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Category: Digital Content

What the Dang Heck Is a Webcomic??

Screenshot of Sarah Andersen’s website as viewed on my phone.

Webcomics aren’t typically given much attention by library professionals — possibly because they can’t be owned or lent; nevertheless, we should be familiar with them. After all, our goal should be to connect people with materials they love, not just materials the library owns. Additionally, if we want to be deft, resourceful readers’ advisers, we need to be familiar with all kinds of reading materials, especially the kinds of things our patrons are reading.

If you’re brand new to webcomics, this post will give you a foothold in their vast, wild world. If you’re familiar with webcomics, please leave your favorites in the comments as well as any resources you find helpful!

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#WontBeErased: Transgender Awareness Week and Day of Remembrance

This November, Transgender Awareness Week (November 11-17) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20) comes on the heels of our current administration’s ban on military service for transgender individuals, along with his latest efforts to remove legal protections afforded by federal civil rights law. Raising visibility of the issues facing transgender people is even more important now, as transgender kids are increasingly vulnerable to bullying, violence, self-harm, and suicide; and library staff and educators working with young people can and should be aware of how to support them.

For many of us, this means exploring our own biases and rethinking some of our ingrained ideas about sex and gender identity, which can be a difficult task. I’ve gathered some resources below–books, videos, websites, and even a webcomic–that can help adults working with youth become more knowledgeable and understanding, and therefore better able to offer support, resources, and empathy to our transgender patrons. For excellent fiction and nonfiction to offer to transgender, nonbinary, and questioning teens, follow these two links to past YALSA Hub articles. 

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Five Podcasts to Try for Fans of “Welcome to Night Vale”

Audio fiction podcasts are finally getting their comeuppance thanks largely to the success of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. Serialized fiction podcasts are an engaging storytelling medium that is drawing the attention of teens and listeners of all ages. Since its start in June of 2012, this darkly funny podcast with its premise of local radio news show has been enchanting listeners. Set in the sleepy desert town of Night Vale, it has all the government conspiracies and unexplained phenomena of X Files, but are explored with a “News from Lake Wobegon” flavor ala Prairie Home Companion.

Welcome to Night Vale logo

The 2015 book Welcome to Night Vale debuted in the top ten on the New York Time’s best seller list and continues to be a teen favorite. The podcast was first produced by Commonplace Books, but is now being produced by the creators own company Night Vale Presents. Night Vale Presents also produces other podcasts “both from the Night Vale artistic team and from other artists with a similar vision for independent, original podcasting.” Be sure to check out Alice Isn’t Dead, The Orbiting Human Circus, and Within the Wires.

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Self-Care Resources for Teens

As part of our month of posts around the topic of social justice, today we’re rounding up some tips and resources to help teens practice good self-care. I am using the term “self-care” to mean general actions that an individual can take to maintain or improve their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Engaging with issues of social justice can bring up many difficult emotions, trigger or exacerbate mental health concerns, and otherwise prompt symptoms of distress. Stories and coverage of injustice, violence, and violations of civil and human rights are inherently troubling to encounter. Learning to acknowledge and manage this distress can help teens – and adults! – to not feel entirely overwhelmed when confronting issues of social justice. Learning to recognize our individual limits and needs, and developing ways to meet them, are critical tools against feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or consumed by anger, despair, or helplessness. I am not a health care professional, and self-care strategies and choices are highly personal; your ideas and feedback are encouraged and appreciated in the comments!

One critical level of self-care is taking care of our immediate physical needs: eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and, in an era of constant access to the media and the ability to binge on screen-time, taking time away from devices to shower, get dressed, and make sure we’re spending time off the internet.

Taking a few deep breaths, perhaps in sync with this viral and effective GIF, is also a first-line self-care action. These could all be considered self-care strategies to implement right-this-minute in the face of feeling overwhelmed. It’s just a little easier to face the enormity of social justice issues when you’re freshly shampooed and you’ve got going-out-in-public clothes on. Some resources to encourage good habits for these immediate needs: basic health guides (especially those directly addressing the teen years), cookbooks, etc.

