2019 YALSA Election: An Interview with Secretary Candidate Josie Watanabe

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 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. You can learn more about ALA elections here.

Name and current position: Josie Watanabe – Interim Youth and Family Services Manager – The Seattle Public Library

What best qualifies you for being Secretary?
I have experience leading workgroups and also contributing to them. One of the best skills that I have is moving work forward and also being very organized—organizational skills seem crucial for this role. I am also interested in learning more about how boards operate and so this will be a good learning experience for me as well.

How do you envision furthering the mission of YALSA as the Secretary?
The thing that I love most about the YALSA mission is keeping teens front and center. As the Youth and Family Services Manager at The Seattle Public Library, my charge is to represent the interest of youth and families throughout the system and I hope to do the same on the YALSA board.

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?
I think a lot about opportunity gaps that youth and families face throughout the country, YALSA can contribute to closing opportunity gaps by supporting library staff to understand community needs and help support community.

What about YALSA’s Organizational Plan excites you most and why?
I am really excited about the continuing education plan, I think that piece is a challenge for library systems all over the country and YALSA has really stepped in to support this work.

How would you embed the concept of “teens first” in the work of the board?
I believe that all decisions, programs, systems and structures need to be designed to help youth and families succeed. In order to do that, we need to help library staff regardless of the size of the library or location strategize and develop a plan to further that mission. We also need to prioritize black, indigenous and youth of color and the intersectionalities that make up their diverse identities and help support library staff to put these teens first.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of the board of directors?
I think I have a diverse background, I have been a teacher, teen librarian, program manager and now a youth services manager. Also, I am uniquely positioned based on my equity, diversity and inclusion work in Seattle to support YALSA in moving forward on their EDI statement and new strategic plan.

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