A Time to Connect: My Experience at the 2020 Virtual YALSA Symposium

The following blog post is written by one of YALSA’s 2020 Symposium Registration Grant student winners, Esperanza Pacheco.

My name is Esperanza Pacheco, and I am the Assistant Director/Young Adult Librarian for the Englewood Public Library in New Jersey. My community was super proud and excited that I was selected to attend the virtual YALSA YA Services Symposium from November 6-8 this year.

On the Friday of the Symposium, I started looking into which prerecorded sessions I could log into to begin my conference experience. Immediately, the session title which caught my eye was #DiverseReading: Encouraging Teen Readers with Instagram. I’ve created Instagram accounts for three libraries and am constantly seeking ways to use it, as well as other social media platforms to attract teens’ attention towards reading. I had the pleasure of e-meeting Rachel Milburn, who recorded this video for us. She is the Teen Services Librarian at the Frankfort Community Public Library, Frankfort, Indiana. Instantly, through our library accounts, I followed her pages on Instagram and Twitter. I was so impressed by how much time and deliberation went into her posts. She had one title that had basketballs surrounding the books on the shelf. This is a great idea as it draws immediate attention on an app, where people are constantly scrolling and only stopping for something alluring to the eye. I kept in mind some of the details she mentioned when it comes to using Instagram professionally, such as switching over to a business account in order to view the background Insights of your account interaction and engagement. It is interesting to see the outliers in how many thousands of views her top post garnered, which could have been due to the title of the book she posted or perhaps how she set up the post.

The next recorded session I tuned into was called Our Voices, Our Protest: Migrant Stories in Latinx Young Adult Literature. I was especially excited to view this one because I was able to place these authors’ titles right into a cart for my library to purchase; the beauty of online services! The authors were Aida Salazar, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Daniel Aleman, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Yamile Saied Mendez, and Ernesto Cisneros. I love sessions like these that teach me about authors I may not have known or seen. Being able to ask these authors questions in real time was a real treat. I think it is imperative for both sides too, as authors get the benefit of hearing readers’ feedback.

On Saturday, I tuned into the 2020 Edwards Event where we got to hear from award-winning author Steve Sheinkin, who wrote titles like The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. He spoke of his passion towards writing history accurately, yet also in an entertaining way in which young adults can connect. Especially these days, it is important to remember how long this country has been fighting and how oppression always comes to light, and therefore should not be ignored.

I also participated in the Reaching Marginalized Teens Through Novels in Verse program with authors Margarita Engle, Nikki Grimes, and Padma Venkatraman. This was especially special as the first young adult book I ever hosted for teens at our teen book club was A Time to Dance, the verse novel by Padma Venkatraman.

My first teen book club at the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library, NJ – September 23, 2014

While attending the program, there were many great ideas and questions. For example, one librarian asked in the comments how one can get teen readers to read in verse even if that is typically something the librarian does not read. One suggestion was to perhaps try to listen to the audiobooks of the titles.

All in all, I am very appreciative of the opportunity I had to attend the Symposium. I met the goals I set out to accomplish when I applied to the grant to attend, which was so stay connected to librarians across the country; something very important to me. Through thick and thin, librarians are always looking for new ways to adapt and reinvent themselves in their services to the public. I am grateful that this Symposium was not only an example of this, but also gave us ideas and tools we can implement in our communities as well.

Esperanza Pacheco
Assistant Director/Young Adult Librarian
Englewood (New Jersey) Public Library