About Kate Mcnair

YALSA Board Member 2015-2018

Speak Up for Teens!

Two great opportunities are on the horizon for advocates for teens.

ALA Policy Corps

ALA President Jim Neal has launched a new initiative that is committed to building a small and passionate crew of library advocates. The 10 to 12 ALA members selected for this impactful group will become experts in explaining the importance of libraries to colleagues, legislators, funders and influencers. Policy Corps members will be provided specialized training in speaking to these constituents and will be coached into becoming advocacy experts.

This is an amazing opportunity to highlight how libraries help teens overcome the challenges they face! Check out ALA’s website to learn more about the qualities of an ideal candidate and apply by November 3.

District Days Taskforce

The District Days Taskforce is seeking member volunteers for work April-September 2018. If you are interested in advocacy and want to be a leader without having to travel, please volunteer for the District Days Taskforce.

District Days is YALSA’s August initiative to encourage members to advocate for and with teens through local engagement with elected officials (including members of Congress who are on recess). Studies show that in-person meetings with informed constituents can have a huge impact on legislative decisions. Help provide YALSA members with the statistics, resources, training, tools and best practices they need to build relationships with elected officials around the critical role libraries play in supporting successful teens.

Learn more and volunteer by December 1!

Advocacy Veteran Meaghan Hunt

Congress is on recess, members are back in their home states and they want to hear from you! During District Days, YALSA has all the tools you need to advocate for teens and libraries! Kate McNair, YALSA Board Member, interviewed Meaghan Hunt about how she connects elected officials to advocate for teens and libraries.

You are a special projects librarian for the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City. Part of that job is working in government relations, what does that entail?
While some libraries are formally a part of their city or county governments, our system is a separate nonprofit organization, governed by a commission of representatives from each municipality in our service area. All that said, we are still funded by tax dollars, so maintaining strong relationships with our government officials is important.

At our library system, we encourage each library manager to build relationships with their local and city governments, and coach them to build confidence in doing so. At the system level, we advocate to state and federal legislators about how library funding impacts their districts and constituents. I attend co-chair the Oklahoma Library Association’s Legislative Committee and also serve as a delegate for ALA’s National Library Legislative Day.

In your government relations role, what are you typically communicating with elected officials about?
On behalf of my library system, I help to coordinate library visits and town hall meetings for elected officials, and ensure they are invited to groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, and similar publicity events. We also share information about services that may be of interest to them specifically; for instance, re-entry programs for veterans, school partnerships, and so on.

As the state’s legislative chair, I help to ensure we have advocates at the state capitol every week during legislative session. Coordinating at the state level is a much different effort, since our association represents both urban systems and rural libraries– but we try to ensure that our members check in with their legislators throughout the year, updating them on how tax dollars are being used to educate constituents of all ages. I believe it is important for them to see public funds in action, doing far more than just checking out dusty books.

What tips and tricks have you found work best when communicating with elected officials and their staff?
Always contact offices as far in advance as possible. Many times it may come down to the wire when you’re scheduling, but you want to get on their radar very early, as these folks receive hundreds of invitations to various events each week.

A good start is filling out the official’s scheduling request form, if they are a high-ranking official and have one on their website. Others staff full-time schedulers or executive assistants who you can contact to arrange a meeting. These staffers tend to be very approachable– they deal with constituents all the time. Make sure they know who you are and make it a point to remember who they are (I once learned the name of a staffer’s pet and it was a great ice-breaker for phone conversations).

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Congress is on break … So we need to be on point!

A few months ago, ALA raised the call to #saveIMLS funding. Dubbed the “fight for libraries” we all worked to tell our representatives and senators how important federal funding for programs that support libraries, the Library Services and Technology Act and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy. We spoke up to ask them to sign dear appropriator letter to preserve funding for these programs. And they listened! The proposed budget includes funding for both of these important programs and will continue to help us create, promote and sustain vital library programs for our communities.

But the fight is not over. Congress just left on recess. So you may think that we can take a break too…but it is more important than ever that we get engaged with our elected officials. Now is your chance, while they are home in your district, to do more than email. You have a chance to show them how important libraries are in the communities they represent. When they go back to D.C. this fall they will have to vote on the budget…and who knows what could get cut at the last minute. Let’s make sure we show members of congress the true value of the library!