The next level of self-care involves building in or learning activities and practices to help us feel centered, calm, and positive. These could include:

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App Review: Serial Reader

Every year around this time, I’m faced with the same problem: Dozens of high school students are flocking to my library in search of their required reading for AP English classes, and even though I’m lucky enough to have two sets of shelves in my teen space set aside for these books, there never seem to be enough copies. When print copies run out, I can always direct the teens to electronic collections, but what happens when those copies are also checked out?

serialreaderapp

Last month, an article presented a potential solution when it introduced me to an app called Serial Reader. I interested in the claim that Serial Reader would let me “conquer the classics in ten minutes a day.” To get started, I downloaded the free version of the app to my iPad to try. I was then prompted to subscribe to a book from their extensive list of classic and public domain titles and set a daily delivery time. I chose Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and for the next ten days, Serial Reader sent me a section of the book that I could read in an average of ten minutes (some sections took a bit longer, but none were longer than fifteen minutes). The app synced my progress across my devices, so I could start a section during a break at work on my smartphone and finish it later on my tablet at home. By the end of ten days, I had read all of Common Sense.

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Racial and Social Justice Podcasts for Teens

This presidential campaign season and recent current events have brought many social issues to the forefront. Teens (and adults) are trying to navigate many of these around racial equity, Islamophobia, and immigration. Often as library staff we try to help teens delve into issues, interests, concerns or questions they are experiencing with bibliotherapy, which can serve as a great tool, but published books don’t always capture to immediacy of what is happening right now.

News media channels are often the sources where we are encountering these subjects, but little segments don’t, or can’t, take the time to fully unpack particular aspects around these issues. The following is a list of current podcasts, podcasts that have teen appeal, that we can all be listening to that explore racial and social justice in the United States, and especially during a time where politics are front and center.

Racial Justice Podcasts for Teens-1

Here are six podcast to listen to and share with teens right now:

Politically Re-Active

Politically Re-Active

Comedians and W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu come together to discuss some the most current hot-button topics that are arising during the current political campaign season. The podcast premiered at the end of June and will carry on through the election in November. Each week they have a guest on their show, and they get in deep to current issues such as private prisons, third-wave feminism, and dog-whistling politics – all issues of interest to teens. They also talk to other journalist of color and social justice leaders as they discuss the current political process and how it intersects with social justice issues.

Also check out Bell’s other podcast Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period that he does with Kevin Avery and Kondabolu’s interview with NPR’s Nerdette Podcast from August 5, 2016, where he talks about the power of youth and how important it is to be reaching out to teens because this is when they are forming their opinions. Kondabolu gets teens and knows that humor and comedy is the best way to reach them.

Code Switch

Code SwitchAn NPR Podcast about race and identity that is comprised of wide-array of journalists of color discussing the “overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, and how they play out in our lives and communities.” The podcast began in late May 2016 and has covered topics from the killing of Philando Castile and how LGBTQ people of color were dealing with the Orlando shootings to people of color and their relationship to the great outdoors and the stress of how people of color are being portrayed on TV and in the movies. A must listen is their debut podcast from May 31, 2016 “Can We Talk About Whiteness.”

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim

Activist, storyteller, and politico Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed and  writer, actor and comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh started #GoodMuslimBadMuslim in January 2015 to discuss the constant flips they have to make being Muslim in American culture and the ways they choose to live and create art. As they put it, “To the Muslim community, we are ‘bad’ Muslims” and “To non-Muslims, we are ‘good.’” Through humor and satire they take hard look at what is going on politically, pop culture, and the current rise of Islamophobia.

