Author: Nicole Wojtowitz

Staff Renewal/Training Day

Oh, Staff Day. What an interesting time of the year! Each year, both of my libraries (public) hold staff renewal days in which we go to trainings, they roll out new information/campaigns, and fun break-out sessions.

Last week, I attended part of one of my two staff days. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the entire day because I had to go to work at my other job! What I was able to attend though, was fun and full of tons of information.

This staff day was for my smaller district so they are able to host it locally at one of the 3 library branches. They rotate them each year and luckily this year’s was at my branch, which was very convenient because who doesn’t want to be at their own branch? 

The basic breakdown of the day is as follows:

  • Registration/check-in, flu shots (for free!), and breakfast
  • All staff Picture (there’s about 100 staff)
  • Director’s address to the district
  • Staff Longevity awards (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years)
  • Customer Service Training (2 hours)
  • LUNCH!
  • Staff Roundtables
  • Breakout session 1
  • Break
  • Breakout session 2
  • Wrap-up

I was only able to be there until lunch, which means I was there for the customer service training. Whenever I hear that I have to sit through yet another customer service training, I can honestly tell you I don’t get excited. But I have to say, this one was actually pretty fun! The presenter made it very interactive for us and even gave us free candy and stress balls. So she definitely earns extra points with me for that.

I am sad I missed what we call the staff roundtables though. Each year they break the staff up into a bunch of small groups, put us in a room with an outside consultant, and let us openly discuss any issues we see in the districts and ways we can potentially solve those issues. 

Overall, the time I spent there was good and worth it. If you have any staff days coming up, I hope you enjoy them too! I’ll be attending my second library’s staff day on October 14th so I know the feeling of anticipating it still coming up.

Does your library host staff days? What do they do for yours? Let us know in the comments!

High School Paperback Collection

If you read “high school paperback collection” and immediately think “oh, so a classics section” you aren’t entirely wrong. However, you aren’t entirely correct either. While yes, many of the books contained in this area would also fit into a classics section, this section is meant to specifically have the books actually being read in high school classrooms and not to contain all the classics.

There are also a few more modern titles mixed in such as Speak, Walk Two Moons, The Outsiders and The Color Purple that you might not find in your regular classics section. Of course there also all the basic classics like Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Steinbeck, etc. 

The great thing about having this section as paperbacks, is that when students come in seeking out the titles it’s much more likely we have a copy in because we don’t catalogue our paperbacks. It also allows us to have many more copies available without taking up a ton of shelf space. We keep this collection inside of our Teen Room so that they can easily access it. Adults are free to browse the section as well.

During the school year, we do end up checked out of many titles but we are always trying to add new copies as they come in through donations. 

Here is what the current status of our collection looks like:










Does your library have a section like this or something similar? Let us know in the comments!

Becoming a Safe Place

When you walk or drive around your town, you may see a yellow sign outside certain businesses/buildings that looks like this:

But what is “Safe Place”? What does this sign actually mean? Well, let me tell you!

“Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for youth in need. As a community initiative, the program designates schools, fire stations, libraries, and other youth-friendly organizations as Safe Place locations, which display the yellow and black sign.

Safe Place locations extend the doors of the local youth service agency or shelter to support teens in crisis situations, creating a safety net for youth.” (

Over the past year and a half, both of the library districts I work for have went through the steps of becoming certified Safe Places. What these steps looks like does vary by district, but the end goal of helping our youth is the same.

In 2017, Las Vegas/Clark County had the third highest total number of unaccompanied homeless children and youth living on our streets and in our shelters of any major metro area in the United States – even more than New York City. (

By both of my library districts becoming designated Safe Places we have been able to add an additional 28 sites to a city with such a high number of unaccompanied homeless youth. On average, NPHY (Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth) receives about 100 calls from their Safe Place sites each year. By adding these extra sites, that number will likely go up as we are locations in which the youth needing help are likely already at.

Both districts went live with this program on January 17, 2019. Since going live, youth have already received the help they need.

Now that I’ve hopefully gotten your attention about what Safe Place is and how it can help, you’re probably wondering still about what goes into actually becoming a safe place. One of my amazing co-workers in my department is the one who lead the charge in getting us certified and was able to tell me a bit more about what she had to do for that.

Initially, she started out just doing some programming here and there at the NPHY home base. Once she learned how severe the problem was in our community she asked about becoming a Safe Place and began the steps to do so.

She met with the NPHY outreach coordinator and director 3 or 4 times over the course of a year to figure out the logistics, details, and training for the district. They had to decide where the required signage would be posted for each library branch, who in the district would receive training, getting an MOU to officially contract with them, and when we’d actually go live.

Because my two districts are vastly different sizes, the details and training for the two districts did vary. For the smaller branch (and the one discussed above) it was decided that all managers and all of youth services would receive the necessary training. For the larger district, all the persons in charge received the training as there are always multiple there at any given time.

The training I received taught me all about the homeless youth problem here in Southern Nevada, what Safe Place is and does, what NPHY does once they have picked up the youth, and what I, as a staff member, do once I have a teen come in seeking a Safe Place.

