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Teaching Teens Self-Publishing @ the Library

by on May 13, 2015

About two years ago, Smashwords was busy working with Los Gatos (CA) Public Library to introduce the world of self-publishing to the library’s patrons. At that time, Public Libraries Online caught up with Smashwords™ and the library to learn about this budding partnership. Since then, the affiliation between the two groups has taken on a new venue: local high school classrooms.

The founder of Smashwords (Mark Coker) graduated from Los Gatos High School, making it the logical choice to begin a new chapter of libraries and e-publishing joining forces. Through a variety of connections, Henry Bankhead, the current acting director of Los Gatos Library, got in touch with high school English teacher, Tonya McQuade. They worked together to create an opportunity for students to not only write their own material but also be a part of the process of getting it published.  Thanks to a grant from the Pacific Library Partnership, two mobile labs were used to create these books. Each lab included 10 iPads, 1 MacBook air, a charging station, and Microsoft Office for all of the devices. The lab components were used mostly for creating art work but also for some of the actual writing.

“Last year’s students were the first to try this, and they really enjoyed being able to see their own work published,” says McQuade. Even more, the students enjoyed being able to be part of the process of seeing the whole book come together, from learning about self-publishing from Coker and Bankhead; to choosing a title and cover design; selecting poems to include and organizing them into sections; adding artwork; marketing the book, promoting the book through social media and news campaigns; and then finally, having our book launch party at the Los Gatos Library. There, several students read their poems for an audience of parents and students, as well as explained the process used to create the book. What’s more, on the day of the launch party, our book went to number one on Amazon’s Poetry Book List! The students were also eager to help out their freshmen class by contributing the funds raised to help support upcoming class activities.”

And the positive reactions didn’t stop with the teacher. A number of students during that first year learned not only writing and editing skills, but learned how the library can be an excellent resource. Aididh Finlayson said, “I’ve always loved the library, and this made me feel like the library was really trying to support our educational endeavors.” Another student added, “I do feel more connected to the library now.”  The success of the program is best summed up by Nitin Srivivasan, a sophomore who was in Ms. McQuade’s ninth grade English class last year. “Because of this project, I have developed a greater appreciation for literature in general, and I have grown more connected the Los Gatos Public Library.”

The tangible results of this collaborative work included the poetry anthology Windows to the Teenage Soul (available on Overdrive), as well as two short story collections, Stories to Remember and Collection of Inspirational Teenage Stories, both available on Smashwords. Due to the success of this project, Bankhead and crew will be working with the next class of ninth grade English students this year.


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