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Vidcon Special: Youtuber and YA Book Crossovers

While librarians will be arriving in droves in Orlando for the 2016 American Library Association Annual Conference in the next few days, across the continent in Anaheim, another theme-parked arena, flocks of digital content fans and creators will be swarming for the 7th annual Vidcon, June 23-25, and many of these attendees will be teens. Studies are showing that a majority of teens are big consumers of online video. Short Vines are grabbing interest, but Youtube is still where a lot of time is being spent watching favorite Youtubers,  and for some of the Youtube stars, the fandoms run deep. Youtuber-YA Crossover-2

In honor of Vidcon, here are a handful of Youtubers with huge fan bases that have recently published books, and some YA book suggestion crossovers that might have some of the same appeals and feels.

tyler oakleyBinge by Tyler Oakley

Tyler Oakley – 8+ million subscribers

Book – Binge

Oakley began making videos in 2007, and is a leading youth voice for LGBTQ+ rights and teen suicide prevention.  Binge can be laugh out loud funny and turn around and be deeply heartfelt and inspiring.  Aside from his Youtube channel, he also has a podcast: Psychobabble Tyler Oakley.

simon        9780525428848_HoldMeCloser_BOM_CV.indd         Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens by Becky Albertalli (2016 Morris Award Winner, 2016 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Character-driven, heartfelt, and authentic, this will appeal to Oakley fans with both its humor and feels. Not-so-openly-gay Simon Spier is falling in love with an online friend whose identity he is uncertain of, but is pretty sure that he goes to his school. When a classmate uncovers his secret relationship, he blackmails Simon into helping him try to win over one of Simon’s best friends. Simon fears of being outed are less about being ostracized, and more about what will change once everyone knows. Though on one side this is a light-hearted and romantic novel it also deals with the difficulty of change, complexity of identity, and the importance of growth

Hold Me Closer: the Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Written in play format, the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper is telling his life story as a musical.  A hopeless romantic with a witty take on life, Tiny hits the issues head-on. Both Tiny and Oakley serve as positive role models and cheerleaders, each with a charming sense of humor. Tiny also has real depth in his autobiographical play that Oakley fans will resonate with as he looks at the sober side of the nature of love.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

This book parallels Binges as a  book of self discovery, and of finding and managing the Diva within. Equally filled with hysterical hijinks, Better Nate is the story of a small town 8th-grade boy running away to New York City to follow his dreams of being on Broadway in a musical production of E.T. As Nate gradually falls in love with the city, issues bubble up around sexuality, family, and of who you are, and can be, in the world.

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Podcasts: Resources for Listening and Recording

It started with an addiction tothe Serial podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig created by those of This American Life. It was a true-crime story of the murder of a high school girl in 1999 in Baltimore. The presumed killer is her ex-boyfriend. Over the course of each episode, Koenig’s voice pulls listeners into the story, only to have to wait for the next installment. But it’s better than waiting a year or more for your favorite series book to come out. That’s the best part of podcasting, there can be a quicker turnaround than the process of publishing a book. And with the right tools, any teen can create a podcast and any youth services librarian can help with it. 

The addiction to Serial then led to the second season about Bowe Bergdahl and wanting to hear more. Sometimes there isn’t time to watch and listen, you just want to listen: while running, while doing a mundane task, while riding public transportation. So I wanted a place that was able to pull these podcasts together on my device, so I downloaded Stitcher, an app that provides “radio on demand”, allowing you to add podcastsmicrophone to your playlist, listening now or later, with my new favorite being The Moth Radio Hour, which has helped scientists map out the brain in this article by the LA Times. Others include Radiolab or iTunes or directly on sites where you can listen from your PC or  that provide the RSS like NPR.  

The suggestion like getting your feet wet with Twitter is that you lurk for a while. So queue up podcasts that interest you, whether it’s fitness tips from personal trainers to new TED talk topics, see what’s out there. Really listen to them. What do you like about the broadcast? Does it have some great theme music or does the person have a fantastic voice that is slow enough to understand? Does the podcast interview others or is it one person talking? Does it seem like it has a focus or is it unscripted? When I was listening, I would think about whether I could create a podcast and would anyone listen? What would I talk about? If you already know the answers to these questions, get started with your teens. It might be that you’re creating a new avenue for delivering school news and information and the podcast is created weekly by teen journalists. Or maybe your teen book group just finished reading dystopian novels and want to review their favorites.

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Reading Fanfiction

This year the teen council at my public library held a fanfiction writing contest. Though I was not a voting member, I did read all of the entries. This was my first foray into the fanfiction world, a world that absorbs many of the teens that I work closely with on a regular basis. Through this, I learned a lot about fanfiction and its appeals, and I had to check some of my assumptions at the door.

