Federal Library Funding Update & Next Steps

April 3rd was the deadline for Representatives in the House to sign on to ALA’s “dear appropriator” letters for two funding streams for libraries: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  In all, 146 Members of the House signed on to support IAL, and 144 Members signed on to back LSTA.  Last year, just 124 members supported IAL, and only 88 supported LSTA, so the increased support is a good sign.  Thank you to everyone who contacted their House Reps!  If you haven’t done so already, please shoot them an email or a Tweet to thank them.  Check this chart to see if your Rep signed one or both letters. Continue reading

An IMLS Overview

If you are anything like the general population you know that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) does SOMETHING with libraries (and museums) but you really have no idea what it does. We hope by now that you know that IMLS is on this year’s chopping block, per the White House’s proposed budget, but aren’t sure how it will affect you, and why it’s a big deal.

And these cuts are a Big Deal. The IMLS is fairly young, as government organizations go, having been created in 1996 by the Museum and Library Services Act (the act combined the Institute of Museum services and the Library Programs Office), and is reauthorized every 5 years, but it touches every state and US Territory in the country. IMLS now supports all libraries- public, academic, research, tribal, and special as well as every type of museum- from children’s to planetariums to history. Over 158,000 museums and libraries combined benefit from IMLS funds every year.

The majority of IMLS support to libraries is the Grants to States program. Grants to States is the biggest source of federal funding for libraries across the country. It is a bit of a misnomer, because these grants aren’t competitive or something that requires an application. Every state automatically receives funding from Grants to States based on population needs, over $150 million dollars in funds is distributed to libraries every year through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Each state receives a base amount of $680,000 and each Territory receives a base amount of $60,000, which is then matched at the state level. (To find out how your state uses LSTA funds visit the IMLS State Profile Page.)

Each state or US Territory is able to determine how they will allot these funds, and many states distribute their library portion through their State Library. These funds support a variety of library functions and operations. States use this money to fund staff at state library agencies, continuing education for library workers, Talking Books programs (books for the blind and physically handicapped), broadband internet access, programs for teens, seniors, and at-risk populations, access to databases and downloadable books, and much more. Visit your state library’s web site to learn more about all of the resources and services they have available to help you help teens.

The IMLS also supports libraries through competitive grants, research, surveys, and policy development. The IMLS works in partnership with state agencies and museums to collect data and distribute the collected information to state and federal agencies. This data is used to identify the upcoming trends in library and museum services and to identify target needs across the country. These trends are studied and policies for best practices and plans to improve them are established. Initiatives on InterLibrary Loan, staffing, library governance, collections and more are developed through these extensive surveys and research.

Without the funding from the IMLS libraries will be facing far-reaching budget and service cuts. We will see the funds for things such as the databases we depend on for research dwindle, the funds for downloadable content dry up, and our state agencies will likely lose valuable staff that support our work at the local level. Statewide library funds will effectively be halved by these measures, putting library services and libraries at risk.

How can you help?

Facts and figures drawn from https://www.imls.gov/

Apply by April 10 for Funds to Attend National Library Legislative Day

Because the White House’s budget proposes eliminating all federal funds for libraries, YALSA’s Board of Directors has re-opened the travel stipend application in order to send an additional member to Washington DC to advocate for teens and libraries. The stipend, funded by Friends of YALSA, will enable one qualified recipient to receive up to $1,000 to attend ALA’s 2017 National Library Legislative Day, in Washington, DC, May 1-2, 2017. Apply online by April 10, 2017.  Applicants will be notified the week of April 17, 2017.  The Board is specifically seeking applicants from states other than Pennsylvania and Texas, as those are the two states being represented by other YALSA NLLD travel stipend winners.

-Beth Yoke

P.S. for other ways to stand up for teens and libraries, read this earlier YALSAblog post


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 YALSA 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 interviewed Heather Fisch, Associate Librarian, Outreach at the Hennepin County Library

1. What kind of outreach services do you provide for teens?

Our outreach team coordinates monthly booktalks by library staff to the students at Hennepin County Home School (CHS), a residential treatment center for juveniles ages 13 to 20 who have been committed by the court. We update their library collection with new materials and provide books as requested by students and teachers. We also organize special programs for the students, such as author visits and writing workshops.

