Recently I made my way up to New York’s Capitol Building in Albany to “storm the castle” if you will with my fellow New York Library advocates. Every year, library workers and supporters travel caravan style from all over the state to share why libraries are important. We are at the ready with stats, numbers, stories, and anything else that can show our local representatives why we are essential to our communities and how we need them to stick up for our budget. Of course this is New York budget and only one day a year. While it is indeed powerful to see a building full of library supporters chanting “We! Love! Libraries!” in matching hats and hearing stories from representatives about how libraries have changed their lives this is only one rally in one state on one day, what can we do the other 364 days of the year?
Advocacy is something that library staff working with teens sometimes find difficult to take on. It can seem scary. It can seem time consuming. It can seem like something that someone else can do. However, advocating for the value of library teen services and the value of supporting the successful growth and development of teens is something that every library staff member needs to take on. As a way to help library staff understand some of the ins and outs of advocating for and with teens, YALSA just added three new Snack Break videos on that topic.
One way to get started with advocacy work is through engaging teens in activities that help them gain advocacy skills. In the video below, Jane Gov, Youth Services Librarian, Pasadena (CA) Public Library, provides tips on how to do just that.
The proposed White House budget for FY19 that was released February 12, 2018 calls for eliminating federal funds for libraries and the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), the only federal agency charged with providing support to the nation’s hundreds of thousands of libraries and museums. Now it’s up to Congress to decide whether or not they want to change that. ALA and YALSA need your help to ensure that IMLS and federal funds for libraries are saved, because without libraries teens will not have the resources and support they need to succeed in school and prepare for college, careers, and life. Here’s what you can do right now:
- Send an email or Tweet to your members of Congress. ALA has ready-to-use messages waiting for you in their Action Center.
- Sign up via the ALA site to receive action alerts so you can easily email or call the offices of your Congress members at critical times during the budget process between now and Sept.
- Read and subscribe to District Dispatch, the ALA Washington Office’s blog, to stay up to date on the issues.
- Encourage your library users to share their stories about what their local library means to them. ALA will use these with their advocacy efforts. Direct patrons to this quick and easy form.
- Brush up on your advocacy knowledge and skills by checking out the resources on ALA’s shiny, new ala.org/fund-libraries site and YALSA’s web site.
- Sign up to participate in National Library Legislative Day on May 8, online, at your library, or in Washington DC, and check out YALSA’s NLLD resources.
- Connect with your members of Congress when they’re in their home districts to keep them informed about the many ways the library helps community members. Congress is typically not in session the week of a national holiday, like Presidents’ Day. Schedule a meeting at their local office, and/or invite them to your library. YALSA has free resources and tips to make this an easy task!
- Join YALSA, or make a donation, because together we’re stronger. YALSA’s the only national organization that focuses its support and advocacy on teen library services. Dues start at $63 per year. Your support will build our capacity to advocate for teens and libraries.
- Encourage your patrons, advocates groups, friends, family, and colleagues to do the above as well.
Don’t know much about IMLS? Here’s a quick overview: through IMLS, every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories receive funding to support their state or territory’s libraries and museums. In FY17 the total funding IMLS distributed to states and territories was $156,103,000. In addition, IMLS offers competitive grant opportunities that individual libraries and museums can apply for. In FY17 they awarded competitive grants to libraries and library-supporting institutions totaling more than $27,469,000. Visit the IMLS site to see how much funding your state receives from them.
Want to take further action to support teens and libraries? We salute you! Check out the free online resources we have to make speaking up for teens and libraries easy.
