YALSA Board Update: Transforming Member Participation

Yesterday during a virtual meeting to address unfinished business from its June meeting, the YALSA board met to continue its discussion about how to improve member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, as well as to re-think the structure of YALSA so that it’s better positioned to carry out the work of the new organizational plan.  Last month, the Board sought to review of all existing member groups at their June meeting (see Candice Mack’s blog post).  The Board accomplished a lot in June, but didn’t finish all of its work around member groups.  The Board met virtually yesterday to discuss the Leading the Transformation of Teen Services Board Standing Committee’s draft recommendations for the remaining member groups that were not addressed in June.  If you’re interested, you can listen to the audio recording of the meeting.

The Board voted to accept the recommendations from the Standing Board Committee for transforming the first 8 strategic committees as listed in Board Document #2.  This includes keeping some strategic committees as-is (Awards Committee Nominating Committee, Awards & Selection Oversight Committee, Competencies Task Force, President’s Planning Taskforce, School and Public Library Cooperation Interdivisional Committee), expanding others (Division and Membership Promotion Committee, Research Committee) and the transitioning to more of a short-term structure for the Summer Learning Taskforce.  These changes will not go into effect until July 2017, as the next several months will involve working out a transition plan.

The Board dedicated the rest of the meeting to discussing the recommendations for the transitioning of the selection committees (Amazing Audio, Best Fiction, Graphic Novels, Quick Picks).  Feedback some members sent to me or other board members was shared with the board before the meeting, and it was agreed that some changes needed to be made to the proposal put to the Board.  The first change is that the transition will be broken down in phases, with the first phase beginning in 2017 with Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, Popular Paperbacks, and Quick Picks for Young Adults. The second change was to specify the types of representatives who should be a part of the work group that will be assembled to create a transition plan between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1, and submit it to the board for approval no later than Dec. 1, 2016. The board document was a proposal that did not seek to flesh out all of the details and logistics–the work group will be the one to do just that.  The work group will consist of representation from selection committees, the Hub, the Organizations & Bylaws committee, the board, and YALSA staff.  The work group, which I will appoint, will use the feedback shared by members and the general proposal from the board to create a transition plan that retains the collection development and readers’ advisory aspects of the lists, while improving the timeliness and relevancy of them, as well as expanding opportunities for member participation. Do you want to help create the transition plan and have time available to work virtually on it over the next four months? If so, email me by August 25 at gsarahthelibrarian @ gmail.com with the subject line: Volunteer – Selection Transition Work Group and include an explanation about why you’re a good fit for the work group.

The Board also briefly discussed some of the misperceptions circulating about the proposal.  A common one seemed to be that Hub bloggers are not library staff or YALSA members.  Per YALSA policy, however, all bloggers for the Hub and the YALSAblog must be YALSA members or staff.  The exception is the occasional guest blogger that is recruited to write about a particular topic.  Another issue was confusion about teen feedback, including in-person sessions at conferences and virtually.  The proposal seeks to expand teen feedback, not limit or remove it.  Additionally, the proposal does not seek to eliminate input from the broader community, such as what is currently being done through field suggestions.

The board ran out of time and was not able to discuss the last committee on the document, the Teens’ Top Ten Committee.  So, the board will be discussing that at a later date.

These latest board proposals on member engagement are the result of about a year’s worth of discussions, data-gathering and organizational planning work by the board, exploring how best to adopt a “teens first” approach to YALSA’s work in order to better support members and to advance teen services so that all teens are prepared for college, careers and life.  The August meeting wasn’t the first time this issue had come up for discussion. Re-thinking member participation and organizational structure (including committees) has been discussed multiple times in multiple venues throughout 2015 and 2016.  For example, member meetings, like the “What’s New in YALSA and How You can be a Part of It” session in Orlando, and virtual member town halls were offered in Dec., Feb. and June to give members a chance to talk and learn about the new organizational plan, re-thinking member participation opportunities, and re-structuring the organization so that it’s better positioned to carry out the work of the plan.  In addition, multiple board members have blogged previously about these issues on the YALSAblog in an effort to keep the membership informed.

If you’re interested in this issue, want to learn more, and/or want to get involved, don’t forget the next Virtual Member Town Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 17,  from 3 – 4 pm, eastern.  The town hall will be an opportunity for YALSA members to learn more about the outcomes of the Board meeting on Aug. 1 and to explore ways to get involved in expanding and transforming member volunteer opportunities so that there are more virtual, short-term and opt-in opportunities.  These next 12 months or so will be one of flux for YALSA as we all work together to re-envision the organization, and it’s a great time for members to share their ideas and input.  Information on how to access the virtual town hall space will be sent out via the weekly YALSA eNews that goes out each Wed. or you can contact yalsa@ala.org to request the access information.

Stay tuned to the YALSAblog for further information and updates from the Board, and thank you for all you do for teens!  If you can’t make the August town hall, we’ll record it and share out the link, but hopefully you can make the next one! It’s scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 5-6 pm, eastern.  And, as always, if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, as I can provide you with the most up to date and accurate information about what’s going on with the board.  I’m happy to answer questions or hear feedback!

Be on the lookout for a blog post coming soon from President-Elect Sandra Hughes-Hassell about the opening of the volunteer form for committees that start work in Feb. 2017, including Best Fiction for Young Adults and Great Graphic Novels!

About Sarah Hill

Sarah is the Information Services Librarian at Lake Land College, a rural community college in Illinois. She is happily serving as YALSA Immediate Past President. You can follow her on Twitter at @glibrarian.
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