I’m on a quest to eradicate YA from my library.  Over the past year, I’ve never heard one person between the ages 12-19 call themselves young adult.  At the same time, I don’t hear them call themselves teens, but you  know, what can you do.  Libraries are obsessed with labels, age groups, catalog, call numbers, and all that woopdiedoodah.

I turned to TEEN because, honestly, there isn’t a better option available.  LAND OF AWESOME was something I preferred because I can say that I have a certain amount of pride about my area of the library.  But LAND OF AWESOME isn’t gonna work.  It’s too abstract or something.  What about not having age distinctions in the library?  I gave thought to that but I didn’t want to deal with the question “BUT WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN’S MATERIALS?” Color coding?  A symbol based system?  Audio clues?

The conclusion I came to? There is no answer.  In my case, the YA stickers were old and crusty.  They looked like mustard with the letters YA written on them in some horrible ketchup color.  The TEEN stickers are a bit lame.  You can tell the designer was trying to be hip and “turn kids onto books! with an exclamation point”.  The catalog looks a lot nicer as well.  Instead of being labeled as “j YA” we now have TEEN.  It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

What are you doing in your library with call numbers and age designation?  I’m curious to hear what you think.



  1. We use TEEN for 12-19-ish stuff. We use Y for children’s materials (0-11ish).

    The Louisville Free Public Library (right across the river) uses OT (Older Teen) and YT (Younger Teen) to divide out Teen and “Tween”. I’m not in love with that terminology, though I do like that they have a way to designate Tween-ish stuff.

    The library I worked at previously did “Teen” for tween stuff (grades 5-8, roughly) and YA for high school. We got a lot of skittish parents of middle-schoolers that didn’t think their 10-year old was ready for “TEEN BOOKS” (even when that’s the sections the tweens wanted to browse…). Again, not great, but what else do you call a tween section?

  2. Even color codes are problematic because someone will need to know what “red” *is*, so the color would simply become associated with whatever current label it’s meant to replace.
    Unfortunately, as long as there are parents trying to ban, burn, and prevent books from being published in the first place, there will be hue and cry if we try an eliminate this “safeguard” that supposedly assigns age-appropriate value to books. All I think age assignments do is make those parents who don’t care to read in the first place feel as though they’re somehow participating, or “protecting” their children. I call shenanigans; the actual audience (vs “intended,” I guess?) of *most* genres varies wildly on the age spectrum, and probably “YA” more than any other.

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