Amy Pattee's Insights about YA Collection Development and Children's Library Services

June 06, 2014

"As someone who teaches about the use of YA literature, I noticed a lack of resources that addressed the collection of it."

For Associate Professor Amy Pattee, the start of many journeys -- a marriage proposal, a fulfilling career -- began in a library. As most Simmons GSLIS students know, Pattee knows about nearly every young adult (YA) book ever published. As a specialist in children's literature and YA librarianship, she has authored two books, delivered about 40 presentations, and reviewed youth fiction and nonfiction for School Library Journal and Voice of Youth Advocates. Fulfilling an unmet need, her most recent book focuses on YA collection development.

"As someone who teaches about the use of YA literature, I noticed a lack of resources that addressed the collection of it," says Pattee. Her 2014 book Developing Library Collections for Today's Young Adults, published by Scarecrow Press, fills the gap by revealing how to build collections and use library space.

"Many opportunities are available today to think critically about collection development," said Pattee. As new categories in young adult and adult literature emerge, Pattee suggests that librarians take a holistic approach. "Getting back to the basics of collection development, a library's literature and resources should be aligned with the library's goals and mission," she said. Community assessments of user wants and needs are important to show how literature and resource collections are created, and to show the technological tools for users' searching and retrieval needs. "When using electronic platforms, we need to think beyond books about how teen and young adult users access resources and the containers in which we should be housing such resources."

Conventional collection development approaches are being displaced in light of new electronic platforms and changing library spaces. Traditionally, librarians collected resources and housed them on designated shelves. While librarians should continue to advocate that teens and young adults get a space of their own, the area may now be a teen technology room that houses computers instead of books. As digital platforms continue to expand and literature categories evolve, Pattee asks tough questions such as, do we need to house collections anymore?

Professional service groups, such as the Young Adult Library Services Association, are re-thinking their service mission as public resources continue to shrink. Pattee believes that partnerships with community groups will be the next step toward coordinating and managing public information resources.

Pattee's first book was inspired by her own experiences as a twin and reading the Sweet Valley High series. Noticing how the main characters -- twin sisters Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield -- matured into adults over the course of the series, Pattee authored Reading the Adolescent Romance: Sweet Valley High and the Popular Young Adult Romance Novel. She investigated why "a critically unacclaimed series endured for so long" and explored how the books changed perceptions of young adult literature and romance fiction.

Building upon her presentation "Playing House: The Disturbing Resemblance of Flowers in the Attic to The Boxcar Children," which she presented at the Children's Literature Association Annual Conference in June 2013, Pattee conducted her next major research initiative: a history of the development of The Boxcar Children series. She plans a research trip to Putnam, Connecticut, the setting of The Boxcar Children series and the location of The Gertrude Chandler Warner Boxcar Children Museum, located across the street from the author's childhood home.

Pattee is the Co-Director of the GSLIS Dual Degree Program in Library and Information Science (LIS)/Children's Literature. The program combines professional skills with subject expertise. For those interested in working with children in a public library, an academic center, or in an organization that houses special collections of children's material, "the depth and breadth of the children's literature graduate program's curriculum contributes to a critical understanding of children's literature that enhances collection development and a reader's advisory practices studied and honed in the LIS program." said Pattee. "The dual degree program allows students to engage with two distinct critical and professional discourses regarding children's literature and could provide a foundation for pursuing a doctoral degree in LIS."

Pattee teaches LIS 481 Children's Literature and Media, LIS 482 Library Programs and Services for Children, and LIS 483 Young Adult Literature. She also co-teaches the LIS 405/CHL 437 Special Topics in Children's Literature and Library Science course with the Children's Literature faculty.

In her spare time, Pattee is reading more than 50 books a month as a judge for this year's Boston Globe Horn Book awards, which will be announced in June 2014. As her students know, the winner will have high expectations to meet.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer