Summer is here and at least in Illinois, it’s heating up fast! With June halfway over, we know that ALA Annual is on the horizon. And what says summer better than San Francisco, California? The theme this year is “Transforming libraries, ourselves.” With 25,000 library affiliated folks coming to town, it’s an event you don’t want to miss!

Unfortunately, I’ll be diligently working in Illinois during ALA Annual, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the conversations. If you’re like me and won’t be in San Fransisco, here’s a guide to staying in touch, from a distance.

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I have two new favorite teen program ideas – Blind Date a Book and Food Truck Menu Challenge.

Ok, Blind Date a Book isn’t very new; more often than not, you’ll see this in February for Library Lovers’ Month. Librarians across the country have taken this idea out for a ride and given it their own personal spin. Some benevolent librarians will give potential readers clues, by listing the genre or even a few spoiler-free sentences describing the plot or main character. Some have even successfully applied the speed dating concept to book choice – setting up tables with books at each station, allowing teens to sit with each book for a few minutes, then allowing teens to choose the book date to which they’re most attracted.

For my Blind Date a Book programs, I opt for complete “blindness” – offering up no hints at the contents of the wrapped tome. The “dates” I select tend primarily to be best sellers or YA classics that appeal to a broad range of ages, but I do include the occasional “acquired taste” titles. I decorate my stable of dates with stickers, stick-figure & smiley face drawings, and even phrases like “Short but sweet” (for the thinnest books) or “Can I hang out at your house?” The official rule is that the book must remain wrapped until it is checked out. Once checked out, the reader is free to unwrap the book – even if they’re still in the library. There are no penalties for returning their selected date right away. Sometimes, you just know you won’t be compatible, and that’s ok. I’ve included “rate your date” review forms and bookmarks that double as contest entries; both with varying degrees of success. However, my greatest satisfaction occurs when the books STAY checked out. To me, that means that the teen is reading something he or she would not necessarily have chosen or is re-reading a favorite. Either way, a teen is reading for fun – objective achieved!

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Annual Conference is coming soon, and there are tons of cool YALSA programs happening there. We’ll hopefully be seeing a lot of you at the Michael L. Printz award event, the Margaret A. Edwards luncheon, the Coffee Klatch and many more! If you haven’t gotten your ticket for one of these events, there’s still time. Plus, you can get them at the door, too. So these events are not just a chance to see something cool, they’re a great opportunity to give back to YALSA.

Proceeds from the sales go back to YALSA to support grants, awards and scholarships for members. Each year YALSA’s Financial Advancement Committee has a goal to raise $16,000 to support these grants, awards and scholarships.  So far this year we’ve raised $5,375.  Please consider giving to YALSA to help us stay on track to raise the $16,000 we need by this December.

The Financial Advancement Committee is super passionate about supporting YALSA, and we think it's important to share that enthusiasm because we know it's one of the building blocks that helps YALSA achieve awesomeness. Here’s what some of our committee members have to say about why they give to YALSA:

Melissa McBride:

“Giving to YALSA is something I feel strongly about! I have been a member for 12 years and an active participant in the organization for the last seven. I'm not sure I would be where I am professionally without YALSA! My years of participating on committees have allowed me to meet fabulous people, help support a wonderful organization, and most importantly given me the confidence to take an active leadership role in my school district. I can't think of a better way of showing my appreciation than by giving to YALSA and allowing them to help out other librarians - just like me!”

Dora Ho:

“Giving to YALSA helps strengthen library services to teens through its programs and initiatives. YALSA empowers librarians to serve teens each and every day in the libraries where teens can enrich their literacy skills and engage with their community.”

Gretchen Kolderup:

“Every day, library staff change teens' lives in both big and small ways by giving them employment opportunities, by recommending books and turning them into lifelong readers, by providing them with access to technology, by helping them pursue their personal or academic interests, by bringing like-minded teens together and building community among them, or simply by being an adult who cares about them. YALSA supports that work with webinars, toolkits, national advocacy efforts, grants and scholarships, conferences, and more, so I support YALSA by donating and volunteering my time.”

