Professional Journal—A close look at a recent issue of VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) is—as its tag line declares—“the library magazine serving those who serve young adults.” Published bi-monthly by Scarecrow Press, VOYA claims to be “the only magazine devoted exclusively to the informational needs of teenagers.”
VOYA’s editorial policy is guided by three key principles: (1) that young adults deserve specialized library services, collections and attention to the same extent as other populations; (2) that young adults have rights to free and equal access to information in all forms; and (3) that “youth-serving professionals must advocate” for these rights within their libraries, schools and communities.
Upon visiting VOYA’s website, I was invited to preview the brand new digital version of the magazine. A sample copy of the February 2009 issue is currently available for viewing on-screen or for downloading as a PDF. VOYA is very attractive aesthetically and resembles a consumer publication in its layout and design. For me, its snazzy appearance is part of what sets it apart from other professional journals, which are often rather dull in appearance. In terms of editorial content, it is just as strong. Readers will come across several recurring columns which cover topics of particular relevance to librarians serving teen patrons, such as: YA Spaces (a look at teen-friendly library spaces), Graphically Speaking (a column devoted to graphic novels), and Get with the Program (exploring teen programming ideas—which this month takes a somewhat humourous look at the “Rickrolling” Internet meme and how it inspired a successful teen library program).
The February 2009 issue also contained several very interesting and well-conceived feature-length articles. The main feature was VOYA’s “2008 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Readers”, an annotated booklist of the “best books” for 11-13 year olds selected by a committee of librarians and teachers with student input. I could see this article being of interest to a teen librarian working in the area of collection development or being used as a readers’ advisory aid. There was also a fascinating profile on four YA librarians-turned-novelists (“Reaching Teens from the Other Side of the Shelf,” p. 494), as well as an article on the strategies publishers, booksellers and librarians are using to get books into teens’ hands (“Teens Count,” p. 495). I found this article especially interesting in light of our recent class discussions on teen spaces in bookstores and libraries. The issue also featured a lengthy piece on teen responses to booktalking (“Listening to Teens Talk Back: Teen Responses to Booktalking Styles,” p. 501). I was pleased to encounter this article as I am preparing to do my first booktalks in both this course and another in the next few weeks.
Each issue of VOYA also contains several pages of signed book reviews. Books are evaluated according to VOYA‘s own set of book review codes which describe the quality, popularity, and grade level interest of YA materials. Titles deemed to be exceptional according to this scale are highlighted in yellow. Resources for professionals who work with teens are also reviewed.
Finally, in exploring some of the material on the VOYA website, I learned that the journal invites submissions from teens for an occasional column called “Notes from the Teenage Underground.” I like that space has been allotted specifically to teen voices. It’s a thoughtful consideration that helps give the magazine’s readers (primarily librarians and teachers) some inside perspective into the lives of their teen patrons and students.