Why Aren’t YALSA Members Voting? Tell Me Why

I’m back, both literally and figuratively. I just attended ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas and with a great group of hard working YALSA members we taped interviews with the YALSA candidates. They have been posted for you to listen to. This is just one more way to give you the information you need to make an informed decision about our potential officers and award committee members.

I followed up Midwinter with a visit to my mom in Washington DC. Now, going to Washington always makes me think about our system of government and the fact that it requires individuals to take action. In fact I think about what Winston Churchill said about our form of government. He said “It is said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”

And how does this apply to YALSA you are asking? Well, in my last post I shared with you that only about 18% of YALSA members actually vote in our annual elections. Democracy requires that individuals vote, yet we don’t. Now, I personally love to vote and I think I can confidently say over the past many years since I became a eligible to vote, I probably haven’t missed an opportunity to vote whether it be locally, nationally, or in our division. I also recognize that because so many of you don’t vote my vote is really valuable, I really count.

So here I was in Washington DC and as I looked at all those monuments to democracy I kept asking myself why questions?

  • Why do so few of us take that small amount of time and vote?
  • Is it too hard?
  • Are there barriers YALSA hasn’t considered to voting?
  • Do our members just not care about what YALSA does for them and who does it?

Well I don’t have those answers, so I’m writing this post to everyone who will not be voting. Please tell me why. Help me understand why you choose not to vote. If you don’t want to comment on the blog, send me an email. My address is jnelson@piercecountylibrary.org.

I would like to understand and if there is something YALSA can do to make it even easier, then I’ll share the information, not the names.

Help me understand why.

And don’t forget, polls for ALA and YALSA elections open March 19 and close April 27.

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11 Comments

  1. It’s not just YALSA members: AASL and ALSC members don’t vote either. I’d understand if we voted in our divisional elections but not for “big ALA”, but we don’t vote AT ALL. This trend isn’t new, so we can’t blame the electronic voting. If you find any answers, I’d be very interested in learning why.

  2. Natalie Struecker

    I know for myself, I get so many things from ALA that when it comes to elections, I either miss the information because I’m deleting everything, or there’s just too much information to go through. I love to vote as well, but most of the time it’s just one more thing I need to spend time reading. That sounds horrible, but it’s true. I like to be informed but I feel overwhelmed by everything coming from ALA and to a lesser extent, YALSA.

  3. I know for me its takes a lot of work to decide who to vote for and why. One time I saved my YALSA ballot and planed to return to do the general ALA ballot, but wasn’t able to submit it by the deadline. This meant my vote didn’t count.

    I wish more candidates would fill out sheets about their position on issues rather than just a bio. I’d like to think I’m voting for someone because their ideals and priorities align with mine, not because they work at a specific library or in a specific field. I can guess what their passion is by the committees they’ve served on, but in the end voting in ALA can feel more like a high school popularity contest/student election for a school you’ve not attended before if you don’t recognize any of the names on the ballot or know about the candidates interests.

  4. Thanks for your comments Sally and Natelie. One thing about knowing about the candidates, YALSA does provide more than biographical info on those running. You can listen to audio interviews with each of the Governance candidates from the Coffee with the Candidates held at Midwinter, the link is:

    http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2012/01/27/election-season-begins-a-report-from-yalsas-coffee-with-the-candidates/

    There will be text interviews posted throughout February with each of the Award committee candidates along with more governance candidate information. All of these do and will cover more than biographical info.

    I hope this helps in the decision-making.

    Linda W. Braun, 2012 Nominating Committee Chair

  5. As someone who has never been to an ALA conference, I don’t feel invested in the governance of YALSA. I am sure that if I were more involved in committee work and saw myself in a future leadership role, I would think about these things and have opinions on the candidates. As it is, like most of us, I am overly busy at work. These days, most public libraries are understaffed and underfunded. We are overwhelmed just doing our jobs. I am so appreciative of the work that YALSA does and the resources (especially the discussion lists) that are available to me. I use them all the time. But the governance side of things just doesn’t feel relevant to me.