Since going live, we’ve already had one person in my branch come in seeking that Safe Place. Other sites may have had none, and others may have had many more. No matter the number, we know we are at least doing what we can to help.

Is your library also a designated Safe Place? Is this something you would like to do in the future? Let us know about it in the comments!

Young Adult (YA) versus Juvenile (J) Placements

I’ve now been working at both my libraries (Las Vegas and Henderson) for the past year and a half and one thing has gradually stuck out to me – they don’t always shelf popular series/titles in the same collections. One district shelves things under Juvenile, whereas the other shelves it under Young Adult and vice versa. I made it my mission to find out why this is the case and what the reasoning is for their specific locations.

During this process, I’ve also learned more about collection development in general, which has been really neat and helpful. The biggest thing I’ve learned about collection development is that many times it ultimately comes down to the librarian’s own interpretation of an item that determines where an item gets placed. In addition to that, there are some set parameters that some librarians may follow to help them more easily make a decision if a title isn’t always clear cut.

For one of my districts, their parameters for the Young Adult section states: “Materials designed for the more mature reader 6th through 12thgrade (ages 12-19), based on content and theme.” Relationships within the books are also looked at to help make the decision. Just friendship can lead to being put in Juvenile, whereas romantic relationships will generally place it in YA. It also can come down to how liberal the collections development person is. Some may more readily place things in Young Adult than others.

Reviews are also very heavily relied upon because books are purchased pre-publication. Occasionally, it happens that when a book has more reviews or is seen in person, the location may be changed. For Henderson, when items first arrive they go by the Library of Congress age leveling (if there is one) or where it is designated by vendors or reviews (such as those in School Library Journal, Horn Book or Voya). Past that, changes are decided and deferred to the Youth Services librarians. Changes are more easily made for this district, if they happen, because it is smaller and much easier to change than in a very large district.

The specific book series that I inquired about were: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, all the Rick Riordan books, The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I was especially interested in the answers to the placement of the Giver series because it has a very unique placement that is actually the same in both districts. The first two in the series are placed in Juvenile, while the last two are placed in Young Adult.

Here is the reasoning I got for the Las Vegas placements: 

  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull: Protagonists are teenagers, so it went to YA. Rest of series followed.
  • Rick Riordan books: Older series bought by predecessor. Rest of series followed. New series bought was put in different collection as they felt appropriate. (Currently in YA)
  • Lumberjanes graphic novel series: Reviews pushed it to middle school, but moved this up to YA. 
  • Artemis Fowl series: Bought by more conservative predecessor. (Currently in YA)
  • The Giver series is split between J and YA : No idea, was already split when new person took over so went along with it.

For Henderson, all of these series were placed in the Juvenile section instead of in the Young Adult section. This has a lot to do with the reviews they were originally given, the ages and storylines of the first books in their series, and whoever the librarians were at the time. There hasn’t been any complaints (that I know of anyway) of their current placements so there is no reason to change them for the time being. 

The one thing they both had in common, however, was the random split up of The Giver Quartet. What I’ve gathered from speaking to several people, one of them being the librarian who ordered them, is that the last two of the series are placed in YA because they are written for an older audience and geared towards grades 7+.

Have you noticed any discrepancies like this between districts that are close to each other? What reasonings does your library have for placement of these series? Let us know in the comments!

Graduating Teens

It’s that time of year again – high school graduation. Over the next few months, it’s likely that some or even many of your teens will be graduating high school and/or getting ready to start college.

Some of these teens may be 17 years old, and some of them may be 18 years old. As far as age guidelines go for teen programs, it’s during this time of year that they tend to become more flexible if they aren’t already. We don’t want to alienate our recently graduated teens and we want to still be a safe place for them to go and see their friends.

But what are some things we can do to help ease their transition and to make them still feel welcome?

The easiest thing to do is to still allow them to to attend teen programs until the end of summer and school starts back up. Even if they are not attending college, at that point they are considered college aged and most library teen programs are for middle/high school students. By allowing them to attend these programs, they will still feel included and you can still see them, talk to them, and connect with them before they may be heading out of town or becoming significantly busier.

If you have a large enough group of graduating seniors, you might host some sort of senior-send off celebration. This would work especially well if any of your volunteers or members of a TAG group are graduating. This is just a fun way to celebrate them and let them know you’ll miss them.

Life skills programs/classes to prepare your teens for the “adult” world would also be great and helpful for them! Things like sewing, cooking, finances, and things of the sort would all be beneficial and can also be really fun for even the younger teens.

What if a teen wants to stay in contact after they graduate?

Well, there are a few options that you can choose depending on what you are comfortable with and what guidelines your district might have about it. The two easiest and I think most comfortable are to either give them your work email address, or to become friends with them on goodreads. Neither are too personal and are clearly just keeping it work based. If they are a teen you know well and are okay with it, you could give a personal email address or even your phone number. I so far have stayed away from this because I don’t want it to become not work related. But you do you!

Overall, just do what you can and are allowed to do to remind your teens they are important, you are there for them, and that they won’t be forgotten just because they graduated. It’s an exciting thing for them and should be treated as such.

Do you have anything planned for graduating teens? Let us know your awesome ideas!