Reel Time – Community Discussions About Difficult Topics

This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement

“We are wondering whether we can show documentary films and have discussions at the library.”  That’s how it all started in 2013.

Events at the national level and at school were having an emotional impact on the teens and stimulating them to start conversations among themselves.  Two of my Teen Advisory Board (TAB) members wanted to do more.  They wanted to educate their peers about issues affecting teens, the community, and the world.  They also wanted to bring the community into the conversations.  And so began Reel Time – Community Discussions About Difficult Topics.

Initially, the discussions were adult-led. The teens generated the topics. The library planned and hosted the documentary viewings, including inviting experts—people working with folks impacted by the issues addressed in the films—to provide information and answer questions. For example, for a discussion about hunger following a viewing of A Place at the Table, we invited representatives from Teen Feed, a local organization that supports homeless youth, to share their experiences. The community events, at this point, were a product of the teens’ ideas, but not really owned by them. However, as I learned to step back, the teens began to step up.

Over time, the teens began to not only generate the topics, but to create the context for the documentary viewings, including the format of the discussions. As a first step, the TAB members co-facilitated the discussions with another adult. Ultimately, the teens began to organize and facilitate discussions on their own.

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YALSA President’s Report – February 2018

Colleagues-

February may have been only 28 days long, but it was a busy month. Here are some highlights.

Accomplishments

  • Attended ALA Midwinter in Denver where I:
  • Worked with YALSA Board and ALA HR to begin process of hiring a new YALSA Executive Director. For an update click here.
  • Wrote thank you letters to outgoing chairs of committees, taskforces, and juries.
  • Prepared for the March Board chat where we discussed concerns brought forward by YALSA members re: appropriate volunteer behavior and the committee appointment process. Be on the lookout for Board actions in response to both of these topics.
  • Wrote President’s column for the spring issue of YALS focused on small, rural, and tribal libraries

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Cast Your Vote in the YALSA/ALA Elections

Colleagues-

It’s that time of the year again – YALSA/ALA Elections!

Before you vote, please check out the following resources YALSA has compiled:

You should have received an email from ALA with a link to your YALSA/ALA ballot.  If you can’t locate the email from ALA, please contact JoAnne Kempf at jkempf@ala.org or 312.280.3212.

The elections are often decided by narrow margins – make sure your voice is heard and vote today! I did!

Thanks!

Sandra Hughes-Hassell
YALSA President 2017-2018
@Bridge2Lit

Update YALSA Executive Director Search

Colleagues-

As you know, Beth Yoke tendered her resignation as YALSA Executive Director in January. The search for the new Executive Director is currently underway.

The search committee includes three members of the YALSA Executive Committee and four ALA staff members:

  • Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President
  • Crystle Martin, YALSA President Elect
  • Todd Krueger, YALSA Division Councilor
  • Mary Ghikas, ALA Executive Director
  • Dan Hoppe, ALA AED of Human Resources
  • Aimee Strittmatter, ALSC Executive Director
  • Beatrice Calvin, ALA Manager of Professional Development.

The job was posted Friday, March 2, on the ALAJobList. It is also being posted to other sites, including sites that are frequented by individuals seeking association executive director positions.

The committee will review and rank applications as they are received – we have already received a number of applications. On April 17th, the committee will have a conference call to determine which 8-11 of the applicants will move on to the next step in the process.

Our goal is to have a new Executive Director in place by August 31, 2018. As the process moves forward, I will continue to keep you updated. If you have any questions about the process, please reach out to me, Crystle, or Todd.

Respectfully,
Sandra Hughes-Hassell
YALSA President 2017-2018
@Bridge2Lit

Still Looking for short-Term Volunteers

Want to get involved in YALSA? Don’t have lots of time? Here’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

YALSA has a two short-term member volunteer opportunities available right now!

We are looking for:

  1. Three to five members to serve on a virtual taskforce charged with developing a new member Innovation Award. This award will recognize a member who has embraced YALSA’s vision for teen services. The award proposal will be due to the Board for review at our June 2018 meeting.
  2. Three to five members to serve on a virtual taskforce charged with developing a new Mid-Career Travel Stipend to be used by a YALSA member who expresses need and has not had the opportunity to attend an ALA Annual Conference or YALSA Symposium for five years. The stipend proposal will be due to the Board for review at our June 2018 meeting.

