2018 YALSA Elections: An Interview with Board of Directors-at-Large Candidate Colleen Seisser

Get ready to vote in this year’s YALSA election!  To help you make informed decisions, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2018 YALSA Governance candidates. Voting will take place from Monday, March 12 through Wednesday, April 4.  To help you further prepare for the election, be sure to check out the recording of the Candidates’ Virtual Town Hall and read the sample ballot.

Serving three-year terms, YALSA Board members are responsible for jointly determining YALSA’s current and future programs, policies, and serving as liaisons to YALSA’s committees, juries, taskforces and advisory boards. Members work year round, and attend in-person meetings at ALA’s Midwinter and Annual Conferences. A full description of Board duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Colleen Seisser, Chair 2017-2018 Division and Membership Promotion Committee

What best qualifies you for being a member of the YALSA Board of Directors?
I have been a volunteer for YALSA since 2012. As I have grown in my leadership roles in YALSA through the years, I have had the opportunity to learn about how the Board functions. As Chair of the Division and Membership Promotion Committee for the last two years, the work we have done has focused on YALSA’s goal of increasing membership. As a result, I have become very knowledgeable about all the resources and benefits of a YALSA membership, and all the behind the scenes work that is done by the Board and by YALSA staff to keep membership benefits useful and to keep members active and involved so they can get the most out of their membership. This will serve me well since this work has allowed me to focus on the YALSA member and figuring out what is important to them as well as potential members.

Also, as the Chair of the Division and Membership Promotion committee, I have served as liaison to various ALA committees and roundtables these last two years. Last year I was the liaison to ALA’s Recruitment Assembly, HRDR Advisory Committee, ALA Membership Promotion Taskforce, and ALA’s New Members Roundtable. This year, I am once again liaison to the ALA’s New Members Roundtable and continue to be a part of ALA Membership Promotion Taskforce as needed. This work as liaison has required me to attend virtual and in-person meetings at conferences and to represent YALSA and report on the membership recruitment and promotion activities we do as a Division. It has also exposed me to various other ALA committees’ work and activities, thus broadening my scope of understanding about the American Library Association and how YALSA fits into the bigger picture.

Talk about the experiences and expertise you’re bringing to the position in terms of leadership, nonprofit or association governance, and strategic thinking.
I have extensive experience with goal setting, strategic planning, and measuring impact.  For five years, while working at the Teen Services Librarian in my previous position, I was required to set annual personal goals and annual goals for Teen Services.  I was required to write monthly reports about Teen Services activities, news and updates, accomplishments, and specifically work towards strategic plan goals. I had to write annual reports evaluating the teen collections, teen advisory board, and programming for teens in the library.  I was involved in the strategic planning that resulted in a redesign of the library’s second floor and a creation of a new teen space. I was required to write program evaluations for every teen program and how it accomplished the goals of programming within the Library’s strategic plan and how it also met the mission statement of the library and Teen Services. All of this experience has served me well in my current position. One of my roles is to co-lead one of my library’s strategic pillar teams. The team is about 30 staff members and our goals focus on how our library customers can use library services to express their creativity and create, share, and enjoy content.

Outside of my work experience, while volunteering for YALSA for the last six years I have been Chair of the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee in 2014-15 and Chair of Division and Membership Promotion committee for the last two years. While holding these Chair positions, I have worked with the Board and YALSA Staff to accomplish changes and improvements upon the committee processes and workflows. This includes requesting Board action to change parameters of submission and evaluation criteria for the Amazing Audiobook Committee because of digital audiobook submissions that were becoming more regular in 2014-15 and working with YALSA staff to change the direction of work of the Division and Membership Promotion committee so it better fit within the new Organizational Plan.

How do you envision furthering the mission of YALSA as a member of the Board of Directors?
I want to ensure that YALSA continues to give the support and resources to librarians and library staff who work with teens that YALSA has given me through the last 10 years. I have had various experiences while being a teen librarian of feeling lost as to how to get or find support for ideas or being put in some tough positions where I had to stand up for the teen community I served. Every time this happened, I had resources and contacts at YALSA that I was able to turn to and get the help I needed. One way I hope to ensure this stays forefront of my mind if elected to Board is by maintaining a teens’ first point of view when thinking about the impact YALSA can have on teens, libraries, and their communities.

What are some ways that being a member of the YALSA Board can help you serve as an even better connector to helping libraries become thriving learning environments for/with teens?
One thing that I have been interested in lately is how teens can be global citizens and advocates and activists in their communities. We have seen an obvious demonstration of this recently with the Parkland students.  In my past work as a teen librarian, I struggled with how to get my teens involved with their community and issues that directly affected them. I had the teens that wanted to make a difference but it was hard to find the pathways to help them do this. One thing I would hope is that as a Board Member I could continue the focus recently on the work that YALSA has been doing in being responsive to current issues and day to day events or problems that our teens encounter and then sharing timely information and resources about how the library can help our teens make a difference and also be a safe place for them.

I feel strongly that libraries can play a vital role in giving teens a community connection that they can use to explore resources and find information on how they can contribute to their community as well as give them the real world skills and opportunities to practice being global citizens and being ready for their future–whether that’s through community connections, job preparedness, college prep, or teaching technology and making skills they may not have access to elsewhere.

What about YALSA’s Organizational Plan excites you most and why?
Much of the work I do currently with the Division and Membership Promotion Committee for the Organization Plan focuses on increasing YALSA membership and attracting new members. Currently, that is my passion, though I think the Plan as a whole is helping the Division maintain a high level of focused work and resources. As the DMP Chair, I have learned so much in the past two years about membership trends and activities, both within YALSA and ALA as a whole. I have seen this year how communicating all the services that YALSA has to offer as well as the personal stories about member benefits is an important aspect of recruitment and retention of members.  I am passionate about YALSA as an organization and the vast benefits it offers its members and I will bring this passion to the Board if I am elected.

How would you embed the concept of “teens first” in the work of the board?
I pride myself on having a strong value of patron first service and constantly evaluating and thinking of library services as a patron. This would apply to how I would like to work on the Board by maintaining the mindset that the work that we do must focus on teens and how libraries can best support the teens in their community.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of the board of directors?
I have gained so much from YALSA during my career as a Teen Services Librarian, especially the resources and networking that were invaluable to my day to day work. Now that I no longer work directly with teens, I want to stay connected to this field of work and give back to YALSA all that it has given to me. Currently, I have the opportunity to look at the big picture of Teen Services in libraries, and especially at how YALSA helps all of its members. No longer being on the front lines day to day is a breath of fresh air that has given me a wider perspective as to how vital Teen Services is to every community, and it has allowed me to see the different ways libraries can serve teens. I believe that I have the experience and the work ethic that is needed to be a valuable Board Member, and I know that my many years of volunteer experience in YALSA and as a Teen Services Librarian will serve me well.

About Meaghan Darling

Meaghan is the Youth Services Librarian at the Sparta Public Library. She served on YALSA's 2017 Excellence in Nonfiction Award Committee and is currently a member of the Teens' Top Ten virtual committee and the 2019 Great Graphic Novels Blogging Team.
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