I briefly attended the ALA town hall discussion where topics of concern were brought up by ALA members and will be passed on to the Barack Obama Administration.’ ALA President Jim Rettig, the Chair of the Legislation Committee, and representatives from the ALA Washington Office staff were there. According to the wiki about the discussion, there were about 259 ALA members and 45 that took to the mics.’ Having qualified librarians in school libraries was a frequently raised issue.
Yesterday I started going through my stack of library journals I subscribe to and I came across a 2005 issue of American Libraries with Barack Obama on the cover.’ I thought how cool it was if we knew then, that he was to be the U.S. president elect today and soon the president.’ (btw, it was not an easy decision of whether or not I should weed that issue from my collection).
One of my favorite things about ALA conferences is that I get to hear dozens of things people are doing in the libraries. It’s always energizing to hear about the cool programs, exciting new services, and even listen to stories about teens using the library.
However, this can be discouraging for people who are having difficulties establishing teen services in their branches. These stories can turn into a long list of things you wish you could do if only my boss would let me.
On May 13th and 14th I was fortunate enough to attend ALA’s Legislative Days in Washington DC. It was a truly great event – many thanks to ALA, especially the Washington Office, who worked so hard to make this important advocacy event possible again this year. Having never been to National Leg Day it was quite an experience for me as I watched librarians rush from one legislative office building to the next, working to speak up on behalf of libraries and librarians. I spent a lot of my time with the Executive Directors and Presidents of AASL and ALSC as we spoke to legislative staffers about vital topics like the SKILLS act and social networking. Two highlights for me were the offices of Congressperson Judy Biggert and Senator Edward Kennedy. We stopped by these offices and had the opportunity to speak at length with staff for what I felt were very productive and meaningful conversations. Meanwhile, every state delegation of librarians, with the help of a state coordinator, spent much of their time talking to their individual state representatives about various local and national issues of importance to libraries.
I have to admit that after this experience I am feeling a little addicted to advocacy! And so next year, I will find a way to participate in National Library Leg Days again. This participation will likely be virtual and I look forward to that entirely new experience too. I urge everyone to strongly consider being involved in this important annual event. After all, if librarians don’t make the case for libraries with our legislators in a loud and clear voice, who will?
Paula Brehm-Heeger, YALSA President
Check out the podcast ALA Washington Office put together highlighting some of the major issues including: Copyright, National Security Letters, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Telecommunications. The podcast is also about how we can participate virtually and still have an impact even if we’re not able to go to Washington D.C. Letting our representatives know how important our work is that we do in other words. What a great opportunity to talk to our representatives about what libraries do for teens and can do because of the federal funding that supports library services.
Feel free to share your comments about how your teens have advocated for something-maybe it’ll help inspire other blog readers to get ideas on how to participate in National Library Legislative Day (May 13-14).
Over the past few weeks a couple of students tweeted about a video on Teacher Tube called Pay Attention. It’s a seemingly simple presentation that focuses on why educators need to actively integrate technology into teaching. With that focus, it’s really about engaging students of all ages in learning.
Engaging teens in library programs and services is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. What does it take to engage 13 to 18 year olds so that they are interested in what librarians have to offer?
There is a really important event coming up, and we’re looking for help from every librarian who works with teens. We know teens are too young to vote, so we need to speak up for them and with them, to our federal and state legislators. All it takes is a few minutes of your time – if we all speak loudly with one voice, the message will be heard!
National Library Legislative Day is coming up May 13 and 14. We hope YALSA members will turn out to support the event and talk to officials about the importance of libraries to our teenagers. It may seem intimidating or scary to attend an event like this, but be assured that our officials (or, in many cases, their aides) are very happy to see you and hear what you have to say. It’s very impressive to them to actually see us in their offices talking about issues that are important to us and to our teens.
If you aren’t able to go to Washington in May, there are many ways you can participate from wherever you are. Here are a few ideas of how you can help:
- ALA has created a Virtual Library Legislative Day web page that includes publicity tips and ideas of what to do. Later this month it will be stocked with key messages, so you will know exactly what to say. You can call, write, email or fax your officials using these messages. Your teens can too!
- The YALSA wiki has great information to help you, including a “find your legislator” locator, talking points, and a legislative advocacy guide.
