An interview with Sarah Flowers, author of YOUNG ADULTS DESERVE THE BEST

YALSA president-elect Sarah Flowers recently authored Young Adults Deserve the Best: YALSA’s Competencies in Action, which expands on YALSA’s competencies for librarians serving youth and gives practical advice and examples for fulfilling those competencies. Sarah was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book.

GK: You were on the taskforce that updated YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. What were the most important things you wanted to see changed in the newest version?

SF: I wasn’t on the Board when they decided that the Competencies needed to be updated, so I just tried to look at them with fresh eyes when I was appointed to the taskforce, and the other members did, too. We thought they were really good competencies, but we all began to notice that there were some repetitious parts, and we also thought that the language was perhaps a little too academic, so our goal was to streamline them.

GK: What motivated you to not just serve on that taskforce, but to write this book as well?

SF: Most of my library career has been spent as a manager. And as a manager, I tend to look at things in terms of: “How can I help librarians grow and get better at their jobs?” “What can I do (or provide) that will help these people develop and be better able to serve our population?” And the competencies fit that. They give a framework for growth and professional development. And in writing the book, I had a chance to really focus on how a front-line librarian (even one without a lot of administrative support) could grow and become a better YA librarian.

GK: Looking over the list of competencies, the sheer number of qualities and areas of knowledge that librarians working with teens should have can feel overwhelming. What advice would you give someone for prioritizing the competencies and knowing which to focus on developing first? Is there one competency area that you think is the most important or that is essential to have to fulfill the others?

SF: I think it depends on two things: what a specific librarian feels that he or she lacks, and what actually can be accomplished. Some things it’s really hard to do if there is no budget, or no support from library management. So you look at the whole thing, and work on the little pieces that you can manage. In terms of a most important area, I do think that Leadership and Professionalism are critical. I think that in a lot of ways they lead to all the others–especially in those situations when you’re on your own, without a lot of support. Be professional, be a leader, and you will be able to work toward achieving the other things.

GK: In the book, you mention a few times that these competencies aren’t so much a list of qualities those in entry-level positions should have so much as a vision for YA services that librarians grow into throughout their careers. Which competencies do you think take the most effort or time to develop?

SF: Again, it depends a lot on the individual, and their own gifts, talents, and background. Some people are natural advocates and communicators, so that part isn’t a problem for them, but maybe they have a tough time doing the administrative stuff. Others may be great at programming and services in the library, but shy about making the case for YA services to administration, or to elected officials, or even in doing outreach.

GK: You’ve had an impressive career so far with your work in libraries as a YA librarian, adult and YA services supervisor, library manager, and most recently as the deputy county librarian for the Santa Clara County Library in California; your previous books and articles; and your recent election as the 2011-2012 president of YALSA. Are there competencies you still feel like you’re developing?

SF: Oh, always! I think I am always working on being a better advocate for teens and teen services, and communicating their needs to the wider world. Also, because I jumped fairly early into management-level positions, I never felt like I had a chance to develop skills in programming for teens, so I’m really in awe of some of my YALSA colleagues who have been able to create terrific programs with and for teens.

GK: What do you think the biggest hurdle is in providing quality services to teens, and how can a librarian who may be working with a small budget or working in a department of one do to overcome that hurdle?

SF: I think lots of times it’s just inertia or lack of knowledge: “we’ve never done this before and we don’t know how and we don’t know why it’s important.” But I think attitude is key. And that’s where leadership and professionalism come in. If you can take your enthusiasm for serving teens and your knowledge of their needs and desires, and convince others on your library staff that services for teens are important, you can overcome any hurdle. It won’t necessarily be quick or easy, but there are plenty of success stories out there.

Thanks a lot, Sarah!

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator!

The other day, as I was talking about my new work as a high school yearbook advisor–or maybe it was about taking on some union duties–no, I think it was a discussion about me volunteering to chaperon a bus heading to a football game–a friend turned to me and asked, “Is there anything you don’t do at that school?!”

I’m pretty open about one of my career (and life) goals: to never have a “That’s Not My Job” moment. In other words, never to balk at those odd little (and big) things that come up in the course of my school library day, never to pass the buck or leave a student out in the cold.

So what’s my job?
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Call for Bloggers

Hello readers! As many of you may already know, YALSA is at work on launching a new blog dedicated to young adult literature. While our award winning YALSA blog will still be the place to turn for great posts about young adult librarianship, advocacy, YALSA, and more, this new blog will be solely focused on young adult literature.

The Hub, as it will be called, will be your stop for interesting posts, interviews, links, and more about the world of ya lit. One of the ways the new blog supports YALSA’s Strategic Plan is by promoting and supporting YALSA’s awards and lists.’  In addition to original content it will also connect readers to sites, videos, podcasts, and images relevant to teen literature already on the web.’  You can read the original announcement here.

If you are a YALSA member and interested in writing for the blog, please contact me, Sarah Debraski, at’  Thanks, and I’ll see you at The Hub!

