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Library recruits 'Totally Awesome Group'
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Courtney Seever, a sophomore at Great Bend High School, stands in front of a new selection of graphic novels in the Young Adult section of the Great Bend Public Library. Teens like Seever are being asked for their input as the library expands its YA materials and activities. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

What's showing at GBPL?

Something has changed in the movie promos at the Great Bend Public Library: The titles of free movie showings are no longer a mystery.

The basement of the library has long been a "screening room" for major motion pictures. During the school year, the library offers free after-school movies, family movies and movies "for the 18-and-over crowd" at least once a month. Teen movies for students in grades 7-12 are a newer offering.

Thanks to an arrangement with some of the biggest film distributors, the library has a license for public showing of many movies, including some fairly recent blockbusters. In the past, library staff said the licensing agreement prohibited the promotion of the films by name. Instead, the library typically released a blurb describing the feature, and let people guess the title.

Jennifer King took on the marketing duties at the library earlier this year, and looked into whether the rules could be relaxed a bit. "We learned they were suggested guidelines," King said. The guidelines were created to make sure libraries weren’t hurting local theaters showing the newest movies. A call to the Village Cinemas in Great Bend was all it took for the library to be able to say it will show "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and two other Charlie Brown specials, "Something Borrowed" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" in November.

"The owners of the theater were super nice about it," King said.

An increasingly popular after-school hangout is the Great Bend Public Library.

Students in grades 7-12 are being recruited to join TAG, the library’s Teen Advisory Group, so they can have a say in everything from what books go on the shelves in the Young Adult section to what free movies will be shown on Teen Movie Nights.

Jennifer King, the new YA librarian, said the response has been positive since the inception of TAG, which the students claim actually stands for "Totally Awesome Group."

There’s usually a meeting around 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Courtney Seever, a sophomore at Great Bend High School, said six to 10 students usually show up. This week it was just her and King, until she recruited two more friends as they stopped by the YA section. Next to two bookcases filled with graphic novels and books by authors preferred by teenage readers, there’s a couch and some comfortable chairs.

Joining is pretty much as simple as that — showing up and getting involved. King said most students first get involved because they want to help choose the movies. This Saturday at 7 p.m. the library will show "Captain America: The First Avenger," free of charge.

Graphic novels – where the narrative is presented through a combination of text and art, often in comic-strip form, are one of the most popular new offerings for some readers, Seever said, although she prefers more traditional novels herself. The offerings go far beyond the expected teenage vampire sagas and Harry Potter novels. There are books based on popular TV shows, such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," (OK, teen vampires are pretty popular), and books that became TV series, such as Sara Shepards’ "Pretty Little Liars" series.

Bestselling authors such as James Patterson and John Grisham have also written novels with teen protagonists, such as Grisham’s "Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer."

This Sunday, there are several activities going on at the library, but King hopes TAG members will come by around 2:30 p.m. and help plan the next big event for teens: Game Day. Libraries across the nation will observe a day dedicated to games on Saturday, Nov. 12, and the Great Bend Public Library will hold its event from 1-4 p.m. Will there be Wii games, a Pitch tournament or board games like Clue? Only the "Totally Awesome Group" can help decide.