Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

Update on the Every Student Succeeds Act

As you probably know, the new federal education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in December.  Since this is such a huge shift in policy, the law has not actually been implemented yet because state and local education agencies need time to plan for and adjust to the new law.  AASL is developing resources to help school librarians and school library advocates use this in-between time to speak up about the important role school libraries play in the success of students.   Check them out on their web site Continue reading

Speak up for Teens this August

District Days offer the perfect opportunity for legislative advocacy. District Days are a period of time in which Congress is out of session and members of Congress are back in their hometowns. This year, District Days begin on August 1st and end on September 5th. This would be an excellent time for library staff to show elected officials how important libraries are and even get them to visit your library. Members of Congress are always busy in Washington and don’t get many opportunities to visit their local library and really see and understand all the services that libraries provide. It is important that they know this so that they can promote legislation that is beneficial to libraries and teens. If legislators actually see and experience all that libraries do they will be more likely to take action on behalf of libraries and teens. District Days offer library staff and teen patrons the chance to inform members of Congress of their constituents’ needs and help educate them on an issue that they might not know too much about. It can also help forge a relationship with elected officials that would be instrumental in bringing the needs of libraries to the minds of members of Congress, helping them make legislative changes that can only aid teens and libraries.

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Rethinking YALSA: Virtual Town Hall on Monday!

Don’t forget to login on Monday, June 13, 2016, from 2 – 3 pm Eastern for a Town Hall Discussion!

The Town Hall will be about the Organizational Plan that the Board just approved.  See President Candice Mack’s recent blog post for more information.

The Town Hall will be led by Candice and me, and we’ll be joined by many board members, too. The agenda is as follows:

2:00 – 2:15 pm:  Overview of the Organizational Plan & Steps Already Taken

2:15 – 2:45 pm:  Discussion with Participants about Involvement & Engagement Activities

Question to Ponder: What YALSA member engagement activities have you found most meaningful?

2:45 – 3 pm: Q&A and Wrap-Up

If you can’t make it to the virtual town hall, but you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando, we’d love to see you at the session What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It! The session will be on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 am at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04. It will be similar to the virtual town hall, and YALSA’s strategic guru Eric Meade will join the discussion. You can find out more about the Whole Mind Strategy Group in this interview with YALSA Board member Kate McNair.

We’ll be using a format that the Board has been using to meet virtually– Zoom. You don’t have to use video, but it does make conversation easier. And we always love when cute animals accidentally walk in front of the screen!

Email the YALSA Office soon to receive the login information: yalsa@ala.org

Rethinking YALSA: What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It!

The YALSA Board has been hard at work throughout this year and last year looking at YALSA’s Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action report, association capacity and sustainability, and incorporating member and stakeholder feedback to re-envision the organization’s Strategic Plan to create an association that is more nimble, more modern and more reflective of the needs of teens and our members both today and into the future.

The result is YALSA’s new Organizational Plan!

Please check it out: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/strategicplan

You can also find YALSA’s new Mission, Vision, and Impact Statements (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa/mission%26vision/yalsamission) and the Implementation Plan (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/ImplementationPlan.pdf)

Mission: Our mission is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives.

Vision: Our vision is that all teens have access to quality library programs and services ‒ no matter where they occur ‒ that link them to resources, connected learning opportunities, coaching, and mentoring that are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community and that create new opportunities for all teens’ personal growth, academic success, and career development

Intended Impact Statement: To meaningfully address the challenges teens face today and to put more teens on the path to a successful and fulfilling life, YALSA will support library staff who work for and with teens in the transformation of teen library services so that:

  • Libraries reach out to and serve ALL teens in the community no matter what their backgrounds, interests, needs, or abilities, and whether or not they frequent the library space.
  • The library “space” is at once both physical and virtual. It connects teens to other people, printed materials, technology, and digital content, not limiting teens to a designated teen area but rather inviting them into the full scope of the library’s assets and offerings.
  • Teens co-create, co-evaluate, and co-evolve library programs and activities with library staff and skilled volunteers (including mentors and coaches) based on their passions and interests. These programs and activities are connected to teens’ personal, work, or academic interests across multiple literacies; generate measurable outcomes for teens’ skills and knowledge; and are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community.

To achieve this impact, the YALSA Board identified the following priority areas:

  • Leading the transformation of teen library services (including a cultural competency component)
  • Advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services
  • Funder and partner development

We’re really excited about the new plan and our #TeensFirst focus and we want to know what your thoughts and/or questions are!

To that end, we’ve put together an Organizational Plan FAQ: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/organizational-plan-faq-2016-2018

YALSA President-Elect Sarah Hill and I are also hosting a virtual video townhall on Monday, June 13th, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern via Zoom.  Please contact the YALSA Office at yalsa@ala.org for the access information.

And, if you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando next month, we will also be hosting a face to face session on YALSA’s new Organizational Plan on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 a.m. at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04, called What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It!

If you have any other questions, comments, concerns and/or compliments, feel free to email me at candice. YALSA [at] gmail.com or reach me via Twitter @tinylibrarian! Hope to see you online and/or in person at our Townhall and at ALA Annual!

Contact Congress to Support Library Funding in the FY17 Budget

Please use ALA’s super easy web page and take a minute to email and Tweet your members of Congress and ask them to support library funding in the FY17 federal budget. The messages are pre-populated—all you need to do is provide your name and contact information to ensure it goes to the proper members of Congress. If you have the time, you’re also encouraged to phone their offices. Your help, and these funds, make a huge difference in what libraries and library staff can do for their patrons.

