Representing YALSA in IFLA

Representing YALSA is a special honor and responsibility. As a representative to IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations), I am the “face” of the organization. When I work with other professional associations, I am the communication lynchpin. I have to listen well to make sure I understand what concerns and trends are emerging, using my experience as a YALSA member as my hearing timbre. How do these ideas potentially impact YALSA? Likewise, I listen for opportunities to insert the concerns, values, and possible contributions of YALSA. I also have to listen to the silence, the unspoken, to make sure that the voice of YALSA and YALSA ideas are heard.

So what does it take to become a representative? First, you need to be a knowledgeable member of YALSA. Participating in YALSA events and serving on YALSA committees gives you the grounding to build credibility within the organization and without – with other organizations. For instance, I served on the YALSA Board, presented, and chaired – or served as a participating member of — several committees over the years.

Usually, you should already be involved in the target professional organization. Perhaps you have been a member, and attended some conferences. Perhaps you have presented or served on a committee. In other words, you like and know both organizations: YALSA and the one that you want to be a representative for.

It needs to be said that usually the role of representative brings access to people and ideas and worthwhile activities, but not material advantage. You have to pay for all expenses, and are expected to fulfill your duties for the extent of your time of duty: usually 3-4 years. YALSA provides you with copies of some of their publications (such as flyers and policy statements) to disseminate at the meetings.

What do I do? As the YALSA representative to the Literacy and Reading section of IFLA, I participate actively in the section business meetings. I make sure that teen reading and literacy is addressed. I volunteered to be a table facilitator for the section’s program. I also volunteered to serve on the research brochure sub-committee. I helped write their proposal, which was approved by IFLA, so now I will be doing research and writing to help others access and use research about literacy and reading, probably 100 hours total spread out throughout the year with spurts of action. I write up a report of the conference for YALSA, and I also look for YALSA activities that might inform the section, and write up for their newsletter.

Obviously, planning and attending the conference takes weeks, and writing up the report takes a few hours. But I keep my representative “job” as part of my everyday mindset. And I feel that I’m making a contribution to both organizations, to myself, and to teens around the world. Such as this post, which I wrote because I have just undergone hip surgery, and needed to let you know about this volunteer opportunity. So tell me what’s happening in YALSA! My email address is lfarmer@csulb.edu.

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