These are two great ways to get involved in the work of YALSA without having to attend in-person meetings or make a lengthy commitment. Plus, you’ll be helping to craft proposals for awards that will directly benefit members.

If you are interested in volunteering for either of these short-term volunteer opportunities, please fill out the Committee Volunteer Form

If you have any questions, please contact me (smhughes@email.unc.edu).

Thanks,
Sandra

Sandra Hughes-Hassell
YALSA President 2017-2018
smhughes@email.unc.edu
@Bridge2Lit

Upcoming ALA Election Ballot Measure Re: ALA Executive Director Qualifications

Colleagues-

In a December blog post, we alerted you that a petition was circulating among ALA members to put a measure on the ALA 2018 ballot to overturn the decision by ALA Council to change the language of the job announcement for the next ALA Executive Director from “MLIS preferred” (or CAEP/school librarian equivalent) back to MLIS required.  The petition received the requisite number of signatures, which means ALA members will be asked to vote on this issue during the elections, which run from March 12 – April 4.

YALSA’s Board of Directors strongly encourages our members to vote no on this ballot measure.  The YALSA Board unanimously supports the recommendations of the ALA Executive Board, the ALA Search Committee, ten of the eleven ALA divisions, and the ALA Council, that the MLIS is preferred but not required for Executive Director candidates.

The rationale for our decision includes the following:

  • 38.3% of ALA members do not have an MLIS.
  • ALA is not a library. It is an association that represents and advocates for libraries.  Industry best practice indicates that the executive director position of a nonprofit organization, especially one as large and complex as ALA, requires expertise in nonprofit and association leadership.
  • If ALA limits the pool of candidates by requiring all applicants to have an MLIS, it will exclude qualified people of diverse backgrounds who, for whatever reason, chose not to dedicate their education to librarianship.  According to ALA’s Diversity Counts report, 88% of credentialed librarians are white and 83% are female. Since diversity is a key action area for ALA, the executive director search should be conducted in a manner that allows for the greatest potential of attracting qualified applicants from underrepresented communities.
  • Talented, mission-driven nonprofit leaders want to be part of ALA because they value libraries and the good work ALA does. Requiring a MLIS limits the pool of qualified candidates by excluding this group of experts. As ALA President Jim Neal explained, “The search firm and the search committee were contacted by such individuals but they were not able to be considered.  Individuals with other educational backgrounds were recommended to the search committee, but they could not be recruited as candidates.”

For additional perspectives on why the MLIS should be preferred and not required, please see the statements issued by ALSC and PLA.

As you know, the search for a new ALA Executive Director was declared a failed search, and the ALA Executive Board has appointed long-time ALA Senior Associate Executive Director Mary Ghikas to serve as ALA Executive Director until 2020.

The search for the new executive director will be reopened this summer. During this current political climate, when institutions like libraries are under attack, ALA needs a strong leader and  we cannot afford to put up unnecessary barriers to highly qualified and diverse individuals to applying for this job. We hope you will join us and vote no on this ballot measure.  A “no” vote means that you want to keep the current language approved by ALA Council last year, which states and MLIS is preferred, but not required.

Respectfully,
Sandra Hughes-Hassell, 2017 – 2018 YALSA President
Todd Krueger, YALSA Division Councilor

 

Socializing to Social Justice: WTF—Woke Teen Forum—at the Hartford Public Library

An interview with Gabbie Barnes by Izabel Gronski

This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement

The YALSA Presidential Advisory Taskforce was recently brainstorming librarians that were out there in the trenches, working hard to support youth activism through community engagement. Immediately, I thought back to a presentation at the 2016 YALSA Symposium by Gabbie Barnes and Tricia George from Hartford, CT. Their presentation was called From Socializing to Social Justice: Connecting teens to community through social narratives. They tackle youth activism head on in numerous ways, but the Woke Teen Forum in particular was truly inspiring. Their passion for teens and youth activism was evident throughout their presentation and interviewing Gabbie Barnes over a year after their presentation shows that their programs are still going strong. Tap into their passion and find some inspiration for ways to promote youth activism at your library.

Izabel: Tell us about the youth activism programs that you have started at YOUmedia Hartford.

