Do you remember when you were young, cuddling up in a chair on a rainy (or sunny) day, with the “Wind in the Willows,” “Charlotte’s Web,” or “The Cricket in Times Square?” As a teenager, did an intense book take you careening across a failing universe, or into your most private thoughts? Many of us remember the books we loved as young readers – the books that transformed our lives by introducing us to the joys of reading as well as the thrilling realization that books can transport us to other worlds, places, and times.
Celebrating, researching, and teaching Young Adult Literature is one of the most successful and vibrant specializations in SC&I’s Library and Information Science Department. SC&I’s entire school library program is one of the best in the country, currently tied for the #1 ranking in the U.S. (with FSU). Indeed, SC&I’s Master of Information Program is one of the very few graduate degree programs in the United States that includes a class in International Youth Literature.
Assistant Professor of Practice, Marc Aronson, Ph.D., who teaches Young Adult Literature courses at SC&I, and is currently working with Rutgers’ Alexander Library to create a new international Youth Literature section, said, “We have many courses designed to train a student to be an accomplished youth librarian either in a school or public library. The Young Adult and children's classes I teach focus on books written for young readers – in other words, preparing librarians/teachers to select, share, program around the materials they own and will purchase, the authors and artists who speak to a wide range of readers, the formats and genres that meet the needs of children (ages 0-14) and Young Adults (ages 12-18).”
SC&I’s commitment and dedication to the program, Aronson said, is because “On the one hand the literature for Young Adults is some of the most popular literature in the nation today, across ages – witness Harry Potter, the latest fantasy, dystopia, or paranormal romance, turned into a film or theme park. On the other hand, adolescence is a crucial developmental stage, and having books that reach, challenge, expand the minds of, inform, engage, transport, amuse, edify, enrapture, mobilize, divert, infuriate, inspire those young people is extremely important. This is a time of epiphanies and despairs, new knowledge, new threats, new possibilities -- and knowing which materials can reach which Young Adults depends on the librarian knowing what is out there, and how to find out what she doesn't know.”
The Young Adult Literature program at SC&I was developed by the late Kay Vandergrift, Ph.D., “who as a distinguished faculty member at Rutgers had played a key role in developing the children's and Young Adult classes,” Aronson said.
Aronson came to Rutgers after having worked in children's and Young Adult publishing for decades as an editor, publisher, and author. Aronson’s doctorate is in American Cultural history, focusing on the history of the book. Given his background, he explains, he was “able to add that experience to the program. I was fortunate to be part of the team that created the Michael Printz prize for Young Adult literature, and I won the Robert Sibert medal for excellence in youth Nonfiction as both an author and an editor, so I was able to help motivated students see their paths towards serving on similar prestigious committees.”
The Young Adult Literature program at SC&I expands beyond classes to include many other benefits for students interested in youth librarianship. For example, the International Books Class Aronson teaches provides students with the opportunity to travel to Bologna, Italy to see Young Adult graphic novels and print books from all over the world. This past Memorial Day, Aronson’s class was given the chance to “take over” a popular blog on the School Library Journal website called Fuse8, which is managed by Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird. Bird is a former librarian at the New York Public Library, and is now an Evanston, IL librarian who has built a wide following through the blog.
Describing the overall school librarianship program at SC&I, Aronson said, “I think that with SC&I faculty members Joyce Valenza, Ph.D., who is a nationally honored and recognized expert on school librarianship, and Rebecca Reynolds, Ph.D., who has done extensive research on teaching and learning, Ross Todd, Ph.D. and the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL) approach to guided inquiry -- not to speak of the entire SC&I Youth Cluster headed by Dafna Lemish, Ph.D. and Amy Jordan, Ph.D., that runs through the whole of SC&I, and my links to writing and publishing – we have an extremely varied, skilled and motivated faculty that deeply cares about youth and literacy. I have the book side, the others add the fresh research, digital engagement, and pragmatic insights. We are joined this fall by new experts who will only expand and enhance our team, including E.E. Lawrence, Ph.D., who has researched how librarians advise readers and Doris Gebel, a retired librarian who is a leading expert on international books for children and teenagers and has guest taught in my international books for children and Young Adult class.
“To put it another way, we have the faculty and the engaged interest of our peers that allows us both to provide students the knowledge they need to work with Young Adults and, at the same time, allows us as professors to be innovative in how we construct our classes and in the topics we explore. That combination of solidity and creativity makes for a very lively area of study.”
To learn more about Aronson’s work, read the SC&I story “Books as Bridges: How Books for Children and Teenagers Can Speak across Borders of Language, Nation and Culture” and
On August 18, 2019 the New York Times Magazine devoted a special issue to 1619 -- the 400th anniversary of slavery in North America. One of the articles, titled "The Barbaric History of Sugar in America" by Dr. Khalil Muhammad of Harvard University, quoted Aronson's book "Sugar Changed the World."
For more information about the Library and Information Science Department at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, click here.
To discover more about the Master of Information Program at SC&I, click here.