Fanfiction Wordle

In the 2014 August issue of School Library Journal, Chelsey Philpot took an extensive look at fanfiction and teens. This highlights the creative outlet that writing fanfiction can be, and how it can be a place to explore emotions, sexuality, and identity for teen writers. One thing that surprised me through this process was that even though a lot of teens had written some fanfiction at some point, a lot of them just like to read it, and would like others to write it for them. This got me curious as to what were the major platforms they were accessing fanfiction on, especially as I will see mobile devices being passed around with a “have you seen this one?”

First thing I had to learn was some basic terminology of the types of fanfiction that there are, and how it is referred to:

  • Canon  – this is written in the world that the fanfiction is about and is something that could happen.
  • AU – “Alternative Universe” – this is where we are in the canon world but a few elements have been changed.
  • AU divergent – “Alternate Universe – Canon Divergence” – The story is set in a different universe from where the original takes place.
  • Crossover  – There are characters from different fandoms in a story.
  • One-Shot – There is only one body of text, usually a short story that is complete.

Apps:

Most teens seem to be reading fanfiction on a mobile devices through apps. These are a few of the most common:

Fanfiction.net

fanfictiondotnetMost of the teens I talked to felt that this was a starter site for young readers to access fanfiction. They said that this site “can be a bit sketchy,” and felt dated because of its “bad 90s graphics.” There were some ways to filter and narrow results to whether something was “in-process” or “complete,” word count, and with ratings:

  • K  Suitable for most ages
  • K+ Some content may not be suitable for small children
  • T Contains content not suitable for children
  • M Contains content suitable for mature teens and older
  • MA Contain explicit content for mature adults only

Wattpad

Wattpad Rebecca O’Neil’s fantastic piece on Wattpad for The Hub earlier this year shows what a great tool this is for writers. For avid readers, this doesn’t offer the easy access that they enjoy elsewhere, and seems to be a least favorite site among the teen readers I interviewed. It is a site where you need to create an account to access most of the content, and it is not as easy to filter to find desired content. However, they report that those that both avidly write and read fanfiction use this to build a writer’s community.

Tumblr

tumblrOf the apps, Tumblr is by far the favorite, and where most teens seem to be accessing their fanfiction. The favorite feature of Tumblr is that there are libraries and catalogs housing links to fanfiction pertaining to a particular fandom. An example of this is Phanfic, a catalog of fanfiction relating to YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester (Phil+Dan=Phan). Favorite features include “fic tags” where you can look for fiction by feels, smut levels and types of smut (smut is a very popular vocab word in the fanfic group), length, relationships, themes, and more. There are also options to submit prompts for those that would prefer to read than to write, but would like something very specific.

Websites:

Not every fandom has its own catalog on Tumblr though, but teens really like the ability to sort out the type of fanfiction that they are reading. Some of this is easier done through a web browser than through an app.

Archive of Our Own or AO3

AO3logoThis is the most popular site among the teens that I talked to, but doesn’t have an official app. The teens felt that this site had the best selection of fanfiction, and they really appreciated the many ways to filter by ratings (if and how explicit), warnings (how angsty and what types of angst), categories (relationship types), crossover, characters, relationships, and whether is was canon, AU, or canon divergence. You can also filter by word count, if it is a one-shot or if it has chapters, and if it is complete or in-progress. They appreciated that the site gave summaries of the fanfiction, and also liked that you could keep narrowing down by searching tags.

Quotev

quotev_logoThis is a website that many of the teens I talked with said they first started with, and seems to be the most child friendly. Many said this is where they first posted their first fanfictions that they wrote when they were 10-years-old or younger. Some say they still go there to read as it is easier to stay away from the “smut.”

One thing that I see being a big draw for teens to reading fanfiction, and the sites that seem to be the most popular are,  that it offers them the opportunity to manage their own reader’s advisory experience through filters. There is a lot of romance happening in fanfiction, and this allows them to read about very specific situations with characters they know and love.

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