An Interview with YALSA’s New Executive Director, Tammy Dillard-Steels

Head shot Tammy Dillard-Steels

Tammy Dillard-Steels, YALSA Executive Director

This week YALSA welcomes our new Executive Director, Tammy Dillard-Steels. YALSAblog interviewed her about her past experiences and what she’s looking forward to accomplishing with YALSA.

What drew you to YALSA, specifically?

I made a choice when I made a career change from Health and Safety administration to the non-profit management to dedicate my career to helping those who improve the health of a community and those that live in those neighborhoods.  YALSA and ALA missions are aligned with my personal and career aspirations to serve those who dedicate their careers to making a difference.

The positive impact that libraries and the staff have on young adults and the community drew me into position and my desire to work for YALSA.  As an Association professional, I am internally motivated to help advance, promote and elevate a profession that operates to improve the lives, mind, and future of those they serve.  It is rare to work to for an organization that fights to keep great institutions such as libraries relevant and to assist those that provide services to our future leaders.  Accepting this role is a great opportunity to improve the next generation, provide access and programs to youth is the greatest need.

I look forward to working together with YALSA to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face.

In what ways will this position differ from your previous leadership roles?

The role of Executive Director (ED) at YALSA is similar to my previous leadership roles; I have developed budgets, managed staff, implemented strategic plans, lead advocacy initiatives and fundraised in previous positions.  The uniqueness about this position is that I have not encountered before is leading an association that is a division of a larger association.

How can we equip colleagues to be effective advocates of teens in the library?

An effective advocate understands that they have a voice, using it has power and makes a difference.  In my opinion, library staff can help educate teens on the importance and power of their voice; and how to navigate through our political system.

Guiding teens through analyzing a situation, preparing them for the experience and allowing them to represent their concerns or the library causes are great ways that staff can get teens involved and become effective advocates too.

As the ED for Urban Sustainability Authority, I trained youth in our afterschool program to educate and Illinois politician on the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke and advocate for them to sign the Illinois Smoke-Free Act.  The teens were enthusiastic about sharing their own experiences and how smoking affects them.  It was a life-changing moment for the teen and the community.  They learned their voice and view was important.  They embraced the importance of advocacy.

What are you looking forward to learning more about as you settle into your role? 

I have spent numerous hours in the library as a young adult reading, researching and hanging out.  I did not have the internet, Google and virtual friends.  I am looking forward to is learning the new trends and ways that library staff engages today youths to utilize the resources, programs, and services that libraries offer.   I want to help YALSA promote those practices to help improve the image and increase the usage of libraries for teens.

What will be the most exciting aspect of your new role? The most challenging?

I am truly excited growing YALSA membership, building partnerships; and expanding the equity, diversity and inclusion programs.

My current challenge is to prepare for ALA’s Annual Conference, which is less than eight weeks away, providing great service as I am learning my responsibilities.

What are you reading? What are you listening to or watching?

I am reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.

I have opted to purchased H.E.R. cd versus streaming it and listen to it in my car.   I love the song, Focus; it relaxes me as I drive.

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