While congress is on recess connect with your elected officials. Invite your member of congress to the library to:

  • Visit the library for a tour
  • Attend a back-to-school night
  • Join in a celebration for the end of your summer learning program
  • Create a pop-up office at your library so they can meet with their constituents

YALSA has all  you need to plan a great visit on the wiki’s District Days page .  Of course, we want to bring members of congress into the library to see the impact we have on the community first-hand. If they aren’t available to come to the library, take your message to them:

Nervous about talking to a member of congress or their staff?:

  • Remember, you won’t always be able to meet with your elected official face-to-face. For us YALSA members, this is no stress at all. Their staff are often just out of college (which means hasn’t been that long since they were a teen in the library). And we know how to talk with teens!
  • Prepare what you want to say ahead of time. Check out the 2017 Advocacy Toolkit for some great resources, especially the section titled “Developing & Delivering Your Message.”
  • YALSA has lots of great resources you can take with you to illustrate your point

Everything you need to make an impact on your elected officials this August is available on the District Days wiki. And if you are inspired by one of the ideas above, but you don’t think you have time to do it justice this month, take a look at the schedule to see when your representatives will be home next! Advocacy isn’t just something we do once a year, but something we should be doing as often as possible.

Board Doc #25: Board and Board Member Assessment

As I enter the final year of my board term, I have been reflecting back on how much I have learned and thinking ahead to how much I have to grow. I am proud of the diverse range of experiences that we have on the YALSA Board, we have board members in school libraries, public libraries, state libraries and academia. We have board members that are still pretty new to their career and those who have cultivated their experience to positions in administration. We have board members who have served on other non-profit boards and associations and those who are new to governance. And we support our board members with the best tools to help them succeed.

Last fall, the board began discussing how we wanted to grow and improve as a board as part of the Organizational Plan re-alignment. We wanted to understand our performance as a whole board, as well as our strengths and weaknesses as individual board members. At Midwinter 2017, the board voted to transition our Governance Nominating Committee (which, in the past, cultivated a list of qualified volunteers for governance positions) into a Board Development Committee (which would also care for the professional development of the sitting board members).

I am very excited for the prospects of how our board will improve with the careful shepherding of the new Board Development Committee. At Annual this week, the board will be discussing improvements to the Board Member Self-Assessment and a new board assessment which will help the new Board Development Committee see, holistically, the boards strengths and weaknesses.

If you are wondering what the board is up to at Annual,  you can see the schedule of board meetings and agenda. If you are attending ALA Midwinter and you see a board member (look for our YALSA Board Member ribbons) please come up and say hello! We would love to hear from you!

Kate McNair is a YALSA Board Member. Come see her at the YALSA booth #2731 on Sunday, June 25 12-1pm.

Protecting Teen Privacy

privacyAt ALA Midwinter, the YALSA Board was pleased to adopt the position paper “The Library’s Role in protecting Teens’ Privacy” written by Mary K. Chelton.

Libraries play an integral role in protecting the intellectual freedom and privacy rights of our communities and users. In early 2016, the FBI published Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools, a proposed set of guidelines for surveying internet use of students seen to be at-risk of recruitment by terrorist organizations. These guidelines cast American high schools at hotbeds for terrorist action, and recommend identifying teens for surveillance and intervention on factors so broad that almost every teen fits the description.

It is documents like this that remind us of the important role that libraries play in protecting the privacy of teens (both in and out of school). This highly connected population, is already subjected to privacy threats every day, and policies like the one proposed by the FBI are in direct opposition of the library’s mission.

In the newly adopted position paper, Chelton suggests several actions we can take to protect the privacy rights of teens:

  • Refresh your knowledge of key documents, like ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual and AASL ‘s Standards for the 21st Century Learner
  • Report challenges or violations of teens’ privacy to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
  • Embed educating teens and their parents and caregivers about their rights into library services and programming
  • Keep up to date on privacy and surveillance issues through resources such as ALA’s District Dispatch and the YALSAblog
  • Seek out training on topics including but not limited to: privacy, students’ rights, libraries’ role in intellectual freedom, and how to leverage technology tools that protect privacy
  • Participate in events such as the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Choose Privacy Week
  • Take advantage of technology that protects library patrons’ privacy
  • Make a commitment to reach out to and serve at-risk youth in the community and address their needs, whatever they may be
  • Identify and work with community partners who are also committed to protecting teens’ rights

The YALSA Board adopted the position paper at ALA Midwinter and has committed to reviewing YALSA guidelines and policies to assure teen information seeking and privacy needs are addressed.

