There has been some discussion on blogs and in the Twitterverse about a recent change on YALSA’s website.

First, let me state that all of YALSA’s awards and annotated lists are open to anyone for free. YALSA members simply log in to the site (which you have to do anyway if you are going to access ALA Connect, for example). Non-members are asked to provide their name and email address, and answer two questions about their interest in YALSA resources.

The purpose of this change, which is not expected to be temporary, is three-fold. On the one hand, one of YALSA’s Strategic Plan goals is member recruitment. Obviously people who are already coming to our website are candidates to become members. By collecting their email addresses, we can send them information targeted to their areas of interest, and perhaps gain some new YALSA members in the process. The second purpose is to find out more about who is using the website and how, so that we can do an even better job of serving both members and non-members. The third purpose is to identify and cultivate a list of advocates for teen services.’  Now more than ever we need to reach beyond the library community to engage people in advocating on behalf of libraries. Advocacy and activism is another goal in YALSA’s strategic plan, and organizations such as NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network) identify what YALSA is doing—collecting email addresses of those who support our cause—as a best practice for not-for-profits.

In less than two weeks, we have already collected over 1,100 names and email addresses, so clearly a lot of people think that providing this information is a fair trade for what they get from YALSA’s lists. Moreover, these teachers, parents, teens and others can be tapped by YALSA to support the great work that you do.’  We are proud of the work that you, the members, do for YALSA in creating these lists and awards, and we want to make sure that we’re promoting them—and YALSA—effectively beyond our own membership. YALSA depends on donations, sales from products and fees from CE to support the majority of the services that we provide and the work we do.’  Without avenues to promote these products and services, YALSA would not have enough funding to continue the same level of service it has been providing.

We are continuing to make refinements in the process. For example, our intention is to have some areas of the awards and lists section available without a login, primarily the areas that are used mainly by our members, such as field nomination forms, policies and procedures, and so on.’  Please know that YALSA does not have a full time web master.’  That responsibility is just one third of one staff person’s job.’  Additionally, YALSA can only work with the technology that ALA provides to Divisions.’  We are doing the best that we can with the resources we have, and we greatly appreciate everyone’s patience as we refine the changes to the web site.

As YALSA President, I deeply appreciate all the work that our members do to ensure teens have access to great libraries, and in promoting YALSA’s awards and lists to teens and their parents. The YALSA Board and staff are open to suggestions for promoting our lists, for recruiting new members and for engaging the broader community in advocating for the great work that you do.

Sarah Flowers, YALSA President

About Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers is a YALSA Past President and former Deputy County Librarian for the Santa Clara County (CA) Library. Currently she does writing and speaking on topics related to teen services and teaches online courses for California's Infopeople Project.

12 Thoughts on “Changes to YALSA’s website

  1. Sarah, I appreciate this post explaining the rationale behind YALSA’s new website policy and I can understand why the changes have been made. From what I’ve heard, some of the disgruntlement came from the changes being made without being widely announced to members. I know staff time is always limited and maybe that’s something that just fell through the cracks, but I’d hope that in the future changes like this would be communicated to members before they take place. I think putting up this post before the changes had taken place would have gone a long way to easing people’s minds about the changes and getting YALSA members to support them.

    Thanks for filling us in and I’m hopeful that these changes will have the desired effects and result in new members and greater support for YALSA and the work that we do!

  2. I do hope some information becomes much easier to view very quickly.

    I’m on the Nonfiction Committee, and our eligibility dates aren’t on a calendar year. Yesterday I came across a book that I thought might be eligible and wanted to quickly double check when the cut-off was. When I hit the log-in screen, that was the line between a quick search and something more in-depth that takes more effort. Because of that, I decided to look later when I had more time. This was obviously something I am invested in, so of course I went back and looked it up, but how many casual users are going to that? Especially because logging in as a member is quicker than filling out the form.

    Even more troubling is the fact that, unless you log in, you can’t even find out what awards YALSA has. You can’t get the list of past Printz winners, what the Printz is, or even the fact that the Printz exists. Our awards and lists are the most visible part of YALSA to non-members and now we’re hiding what they are. Are media outlets and other people we reach out going to go through the extra steps of filling out a form to get information that we want them to cover? I doubt it.

    I support YALSA’s attempts to grow membership and to find out about how people use our site and information, I just think this is the wrong way to do it.

