An Interview with YALSA’s New Executive Director, Tammy Dillard-Steels

Head shot Tammy Dillard-Steels

Tammy Dillard-Steels, YALSA Executive Director

This week YALSA welcomes our new Executive Director, Tammy Dillard-Steels. YALSAblog interviewed her about her past experiences and what she’s looking forward to accomplishing with YALSA.

What drew you to YALSA, specifically?

I made a choice when I made a career change from Health and Safety administration to the non-profit management to dedicate my career to helping those who improve the health of a community and those that live in those neighborhoods.  YALSA and ALA missions are aligned with my personal and career aspirations to serve those who dedicate their careers to making a difference.

The positive impact that libraries and the staff have on young adults and the community drew me into position and my desire to work for YALSA.  As an Association professional, I am internally motivated to help advance, promote and elevate a profession that operates to improve the lives, mind, and future of those they serve.  It is rare to work to for an organization that fights to keep great institutions such as libraries relevant and to assist those that provide services to our future leaders.  Accepting this role is a great opportunity to improve the next generation, provide access and programs to youth is the greatest need.

I look forward to working together with YALSA to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face.

In what ways will this position differ from your previous leadership roles?

The role of Executive Director (ED) at YALSA is similar to my previous leadership roles; I have developed budgets, managed staff, implemented strategic plans, lead advocacy initiatives and fundraised in previous positions.  The uniqueness about this position is that I have not encountered before is leading an association that is a division of a larger association.

How can we equip colleagues to be effective advocates of teens in the library?

An effective advocate understands that they have a voice, using it has power and makes a difference.  In my opinion, library staff can help educate teens on the importance and power of their voice; and how to navigate through our political system.

Guiding teens through analyzing a situation, preparing them for the experience and allowing them to represent their concerns or the library causes are great ways that staff can get teens involved and become effective advocates too.

As the ED for Urban Sustainability Authority, I trained youth in our afterschool program to educate and Illinois politician on the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke and advocate for them to sign the Illinois Smoke-Free Act.  The teens were enthusiastic about sharing their own experiences and how smoking affects them.  It was a life-changing moment for the teen and the community.  They learned their voice and view was important.  They embraced the importance of advocacy.

What are you looking forward to learning more about as you settle into your role? 

I have spent numerous hours in the library as a young adult reading, researching and hanging out.  I did not have the internet, Google and virtual friends.  I am looking forward to is learning the new trends and ways that library staff engages today youths to utilize the resources, programs, and services that libraries offer.   I want to help YALSA promote those practices to help improve the image and increase the usage of libraries for teens.

What will be the most exciting aspect of your new role? The most challenging?

I am truly excited growing YALSA membership, building partnerships; and expanding the equity, diversity and inclusion programs.

My current challenge is to prepare for ALA’s Annual Conference, which is less than eight weeks away, providing great service as I am learning my responsibilities.

What are you reading? What are you listening to or watching?

I am reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.

I have opted to purchased H.E.R. cd versus streaming it and listen to it in my car.   I love the song, Focus; it relaxes me as I drive.

Get to Know YALSA Board Members: 5 Questions with Interest Groups Liaison Trixie Dantis

Ever wanted to get to know the YALSA Board of Directors more? Here’s your chance! All month long, we’ll be posting fun mini interviews with each board member so you can get to know them a little better. Here’s the next Director:

What does YALSA mean to you?
When I first started library school, I knew that I wanted to work with youth, teens in particular. YALSA was my go-to resource as I studied library and teen services. As I’ve advanced in my career, YALSA continues to be an important resource for me: learning and networking opportunities, leadership development, and as a training tool for my staff.The creativity, passion, and dedication of YALSA members is a great source of inspiration for me.

What are your hopes for the future of teen services?
I hope that we can successfully advocate and provide support so all libraries are able to develop and deliver unique services for and with teens and that ALL teens’ needs and interests are represented in library services.

What was your favorite band as a teen?
Green Day

What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Mac & cheese

Name one cool fact about yourself (birthmark, cool tricks, met a celebrity, etc).
Bionic foot

Get to Know YALSA Board Members: 5 Questions with Liaison to ALA Affiliates & Round Tables Derek Ivie

Ever wanted to get to know the YALSA Board of Directors more? Here’s your chance! All month long, we’ll be posting fun mini interviews with each board member so you can get to know them a little better. Here’s the next Director:

What does YALSA mean to you?
YALSA means a chance to connect. Opportunities to connect with new and exciting ideas in the world of young adult services. Connection amongst your peers to learn what is happening in other parts of the country. New ways of connecting with your patrons either through Program HQ, Teen Tech Week, Teen Read Week and more. YALSA has always been a bridge to the library world outside my four walls through committee work, professional development opportunities, conferences, and now my role on the Board. YALSA means being able to broaden my horizons in young adult services to better serve my patrons.

