Sarah is the Information Services Librarian at Lake Land College, a rural community college in Illinois. She is happily serving as YALSA Immediate Past President. You can follow her on Twitter at @glibrarian.

Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

President’s Report – August 2016

Wondering what the Board has been up to? Read the president’s report below!

Completed

  • Held a board meeting August 1 to complete work from Annual about transforming member participation
  • Organized and led a Member Town Hall on August 17
  • Filling strategic committee vacancies as they become open
  • Board created a new YALSA Los Angeles County Area Interest Group. To join, see here.
  • Board approved the location of the 2018 YA Services Symposium–Salt Lake City!
  • Board’s three standing committees (Advocacy, Funder & Partner Development, Leading the Transformation of Teen Services) met to discuss committee task lists and quarterly reports
  • Held September monthly board chat to discuss member survey results and committee reports and task lists
  • Nominating committees completed roster for Spring 2017 ballot
  • Appointed Crystle Martin to be the YALS editor, as Linda Braun is stepping down. Crystle has done an excellent job managing the YALSAblog, and is looking forward to this new role.   Look for an announcement soon about the search for a new YALSAblog Manager.

Works in Progress

  • Selection List Transition Task Force invites have been sent
  • Applications being reviewed for Member Manager for Teen Programming HQ
  • Preparing for YALSA’s YA Services Symposium & Fall Executive Committee meeting that will be held in Pittsburgh

Continue reading

President’s Report – July 2016

I can’t believe it’s already time for my first monthly president’s report! Tune in monthly to find out what I’ve been up to.   Most importantly, a huge thank you to the YALSA Board, staff, and members who made Annual 2016 great!

Here’s what I’ve been working on since then:

Completed

  • Appointments to the Edwards, Printz, and Nonfiction committees
  • Virtual online training for new board members
  • Assigned board mentors, board liaisons, and standing board committee members
  • Wrote column for Fall 2016 issue of YALS
  • Wrote YALSA Blog post on Presidential Initiative: Real Teens, Real Ready
  • Worked with YALSA board to appoint Nick Buron to fill Linda Braun’s vacancy as Fiscal Officer
  • Hosted first monthly chat with the YALSA Board to continue the work from Annual
  • Contacted YALSA’s IFLA rep to discuss what YALSA information should be shared with the group in August
  • Met with chair of presidential program task force to plan program activities
  • Voted for ALA Conference Committee representatives

Continue reading

YALSA Board Update: Transforming Member Participation

Yesterday during a virtual meeting to address unfinished business from its June meeting, the YALSA board met to continue its discussion about how to improve member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, as well as to re-think the structure of YALSA so that it’s better positioned to carry out the work of the new organizational plan.  Last month, the Board sought to review of all existing member groups at their June meeting (see Candice Mack’s blog post).  The Board accomplished a lot in June, but didn’t finish all of its work around member groups.  The Board met virtually yesterday to discuss the Leading the Transformation of Teen Services Board Standing Committee’s draft recommendations for the remaining member groups that were not addressed in June.  If you’re interested, you can listen to the audio recording of the meeting.

The Board voted to accept the recommendations from the Standing Board Committee for transforming the first 8 strategic committees as listed in Board Document #2.  This includes keeping some strategic committees as-is (Awards Committee Nominating Committee, Awards & Selection Oversight Committee, Competencies Task Force, President’s Planning Taskforce, School and Public Library Cooperation Interdivisional Committee), expanding others (Division and Membership Promotion Committee, Research Committee) and the transitioning to more of a short-term structure for the Summer Learning Taskforce.  These changes will not go into effect until July 2017, as the next several months will involve working out a transition plan.

