My ALA Midwinter 2016 Experience

I just attended my first ALA conference and it was awesome.

I have heard many things about what to expect. Wear comfortable shoes, they said. Bring business cards, they said. Most of the meetings will be closed door, they said. Some of the things they said were right (seriously…who wants to walk around for 8 hours in cute new shoes that pinch the sides of your feet!..), but nothing prepared me for the magic that is Midwinter.

Like most Midwinter neophytes, I didn’t know what to expect, so I arrived bright and bushy tailed to the hotel at 7:30am sharp. I could not check into my room, so I left my bags with the hotel staff, and ubered my way over to the Boston Convention and Conference Center. (For those of you who cabbed your way around Boston, I would highly suggest you invest in the free Uber app. Most of my rides around the city did not cost me more than $6, some as little as $3.)

I arrived at the Conference Center to find that the exhibits were still being put together, and that I was late to all of the lectures that started at 8am. In hindsight, I could have just sat in, but I didn’t know if I needed a ticket. Is it okay to walk in late? Would I embarrass myself in front of my peers? Would I be asked to leave? Instead of tackling these hard questions straight on I decided on the very safe, unintrusive, and foodie-pleasing decision to register, find a coffee shop, and read the Midwinter guide over a hot cup of Joe and a cheese danish.

The guide was very helpful. It was delightfully color coordinated, included start and end times of lectures, events, and meetings, and provided a legend that had information on whether events were ticketed, closed, or open to registrants. I highlighted everything that looked of interest to me – which was half the book, so I marked it up to a fairly unrecognizable degree. And then I discovered there is an app.

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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!

YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: October 30, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between October 30 and November 5 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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Level Up Your Leadership Skills: Overcoming Perfectionism

Most of us in the library profession are high achievers aren’t we?

Our attention to detail has likely saved that flyer or that web page more than once from putting out incorrect information to a large amount of people. Can you imagine if that error would have gone out? Some of us might start sweating a bit just thinking about it.

Project planning? That’s our specialty! Months ahead we’re already thinking about decorations for the summer learning kickoff program or what the posters will look like for our annual film festival. Closer to the event itself we might even go so far as to lose sleep and take over most of the work ourselves just so we can make sure it’s done ‘right’.

Low attendance to a program? We’re likely mortified! We lose sleep again in thinking about how we could have gotten more teens to attend this author program that was advertised for months. The regular teen visitors even assured you they were coming. What could possibly have gone wrong?

Are you a perfectionist? Continue reading

Going Beyond the Books and Programs: Building Real Relationships with Teens

According to the 2013-2014 Core Values for the Teen Services Profession, developed by the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Professional Values Task Force, there are “nine core values that define professionalism for those who work for and with teens through libraries. 1” One of the nine core values is “Compassion,” where librarians who work with teens “strive to identify with others’ experiences. Shows concern, empathy, and consideration for the needs and values of others. Within this value, librarians will demonstrate the following:

  • Communicates effectively, both verbally and non-verbally, with others, taking into consideration individual differences in learning styles, language, and cognitive abilities, etc.
  • Builds and maintains knowledge of teens’ social, emotional, mental, and physical development and how they shape the teen experience
  • Strives to understand teens’ lives from their perspective in order to create genuine connections
  • Places the needs of teens above one’s own
  • Provides services for and with underserved and underrepresented teen populations

After reading through this report, the one core value that speaks the loudest to me is compassion. If we, as teen librarians, were to prioritize these values, compassion needs to be the number one value that we need to act upon; not only is compassion the key to solidifying honest relationships with teen patrons, these connections provide us with the information and insight to support many facets of teen services including connected learning. According to The Future of Library Services For and With Teens: A Call to Action: “To support their learning—personal, work-related, and academic—library staff must connect with teens as individuals. As one participant noted: “Many teens don’t have relationships with non-supervisory adults…teens need more adults who are not “in charge of charge” of them” (2014, p.10). By showing compassion, we are conveying to teens that we are genuinely interested in their opinions and thoughts, which is why we develop teen advisory boards and similar programs. These programs allow us to build rapport with teen patrons because we are providing a dedicated forum for teens that tell them that we do value their input. If we are unable to create these kinds of avenues, we need to get up from behind the reference desk and actually talk to teens when they walk into the library. What exactly do we talk about? Talk about anything and everything! Continue reading

YALSA Core Professional Values: What They Mean to You!

YALSA core professional values coverWhat do accountability, excellence, innovation, and social responsibility have to do with the teen services profession? The quick and easy answer is a lot. However, a more specific answer is that these 4 ideas are a few of the Core Values listed in YALSA’s new Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession. This Professional Values document was published by YALSA last month after a year-long development process by the association’s Professional Values Task Force. The Task Force began their work after discussions by the YALSA Board of Directors during their 2013 Annual Conference meetings The Board wanted to develop and support the professional development of library staff serving teens and to help others in the library profession understand the value of what library staff working with and for teens work towards every single day of the year.

The document, a one of its kind in the area of library teen services, is an excellent framework for the values that all those working with teens in libraries should embrace. Not only does it list the Core Values but it includes ways of demonstrating those values. For example, if you demonstrate Innovation, which is defined in the document as:
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YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – July 10, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 10 and July 16 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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Level Up Your Leadership Skills: Build Your Network

This is a guest post from Kelly Stade, Area Manager at the Hennepin County Library.

All leaders need support. Intentionally building your network can support you when you feel stuck, spark creativity and connect you with new opportunities.

As a private person, it can sometimes be difficult for me to ask for help. Networking within your library system, school or professional organization can feel challenging. I admire my colleagues who seem comfortable reaching out to a broad network of supporters. As I have pushed myself to build connections, it has been beneficial both for myself and the library where I work.

