Teen Services Amplified with Everyday Advocacy

On November 12, YALSA held a free webinar for members on the topic of Teen Services Amplified with Everyday Advocacy. I facilitated this webinar, which drew over 40 engaged YALSA members in real time, and many more who have listened to the archived version. Because the topic of advocacy is such a big one, I wanted to focus on the ways any of us can use easily available resources, like YALSA’s Advocacy Toolkit, to amplify our message that library services are important to teens and to communities.

After some quick definitions–talking about how marketing, advocacy, and lobbying differ, for example–we got into the heart of the matter by sharing examples of ways we can advocate on a daily basis. We started by talking about WHO we advocate with: administrators, co-workers, parents, community members. Attendees gave examples of times they had been able to show their bosses or co-workers how library programs and services were valuable to the teens in their communities.

We also talked about the HOW of advocacy:

  • focus on the value of programs and services
  • keep it simple
  • talk about needs, not just desires
  • stay positive
  • tell stories
  • listen, and find out what your audience cares about

Finally, I shared some of YALSA’s great resources for advocacy, and encouraged members to take advantage of the advice, talking points, hints, and tools that YALSA has developed over the years. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to advocacy!

The archived version of the webinar is free to YALSA members, available on the YeLL (YALSA e-Learning Library) page.

Sarah Flowers

Amplified: Advocating with Your Co-Workers

In talking about advocating for teen services, we often emphasize advocating with your library’s administration, or with elected officials, or the public. But there’s a great–and often untapped–pool of people that can really help you spread the word about teen services: your library colleagues, from fellow librarians and library assistants to clerks and pages. If you get these people on board with your message, they will carry a lot of the load of getting the message out to others.

Think about it: who are the people in the library that the public has the most contact with? Yes, it’s the front-line staff, the folks who spend hours a day at the service points or in the stacks. These are the staffers that members of the public are most likely to know by name, or at least by face. In many public libraries, in fact, it is the clerks and pages who are most likely to be truly local–people who live and work in the community that the library serves.

So how can they help you advocate for teens? Well, they can’t, unless they understand why they should and how they can go about it. Your first step is to inform and energize them. Keep in mind that many adults don’t really understand teenagers and sometimes they’re even a little afraid of them. Your job may be simply to demystify teens and help others understand why they do what they do.

  • Offer to do a short session at a library staff meeting and/or new employee orientation on teen developmental needs.
  • When you are chatting with co-workers in the break room, share interesting stories about teens and the value of teen services.
  • Come up with a joint project in which you can work with children’s or adult services librarians to serve both teens and children or adults.
  • Make a note when you see a positive interaction between another staff member and a teen, and follow up by complimenting your colleague, either verbally or with a quick note.
  • Find out which of your colleagues have teenagers at home, or work with teens in some other part of the community–at church, at a volunteer organization, as a coach, etc.
  • Find opportunities to remind your colleagues that helping teens grow into strong and capable adults is good for the whole community.
  • Share your own enthusiasm for teen services at every opportunity–others will be swept up in your wake.
  • Find out if you can take another staff member along with you when you speak at schools or at community events.

When teen services and teens are seen in a more positive light, advocacy becomes the next step. To help your colleagues advocate, you will need to continue to provide them with the necessary information. Continue reading

Amplified! Speaking the Language of Management

YALSA President Shannon Peterson and I have been talking about her presidential theme of Amplified: Speaking Up for Teens and Libraries, and we were discussing the effort to build strong ties between YALSA and our members and library administrators. In May and June, I wrote a six-part series for this blog on how to work with library managers and administrators. Those posts were based partly on a survey that YALSA conducted of members who identified as supervisors and managers. One of the things we asked was what were some of the buzz words, lingo, and hot topics that made managers prick up their ears and listen. So here are some of those terms and ways you might incorporate them into your conversations with your managers:

ROI. This is manager-speak for “return on investment.” It’s really pretty straightforward. Managers want to know that if the library invests time, money, personnel, and equipment on a service, program, or collection, there will be some return on that investment. What kind of return? Maybe you can demonstrate that the effort you invested in putting on a dynamite program resulted in increased circulation in a particular area or from a particular demographic. Maybe adding a service, like homework help, resulted in reaching a previously under-served segment of the community. The more you can collect data (track circulation before and after the program; keep count of the number of new cards that were issued to participants in a new program or service, etc.), the easier it will be for you to show your managers how much return you got from your investment. Continue reading

Amplified: Updated Advocacy Toolkit

As part of YALSA President Shannon Peterson’s presidential theme (Amplified: Speaking Up for Teens and Libraries), YALSA is working on a number of projects to help YALSA members speak up for teens and for teen library services. As part of this effort, I recently worked with other YALSA members to update YALSA’s Advocacy Toolkit. The new, updated, streamlined version can be found here, in PDF format, for easy downloading and sharing.