Continue reading

YALSA Board Update: Meeting on Aug. 1 & Town Hall on Aug. 17

As part of its ongoing effort to improve member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, as well as to re-think the structure of YALSA so that it’s better positioned to carry out the work of the new organizational plan, the Board sought to review of all existing member groups at our June meeting (see Candice Mack’s blog post).  The Board accomplished a lot at its meeting in June, but didn’t finish all of its work around member groups.  If you haven’t already, check out June Board documents #25, #40, and #41, which were all approved by the Board.  Since the Board didn’t finish its work in June, the Board will be meeting virtually Aug. 1 from 12:30-1:30 pm, eastern, to discuss the Leading the Transformation of Teen Services Board Standing Committee’s draft recommendations for the remaining member groups that were not addressed in June.  These latest Board proposals on member engagement are the result of about a year’s worth of organizational planning work by the Board, exploring how best to adopt a “teens first” approach to YALSA’s work in order to better support members and to advance teen services so that all teens are prepared for college, careers and life. Any member interested in sitting in on the virtual meeting can contact yalsa@ala.org to request the access information. Continue reading

Real Teens, Real Ready

How often do you serve as guidance counselor? How many times have you helped someone complete the FAFSA? or helped someone complete a job application? or helped area community organizations run an annual job fair?

As YALSA president, I can opt to have a theme for my presidential year.  When I re-read the new Organizational Plan and the Futures Report, it wasn’t difficult to choose a topic close to my heart.  I worked in high schools for fourteen years, and now I work the reference desk and teach at a rural community college library, so everyday I think about how prepared my “kids” are for the real world.  Whether that’s discussing with them how student loans work or offering interview tips or explaining why their mean teacher is requiring APA style, it’s always on my mind! College and career readiness have been buzz words for years in education, but I really want to stress workforce development, too.  With the theme “Real Teens, Real Ready,” my President’s Program Task Force will offer opportunities to share best practices about college and career readiness and the skills needed for teens to succeed in adulthood.

YALSA already has a list of resources on the College and Career Readiness wiki page, and is excited about the Future Ready with the Library: Connecting with Communities for College and Career Readiness Services grant that was recently announced.  YALSA, in partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), is implementing an innovative project that will build the capacity of small, rural and tribal libraries to provide college and career readiness (CCR) services for and with middle schoolers. YALSA and ARSL will work with library staff to build needed skills while also developing, testing and refining turn-key resources, which other libraries can adapt for their own use.

The Real Teens, Real Ready task force will be preparing the President’s Program at ALA Annual in Chicago next summer.  If you have any innovative ideas you’d like to share with them, please contact Chair Valerie Davis. Other task force members are Lisa Borten, Lisa Dettling, Jeremy Dunn, Katie Kirsch, and Ellen Popit. More information will be coming soon about how you can help with this initiative!

YALSA Board @ Annual 2016 – Board Self-Assessment

#alaannual16 is almost here!  YALSA leaders have been busy preparing for Annual Conference–you can find the agenda and documents here. On Saturday, June 24, at YALSA Board I, the Board will discuss the future of board self-assessments. Not sure what a board self-assessment is? Take a look at the Board Document–the currently approved Self-Assessment starts on Page 2.  The objective of board self-assessment is to help board members build a stronger understanding of their roles and responsibilities and to gain skills to increase their effectiveness as leaders in association governance.  Often, the feedback received from first-year board members is that they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  The self-assessment was intended to give new board members a focus for their professional development throughout the year. Then, after new board members take the self-assessment, they complete the Learning Plan (found on Page 12 of the Board Document) to map out activities to strengthen their role in association leadership.

The Board hasn’t used the Self-Assessment and Learning Plan in a few years, but after attending ASAE’s Symposium for Chief Executive & Chief Elected Officers with YALSA’s Executive Director Beth Yoke earlier this year, I understand the importance of reinstating the process.  I’m a firm believer in using assessment results to instigate positive institutional change, so I wanted to bring this document to the Board. At the meeting, Board members will discuss the Questions to Consider (listed in the Board Document) and determine the next steps.  I’m looking forward to the discussion! And don’t forget that you are welcome to attend any of the YALSA Board meetings at conference–find out all the details at the YALSA wiki.

Rethinking YALSA: Virtual Town Hall on Monday!

Don’t forget to login on Monday, June 13, 2016, from 2 – 3 pm Eastern for a Town Hall Discussion!

The Town Hall will be about the Organizational Plan that the Board just approved.  See President Candice Mack’s recent blog post for more information.

The Town Hall will be led by Candice and me, and we’ll be joined by many board members, too. The agenda is as follows:

2:00 – 2:15 pm:  Overview of the Organizational Plan & Steps Already Taken

2:15 – 2:45 pm:  Discussion with Participants about Involvement & Engagement Activities

Question to Ponder: What YALSA member engagement activities have you found most meaningful?