Gabbie: YOUmedia Hartford at the Hartford Public Library is a digital learning and makerspace for teens ages 13-19. We are only open to teens during our service hours, which makes our operations work a little bit different than traditional libraries without dedicated teen spaces. We also average upwards of 85 youth per day, which, as you can imagine, makes 1:1 connections slightly more challenging. To engage as many youth as possible, we use multiple entry points for program development. As a result, youth activism at the library happens in many different ways.

  1. We have structured programs, called “intensives”—these require youth to participate on a regular basis and invest in a desire learning outcome. Those include:
  • Woke Teens Forum (which spawned the youth-led Unconference)
  • YOUmedia Advisory Council
  • Strong Girls Camp
  • Short-term internships for youth to build proposals around issues they’re passionate about.

2) We have unstructured expressive outlets, which are drop-in and require limited commitment on the part of the youth other than showing up. Those include:

  • open mic nights
  • community conversations around controversial and “sticky” subjects
  • artistic workshops focused on messages of liberation.

We also work with a lot of community partners. I’m lucky to be friends with organizers in the community who want to engage youth, specifically. There is a vetting process for who does and does not work with our youth, but ultimately we create space for folks to work with the teens at the library if it’s mutually beneficial. Right now, we have an organizer who does one-on-ones with youth to find out what they’re passionate about and then organically offers gathering times to meet other teens who are similarly passionate. The end goal is a campaign, but the groundwork is starting with each conversation.

There is also a lot of grassroots work happening that I don’t know about–relationships being formed, meetings being had, and events being planned.

I: What inspired you to start the Woke Teen Forum, specifically?

G: We were in one of the most verbally abusive political campaign years of my adult life. The teens were always buzzing about it, and it felt like every day there was some new, horrible thing that they needed to unpack when they came to the library. As someone who stitched together a lot of what I know about systemic oppression in this country through self-guided learning, I felt like I could build a crash course for young people. My goal was to provide an entry point into what is—by design—a much more complex and complicated web than many of us realize. We talked about the intersections of race with housing, education, incarceration, voting, gender, food, and drug reform.

I: What is the most challenging part of pursuing these programs?

G: Scheduling. Even the most engaged teens struggled to make it to every meeting. Young folks are stretched so thin trying to build their resumes for college, be involved in their communities, and still maintain very active social lives. Finding a schedule that worked for everyone was just impossible. To boot, many of the teens I speak to wish that the library was open during their more “alert hours” which for many is in the middle of the night, but it made me ask myself just how effective we can be when we’re competing with after-school extracurriculars, sports, homework? In a perfect world, the public library would be open 24-hours to accommodate all of the schedules in our communities.

I: What was the reaction from your library administration?

G: We’re lucky to have an administration that is supportive of our ideas and believes that we were hired because we embed ourselves in what our community wants. I was most concerned about the acronym, but that was an easier sell than I expected.

I: And your teens?

G: Teens were on board from the beginning. They helped me determine what the topics were going to be; I didn’t want to build something for them without their input. After we finished the curriculum, two of the teens ended up organizing a youth-led design-thinking conference on educational equity. It was one of the most inspiring and awe-inducing moments of my career.

I: How about the community at large?

G: The community was so supportive. I had a few folks from various community organizations reach out to see if I wanted them to host one of the sessions related to their organization’s mission or personal area of expertise. Ultimately, I ended up leading all of the workshops, because of scheduling, but I’m going to try to make partnerships happen in WTF 2.0!

Youth are already doing activism work whether you know it or not. Rather than try to make something for them, figure out how to support what they’re already doing. Have conversations, create space, offer resources, make connections.

 

I: If you could share one piece of advice for librarians seeking to promote youth activism at their library, what would it be?

G: Youth are already doing activism work whether you know it or not. Rather than try to make something for them, figure out how to support what they’re already doing. Have conversations, create space, offer resources, make connections. Leverage your “power” as an adult to provide opportunities for youth to have a seat at the table in spaces they otherwise would not be included.

 

Activism is grounded in history, pain, and hard work. Many people have been doing this work long before it became a library buzzword, and many will continue to do the work long after it fizzles out.

 

I: Do you have any final words for our readers?

G: I fear that when we talk about activism and social justice in libraries that we’re buzzing in the way that we did with 3D printing and maker spaces—or whatever the next hot trend is. Activism is grounded in history, pain, and hard work. Many people have been doing this work long before it became a library buzzword, and many will continue to do the work long after it fizzles out.

