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.


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?

YALSA’s Emerging Leaders Project – Part 1

Focus on Facebook and Twitter. Share ideas, and tell us library success stories. Keep the messages brief.

That’s what you said you wanted from YALSA.

Earlier this year, more than 400 members responded to an online survey regarding social media – and we listened. “We” being the six American Library Association Emerging Leaders selected to work on a project spearheaded by YALSA.

First, a little about the ALA Emerging Leaders program: Each year 50 diverse library workers who are in their first five years in the field come together for leadership development and to tackle various tasks from ALA’s divisions and roundtables. Our work began at the Midwinter Meeting in Boston and concluded with a poster presentation during the Annual Conference in Orlando.

Our project: Over six months we developed a social media marketing calendar that YALSA can use to manage its presence online. We started with the survey to determine the preferences of YALSA members, specifically what social media sites you prefer, what types of information you would like to receive, and what you think YALSA should do to better engage its members.

During our team’s initial phone meeting — prior to the survey being conducted — we discussed the popularity of Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and other online tools. Would it be worthwhile for YALSA to invest time in these websites and apps? Thanks to your feedback, we learned that YALSA is better off continuing its focus on Facebook and Twitter. And with social media blocked in so many workplaces, respondents also noted that they rely heavily on YALSA E-News, the organization’s weekly email newsletter.

With data from you in hand, we knew we needed some “best practices” to guide our creation of the social media calendar. We reviewed books and articles, analyzed infographics, and searched for tips from libraries and nonprofits that are using social media successfully.

Our best practices included things like: Know your target audience and consider what your audience cares about, Don’t overdo it, and Listen and communicate. You may be thinking, ‘Well, duh,’ but you’d be surprised by how many organizations miss these seemingly obvious guidelines.

These best practices led us to the final product: a Google spreadsheet with 12 pages – one for each month – of content that could be posted on Facebook, Twitter, and YALSA’s weekly email newsletter. ‘And where did we get this content?’ you might ask. We combed through YALSA’s website, wiki, blogs, previous posts, and previous social media guidelines as well as general holidays and pulled out events, services, programs, etc. to feature in our calendar. We divided up the months – six people, so two months per person – and crafted posts based on the info we pulled out.

Was it a lot of work? Sure. But we are extremely proud of what we came up with. Look for more on that process in a future blog post.

YALSA’s 2016 Emerging Leaders: Derrick Burton, Tiffany Davis, Kayla Marie Figard, Hattie Garrow, Samantha Helmick, and Dontaná McPherson-Joseph

Outreach at a New Library

It seemed like my programming was finally taking off. Sure, I still had only one regular participant in the Comics Club, but I had a solid core group for my Teen Advisory Board, and they ran an excellent end of summer puppet show for younger children. And then I accepted a new, full time position because my old library couldn’t offer me that. It was hard enough telling my director, but I was even more worried about telling the teens.

And then I thought, “oh my god, I’m going to have to do this all over again, at a library that has never had a dedicated teen librarian before.” The library staff seems used to teens, but more resigned to having them here than excited about it, and they’ve warned me that it’s hard to get these teens into the library — “they’re just too overscheduled!” Well, I’ve heard that one before. And if I’ve done it once, I can do it again.

Look Around for Professional Development/Networking Opportunities

I almost passed on the chance to attend a programming brainstorming event held by the consortium’s youth and teen services committee because it didn’t look like they would focus on teens as much as storytime and other children’s events, but I’m glad that I did go. The programs that I heard about inspired a whole new set of programs for my new library, even though my director really planned for me to start slow. It only goes to show that you can never pass up the opportunity to meet some of your new colleagues, those who are in the trenches with you after school.

I also went back to the most important resource, YALSA’s website. I knew that it would have some good basics to get me started, and this post offers a great look at the resources that YALSA offers.

Do outreach!

One way in which I was fortunate was that I started my job as school was starting. It was the first time the public library had been invited to Back to School night, but it was a great way to reach out to parents of teenagers who might be interested in my programs. Normally this goes against the way librarians advertise to teens, but in my new community, parents are extremely focused on school and community service, and I was able to effectively market my programs because I catered to that. Just by having fliers at the back to school night, I already have a signup for my Pokewalk in the park next door scheduled for October.

It’s also important to get out from the back room when you can. I don’t often (I say, in my second week), get to be at the reference desk after school when the teens are coming in but when I am out here, I can see how dedicated the students are. As I wrote this, I had a table full of teens preparing an advertisement for a GSA for the town’s middle school, and when one asked me a question I was able to introduce myself and offer up space for them if they ever need it at the library.