The most important thing you can do to help is to do something! Writing a quick email to your legislator will take about five minutes and will send a powerful message that libraries are vital to teenagers. Let’s flood their email boxes with stories of how important library funding is to the next generation of taxpayers!
~Maureen Ambrosino, YALSA Legislation Committee
(thanks to Flickr user phatman for use of the photo!)
A few highlights from the Taking Teen Services to the Next Level Institute yesterday:
- Advocating for teens is important because teens are a user-population that is not in a position to advocate for themself.
- Being a successful advocate includes building allies with other departments. Making your interests their interests requires you to take the lead.
- It doesn’t help the teens you are advocating for if you wallow! Avoid things like “it will NEVER work” or “poor YA services, we are second class.” This kind of talk just makes people tune you out.
- Offer a well-thought-out plan that includes how it will make the library look better to all.
- Prepare an elevator speech. Three lines should be enough to convince a stranger of whatever your passion is and that’s short enough that you can certainly memorize it.
- Practice articulating your message in advance! Figure out your talking points and work them in. Learn a few techniques for working your message in regardless of the question asked. (But be careful not to sound like a politician in the process).
- Take advantage of Library 2.0 tools when doing advocacy. You will have documentation of the impact your work is doing because of the very nature of “comments on”. Maximize this in every opportunity possible.
- Get perspective by talking to colleagues from other library systems. What is status-quo where you are may very well be the opposite somewhere else. Sharing experiences with others is energizing.
Anyone think I’ve missed an important element from the Institute? Please include a comment! And thanks to the Advocacy Taskforce for putting together a full-day of learning.
High School senior Andrea Drusch, cared enough about school libraries to write her opinion about her experience with them in the Dallas Morning News last month. School Library Journal picked up the discussion online with an interview and reader comments.
While responses to her article ranged in responses, one point did stand out to me. Her opinion invites participation. It could be a participation that allows innovation (“So I went into her office and talked to her about it for a long time. And she invited me to go with her to do a selection process for books.” in regards to speaking to her school librarian about the article), allows for people to know what works and what doesn’t work (‘we read at Starbucks’), and it allows for her knowledge to be part of the conversation (who better to speak about the needs of a 21st century student then one herself).
I think we could probably focus on the food/drinks part of the article and make good and legitimate cases of why it can or can’t be allowed at our particular location. However, many of us have conversations with teens and each other on a regular basis-of how we can remain relevant to our users and it doesn’t necessarily involve the coffee-but it probably involves conversation or at least mechanisms (online or offline) for those conversations to take place. Sometimes our users are in a better place to make things happen. How do we keep conversations going like these in our own communities?
In light of Andrea’s article, it might be a good time to re-read this paper written in 2005, Millennial Net Value(s): Disconnects Between Libraries and the Information Age Mindset.. I have a feeling the authors of the article would agree with a lot of what Andrea said.
Posted by Kelly Czarnecki
I’m at a library conference outside of the US. There was a speaker this morning that in one part of his presentation said, “I don’t even know that it’s worth trying to get teens into the library anymore.” I asked him to explain that comment further during the Q/A. I thought, okay-maybe I misunderstood as in didn’t quite hear correctly or was interpreting it in a way that wasn’t intended. He went on to explain that many libraries are seen as ‘nerdy’ and basically irrelevant to teens and that they get their information elsewhere anyways. We talked a bit after his presentation and he asked, ‘is it the job of the library to pick up where an education system has failed and left off?’ in regards to providing services to teenagers. I told him that I disagreed with this way of thinking and how could we just decide that a whole segment of a population doesn’t have value worth providing relevant services for? Perhaps there was still some kind of misunderstanding from not being in the same country but for the most part, the message was that teenagers just don’t have as much worth as younger kids or adults. While his opinions certainly weren’t representative fortunately, since several people told me of the strong teen programs that had at their library. When someone came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve heard Patrick Jones speak before, and I know he would disagree with the comment that teens aren’t worth bringing into the library,’-I knew it was more than just a translation problem and I’m glad I said something.
Every day that we serve teens in our libraries, we’re standing up for their needs. Is it often that we’re challenged to defend what we’re doing? Perhaps, yes. You’re not alone. Feel free to share your stories.
Posted by Kelly Czarnecki