Advocacy can sometimes be a nebulous concept to define, but it's one that YALSA's Board of Directors consistently addresses in our work. In fact, advocacy and activism is the first goal of YALSA's strategic plan. (and not just because we wanted it to start alphabetically)
It's hard to be an advocate all the time; the definition of what it means to be an advocate varies widely from member to member; it's a challenge to bring the appropriate hat to the forefront when you are working on behalf of your library, your association, and various other causes. But without expanding YALSA's reach to new ears or impact to libraries across the country, the association can't grow and shape teen services nationwide. Board members, committee chairs, and members need to be clear in their calls for expanded library services and resources for teens and young adults, and be able to document the need in their community.
One step to making sure more and more voices are being heard is setting a high standard for advocacy expectations. That's why the board moved to update the board contracts and job descriptions for board members to make sure they have a clear understanding of their role as advocates for teen services and for YALSA, as well to make sure they are setting aside time in the course of their YALSA work to spend time engaged in advocacy efforts. The brand new advocacy standing committee of the board is also working see how other non-profits build advocacy into their board work to make sure there are practical examples of great things anyone can do to share the importance of teen services in libraries and support the mission of YALSA.
How have you been an advocate in a leadership role? Is there an advocacy model that you think works well? Share your thoughts!