2. Describe a day in the life of providing outreach.

Last year, one of our librarians chose Kekla Magoon’s novel How It Went Down to book talk. Many of the students connected with the novel, so much so that one student persuaded the administration to buy a copy for every student and host a school-wide book club focused on the novel. Students facilitated the book club meetings, and a couple of us from the library attended. The students were really engaged and the book seemed to resonate deeply with them and sparked profound discussion.  It was really inspiring to witness.

This past October, we had the opportunity to bring the author, Kekla Magoon, to CHS to discuss the book with the students in person. The event took place in the auditorium, where the students had prepared questions and posted them on paper taped to the walls. The students listened intently to the author describe her journey to becoming a writer, the process of writing books, and the impetus behind How It Went Down, and then asked questions including:

  • “What is your honest opinion on Black on Black violence and White on Black violence? Why does society make White on Black violence a bigger deal?”
  • “Why do people make their perspectives and stereotypes come true?”

(Disclaimer: Not all days in Outreach are this overtly inspiring, but I feel grateful to have been there for this one!)

3. What resources would you recommend for someone new to outreach to look for ideas for inspiration as well as best practices?

The best resource(s) I’ve discovered are the teens themselves. When I stop and listen, I’ve found that most teens will tell you what is meaningful to them, what incites their curiosity, and what inspires them to question the world around them. My colleagues have also been a trusted source for sharing best practices. In terms of where I turn when selecting titles for booktalks, I’ve had good luck with the following:

  4. What are some of your favorite things you have heard from teens while providing outreach services?

Some of my favorite things I’ve heard students say:

  • “Sometimes when I’m reading a book in my room at night, it feels like I’m watching TV!”
  • “I’m not always a fan of book trailers because they take away my freedom to imagine.”

(And lest we forget that some of our students are, after all, teenage boys):

Booktalker: “See No Color is about a 16-year-old baseball player whose body is growing in ways that make it difficult for her to continue playing ball.”

Student: “Growing? How?”

Booktalker: “She’s getting curves.”

Student: “Ooooo! I want that book!”

ACT NOW for LSTA and IAL! #saveIMLS

If you care about teens and how library services improve their lives, I need you to contact your House Representative to sign the House “Dear Appropriator” letters supporting LSTA and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  There are only two business days left, and in the last update received from ALA Washington, we don’t even have the same amount of supporters that we had last year! And we need so many more signers than that!

Check out the online tracking tool to see who needs contacted.  Historically, Democrats are more likely to sign onto the letters, but, as you can see from the tracker, many of them haven’t yet this year. Is your representative supporting LSTA? If not, call!  If so, call and thank him or her! We only have until April 3, so you need to contact them TODAY!

What do you do? Call. On this website, click on the red “Make a Call” box and then send a tweet and an email while you’re at it! Customize the provided messages.   Leave voice mails when you have to, but try to keep calling until you reach a staff member.

What do you say? Ask them to sign the LSTA Dear Appropriator letters TODAY. And you can even refer them to the staff of Rep. Raul Grijalva to add their name to the letter.

Why? Because we can’t provide quality services to teens without LSTA funds.

LSTA funding is close to my heart–you can see the proof in my resume.  My students have benefited from almost $70,000 of LSTA funding since FY05.  Grants doubled my high school budget in some years, while providing new technologies (back then) like a SmartBoard and wifi for my kids. I was able to provide internet safety workshops in my community–something I probably wouldn’t have initiated if it weren’t for the grant opportunity.   One year LSTA funds allowed me to bring in a reading specialist to provide professional development to my fellow high school teachers (because secondary education degrees didn’t prepare us to teach reading), and another year my collection grew to support AP History students.  Even now that I’m at a community college, my students have benefited from LSTA funds.  In 2014, my library purchased children’s and teen nonfiction books in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math and I gave presentations about using quality literature to meet the new Illinois learning standards (Common Core).  It’s impossible to list all the outcomes of the above grants in my community.  I still remember when I taught students about privacy on MySpace (yes, I’m old) and they were spurred into action to go straight home and change their settings (remember the days before smartphones?).