See the full board agenda and documents online to get the details of what the board talked about. We will also be posting meeting minutes there in the next week or so. You can also read the upcoming blog posts from board members about some of the actions taken at Midwinter.

Kate McNair

YALSA Board Member 2015-2018

Measuring Your Impact

In April the YALSA Board adopted a new and ambitious organizational plan with three goal areas:

Leading the transformation of teen library services
Advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services
Funder and partner development

In the past, YALSA has relied on members volunteering to work on committees for one or two years to accomplish our goals. Every quarter, committee chairs are are required to submit a chair report to inform YALSA about the work they have accomplished and what they are working toward on the horizon. The Board is excited that as we have moved the new plan forward, we have started to change the way members can work with YALSA, developing new volunteering opportunities that include more short-term projects. With a new organizational plan, and a new way of working, it has become clear that we also need a new way to measure the impact of YALSA volunteers.

At Midwinter, the Board will explore what outcomes of volunteer work are the most important to measure, and what methods are needed to best measure our performance.

  • What are our biggest needs and priorities around outcomes measurement that should be tackled first?
  • What measurements would best help the Board monitor and assess our progress toward fulfilling the goals of the Organizational Plan?
  • How can we best monitor the progress of and measure the impact of different groups, including:
    • The Board
    • Appointed groups (committees, juries, advisory boards and taskforces)
    • How can the Quarterly Reporting Form be leveraged to monitor progress? Should there be an annual report from a chair at the end of the committee term to identify outcomes and accomplishments of the committee over the past year? (as suggested by committee chairs at the November Strategic Committee Chair Chat)
    • Bloggers and the content experts on the Hub
    • New volunteer activities, especially those that are short-term and opt-in
    • The members’ front line activities that directly support YALSA’s work, such as participation in District Days, National Library Legislative Day, Teen Tech Week, etc.?
  • What sort of trend analysis related to volunteer work and impact, if any, is needed? What pieces of data? And how often?

If you have any ideas or thoughts about the questions above, please leave them in the comments! Or send them directly to me.

If you are wondering what the board is up to at Midwinter,  you can see the schedule of board meetings and agenda. If you are attending ALA Midwinter and you see a board member (look for our YALSA Board Member ribbons) please come up and say hello! We would love to hear from you!

Kate McNair is a YALSA Board Member. Come see her at the YALSA booth #709 on Saturday, January 21 9-10:30am.

Three Modes of Board Work

The YALSA board is always looking to grow and improve. We use monthly board chats as a way to deepen our skills in governance and discuss trends and best practices impacting non-profit boards around the country and how we can bring those ideas to make YALSA the best association it can be.

In January, we met to discuss the article “Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of the Nonprofit Board” with past board member Maureen Hartman. Maureen is the Manager of Strategic Services for the Hennepin County Library. She and her team lead the library in strategic planning, learning and development, diversity and inclusion, and change management. I can think of no person more qualified to lead a discussion about the three modes of board work.

Governance boards spend most of their time in one of three modes:

  • Fiduciary: When the board is being a good steward of association resources. In this mode you might see or hear the board discussion financial reports or going through expected costs for an upcoming event. For YALSA, this role is carried by the whole board, but the Executive Committee takes on special responsibilities to care for our assets.
  • Strategic: My home library board is often in Strategic mode! Here the board is setting priorities, reviewing the strategic plan and monitoring progress. You have probably seen this mode from YALSA in the past, but recently we have been spending a lot of time in the third mode…
  • Generative: With the formation of the new organizational plan, the YALSA Board has spent a lot of time in this third mode. The Generative mode is when the board is deciding “what to pay attention to, what it means, and what to do about it.”

I don’t think these modes are exclusive to boards, I know I recognize these modes in conversations and meetings we have at my library. I bet you see them in your workplace too. As a board, we work to balance these three modes, which can be a challenges. Sometimes in the board cycle, like the recently organizational planning process we went through, will call for more time in the generative mode. Now the board, has to switch back to more time in the strategic and fiduciary modes as we work to operationalize the plan and move forward toward our goals.

To end the discussion, we all identified a goal or action item that we can work on at or leading up to the Midwinter meeting. Two goals clearly rose to the top as priorities for the board: communicating with members both in person, and virtually about the new organizational plan of YALSA and all the work we are doing, and helping the Executive Director and Staff balance their work to help achieve the goals of the new plan.