Franklin Escobedo:

“I know it can be hard to give money, especially when a lot of us aren't rolling in the dough. But I feel that giving to YALSA doesn't only benefit me, but it benefits all YA Librarians out there, members and nonmembers.  YALSA mission is to advocate for teens and the librarians who work with teens. I believe even if you give just a little, that little bit will go a long way to help.  YALSA is investing in our future, through leadership programs, national advocacy days, as well as helping to promote YA Services in libraries. They continue to press the point that Young Adult/Teen Services are vital to the future of libraries across this nation. We have strength in numbers, so every little donation and every large donation is going to help their cause, my cause, our cause. None of us became librarians for a fame and fortune, we became librarians because we have a passion to better society and to advocate for teens who oftentimes get overlooked in their own communities. “

Personally, I give to YALSA because I know YALSA will make something awesome out of it. That awesomeness comes out in many ways: the Future of Teens in Libraries report, the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list, new discoveries in the research journal, librarians and library workers who just learned something new on one of YALSA’s webinars, the look on a teen’s face when their teen services librarian gives them something fabulous to read they discovered on the Books for Teens app...I could go on.

If you want to see proof of the awesome, just check @yalsa out on Twitter. I find myself inspired by dozens of awesome things YALSA is doing for and with teens in libraries every day. Check it out. Better yet, you could give to YALSA too, and make sure we continue to create the awesome. And remember, every amount helps, no matter how little or how large.

See you in San Francisco!

P.S. Want a super easy way to donate to YALSA?  Text ALA TEENALA to this number: 41518 to make a $10 donation


A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? Instagram may be best known as a platform for sharing images that have been enhanced with just the right filters and photo editing tools, but it also comes in handy for sharing video content. The app may limit video to only fifteen seconds, but users can either shoot video live through Instagram or export content created through another app to Instagram of sharing. From book reviews and clips of programs in progress to behind the scenes looks and how to use library resources, the videos that can be shared with users are endless. Do you take so many photos at programs that you can't decide which ones to post without overloading your followers? Apps like SlideLab, Replay, and Flipagram allow you to select and organize your photographs to create a slideshow, add music, share the final product on Instagram, and not feel the pressure to pick only a few favorite pictures. Looking for something different to spice up your feed? With the Dubsmash app you can take video of yourself lip-synching well known bits from movies, tv shows, commercials, or songs for a post that's hilarious and shows a different side of the library staff. Turn up your volume and take a look at a sample of library Instagram videos that we've included below. Have you posted videos on your library's Instagram? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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Have you ever submitted a volunteer application to express interest in serving on a YALSA selection or award committee--only to hear back that the President-Elect and Appointments Task Force were not able to find a spot for you this year? If so, you’re not alone. YALSA is fortunate to have many talented members who are eager to serve on our selection and award committees--nearly 600 applications were submitted for spots on 2015-2016 committees!--but each year, of course, there are only a limited number of committee spots available.

This is one of several reasons why the Board will be discussing the possible creation of a selection and award committee participation policy that would open up the committees for broader participation by the YALSA Membership at ALA Annual in San Francisco. The official Board doc is Item #29 on the YALSA Board’s Annual Conference Agenda.

The proposed policy outlined in the document would institute uniform guidelines for participation in selection and award committees, addressing topics such as as term lengths, maximum years of consecutive service, and frequency of award committee service. As you’ll see when you read the Board doc, this proposal follows up on a recommendation from the Selection Committee Evaluation Task Force that such a policy be explored and created. The proposal is also data-driven, based on an analysis of ten years of committee service records.

Take a look at the document and let the Board know if you have comments, questions, or concerns. We know that this is a proposal that, if adopted, could potentially impact many of our member volunteers, so we value your thoughts and input. There are lots of ways to share your feedback with us!

Thank you!

On June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, Cynthia Hurd, a veteran Librarian for the Charleston County Library, was killed when a 21-year old man massacred worshipers at the Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston. This is a great tragedy that doesn’t just affect everyone who works in public libraries, but also the community she served. After reflecting on the senselessness of this massacre, I started thinking about the teens in Charleston. Not only did these teens lose an advocate, but they lost a mentor and a friend. As librarians, we forge amazing bonds with our teen patrons so, when tragedy strikes, how do we comfort those who are grieving? Although we cannot take on the role of grief counselors, we can provide grieving teens with a safe environment and resources that can help calm and comfort them through these dark days.