Please remember though that LSTA is more than just competitive grants.  In my state, LSTA funds provide the Illinois State Library Talking Book and Braille Service to over 12,000 residents who cannot read print because of physical or visual limitations. LSTA funds also supplement material delivery services in the state.  Total statewide delivery in FY16 was over 14 million items to patrons in need.  It’s a joy to see my college’s items being loaned to high school students in small towns hours away.  In FY17, Project Next Generation funded 19 grants to Illinois public libraries to encourage personal growth and the educational development of at risk students through the use of mentors, technology, and library based group projects. While the program helped to bridge the digital divide, students became more college and career ready, established relationships with positive role models, had fun, and learned new technologies.

Please gather your friends, family members, coworkers, and patrons, and send as many calls, emails and tweets that you possibly can today, Friday, and Monday.

In the words of Emily Sheketoff from the ALA Washington office, “We’re almost out of time and failure in this effort may well mean deep cuts in, or even the elimination of, LSTA funding for FY 2018. WE CANNOT AND MUST NOT FAIL.”

ALA Annual Visit: Chicago Entertainment

As much as I love conferences, you have to admit that they can get a little grueling. If you’re coming to Chicago for the ALA Annual Conference this year, make sure you take some time to enjoy the city! If you’re looking for entertainment, here are some places to check out.


Oriental Theatre by Mike is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Chicago has an incredible Off-Broadway scene, with o  rnate theatres and world-class shows.  Enter your available dates on this site to find shows playing.  There are still a few tickets for Hamilton at the PrivateBank Theatre, but be prepared to spend upward of $200 for a not-so-great seat.  Disney’s Aladdin at the beautiful Cadillac Palace Theatre has tickets starting at $45.  Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I is playing at the Oriental Theatre.  Even seats in the back of these shows can be pricey.  While it’s always cool to be in front, if you can only drop the cash for one of the nosebleed seats, it’s still well worth the price.

Continue reading

Meet the YALSA Board of Directors

What is the YALSA Board? What do they do? Who is on the YALSA Board? These could be questions you may have and if they are you’ve come to the right place. Each month, two YALSA Board of Directors are interviewed and their responses are shared here in order to help members get to know more about the Board members, the Board itself and things the Board is working on.

YALSA’s board of directors has the principal responsibility for fulfillment of YALSA’s mission and the legal accountability for its operations. The board has specific fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and obedience to the law. As a group they are in charge of:

  • establishing a clear organizational mission
  • forming the strategic plan to accomplish the mission
  • overseeing and evaluating the plan’s success
  • hiring a competent executive director
  • providing adequate supervision and support to the executive director

This month meet Jennifer Korn, TeenSpot Manager at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and YALSA Board of Directors Member-at-Large.

  1. What drew you to the Board?

The TLDR answer: Former YALSA Board members and leaders asked if I’d like to serve on Board!

YALSA Board was a long-term, nebulous-feeling goal for me. I certainly did not think I would serve on Board only five years into my YALSA involvement. I served on several YALSA committees and task forces as a member and as chair prior to serving on Board. Those experiences exposed me to a few of the many facets of YALSA’s work, and I found myself curious about the association’s other work. I also wanted to give back to YALSA in a more impactful way to thank YALSA for helping me grow my knowledge of serving teens and developing my leadership skills. I shared these sentiments with a few YALSA leaders and that’s when I got a friendly nudge to set my sights on Board sooner than I thought I would.

2. What do you do on the Board?

Like all Board members, I develop and present initiatives and propose changes and improvements that match with YALSA’s Strategic Plan, engage in discussions and make tough decisions about YALSA’s present work and future goals, and support our member’s work with teens.

I currently liaise with two very productive committees, Teen Tech Week and Legislation. Liaisons offer support to committee chairs and members so they can complete their task lists for the year.  I also serve on the Advocacy Standing Committee, which is identifying advocacy priorities in the short and long-term. I am also working with fellow Board member Diane Colson to develop a plan to invigorate and better support YALSA’s fantastic Interest Group opportunities.  One of my favorite aspects of Board work is collaborating with fellow Board members on Board documents and proposals in support of YALSA initiatives!

3. What the board is doing for its members?

The Board is always looking for ways to better support our members so our members can better support teens in their communities. 

I’m currently really excited about the new short-term volunteer and engagement opportunities for our members. These opportunities are mindful of our members’ heavy workloads and ever-changing life responsibilities.  Members can join a short-term task force or committee for a couple of months rather than an entire year, or they can devote a day or two to a resource retreat.  Members can also start or join Interest Groups, a more flexible way to connect with learn from other members.  These opportunities let members actively participate in YALSA, connect with other members, and develop leadership skills in a way that matches their availability at a particular time.

