a slightly sarcastic library letter

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear sentries of knowledge, dear keepers of treasured volumes, I beseech you.

Please sort your teen section.

I am an avid reader and frequent patron of the County public library system as a whole, and of the Brooklyn branch in particular. What I have found during my forays into the so-called “teen” fiction section is this: there are so, so many books marked “teen” that should not be.

I must express my intense frustration at the categorizing of many of these books. In the publishing world, there are categories called “Middle Grade”, “Upper Middle Grade”, and “Young Adult” (also called “YA”). Note that nowhere is there such a word as “teen”, for the simple reason that it does not work. Specific age does not determine what a person reads; reading level, intellect, and personal maturity do. There is no way to categorize such things, because it so vastly varies from person to person.

Now, I do see the benefit in having a label such as “teen”. Lots of people fit into it. It sounds “cool” (note my use of quotations here to convey my disdain at this notion). Besides, those younger than YA will happily glide into a section marked “teen”.

That is just the problem. I am on the older end of YA, and do not enjoy having to sift through innumerable titles that seem plucked from my fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade bookshelves. Instead of feeling welcomed and relaxed in the section of the library allegedly set aside for my age group, I feel foolish, forced to browse through titles written for people four years younger than myself. Again, I must stress that it is the personal which determines what one will/won’t read. There are certainly enough mature thirteen-year-olds out there, but they will naturally read ‘ahead’ of their years— whereas someone like me is bothered by books that are too young for me being labeled as for my age group.

This is why I propose—nay, beg—the separation “teen” and “YA”. Vaguely aged and/or Upper Middle Grade could be put into a “teen” section, and books for older teens/young adults into a “YA” section. At the least, they need distinctive stickers on their spines. I feel that this will make things clearer for everyone, while also easing and enhancing the browsing experiences of your youthful readers.                                                                                                                     

Yours Most Sincerely,


2 thoughts on “a slightly sarcastic library letter

  1. Sharron

    I went to the library the other day and picked out a book in the teen section. I had to put it down a few times. The material was a little rawer than I had expected. In fact, quite a bit rawer than I expected.

    Labels are insane things. I think the best thing to do is read other blogs and see what other ‘teens’ like and go from there.

    It’s a hard knock life.

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