It’s true, speaking up for teens and for teen services isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it can be pretty darn hard. It’s hard to know where to start, what your message should be, who to talk with, and even what success looks like. That’s why YALSA is putting together a set of Advocacy Benchmarks that will help you to get started and move forward.
The Task Force working on the benchmarks (Sarah Kepple, Staci Terrell, Rachel McDonald, Heather Gruenthal, and me) got started by making sure to answer two basic questions. First, how did we as a group define advocacy? That wasn’t so difficult as everyone agreed that when advocating it’s important to explain to various groups – from teens, to colleagues, to administrators, to stakeholders, to government officials – why we do what we do and what the benefits are for teens and the community in providing great library services to adolescents. We agreed that it’s not just standing up and saying “we are here and here are some programs and services we provide.” Instead it’s explaining what we do and it’s value.
The second question was actually a little harder to answer – “what is a benchmark?” And that also brought up the question, what aren’t benchmarks? For example benchmarks aren’t the same things as rubrics that define levels of success. Instead benchmarks are definitions of best practice and goals to aim for. When you reach a benchmark you reach a goal in a particular area. And, that’s what the team working on YALSA’s advocacy benchmarks has been developing – a set of specific goals that you can reach for in order to amplify your message about the value of library service to teens.
The benchmarks in progress include best practices to strive for in advocacy efforts that focus on speaking up for teens with colleagues, administrators, community members, stakeholders, and government officials. They also include benchmarks for getting each of these groups involved in advocating for teens. For each of the benchmarks the Task Force defines what success looks like – what the best practice/goal is – and also will provide examples for those just getting started working towards the best practice, those with a bit of experience, and those who have a good deal of experience in the target area.
The Task Force is almost ready with a draft of their work – which will be reviewed by the YALSA Executive Committee at their meetings in late October. Once feedback from the Executive Committee comes back to the Task Force we’ll revise the document. What’s really exciting is that included in our timeline is an opportunity for commenting on the benchmarks at ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. We want to hear from those working with teens at all different levels – administrators, front-line teen staff, support staff working with teens, etc. – about the benchmarks, and even get some ideas about examples of success that can be included in the final document.
We will keep you posted on the benchmark developments and on how you can amplify your voice when speaking up and out for teens.