The first resource we can always rely on are books. There are many, many books that can help teens cope with their pain and suffering. In fact, after researching resources to help grieving teens, I found that libraries all over the country have amazing book lists that contain numerous titles cover all kinds of loss. If you haven’t had the chance to read Can Reading Make Your Happier1 by Cerwiden Dovey, it talks about the power of bibliotherapy and how books can not only stimulate our brains, but help delay the damage that debilitating diseases such as Dementia can cause. Furthermore, what makes books so powerful is that readers become so enveloped with the story that it literally has the power to change their perspective and decision-making processes. With grief, teens have a very different way of processing their feelings, which is why they act out; therefore, let’s empower our teens by giving them something to help them cope with their feelings. Lastly, as librarians, it is our job to provide teens with information and materials to help them learn, but let’s also show our teens we are also human beings who care and give them something a lot more valuable, which is our time and ears.

Again, we are not clinically-trained to help teens manage their sadness, pain, and/or anger, but we can take the time to listen to our teens. When teens confide in us, they are literally bearing their souls, which is difficult because they are already incredibly vulnerable. In other words, they are placing a huge amount of trust in us when they reveal their problems. By letting our teens vent, they are inadvertently seeking advice that can help them process their problems. Depending on the severity of these problems, we can usually provide a few words or sentences that will help them solve their issues. Obviously, if it’s something completely out of our control, we can provide them with resources that they can investigate, but there is a line we cannot cross. Most of the time, teens just need someone to listen without providing any judgment so let’s take the time to help them find the right tools whether it be a book, magazine, website, phone number, or age old wisdom. Along with connecting teens to resources, we can use our next greatest asset, which is programming.

Programming has immense power to heal. Whether it’s about bringing out our gaming systems or providing assorted crafts, teens can channel their energy into these projects. If tragedy does indeed strike, we can easily provide our teens with a safe space, such as a meeting room, and allow them to just mellow out and process the events that have occurred. Also, if we have strong connections with our local schools, we can contact school counselors to stop by the library to provide counseling or, if we have connections within our community, we can contact counselors who would be willing to donate their time to help our community heal. With this particular incident, I really think it might be worth creating a plan for when awful things happen in the community just in case.

Public libraries have a huge presence in the lives of teens and, just like Ferguson Public Library, we have the power to provide a safe haven for our community. As much as we want to protect our teens from the evil in this world, we can’t. However, we do have the ability to help them get through these moments and I have absolute faith that the Charleston County Public Library will continue to honor the memory of their fallen colleague by providing their community with the tools and resources to thrive and survive anything that life may throw at them.

To learn more about Cynthia Hurd, please click on the following link:



Board Activities at ALA Annual

YALSA’s Board has been hard at work since Chicago; working on the strategic planning process, continuing the roll-out of activities related to the Futures report, planning for ALA Annual at San Francisco. And now, the Annual Conference is fast approaching, and I’m looking forward to the Printz Ceremony on Friday night, brunching with Sharon Draper at the Edwards Award Event on Saturday morning, talking with members at Saturday’s Member Happy Hour, and so much more. You can find the details about these events and many more YALSA activities on the YALSA wiki.

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Dear YALSA community

I have been a passionate advocate for teenagers, and for their reading, for decades. Being passionate means caring -- which thus may also mean advocating, questioning, disputing existing rules and structures. That is why, many years ago, I worked with Michael Cart to bring about the Printz award, and with the Los Angeles Times to create their YA award. If there is one area about which I am equally passionate it is the grand and glorious field of nonfiction for all ages. And so, I have taken the liberty of suggesting to the YALSA board that it is time for us, all of us, to take a look at what truly constitutes excellence in YA nonfiction -- what are the kinds, and types, and subgenres of nonfiction, and what criteria should there be for evaluating them. In this article I discuss what I have proposed to the board, and why.  The official board document (.pdf) is available on the YALSA web site in the Governance Section.  I hope you all will add your voices to the discussion here, or in SLJ -- or that we can discuss this in person at Annual, or any one of the many conferences and workshops where I get to meet you. Nonfiction is growing and changing, teenagers need for quality nonfiction is growing, and thus it seems to me time for all of us to weigh in on what makes for true YA Nonfiction Excellence. What do you think?


Marc Aronson has been an avid advocate for teenagers and their reading for many years. He served on the committee that drafted, and later evaluated, the rules for the Michael Printz prize, and he suggested the YALSA Excellence in nonfiction award. As an author of nonfiction he won the first Sibert award and, with Marina Budhos -- his wife -- was a finalist for the YALSA Nonfiction award. Their next book, which will be published in 2017, centers on another couple who were artists and collaborators: the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. Aronson is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the MLIS program at Rutgers University.