PLA Conversation Starter on “New Adult”: A Recap

kelly and sophie

We know. We know. It took a long time for us to get around to a quick update and recap of our conversation starter on “new adult” at PLA last month. But here it is!

For those of you who didn’t attend, Sophie and I (Kelly) put together a conversation starter on “new adult” fiction at the Public Library Association meeting in Indianapolis. A conversation starter differs from a general session in that it is a dialog between the moderators — us — and the folks who attend. We talked a little bit, giving the conversation some context, and then we opened up the floors to attendees to give insight into their experiences or beliefs on the topic. We had five questions prepared, and we went old school with pen-and-marker to jot down the responses we got from the attendees. To say we learned as much as we hoped attendees did is an understatement.

Rather than type up all of the responses to the questions, I thought I’d give you the pictures of those responses, along with the questions asked.


Question One: How do you define “new adult?”/What IS “new adult?”



I think the answer that we all really liked and which I think has some tremendous opportunities to expand upon is that “new adult” is a bridge — a “tween” space — between teenhood and adulthood. If you think about children’s services and teen services, you have that middle ground between them: the “tweens.” The same kind of perspective for library users and readers between the ages of, say, 18 and 30, is a really nice one to have. They’re also “tweens,” just in a different way.

“Wither dude,” of course, asks where the guys are in what’s being published in “new adult” as it stands right now.


Question two: Why do you think “new adult” matters as a category? Or do you want to play devil’s advocate & say it doesn’t matter?




The photo’s a bit blurry, but the biggest response that came up from multiple groups was that we lose patrons when they’re done with being teens and not yet parents (if parenthood is a choice they make). Thinking about them as “new adults” and a group to be met and reached and served is important in drawing them back into the library. Again, the “Tween” idea is a really valuable one.


Question three: Have you had patrons asking specifically for “new adult?” If so, how would you define them in terms of reading preferences, if at all? If you haven’t had readers asking for “new adult,” who do you suspect a “new adult” reader might be?





Perhaps the answer we all got a kick out of — and not in a bad way but in a way that was really sort of a wakeup call — was from a university librarian who works especially with first year students. When she asks what kind of reading they want to do in their free time, the answer is often “easy and steamy.” Which, of course, gives tremendous insight into why “new adult” may look as it does right now. Publishing is giving those readers exactly that.

Since questions four and five were closely related, I’m going to put them together.

Question four: How would you explain to colleagues who the “new adult” reader may be? How would you suggest approaching a reader’s advisory interaction with someone who wanted books that weren’t young adult but weren’t adult either?

Question five: Should “new adult” be shelved in a special place? If so, where and why? If not, what might be the best way to serve readers seeking these types of books? Who should be responsible for “new adult” books: adult, teen, or youth services?



The big thing we dug into in these questions was the concept of appeal factors. WHAT books could fit the idea of “new adult” that are beyond what we’re being sold as “new adult” from publishers? Because we know there’s a wider range of titles that 18-30 year olds would love reading. How do we mine the backlist? How do we read trade reviews and gauge our readers advisory accordingly? The list on the left on the second picture gives a really nice list and starting place.

(We aren’t joking about underground fight clubs, as that seems to be a unique trend to “new adult,” and it leads us to thinking about how and where urban fiction may or may not fit within “new adult,” too).


For those who attended and those who did not, Sophie did a marvelous job of updating the immense resource list on “new adult” right here on the blog, so help yourself to it. There are book lists, a roundup of links and discussions relevant to “new adult,” and much, much more.


Wilda Williams also wrote a very nice recap of our program at Library Journal, too, which you can check out here.


Room Attendees

It was so exciting to see a full room of over 80 attendees engaged in the idea of “new adult” as we hoped they would be. This was an enthusiastic, educational conversation. Thank you for allowing us to have it!



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