Being a YALSA Board Fellow

During my final year of my PhD program in the School of Information at Florida State University, I decided to take a risk and apply for the YALSA Board Fellows program. Having been out of libraries as a practitioner for a few years, I felt nervous about applying to a program that seemed out of my league. But the risk turned out to be worth it as I began to meet people from a range of backgrounds within YALSA who inspired me to become a better LIS researcher and librarian.

At first, my fellowship seemed daunting. Not only did I add another project on top of my dissertation, but I also immersed myself in a position that required quite a bit of outspokenness and willingness to contribute my own ideas, critiques, and concerns to a well-spoken and passionate group of individuals who made up the Board. This is not an easy task for those who (like me) tend to write instead of speak and find public speaking to be an overwhelming experience. As an introvert, I find it easier to not share my opinions (at least aloud) and to sometimes allow the thoughts and opinions of others to drown out my own. However, by taking on this fellowship, I grew as both as public speaker and critical thinker. I’m still quiet and shy, but I’ve found the smaller discussions and breakout groups that we took part in as a board a less intimidating step towards public speaking.

As part of the fellowship, I conducted a year long project, focusing on a specific project that could be of benefit to the YALSA Board. Figuring out my project took more time and thoughtful reflection than I expected. Having little experience with board work in general, I couldn’t quite see how I could contribute meaningful content to an already functioning and relevant board. Eventually, I settled on a topic: resources the Board could use to build stronger relationships with funders. Through my project work, I dug deeper into how a board functions and the many aspects necessary to nurture the work of a board. This is one of the many reasons that I appreciate my time on the YALSA board. Without this project, I wouldn’t have an awareness of board work and the difficult elements that contribute to a successful board. I hope that as I grow in my career I can continue to offer my services to YALSA either through committee or board work. Knowing that I am offering my skills to a board that has the needs of its members, organization, and profession foremost in its view is exciting and meaningful.

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A Little Note of Welcome

I think most of us who’ve been members of YALSA for a while, might not remember getting a note of welcome from a YALSA Board Member.  I vaguely remember getting one; I’ve gotten a few thank you notes from the Friends of YALSA over the years too. So when I became a Board member this year, one of our duties is to write a welcome notes to new members. When I was younger, writing notes to family and friends was something I did diligently around every holiday or birthday.  I remember writing to friends during my early days in college too, some lengthy missives.  So the opportunity to write letters to new members was so thrilling.  So when I got my list of new members, a process that is divvied up between all the board members, I was delighted.  I had received my package of note cards and envelopes and stamps from Letitia from the YALSA office and I was ready to go.  So with my first list in hand and all my writing gear, I sat down at the children’s reference desk one evening at my library ready to write a note of welcome, imparting all my excitement and wonderful opportunities that lay ahead for them as new members of YALSA.

I begin writing my first note, telling the new member about all the different ways they can get involved and how they are part of the best division in ALA, about all the different ways they can find out what’s going on in the division.  After imparting all this information I realize my handwriting has become so bad over the years. Who is going to be able read a single word I’ve written?  I sat there in utter disbelief!  When did my handwriting become so horrible?  Then I began to ponder, when was the last time I actually wrote more than just a few words.  When was the last time had I written a letter? When I was a member of the Financial Advancement committee, I would send thank you notes.  And thank you notes are nice, but they were short and sweet and I always followed them up with an e-mail so members would have something for the tax records.  So I started to really think about when had I written any lengthy?  When I was in college e-mail was just getting going, and as my friends could attest I wasn’t a big fan of texting.  But twenty years later I mostly text and I’m always sending e-mails. There was a time when I would write out drafts of policies on paper then type them on the computer, but now I just type straight into computer.  I’ve even gotten bad at sending cards on birthday’s and holidays and it’s been quite a while since I sat down an wrote a letter to anyone in my family.

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YALSA Executive Committee Report

Two weekends ago the YALSA Executive Committee met in Pittsburgh simultaneously with the YALSA Symposium. During a marathon Saturday meeting, the members of the Executive Committee (President Sarah Hill, who led the meeting; President-Elect Sandra Hughes-Hassell; Immediate Past President Candice Mack; Fiscal Officer Nick Buron; Secretary Crystle Martin; yours truly YALSA Division Councilor Todd Krueger; and Executive Director Beth Yoke) discussed many matters affecting the division.

