Congress is poised to act definitively on the federal education bill, ESEA, very soon. This is the first new education bill in 14 years​!​  The last time Congress passed an education bill, school libraries were left out. This resulted in widespread cuts for school libraries, and nearly an entire generation of our youth have suffered from a lack of access to experts and materials they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce. So, at this moment, we are at a very critical juncture, and it's up to all of us to speak up for youth now!

Congress's goal is to have a draft bill by Nov. 30th, but it could be out as early as next week. Once the bill is out, Congress will move very quickly, and will most likely vote on a final bill by mid-December. There are two steps that will happen in the next couple of weeks: first the House votes on the bill, and then the Senate.  These next few weeks are a window of opportunity for us and our advocates to help youth through support of school libraries.

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OTA Flickr Creative Commons Piggy Bank photoAt each YALSA Board or Executive Committee meeting there is at least one conversation that focuses on the fiscal health of the association. When the YALSA Executive Committee met in Portland, OR earlier this month there were several agenda items that related to this topic. As the YALSA Fiscal Officer I want to provide an overview of these discussions.

  • Item 5 on the Executive Committee agenda focused on the FY '15 financial numbers and implications for FY '16. Part of this discussion was a follow-up to an Annual Conference discussion of the YALSA Board in which Board members talked about what they need in order to better understand the fiscal documents provided to them. The Executive Committee agreed that it is important to continue to support Board members in better understanding YALSA's fiscal health and I and YALSA's Executive Director will work on methods to achieve this. Read More →

Measure It!

Many grant reports require a scientific method to evaluate one's project. There are several ways to approach this. An age-old method is the survey. Printed surveys can easily be passed out in the library, and electronic surveys can be emailed to patrons or added to the library's website and social media sites. Surveys can ask patrons to rate the project's quality, relativity, and other factors using a Likert Scale, as well as be given the opportunity to give comments and suggestions. This collection of quantitative as well as qualitative data can help give a comprehensive understanding of a project's impact.

The library might already be collecting statistics that can be used as to analyze a grant-funded project. Attendance, for example, can help measure success. These can include, but are not limited to, the attendance to a specific program, the automated door count, use in a specific service, use in circulation, and number of library cardholders.

Documenting any positive impacts that occur after a project can also suggest success. For example, a library receives funding for six months of Teen Parent programming. Over the course of the next eighteen months, parenting books and audiovisual materials increase in circulation. This suggests a successful after-effect of the grant supported program.

If a project is intended for high school students, then public school test scores may have a correlation. This may be especially true for projects that provide educational resources to students, such as STEM programs, creative writing workshops, or tutoring classes. These are all great examples of projects that may have an effect on test scores. School districts are required to post test scores, which can be attained directly from the school's website, a state's Department of Education, or

These methods not only give validation when success is achieved, but can also paint a comprehensive picture in what failed. If a program saw high attendance, but patrons rated it poorly on surveys, then initiate further discourse on how to redesign future programs. Using several of these methods can better help a library know how to best serve its community.

In next week’s post, writing tips will be given to help you keep your grant application clear and concise. After all, you don't want to have done all this work only to have your application turned down for poor grammar or typos!

Jaclyn Lewis Anderson is the youth services director at the Madison County Library System.

Last week YALSA's Executive Committee had its fall meeting, and as President of YALSA, I chair this committee.

In years past, this had been held in Chicago, but this year the group decided it would be more beneficial to hold it along side YALSA's YA Services Symposium. The meeting agenda and documents can be found in the Governance section of YALSA's website. Since the Board of Directors is the decision-making body of YALSA, the Executive Committee's meeting was focused on general discussions meant to help keep the Board functioning smoothly, including exploring some possible proposals for the Board to consider at their Midwinter Meeting in January.

Linda Braun, the Fiscal Officer, will be bringing a 2016 fundraising plan forward to the Board for their feedback and approval in January, and the Board Standing Committee on Capacity Building will be making a recommendation to the Board about the YALSA dues structure and method for determining the rates for the different member categories. The Committee recommended further refinements and changes to these documents before they go to the full Board.

This fall meeting is also a chance to explore YALSA's connection with ALA, and the group talked a little about how to have a stronger voice in ALA Council and the need to encourage YALSA members to participate on ALA level committees.

The draft meeting minutes can help members understand the meeting outcomes, so please be sure to read them.

The major portion of the Executive Committee's meeting, though, was to undertake some strategic planning exercises and discussions, which I discussed in my blog post last week.

If you have any questions about the Executive Committee's meeting or about the strategic planning process, please contact me at candice [dot] yalsa [at] gmail [dot] com. I am also holding a Member Town Hall via Twitter on November 30th from 7:00 – 8:00pm, Eastern, where I'll provide an update on the process and answer any questions. Please join in with the #yalsachat hashtag.

I'm grateful for all of the work that the Executive Committee members put into this meeting and the strategic planning discussions, and I'm excited about the great things that 2016 will bring for YALSA!