My director wanted me to start slow, but I never like being idle. I have a lot to learn as I adjust to a new community, but I’ve had some practice and I want to hit the ground running. I hope to be able to create a welcoming teen space here, and show others how to adjust to a new community.

YALSA Seeks Member Manager for YALSAblog

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is seeking a Member Manager for the YALSAblog. The deadline for applications is October 1, 2016. The Member Manager will lead an advisory board that oversees the preparation of content for the blog and solicits content from the YALSA community. The position will be for a one year term starting November 2016 with an option to renew for a second year, based on performance. The Member Manager will receive an honorarium of $500 per year plus $500 towards travel to each Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting while serving as Member Manager.

The mission of the YALSAblog is to provide a virtual space for publishing timely information about emerging and new practices for library services for and with teens, to explore practices in related fields relevant to teen services, to raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen services, and to provide resources for members and the library community to support their efforts to continuously improve their overall teen services program. The YALSAblog complements the quarterly journal, Young Adult Library Services by providing more time sensitive information.

List of Qualifications:

  1. Strong project management and organizational skills
  2. Excellent verbal and written communications skills, in order to manage content and communicate with existing and potential content providers and developers.
  3. Experience in web publishing with responsibilities including but not limited to: utilizing video clips, audio, and social media, maintaining a high standard of writing, and ensuring compliance with policies created for the maintenance of the site.
  4. Familiarity with WordPress, which YALSA uses for administration of blog sites; knowledge of plugins, tagging, categories and other WordPress tools preferred
  5. PHP knowledge preferred
  6. Dynamic, self-motivated individual
  7. Ability to delegate work and to manage and motivate a variety of contributors and volunteers
  8. Ability to set and meet deadlines
  9. Ability to work well in a team environment
  10. Knowledge of recent developments and trends in library services for and with young adults
  11. Membership in YALSA and a passion for YALSA’s mission
  12. High ethical standards

Continue reading

Creating STEM Based Programs in Your Library


Tezeno Roberson is the District Manager of the Dallas Public Library and wrote an absorbing article for the Journal of Library Administration entitled “STEM”-ulating Young Minds: Creating Science-Based Programming @ Your Library.”

The article focused on the little the library did have and the big things they did with it. The library had a successful summer reading club that led to an even more successful partnership between the library and a local non profit science organization. The University of Texas at Dallas worked directly with Roberson in creating a curriculum that would comprise of the summer program and other community partners such as Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Dallas Graduates of the Last Decade (IEEE Dallas GOLD). Roberson was able to demonstrate a shared vision and showed the mutual benefits of a partnership which made securing the organization’s buy-in easier. Together the partners created a unique “science discovery camp,” now in its third year (as of 2015, the publication date of article). The camp introduces middle-school-aged students to basic science concepts, actively engages them in creative experiments, and uses fun competitions to test scientific theories.

As we know STEM (and STEAM) programming has been trending in libraries for at least five years but the reality is part of that is in response to major cuts in national, state, and local funding for school programs, most specifically in STEM. Roberson focused on taking the model of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week (that of showcasing all of the great digital resources and services that are available to teens to help succeed in school and prepare for college and 21st century careers) and stretching that concept to three months. The programs were targeted to tweens with a total of 36 that participated. They also had 12 volunteers helped run the programs and each of the programs were stand alone programs, there were three programs for a duration of three hours each.

Continue reading

YALSA at ALA Midwinter 2017 in Atlanta


You: A youth services librarian in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area surrounded by young adult patrons who have a lot to say about the books they are reading. Or, maybe you are a youth media specialist who lives a littler further afield but are planning on attending the ALA Midwinter meeting in Atlanta AND you happen to know 5 kids with a lot to say about A Study in Charlotte.

Us: YALSA Local Arrangements committee.

The YALSA Local Arrangements committee for ALA Midwinter in Atlanta, GA is recruiting youth participants for a Best Fiction for Young Adults feedback session. As you know, YALSA takes input from the youth very seriously. Not only does it allow us to shape and support our organizational goals, but also it creates a unique and valuable experience for all participants – those speaking and those listening.

For Atlanta we are interested in hearing 50 local teens tell us what they did or (especially) did not like about the books on the BFYA nomination list. The session will be held on Saturday, January 21, from 1pm – 3pm. But that is not all, these lucky teens and sponsors will also get to tour the exhibition halls that morning and have a lunch party before the session even begins.

