Summer Volunteers: Maintaining Momentum

I love mistakes. They might not be fun to make, but I sure do learn a lot from them. Take the structure of the volunteer program I am overseeing this summer as an example. I ran it how it has been run for years: like a summer employment opportunity. This meant having interviews and orientations at the very beginning of the summer, the goal being to assemble our “staff,” then have them volunteer on a regular basis for the next two and a half months. So far, it has been successful overall, but not nearly as successful as it could be. I have, however, started to notice a marked decline in overall volunteer availability and general work ethic.

As you can see, the total number of volunteer hours per week is steadily declining. Relatedly, we have experienced about a 28% rate of attrition (of 21 volunteers, 6 are no longer able to volunteer). This causes us to ask more of other volunteers or to go without volunteers.

So, what did we do wrong this year? We expected too much, and we didn’t anticipate attrition. Fortunately, we are still receiving plenty of volunteer applications, so finding new volunteers isn’t an issue. However, I believe tweaking the structure of the volunteer program to make it more agile could naturally preclude such issues. Here’s what we will be doing next year:

Segmenting the summer

Next year, we will experiment with hosting two volunteer sessions: May through June and July through August. We are currently treating the entire summer as a single commitment. By doing this, we are asking teens to make a large and vague commitment. Ideally, this wouldn’t be an issue, since they would have a clear understanding of their summer plans, a reliable means of transportation, and an unquenchable desire to donate their free time to the library. But life is messy and things come up.

Another approach is to break the summer down into sets of smaller commitments. For instance, teens can much more reasonably commit to volunteering for 30 hours in June than to an indeterminate number of hours throughout the entire summer. This also gives parents and guardians a clearer idea of what the commitment will be. We’re hoping that by giving teens a concrete commitment within a set period of time will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Having a natural stopping point built into the summer will allow teens to exit the program smoothly — or to decide actively to continue volunteering. Hopefully, this will help weed out those who think they want to volunteer more than they actually do while retaining those who enjoy the realities of volunteering.

Offering multiple orientations throughout the summer

This year, we offered two separate orientations before the summer began. We were hoping that teens would be able to attend one or the other depending on their schedule. For the most part, we were correct, and having orientations just at the beginning of the summer would be fine so long as no new volunteers are added throughout the summer.

Even though we didn’t segment the summer this year, we will be offering a mid-summer orientation. This will let us formally introduce new volunteers to the program. At each orientation we talk about organizational values, discuss Summer Reading, do plenty of icebreakers, eat snacks, and get to know each other. This is an important step in building a volunteer program into a volunteer community. We will be changing our approach to orientations as well, but that is a topic for a longer post.

Hosting more events for volunteers

We have traditionally thrown a volunteer appreciation party at the end of each summer as a way to celebrate our volunteers and express our gratitude. We will be changed things up this year and threw the party in the middle of the summer. Our reasoning behind this is that the party boosts morale, engenders good will, and helps the teens bond. These are benefits we believe would help combat burnout and maintain positive momentum. It also gave us an opportunity to check with the volunteers in an informal setting.

At the end of the summer, we will host a resume and interview development course specifically for summer volunteers. However, it may be more effective to host events like this throughout the summer. The closer a non-entertainment based event is to the beginning of school, the less likely it is that teens will attend them.

There are, of course, many other ways of keeping volunteers engaged with you, the library, and each other besides parties and life skills events. For instance, one cost effective solution would be to host a book club for volunteers. Another would be to schedule a time for the volunteers to meet as a group with a high level library administrator to ask him or her questions and learn about the organization’s leadership.

 

Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Youth Engagement & Leadership Webinar

cover of the teen services competencies for library staffEach month, through December, YALSA is sponsoring free webinars (for members and non-members) on topics related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

The July webinar (the full video recording is available after the break), facilitated by April Zuniga from the McAllen (TX) Public Library, covered the topic of Youth Engagement and Leadership. In her discussion April discussed how to build relationships with teens so to learn about their needs and interests and help teens feel comfortable engaging with and leading through the library.
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Be YALSA’s Next Rep to the International Federation of Library Associations

YALSA is seeking personal members who are interested in representing YALSA on the following:

  1. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) Section on Libraries for Children & Young Adults
  2. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) Section on Literacy & Reading

One representative for each section will be selected by the ALA Executive Board and recommended to IFLA to serve a four-year term from 2019-2023.  YALSA personal members who are interested in representing YALSA on either section must submit their resumes to YALSA at yalsa@ala.org no later than September 1, 2018.  Please be sure to put IFLA Applicant in the subject line and in your email message indicate what section you’re interested in serving on.

