Posted by Amy Alessio

Let’s begin by asking both of our candidates for President-Elect, Paula Brehm-Heeger and Allen Nichols about their experience within YALSA and ALA. Please tell readers about what positions you have held in our organization and in the larger ALA structure.

Then follow that up by letting readers know which of those positions was your favorite and why, as well as which gave you the most important skills to use as YALSA President and why.

4 Thoughts on “Candidate Forum for President-Elect

  1. Thanks Amy, and thanks to YALSA for the opportunity to stand for election. I’m happy to respond and look forward to answering questions.

    I have been a very active member of ALA and YALSA. Here is a list of the various positions I have held.

    YALSA Strategic Planning Committee (2005-2007)

    YALSA Communications Task Force (2005-2006): Chair (2005-2006)
    YALSA SUS IV Conference Coordinator (2004-2005)
    YALSA Fiscal Officer (2002-2005)
    YALSA Board of Directors (2002-2005); Executive Committee (2002-2005)
    YALSA Budget and Finance Committee (1997-1999)
    YALSA Selected Films and Videos for Young Adults Committee (1996-1998)
    YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Committee (1993-1996)
    YALSA Serving the Underserved II Planning Committee (1995)
    YALSA Serving the Underserved Trainer (1994)

    ALA Nominations Committee (2006)
    ALA Committee on Accreditation (1999-2003)
    ALA Planning and Budget Assembly (2002-2005)
    ALA Highsmith Library Literature Award Jury (1999-2000); Chair (1999-2000)
    ALA Highsmith Library Periodical Award Jury (1995-1996)

    I have two favorites. Being a member of BBYA was an incredible experience for me because of the exposure to the literature, in addition to the close bonds I made with my fellow committee members. I served with Mike Printz, Audra Caplan, Bonnie Kunzel, Di Herald, and other leaders in our field…it was truly humbling. My other “favorite” was my tenure on the Committee on Accreditation. The members of this group are the people who vote to grant “accredited status” to our library schools. I learned so much about our profession and, unfortunately, the general lack of respect/coursework for youth librarians in our graduate library programs. It was somewhat frightening.

    As far as which activities gave me the most important skills to use as YALSA President…I would say my position as the division’s first Fiscal Officer. Not only did I gain an understanding of the total workings of YALSA as an organization, (in addition to the position, I also served as a member of the board of directors and the executive committee) it allowed me to learn about the division’s role within the larger association. Divisions have a sometimes precarious position within ALA and I learned the subtleties which affect that. As Fiscal Officer I worked with the other division’s leaders, as well as the staff and elected leaders of ALA, to further YALSA’s interests. These are activities that I would also be called to do if elected President and I am glad to say that I have three years of directly-related experience.

  2. paula brehm heeger [Visitor] on February 6, 2006 at 3:25 pm said:

    Thanks for the question to get things rolling, Amy! I’m thrilled the blog is up and running in time for the election season and look forward to reading responses from all the impressive slate of candidates for elected position in YALSA.

    I’ve been active in YALSA for several years, serving on a variety of committees including Partnerships Advocating for Teens (PAT), Intellectual Freedom (IF), TAGS, Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, including as chair of PAT, IF and TAGS. I have also served the Association for Library Service to Children as both member and Chair of the Notable Children’s Video/DVD committee and member of the Managing Children’s Services committee.

    It is difficult to pick a favorite appointment, as I have enjoyed every position and learned something new from each. No doubt, chairing the PAT committee was a great way to begin my involvement in YALSA. YALSA sponsored my attendance at the National School Age Care Alliance Conference, which was an amazing experience for me as a young teen services librarian. It really highlighted the multitude of valuable partners in our communities and helped cement my belief in the power and support that is out there for serving teens in our own backyards, if we look beyond our Library walls.

    Working on the Outstanding Books for the College Bound Committee, my first book selection committee, was an amazing experience, both from the perspective of creating this heavily used list (which also generates funds for YALSA!) and because of the opportunity to serve with former YALSA President, Mary Arnold, the chair of the committee. It was great working with Mary and watching first hand the dedication and grace with which she lead the committee through a challenging process. Her open communication with committee members and genuine appreciation for their hard work helped shape my perspective on effective leadership, particularly as a woman in the field of teen services.

    Through the various committee appointments I have learned the processes for advancing issues through the Association, how to lead with passion from any position and to empower members to be confident, engaged and informed in the work of individual committees and the Association overall.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. It’s great that we’re able to address a host of important issues with such immediacy!

  3. paula brehm heeger [Visitor] on February 7, 2006 at 4:58 pm said:

    Great question, Nick! Thanks for asking.

    YALSA will continue to face a host of important issues. The Association has done a fantastic job of outlining many of these issues and also of creating the structure for proactively addressing them in our Strategic Plan. If you haven’t had the chance to review the Plan, check it out: It is a great roadmap for the Association’s future.

    For me, the issue of advocacy looms large. It is mentioned repeatedly in the Strategic Plan – we know it’s a biggie! Effectively advocating for service to teens (and the librarians delivering it) requires resources, skill, action and strategic thinking. As budgets shrink and competition for resources increases – internally and within the larger community of service organizations – YALSA must offer members the tools needed to not only create sustainable, quality service to teens but also give members the knowledge and training necessary to communicate the value of that service to decision makers. Leadership training, advocacy training and YALSA-initiated opportunities for partnerships are integral parts of this equation and I would make them a priority as YALSA President.

    YALSA has an impressive history of identifying a wide range of challenging issues facing its members and creating tools to address these issues. Examples include the development of the Serving the Underserved training, creating and adopting the Strategic Plan and offering a wide variety of relevant pre-conference and conference sessions (like this year’s amazing mid-winter precon. on Gaming). I am confident that YALSA leadership and members will continue the rich tradition of identifying creative and successful ways to advocate for service to teen – both within ALA and at our own libraries!

  4. Hi Nick – YALSA’s new strategic plan sets the association on a course for success over the next few years. Each of the items identified in the plan is critical to the success of the organization, but one stands out most significantly – Association Sustainability.

    YALSA is in a unique position in its history. For the first time, it no longer receives a “small division subsidy” from ALA. YALSA has grown to the point that it is now “on its own” and, like it or not, the association is a business. If the association is not able to sustain itself, it cannot successfully fulfill the important goals and objectives outlined in the plan. My focus as YALSA President will be to ensure that the association thrives as an unsubsidized division while providing value to its members.

    During my tenure as Fiscal Officer, I wrote the business plan that is now guiding the association through this challenging period. There are several pieces of that plan that will help YALSA continue to grow, meet its goals, and not be overly reliant on member dues – although this is an extremely critical piece. YALSA needs to be more active in creating professional development opportunities, especially on-line training. YALSA needs to continue to grow Teen Read Week because it is important for us to celebrate teen reading/literature and other library services, but sponsors are beginning to understand its importance too. YALSA needs a national institute/conference of its own to draw attention to our goals and celebrate our successes – and this increases revenues as well.

    We want our growing membership to maintain its allegiance to YALSA. It is critical to the association, but also critical to the teens we serve. If we aren’t able to offer value for those members’ dollars, then they may choose to not renew their membership. If we lose members, then we fail the teens we serve. Each of the ideas above works to sustain our association and makes it viable for a long time to come. The ideas also tell our members that we’re worth their dues and I intend to make sure it is our focus.

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