Librarians use many sources to learn about books to add to their collections: databases, awards, online book lists, publishers, blogs, and third-party book ordering systems to name a few. In other words, it is easy to find recommendations for books to add to your public library teen collection, and carefully selected sources will be useful when I am involved in development for a teen library collection.
[Note: I am using the book The Boy in the Black Suit for review comparisons.]
Award-winning teen books are abundant, but mostly selected and awarded by adults – so consider the source, when trying to find books that will appeal to your teen patrons. Even youth-choice awards have a great deal of adult influence in short-list selection (Agosto, 2013). Which is not to say that they aren’t useful in selecting new books for your teen collection.
For example, the Coretta Scott King award was awarded to The Boy in the Black Suit in 2015. As with most awards, you can find their criteria for selection on their website. This is helpful assistance in considering the weight/validity of the award in making your selections.
There are many organizations that review new books for teens, and which lists you use seems to be a very personal choice. While I like the consistent, concise format of SLJ’s reviews (with separate reviews through the SLJ Teen Librarian Toolbox), I prefer to get the perspective of target reading audience as well. SLJ does have a section of “Teens Review,” under the Teens & YA tab, but I like to use a combination of SLJ and Goodreads, where I can read user comments for each book – many of whom are teen readers. Because of the large number of participants and “friend” connections, Goodreads is as much a social media site and a book review and purchasing site. Keeping in mind that most of the users on Goodreads are more voracious readers, it’s a way to get opinions from teens who have a high interest in reading. The only shortcoming to this method is that brand new books will not have teen feedback yet.
Novelist Plus database is probably my favorite resource (for Queens College students, find it here), as it has useful and extensive filters for age groups, genres, awards, format, and more. Furthermore, it provides reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, and an auto-generated read-alike list for each book selected. These aggregate reviews can help develop a better sense for a new book – though still, Novelist does not supply reviews from actual teens. I would still check the Goodreads site for actual teen feedback on books that have already been published.
As Denise Agosto writes about a teen-centered library, it is most important to check in with your teen patrons and ask for feedback on your collection (Agosto, 2013). You may have to lead the conversation to get them started, but if they understand that they might have influence on what materials they can access, you will likely get some useful information from them!
Agosto, D. (2013). “Envisaging Young Adult Librarianship from a Teen-Centered Perspective.” In Transforming Young Adult Services, edited by Anthony Bernier, pp. 33-52. Chicago: Neal-Schuman.
Reynolds, J. (2015). The boy in the black suit. New York: Simon and Schuster.