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elementia Teen Literary Arts Magazine

Johnson County Library
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Innovation Leader: Angel Dew, Youth Services Librarian, Central Resource Library, Johnson County Library , dewa@jocolibrary.org

Problem Statement

Starting in 2004, the Johnson County Library (KS) began hosting a monthly creative writing workshop for teens. Within a year, the group had tripled in size, and parti-cipants clamored for more frequent meetings and an avenue to becoming published writers.

Innovation

elementia, a literary arts magazine for teens, emerged in 2005 as a publishing platform for the creative teen writers group and also features photography and artwork. elementia’s mission to date is to uplift and represent creative, sublime young adults—both writers and artists. The magazine also seeks to create and maintain a community platform for young adult writers to share, connect, and create within a forum that is fostering and encouraging. In seven issues, elementia has published more than 300 student writers and artists worldwide. A reception held following the publication of each issue celebrates the writers and artists published in the current issue. Typically, full-color photocopying in-house costs $1.00/copy ($500-$1,000/issue), with support by a staff editor and a teen volunteer. Private donations funded professional printing of the glossy 7th issue. Each issue is also published on the library’s Web site.

Progress

elementia is indeed a community platform for young adult writers. By the 4th issue, the number of published writers quadrupled. Currently, the teen editorial board receives approximately 150 writing submissions and 25-30 art pieces per issue, with 20% accepted. By the 3rd issue, elementia was adopted by some area high school English and creative writing teachers as part of classroom discussion and assignments, with extra credit for students that submit to elementia.

elementia has become, as well, a centerpiece for other library spin-off programming. Following the 4th issue of elementia, published teen artist Danny Hull became the first Teen Artist in Residence at Johnson County Library in 2008. His artwork was featured in JCL’s Young Adult Summer Reading Club theme, “Blow Your Mind at the Library.” The residence program is now an annual summer opportunity for teens, ages 16-18, to showcase their artistic or creative writing talent during specific times at the library while concurrently offering a two- to three-part workshop for youth ages 12-18. elementia was also the catalyst for generating teen volunteers that create murals, creative writing workshops, and the now-annual teen fashion shows.

The 6th issue of elementia featured teen poets from Zambia, Africa, and teen photographers from London, England, while elementia staff editor Angel Dew traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, to present “Global Creative Library Programming” at the international Globalization and the Management of Information Resources Conference.