When I first contacted YALSA about participating in NLLD 2015, I framed my interest as a novice, mentee and student wanting to learn more about advocacy and successful advocacy strategies for my specific community. I am a new school librarian and NLLD beamed opportunity, inspiration, information and networking, of course!

I was excited and anticipated experiencing the more political side of libraries, remember, I was a novice and prepared to act as a sponge, absorbing everything I heard and saw, taking cue from the leaders in my group, one of the flock. However, after contacting my local library association, Louisiana Library Association, I discovered that no representatives were attending this year. I wasn’t sure what that meant for me and figured everything would be taken care of, remember I was a mentee and prepared to be guided by much more experienced and confident librarians. But then my role swifty changed, I became the leader, charged with scheduling appointments with legislators and being prepared to represent, if not lead, the interests and voices of libraries, librarians and the people they serve in Louisiana. Inexperienced as I was, the thought of leading, was a harrowing, humbling (maybe a bit dramatic) but, nonetheless, exhilarating feeling.

photo 3 (4)On Friday May 1st, I left Louisiana to go to the capital. I knew where I was suppose to be and what time, appointments were scheduled and I had several extremely helpful guides along the way especially Beth Yoke assuring me that everything would be OK.

I was also lucky enough to have the weekend to explore the city. There was an overwhelming feeling of greatness, magnitude and it wasn't in the larger than life buildings, statues or museums, it was just apparent walking the streets or taking the metro. Important things had happened here, important things continue to happen here and it felt good to be near that.

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So, at some point in February, I decided that I would apply for YALSA’s travel stipend to attend #NLLD15.  I was hopeful and I received the award.  So, I planned my trip, contacted my state coordinator, packed my bag, and was off to Washington.

dupont circleI arrived at 12:30 on Sunday at Ronald Reagan International Airport.  I took Southwest and was able to get a pretty economical ticket.  I found my way to the METRO station, purchased a Smart Ride Card, and hopped on the Metro toward Dupont Circle.  I was on my way to the First Time Attendee Session at the ALA Washington Office.

I stopped for a quick photo on Dupont Circle.  I think Annette Bening made a bigger deal out of it in the “America President” than it was.  Three quick blocks and I stopped at Kramer Books & Afterwords Café for Lunch.  They have an amazing brunch/luncheon menu on Sundays and it is a restaurant attached to a bookstore. Nirvana!  I had the crab cake open faced sandwich.  ( I found it on Urban Spoon.)ala office

After lunch, I walked the 2 blocks to the ALA Washington Office.

The meeting for first time attendees was amazing.  We worked on techniques for speaking with Senators and Representatives.  We talked about “the ask”.  I even managed to take a selfie with the presenter, Stephanie Vance.

Working on your asking skillsThe training was inspiring.  We had the opportunity to meet other librarians and media specialists from across the country.

I headed back to the host hotel after the meeting to meet up with my state delegation for dinner.  We went to a local restaurant and talked about our goals and appointments for the next day.  Oops!  I was supposed to make some appointments!

The next morning, we had a full day of sessions on the different issues and pieces of legislation affecting libraries at the host hotel.  Our state coordinator found a few minutes to have a pastry.Florida delegationCharlie takes a break

Since, I hadn’t made any appointments the day before, I took the list of representatives that were not yet contacted from Florida and made some calls to set up appointments with their staffers.  I managed to contact all but two and schedule appointments throughout the next day.

 

In the evening, we attended a reception for library staff at the Dirksen Building, where some of the Senate Committees meet.  I met the YALSA President and the Director and we were photobombed during a selfie.  I also managed to photobomb the President of ALA during a speech to the delegates.

YALSA prez director and me           Working on my testifying

After a quick breakfast the next morning, we were off to the Capitol to visit and discuss the issues.  As usual Southern charm rules and the Florida delegation was warmly received by the staffers of our Representatives and Senators.  Our delivery was professional and I believe our message was heard.  I was encouraged that most were interested in us because we were their constituents in the districts.

It was an interesting experience that I would love to have the chance to repeat.

office visit1

After a quick bite in the underground cafeteria, I was off to the METRO for one last ride to the Airport.  Thank you, YALSA for the opportunity to #act4teens and represent the interests of Florida libraries in Washington, and thank you Friends of YALSA for funding this opportunity!  If you'd like to be the recipient of this travel grant for 2016, apply online by Feb. 1, 2016.

Grand Central Station           Metro seal

 

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Vandy Pacetti-Donelson is a Library Media Specialist. She is a library advocate and board member for the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). Find her online at www.eliterateandlevelingup.com or follow her on Twitter @VandyPD.

When I started working at a multi-branch system, my whole world turned upside down; I came from the craziness of a single library system with a large teen population to a smaller branch with a tiny teen population.  Although this has thrown me for a bit of loop, I decided that in order to stay in touch with teens, and not let my years of experience lay by the way side, I will work more closely with my colleagues who do serve a large teen population. In other words I’d outsource myself.

