LOCAL FOLKS: Librarian dedicated to making teen readers welcome

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Vicky Manning said she knows what teenagers want to read.
“You have to start strong. There shouldn’t be any slow parts within the first four or five chapters,” she said. “Second, you need lifelike characters that grab their attention.”
Manning, 55, developed her rules after immersing herself in literature geared toward teenagers. It’s not unusual for her to read three teen novels in a week.
“It’s part of my job,” said Manning, librarian of the Lee County Library’s teen section. “For me to be able to relate to the teens, I need to know what I’m talking about. They could tell if I didn’t.”
After reading a new release, she posts a review at the Fans of the Lee County Library Facebook page. She’s particularly interested in opinions about her negative reviews.
“I like to get feedback,” she said. “That will help me decide if I want to buy another book from that author. People want to read what they want to read. I can’t just go by my tastes.”
Some teen books are geared toward younger readers, and others skew toward an older crowd better able to handle mature situations. A few of the teen books include four-letter words here and there.
“You don’t always know if someone can handle a book. Are they mature enough?” Manning said.
In all such cases, she does what most football coaches do when pinned in their own territory on fourth down: She punts.
“I let the parents make those decisions,” she said.
Manning said she likes to feature different types of books in hopes of enticing as many young readers as possible.
“I want to buy for everyone, not just one group,” she said.
In this media-saturated age, it takes more than books to attract teenagers to a library. She recently received a grant from Best Buy Mobile at The Mall at Barnes Crossing to provide 12 computers.
Adults can use the computers, too, but Manning wanted them for a specific program aimed at teens.
“They had to make beats on the computer,” she said. “They got to make their own music. At the end, we had a contest to see what they all put together.”
She also plans programs for adults. There will be a “Remembering the ’60s” party from noon to 1 p.m. today, and it’ll feature music, games, food and drinks that hark back to the decade. Check www.li.lib.ms.us for a calendar of events.
Manning’s main focus remains young people. Facebook replies from teens and actual visits to her section help her gauge success. She also can judge her efforts by decibel levels at the library.
“We’re welcoming kids and teens in, and they’re not quiet people,” she said. “You’re going to have the noise level sometimes, but it’s only during certain times. Our patrons don’t seem to mind.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com