By Steve Harsin

What a change in MLA in recent years! So many of the old
guard leadership that has been very powerful in shaping our profession over the
past several decades have retired or died, and at this conference, I really
noticed their absence. By the same token, it’s apparent our profession is
blessed with a great bounty of youthful enthusiasm and energy, so I’m very
hopeful for our future.
I attended a number of sessions that were very good.
One session about the emerging category of New Adult materials was quite enlightening.
New Adult material is defined as being written for the post YA reader. In other
words, post-high school up to age 30. The defining characteristics of New Adult
  •  Protagonist between 18 and 30
  • Protagonist is facing, and dealing with a major
    life issue for the first time
  •  More explicit than YA, but generally not as
    explicit as adult romance fiction
  • The experience of the protagonist gains them
    insight (the distinction from YA material)
  •  Anticipated audience is 20 somethings
  •  Also enjoyed by adults of all ages

Types of issues covered:
  • Identity
  • Sexuality
  • Marriage
  • Going to college
  • Drug & alcohol abuse
  • Depression or suicide
  • Buying a first car
  •  Almost any topic one might imagine dealing with
    for the first time in your 20s.

The genre emerged in the publishing world around 2003, but
didn’t really meet with success and faded away. Revived again in 2009, but
still didn’t really grab hold. In 2011, with the advent of e-publishing and
smashing success of self-published materials, the publishing world revived the
concept again, and it has really taken off. New Adult materials, if you look
them up at Amazon, commonly have hundreds of reviews and also, even with so
many reviews, have 4+ star ratings, even 4.5 and up. The readership of the
genre tends to be rabid in their dedication to the category, and prefers PAPER
over ebook. Shocking. But true.
I found it interesting that one of the first books in the
2011 revival of the concept was a book titled Easy. When that book appeared on
my radar, it was still pretty new, but had tons of good reviews on Amazon, and
lots of people reviewing it. So, I took a chance and ordered it for Cook Public
Library. When it arrived, I was kind of disappointed, because it looked kind of
like something I might consider “junk material.” But I cataloged it anyway and
put it on the shelf. The darned thing went out immediately on interlibrary
loan, and I don’t think we saw it back for about 3 months. Furthermore, once it
did return, it seemed to rarely sit on the shelf for a few days before it went
out again. A few readers cropped up in Cook, but to be honest, Cook doesn’t
have a huge population in the demographic for this kind of material. Even so,
local users as well as ILL users did check the book out. Repeatedly.
One interesting characteristic of New Adult material is that
often older romance readers find they really like this new category. Typically,
the reason is that it doesn’t contain as much explicit sex as adult romance.
So, if you have that type of reader in your library, you might try to steer
them to New Adult.
The recommendation was to catalog New Adult material for
your adult collections, but to mark them with some kind of spine label to
indicate they are New Adult. The logic here is that these readers will
gradually transition away from being “just” New Adult readers into adult
material, and that housing them together allows users to make that transition
on their own timeline. (Kind of like keeping YA material next to the Juvenile,
it seems.)
You can find examples of New Adult material at by
searching “new adult” and there is also a category for the genre in Baker &
Taylor. Already review sources are starting to feature New Adult material. This
is a category that is likely to grow, so you may want to look at it.
Another interesting session was titled: Planting Seeds

In this one, Carla Powers and Jocelyn Baker from the Duluth
Public Library talked about their experience starting a seed library at their
library. There are probably a number of libraries in our region that might find
a warm reception to such a thing in their community. Spoiler alert! There are
some issues here!
But first, DPL did a FANTASTIC job of establishing and
programming for their seed library. They fostered a huge amount of public
involvement, and what I feel was an immense amount of programming, commitment,
effort, and what I felt was truly excellent support for kicking off the seed
library. They even coordinated with the City of Duluth grounds crews to plant
seeds from the library in flower beds around the library. The city workers,
commendably, embraced the program and really helped make visible contributions
to the success of the program.
Ok, so here’s the bad news: Minnesota statute precludes the
sharing of seeds. Period. So, for instance, if you have some descendant of an
immigrant in your town, whose ancestor brought seeds over from the old country,
and who has now been growing those seeds on the Iron Range (or other community)
for generations, and that person decides to share some of those seeds with
their neighbor, those two individuals have just broken the law. The law was
written a long time ago, presumably to protect the Minnesota seed industry.
Obviously it has not been enforced, because frankly, pretty much everybody
shares seeds with someone at some point, whether giving or receiving. Well.
It’s illegal. And that means that almost by definition, seed libraries are
breaking the law as well.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture visited the Duluth
Public Library, and could have shut the seed library activities down, but
instead has offered to work with DPL to come into compliance with the law. The
requirements are pretty stringent, and may not be feasible, but DPL is
exploring what they need to do.
My opinion: This is a law that has outlived its usefulness,
and all we are protecting now is Monsanto and their GMO patents. I feel we all
need to talk to our legislators, who PROBABLY HAVE VIOLATED THIS LAW
THEMSELVES, call that to their attention, and ask for an amendment to this
statute that specifically exempts individuals and seed libraries.
In the meantime, it seems to me that seed libraries are a
great idea for our current era, and with the homesteading, grow your own,
off-grid mentality we’re seeing, it’s something that would very much be
embraced by many in our communities.
We Go Together,
on the topic of LGBTQ services in libraries had a lot of really interesting,
and really useful, information. A couple items really stood out – the age
demographics for readers of LGBTQ materials run the gamut from young to
elderly. One of the presenters did extensive surveys across the demographics of
these readers. What she found was that among those groups, the young have an
extremely strong preference for PAPER (again!) over electronic, while the retired
strongly prefer e-books. The latter group like that you can increase the font
size, but particularly care that nobody can see what they are reading, whereas
the younger audience really don’t care about either one. What do the young
readers value the most about paper books? Portability and the “new book smell.”
And people laughed at us 20 years ago when we said such
Anyway, those two items were so thought provoking, that even
though I enjoyed the rest of the presentation, I can’t remember what else was
The last event of the conference was a keynote address by Josh Hanagarne, the World’s Strongest
If your library doesn’t have his book already, you should
consider getting it. Josh delivered one of the most moving keynote addresses
I’ve heard in many years. He literally was in tears at three different points
during his presentation, and I believe the audience was as well.
Josh has Tourette’s syndrome, and, against great odds, works
as a reference librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. He talked about
what it was like to grow up as a youth with Tourette’s, how it affected his
life, how libraries and librarians were the one place and the one group of
people he felt actually helped him confront the challenges of his journey. He
expressed his gratitude on several occasions, for how he had been treated, for
how librarianship had welcomed him to the fold, and for how he has been treated
as a working professional.

Really. Go buy the book.