What I mean by “outsourcing” is literally working more closely with colleagues to provide and implement new programs and services. Through these interactions, I have been able to step out of my home library branch and visit other branches to present, and implement, new programs and services. Although I still need to build up teen programming, at my main branch, I sincerely believe that we should not let an obvious factors like location, or lack of a teen audience, keep our ideas from getting to our colleagues and teens all over the city. In fact, for this summer, I was able to get two of my colleagues excited about a no sew blanket program; this singular program will be at three branches instead of one! Furthermore, the best thing about working with your colleagues is that they are just a phone call, or e-mail away, and are willing to try new things, and/or help us out in any way they can. More importantly, by co-hosting programs at different branches, we have access to information that will help us gauge the interests of the entire teen community.

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“What?  I need to do what?  But what does that mean?”  These are exactly the words that flashed through my mind when I attended my first annual conference and heard a keynote speaker say,  “It is our responsibility to advocate for our students, our programs and our profession.”  After what I consider a compulsory moment of internal panic, [inside voice:  I have a new responsibility.  No one told me about it.  I don’t even know how!  This did not happen in library school. What?]  I began to calm myself.  [It is a brand new day and I can do this, I think.  Ok, but first, I will read the new Neal Shusterman book.]

Now, several years later, as I stare at the four stools behind my circulation desk and feel their lonely state, I now understand that is is my responsibility to advocate for my students, my program, and my profession.

AASL provides the best definition:

Advocacy is the ongoing process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program.

WHY ADVOCATE

When we advocate, we are building partnerships and educating others to act on behalf of our students and programs.  I don’t know about you, but I can always use the extra help. Part of being effective is seeking the resources needed for your program.  If you want help, you must ask.  (It is not WWII, the volunteer generation has left the building.)  Trust me, relying on the collective memories of library experiences from your stakeholders to drive them to act is a bad idea.  You must share your vision in order to offer opportunities for investment.  Get some great advocacy resources from YALSA at ala.org/yalsa/advocacy

WHAT I CAN DO NOW

  1. STAY POSITIVE.  No one likes to hear about the downfall of the library or your fear about losing your job or your program.  This is negative branding and you let them know you are expendable.  Worse, no one is comfortable, so they avoid the media center.  Post your positive message where you can see it every day, the message you will share when others ask how are things are going.

Exa.  “Hey, did you know the new Florida Teens Read List was just announced.  So many of the books look so good!  I can’t wait to read them.”

Exa.  “I am just arranging the new college and career section!  Isn’t it great!”

Exa.  “Oh, these kids are keeping me busy, busy, busy!” Read More →

A friend of mine just accepted a promotion. When I asked her why she accepted it and what she was looking forward to, she said, “I’m really looking forward to working for my new boss; I really respect him and he’s indicated he trusts me. But what he doesn’t know is that lots of time I don’t know what I’m doing.”

She said this jokingly, but it struck a chord with me as I’ve been in a new role in my library since January. On my first day, another colleague advised, “Fake it ‘till you make it!” Each day, I never really know exactly what to do or how to respond to dilemmas - but I have a plan, some strategies, some good instinct and I ask good questions. So far it’s working.

People have three psychological needs: autonomy -- a perception that we have some choices that are ours to make; relatedness - a connection to something or someone - beyond ourselves; and competence -- a feeling of effectiveness and success. We need these in our personal lives, and also in our workplaces.

One of the hardest things I’ve seen library staff (including myself) struggle with is when our own personal levels of competence are not where we want them to be--it’s true for everyone, but feels especially relevant in libraries, where we highly value our expertise and knowledge--and get to demonstrate it almost every day if we work directly with the public.
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As National Library Legislative Day approaches, we must all be ready to answer the question that hangs over meetings with representatives who are lobbied daily for fiscal and political support:

Why? Why care about library services for and with teens?

It can be difficult for us, who regularly see the fruits of our labors in the smiles, small steps and cool projects our teens generate to encapsulate our stories into sound bites and elevator speeches that resonate with policy makers. Lets make it easier.

advocacy

During the month of April, YALSA’s Advocacy Support Task Force has been using #Act4Teens to tweet out tips to help members reach this month’s featured Advocacy Benchmark:

Collects evaluative data to envision teen services.

In order to share our stories with congress members, local policy makers and stakeholders, we must be able to say what difference we are making in our communities. To do this, we must know what are goals are, and how well we’re accomplishing them.

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Back in October 2014, I wrote about a report entitled: “America After 3 PM.” The Afterschool Alliance was writing about how students spend their time after school. In it, I raised the point of libraries as hubs for after-school activities, a free spot for teens to come if they don’t have the resources or access to other after-school programs. At the end of January, Alia Wong from Atlantic wrote an article called “The Activity Gap,” which discusses the access issues students from various socio-economic classes face with participating in after-school and extracurricular programs.

Wong begins the article by comparing two different students, Ethan and Nicole, whose family backgrounds contribute to two different lifestyles and life paths. While their names have been changed, these two students do exist and were case studies in a study published in Voices of Urban Education. This national study was conducted by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute of School Reform.

