YALSA Board Member 2015-2018

Preparing for National Library Legislative Day

I’m getting ready to head to Washington D.C. for National Library Legislative Day on May 7 and 8. And that means more than just watching reruns of Parks and Rec and Veep! It means taking the time to prepare for the conversations we will have with representatives to advocate for libraries. You don’t have to be in Washington in May to advocate for libraries, you can call and email your representatives, too!  Register via the ALA site (it’s free) and they’ll send you free resources so you can easily participate from home. Here are some great tips from a recent NLLD webinar:

Know Your Audience

Create a legislator profile for the person you are contacting. Know their committee assignments, their history on library support and funding and try to find a personal connection if you can (you both have young kids, you both went to University of Pawnee, they are the caretaker of an aging parent). Whether you are talking to your elected official or their staff, this shows that you took the time to prepare and you really care! Continue reading

YALSA Board at Midwinter: Supporting Interest Groups

As a part of the Organizational Plan, YALSA renewed the Interest Group model to provide an easy way for members to get involved. If you are looking for a simple way to find members in your area, or who are aligned with your passion, consider joining or starting an Interest Group.  Unlike committees, these are not appointed.  Members can opt into them any time, and there is no minimum commitment of work or requirement to attend conferences.

Interest Groups are grassroots and member-driven so if you are passionate about something that doesn’t yet have an Interest Group, making one is easy! Work with the Executive Director to develop a petition, get 15 signatures from members who want to be a part of the group, and submit your proposal to YALSA’s Board of Directors. Next, plan a meet-up or make virtual space to engage community members.

We currently have six Interest Groups ranging from local area groups to topics on mental health and picture books for teens. At Midwinter, the YALSA Board of Directors will be revisiting a plan on how we can best encourage and support the Interest Groups. Originally presented in 2017 the plan lays out a year and half of work to support and grow Interest Groups from the simple, like quarterly messages to members advertising the opportunity, to the much more complex, like a manual for Interest Group conveners.

The Board will hear an update on the plan thus far, and moving forward we will discuss how we define success for Interest Groups, what steps YALSA can take to set Interest Groups up for success, and we can best promote Interest Groups to members.

If you are a member of an Interest Group, or thinking about starting one, we would love to hear from you what you think. Leave a comment or send me an email and let me know. See the full agenda of the Board of Directors at ALA Midwinter in Denver. All Board meetings are open to attendees, and you can learn more about the Board meetings on the wiki.


Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Demonstrating the Paradigm Shift

Back in 2010, I was a member of the taskforce that worked on what was then called Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. With the release of YALSA’s new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff and my ten year anniversary in my current role, I have been looking back and remembering past projects. I think the evolution of these competencies is an excellent example of the paradigm shift that staff serving teens have felt over the last five years, that was so eloquently illustrated in the Futures Report.

The first thing I noticed comparing these two documents is pretty simple, putting teens first. In 2010 each competency was very staff and adult focused. It was still a time when staff serving teen weren’t seen as industry professionals and you can see that reflected in the document. The 2017 competencies leads with teens! Competency areas like “Teen Growth and Development” and “Youth Engagement and Leadership” are the first thing you see. The Futures Report described a shift to put teens first and YALSA’s organizational plan followed suit. Now the Competencies reflect that change and will continue to lead us into that paradigm shift.

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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff: Equity of Access

Cover of YALSA competencies for library staff YALSA released the new Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff just in time for my 10 year anniversary as a YALSA volunteer. It is a great time for me to look back on what I have gained in those 10 years and reflect. Each content area is broken into three levels of achievement: developing, practicing, and transforming. With 10 years of hindsight, I can really see how I have moved through these levels in the content area around Equity of Access. The core of this competency reads:

Ensures access to a wide variety of library resources, services, and activities for and with all teens, especially those facing challenges to access.

