An Interview with 2012-2013 YALSA President Jack Martin

About a month and a half ago, YALSA members elected Jack Martin as 2012-2013 YALSA President. While he was interviewed for the YALSA Podcast during the elections as a candidate, I had some more questions for him now that he’s just weeks away from officially beginning his term as President-Elect. Jack kindly agreed to answer those questions for me.

What was the first thing you did when you learned that you’d won the election?

I called my husband and my mom to tell them the good news!

During the interview you did for the YALSA Podcast, when you were running for President, you touched on a few ways that you got teens involved in your library during your career on the front lines. Do you have plans to involve teens in what YALSA does?

YALSA supports libraries and librarians who work with teens, so everything we do should impact the lives of teens in our communities. Selection committees like Teens’ Top 10 and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and Best Fiction for Young Adults reach out to teens directly for input, as do many of our process committees. There also may be ways organizationally we can encourage libraries to increase or improve communications between librarians and teens. This can be done formally through Teen Advisory Groups or informally through working with teens on the front lines. Direct connection to our constituency keeps our organization current, vital and valid in the eyes of the youth we serve.

I was excited to hear that you want to see YALSA become more recognized on a national level, particularly among other youth-serving organizations. This seems to mirror an individual library’s aims to increase their visibility in their community generally and with other local groups that work with young people specifically, so I’m wondering if you can outline some of the specific steps you’ll be taking to meet your goal of having national youth-serving organizations know the YALSA name.

I think this is an advocacy issue facing all libraries today, especially those who work with youth: how do libraries become recognized as both leaders and partners in the continuum of educational opportunities for youth today? I’m just getting my feet wet as President-Elect, but I’m thinking one of the key steps will be mobilizing with the leaders of the other youth divisions of ALA to brainstorm first steps on how we can work together. Reaching out to other national associations will be important too: the education, museum and health worlds would all be good first candidates. Another component will be figuring out ways we can elevate the great work YALSA is doing in order to bring greater recognition. Additionally, there are probably some really cool ideas and projects that are happening out there in YALSA-land that we don’t know about. Tapping these ideas and raising the profiles of YALSA members in local communities also will be instrumental in helping us create the formula for increasing our national impact.

The results of YALSA’s recent strategic plan survey indicated that two of the primary concerns YA librarians and YALSA members have about YALSA are a need for local or in-state events for librarians who can’t travel to national conferences and opportunities for new members to get involved. Do you have plans to address either of these concerns?

Absolutely. YALSA is constantly investigating ways to involve members who can’t travel to national conferences. There are multiple ways for members to participate virtually, whether it’s through committee work or super awesome new initiatives like The Hub. Technology such as webcasts, social media and eLearning also play key roles here. Part of the test will be figuring out how YALSA can continue to be nimble and embrace new technologies and how we integrate them into the work that we do so our members can use them to get the most out of YALSA. From ALA Connect to the ways in which YALSA uses social media, the association should be able to continue to provide and develop multiple pathways for members both current and new to participate.

What’s the one biggest change you’d like to effect during your presidency?

Maybe it’s not so much about one big change that’s needed but rather it’s more about looking at what YALSA already does really well and then identifying ways what we can improve and innovate so we become bigger, better, cooler. We need more cool projects and more cool ideas! More cool everything!

Through interviews and your candidate statement for the election, we’ve gotten to know your professional history and your ideas for YALSA, but we don’t necessarily know you as well personally. What are some of your non-library-related hobbies? And the ever-important question: who do you think would win in a fight: pirates or ninjas?

Ha. I’d say ninjas. They just seem like they’re more stealth than the pirates.

But about me: I love cooking. I have an obsession with records, and I own way too many. I love music and fashion. My husband and I love to travel. We love visiting new cities and towns and just walking around to take everything in, and we also love seeing museums and art galleries. I’m a sucker when it comes to cats–especially the two bad ones that live in my house. Finally, I love my job, and I love working with YALSA.

Keep your eye on the YALSA blog for more interviews with our newly-elected Board members!

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