Each year the federal budgeting process kicks off when the White House releases a draft budget. This will happen sometime in February, and there’s talk that the FY19 draft budget may be released on February 12, 2018. If you recall last year, the White House’s draft budget called for the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as well as all of the federally earmarked funds that the nation’s libraries depend on to provide critical services to their community. However, a grassroots advocacy effort led Congress to keep funding for IMLS and libraries for FY18.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sheikla Blount, library media specialist at Columbiana Middle School in Columbiana, Alabama. Ms. Blount was recently named one of the recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award. The award is a collaborative program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library, The New York Times and the American Library Association. A graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, Sheikla clearly has a passion for libraries and children. She’s involved in the middle school, even outside the library, and the sponsor for the Junior United Nations Assembly and yearbook club. Continue reading
In an effort to strengthen library and museum services across the nation, Senator Jack Reed introduced the Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 (MSLA) along with Senators Collins, Cochran, Gillibrand and Murkowski. This legislation, introduced on Dec. 22nd, would reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services. For this legislation to succeed, there needs to be a grassroots effort from citizens to encourage their Senators to support it. Please take a minute to email or call your Senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 2271, and encourage your friends, family, colleagues, and library’s advocates to do the same. Ready to use talking points and email templates available on the ALA site. Continue reading
In summer 2017, my branch library was invited to host seven on-site storytimes for The Denver Waldorf School (DWS), a local, private school whose philosophy aligns with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The agreement was for my library to provide a storytime and craft/art project for approximately 25 children (ages 3-6) once per week from June through August. This was our first opportunity to partner with the school, and the more I learned about the cornerstones of Waldorf education, the more inspired I became to apply the principles to our regular storytimes and school-aged programming. Additionally, the partnership motivated me to reevaluate the ways public library staff teach technology to middle grade and high school students, and has prompted me to incorporate more elements of Waldorf education into library programming.
Recently there was a discussion on the listserv for the Association of Rural and Small Libraries about what activities are good to undertake at the end of the year. It seemed like a good topic for the YALSAblog, too, so I’ve adapted my answers to make them more focused on serving youth:
Reflecting on this year
- Send thank you notes to volunteers, supporters, and anyone who gave a helping hand or moral support.
- Do a post-mortem of your overall efforts to serve teens in 2017. What was successful? What failed and why? What will you do differently next year? For more about taking the time to reflect, read this article, Time to Reflect: why does it matter in the workplace?
- Conduct a review library policies and procedures to see if they need updating. Some useful information is on the ALA site and YALSA’s wiki.
- Conduct a review the teen pages on your school or library’s web site and social media sites to see what needs updating or improving. Check out ASCLA’s web accessibility resources. Review content and style for inclusive language, professional content versus personal beliefs, and potential sexist, discriminatory, or similarly insensitive language or images. Ensure graphics do not show people in stereotypical roles.
To track progress on strategic goals, YALSA sends out an annual membership survey. This year, questions focused on how we practice advocacy at the local, state and national level.
One of the goals of the organizational plan was “100% of YALSA members conduct advocacy at some level and recognize that they are doing so. Activities include but not limited to participating in local youth development boards and groups.” So in this year’s member survey we asked you what types of local and legislative library activities you have engaged in and if not, why not?
We were pleased and surprised by the results. The great news is that out of members who filled out the survey, 80% practiced local advocacy and 62% practiced legislative advocacy in the last year. With an incoming administration in the White House, ALA and YALSA called on members to share information about the impact of libraries and library funding in the lives of teens. And thanks to those 62% of members who engaged in legislative advocacy in the last year, we kept IMLS funds in the the federal budget.
The largest barriers to practicing legislative advocacy were having the time and the know how (about 17% of members responded they did not know how to engage in legislative advocacy and 16% indicated they just don’t have the time). If you are looking to build your skills in this area or quick resources that can help you have a big impact, check out:
- The newly updated YALSA Advocacy Toolkit with a great section on legislative advocacy.
- The YALSA Wiki with information on legislative advocacy and statistics to share with your legislators on or before National Library Legislative Day (May 8, 2017)
- ALA’s resources for Virtual Library Legislative Day
We appreciate everyone who took the time to answer the member survey as we work to measure our progress toward the goals outlined in the organizational plan.
