YALSA’s commitment to serving the needs of our ever changing teen population informs everything we do. Our Vision Statement says in part:
“In every library in the nation, quality library service to young adults is provided by a staff that understands and respects the unique informational, educational and recreational needs of teenagers. Equal access to information, services and materials is recognized as a right not a privilege.
To fulfill this vision YALSA realized the need to be more intentional about efforts to make our leadership reflect the population we serve. In other words, to provide the best possible leadership for our organization and the best possible service to teens, voices that represent the teens we serve must be at the table.
Overall the US population is getting more and more diverse, but the population of those under 18 is already close to “majority minority.” As of 2014, 48% of the US population aged 18 and under belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. The percentage is expected to rise to 64.4% by 2060. Staying mindful of our vision, YALSA’s leadership created the Board Diversity Task Force, charged with studying the question, examining our practices, and making recommendations for addressing this issue. The Task Force is chaired by former YALSA Board Fellow Nicola MacDonald, currently a Library Manager at New York Public Library. Task Force members include Trixie Dantis, a Teen Librarian at Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois and an incoming YALSA Board Fellow; Alexandra Annen, Adult Services manager at Homer Township Library in Illinois; and Carla Riemer, a librarian at Claremont Middle School in Oakland, CA.
The first step was to agree on a working definition of diversity. It was critical to formalize our understanding that diversity goes far beyond culture. We proposed the following:
YALSA strives to be inclusive of a range of libraries and youth-serving organizations within a variety of geographic locations. YALSA further commits to being inclusive of representation from diverse cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds, professional skill and experience levels, economic statuses, ages, ideologies, gender, sexual orientations, and abilities.
The next step was to examine our process for nominating board members. It became clear early on that the task force also needed to examine the committee appointment process. Given that board members serve on committees before reaching this level of leadership, it was important to put diversity aware practices in place here too, in order to fill the pipeline.
The board has approved the following updates to the Board Governance Nominating Committee and Awards Nominating Committee charges, as recommended by the task force:
- the process of selecting candidates will incorporate attention to YALSA’s working definition of diversity
- education about committee and board service will include outreach via multiple social outlets as well as partnership with round tables and interest groups to enable reaching a broader range of potential candidates
- a commitment to diversity and inclusion will be added to the list of candidate qualifications
- experience working with diverse populations will be incorporated into candidate evaluations
- the process will be examined after each election cycle with an eye to making any changes needed to improve effectiveness
The Board Diversity Task Force will continue working through June and will submit further recommendations to the board regarding ways to help reach our goal of improving leadership diversity. The end result should be opening the door wider and giving voice to more points of view. We firmly believe that this is not a zero sum game. Adding voices to our leadership enhances our ability to grow and change along with our teen population, keeping us relevant and able to provide the support teen librarians need in order to “understand and respect the unique informational, educational and recreational needs of teenagers.”