2017 marks a milestone in my career. It’s been 10 years since I worked in a library! I started working in my local library in high school, shelving books and preparing materials for circulation, working my way through different positions before becoming a YA Librarian in 2003. Without knowing it, I landed my dream job! The library climate was very different then…there were far fewer YA librarian positions and even less that were dedicated YA positions (mine was half YA half Volunteer Coordinator). Finding a place to ask questions, gain support, and foster my excitement about serving this great population became a critical part of my career. I became a YALSA member because I needed what YALSA provided. In 2007, my career took a turn and I became a Consultant for Youth Services in a regional library system in MA. YALSA continued to provide me with opportunities and resources that helped me become a resource to my members. Now, I’m the Consulting and Training Services (CATS) Director for the MA Library System. I haven’t worked directly with youth in ten years, but YALSA is still as important as ever to me.
I’m sure your story is similar to mine. Working with teens is a unique and wonderful experience that fulfils many of us. Many librarians I’ve spoken with say they have “found their calling” when describing why they are YA librarians.
As a member of YALSA, I wanted to give back to the organization that had given me so much. I gained teamwork, leadership, and project management skills as I volunteered and participated in in-person and online committee work. Toward the end of 2009, I saw that YALSA was re-committing itself to not only providing opportunities for librarians serving teens, but to the teens themselves. I wanted to be a part of that conversation. After talking with a few trusted colleagues, I ran for the YALSA board and won a seat on the Board of Directors.
What’s YALSA committee and Board of Director work like? It’s amazing. To be an active member of the organization gives you a new sense of understanding. You’ll gain critical leadership skills (public speaking, project and financial management, working with people of differing viewpoints, time management and more) and be an integral part of the organization. There’s a lot of work, though. Meetings (online and in person), self-directed assignments like reviewing board reports, connecting with other YALSA members, acting as a YALSA rep in your region/district/state, bringing ideas to the table, and balancing big picture thinking with practical library implementation. Library and family support of your role is critical, as travel to conferences is often (but not always) required. You’ll need to manage your work to ensure ample time for committee/board work. Board work is generally 5 hours a month, and more during the months of Midwinter and Annual. Committee work time varies by committee. Conferences will become work time, not session attending time. But you won’t miss out on the learning aspect. What you will learn in a role like this cannot be taught in any session or workshop.
Are you hesitant about this? Good…that means you are thinking seriously about it! But with some support and planning, board work can fit and enhance your professional life. Don’t agree with the votes or thoughts of others? A difference of opinion is welcome, provided that it is done with respect to colleagues as we all move forward to ensure the mission and vision of YALSA is fulfilled.
Being an active member of an organization like YALSA will give you the opportunity to learn more about yourself, while giving back to an organization that is so critical to many of our colleagues working with young adults.
I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns about considering a role as a YALSA Leader. And join us on June 20 for our Open Q and A to learn more about YALSA Governance.
Sarah Sogigian is the Consulting and Training Services Director at the Massachusetts Library System. She has been an active member of YALSA for over 10 years, including serving a 3 year term on the YALSA Board of Directors. She is currently Chair of the Governance Nominating Committee.