Rethinking YALSA: Learning Agenda

On April 27, 2016, the YALSA Board adopted a 3-year organization plan for 2016-2018. If you haven’t had a chance to look at this document, I would highly recommend that you take some time to read about the future direction for YALSA as a division. By doing so, you will gain a better understanding of how YALSA is evolving based on its report, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call for Action. As part of the organization plan, the Board discussed the Theory of Change and its influence over this plan, an intended impact statement, three major priorities of the plan, and finally, the learning agenda.

In this blog post, I will delve a little bit deeper into the learning agenda and highlight some areas of this section within the organization plan that particularly interested me. The different elements of this plan will involve YALSA researching further into areas that are otherwise unknown or new to the division. In order to achieve the goals of the plan, YALSA board, staff, and volunteers will need to take more time to research the priority areas laid out in the plan. These areas include leading the transformation of teen library services, advocacy, and funder and partner development. Each of these areas is critical for determining the success of the plan.   

Learning is an on-going process that can be approached in many different ways. This learning agenda highlights three: “on the job” learning, using the wealth of existing knowledge of YALSA members and library staff, and continuing education. All three of these approaches help support the learning that is necessary for the three priority areas of the organization plan. The learning agenda is an impressive step in the right direction for YALSA. A plan of this magnitude cannot succeed with constant learning and research by the division. By incorporating a learning agenda into the organization plan, YALSA is demonstrating the importance of education and research to the division.

Now I will highlight a few aspects of learning that is required for each of the three priority areas. First, Priority Area One: Transformation of Teen Library Services. I believe, I’m also slightly biased because I’m a researcher, that “monitor relevant trend research on an ongoing basis and conduct new research as needed to ensure YALSA’s futures-focused thinking does not get stale or outdated” is incredibly important. It is crucial for YALSA to continue to seek out relevant research and encourage (and perhaps help support) research that is geared by Futures report. After releasing such an impressive report, it would be unfortunate if YALSA did not keep updating the report to reflect the current state of teen services by using research.

Second, Priority Area Two: Advocacy is another area in which learning and research must be encouraged. In this learning agenda YALSA discusses “how to assess YALSA’s advocacy effectiveness among policymakers, legislator, and their staff.” This is another move in the right direction. These government-focused individuals must be informed about the work YALSA is doing and how the division is contributing to improvement in the quality of services to teens. The tricky part is determining how to properly assess how effectively YALSA is advocating to policymakers, legislators, and staff, as the learning agenda makes clear. Learning in this area is crucial to the success of the larger scale advocacy efforts of YALSA. Learning more about advocacy, assessment, and effectiveness will only advance the already ongoing advocacy efforts of YALSA.

Finally, Priority Area Three: Funder and Partner Development is no easy task. But I believe that one point YALSA makes, “identifying and prioritizing types of funding opportunities for YALSA and libraries” is a wonderful goal that may inspire libraries across the Unites States to attempt to build funding opportunities and funder development in their own communities. By doing a deep investigation into the funding opportunities existing for YALSA and the libraries it supports, YALSA can continue to highlight and promote resources that can better align with the Futures report.

YALSA’S 3-year Organization Plan, 2016-2018 is an inspiring work that clearly and purposefully outlines the future initiatives and direction of the division. The learning agenda closes out the plan by revealing the needed research and continued learning that will help support this plan. As the plan states, this is an evolving agenda, which should be expected when discussing areas such as learning, continuing education, and research. These are not areas that can grow stagnant or have an end date. We learn continuously throughout our lives, which allows us to become more intelligent and impactful people. It is inspiring to have an organization plan that recognizes and promotes areas in which it needs to continue to learn and grow.   

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About Abigail Phillips

Abigail Phillips, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. You can find her by e-mail: abigail.phillips@usu.edu or on Twitter: @abigailleigh.
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