As YALSA President, one of the things I sometimes hear from new YALSA members, and those attending Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference for the first time, is that YALSA is very cliquey. I can see how that can be the perception as at meetings and events, people who know each other and haven’t seen each other in months, get excited about having the chance to talk face-to-face and huddle around each other excitedly, often talking non-stop. To some, walking into that environment, it can seem like first day at a new high school on the first day of school after summer vacation. Vacation is just over and everyone is running up to each other, hugging, and gabbing away, excited about being together again after time apart.

But, I’m here to tell you that yes, while it’s true that YALSA members love to see each other after not having a chance for face-to-face conversation for several months, it’s even more true that we are a welcoming bunch of people very interested in helping new members and bringing newbies into the Association.

Here are some things YALSA staff and leadership are doing in order to help guarantee that those new to the Midwinter Meeting and events experience, don’t feel like they are walking into a room of high school cliques:

  • YALSA Board members and staff hover around the meeting doors of All Committee and Leadership Development in order to welcome people to the meetings. We’ll all be wearing ribbons that say Board Member or Staff or President, President-Elect, Past President and you should feel free to walk up to one of us and say “hello.” You should also feel comfortable asking questions about how the meetings work.
  • Photo of Linda W. BraunThe same is true for the Joint Youth Division Membership Reception on Monday evening of Midwinter. I know I’ll be stationed at a door to welcome those who attend the event. If I don’t see you as you walk by, feel free to walk up to me and say “hello.” I’ll wear my name badge and have a ribbon that says President. (By the way I’ve included my photo in this post so you’ll know what I look like and can very definitely feel like you can walk up and say “hello.”) I very much want to meet new (and potential) members and first time attendees, and look forward to talking with you about what you would like to get involved in in YALSA and how YALSA can support you in your work with teens.
  • Perhaps social events like the YALSA Happy Hour and Games, Gadgets, and Gurus might be the most difficult in overcoming a perception of clicquishness. At these events, again there will be people stationed at the doors to welcome you. But, once you walk into the room, if it seems like there’s just bunches of people who all know each other talking it up and you don’t want to interrupt, don’t let that stop you from selecting a group and going up and introducing yourself. Believe me, I know that can be difficult. But, it’s really an important thing to do. I promise, the people you walk up to will be friendly and welcoming. (And if they aren’t I apologize in advance, that’s not what YALSA is really like.)

As a new YALSA member, potential member, or new Midwinter Meeting goer, I’d like to ask you to wear your badge when at meetings and events. I was always terrible at this, (so it may seem inappropriate for me to suggest) but I have learned, now that I’m in a YALSA leadership position, that badge-wearing is a really important part of being able to be welcomed into the Association. If I, and others, can quickly see your name and where you work, then it’s really easy to start a conversation with you. (I can even see your badge and say “Hi, Amy” without having met you before. We’ll be on a first-name basis instantaneously.)

One important message I have is that YALSA has made changes over the past several years in order to be more welcoming to those who are new to the organization, and/or face-to-face meetings and events that the Association sponsors. To some extent, this is a two-way endeavor. We’ll welcome you as best we can. And, I hope you’ll be willing to take the risk of talking to people that you might not know. It can be difficult, but as others who have gone before you can tell you, it’s worth it. You’ll meet people who become life-long colleagues and friends and whom you’ll be able to connect with when not at face-to-face events in order to brainstorm ideas, discuss challenges, and celebrate successes.

If you are attending Midwinter and have questions about any of the meetings or events, feel free to contact me.

If blog readers have tips, advice, etc. for first-time attendees leave them in the post comments.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

11 Thoughts on “A Clique Or A Welcoming Group?

  1. Maureen Hartman on January 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm said:

    Great post and a good reminder for me to wear my badge!

  2. I can absolutely attest to the friendliness of YALSA! I showed up to my first Annual really only knowing one person (who may or may not be the author of this post…) but I was immediately introduced to plenty of other members, invited to sit at a table at all-committee, and generally welcomed by everyone around me.

    I’m including my picture as well so that folks have one more friendly face–and you’ll see it all over the place at Midwinter! As blog manager I’ll be at many of the meetings and events, and please do feel free to come say hello. Photo of mk Eagle

    (Wondering how we added our photos? Use the link below the comment box!)