“What would you do?” moments. We have all run into situations where we feel stumped or puzzled. We also have moments where we feel confident, but would value a second opinion. Both are excellent opportunities to reach out to trusted peers. By the nature of being a leader, you try new things, push yourself, explore, and you extend beyond your comfort zone. When venturing into this new territory, it is only natural to have moments of uncertainty. Asking questions and asking for help demonstrates your confidence as a leader. The answers you get back will help you learn new skills and expand your perspective.

Even if you feel confident in your approach, reaching out for second opinions provides an opportunity to learn a diversity of styles. I love hearing how a single challenge can be approached from a number of different angles. The diversity of opinions challenges me to reframe and refine myself as a leader.

When putting myself in a vulnerable position of asking for help or for a second opinion, I can open the door to become a trusted support for others, repaying the favor.

“What are you up to?” moments. Creativity sparks creativity. The librarianship profession is one that rewards begging, borrowing and stealing. Need to develop a new summer program initiative or Teen Read Week promotion? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Reach out to your network to learn what other libraries are doing. The community or network you reach out to may live in-person or online.

Another benefit to building a network is that your network may lead you to new opportunities, like the opportunity to write on the YALSA blog.

Where can you start building your network? Look within your organization or neighboring libraries. Reach out to leaders in your organization who are doing work you admire. Do you know someone who seems to be well connected? Ask those well connected individuals to introduce you to a broader circle. You can also look within YALSA, ALA or your local library community. Join a committee, attend a conference or participate in professional opportunities. Intentionally build your network through professional leadership programs such as the PLA Leadership Academy or ALA Emerging Leader Program. I am fortunate to be a graduate of the 2014 ALA’s Emerging Leader program. Through the program, I was able to make strong connections to librarians across the country. It is exciting to learn from and share with librarians outside of my home state. As a leader, challenge yourself to ask for help and reach out the leaders around you. Making professional connections will not only benefit you, it will make our profession stronger.

Start small. The next time you feel stuck or in need for inspiration, intentionally connect with one new person. You will soon find that your efforts feel more natural and your network richly diverse.

Kelly Stade is an Area Manager for Hennepin County Library, with a background in Youth Services. She is passionate about leadership development and supporting others in active leadership. Connect with Kelly via LinkedIn.

Thoughts on ALA Mid-Winter from a Librarian-in-Training

Since ALA Mid-Winter was conveniently located in Chicago this January, I decided to make the trip and attend the conference on Saturday. I had been to professional conferences before, but all for writing centers, not libraries. My first thought upon walking into the conference center was the same familiar feeling I got in writing center conferences: a bunch of people who are all passionate about one thing: libraries. I always love the energy at conferences; the energy that helps renew your passions and reminds you why you do what you do day in and day out.

My focus at Mid-Winter was seeing how ALA and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation worked together to promote libraries to work with their communities to affect social change. They believe that public libraries should use their position in a community to help facilitate conversations that could lead to effective change. This is all under the ALA umbrella of Transforming Libraries. I was interested in these sessions because during my first semester in graduate school, I found myself drawn to and working with communities (both talking about community ideas in class and then working with a community for my assistantship). I’m currently taking a community engagement class and was interested to see Harwood’s spin on engagement.

After some freight congestion, I was able to attend two out of the four sessions: intentionality and sustaining yourself. Intentionality focused on the three As: authenticity, authority, and accountability. They wanted to make sure you deeply knew the community you were working with and followed through on promises. The final session, on sustaining yourself, focused on knowing personally what keeps you going (ways to destress and relax) and who you can talk to about frustrations and triumphs. Both sessions stressed small group discussion, which gave me the opportunity to meet other librarians (in all variety of roles). There was good discussion all afternoon however I left wishing I could have heard more from the pilot libraries who were coached by Harwood. Two different libraries gave short intros to start the sessions, but in five minutes, you can’t learn much about all the successes (and also the roadblocks).

In some ways, I felt out of my element at ALA. I was simply a student, one who didn’t have any long term experience in libraries. I could listen to conversations but sometimes felt I had nothing to add. However, at the same time, I got this great sneak peak into the professional world I’m preparing to jump with two feet into. Public libraries and communities are a big deal right now and if I can present a resume with experience in working with and for communities, then I help to separate myself from the rest of my peers competing for the job opening. What ALA and Harwood are picking up on isn’t a new concept — public libraries have been working with communities since they first began. These sessions serve as reminders that we as librarians are serving our community and should be an open, safe place to have tough conversations and conversations that begin to work towards social change.

YALSA wants YOU for our virtual strategic committees!

Happy Monday, amazing YALSA members!

Can you believe it’s already near the end of February?

For those who’ve made New Year’s resolutions to be more involved in the profession, it’s not too late!

The deadline to apply to join a YALSA strategic committee, jury, or taskforce is this Sunday, March 1st!

You can see the full list of committees and juries here.

Strategic committees are a great way to get involved with YALSA, as they are virtual committees. Or, if you are a new member and looking to try committee work for the first time, the strategic committees are a great way to learn about YALSA, connect with teen service professionals from around the country, and help you develop your virtual work skills and teen expertise. So, if travel and conference attendance aren’t an option for you this year, please take a minute to fill out the volunteer form here and send it in before March 1st!

My Appointments Taskforce and I will begin the process to fill the over 200 open positions that help YALSA accomplish the work of the strategic plan and the work that moves the association and members forward immediately after March 1st, so please be sure to get your application in before then.

I strongly encourage all YALSA members to apply – it is an easy and great way to get more involved in this amazing association, especially if you are interested in joining a YALSA selection or award committee in the future.

Please feel free to contact me at candice.yalsa (at) gmail.com if you have any questions!