Monitoring the Yalsa-Bk Listserv


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This paper describes my experiences monitoring the Yalsa-Bk listserv, a professional tool created by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association.

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Monitoring the Yalsa-Bk Listserv

  1. 1. Natalie Sapkarov LIS 506 October 4, 2007 Monitoring yalsa-bk I have attempted to start writing this paper many times before, but each time, I find more yalsa-bk messages in my inbox to read. For now, I will have to ignore my current 266 unread messages and attempt to get some reporting done. I have been reading the yalsa-bk listserv for over a year, and while I subscribe to a few others (lm_net, islma_net, ya-music, and ya-yaac), this is by far my favorite. The environment is certainly more relaxed than lm_net, and there are usually tons of positive replies and comments. The list has over 2,500 subscribers and describes its purpose: This open list for book discussion invites subscribers to discuss specific titles, as well as other issues concerning young adult reading and young adult literature. Subscribers will also learn what has been nominated for Best Books for Young Adults, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Young adults, especially those who belong to book discussion groups, are also welcome to subscribe and to discuss books they are reading. What I love about this listserv is that it’s not limited to YA librarians—authors, library school students, LIS professors, children’s librarians, all types of school librarians, young adults themselves, and I’m sure many others whom I cannot easily categorize all can contribute to yalsa-bk, and in this way, a variety of perspectives are represented. Another unique feature of this listserv is its lack of posting rules, which I adore and loathe simultaneously because posts do not need to have specific tags in the subject line—useful when you want to send something quick and don’t have time to check the rules, but can be annoying when posters are not detailed enough in their choice of wording. Most of the time, however, I can identify the purpose of a message by its subject line, so that I know whether to
  2. 2. read or skip—and in yalsa-bk’s case, there definitely will be a lot of skipping due to the sheer volume of messages posted per day. I do not have time to check my listserv e-mail every day, but I try to check it on the weekends, and I get anywhere from 500 to 1,000 messages per week, most (at least 80%) of which are from yalsa-bk. There is no way I could read all of those e-mails, but I easily sort by subject, and read only what is of interest to me at the moment because I know I can always go back to the archives. The main reason I cannot live without yalsa-bk is its archiving system. It’s very easy to use and conveniently sorts posts by subject rather than date. The Advanced search allows for flexibility in search terms, search areas, search fields, and other useful options. For my first search, I chose a new graphic novel, Mouse Guard, and searched only 2007, with one search result—better than I expected! Next, I searched for “Eclipse prom” in 2007 since I knew there was a discussion about it recently and was able to find the thread I remembered. My last search was a bit of a wildcard, as I wanted to see how far back the archives are actually useful. I searched for “banned books” since 1988, and got this result: Result 6155 messages selected out of 72742... 10 hits on message's Body 2 hits on message's Subject field These results only went back to 2006, and I had the option to click a “Continue Search” button, so I did. Then, I waited… and waited… and waited some more. Finally, I came to the conclusion that 1988-2007 was too large of a time period to handle when searching, so I would instead choose a single year to search at time, if I were to repeat my search. A recent discussion that I just finished reading (and that I now have to search for in the archives) was called “6th grader wants titles with mature themes-what do I give her,” posted 9/27/07 by a middle school librarian with the aforementioned problem. She was particularly
  3. 3. concerned with a specific book that a 6th grade student wanted to check out (Luna), but she advised the student to wait a few years before reading it and instead recommended other similar books that the student might enjoy. This discussion initially started with a recommendation that the child’s parents should be involved in the selection process (“make sure it's OK with her parents and if it is, let her read whatever she wants”) followed by a question from a teen public librarian wondering why the school librarian refused to let the student check out the book she wanted (though it was very polite and not at all inflammatory). As is the nature of this listserv, the thread then moved to an actual book recommendation, which is what the original poster was asking for. The thread then flitted back and forth between the differences and challenges of being a school librarian rather than public because of the fact that school librarians may be considered teachers and therefore “in loco parentis,” and also should check with parents before sending home anything they might find objectionable. School and public librarians chimed in, as well as a YA author/mother, to offer their differing perspectives. Kat Kan also related a current event in which a teacher was fired from his job because of an alternative reading assignment he gave a student was deemed “porn” by the student’s parents. This thread definitely sparked an intellectual freedom debate, and I can only assume that the fact that Banned Books Week was looming in librarians’ minds made it as active as it did, though these issues always seem to stir up a lively discussion. In the end, the original poster confessed that this was only her second year in the position and that she was a bit “wary” about the conservative community, but she did tell the student that if she brought in a parent permission slip, she would let her check out the book. As for the other aspects of my listserv monitoring experience, I did not particularly notice how new members were received by the community, but I can imagine that members were friendly and helpful to the newbies because that’s just the feel I get from the listserv. Even if it’s
  4. 4. just a friendly reminder to use the archives, the posts tend to be pleasant rather than not. I am sure that there may have been some inflammatory posts in the past, but I don’t seem to see them as frequently, and since there are hundreds of posts to sift through per week, I think it’s safe to say that these threads occur very rarely. Surprisingly, I have never posted to the list, even though I have been reading it for so long, so I have nothing to report on that account. I will most certainly continue to subscribe to yalsa-bk. I love reading about what YA literature people are currently reading and discussing, and I do also enjoy the other YA-related discussions, like the one featured above. As an LIS student, it gives me a vicarious experience into the lives of current YA and school librarians, but it also allows me to keep up with YA literature trends. I feel intimidated as an LIS student to post to the listserv, but that’s more of a personal thing than a community vibe. In the future, I would continue to subscribe as a YA or middle/high school librarian for the same reasons, and I’m sure that at that time, I will have my own topics and questions to discuss. I would recommend this listserv to any of the people included in my introduction because I do feel like this is an all-inclusive community. Like I said before, I love the variety of perspectives shared, and I hope that people will continue to post and share, regardless of their background or profession.