ALA Chicago 2013 – GenLit and Genre X

GenLit & Genre X: Collections and Programming for 20- and 30-Somethings with  Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Jennifer Czajka and Rebecca Malinowski from Dairen and Oak Park, Ill.

When given an opportunity to debut something new after the library’s 2010 renovation, Jennifer shared the inception of the “GenLit” collection for 18-35 year olds.  She built a collection to “keep teens into the library after adulthood….a collection that supports life goals and interests.”

She considered:

  • Number of cardholders between 20-44
  • How many 20-44 year olds lived in their service area

She consulted and created:

  • May 1 issue of BookList “Best Books for New Adults” by Michael Cart – post high school group of  “emerging adults” who often read Young Adult fiction.
  • Policy stating the emphasis of new collection:
    • Trade paperbacks (fresh and current and less expensive)
    • fiction and nonfiction (all genres, memoirs, travelogues, humor & essays)
    • recreational reading (including some teen novels with crossover appeal)
    • younger protagonists (teens, 20s or 30s) and/or younger author
    • No genre stickers on the small, browsing collection
    • Literary to chick lit, male and female authors, and nonfiction of the Dave Sedaris ilk.
  • Collection Development Help:
    • PW’s paperback bestsellers
    • Popular magazines (Entertainment weekly, People, GQ reading list)
    • Oak Park’s Millenials list (on website
    • YALSA Alex award winners
    • Amazon, Barnes and Noble “phases of life” option for 20s & 30s (fiction subjects > phases of life > 20)
    • Bookstore browsing
    • Maintain with: LJ, Booklist, Forecast magazine for trade paperback releases | YALSA Alex & Printz, BookList’s January issue of editors list of adult books ofr YA and march issue – best fiction for young adults | magazine alerts – volunteer project to review weekly magazines | Senior High Core Collection reference book from 2011 – picked the ones for 11th, 12th and adult recommendations. | Cart’s top 200 adult books for young adults (2013) |

She celebrated:

  • By Dec. 2012, they had 800 titles in GenLit
  • Continue to grow the collection with bestsellers, releases, trade editions, duplicates from YA and adult collection.
  • Most titles published within last 10 years. Meg Cabot for example, started with Heather Wells series and bought backlist of others if popular.
  • Older books would be put up as ‘new’ in the GenLit collection.
  • Turnover Rates – Fiction was 3, Adult services (AV) was 3.8, but for GenLit it was 5.3 in 2011. By 2012, still trending higher than fiction and adult services. Circulation stayed steady, while fiction went down.

Must Have authors:

  • musthaveauthorsAhern, Brown – see photo. Sci Fi/Fantasy doesn’t go out so well, women’s fiction so/so, suspense, mystery, romance, Dexter series, Julian Flynn, Christopher Moore, Gaiman
  • Nonfiction – humor – Sedaris, Lancaster, Handler,
  • Go to gen lit catalog. “genlit” call number at indian
  • Search, sort to newest first.


  • Friends, Budget for $4,000 start up.
  • Move books from regular collections
  • Shop smart – B&T, amazon, etc.
  • Yearly budget at $2,200

Marketing Plan:

  • “20 plus”
  • GenX/Generation = GenLit (interpreted often as general literature)
  • Worked with Tech Services – colored tape over spine label (yellow)
  • Just author last name and “GenLit”
  • Lots of face-out display space on every row, plus end caps. Next to graphic novels. New books in new book section
  • Cross promotion of book club – advertise in the collection
  • 10-15 attendees
  • – other age-appropriate book selections


Genre X – Jennifer and Rebecca give a bit of a recap of their earlier program “Late Nights at the Library: After-Hours Programming for Public Libraries”  More information: Oak Park Public Library > Genre X blog

Starting in the Summer of 2007, efforts were made to reach an underserved audience.

Year One – Book Club in a bar – First step to reach the audience Outside the library.

  • Meet outside library hours – keep it social – Happy Hour book club (meal, drinks paid by those who come) Balance of female and male authors, NF, graphic novels – little bit of everything
  • Occasional classics after the group is established
  • 8-20 at discussions.
  • Add after-hours events
  • gaming, music, hi-low-tech – music, games, food and drink
  • Comic discussion – understand comics and Graphic novels

Appeal Factors:

  • Safe space
  • Four times a year open late (staff intensive)
  • Nostalgia and singles events (spelling bee, dating game)
  • What appeals personally? Make a program out of it.


  • Work with a team to conceive ideas – personality differences
  • Know what else is out in the community. Bars, libraries (don’t duplicate if possible)
  • Promote with custom made posters: Hop on Pop – pop culture trivia night on 80’s, Guitar Hero world tour competition and Spell Yeah! – designed by an artist using “dog whistling” – message is only fully audible to those it is aimed at.
  • Don’t turn anyone away, but include tag line of ’20s and 30’s event’ – other elements appeal to that age range most
  • Blog – Info about books, pop culture content, match a book with a drink example. Drink of the month – to engage the participants


  1. Should you get a guy? Can you do it on your own? Hire an outside presenter with built-in audience. Example: Movie-oke – scene from films with audio out, so people get on state and act out the scene. Expense – staff time v. outside time. What’s the budget?
  2. Hospitality is Key – Party planner, make sure everyone is engaged, mingle with ice breakers. Example, show the most recent picture on their phone and explain where it is and why they took it. Library as a safe space. Encourage connections – chat up the loners and make introductions. Library as match maker… Speed dating events
  3. Failure and Rescue – commencement message (surgeon). Plan in place to catch problem and solve them. “Failure to rescue” – but no one will die in the library.
  4. Check ID – cash bar at many events. Liquor license at the library. Space where they feel special and welcome, like “these are my friends and neighbors.” Audience appeal. Explain tone of the events – invited to come and ‘here’s what it will be like’ boisterous, irreverent, etc.
  5. Strictly restrict age limits on dating events, but spelling bee is 21+
  6. Some programs need registration, others don’t.
  7. Library Love – make them LGTB friendly (but mostly hetero in her community), difficult to get men to show up, require registration, leg work – palm cards at grocery stores – talk it up and bribe friends to show up
  8. Public and staff evaluations – fun event, happy people. Keep a balance with new and repeats. Example, speed dating one year and dating game the next. Spooky spelling bee – dress up the week prior to Halloween
  9. Event ideas: bingo, bookswap, curated art show, vintage video game, homebrew beer swap, prom
  10. Failures: Guitar hero


  • Liquor License – Director wanted it and got a site license through the village. Some can get one-time from municipality. Book clubs in bars. Events when library is closed with limited access/controlled. 1 free drink, 2 for spellers, cost after that. Cheap beer, cheap wine, $2/$3, cocktail and bartender
  • What about married? Partner with children’s services? PJ party below and adult event upstairs. Book swap (white elephant) with side swap of children’s books.
  • Start time is key – after baby is in bed (8:00 pm).
  • 8 after hours events total, 3 for adults, bookswap, 40s/50s pre-retiree events, too. $11,000 programs, $7,000 for teen programming. Tweens in children’s services.
  • Lecture series, music programs during regular hours.
  • Spelling bee is successful and cheap. Fellow staff to be Queen Bee host. First event with after hours bar (PBR made money). 80 people first year, 60 people second year.
  • Stress working with a team.
  • Start with 40s-50s research of programs. Start with the pre-retirees and then see if it builds interest in the 20’s and 30 year olds.
  • Ticketed events? Registration required for singles events

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