Of course, too, I have to shout out my library elders: Spencer Shaw for promoting multiculturalism in libraries and their services and paving the way for black librarians in Hartford; Audre Lorde for being a womanist, anti-racist advocate, writer, and best of all, librarian; Margaret Edwards for advocating for youth and teens in the public library; EJ Josey for founding the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and Ruth Brown for standing up for racial equality at the expense of her career.

——-

Gabbie Barnes is a Black, multicultural-dreamer living, working, surviving, and thriving in the Hartbeat: Hartford, CT. She is an auntie, soul sister, daughter, cat mother, mentor, librarian, consultant, mentee, and cinefile. She offers spiritual advising, tarot readings, and essential oil advice. Gabbie received her MLIS during a short, 4-year stint exploring life as a Pacific Northwesterner. She has institutional experience in academic, special, and public libraries. Find her on LinkedIn @hartfordlibraryninja or send her an email gbarnes@hplct.org.

Izabel Gronski is the young adult librarian at the Oak Lawn Public Library. She has experience founding and leading multicultural student groups at Northwestern University, including the International Students Association and the Polish American Student Alliance. She is passionate about expanding teens’ horizons by offering intercultural experiences and opportunities for community engagement. Follow her on twitter @izag or send her an email at igronski@olpl.org.

Teen Activist Board: Shifting the “A” in TAB

By: Megan Burton

This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement

No one expected a conversation about national news to spark a call to action in a small town library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB). It all began in June 2016 in the days following a tragic event that took place three-thousand miles away. Despite the physical distance, the violence felt close to home.

School was out for the summer. The sun was bright well into the evening and the added time off brought more teens to the library. We opened the room at 5pm and the 25 or so teens began to socialize before the program began. But the tone was different than a usual Wednesday Teen night. They were quiet.

We started our meeting with the welcome circle—a way to build community and prioritize youth voice. By summer 2016, we had spent a year co-creating these practices and norms. The teens themselves had crafted this protocol to be inclusive and give time for everyone to share their name, preferred gender pronoun (PGP), and age as part of their introduction. They also created a question of the week that we all would answer.  They set a tone of equity and an expectation of respect. After our introduction time, I opened the discussion by acknowledging a mass shooting had occurred in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub and, without identifying them, I explained that a there were a few people in the group who wanted to discuss the tragedy. With caution, I urged them to think about this event in a personal way, to reflect on the fact that our physical distance to traumatic events does not keep us from feeling real empathy for those directly affected by trauma. And last, I encouraged them to actively listen.
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YALSA Governance Update from ALA Midwinter 2018

Colleagues-

The YALSA Board was busy at Midwinter in Denver. I want to thank my fellow Board members Franklin Escobedo, Crystle Martin, Sarah Hill, Clara Bohrer, Kafi Kumasi, Kate McNair, Mega Subramaniam, Todd Krueger, Jane Gov, Kathy Ishizuka, Derek Ivie, Jess Snow, Kate Denier and Melissa McBride, as well as YALSA ED Beth Yoke, for making our meetings productive.

Here are some highlights:

On Friday, YALSA Financial Officer Clara Bohrer led the Board Planning session, taking us on a deep dive into ALA and YALSA finances.  Among the topics discussed were:

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Short-Term Volunteer Opportunities

Colleagues-

YALSA has three short-term member volunteer opportunities. We are looking for:

  1. One member to conduct an inventory of YALSA’s portfolio of advocacy resources and submit recommendations to YALSA’s Board for improvements by no later than May 22, 2018.
  2. Three to five members to serve on a virtual taskforce charged with developing a new member Innovation Award. This award will recognize a member who has embraced YALSA’s vision for teen services. The award proposal will be due to the Board for review at our June 2018 meeting.
  3. Three to five members to serve on a virtual taskforce charged with developing a new Mid-Career Travel Stipend to be used by a YALSA member who expresses need and has not had the opportunity to attend an ALA Annual Conference or YALSA Symposium for five years. The stipend proposal will be due to the Board for review at our June 2018 meeting.

These are three great ways to get involved in the work of YALSA without having to attend in-person meetings or make a lengthy commitment.  If you are interested in volunteering for any of these short-term volunteer opportunities, or have any questions, please contact me (smhughes@email.unc.edu) by February 28th.

Thanks,
Sandra

Sandra Hughes-Hassell
YALSA President 2017-2018
smhughes@email.unc.edu
@Bridge2Lit