Dawn Abron, a teen associate at the Zion-Benton Public Library, was recently awarded the 2014 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. The MAE Award provides $500 to the recipient and $500 to the recipient’s library and is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust.
Abron received the award for a program she created called the Book Concert Series, in which a concert/party is held that features a booktalk event with approximately 20 titles from a chosen genre, as well as music, food, a photo booth and a craft. This is an ongoing event, and a different genre is chosen every two months.
Teens earn raffle tickets by bringing friends, tweeting/Facebooking their photo booth picture and answering trivia questions. They use their raffle tickets to win prizes that include the books featured at the event, autographed books, bags, bookmarks and posters. The concert portion of the event always features a Skype visit from an author or viewing of a live author event.
The purpose of the Book Concert Series is to show teens that there are a vast amount of books in each genre, and this program introduces them to read-a-likes and encourages continued reading. District teachers have heard about the program and have chosen books from the lists to introduce to their teens. The library sees an influx of visits following these events.
“I believe my program is significant because all libraries do readers’ advisory at the reference desk and booktalks at school but we go the extra mile to make readers’ advisory fun for larger groups,” explained Abron in her winning application. “The value in this is teens do not have an opportunity to stop reading. They are consistently presented with new books, genres, and authors.”
Abron holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in recreation. An unusual combination that may explain her success in providing interesting and challenging programming for teens. She explained that during her college years she came home every summer and worked as a summer camp counselor at the park district. She enjoyed it but didn’t know it was possible to get a degree in recreation.
When she learned she could, she earned her master’s in recreation.
A recreation degree typically leads one to a park district but she saw this opening at the library. She likes to read, likes working with young people and the job involved programming so she was interested.
She said when she started at the library, there were no were no teen book discussion groups. Now they have about 10 teens who meet regularly.
She’s also working on growing an annual short story contest. Held in October last year, 11 kids participated for a chance to win the grand prize: a Kindle Fire. In 2012, 20 teens participated.
The library received a Project Next Generation Grant from State Librarian Jesse White to be used to help bridge technology in the community. The grant helps fund ZB University. The program is tailored after college courses and brings in local professionals who, for six to eight weeks, teach kids about their profession. Recently a professional photographer taught the teens about digital cameras and digital photography. The current session features a professional blogger. Abron said the kids do all their projects on an iPad.
This month is Teen Tech month. “We want kids to learn there is more at the library than just books. We have e-resources, internet, DVDS, CDs, e-books, and more,” she said.
Abron has had success drawing in younger teens and preteens but she wants to get high school teens more involved. She hopes to do that through their “fandomness.” She’s planning some programs centered around the likes of Dr. Who, Sherlock and Harry Potter.
Abron said receiving the MAE award validated that these programs are not in vain.
“Patrons and even staff ask why we do these programs at the library. We do it to get non-readers in the door and hope it trickles into the departments and they will pick up a book.”