Rethinking YALSA: Reorganization for the Future!

This year is a time of transition and YALSA staff and the YALSA board have been busy since Annual revamping the organizational structure. We’ve written about what’s going on before, but I wanted to post another update. Check out this PowerPoint slideshow to see how the Board is re-envisioning YALSA to support our new mission. The difference between the current organizational structure on Slide 2 and the future organizational structure on Slide 3 is big!   Would you like to be a part of it? Are you interested in advocacy, cultural competence, diversifying & expanding the membership, fund and partner development, leadership development, leading the transformation of teen services or state level outreach and engagement? If so, complete this short form. After the organizational realignment is complete next year, we’ll be looking for members to participate in short-term opportunities in those categories–if you have an idea, be sure to share it on the form. Look for more information coming soon on this blog!  While the reorganization involves more than just committees, most of the questions I’ve received are about those, so here is some information that may be helpful:

What is happening with YALSA committees?

YALSA’s new organizational plan calls for restructuring the association in order to better meet the needs of today’s teens, members and libraries.  As a result, all 50+ committees were evaluated by the YALSA Board earlier this year and the majority of them are changing.  Via a member survey earlier this year, the majority of members indicated that the kind of volunteer opportunities they want most are short term, opt in, and virtual, yet committees as they are now are none of these things.  We also know from an environmental scan that many of the resources YALSA currently provides do not meet the needs of many of today’s diverse teens.  Both of these issues—member needs and teen diversity—are driving the committee restructuring.  What does this mean for YALSA’s six award committees (Alex, Edwards, Morris, Nonfiction, Odyssey, Printz)?  Nothing.  The board did not discuss the idea of changing these committees, so they are staying the same.  What does this mean for YALSA’s selection committees? (Amazing Audiobooks, Best Books, Great Graphic Novels, Popular Paperbacks, Quick Picks).  It means that the process for how YALSA selects these materials will change, including that the old committee structure will go away and be replaced by virtual participation.  None of these lists are being sunsetted or are going away.  The change will occur in phases, with some lists (AA, PP, QP) transitioning in 2017 and the rest in 2018.  The general goals are to provide these lists in a way that is more user friendly, more timely, better addresses the needs of diverse teens, and provides increased opportunities for member and teen involvement (especially virtually).  In order to achieve these broad goals, the board envisions leveraging YALSA’s blog, The Hub, as evolving into the one-stop-shop for showcasing the lists (as well as other materials) and for facilitating member and teen participation.  The board acknowledges that the Hub will need to expand and change to accommodate these goals.

How do the changes to selection committees benefit teens, members and libraries?

This change would dramatically improve service for and with today’s diverse teens by providing

  • More timely information.  The Hub will have new content daily, as opposed to recommended lists that take a year to make.
  • Information in an easier to use format.  Currently, YALSA’s selected lists are not searchable on the web site.  When they get transitioned to the Hub, they will be placed in a brand new searchable database that will launch in January 2017.
  • New resources in order to meet the needs of today’s diverse teens.  For example, twenty-two percent of American youth don’t speak English as their first language—what resources should we offer that will address the needs of this sizable group?
  • The flexibility to embrace new formats as they emerge.  Establishing a new committee to create a new list takes months to go through due process.  YALSA members helping with the lists on the Hub will regularly scan the environment to identify and create resources to help libraries embrace the next big thing.
  • New and diverse voices will have the chance to participate in the materials evaluation process, which we believe will lead to stronger resources.  Currently, only 10% of the YALSA membership can afford to travel to two ALA conferences per year, a requirement for most selection and award committees. The change will allow not only for greater participation, but more diverse participation, because the financial barrier will be removed.
  • New resources for library staff beyond collection development and readers’ advisory.  By embracing a fully online format, YALSA can free up resources and create efficiencies that will enable us to address other needs of library staff, such as help with advocacy, finding funding, and building cultural competency skills to better serve today’s diverse teens.

How the process for determining the selected lists change and what will the new Hub will look like?

A taskforce made up of YALSA members is currently working out the vision and logistics for that now, so we don’t know the answers yet.  It was critical to the board to take the step to establish a taskforce of members to work through this issue, so that members themselves could lead the way in creating the new vision for YALSA’s selected lists.  They will have a draft proposal ready to share some time in November, and it will be available through the YALSAblog for people to read and share feedback.  In addition, since the changes are happening in two phases, we expect that we will use what we learn in year one to make improvements in year two.

How you can keep up to date on what’s happening?

Updates are posted periodically on the YALSAblog by me and other board members.  You can read my most recent post on the issue and also check out updates in my monthly President’s Report, which is also posted on the YALSAblog.  Everyone is also always welcome to contact YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke directly at or me at


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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