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Columnist
Why high school library has key to attracting teens
By Sarah Long | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/18/2010 12:02 AM

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This is a quiz: What attracts teenagers? If you answered food and letting them have their way you would be correct.

Lisa Dettling, librarian at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, came to the job about three years ago. There was already a book club for teens that met before school. But Dettling, who obviously is a marketing genius, focused on what attracts teens by putting the "food" word front and center.

She renamed the club "Breakfast with Books." It meets once a month before school, and participants share their good reads while munching on bagels, cream cheese and fruit.

Who attends?

"We have about 12 steady kids," Dettling said. "It's grown and the group now wants to meet twice a month. It used to be all girls but now it is a mix of girls and boys."

I quizzed Dettling about why these teens, given their busy lives and the plethora of activities open to them, would choose the library and a book club.

"What they really like is that there is no judgment about what they read. It's their club and they are in charge. Still, it's a safe and secure space," she said. "Mostly, they love sharing what they are reading and they get ideas from each other. Right now, a lot of them are fantasy and sci-fi readers, but that could change depending upon their interests.

Many of them are voracious readers, she said.

"Generally speaking, the library allows each student to borrow up to 10 books at a time," Dettling said. "We have several students who continuously have 10 books checked out. As soon as they finish one, they return it to keep their maximum."

She noted "reading" in this case takes many forms. It could be an old-fashioned book that sits on a shelf. But it could be an e-book or an audio book.

Recently, Breakfast with Books club members became alarmed that the state funding crisis could affect their library, especially via its connection with the North Suburban Library System.

NSLS receives most of its funding from an annual grant from the state. So far this year, NSLS has received only about half of the grant amount, even though the year is three-quarters over. For more information about MyMediaMall, visit mymediamall.net and see if your library is a participant.