When I started in my current position, I knew that serving our Juvenile Detention Center was going to be part of the job. Our Library had already been serving the facility through collections and programs for over 5 years, and I would be taking over from the librarians who started the program (not at all intimidating, let me tell you).

At the time, the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) had an average daily population of about 85. Most residents were male and between the ages of 15 and 18 and stayed in the facility for about 2 weeks. And although the area my library served was predominantly white, the JDC was predominantly teens of color.
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YALSA Member Survey – Exploring Advocacy

Couldn’t pass up a picture of a cat in the White House!

To track progress on strategic goals, YALSA sends out an annual membership survey. This year, questions focused on how we practice advocacy at the local, state and national level.

One of the goals of the organizational plan was “100% of YALSA members conduct advocacy at some level and recognize that they are doing so. Activities include but not limited to participating in local youth development boards and groups.”  So in this year’s member survey we asked you what types of local and legislative library activities you have engaged in and if not, why not?

We were pleased and surprised by the results. The great news is that out of members who filled out the survey, 80% practiced local advocacy and 62% practiced legislative advocacy in the last year. With an incoming administration in the White House, ALA and YALSA called on members to share information about the impact of libraries and library funding in the lives of teens. And thanks to those 62% of members who engaged in legislative advocacy in the last year, we kept IMLS funds in the the federal budget.

The largest barriers to practicing legislative advocacy were having the time and the know how (about 17% of members responded they did not know how to engage in legislative advocacy and 16% indicated they just don’t have the time). If you are looking to build your skills in this area or quick resources that can help you have a big impact, check out:

We appreciate everyone who took the time to answer the member survey as we work to measure our progress toward the goals outlined in the organizational plan.

Get Local and Host a Meet Up

YALSA meet up in the Johnson County Library makerspace

Looking to connect with other YALSA members and staff serving teens in libraries and organizations of all types? Don’t wait around for someone else to name the occasion, host a meet up yourself!

I’ve been a YALSA member for years, meeting other members at conference or virtually through volunteer work is awesome, but I know there are members nearby that I just haven’t had the chance to meet yet! So after a long time of talking about it, I teamed up with another local member, Amanda Barnhart, to host a meet up for YALSA members and anyone serving teens in libraries.

Our meet up was literally by-the-book, as we just followed the easy instructions in the YALSA meet up manual.

The Content: We decided to host our event on a weekday evening and focus on a make-and-take format where attendees could learn how to take a 3D scan of themselves using a Microsoft Kinect and mash it up with another 3D model in Tikercad. This is a program that attendees could easily replicate with teens with minimal equipment and (if you already have an outdated Kinect) no cost!

Attendees learned how to use a Kinect to take a 3D scan of themselves and use Tinkercad to combine that with the animal (or pokemon) body of their choice

Spreading the Word: Amanda and I advertised the event to our local public libraries, school district and library schools. We created a public facebook event to share and track attendance and YALSA staff helped us get the word out to local YALSA members.

Takeaways: YALSA staff provided us with copies of the Making in the Library toolkit and STEAM Programming toolkit as well as fliers about the benefits of membership. We also had signed books from two authors who had recently made trips through Kansas City as door prizes. Oh, and we printed everyone’s mashup too!

Outcomes: We had 14 attendees at our first local meet up and everyone had a blast! We even had one attendee make the trip all the way from Iowa to attend! After the event we sent out an attendee survey asking what people liked best and wanted to do more and the number one response was more networking!

Which leads us to our next steps. Two attendees have graciously volunteered to host our next meet up in a few months. We hope to keep this going with meetings 4-6 times a year, giving local YALSA members a chance to network and talk about common goals and challenges in serving Kansas City teens.

If you want to host a meet up in your town, check out YALSA’s meet up resources. It makes planning easy and gives you simple step-by-step instructions to host a great event.

Big thanks to YALSA members Dawna Ofstehage for helping take 3D scans and Dennis Ross for setting up the space and welcoming everyone to his Library!

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.