If you are wondering what the board is up to at Midwinter,  you can see the schedule of board meetings and agenda. If you are attending ALA Midwinter and you see a board member (look for our YALSA Board Member ribbons) please come up and say hello! We would love to hear from you!

Kate McNair is a YALSA Board Member. Come see her at the YALSA booth #709 on Saturday, January 21 9-10:30am.

Support YALSA Members This #GivingTuesday

foy-infographicEvery #GivingTuesday (this year it is Tuesday, November 29) I give to organizations and causes that have an impact on my community. This year I am giving to Friends of YALSA to support my colleagues serving teens in public and school libraries to recognize their hard work and give them the helping hand they need to become leaders in their community and in YALSA. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a story about a YALSA member doing something innovative, reaching a new audience, and putting teens first. I am grateful that I get to be part of an organization of passionate librarians, and I want to make sure that my colleagues in YALSA have the tools they need to keep moving forward into the future.

All Friends of YALSA donations go directly to members in the form of $14,095 worth of annual grants, scholarships and awards for members.  These honor the hard work and significant contributions members give to YALSA (Volunteer of the Year Award, and Writing Award), to support their advocacy for teens (National Library Legislative Day travel grants), and to build their leadership skills (Board Fellow, Spectrum Scholar and Emerging Leader). As we near Thanksgiving, and you consider what you are grateful for, remember the helping hands that got you to where you are today, and consider donating to Friends of YALSA to help share these wonderful opportunities with your fellow YALSA members.

Donate here. Click on Divisions and then YALSA.

Kate McNair is a YALSA Board Member and has been a Friend of YALSA since 2012.

P.S. Many of the member grants and awards supported by Friends of YALSA have an application deadline of Dec. 1st!

What is the Board up to?

Every month the Board meets for an informal chat to check in with on-going projects, get to know each other a little better, and get updates from the executive committee. At the Annual meeting in Orlando, the Board began the process toward aligning YALSA’s work with the new organizational plan, so there were a lot of updates to share from the three standing board committees: Leading the Transformation, Advocacy, and Funder and Partner Development.

The committee on Leading the Transformation is currently working on several board proposals to meet the needs of members by providing leadership development and cultural competency training. They are currently in the information gathering mode both from YALSA staff, members, committees and looking at national standards in these areas. They were also pleased to announce that YALSA has been represented at 13 regional or state conferences thus far in 2016  (with more to come!).

The Advocacy standing committee has been thinking about the best ways to accomplish the goals laid out in the organizational plan. They are looking closely at National Library Legislative Day and how YALSA can support that ALA effort. They also explored Governor’s Boards to see how YALSA members can influence state legislative action.

The Board members serving on the Funder and Partner Development committee have been working on a roadmap to increase planned giving, that was discussed at the annual meeting in Orlando. They have also begun prioritizing and building a strategy around YALSA’s needs and is looking for potential donors and partners who can fill those gaps.

President Sarah Hill updated the Board on the work of the Executive Committee which will meet at the YALSA Symposium in Pittsburgh. In Orlando, the Executive Committee was assigned new duties and roles within the board, and has been working to become deeply versed in YALSA’s financial matters. 

The Board has been working hard on projects that kicked off in Orlando to align the association’s work with the new Organizational Plan, so expect more updates from the Board as we move forward! We hope to see you in Pittsburgh and Atlanta!

YALSA Board @ Annual 2016: Communicating Change

Extra! Extra!You have been hearing about the new organizational plan for months and that is not by accident or happenstance. When the YALSA Board began working on the new organizational plan, we made a commitment to emphasize communicating that work out to YALSA members and stakeholders. In every step along the way, the Board has been carefully and intentionally planning the ways we can best reach members to ask, inform and engage them around the new plan.

As we reach the last step of the organizational planning process (not to be mistaken with the last step of the plan itself, we still have a long way to go!), we wanted to look back on the past few months and evaluate the ways we have reached out to members. Here are few highlights of what Board members and YALSA staff have done to spread the word about the new organizational plan.

  • 11 blog posts from Board members and YALSA Blog contributors with over 800 cumulative views
  • Over 1,000 unique page views on the organizational plan website
  • Mentions in YALS President’s Column, Editor’s Column and special highlights article from President-Elect, Sarah Hill, in the Spring issue
  • Engaging in conversations with stakeholders and committee chairs (95% of chairs surveyed were familiar with the plan by mid-May)
  • Too many social media posts to count!

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