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Summer Youth Leaders @ Pearl Bailey Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA, this year Pearl Bailey Library has three summer Youth Leaders: Sari, Na’quan, and Alysse. These three will learn valuable workforce skills while helping us successfully pull off all of our Summer Reading activities and summer outreach events, as well as organizing the youth during programs and activities, and keeping the library organized as well. While in our Youth Leaders Program across the Wickham Avenue Alliance, they also receive career research training, learn teamwork skills and conflict resolution, all based on the Career Investigations Curriculum. The Youth Leaders also receive customer service training taught by experts from Starbucks, and they take money management workshops from Bayport Credit Union. 

Without further ado, let’s introduce you to the 2018 Youth Leaders at Pearl Bailey Library:

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New Volunteer Opportunities

YALSA has two new volunteer opportunities that I am looking for members to appoint to.

  1. Taskforce for 2019 Teen Summit: This taskforce will be responsible for planning and implementing a 1-day teen summit in Washington DC in conjunction with ALA Annual. The summit will bring together 50 teens from the greater Washington DC area to learn their vision of how libraries can evolve to better support their needs and interests. More information can be found here: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/Endowments_AN18.pdf Potential tasks for the include:
    1. Identify Washington DC area partners who can help get teen participation
    2.  Select a summit facilitator who can build the agenda for the day and oversee its
      implementation
    3. Select small group facilitators and speakers
    4. Identify an individual(s) to write the report
    5. Select the teen participants and handle transportation logistics
    6. Carry out the event
    7. Send thanks to teens and partners
    8. Write and distribute the report
    9. Implement evaluation measures
  2. Workgroup to Provide Resources and Tools for Evaluating Materials and Intellectual Freedom in Light of #MeToo: This workgroup will gather resources to help library staff serving teens evaluate materials and balance intellectual freedom. The group will also determine gaps in the information available and create tools to support members in this area. For more information on the discussion that led to the formation of this work group, see Board Item 34 from Annual 2018: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/MeToo_AN18.pdf

If you have interest in serving on either of these groups please contact me at crystle.martin@gmail.com

Respectfully,
Crystle Martin
YALSA President

ALA 2018 Annual Recap from a First-Time Attendee

Image courtesy of ALA 2018 Annual

Last month, I went to my first ALA Annual Convention. As a MMLIS graduate student at the University of Southern California, attending ALA Annual in New Orleans was an opportunity to meet fellow students, network with current librarians and library staff, and to learn more about how I can participate as a new member of ALA in the various divisions, roundtables, and chapters.

The ALA Annual Convention is a wonderful experience where you meet people with the same interest and same enthusiasm for books, advocacy, learning, and desire to help. The conference ran from June 21, 2018 through June 26, 2018, with the official opening general session on Friday, June 22nd.  The Opening General Session speaker was Former First Lady Michelle Obama! The line to be able to attend Mrs. Obama’s talk, led by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, started at 7:30am that morning though Mrs. Obama would not speak until 4:00pm that afternoon.  As a first-time attendee, I will admit to being daunted by the impressive line that formed, but ALA had it all under control. They had more than enough room to accommodate everyone.  What a way to kick off the convention!  Listening to Michelle Obama and Carla Hayden in conversation was a memorable experience. Not to mention listening to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews perform with talented students from the Trombone Shorty Foundation beforehand.
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YALSA Board update on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

In New Orleans at the 2018 Annual Conference, the YALSA Board discussed several documents related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. YALSA is committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and to make this commitment a reality the Board took several steps.

First, the Board approved the prioritization of the recommendations made by the Advancing Diversity Taskforce, which completed its work earlier this Spring. The recommendations of the committee were ranked by the board as High, Medium, and Low. The items ranked High Priority are currently being implemented. Those ranked Medium Priority will be tackled during the 2018-2019 board. Those that are ranked Low Priority will be re-evaluated at the beginning of the 2019-2020 board to determine what still needs to be done.

