Candidates for 2021 Election – YALSA Director-at-Large part 1

Hello members!

The YALSA/ALA election kicks off on Monday, March 8. Over the course of this week, we will publish interviews with all of the candidates. Please take a moment to read through these, and most importantly, VOTE when you receive your electronic ballot from ALA.

Enormous thanks goes out to member Sarah Sogigian for conducting these interviews!

The live Candidates’ Forum will take place via Zoom on Friday, March 5 at 3pm ET / 2pm CT / noon PT. This event will include all YALSA candidates, along with the three candidates for President-Elect of the American Library Association. Please register to attend the Forum.

The next two candidates are for YALSA Board Director-at-Large. Today we hear from Melanie Wachsmann and Traci Glass, and tomorrow we will publish interviews with two more Director-at-Large candidates, Abigail Phillips and Tess Wilson.

Name and current position:
Melanie Wachsmann, Assistant Library Director [Harris County Public Library, Houston, TX]

What best qualifies you for being on the Board of Directors?
MW: I have been a member of YALSA throughout my entire library career and have served in various capacities, including selection committees, award committees, and as a Teens’ Top Ten sponsor. Being a member of the Board of Directors would provide me the opportunity to continue to support YALSA, its members, and the teens they serve in a new capacity.

How do you envision furthering YALSA’s mission if elected to this position?
MW: I have always viewed YALSA as an extended network of librarians who provided me with information and new ideas. If elected, I would strive to encourage more members to participate in sharing their own ideas and experiences, as well as, investigate methods to increase membership.

What would be the most exciting aspect of this position? The most
challenging?
MW: All my experiences with YALSA have been exciting in some way or another. The most exciting aspect of the position is that it would give me a view of the intricacies of how the organization works with its members and ALA to carry out their mission statement.
The most challenging aspect of being a new member in a leadership position, is the introductory period where it is important to listen to understand the issues, the operating procedures, and the workflow of the committee. Having served on various committees, I am comfortable with asking others for help and clarification and enjoy learning from those who have more experience and knowledge to share.

Please share a recent example(s) where you made a shift to better focus on the current needs of teens.
MW: In response to the pandemic, I have worked to move programming and information to a digital space, including outreach book clubs at local high schools where I join them via Zoom.

What is the most pressing issue facing YALSA today?
MW: The most important issue facing YALSA today is advocating for spaces and programming for all teens, no matter their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and ability.

Name and current position:
Traci Glass, Assistant Director, Lincoln City Libraries, Lincoln, Nebraska

What best qualifies you for being on the Board of Directors?
TG: I first started working for and with teens in 2007, and it has been the most rewarding and honestly, the best part of my professional life. When I started, I was just focused on the day-to-day work that I could see reflected at my library. Programming, collections, outreach, hanging out in the teen room – those were all things that I could actively see affecting the teens that I served. As I started getting more involved in YALSA, first through writing for The Hub and selection committee work, I started to see how this work could help teens I had never met because I’m providing support to library staff who work with teens from everywhere across the globe. That really opened up my eyes to the idea of running for the YALSA Board – I want to provide support to folks who love working with their teens as much as I loved working with mine. The passion I have for this work is something that will never change – providing support, advice, and a helping hand to everyone in YALSA who dedicates their life to making their teens’ lives better through the library is something that is so close to my heart and so important to me. I’ve been active in YALSA for most of my professional life, and while I feel that knowledge is helpful, it’s my excitement and love for this work that qualifies and excites me about the possibility of being elected as a Director-at-Large.

How do you envision furthering YALSA’s mission if elected to this position?
TG: YALSA’s mission – to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives – is something I’ve strived for in my library work for teens and in the work I’ve done for YALSA over the years. I want to help to affect change by making YALSA the gold standard in the library world and beyond regarding issues regarding teens and how libraries serve them. Working with fellow Board members on strengthening our commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion by incorporating those concepts into everything we do! Providing more materials for library staff to use that will help them in their job and when working with their administration! I remember how exciting it was to share the Futures report with my manager and director. I had so many ideas (so many I think I overwhelmed them!), so having those ideas reflected in that report showed my administration that we were on the right path. That we could serve teens well in a variety of ways. I want all teens to feel welcome and supported in their libraries, and I want the dedicated library staff who dedicate each day to that to feel supported by their organization.

What would be the most exciting aspect of this position? The most challenging?
TG: The most exciting aspect of this position would be to work with a team of people who are passionate about teens and their libraries! I have so enjoyed working with the YALSA Board through my time as Board Fellow, interim Director-at-Large, and now through my work as the Chair of the Financial Advancement Committee. It’s been so fun and rewarding and challenging and exciting to work with so many different people from different parts of the county and world – and, all in the pursuit of making teens’ lives better and making it so library staff can lean on us for support and guidance and help as they work with their teens. I think the challenging part would be that we can’t make everything perfect for teens and library staff – but, I want to try – I want to do that work with people I respect and who I know care about teens as much as I do.

Please share a recent example(s) where you made a shift to better focus on the
current needs of teens.
TG: I love supporting the staff in my library system in the creation and implementation of great spaces and programs for teens. Based on personal experience as well as what I’ve heard from many YALSA members, teen services are often relegated to a place below services to adults and children. I think the most important things I can do as a manager is to celebrate all the ways the library staff I work with serve teens in our community and help bring their awesome ideas and practices to fruition in our libraries. Recently, our staff introduced curated bundled book subscriptions for teens to help get books into their hands during this time when they can’t come into the library. And, I’ve loved brainstorming ways to keep our TAB members and teen volunteers engaged and involved during COVID with our branch managers. Personally, since I love, love, love comics and graphic novels, I am working with our Support Services department to get all of our graphic novels out of the 741.5s and into their own dedicated collections. The most important one and the one I’m tackling first is the comics and manga collection for teens. I can’t wait until teens can easily browse our graphics collections. I also really want to start up a comics book club for teens and a mini Comic Con for them. One day! I’m always excited to try something new or support staff with a unique project when it’s dedicated to serving our teens.

What is the most pressing issue facing YALSA today?
TG: This isn’t a new thing, but I really think that declining YALSA membership, engagement, and volunteer involvement are all things that we really need to address immediately. Why do we have so many Twitter followers, but not the same amount of members? What can we do to show our members that what we offer is helpful and different and important and can help them in their day to days? The pandemic has exacerbated this – so many library staff and teens are struggling, and we are all just trying to get through each day. Coming together, as people who care about teens, can make things better. I think, for now, we have to focus on supporting each other and building a community together.