  3. JoAnn Tropiano on February 26, 2012 at 7:00 am said:

    Dear Sarah,
    Restrictions seldom cultivate advocates. Taking something away in an effort to identify and solicit its users turns away many of your anonymous advocates. Please reconsider this change and make the lists freely available again as a public service.
    JoAnn Tropiano

  4. While I appreciate the explanation, I think this is a disastrous decision for YALSA.

    Perhaps you collected 1,000 emails but did you capture ones like mine if I don’t fill out the form in protest? What about parents, reporters, English teachers, and even authors, etc. who don’t want to fill out the form or receive any emails in order to get the list (and with the power of the web will eventually be able to find it elsewhere?)

    I think it is disastrous because the YALSA thing is the most public gift the organization gives to teens, librarians, and parents. It celebrates the best in teen literature–literature that encourages children to read freely. ALA itself is a strong advocate for free access to any who walk in the doors of a library. I fear the backlash is going to harm YALSA’s reputation more than the emails collected will help it.

  5. I meant that to say the Yalsa “list” not thing.

  6. The “philosophy” behind this decision bothers me so much that I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes trying to formulate a response and have been unable to do so. You’ve collected 1100 emails so far? Great for you. How many people have you turned away?

    It may not seem to be a big deal to log in, but I don’t log in that often. So, now, if I want a list, instead of being able to pull it up, I have the added step of having to find my log in information. It’s not something that will take me that long, but as a member who does not have the resources to attend most events (because they are far away, expensive, and at times in the year when I cannot take off), making me jump through a hoop to get a simple list of books, that is publicly announced, just seems petty.

    It kinda seems to me like putting the “special” books behind the reference desk so that we know who’s looking at them. But that would be bad, right? Hindering access, and all that.

  7. Sarah,

    I hope the changes are NOT long term. I think they are more likely to drive people away and alienate current members. Sometimes I just want to check a title FAST. I don’t want to take the time to log in and if I am not at my home computer, I am not always able to log in. Also, it is my experience that people who are asked to provide information will find other sources. I doubt that making things harder to enter will encourage people to think of joining. I would recommend asking folks to supply information AFTER they have had a successful visit. I’ve already heard people say that they no longer even bother with trying to find things on the YALSA website.


  8. Oops. Hit submit before suggesting that we try asking for email addresses after the visit to see if the numbers are similar. I am also wondering whether the addresses received are valid. I have heard many say that they just put in a bogus address just to get to the site. (Just checked and it is possible to enter a bogus email address and get to the site). I am also wondering whether these email addresses can be linked in any way to show that YALSA is increasing its membership and retaining its existing membership?

  9. Margie Simon on May 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm said:

    This change makes me very unhappy for all of the reasons already discussed and one more. For the past three years our summer reading list has been the 2009 Outstanding Books for the College Bound. We provided parents and students with a link to the list on the website and promoted ALA and YALSA in the process. I am not comfortable asking parents and students to provide personal information in order to access a required list so we will have to change the assignment. I hope YALSA reconsiders this decision.

  10. Jane on May 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm said:

    Recently, my superiors asked me to remove the YALSA list link from our recommended reading lists on our Teens webpage. =( From now on, I suppose if a librarian needs a title from the list, they can ask the few of us that are members…. If it is not possible to open up the lists to the general open public, perhaps a way for accessing the list through libraries/schools only is feasible? Similar to Scholastic’s BookFlix.

  11. Erin Helmrich on May 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm said:

    I have to echo all of the comments above about this negative aspect of this change. The reality is that I often want to show the site to parents, teens, teachers etc. and this now makes this a prohibitive exercise in frustration. I don’t have my login info at my fingertips – and even if I did making me login to access the list of award winners is not cool. Alternately for those who are not members they do NOT want to provide contact information to access information that should be free. For my co-workers who are not YALSA members it’s insane to make them fill out that information while they are on the desk trying to help someone – and ultimately promote YALSA in the process. This is only encouraging irritation and anger. And at this point it’s easier and FASTER for me to use to get a list of Printz winners in the hands of someone – the exact OPPOSITE of what the intended goal of this was. I love to promote YALSA to as many people as I can – don’t make it difficult. Definitely a step in the wrong direction.

  12. Sharon Grover on May 25, 2012 at 11:55 am said:

    I, too, am finding this very frustrating. We have removed the links to all of the YALSA selection and award lists on our website because we are adamantly opposed to asking teens, or adults for that matter, to give their email addresses in order to view these lists. We are now looking for alternative ways to push out this information and to say we are unhappy about the extra work is an understatement. We are also disturbed that we feel uncomfortable pointing anyone to the YALSA website, which we formerly promoted heavily. We don’t use it at the desk anymore either because it’s just too cumbersome a process. Absolutely a step in the wrong direction that I hope will be reversed very soon.

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