Stay tuned for more posts about the Executive Committee's meeting in the coming days and weeks that my colleagues will be writing!

I tell myself all the time that the success of a teen program is more than “just” attendance. I know I’m not alone in that. A YALSA committee has even created a living document – Teen Programming Guidelines – that includes a section on evaluation and measurement. But still, it doesn’t take the sting out of a near-empty room, or eliminate the dread of explaining to your supervisor that your teen programming budget should remain static (dare we say increased?), regardless of attendance stats, in the continuing saga of library budget freezes and cuts.

Many colleagues have lamented the lack of attendance at a program for which they had such high hopes – the teens ASKED for it, or HELPED plan it, or it DREW double-digit attendance at another library, or was ALL OVER the listservs to which we subscribe. Sure, we tell ourselves and coworkers that “at least the kids that came had a good time,” but in that same moment we’re also thinking “what did I do wrong?” or the more self-defeating “maybe I should just be a reference librarian, they don’t have to deal with this kind of rejection” (apologies to my reference/adult services friends & colleagues – you know I love you and the work you do!).

If you take only one thing from this post, it must be this: we’re all programming rock stars. I believe it, and occasionally have to say it out loud to convince myself, but it’s true. If you’ve been in teen services for more than three years, you know the unspoken secret of our demographic – it changes, seemingly overnight! Sometimes, sooner than a pop star’s shimmer fades. Older teens graduate or are lost to the extracurriculars they need for their college apps; you might see them for volunteer hours, always in demand but in short supply. And yesterday’s tweens are today’s teens. Add in the constant evolution of technology and pop culture, especially the advent of YouTube celebs (seriously, there’s a whole con devoted to them!), and you’ve got the jist of the revolving stage upon which we play. A program you did last year for mostly seventh & eighth graders just won’t fly for the same group this year, but that gaming lock-in you did five years ago with the high-schoolers, tweaked ever so slightly, will. We’re like Madonna – continually reinventing our programs. Or maybe I should say Beyonce? Yeah, make it Beyonce. Madonna makes me sound old.

We need to break this cycle of self-doubt and shed light on the “real” problem: we don’t talk about our “flops” at all, and we really should! Our ideas are as fabulous as we are, but just might not be right for our current crop of teens. Comment here to share your story. Let’s create a blooper reel and share those “big” ideas that never really worked with our kids. They might work for someone else, or they might not. It never hurts to share. Also, please help us make Teen Read Week materials and resources better for you by completing the YALSA survey
Carolyn Aversano is the Teen Services Librarian at The Ocean County (NJ) Library, Jackson Branch.

YALSA is formulating its next strategic plan, which will be a 3 year plan rather than a 5 year one. Directly after the Young Adult Services Symposium, YALSA staff and the Executive Committee met for 1.5 days to dig deeply into the process. In her recent blog post, YALSA President, Candice Mack, referred to this time as “a ‘scouting expedition’/environmental scan.” Four YALSA members also participated in the first half-day session.

Facilitated by Eric Meade from the Whole Mind Strategy Group, attendees utilized The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action to reflect on what the future landscape of teen services in libraries might look like. Just like the Futures report calls for a paradigm shift that leads to teen-centric services, the new strategic plan will take a teen-centered approach by putting teens’ needs at the forefront and setting goals that support YALSA members in helping teens meet those needs.

Attendees gathered in a large circle in a meeting room at the Hilton where the Symposium was held. After an explanation of theories and of the process of the day, different groups went into the “fishbowl” (a circle within the larger circle) to answer questions relating how the Futures report could strategically address the landscape of teen services and YALSA. Later, we divided into groups to brainstorm possible goals we would like to see YALSA achieve in the year 2025. We then categorized the goals into groups.

What struck me most throughout the process was the level of engagement of everyone. There were signs of vitality and a healthy YALSA throughout the afternoon. There was a desire by YALSA staff and the Executive Committee to get member feedback and to ensure that the results of the process made for both the best YALSA possible, best served our teens, and resulted in a strong teen services staff in our libraries.

Again, throughout the process, YALSA is looking to get member feedback. Engage in the process now by completing YALSA’s feedback form. The next opportunity to discuss the process will be with Candice Mack during a Twitter Town Hall on November 30, 7:00 to 8:00pm EST. Use #yalsachat to participate.  

Adrienne Strock is the Teen Library Manager at the Nashville Public Library. She is currently a member of the YALSA Community Connections Taskforce. She tweets @astro2pt0.


imageI practically lived on coffee and doughnuts this past weekend at the YALSA Symposium in Portland. Not that I'm complaining; if you're going to drink lots of coffee, Portland is the place to do it. I began my symposium experience with the Friday afternoon preconference Hip Hop Dance and Scratch: Facilitating Connected Learning in Libraries with the hope of gaining some programming ideas. I walked out three hours later with a newfound comfort-level using the program and, yes, concrete ideas for how to use it at my library. Having three hours allotted for experimenting, asking questions, and watching what other people created helped immensely.