All interested parties should submit an application for their groups here:

Please direct any questions to Micki Waldrop at

President’s Report – August 2016

Wondering what the Board has been up to? Read the president’s report below!


  • Organized and led a Member Town Hall on August 17
  • Filling strategic committee vacancies as they become open
  • Board created a new YALSA Los Angeles County Area Interest Group. To join, see here.
  • Board approved the location of the 2018 YA Services Symposium–Salt Lake City!
  • Board’s three standing committees (Advocacy, Funder & Partner Development, Leading the Transformation of Teen Services) met to discuss committee task lists and quarterly reports
  • Held September monthly board chat to discuss member survey results and committee reports and task lists
  • Nominating committees completed roster for Spring 2017 ballot
  • Appointed Crystle Martin to be the YALS editor, as Linda Braun is stepping down. Crystle has done an excellent job managing the YALSAblog, and is looking forward to this new role.   Look for an announcement soon about the search for a new YALSAblog Manager.

Works in Progress

  • Selection List Transition Task Force invites have been sent
  • Applications being reviewed for Member Manager for Teen Programming HQ
  • Preparing for YALSA’s YA Services Symposium & Fall Executive Committee meeting that will be held in Pittsburgh

Continue reading


The American Library Association (ALA) defines outreach as providing library services and programs outside the walls of the library to underserved and underrepresented populations; populations such as new and non-readers, LBGT teens, teens of color, poor and homeless teens, and teens who are incarcerated. As these populations are often marginalized and underserved, it is crucial for libraries to recognize these populations and provide services and programs to them where they are.

The Futures Report calls out the importance of outreach to underserved populations and ways in which library staff can think about ways to work with targeted communities of teens (e.g. those who are incarcerated, homeless, in foster care, or in classrooms and other inschool locations) and where they are, rather than waiting for teens to find a way to get to the physical library space.

This month I spoke with Courtney Saldana, Youth Services Supervising Librarian at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, California. Courtney created the STeP program or Skills for Teen Parents, an innovative library services model aimed at connecting pregnant and parenting teens with the resources and services they need to succeed as adults and as parents. Teen parents face multiple, difficult challenges for which they are often woefully unprepared. STeP is making a difference for these teens and changing lives across the state. So far there have been 10 libraries selected throughout California to provide these programs. You may want to watch this Vimeo on a webinar presented on the STeP program


What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

In my experience, outreach is less about the service, and more about the fact that you’re present.  .  While we do try and highlight our major programs and services which would be of interest to teens, we are more likely to just be there.  So, we are present at many things.  Our most successful outreach tends to be those outside of the library.  For instance, we recently started visiting a popular local restaurant within walking distance to our library.  I believe, meeting them there, outside of the library, makes us “less” librarian, and more approachable.

Continue reading

Support Emerging Leaders

I initially got involved in ALA because of the Emerging Leader program. I was forwarded an email by an administrator talking about the program the year it started, and I applied and didn’t get in. The year after that I applied and was sponsored by YALSA, but had to withdraw at the last minute because of health issues. In 2009 I was again sponsored by YALSA and finally made it! During the three years before, however, I was becoming more and more involved in ALA, and particularly in YALSA. My desire to just get into the EL program inspired me to push myself to join committees and attend conferences. Since “graduating” I’ve been on several more committees and have chaired a few, most recently taking on chairing the YALSA Mentoring Taskforce this year.  I was elected to two terms as an ALA Council member-at-large and I’ve served as a YALSA Board Fellow and At-large Board Director. I have taken on more of a leadership role in my state organization, and I am not afraid to branch out and get involved in other ALA divisions and round tables which has helped me to grow and develop new skills and meet people I wouldn’t normally meet. The Emerging Leader program really opened up a whole new aspect of being a librarian to me and helped me get involved on many different levels. It was a really great experience and one that I am glad I had the chance to experience.

Please help us raise $1000 to support our next Emerging Leader. Give to YALSA:

Carla Land was a YALSA Emerging Leader and current Chair of the Mentoring Taskforce.




YALSA Snack Break: Supporting Teen Success Through School Library Partnerships

The latest YALSA Snack Break is ready and waiting for you to take a look.

Along with including some great insights and ideas on how to support teen success, the video highlights YALSA’s September webinar. This webinar will be facilitated by a stellar group of people, Erica Compton (Program Manager, ID STEM Action Network), Audrey Hopkins (Teen Services Librarian at Rita & Truett Smith Public Library, Plano TX), and Shanna Miles (Library Media Specialist, South Atlanta (GA) High School) who are ready to talk about the topic and answer your questions.
Continue reading