The toolkit it just that: a collection of easy-to-use tools for doing everyday advocacy in your library. The topics covered include:

  • What is advocacy? The differences between advocacy, marketing, and lobbying.
  • Everyday advocacy: what you can do in five minutes, fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, or more.
  • Developing and delivering your message: how to develop a persuasive message and deliver it with conviction.
  • Using web tools for advocacy: getting maximum impact from social media. Continue reading

YALSA Board @ Annual 2013: Getting Buy-in from Administrators

At the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, the YALSA board discussed an issue that we have been grappling with for some time: how do we get library administrators on board with the idea that teen services and programs are important, and deserve a fair piece of the library pie?

At the 2013 Midwinter Meeting, the board decided to survey YALSA members who are supervisors and managers, to get some input on this issue. The YALSA Executive Committee discussed the survey results at our April conference call, agreeing that we needed to focus on:

  • collecting and sharing case studies
  • helping members build skills that will enable them to better interact with administrators and articulate the needs of the teen services department
  • collaborating with other organizations in order to build stronger ties with administrators

Since that discussion, the following activities have taken place:

  • I wrote a six-part series for the YALSAblog on “What Your Manager Wishes You Knew” that incorporated information from the survey and tips from managers about what teen services librarians could do to work with administration to improve teen services.
  • YALSA and LLAMA (the Library Leadership and Management Association, another division of ALA) collaborated on a webinar for managers, “Increase Your Library’s Value by Amping Up Teen Services,” which was facilitated by YALSA and LLAMA member Mary Hastler.
  • LLAMA members received an e-blast in June about YALSA’s instructional kits. Continue reading

What Your Manager Wishes You Knew – Part 6

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In the first five weeks, I talked about presenting yourself as a professionalspeaking the languagecollecting data, sharing information up the ladder, and taking a big-picture look. I’ll conclude this series by talking a bit about:

Getting Everyone On Board

One way to get managers to take notice of teen services and programs is to get everyone talking about those services and programs. “Everyone” means:

  • library staff
  • teens
  • parents
  • community members
  • trustees
  • elected officials
  • everyone!

Continue reading

What Your Manager Wishes You Knew – Part 5

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In the first four weeks, I talked about presenting yourself as a professional, speaking the language, collecting data, and about sharing information up the ladder. This week let’s move ahead to:

Taking a Big-Picture Look

You may think that it is obvious that changes are needed in your library. It may be crystal clear to you that teen services needs a bigger materials budget, more staff, and a higher profile. But somehow, your library’s upper-level management is not seeing the same thing you are. Now what?
Continue reading

What Your Manager Wishes You Knew – Part 4

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In the first three weeks, I talked about presenting yourself as a professional, about speaking the language, and about collecting data. This week I want to talk about a sometimes forgotten piece of the puzzle:

Sharing Information Up the Ladder

When YALSA surveyed members who were identified as library supervisors and managers, we asked them about best practices and success stories in increasing upper management buy-in for teen services. There were several recurring ideas:

  • Publicize successful programs that succeed in engaging teens
  • Have teens speak to library board/Foundation boards to share their love for the library
  • Document reports with photos/videos from programs for teens
  • Share teen comments in monthly narrative reports
  • Share successful award-winning projects that have increased library usage by teens
  • Share stories of how teen services develop youth and transform communities
  • Tie teen services to youth development

What these comments have in common is the importance of letting upper-level administrators and board members know what you are doing, and why it’s important to the community. Continue reading

What Your Manager Wishes You Knew – Part 3

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In the first two weeks, I talked about presenting yourself as a professional and about speaking the language. This week I’m going to get even more practical and talk about:

Collecting Data

As I noted last week, teen librarians can sometimes get too focused on the teen point of view: we think it should be obvious that teens need our services, collections, and programs, because they’re important for the teens. But your manager needs to know more than that. Your manager needs to know the value of the services, programs, and collections that the library is providing, and whether the money allocated to teen services is well spent. Continue reading

What Your Manager Wishes You Knew – Part 2

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

Last week I talked about presenting yourself as a professional. This week, the topic is:

Speaking the Language

When YA librarians talk about teen services they often–naturally enough–focus on the teens. They are likely to describe programs and activities in terms of the benefits to teens. Talking about how much fun a program or service will be, or how it’s the latest rage may be what’s on the top of your mind, or that of your teens, but it’s not necessarily what your library’s director thinks is important. Generally, upper-level managers are more interested in big-picture issues. In YALSA’s recent survey of members who are identified as supervisors or managers, several of the respondents commented that the upper-level administrators at their libraries want to hear about programs in terms of issues like community engagement, community health, collaboration, purpose, sustainability, partnerships, and return on investment (ROI). Continue reading