  3. Photo of Connie UrquhartHi–I’ve been involved in YALSA for a few years and I have to say, it’s still somewhat intimidating to attend the big events (happy hour, All-Committee, etc.). But it’s easier now than it used to be, and I think a big reason for that is Twitter. Knowing your across-the-country colleagues on a day-to-day basis really makes things more comfortable. If you’ve never met someone in real life, you can still strike up a conversation based on your shared Twitter history. I’m including my photo here and I’ll be putting my Twitter name (connieurq) on my badge so I can meet some of my tweeps for the first time. I’m private on Twitter but I always enjoy friending a fellow librarian, so find me!

  4. Photo of Erin Downey HowertonI will be meandering the tables at All-Committee as the YAttitudes editor and I’d love for new folks to stop & say hi! Meeting in person does cement a connection as Connie was saying above… and then we can use technology to stay in touch between meetings 🙂

  5. Photo of Liz BurnsI’ll be at All Committee. Hopefully I’ve made the photo thing work. If not, it’s the same photo I use at twitter, where I’m LizB.

  6. Hey all! I am not a new librarian but I am new to YALSA – I will be at happy hour as well as Gadgets, Games & Gurus (and I should be All Committee? no?). Tweet at me @tiffanye. Liz, Linda, MK, I am following all of you! Connie, I will add you ASAP :)[img][/img]

  7. Tiff – thanks for the picture. If you are on a Process Committee for YALSA, the group will probably be meeting at All Committee. However, even if you aren’t currently on committee, All-Committee is a great way to find out about the work of the organization and meet peers. So, yes, put All-Committee on your schedule.

  8. Angie Manfredi on January 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm said:

    Angie Hi! My name tag will say Angelina, but don’t worry, I crossed it out so it read Angie. I’ll be all over YALSA events: YALSA 201, All-Committee, and the YALSA Discussion & Interest Group Open House. (maybe more!) Please come over and say hi if you see me! I consider myself a YALSA “newbie” and yet everyone I’ve ever met (and been “intimidated” by because they’re a BNF) has been totally amazing and funny and kind and interesting. I’ve made great connections. Come sit in at an meeting at All-Committee, someone sat in on my committee’s (Outreach to Teens with Special Needs) meeting at Annual and we were happy to have her input! Midwinter is a great time to break some ice. Just ask someone what they think is going to win the Printz. When you get a chance to be around tons of people who have an answer to this questions 😉 don’t ya wanna take advantage of it??!

  9. Hi everyone! I’ll be at All Committee, various other YALSA-related events, and the Kid’s/YA Tweetup. I made some ‘I read YA’ and ‘Teen Advocate’ buttons to give away, so definitely track me down to get one!

  10. Krista McKenzie on January 10, 2010 at 9:51 am said:

    I, too, will be at pretty much all things YALSA! Please feel free to come hang out with me! Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone at any of the events. There are some amazing people in this organization. Last year, Mid-Winter was my very first interaction with the group. And, now I have several good friends as a result.

    I am putting my picture out there, but with one addendum…I’m now a red-head. We YA librarians are a fun bunch!

    Whitney, I’d like some of those buttons 🙂 I’ll see you at All-Committee…

  11. Thanks for addressing this, Linda! You know, I think these are great tips for ANY reception or event one might be attending.

    At my first ALA conference in 1998, I went to the YALSA membership reception, and hobnobbed with YALSA leaders who were generous and gracious with their time and attention. Joel Shoemaker made a particular effort to introduce me around and gave me my first committee appointment. 🙂 I’d encourage seasoned YALSA members to introduce newbies around as they meet them – one thing I recall about Joel is that he found out quickly what my interests were, and made sure to introduce me to someone I had something in common with, and mentioned that in the introduction.

    With the upcoming midwinter conference in my own backyard this year, I think it might be even more of a challenge (for ME) to not appear cliquey. I try to go out of my way to meet new people, especially students; I turned down an invite to lunch with local friends who were gathering in Denver last year, to meet someone who I was newly following on Twitter who wanted a lunch buddy, and when we bumped into some folks I knew at the food court, they latched on, and my whole “meet someone new thing” didn’t quite go as planned. I felt really badly about it!

    I will be at YALSA Happy Hour Fri (and am sorry to miss the Gaming, Gadgets & Gurus event, last year was a LOT of fun!) and the Youth Services Joint Reception. Incidentally, I’m looking for an Administrative Assistant for the 2010 Alex Committee, so if you can attend DC this June and San Diego in Jan 2011, and enjoy adult books with teen appeal, please come say hello! My twitter name @infogdss29 will be on my name badge and here is a pic:

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