At Teen Services without Borders, a panel of school and public librarians and an independent bookseller that discussed challenges and successful partnerships that cross library, departmental, and district lines. Boundaries can feel like brick walls when they prevent teens from accessing the library, and the panel members ultimately decided they needed to serve teens and not the rules, viewing themselves as part of the same community, not competitors. Tips they shared include: Give up your ego. Put kids first. Promote each other's programs and services. Ask for help and keep trying until you find the right person. Finally, take a hard look at the rules - can any be broken?

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This past July, I received a mysterious phone call from a number I did not recognize. As a skeptical member of the 21st century, my initial instinct was to just let it ring. But something inside me prompted me to—just this once—answer this call. I’m glad I did, because it was a phone call I was secretly hoping for without getting my hopes up. The call was from the American Library Association (ALA) offices to let me know I was awarded a Spectrum Scholarship. I screamed internally (and then externally, successfully scaring my dog).

I had worked in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library’s teen department for two years and just finished my first year pursuing my MLIS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The combination of these two experiences had fully solidified my passion for librarianship. I wanted to be a participant and contributor to this community of educators, learners, and advocates for change. The Spectrum Scholarship offered me the priceless opportunity to work towards this dream, and amazingly, without tuition looming over me like a dark, despairing cloud of debt! But I didn’t truly realize the breadth of opportunities Spectrum would present me outside of monetary awards until I started interacting with my fellow scholars.

Quickly, emails from our cohort of scholars made their way into my inbox. As we made our virtual introductions, I realized that I would get to meet each of these talented, passionate, and diverse people at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando as part of our scholarship award. I was lucky enough to meet some of these scholars at the Illinois Library Association (ILA) Conference last month where we were awarded the Sylvia Murphy Williams Award in conjunction with our scholarships. After the initial awkward observation of niceties (that everyone must suffer through, I know), there was an instant kinship between us. As library school students from diverse backgrounds, we immediately had common experiences and points of view to fuel our conversations, both serious and guffaw-worthy. Naturally, the topic of diversity came up a lot in our talks—an area for discussion that we as a profession need to talk more about, even if it does not come about naturally!

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As many of you are aware, YALSA’s current Strategic Plan and its companion document—the Action Plan—run through 2015.

In mid-2014, YALSA's Board began discussing the need for a new strategic plan, put together a Strategic Planning Taskforce and conducted a membership-wide survey. However, since the publication of the report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action,” called for significant changes in teen services, YALSA's Board agreed that the traditional approach to strategic planning was no longer a good fit for YALSA and its needs.

The Board felt that it was necessary to take a step back and rethink the organization’s purpose, focus and structure in order to enable YALSA to be well-positioned to help its members adopt the recommendations in the report and transform library services for and with teens. Most importantly, the Board agreed to use the Futures Report as its guide for the strategic planning process. As a part of this, a 'teens first' message has been the broad focus throughout this process. All of us are passionate about helping teens succeed in school and prepare for college, careers and life. Keeping this foremost in our minds throughout strategic planning discussions is what we have striven to do.

In the past, YALSA's Board did not have a call-to-action or vision document of this type from which to base its strategic planning efforts. In this sense, the Board felt it was starting a new round of strategic planning with an advantage over past rounds. However, in late 2014 and early 2015 the strategic planning process stalled while the Board struggled to find a consultant who could help lead YALSA through a new, and nontraditional organizational planning process. So, an RFP was put together in the spring in order to find what YALSA needed. Then, over the summer, YALSA's leaders reviewed proposals from potential consultants and in August signed a contract with the Whole Mind Strategy Group.

The plan is for the Board have in-depth, generative discussions now through the Board's meeting at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. A first step was for YALSA's Executive Committee to meet this past weekend, where the committee did a "scouting expedition"/environmental scan in order to identify what external and internal factors were impacting teen services in libraries.

Next, the Board will get together in January to discuss this scan and develop a vision for how YALSA can make the recommendations in the Futures Report a reality. The goal is to have a new plan in place by the end of February.

This new document will be different from the past strategic plan format in a few key ways. First, it will be a three year plan, not a five year one. Additionally, the plan will have new components including an intended impact statement, a theory of change statement, organizational outcomes, and a learning plan. To learn more about these new components, visit Bridgespan Group's website. Traditional elements, such as goals and objectives and an action plan will also be included.

I and other YALSA Board members will post updates about the process on the YALSAblog and share news in the weekly YALSA e-News. I am also holding a Member Town Hall via Twitter on November 30th from 7:00 – 8:00pm, Eastern, where I'll provide an update on the process and answer any questions. Please join in with the #yalsachat hashtag.

If you have any questions for me, please don't hesitate to get in touch via candice.yalsa [at]

YALSA's Board is very excited about the possibilities that a new strategic plan will open up for YALSA and its members, and we hope you are, too!

Together we can work to put teens first and ensure that all of the nation's teens have a chance at a brighter future.