2:45 – 3 pm: Q&A and Wrap-Up

If you can’t make it to the virtual town hall, but you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando, we’d love to see you at the session What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It! The session will be on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 am at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04. It will be similar to the virtual town hall, and YALSA’s strategic guru Eric Meade will join the discussion. You can find out more about the Whole Mind Strategy Group in this interview with YALSA Board member Kate McNair.

We’ll be using a format that the Board has been using to meet virtually– Zoom. You don’t have to use video, but it does make conversation easier. And we always love when cute animals accidentally walk in front of the screen!

Email the YALSA Office soon to receive the login information: yalsa@ala.org

Listen Up for School Librarians!

On Friday, June 3, at 9 am CT, the American Association of School Librarians is participating in an US Department of Education listening session about school librarians and school libraries. You can listen to the conversation by following #essalibraries on Twitter–I’ll be live tweeting from @glibrarian.

What does that have to do with YALSA? A lot! Many of you are school librarians–serving teens in high schools and middle schools (I was a high school librarian for 12 years). Some of you are academic librarians who want to make sure your students come to you with the necessary information literacy skills to succeed in college (I’m now a community college librarian and I can tell what students come from high schools without librarians by the questions they ask me).  Some of you work in public libraries and collaborate with your school librarians often, and you know how important they are to your teens.

Last year,  YALSA members helped push for the inclusion of school library programs in the Every Student Succeeds Act. But even with this great document from ALA, there are still questions. See AASL President Leslie Preddy’s last blogpost for an update. I’m thrilled that Leslie reached out to YALSA to be involved in the conversation tomorrow. Don’t forget to follow #essalibraries tomorrow to see what happens during the listening session with the USDOE!

Rethinking YALSA: Executive Committee

The YALSA Executive Committee met April 15 via Zoom online video conferencing, and one of the topics on the agenda was discussing itself! The role of the Executive Committee in the organization hasn’t been looked at lately, and with the Board currently working on a new organizational plan, now is the perfect time.  Take a look at the document.  If you review the rest of the agenda and items discussed at the meeting, you might notice that the role of the Executive Committee comes up often in those as well.

For starters, the Executive Committee is examining current roles and responsibilities and exploring which may be a better fit for the Board, Governance Nominating Committee or another group.  The Executive Committee has a narrowly defined role as outlined in its charge, yet over the years it has taken on some tasks for convenience’s sake that may be more appropriately handled by others. For example, planning and supporting Board member orientation and ongoing training is most often the job of a Board Development Committee in other associations.  A Board Development Committee is like a Nominating Committee, but with a longer view.  They don’t just recruit Board members, but support them throughout their time on the Board.

Based on the Committee’s discussion, there will be a proposal about the Executive Committee coming soon for the Board to review, and items from the Fiscal Oversight Strategies document will be added to it.  One part of the proposal will recommend that the Executive Committee take on some fiscal monitoring responsibilities.  Ten years ago, it was adequate for YALSA’s Fiscal Officer and Executive Director to be the most engaged in money matters (with Board oversight), but YALSA has grown exponentially over the years.  Just last week, YALSA announced that it has received a three-year grant from IMLS of over $300,000.  Add in the grant from Dollar General, sponsorship from Best Buy, and endowments, and the result means a more complex budget and increased fiscal monitoring and reporting.  Bringing more member leaders into the financial planning and budget monitoring and reporting process can be a good strategy to help ensure that YALSA stays fiscally healthy and is able to do some long range financial planning.

The Executive Committee also discussed where it might need to expand an existing role.  Currently each Executive Committee member liaises directly with an ALA-level member leader or group.  Building and maintaining strong ties with ALA can help increase YALSA’s impact, so the group explored ways that the Committee could devote more time to interacting with their ALA counterparts, monitoring ALA level activities that impact Divisions, and more.

Whatever the Board ultimately decides, our goal is to re-envision the Executive Committee so that it better meets Board needs.  Do you have any ideas for us to consider after reading the documents linked in this post? If so, we would love to hear them! Please leave a comment or email me at gsarahthelibrarian @ gmail.com.