Since 2011, Opportunity Nation and Measure for America have collaborated to create the Opportunity Index. This expansive report examines economic, social, and geographical data as a way “to help policymakers and community leaders identify challenges and solutions” with regard to education and employment rates. The most recent edition of the Opportunity Index–which spans 2016–has just been released, giving the public better insight into the contributing factors that determine opportunity in a given community. Since one of the goals of this annual study is to be “useful as a tool to create community change,” we wanted to examine this as a potentially rich resource for public libraries, and explore the ways in which library workers might be able to incorporate these findings into our services (Opportunity Nation and Measure of America, 2017).
Several aspects of the data taken into consideration for this study prove extremely relevant to library services, and can be cited in conversations of change and adaptation. The index itself is divided into three components: Economy, Education, and Community. In order to address how library staff–specifically those working with youth–might engage with this report, each component will be addressed individually.
In order to gauge the economic status of each state, the Opportunity Index gathered a wide variety of statistics including those related to median income, unemployment rates, affordable housing, internet access, and poverty line proximity. Many of these factors already affect our daily interactions with library visitors, and we are likely aware of our community’s economic standing simply by working within it. However, understanding how our state measures up compared to the national average might help us prepare ourselves–emotionally and practically–for our interactions with youth. For states like Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Alabama, which fall on the low end of the Economic Index score, this might confirm what some library staff already know about the necessity of their services. However, a deeper understanding of this dataset–and the factors that influence it, like internet access and access to banking–might inform the programming or workshops available. Tangible actions might include increasing accessibility to financial literacy resources, introducing teens to summer work-and-learn programs and resume assistance, or forging connections between internship and volunteer opportunities. After all, a recent Partner4Work study found that “the various types of work experience [young adults] received in their program enabled them to explore career interests, identify new career goals, and even gain access to employment opportunities” (2017).
In the context of the Opportunity Index, the following factors make up the Education component–preschool enrollment, on-time high school graduation, and post-secondary completion. While our youth services might already include test prep or post-secondary information, we can certainly look at where our state falls on these individual scales. This data, combined with the data collected by our own districts, might inform the workshops or resources we offer our young adults and college students. Offering continuing assistance to our patrons as they navigate the college experience might include increased collaboration with nearby academic libraries, or implementing support systems for college students in the area. According to an article published in the September/October issue of Public Libraries, “49 percent of adult Americans don’t know that online skills certification programs are available at their libraries” (Perez, 2017). This knowledge, combined with the data provided by the Opportunity Index, might suggest we increase informational sessions surrounding the rich collections of e-resources and educational tools accessible through our library networks.
The third component of the Opportunity Index is the Community Score. This category is expansive, and takes into consideration factors like access to healthy food, volunteerism, violent crime rates, and group membership. Of particular interest to library staff working with young adults is the “Disconnected Youth” factor, a category describing young people who are not working or in school. Libraries in states with high percentages of Disconnected Youth might compare this data against their own patron base. If these young adults are engaging with library services, this opens up opportunities to provide information about trade programs, employment opportunities, or online education resources. However, if there is a low level of library use among this population, collaboration with community centers and neighborhood resources might be an avenue of outreach to pursue. The Community Score is only a data-based snapshot of the opportunities and gaps within our communities, but examining these factors has the potential to inform the service we provide in positive ways.
Armed with this data, library staff can find new and different ways to work with and for their young adult patron base. There are countless ways to use the Opportunity Index as a platform upon which new programming can be built, and as a catalyst for change within existing services.
References and Resources
Opportunity Nation and Measure of America. (2017). “2016 Opportunity Index.” Opportunity Nation. http://opportunityindex.org.
Perez, Amilcar. (2017). “Finding and Partnering with Trainers for Tech Programs.” Public Libraries 56(5): 15-17.
Petrillo, Nathan, ed.. (2017). “How Young Adults Choose a Career Path.” Partner4Work. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZOwyMd0C53F7INlgXvOYb68F-3WznswQsP_Fz9k1zko/edit.