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By Kirsten Laskey

Laughter filled up one of the meeting rooms at Mesa Public Library. Students relaxed around a table, munching on snacks and they conversed via the Worldwide Web. A projection screen tracked the lengthy conversation and everyone giggled as they watched different emoticons pop up with each instant message.

Even the adults in the room cut loose. Angie Manfredi, head of youth services, sat at the head of the room, typing the teens’ questions and comments and making a few of her own quips.

This was hardly just a social period; literacy was in action and it was going full-steam. The students at the library are members of the Teen Book Club and the club was conversing with Texas young adult author Gale Giles about her novel, “Whatever Happened to Cass McBride?”

Melissa Mackey, senior library technician, explained the book club is open to anyone older than age 13. The group meets at 4 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month. Besides being able to mingle with authors over the Internet, the teens get first dibs on new books and share their thoughts about what they would like to see on the shelves.

Mackey said the club had operated for two years before going on a short hiatus. Recently it was revived.

She added she had never seen the club so large or so exciting.

Mackey pointed to Manfredi for being the reason for the club’s revitalization. “She’s dedicated to teen librarianship,” Mackey said.

“I never met a child who doesn’t love to read,” Manfredi said. Yet, she said, somehow adults assume when teens turn 13 -years-old they loose interest. Which, Manfredi said, is ridiculous.

Manfredi is always exploring things to keep students engaged, which, “opened up a whole new world of programs and support for us.”

Books seemed to be the main reason why the teens showed up to the club.   

“You get really good books that are recommended by someone who reads a lot,” Adam Sayre said. Plus, he said club members get access to books no one else in the community has read and they are able to discuss their favorite authors.

Ida Starkovich added, she enjoyed “basically getting the low-down on all the great books.” She added because club members get a voice in what goes into library, the collection becomes more personalized.

Bear Schacht said, “I like hearing about the new books and hanging with everyone. It’s fun.”

For more information about the club, call 662-8258 or send an e-mail to lacnm.us or just stop by the youth services desk.