. Maybe their parents don’t care what they read, and they can go into YA and check out whatever they want. They’re good at finding what they’re interested in, because they’re familiar with the library. What about the kids with draconian parents? Or maybe Percy gets shelved in Juvenile, and instead, a teen gets to feel self-conscious amidst the chapter books.
I’ve sorted through thousands of books. At this point, I don’t have to look a book up to give a good approximation of where a book goes just by looking at the spine or cover. But that’s me, that’s not everyone. It’s easier to pick tween books out of Juvenile just by how ‘thick’ they might be, but decidedly more difficult in YA. In my experience, having books sorted out thusly works wonders: Chapter Books (the easier chapter books for kids who are just dipping their toes into reading something with fewer or sometimes no pictures). Juvenile/Tween – books that fall into the 8-12, 10+, and 10-14 ranges. Personally, I normally put in books that are 12+ as well. YA, then, was strictly for teen books. Tweens loved having books at their interest/reading level altogether. Teens loved not having to sort through for the ‘older’ books. Parents loved all the easy chapter books being sorted out. It’s not a perfect system, nothing can be when you’re separating books out, but it made things easier on browsers.
I work in a library that has an established Tween section – and I love it! The library where I previously worked did not have a Tween section. My collection maintenance of the Teen section there was to keep it on the mature/advanced side. Everything middle grade was placed in Juvenile Fiction. This meant that books for elementary-age kids and middle schoolers were in the same section. There was no room for a Tween section, though I would have loved that! Tweens aren’t kids anymore, but they’re not teens yet either – they should get their own space.
Most of the crowd that I worked with were middle-schoolers, and we’d constantly be running back and forth between Teen and Juvenile. Since it wasn’t practical to create a Tween section, I preferred having the middle-grade books in with Juvenile fiction – as it feels like a better choice for an 8-year-old to stumble upon a book aimed at 12-year-olds than a 12-year-old stumbling upon a book for a 17-year-old. (Not that I’d slap that book out of anyone’s hands, mind you!)