YALSA President’s Program: Supporting Youth Activism in Your Library

Each year the YALSA president’s program serves a two-fold purpose: it is a membership meeting providing members with updates and highlighting YALSA’s accomplishments for the year under the leadership of its president, and it includes a session encompassing the theme the YALSA president has selected for the year.

During the membership meeting, YALSA President Sandra Hughes-Hassell, shared a long list of work put forth by YALSA this past year, much of which centered around equity, diversity and inclusion.

Some of the resources you can find through the YALSA website or created by YALSA around equity, diversity, and inclusion include:

During the panel presentation aligned with Sandra Hughes-Hassell’s theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement, speakers presented on the social justice work being done for and with teens at their libraries. Presenters included Gabbie Barnes, YOUmedia Manager and Teen Services Librarian at Hartford Public Library (CT), Jose Cruz, Middle School Services Librarian at Oak Park Public Library (IL), and Julie Stivers, School Librarian at Mount Vernon Middle School (NC).

One of the projects that Gabbie highlighted was the teen-led “Tell ‘Em Why You Mad” unconference led by YOUmedia Hartford teens in partnership with Grow Hartford Youth Program and COMPASS Youth Peacebuilders. The teens heavily utilized the Black Panther’s 10-point plan. As Gabbie notes, “I’m most proud of the hard work that the teens who organized the event put forth. I’m proud of their desire to honor their elders with the 10-point plan. I’m proud that we were able to support their ideas and their goals with funds, space, and resources.”

Jose shared many insights into his social justice work with the youth of Oak Park, and the library’s Living History Project, which helps teens develop 21st century skills such as critical thinking and public speaking skills all while engaging them around historical social movements in the U.S. As Jose notes, “What’s really interesting about the Living History Program is that it links social skills and critical thinking skills with the development of a critical consciousness. Mr. Brooks is attentive to the social emotional learning needs of the youth while framing it within the context of critical thinking and the historical context of learning about the Black Panther Party. One of the goals of the program is to equip young people with the skills to become effective agents of change.”

Julie focused on many projects including three eighth grade students’ work on the #LibFive, which according to Julie was a “student-led training for librarians.” The students–Jaida Morris, Cesar Falcon, and Jose Gomez–developed “five ways libraries can build inclusive programs” that are relevant to all libraries. They include:

  • See me! Listen to me.
  • Show me on the shelves and walls. Read those books yourself.
  • Graphic Novels and Manga are not Extra.
  • Show the joy in our stories.
  • Make the library a sorting free zone.

Adrienne L. Strock works at the New Orleans Public Library and currently serves on YALSA’s Presidential Advisory and Division & Membership Promotion Taskforces

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