One of the things that we discussed at length was making sure that the youth divisions (AASL, ALSC and YALSA) are well-represented in ALA governance, i.e. ALA Council and the ALA Executive Board. Because there are a number of YALSA members running for ALA Council this coming spring, we have high hopes that there will be more representation from members of youth divisions on ALA Council in the coming years. When the ballot arrives, be sure to access and check out the YALSA members running for Council. As the Division Councilor, I will be working with my companion Councilors in ALSC and AASL to make this objective a reality. It is a benefit to YALSA to have former president Jack Martin serving on the ALA Nominating Committee for 2017, which puts forward nominees for ALA President and Council for the following year. If you are interested in either of these positions, please contact me or Jack for more information.

A discussion about the future of ALA conferences and the ALA committee that is determining the scope and size of the conferences followed. Due to the way that YALSA has scheduled its meetings to avoid conflicts, any changes to future ALA conferences will likely not affect YALSA or its members in a negative way.

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Follow-up from the Nov. 16 Town Hall on Supporting Youth during Difficult Times

Yesterday over 40 YALSA members met online during the YALSA virtual town hall to discuss ways that we can support youth in our community during turbulent times.  The outcome of the recent election has caused many young people to feel anxious and uncertain about the future of their rights and of our country, and we know that many incidents of bullying, hazing, harassment, and hate crimes have been reported in the past week. Because of this, the focus of the town hall was changed to focus on what we can do create safe spaces for our youth, how to create empathy, and how to empower teens to promote positive change in our community.

Why do need to offer these types of services to our youth? Because it’s our job.  Last year, the YALSA Board approved a document called Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession that focuses on nine core values that define professionalism for those who work for and with teens through libraries. Three of those nine are compassion, inclusion, and social responsibility–values that have been extremely important in the past few weeks.

YALSA has created a list of resources on this topic–Supporting Youth in the Post-2016 Election Climate.  We hope that you will find the information useful and share it widely with colleagues and co-workers.  In addition, ALA has created a Libraries Respond web page with further resources.  If you weren’t able to participate in the town hall, you can listen to the audio recordingread through the comments that were posted in the chat, and check out the tweets with the hashtag #yalsachat.  Many members shared what they are doing inside and outside of their libraries, and it was also great to hear what people were thinking about doing in the future.  As a result of the town hall, a YALSA Interest Group hopefully will soon be forming around ideas to help teens understand and empathize with our changing world, as well as to empower them to advocate for change in a positive manner.  Look for more information on that coming soon.  Also, if you’re interested in this topic, watch your YALSA eNews for information about the January YALSA webinar led by Renee Hill on the topic of helping youth recognize their ability to engage in social justice and equity activities.

Yesterday’s conversation was energizing and hopeful–thank you all for caring for the teens in your community!

Get involved – apply to become a Board Fellow!

I first learned about the Board Fellowship program while serving on YALSA’s Board Diversity Task Force. Our chair, Nicola McDonald, previously served as a Fellow. I found my work on the Task Force to be incredibly fulfilling. I was excited to be part of a forward-thinking organization that values diversity and was willing to explore inclusion from the top down. Just before the deadline, I decided to apply for the Fellowship – I wanted to be part of the team guiding an association I value and respect.

My Board Fellowship began in June 2016 at ALA Annual in Orlando. As conference approached, I wondered if I’d gotten in over my head: was I ready for this commitment, did I even understand what my responsibilities would be? My anxiety was dispelled when my welcome packet was delivered. I pored over the materials in preparation for conference. I still had some nerves, but was excited to learn and looked forward to my Board training and beginning my term in Orlando. Four months later, I’m still learning and looking forward to the challenges the future will bring.

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YALSA Town Hall Nov. 16: Supporting Youth during Challenging Times

Due to the outcome of the recent election, many young people are feeling anxiety and uncertainty, as described in this recent Chicago Tribune article, Soothing Kids Fears about a Donald Trump Presidency. Unfortunately, the fears of these young people are very real, as shown by recent threats and assaults that some young people have experienced, as reported in this other Tribune article Muslim and Latino Youth in California are Targeted following Trump’s Election.

Libraries can play a role in helping youth cope with the challenges, stress and even threats that have arisen for many of them recently. Therefore, I would like to change the topic of the Town Hall I had planned for November 16. Instead of exploring ideas about how YALSA can increase its presence at the state and local level to support members, I would like to explore the ways that libraries can step up right now during this challenging time to support youth.  So far we’ve compiled some resources on the wiki that we hope will be of help to libraries right now, and we expect this list to expand and evolve.

