book review: Urban Teens in the Library
edited by Denies E. Agosto and Sandra Hughes-Hassell
American Library Association, 2010
I really wanted to like this book. I expected it to refresh, renew and maybe even validate my work with urban teens. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Let’s start with the $60 price tag for a 186 paged paperback book, several of which are inserted upside down. ALA has got to make these books affordable to people who need and want to read them!
A lot of effort was made to describe just who urban teens are. From there, chapters were devoted to topics such as designing space, urban lit, social networking and addressing health issues. While these are interesting and relative topics, I wanted something a bit more current from the authors mentioned to the topics addresses. While I have to commend the editors for including such a scholarly approach to urban lit, I do wish that some of the more contemporary YA urban lit (Latino and African American) would have been included. To me as an urban school librarian, these titles are quite important.
And school librarians weren’t there, except to be criticized for creating negative images about libraries with teens. It would have been helpful to read about effective ways public and school librarians have collaborated to build effective teen programming. Collaborations with museums, social agencies and academic libraries were missing and I know these things are being done to address numerous issues. Here in Indianapolis, we’ve had many Burmese refugees move to the city. Schools and libraries have had to be resourceful to find materials to assist this population as well as in learning how to bring them into the library.
School and public librarians would love to know more about addressing language issues, talking about controversial issues with teens in non-biased ways, finding hi-low reading materials that appeal to teens and approaching the topic of race.
If you’re new to a public library in the center of the city and have the money to splurge, Urban Teens in the Library will introduce you to well research practices that will be relevant to the topic you serve, but if your needs are not so basic, I suggest you wait for volume 2.