Little Willow (slayground) wrote,
Little Willow

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Interview: Paula Brehm-Heeger

The readergirlz divas introduced me (albeit it virtually) to Paula Brehm-Heeger, the 2007-2008 YALSA President, and we got to talking.

Little Willow: How can people get involved with YALSA?

Paula: Getting involved with YALSA is easy! We're always looking for enthusiastic members to support YALSA's goal of advocating, promoting and strengthening service to young adults in all types of libraries.

You can start by subscribing to and participating on one of our electronic discussion lists. A complete list of electronic resources is available here.

The YALSA blog is another way to join in discussing teen services issues.

If you're looking for a way to participate live and in person, attend an ALA conference (held each June and January) where YALSA offers many exciting sessions and networking opportunities. Or, volunteer to serve on one of YALSA's many committees by submitting a volunteer form. And, some people may not realize that there are more than $33,000 in grants and awards available each year from YALSA! You'll also find opportunities to publish through our division's journal, YALS, and our online newsletter, YAttitudes.

Of course, I have to mention that officially registering for Teen Read Week is an essential part of participating in YALSA. Registering is easy and free. Just visit our Teen Read Week page at There, you'll find all kinds of valuable resources to help you celebrate Teen Read Week!

Little Willow: How do teens get their voices heard in YALSA?

Paula: Great question! YALSA members will confirm that an essential step in connecting teens with libraries and reading is listening to what teens themselves have to say! One great example of YALSA's efforts to provide teens the opportunity to have their opinions heard is through our Teens' Top Ten. Titles are nominated by teens working with YALSA's YA Galley committee. All teens are then invited to vote for their favorite nominees during Teen Read Week. The 2007 nominations are available here.

Little Willow: What is the aim of Teen Read Week?

Paula: Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. It began in 1998 and is celebrated the third week in October. Today's teens lead busy lives and Teen Read Week serves as an important reminder for them to take time out and just Read for the Fun of It!

Little Willow: What is this year's theme?

Paula: I mentioned the main theme for the Teen Read Week - Read for the Fun of It - in my last answer. The sub-theme changes each year. This year it is LOL @ Your Library. Librarians and educators can take the idea of using humor and lighthearted books for getting teens to read and run with it by developing programs and displays centered on LOL!

Little Willow: How did YALSA team up with readergirlz?

Paula: The amazing and wonderful author and readergirl Justina Chen Headley, met with me, YALSA's immediate Past-President Judy Nelson and YALSA's Executive Director Beth Yoke at the American Library Association annual conference this past June in Washington, DC. Justina explained the readergirlz idea for supporting Teen Read Week through the 31 Flavorites. Her energy was contagious and she had quite an impressive list of today's most popular teen authors already on board with the 31 Flavorites idea -- well, it was a great fit and YALSA is thrilled to be working with Justina, the readergirlz and the many involved authors on this project.

Little Willow: What book are you reading right now?

Paula: I finished Harmless by Dana Reinhardt a few days ago and have just checked out Carolyn Mackler's new book, Guyaholic. I couldn't help it - I grabbed it as soon as I saw it on the shelf at my library! I hoping to start it this weekend (if I can wait that long).

Little Willow: What was your favorite book as a teen?

Paula: As a young teen I really enjoyed John Christopher's White Mountain series. Then, I must confess, I discovered Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of Sweet Valley High fame (series created by Francine Pascal). Wow, did I love those books. That series really helped make reading a habit for me and is a big reason why I understand firsthand the power of encouraging teens to read what is fun for them whenever possible. A few years ago I was helping my mom clean out some boxes from my middle school years and discovered a handful of SVH paperbacks. One look and it was clear I had read them, passed them to friends to read and then read them again! In high school I also had a blast reading My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel with my older sister.

Little Willow: If you could give one piece of advice to teenage girls, what would it be?

Paula: I'll make my advice reading-related! Find good stories with strong characters (like the great choices offered by the readergirlz!) and read, read, read. If you're not finding what you want don't be shy -- ask your librarian for exciting books with powerful girl characters or for biographies about real life amazing women. Take a minute to see yourself in those women and imagine all the possibilities for your own life.

Little Willow: What led you to libraries?

Paula: I worked several jobs as a teen - fast food and other jobs in the customer service industry. The one thing that was clear to me was that I really enjoyed working with people every day. When I was a senior in high school I landed a great job as a student assistant at a local public library branch. I knew right away that I wanted to stay in libraries for the rest of my life, helping everyone discover the joy of reading and finding whatever information they wanted or needed.

Little Willow: Why teen services?

Paula: When I was in college I worked in a small, urban public library branch as a library assistant. I loved the feeling of community in that neighborhood and enjoyed helping everyone, but working with young people - particularly teenagers - was for me one of the most fun and rewarding things I had ever experienced. I've never changed my mind and feel the same today as I did then -- teens are the best audience in the world!

Now Paula has a question for all of you readers: Are You a Friend of YALSA?

Learn more about readergirlz and Teen Read Week.

Tags: books, interviews, readergirlz

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