It’s that time of year when Congressional cost-cutters sharpen their budget knives and go looking for under-supported federal programs to slash or discontinue. Last year, Paul Ryan, who is now Speaker of the House, proposed completely eliminating the federal agency for libraries (IMLS) and with it over $200 million in funding for libraries (the Library Services and Technology Act—LSTA, and Innovative Approaches to Literacy–IAL). Both of these critical funding streams for libraries are potentially on the chopping block this year and it’s up to you to help save them.   Continue reading

Speak Up for Teens & Libraries in your State!

Now is the time of year when most state legislatures are in session, and the teens in your state are relying on you to speak up for them!  Here’s what you can do:

  • Find out what dates your state’s legislature is in session, by visiting the National Conference of State Legislatures’ web site.
  • Visit your state library association’s web site to find out if they are hosting an advocacy day in your state’s capitol and learn how you can get involved.
  • Stay up to date on the issues by visiting your state legislature’s web site or downloading and using one of these free apps: Congress, Countable, or icitizen.
  • Build your legislative advocacy skills.  A great starting point is YALSA’s free Legislative Advocacy Guide (.pdf).
  • Take action and mobilize others to do so, too.  Connect with your state library association to find out what calls to action they are focusing on this year.  Check out www.ala.org/yalsa/advocacy for tips and resources.  Consider asking your elected official if they will sponsor a resolution in support of libraries (a resolution is not legislation or a bill–just a feel good message that state legislatures pass 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!
  • Engage the teens in your community, help them learn about the legislative process and encourage them to become active around the issues that matter most to them.  Read “Help Youth Take Action” and share this free Youth Activists’ Toolkit (.pdf).

And don’t forget that National Library Legislative Day is May 3rd!  If you can’t make it to Washington DC, ALA has several ways that you can participate virtually.

-Beth Yoke

Contact Congress Feb. 15 – 20 to Support Federal Library Funding

President Obama released his draft FY17 budget today.  The next step is for Congress to take it up.  Congress will spend the spring and summer working on their version, with the ultimate goal to have a final budget passed in fall.  In the President’s budget, proposed funding for the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) is down by $500,000 over last year, grants to state libraries are down $900,000, and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant program (a funding opportunity for school libraries) is level funded at $27 million.  These are all vital programs that support the nation’s libraries.  ALA’s President, Sari Feldman, issued a statement today expressing disappointment.

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YALSA NEEDS YOU – for our Competencies Update Taskforce!

What skills, qualities and competencies do library staff need in order to provide the best services and support to the teens and tweens in our communities?

Volunteer to help YALSA update its “Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth” document, with particular emphasis on aligning the document to the principles in the Futures Report, since the document was last updated in 2010!

More information about the document, taskforce charge and more may be found below:

YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best (2010)

Competencies Update Task Force (Charge)

Review the current document called “Young Adults Deserve the Best: Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth” and update the language and content, as needed, to ensure it reflects the mission and core values of teens services as described in The Future of Library Service for and With Teens: A Call to Action. Provide a draft for the Spring Executive meeting, and submit a final report with recommended changes for Board consideration by Annual 2016. Task force size: 5 – 7 virtual members, including the Chair.

Previous Competencies Update drafts:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/CompetenciesDraft_AN15.pdf

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/CompetenciesDraft_MW16.pdf

Please email me at candice.yalsa [at] gmail.com if you are interested in serving on this important taskforce!

YALSA Board @ Midwinter – Overview

Happy post-Midwinter!

The YALSA board started off Midwinter on Friday with training session on best practices in association governance. All day Saturday, Board members worked with a consultant from the Whole Mind Strategy Group on organizational planning.

Based on those discussions, several key topics rose to the top as ones most likely to become the focus of the organizational plan. They were: advocacy, continuing education, cultural competency promotion, leadership development, partner/funder relations, and state level outreach.

The goal is to develop a focused and responsive plan which will help YALSA meet the needs of members and advance teen services in libraries across the country. Based on the outcomes of the organizational planning discussions, the consultant will help the Board draft a new, 3 year plan.

We hope to have that in place by March 1st.

While the planning discussion took up all of the Board’s meeting time on Saturday, there were still other topics that the Board discussed at the business portion of their meeting on Sun. and Mon.

Those topics included:

  • Diversity on YALSA’s Board: the board voted to approved the taskforce’s recommended updates to the nominating committees’ charges and asked the taskforce to submit a formal request to the board for adoption of a diversity definition for YALSA. The board had some questions and feedback regarding the proposed checklist for nominating committees’ use and sent that document back to the taskforce for further work
  • Dues categories & rates: the board voted to table this issue until after organizational planning is complete
  • Updating YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: the board reviewed the latest draft and had further recommendations for refinement
  • YALSA’s portfolio of guidelines and position papers: the board approved the proposal to have staff work on updating some of these documents in the short-term

Check out the full board agenda and documents online to get the details of what the board talked about. We will also be posting meeting minutes there in the next week or so. You can also read the accompanying blog posts on the YALSAblog that other Board members have been sharing out since we’ve returned from Boston.

If you have question about a particular agenda item or issue or would like more details about it, feel free to e-mail me or any of YALSA’s Board members.

I will also be hosting another virtual town hall via a Twitter chat on Fri. February 5th from noon to 1:00 p.m., Eastern, and I hope you can join in!

Drop in any time during the hour to learn more about organizational planning and board activities and follow along with #yalsachat.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the potential focus areas for the new plan: advocacy, continuing education, cultural competency promotion, leadership development, partner/funder relations, and state level outreach.

Also, feel free to follow Executive Director Beth Yoke (@yalsa_director), myself (@tinylibrarian), and/or other YALSA Board members for tweets about the work of the board!