4. Do you have a teen book you may be reading or a recent program you may have done with and for teens?

My favorite program, and the teens’ favorite program, is Teen Chef. We teach teens how to cook simple, healthy, and tasty food with easy to find and inexpensive ingredients. The teens conduct recipe research and collaborate with each other in all parts of the prep, cooking, and clean up. Of course the teens get to eat what they cook too! We do not have a kitchen in our library, so we’ve collected portable burners, pots, and utensils from thrift stores, yard sales, and donations. Popular recipes have included veggie stir fry, DIY Chipotle, and Panera’s broccoli cheese soup. We also try to host local chefs a few times each year as out budget allows.

Emilio Estevez recently directed and acted in a film shot in the Library where I work, which included several scenes in our Teen Department. I shamelessly asked him for the included photo when he stopped by to check out the space. He was also incredibly kind to the teens who asked him for photos and autographs throughout the shoot.

Contact your House Rep’s Office & Ask for Support on Two Library Bills

Please contact the office of your Representative in the House and ask them to sign on to the “dear appropriator” letters for two critical pieces of library funding: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  Please share this widely and encourage your colleagues, coworkers, friends and family to contact the offices of their Reps as well.  This is an extremely tough budget year, and without huge grassroots support (i.e. thousands of voters contacting Congress), the nation’s libraries will lose this critical funding.  The deadline to sign the letter is April 3.

Thank you for all that you do to support teens and libraries!

-Beth Yoke

P.S. If you’ve been trying by phone to reach your Rep and the lines are busy, try Resistbot instead

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Book Clubs with Heart

Collaboration. In theory, an easy concept. As a school librarian, I understand the importance of collaborating with my public librarians, and I try my best. But if you are anything like me, sometimes knowing what you should do and actually being able to execute it are two totally different things.

When it came time to think of a topic to write about for this collaboration-themed post, I immediately thought of the program that is run jointly by Mira Johnson, the HS librarian in my district and Penny Kelley, our YA librarian at the public library. I thought I’d interview them about the program, the work involved, and the benefits and challenges.

Tell me about the book club:

We run a book discussion program with students in grades 5 to 7 based on the Jane Addams Peace Association’s book awards. These are “given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” After reading and talking about the books together, we took a trip into New York City to attend the awards ceremony. We listened to the authors and illustrators make speeches and then we got to talk to them ourselves. We hold meetings at both libraries and we’ve made presentations about our club to the Board of Education, the Friends of the Library, the PTA, and other grade levels in the district.  

Where did the idea to start a book club focused on a book award come from and how did you decide to work together?

Penny’s been involved with the Jane Addams Peace Association for many years, and she always thought the ceremony would be great to bring kids to. Also, the books are always so good, and full of so many things to talk about. When she mentioned it to me, I said, yes, let’s go for it.

Because our community is so small, we decided to collaborate for some programs, so we wouldn’t compete for the same kids’ very limited time. Also, sometimes a school can be a more captive audience. We took advantage of this when we brought the JAB club to the high school’s public speaking class for practice on their presentation. That was a magical collaboration.

What challenges did you face?

Sometimes there was confusion over which library we’re meeting at, or slightly different equipment/WiFi in a different space. I think the kids got used to our different teaching styles and accommodated well. I also think it’s a good bridge—they get to see school and public libraries working together and see how we’re both working toward the same big goals!

The biggest challenge was probably getting approval from the school to miss school on a Friday. Also coordinating the permission slips was a little tricky. Technically, it was officially a public library trip, but because it was a school day, the school still needed copies of the permission slips, etc.

What has the response from the kids been?

I think they really get a lot out of it. The first year, we also visited the UN, and, although that made for an exhausting trip (!), they really “got” the ideas of peace and social justice that the Jane Addams Peace Association is all about. They connected the books to the art that’s all over the UN and the things the guide was saying as well.

Have you noticed an impact with the students because of the collaboration?

We now have a “social justice” vocabulary, a small collection of shared books in our brains, and some really fun, moving experiences. It’s such a great experience to meet and hear from authors and illustrators that you’ve met through their work.

Melissa McBride is a school librarian in Southold, NY. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation and the YALSA Board of Directors. You can follow her on Twitter @SESLibraryLand.