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Has it crossed your radar yet that there's been a big shift in how laws are getting made?  Last year state legislatures around the country passed 45,564 bills, compared with just 352 passed in Congress.  That works out to an average of 911 bills per state.  This change in the way laws are getting made means that we need to change the way we advocate for teens and libraries.  Spring is the time of year when many state legislatures are in session.  What can you (or your teen patrons) do to call their attention to the importance of libraries?  YALSA has the answer!  We have everything you need to reach out to your state legislators and ask them if they will sponsor a resolution in support of libraries.  A resolution is not legislation or a bill--just a feel good message about libraries.  Both Congress and state legislatures pass these types of warm fuzzies all of the time in an effort to make nice with the voters.  YALSA has a few sample documents compiled into one file that you can adapt and use, including a sample resolution, emails and a press release.  Access the MS Word file today for an easy way to raise awareness about libraries with the elected officials in your state!
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This is a guest blog post by Wick Thomas about the Save MO Libraries rally.

I was the primary organizer of our Save MO Libraries rally in Jefferson City on Wednesday. The Governor is currently withholding 6 million dollars in appropriated funds from the libraries statewide and has recommended the same cuts next year. We decided to get some of our amazing teens together and take them to the Capitol to meet with their legislators to talk about why libraries are so important in their communities. We all had a great day until we got the Governor's office where his staff had us thrown out and threatened us with state troopers...

We had almost 100 teenagers take off from Kansas City for the Save MO Libraries Rally bright and early at 8 a.m. with a great media send off. It is Kansas City Public Schools spring break so we had an especially good turnout!

We arrived at the Missouri River Regional Library at 11:00 a.m. for pizza, to make posters, and to have an orientation for the day. (The Missouri River Regional Library staff is amazing!) Then we headed over to the South Steps of the State Capitol for the rally at 1:00.

We started a few minutes early because it began to rain and we were worried about the sound equipment. The teens decided that the rally should happen regardless of the rain, though. We had library systems from all over Missouri join us! I got to introduce some great speakers: our Library Director Crosby Kemper, noted civil rights activist Alvin Sykes, Camden County Library Director Michael Davis, State Librarian Barbara Reading, and teens from Kansas City Academy, Southwest High, Truman, East High, Northeast High and Van Horn. It was a spirited rally and the teens were especially great.

After that we went to our scheduled meetings with almost all of the senators and representatives from the Kansas City library districts as well as the Secretary of State's office. We split into three smaller groups to be more manageable and so the teens could meet with their specific officials. All of the meetings went very well. Our kids asked good questions and most of the legislators greeted them warmly and thanked them for caring so deeply about this issue.

We then headed to the Governor's office. His staff told us he was currently out of state but knew that we were going to come to his office anyway to speak with them. We got many of the teens into the reception area and then started calmly and respectfully asking them questions. After one of our teen's questions we were told that since there were meetings going on we were being too loud and had to leave. (We have video that clearly shows we were not being loud.) We asked if their staff would come out into the hall with us and talk to us there so we wouldn't bother anyone and they denied that request. Mr. Kemper and myself tried to reason with the staff and were then told that they would have State Troopers escort us out if we didn't leave immediately. We complied and left his office. They then called up extra security to monitor us and had Governor Nixon escorted out with four police officers. (I guess he wasn't actually out of state!) Many of our teens then went up and watched the chamber from the visitor's gallery and then we boarded the buses back to Kansas City.

Needless to say, many of our teens are now especially fired up about this topic. I have never been so disrespected by a public official and am especially appalled they treated our kids that way and then blamed it on them. (When they had already met with a dozen other officials with no problems at all.)

What now?- This is just the start.

*   After the teens were treated so poorly, the hashtag #savemolibraries really took off.

*   The petition to the Governor has received over 300 signatures since yesterday. On it you will find contact information for the Governor and for the House/Senate budgetary committees. Please share it with everyone you know.

*   It is especially important that you contact the Senate budgetary committee members right now as they began their deliberations this week.

*   Follow @kclibraryteens on Twitter and Facebook. (Pics from the rally are there!)

*   Direct people to www.savemolibraries.org for updates on the campaign.

*   This link includes handouts and images you can use at your library!

*   Let me know if you want to get involved so we can make this a more unified statewide effort!

We are going to be meeting with the teens who attended and strategize on what to do next. They are especially fired up about this and want to help lead the charge!

Save MO Libraries!

 

Please email or phone your members of Congress and ask them to sign the "Dear Appropriator letter supporting library funding via these two programs: LSTA (Library Services Technology Act) and IAL (Innovative Approaches to Literacy)."  Then, ask all other library supporters you know to do the same by no later than March 20th.  Contact information for Congress members is here: http://cqrcengage.com/ala/home (just put in your zip code in the box on the lower right side).

To see whether your Members of Congress signed these letters last year, view the FY 2015 Funding Letter Signees document (pdf). If so, please be sure to thank and remind them of that when you email or call!  More information can be found on ALA's blog, District Dispatch.  For more information about LSTA, check out this document LSTA Background and Ask (pdf).  For more information on IAL, view School Libraries Brief (pdf)

Thank you for taking this step to ensure that our nation's teens continue to have access to library staff and services that will help them succeed in school and prepare for college and careers!

-Beth Yoke