Your Community: Engaging young adults at the library

Thirteen years ago the Johnson County Library’s Teen Services staff was challenged with a daunting task –how to engage young adults in a way that is meaningful to them, within the mission of the Library? The resulting answer was the creation of an award-winning literary publication, elementia. Created by area teens and supported by Johnson County Library staff, the 15th issue of elementia debuts this month.

First envisioned in 2005 by staff member Angel Tucker, Youth Services manager, elementia evolved from the Library’s Young Adult Advisory Council (YAAC), Teen Poetry Café, and teen writing programs. Its name came from a teen volunteer and member of YAAC who combined “element” and “dementia.”

“In actuality, elementia is more than a publication; it’s a process of engagement,” Tucker said.

An Open Forum to Share and Connect
The purpose of elementia is to publish, uplift and represent creative, eclectic young adults, while also emphasizing the importance of reading and the written word by connecting published artists with talented young adults.

The magazine’s editorial and design committees include high school students from all over Johnson County who volunteer their time to read and discuss each submitted piece. elementia accepts original poetry, fiction, nonfiction, graphic stories, photography and illustrations. Library staff offer workshops on graphic design and critique skills to help committee members hone their judging skills. For 2018, 11 teen volunteers spent more than 500 collective hours reading and rating all submissions to select this year’s content.

Capturing Hundreds of Creative Voices
Since its inception, elementia has published the voices of more than 650 creative young adults. The first issue in 2005 featured 22 published teen authors. This year’s issue received 831 submissions from more than 57 schools — including a submission from the Philippines. In the end, 131 original art and writing submissions from 83 teens (representing 35 schools) were selected for inclusion.

“I am confident in my writing because of elementia and because of the Library.” Agroog Khaliq said. “I wouldn’t have submitted my work anywhere else if it hadn’t been for elementia, and now I am published in two other places and my academic writing is getting some attention.”

Reflecting back on the reception for last year’s issue, Khaliq remembers looking around the room and thinking, “There are so many young women of color writing about their own specific experiences. This is Johnson County and the fact that so many teens, especially women of color, are finding their voice in this program, is a testament to what the Library is doing. Elementia is a giant treasure.”

Join us at the Launch Party
Mark your calendar for Thursday, April 26, 6:30 pm at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center. The Library will launch the new issue with art and readings from teens and a keynote talk from author A.S. King. For more information and to RSVP, go to

Generous Supporters
elementia is generously supported through the Joan Berkley Writers Fund of the Johnson County Library Foundation, as well as grants from the RA Long Foundation, CPS Foundation and the Helen S. Boylan Foundation. “Free copies of the magazine are available at all Johnson County Library locations and online starting April 27.”