  6. I completely agree with Sally and Sandy. Voting doesn’t feel all that relevant to me, because I’m not sure exactly what the president of YALSA can do or change that would make a difference in my life. Also, I just end up not taking the time to read the bios, and Linda, while the audio interviews are more informative, I’m sure, I really know I’ll never take the time to listen to one of those. If I don’t feel that I don’t have time to read the bios, I certainly won’t feel I have the time to listen to audio. But that’s just me, I prefer written material.
    Maybe there could be less written information, like: If I am elected, one thing I will concentrate on/do is:

  7. I will second Elizabeth’s comment. I know that I will never take the time to listen to audio interviews of the candidates. I like her idea of less written information. A short rundown of candidates’ positions on issues like Sally suggested would be much easier and faster to read, and then I would feel like I could make an informed decision of who to vote for. When there is just biographical information, or a long piece on each candidate, I just don’t bother. As Sandy said, who becomes the president of YALSA does not feel that relevant to my professional life and I’m therefore not willing to take the time to do a lot of research to decide who to vote for.

  8. Honestly, I’m not a big voter, but truthfully I never know the canidates or why they would be the right person for the job. Yes, I get information sent to me, but I dont read it. Either Im too busy or its just boring to listen to or read. Plus I cant trust someone that I have only met through an interview I’ve seen or listened to on a computer. I trust people I know and have talked to in person. If you want me to vote for you for something then I have to get to know you and why you would be good for that job. Then you have to hand me a piece of paper with a date to vote and instructions on how to vote on it and I will sign on and vote for you if you are a real person to me with some good ideas.

    I say at the Symposium in Nov. have an introduction to canidates and what they do and why they are important. Anyone planning on running anytime in the future needs to be making the rounds listening and talking to the Yalsa members and handing out business cards. Make an impression or else I wont know who you are and if I don’t know you why would I vote for you? They call it networking for a reason. Make your voice heard and heard often and to many.

  9. I joined YALSA shortly before that year’s election and didn’t vote because I didn’t really know anything about YALSA or the candidates.

    The next year, I intended to vote but was overwhelmed by a lengthy ballot full of people I didn’t know and just gave up.

    Last year, I’d become a little bit more involved in YALSA (I was writing for the blog and had served on one task force) and finally recognized a few names on the list and had a better idea of what the person in each position would be doing, so I voted as best I could.

    This year, I’m more involved (I’m on a selection committee and manage The Hub) and I’m absolutely chomping at the bit to get to vote because even though I’ve never met some of the candidates, I’ve seen their names other places and know the kind of work they’ve done. I know what the Board is responsible for, what kind of work is done on selection and award committees, and what all the President does and how it affects my professional involvement. I attended Coffee with the Candidates at Midwinter and asked some of the people running for different positions questions that I really wanted to know the answers to. Now that I know YALSA better, it matters to me who’s in those positions.

    But until I started to get to know YALSA as an organization, it was hard to set aside the time that it takes to get through that ballot full of strangers.

  10. I agree with what everyone else has said. In addition, as someone who hasn’t been able to make it to any ALA conferences I feel like I don’t know the candidates well enough to vote; I might as well be drawing names out of a hat and to me, that doesn’t feel right. I would rather leave the voting to people who actually know the candidates and the type of work they are capable of doing. When I read the bios (I agree that I just don’t have time to listen to the audios), I just don’t feel like I know enough about the candidates to judge if they would do a good job. To me, YALSA is an invaluable resource and I don’t want to pick the wrong people because I am blindly electing candidates.

  11. To those that feel the elections and governance have no bearing on one’s day-to-day job, consider how the YALSA resources you use and rely on first came in to being and continue to exist. The Printz award and other selection lists, the journals, the blogs, the listservs, programming ideas and support, professional development…YALSA governance is needed to create and maintain these things. Just something to consider when elections feel removed from you.

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