What are your hopes for the future of teen services?
As teens services progress I hope to see more inclusion for everyone. As YALSA moves forward with its Mission we see more opportunities to connect with those inside and outside the library. I hope that teen service staff members can always serve their communities to the best of their abilities by finding out what patrons need and then working with them to bring that to fruition. I think there is still a lot coming on the technology front, but we have new and exciting things to think about surrounding cultural competencies and creating communities amongst our teen patrons. Libraries have always been a safe space and I see that continuing and growing.

What was your favorite band as a teen?
My favorite band as a teen was Fall Out Boy. I wanted to be Pete Wentz so badly, but was far too preppy and was never brave enough to wear eye liner.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Give me a bag of puffy Cheetos and I am set! So cheesy. So delicious. So orange.

Which city is your favorite to travel to and why?
This year I was lucky enough to take a trip to Tokyo. As an anime and manga geek I was in heaven. On top of that and the beautiful sites the city is clean, the people are wonderful, and the subway system is the most efficient public transportation I have ever taken. As a New Yorker who has ridden the NYC subway his whole life this is a big deal! It was extra magical since it was cherry blossom season. I already know I will go back someday.

Get to Know YALSA Board Members: 5 Questions with Financial Advancement Committee Chair Kate Denier

Ever wanted to get to know the YALSA Board of Directors more? Here’s your chance! All month long, we’ll be posting fun mini interviews with each board member so you can get to know them a little better. Here’s the next Director:

What does YALSA mean to you?
I have been an active YALSA member for several years now. I’ve been on many different types of committees and have been chair of committees and a taskforce. I’m really thankful to be on the Board now. Not only has YALSA helped build my leadership skills, being on Board allows me to give back to an organization that has done a lot for me and the teens I have served. I think I have used just about every resource YALSA has to offer and I try and encourage others to do the same. YALSA has directly impacted my ability to serve teens at my organization and my ability to lead.

What are your hopes for the future of teen services?
My hope is that ALL teens have a space to go to in their local library (wherever that library may be) where they can be safe, be themselves, be heard and get the resources and information they need without judgment. I hope teen services staff are given the support they need to provide the highest level of service to teens. I also hope that people who work with teens continue to advocate for teen services, both locally and nationally.

Which city is your favorite to travel to and why?
London. I did a study abroad program in London while getting my undergraduate degree. I loved it so much that I did an independent study during my MLIS graduate program on public libraries in London. It is my favorite place in the world (other than home!).

What show do you like to binge watch?
Friday Night Lights. “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!”

What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
Travel to Santorini
Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque
Hold a koala bear

Get to Know YALSA Board Members: 5 Questions with President-Elect Todd Krueger

Ever wanted to get to know the YALSA Board of Directors more? Here’s your chance! All month long, we’ll be posting fun mini interviews with each board member so you can get to know them a little better. Here’s the next Director:

What does YALSA mean to you?
I love how it brings together so many people from diverse and disparate backgrounds to focus on making the lives of teens better. Helping to carry out the mission and vision of YALSA has provided me with a meaningful complement to my professional life. #teensfirst

What are your hopes for the future of teen services?
More communication, connection and collaboration. Bringing teens together and including them in decision-making. Finding ways to measure our successes, pivot when needed, and learn from (and not dwell on) our failures.

What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
Three places to travel to: Alaska, Australia, and Portugal (planning to check this one off in 2020!)

What was your favorite band as a teen?
Oh gosh. I’m dating myself with this one. The Smiths because they were about as angsty as can be. Probably why I still relate so well to teens today!

What’s your ultimate comfort food?
A wilted kale salad, topped with roasted vegetables. Possibly a bag of Cheetos as a chaser. With a slice of lemon meringue pie. And iced tea, a lot of iced tea.

Get to Know YALSA Board Members: 5 Questions with YALSA Board Fellow Josie Watanabe

Ever wanted to get to know the YALSA Board of Directors more? Here’s your chance! All month long, we’ll be posting fun mini interviews with each board member so you can get to know them a little better. Here’s the next Director:

What does YALSA mean to me?
I really like how YALSA is focusing on continuing education. I think it’s so important for practitioners, like librarians, to continue to grow and improve the way we work with youth. To me YALSA is at the forefront of this work in the library world and I am excited to be part of it!

What are your hopes for the future of teen services?
My hopes and dreams for the future of teen services includes a profession that is inclusive. A profession that puts teens first by reducing unnecessary barriers which would help develop a staff that is diverse, can speak multiple languages and mirrors the teens we currently serve.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?
My ultimate comfort food is homemade macaroni and cheese. But alas, I am lactose intolerant now! :/

What movie have you seen multiple times in theaters?
A movie that I have seen many times in the theater and will see many more times at home is Guardians of the Galaxy.

