2019 YALSA Election: An Interview with Board Member Candidate Ryan Moniz

Get ready to vote in this year’s YALSA election! To help you make informed decisions, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2019 YALSA Governance candidates. Voting will take place from Monday, March 11 through Wednesday, April 3. To help you further prepare for the election, be sure to check out the YALSA Candidates’ Forum on March 7th!

Serving one-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. You can learn more about ALA elections here.

Name and current position: Ryan Moniz – Learning & Growth Librarian – Markham Public Library

What best qualifies you for being a Board Member?
The short answer would be my commitment to the work I do. It would be easy to list all the personal qualities and characteristics you look for in a candidate like time-management, a team player, good under pressure and all the other buzz words. My entire career is built on a simple guiding principle: do good. I believe it isn’t always possible to do good by doing what’s easy and I pride myself on challenging myself to never do things the “easy” way just because I can. I’m someone who is committed to providing a voice for underserved populations and a hand-up to those in need of help so that they may have an equal opportunity to succeed. I believe that is exactly what is needed from a Board Member.

How do you envision furthering the mission of YALSA as a Board Member?
I always joke around with colleagues that I’ve never considered myself a traditional “librarian.” I don’t have extensive knowledge of authors and books so my bibliotherapy skills may be lacking when compared to others. My background is working with disabled populations and at-risk youth and I’ve always felt that their needs aren’t part of the important conversations we have, specifically when it comes to library services. Regardless of any position or title I’ve held I have always spoken out about the need for more inclusive services, and that is exactly what I plan on doing as a Board Member. I’ve never been comfortable doing anything simply because it’s the easiest option, whether it’s a family storytime or job skills program for teens. Library services can never be one-size-fits-all, especially when your audience includes teens and young adults. YALSA is an innovative organization, but we must never become complacent. I always challenge my colleagues to ask tough questions and find ways to make improvements that work not just for one segment of the population, but for all members of our community. As a Board Member I plan on pushing the Board to take the necessary steps to advocate on behalf of all those we strive to serve.

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?
As a Canadian librarian I get to share a unique perspective with my American colleagues. I know, Canada doesn’t seem like it would be that different, but there are many significant fundamental differences regarding our library infrastructure. I believe understanding those differences are key to innovating the services we offer in our respective countries. Fundraising isn’t as much of a concern for Canadian libraries, so we don’t always speak about the importance of advocating for libraries in our communities. In America, not all systems have the luxury of being able to provide staff with necessary training so that they may provide effective customer service and gain the ability to adapt those services based on the needs of their customers. This is just a brief example, but it demonstrates the need to have different views, opinions, and experiences on a Board. I know my professional experience in the social service industry as well as my perspective as a librarian North of the border would help to push for responsive initiatives and innovative services for our shared community; teens and young adults everywhere.

What about YALSA’s Organizational Plan excites you most and why?
I’ve spent the majority of my career in program and service delivery, so it goes without saying that leading the transformation of teen library services is what I’m most excited about. Our services have an ability to enhance the quality of life for teens and young adults in communities across North America. It’s more than just a good program, I’m talking about effective training for front-line staff so that they have the tools necessary to properly serve their users. I’ve always felt both go hand-in-hand. When you have staff that are tuned in and interested in making a change, they’ll be more engaged and open to learning. When you learn you change how you think and how you work. Those changes can lead to some of the most innovative programs and services imaginable.

How would you embed the concept of “teens first” in the work of the board?
Ensure that teens have a voice. No one enjoys being spoken for. As a kid I would get so irritated when people just assumed that they knew what I wanted or what was “best” for me, especially when they never asked for my opinion. It’s easy to get caught up in that pattern of behaviour as an adult. We think we know because we’re a bit older and a tad bit wiser, so we start believing we know what’s best. In my community I always ensure that our teens have a seat at the table when the conversation is about something that would directly impact them. Some of the best ideas for programs and services I’ve had were a result of community conversations with young people in my city.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of the board of directors?
It may sound cheesy to say, but there’s no going wrong with anyone on the ballot. Every person who has submitted their name has done so because they care about teen services and they want to do what they can to improve our industry. It’s not an easy task so I applaud all of them for taking the first step. Like my peers, I care deeply about serving teens and young adults not just in my small Canadian suburb, but across the world. Being a teen is 2019 is difficult and I believe that libraries are in a unique position to be more than a place for books, but a safe welcoming space that can support the healthy development of young people everywhere. Wherever I go I know I will work tirelessly to help make that possible, and if you allow me, I’d like to work towards that goal as a Board Member.

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