One of the High Priority recommendations was to evaluate YALSA’s current Mission, Vision, Intended Impact Statement, and Statement on Diversity. Jane Gov and Kate Denier offered a board document that recommends changes:
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Teens participate in BFYA Teen Feedback Session @ ALA Annual

A group of teens from the New Orleans area participated in YALSA’S Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session during the ALA Annual Conference. They each read at least three books from this year’s list of BFYA nominations so far. The teens provided the BFYA blogging team with valuable insight about the “teen appeal” of the books. To reward the teens for their hard work and participation, YALSA generously provided them each with a pass to visit the exhibits and collect as many free books as they could carry! After visiting the exhibit hall, teens enjoyed a pizza lunch with nine popular YA authors. The event was a great success. But don’t take our word for it—here’s what some of the teens told us about their favorite part of the day!

We asked: “What was your favorite part of participating in the conference and what are you reading next?”

“I liked the part where you met the authors, because you got real insight on what they were thinking when they wrote the books.” –Sabian B.

What Sabian is reading next: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

“I think it was seeing how many people are here and so passionate and [in the feedback session] seeing what books everyone chose to read and how they interpreted them.” –Abigail D.

What Abigail is reading next: “I have no idea, I going to lay them all out and decide!”

“My favorite part was getting to walk around and meet new people.” –Carissa W.

What Carissa is reading next: Dry by Neal Shusterman

“I really liked meeting the authors, because you got to see some aspects of an author’s career. I also thought it was really cool to receive books before they were out!” –Tiyasha C.

What Tiyasha is reading next: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough or Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer

“The convention was exactly how I imagined heaven. Also, I expected the feedback session to be way more stressful, but it was actually really easy to just talk about the books. It’s so cool that we got the books before the Library of Congress got them!” –Laxmi J.

What Laxmi is reading next: “Well, I read The Schwa Was Here (by Neal Shusterman who I met yesterday!) for school summer reading, and I have to read Chains too, but after that I think I’m going to start Dry.”

This event was truly a team effort and would not have been possible without the collaboration and dedication of many people. Thanks to the teens who participated, the teachers, librarians and parents who prepared teens and arranged for them to come, the authors and publishers who sponsored and participated in the pizza lunch, and the BFYA blogging team for nominating thought-provoking titles and welcoming teen feedback.

Carolyn Vidmar is a Teen Services Librarian at the New Orleans Public Library.

Update YALSA Board Activities at ALA Annual 2018

Colleagues-

The YALSA Board was busy at Annual 2018 in New Orleans. Here are some highlights.

On Friday, Sarah Hill, Todd Krueger, Beth Yoke and I provided training for our new Board members. Topics discussed included:

  • What does it mean to be a board member
  • Board culture and processes
  • Building skills & knowledge relating to association governance
  • An overview of YALSA’s organizational plan

On Saturday, at Board I, the Board adopted 17 Consent Items, which were items that were discussed and voted on previous to annual, including:

The Board voted to fill two Board Vacancies. I am pleased to announce that Vicki Emery will serve as YALSA’s Fiscal Officer and Trixie Dantis will serve as a Board Member at Large.
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Presidential Theme for 2018-2019

It is energizing to begin my presidential work by building on the work of past-president Sandra Hughes-Hassell’s presidential theme and to collaborate with other division presidents’ creating presidential themes that compliment each other.

I have chosen Supporting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion through Outcomes and Assessment as my presidential theme for 2018-2019. This theme furthers YALSA’s work of supporting library staff who serve teens in several ways. It highlights the need for a paradigm shift highlighted in YALSA’s Future’s Report that indicates the importance assessing programs for outcomes and not attendance. As well as, creating assessments that answer larger questions about teens interaction with your programming other than did they like it. This theme also supports the infographic Reimagined Library Services for and with Teens, which highlight the types of outcomes that can have impact on teens lives, and will help you figure out how to measure those outcomes. The theme also speaks directly to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff, which includes assessment as part of Content Areas 3, 4, 6, 9, and 10. All of this speaks to the needs of members who are looking for guidance on impactful outcomes and assessment, and moves YALSA closer to reaching the goals it laid out in its implementation plan.
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