What is your favorite fairy tale?
My favorite fairy tale is the Chinese version of Cinderella because Cinderella actually gets her feet cut off and I loved gore and blood as a child. At least, I I think that’s what happens… I just remember it being very violent— I didn’t have cable growing up!

Get to Know YALSA Board Members: 5 Questions with YALSA Immediate Past President Sandra Hughes-Hassell

Ever wanted to get to know the YALSA Board of Directors more? Here’s your chance! All month long, we’ll be posting fun mini interviews with each board member so you can get to know them a little better. Here’s the next Director:

What does YALSA mean to you?
I’ve always viewed YALSA as the division of ALA with its finger on the pulse of teens – their passions, their development, their needs, and their wants. By placing teens at the center of the work, I believe YALSA is able to provide library staff who work with teens a vision for their work, as well as tools (professional development, resources, booklists, etc.) they can use to develop inclusive programs for the teens in their communities. I see YALSA members as passionate, risk takers – pushing the field and the organization to recognize and tackle the big issues that teens in our country face

What are your hopes for the future of teen services?
I hope all library directors will understand the importance of providing services to teens and will thus, 1) hire dedicated and passionate staff to work with teens; 2) provide a dedicated space for teens – one that supports formal and informal learning; 3) provide funding that allows teen library staff to develop inclusive services/programs in collaboration with teens and community partners; and 4) apply an equity lens to all of the library’s work with teens.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Mashed potatoes! My grandmother made the best mashed potatoes – full of butter, cream, and lumps!

What show do you like to binge watch?
As a family we watch NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, and NCIS New Orleans whenever they are on!

What song can always make you dance, regardless of your mood?
September by Earth Wind and Fire

Digging into the IMLS Strategic Plan

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has been an essential resource for libraries and library schools since its inception over two decades ago. According to its mission statement, this agency works “to advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grant-making, research, and policy development.” On the ground, the work supported by the IMLS takes the form of anything from STEAM programming to data-rich research projects. “Transforming Communities,” the recently published 2018-2022 IMLS Strategic Plan, reviews specific successes and focuses on broader strategies to lead us into the next few years. Certain aspects of the plan—approaches to learning and literacy, library engagement statistics, and serving the under-served—might be of particular interest to library staff who work with youth.

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I Love My Librarian Award Spotlight: Laurie Doan

Hand-scripted text reads I Love My Librarian Award 2017.

Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with Laurie Doan, a 2017 recipient of the ALA I Love My Librarian Award. She currently serves as a Young Adult Librarian at the Tredyffrin Public Library in Wayne, Pennsylvania. One of only ten librarians to earn this year’s recognition, she was nominated for her extraordinary work in fostering educational opportunities for the teens in her community, and for encouraging a wide variety of creative pursuits. Among the countless projects she supports, an alternative theater program within the library has been wildly successful with teens and adults alike. We discussed this and other aspects of her work when we spoke earlier this month.
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The December Dilemma: Addressing Identity in the Library

The December Dilemma image, white and yellow text on black background.

As we reflect on the holiday season, it is vital to assess our approach to cultural identity and diversity. Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding recently hosted a webinar exploring the many ways educators can embrace diversity during this culturally complex time of year. As library staff, we can use “The December Dilemma” and its accompanying informational documents to analyze and improve our current holiday programming, and continue to foster an inclusive environment throughout the rest of the year.

Regarding holiday-specific diversity, this packet includes timelines and plans for holiday discussions. Perhaps the most thorough of these is the “Holiday Inclusion Planning Template,” which provides an outline for year-long holiday preparation and resource management. The chart’s description encourages users to identify “which part(s) of your curriculum relate most directly to the holiday and provide the best opportunity for a ‘teachable moment.'” Although originally designed for use by teachers in a school setting, the entire program can certainly be implemented in our context. Slight adjustments would result in an extensive and effective approach to this subject suitable for the youth we serve at our libraries.

Beyond discussion surrounding holidays, this webinar and the accompanying informational packet both address the establishment of a respectful atmosphere. Many of these tools, tips, and techniques can easily be adapted for our programming purposes. The “Rules of Respect” portion of this supplemental packet includes prompts for open discussions about respect, conscious listening, and thoughtful inquiry. While some of these activities–like forming a “listening circle” or creating a chart detailing what respect looks and feels like–are aimed towards a younger audience, the core concepts can be employed for a range of age groups. For example, writing and signing a Rules of Respect Agreement could provide a foundation for newly formed teen clubs, or be used as a way to establish expectations for storytime. Another unit, “My Identity and My Family,” includes book suggestions, activity templates, and discussion prompts that could be introduced into already existing programming or used as a stand-alone unit.

While this webinar and toolkit explore diversity within the specific context of the holiday season, they also provide a solid and thorough approach to religious and cultural tolerance. Whether we use this as preparation for holiday programming, or simply as a framework for conducting identity work within our libraries, this is an invaluable resource. The archived webinar and supplemental documents can be found here.