Please join me by phone or by video over the web any time from 5:00 – 6:00 pm Eastern on Wed. Nov. 16th to be a part of this discussion, so as a group we can come together and identify strategies and solutions. While space in the town hall is limited to 100, we will be recording the session and sharing that out. You can also follow along via Twitter with #yalsachat. Members will find the web link and phone number for joining the Town Hall in their Nov. 2, 9 & 16th YALSA eNews.

Also, please don’t forget about the resources we have on the wiki to help you better serve diverse youth, as well as to help you build empathy and understanding among youth. Thanks for all that you do to help the nation’s youth, especially those who are the most vulnerable, and I look forward to a fruitful discussion on Nov. 16th.

President’s Report – October 2016

Hopefully you were able to attend the recent YALSA Youth Services Symposium! If you weren’t, please check out the #yalsa16 twitter hashtag and this blog for posts about the symposium–it was inspiring! Please see below for my October President’s Report.


  • Wrote a blog post about the current reorganization process of YALSA committees
  • Wrote the YALS President’s Column for the Winter issue
  • Completed documents for the YALSA Executive Committee meeting on Nov. 5 and prepared to lead the meeting
  • Co-led the October monthly chat with the YALSA Board about standing board committee work and prepping for the symposium
  • Completed my registration for ALA Midwinter in Atlanta–have you?
  • Participated in calls with the chair of the Selection List Transition Task Force
  • Filled vacancies on various strategic committees
  • Reminded the YALSA Board of a need to communicate with members–look for YALSA blog posts coming soon from each board member
  • Provided quotes for multiple YALSA press releases, including Teen Read Week
  • Sent the ALA Awards Chair a list of YALSA members to possibly be appointed to ALA juries
  • Reminded jury chairs and board members about the new process for filling juries this year
  • Participated in many phone calls and email conversations with YALSA staff, board members, and committee members

Works in Progress

  • Started discussion with the Board about a new YALSA logo
  • Preparing for ALA Midwinter in Atlanta
  • Preparing to review YALSA committee and task force quarterly reports that are due Nov. 15.
  • Answering questions and working with YALSA board members as they prepare board documents in the standing board committees

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Rethinking YALSA: Reorganization for the Future!

This year is a time of transition and YALSA staff and the YALSA board have been busy since Annual revamping the organizational structure. We’ve written about what’s going on before, but I wanted to post another update. Check out this PowerPoint slideshow to see how the Board is re-envisioning YALSA to support our new mission. The difference between the current organizational structure on Slide 2 and the future organizational structure on Slide 3 is big!   Would you like to be a part of it? Are you interested in advocacy, cultural competence, diversifying & expanding the membership, fund and partner development, leadership development, leading the transformation of teen services or state level outreach and engagement? If so, complete this short form. After the organizational realignment is complete next year, we’ll be looking for members to participate in short-term opportunities in those categories–if you have an idea, be sure to share it on the form. Look for more information coming soon on this blog!  While the reorganization involves more than just committees, most of the questions I’ve received are about those, so here is some information that may be helpful:

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YALSA Executive Committee Update

This weekend is the exciting YALSA Young Adult Services Symposium in Pittsburgh and I can’t wait to see 500+ library staff, teen advocates and authors!  Follow the action on Twitter via #yalsa16.

But the YALSA Executive Committee is also preparing for our Fall Meeting that will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9 am – 4 pm in conjunction with the Symposium.  The meeting is held in the Cambria Room on the second floor of the Westin Hotel and is open to symposium attendees.  Executive committee meetings focus on discussions, not decision making (that is the Board’s role)–you can see that by reading the 2016 Fall Executive Committee Meeting Agenda & Documents. We’ll be discussing how the Executive Committee will be taking a larger role in developing a closer relationship between YALSA and ALA, as well as delving into ALA and YALSA finances.  Look for another blog post after the meeting with more information about what was discussed.  Do you have any questions about any of the documents? Feel free to contact me at or reach out if you happen to be at the Symposium.

Who is your YALSA Executive Committee? It changes every year, and this year I’m joined by these fabulous people: President-Elect Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Immediate Past President Candice Mack, YALSA Division Councilor Todd Krueger, Fiscal Officer Nick Buron, Secretary Crystle Martin, and Executive Director Beth Yoke.