When I received my acceptance letter as YALSA’s 2014-2015 Board Fellow I was so ecstatic. I’d been involved in YALSA before I even began my time in library school at Drexel University. First serving on the Fabulous Films for Young Adults Committee and then YALS editorial Advisory Committee and the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee. But this I knew would give me a different experience that I was looking forward to, especially thinking at the time that I would love to run for an opportunity to sit on the YALSA Board of Directors.
Well, my year as Board Fellow did not disappoint. In fact, it proved to be so much more than what I bargained for when I first started out. I had certain tasks to fulfill as described in the YALSA Board Fellow Program – a major task of which was to undertake a project for the year. Stemming from a mega issue discussion, I quickly realized that the conversation of board diversity needed to continue and, with the help of Beth Yoke and Shannon Peterson, I put together a board document that would later be discussed at ALA midwinter 2015 and voted on to be moved forward via the work of a task force. I agreed to Chair this taskforce and work is currently underway to make suggestions for how YALSA can increase and maintain ongoing diversity among the board of directors.
In addition to that project, I’ve met and worked with some awesome people, and contributed in other areas like:
- Liaised with three committees where I was tasked with being a source of assistance to help them with their work including conflict solving, discussing creative ideas and suggestions and just being a general support system for their overall work.
- Reached out to new members on a regular basis in an effort to help them navigate their way through the mounds of YALSA member offerings and to provide a support systems for feedback and questions.
- Participated in monthly board discussions around projects and conversations that stemmed from previous board meetings, executive meetings and new topics.
- Worked on other projects like that of the Standing Board: Member Recruitment & Retention subcommittee that examines the chairs quarterly reports and give feedback in regards to YALSA’s strategic direction and overall purpose.
- Contributed to various discussions in our ALA Connect group that leads to the board voting on various projects and also different Google docs discussions that helps prepare and further develop certain board documents to bring to full discussion of the board.
- Shared information on social media, particularly twitter that mostly included updates from meeting as well as topic discussions and other YALSA happenings to help build board transparence and inform the members of activities as they occurred.
- Served as a speaker for a panel on Capital Hill titled “Kids, Learning, and Technology: Libraries as 21st Century Creative Spaces.”
I grew professionally from my involvement as YALSA Board Fellow. One of the most important experiences I gained was to see YALSA from a big picture perspective as opposed to the smaller areas that I had been involved in when serving on those prior committees. Whereas my personal view had been focused on urban public library teens and services (because naturally that’s the library area where I’ve been working), my view grew to all types of public and school libraries in addition to other youth serving organizations. I became more aware of ideas and circumstances that affect a much larger youth population as opposed to just the focus area of urban public library settings where I’ve mostly worked.
Being a Board Fellow can open such bigger-picture thinking, which can prove to be beneficial in various professional decision-makings. There’s also potential to gain a variety of skills and experiences too that can be valuable in everyday life as well as in one’s career. These encompass areas such as time management, teamwork, problem-solving/critical thinking, project management, and leadership.
Overall, it has been a very busy year for me considering that shortly into my term as board fellow I began a new career role within a new organization and had to adjust accordingly. Everything considered, my board fellowship has been quite an awesome and rewarding experience. Now I have a much greater knowledge of all the work that the YALSA Board of Directors, Beth Yoke and the YALSA staff do to keep the fabulous youth serving YALSA organization striving and remaining relevant to us and our work in serving diverse sets of teens and communities.
Since becoming a member, I’ve valued YALSA dearly. After this year of developing such valuable insights and experiences, I dare say that I value this organization much more. Now that my term has ended, I look forward to continue to be actively involved in YALSA by completing my term as Chair of the YALSA board Diversity Taskforce and then looking at other areas where I can still contribute and learn. It’s time for the next person to be selected and the application process is open for the 2016-2017 Board Fellow. If you are interested I encourage you to read over information about the program and reach out to current board members and past board fellows to get feedback and submit your application by the December 1st deadline. I hope, as it is for me, that this opportunity will be one you remember fondly throughout your career.
Nicola McDonald, the 2014-2015 YALSA Board Fellow is the Chair of YALSA’s Board Diversity Taskforce and a Library Manager at NYPL.