November 16, 2017

Monica Harris | Movers & Shakers 2010 – Innovators

Library Journal March 15, 2010: Monica Harris, Mover & Shaker

Teen-Centric

Within a year of arriving at the Oak Park Public Library (OPPL) in early 2007 as YA librarian (she has since been promoted), Monica Harris had made a big splash. Aided by a budget increase she had advocated for, she increased circulation in YA materials by 180 percent. She revamped the teen summer volunteer program to be team-oriented and project-driven; its participants created video marketing spots and themed art, and she took some of her volunteers to the annual American Library Association conference to participate in the Best Books for Young Adults teen nominations. From summer 2008 to 2009, she doubled the size of the program, and volunteer time contributed nearly tripled.

She also helped develop a book group for readers in their 20s and 30s. It’s held at a pub, combining two interests of many young adults—books and booze.

“Monica Harris has brought dynamism, humor, and passion,” to YA service, says OPPL executive director Deirdre Brennan. “New options for teens include regular gaming tournaments, Battles of the Bands, monthly movie showings, craft programming, book discussions, virtual author visits, and more.”

She also created Noise Zones in the library to make it more teen-centric; other libraries have adopted the concept, bringing national attention to OPPL.

Not all innovations succeed, as Harris learned last year when she combined books and bands. “We teamed up with a local children’s bookstore and then matched YA authors with bands and had them perform together,” she says. “The series ended up being less popular than we anticipated, and those who did attend were mostly twentysomething fans of the bands rather than the teen audience we were hoping for.” Still, she says “it gave us a new understanding of the demographics in our community and the kind of programming they were interested in.”

It’s one of the best lessons she’s learned in her six years as a youth services librarian. “When you are given the freedom to innovate, you also have to give yourself the freedom to fail,” Harris says.

Vitals

Monica Harris, Oak Park Public Library, IL

CURRENT POSITION Assistant Manager, Adult & Teen Services

DEGREE MLIS, Wayne State University, 2004

BOOKS & BOOZE Genre X, group for readers in their 20s and 30s, meets in a pub

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