Sarah Debraski
Literature Blog Manager

YALSA’s Not So Silent Auction: Skype Visit with Gene Yang

Friday night, January 7, 2011 at the Midwinter meeting in San Diego, YALSA’s Not So Silent Auction is the place to be. Along with great gift baskets and other goodies, a variety of Skype visits will be up for bid.

Do the teens you work with read American Born Chinese? Have they gotten their hands on The Eternal Smile? Do you want to give teens the chance to talk with a favorite graphic author about his books? If you answered yes to any of these then you will want to bid on the Skype visit with Gene Yang that’s a part of YALSA’s Not So Silent Auction.

Gene will talk with you and your teens on the topic of your choice. Continue reading

YALSA’s Not So Silent Auction: Skype Visit from Author David Patneaude

Friday night, January 7, 2011 at the Midwinter meeting in San Diego, YALSA’s Not So Silent Auction is the place to be. Along with great gift baskets and other goodies, a variety of Skype visits will be up for bid.

David Patneaude has published ten books, his most recent being Epitaph Road, a post-apocalyptic thriller published this past March.’ David, who has been making “real” visits to schools for years, is donating a virtual school visit via Skype. ‘ He’s willing to consider almost any topic or format for the visit, so it will be up to the winning bidder (and David) to work out the specifics of the event prior to the date it happens.’  You’ll choose, but here are some possibilities:’  discussion and/or questions and answers about a specific title, his writing process, his writing life, research, future projects, or a less focused dialogue covering a range of subjects.

Tennessee school and public librarians should take note.’  David’s 2007 novel, A Piece of the Sky, is part of the 2010-2011 Tennessee Volunteer State Reading List.’  What a wonderful experience for students to interact with the author of a featured book during the year.

For more details on what’s up for bid at the auction, see the YALSA wiki at:

Tweets of the Week – October 22, 2010

A short list of tweets posted over the last week that librarians and the teens that they serve may find interesting:

YA Lit Symposium — Meet Them Where They Are and Open the Door

The YA Literature Symposium is quickly approaching! Have you registered yet? The list of programs with times is now available.

The featured program this week/today is:

Meet Them Where They Are and Open the Door: Urban Teens, Street Lit, and Reader’s Advisory

Socioeconomically disadvantaged urban teens are often stereotyped as non-readers, reluctant readers, or readers of a single genre. But just as with other teens, urban teens’ reading choices are informed by their needs, interests, and social landscape. In this session, we will discuss factors that contribute to urban teens’ reading choices, demystify the increasingly popular genre of street lit, and demonstrate proven reader’s advisory techniques and programs for connecting urban teens with a variety of books that speak to them. Presenters:’  Megan Honig and Beth Saxton

Presenters Megan Honig and Beth Saxton kindly answered my questions.

KH: Can you share one interesting or thought provoking fact from your presentation?
Beth:’  There is not a large chain bookstore within the Cleveland city limits, or a bookstore selling a variety of new books for teens.’  It would take a teen who lives near downtown at least an hour on the bus to get to the nearest Borders or Barnes & Noble on a good day.’  There is a Borders Express at the mall downtown, the same mall that does not allow anyone under 18 without a parent.

KH: Who should come to your presentation?
Megan: Anyone who wants to learn more about why teens are drawn to street lit and how to do reader’s advisory for street lit fans (HINT: respect their reading tastes!!).

Beth: I think we could have called this “Respect the reader”.’  I would say anyone who is interested in how to raise reader’s awareness of titles and who wants to get more books into the hands of their teens.

The full interview with Megan and Beth is available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

The YA Literature Symposium is November 5-7 in Albuquerque, NM. To give everyone a sneak peek into the presentations I be posting portions of interviews with program presenters weekly until the symposium. Full interviews will be available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.

YALSA’s Not So Silent Auction: Movie Themes

On Friday night, January 7, 2011 at the San Diego Midwinter Meeting, you have the opportunity to bid on several baskets which will help you enjoy an evening of DVDs. Two of these are:

  • The “Great Books to Movies” basket, put together by the Great Books Giveaway Jury, will contain DVDs adapted from Young Adult books as well as a sample of books that have been made into movies. Continue reading

App of the Week: Evernote

Name: Evernote

Platform: iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile

Cost: Free for basic account; $5/month or $45/year for premium account

I have only recently become an Evernote user, having wanted to try it for a long time as a tool for researchers of all ages. As it stands now, I certainly don’t use it to its full capacity; that would require more time to immerse myself in it than I have. But I do believe that this app could be of use both to librarians and to teens. Here’s why.

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Power, Prestige, Money…

Okay, the power and prestige may take more time, but the money is here and now. Being awarded a research grant is a great career-booster, earning respect for you and your institution.

I’m talking about the Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA Research Grant, which annually awards $1,000 for the best research proposal submitted by a YALSA member.

Here are the basics: This grant of $1000 provides seed money for small-scale projects that will encourage research that responds to the YALSA Research Agenda.

For details and how to apply for the 2011 Frances Henne YALSA/VOYA Research Grant, visit the YALSA Web site at

Don’t miss out!’  Applications for the grant are due in the YALSA Office by Dec. 1.