As I was sitting in the Philadelphia airport, waiting to fly home from Midwinter 2014, I checked my email to find something rather startling: an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a symposium on library services for children and teens sponsored by the National Library for Children and Young Adults (NLCY) in South Korea. According to the email, my book Young Adults Deserve the Best: YALSA’s Competencies in Action had been translated into Korean and distributed to libraries in Korea, and they wanted me to come to the symposium and share my “experience and expertise in youth library services”—all expenses paid!’ 10447068_10152495783799670_9027395117503616108_n (2)

The 8th International Symposium on Library Services for Children and Young Adults was held on June 19-20, in Byeonsan, South Korea. I left San Francisco on Monday morning, June 16, and arrived at Incheon Airport, near Seoul, on Tuesday afternoon, June 17, after a 12-hour flight and a 16-hour time difference. At Incheon, I was greeted by my hosts and we met up with two of the other international speakers, Carolynn Rankin from England and Wiebke Dalhoff from Germany, whose flights were arriving at about the same time. Later that day, we met the other international guests: Kate McDowell, from the University of Illinois iSchool; Sazali Pakpong and Huey Bin Heng, from Singapore; and Inci Önal, from Turkey.’ IMG_6498

For the first two days, we stayed in Seoul, where we visited the National Library of Korea as well as the National Library for Children and Young Adults. These libraries indicate that South Korea is deeply invested both in preserving the country’s cultural heritage and in using the most modern techniques possible to do so. Their digital library was quite impressive. The NLCY contained a wonderful display of artifacts from Korean children’s authors.2014-06-18 14.12.54

In addition to the tours, I had the opportunity to meet two print journalists, who interviewed me for the Segye Times and the Seoul Economic Daily. I was amused to find that Korean journalists had the same concerns American journalists: they wanted me to talk about whether smartphones were causing teens to read less! While in Seoul, we also had the opportunity to have some tourist experiences, including visiting the Gyeonbokgung Palace and Insadong, a market street. Plus we had some wonderful Korean food! Then we moved to Byeonsan, a three-hour drive south, to the seaside resort complex where the actual symposium was held. Each year, the Symposium is held in a different part of the country, to encourage local participation. The Symposium’s theme was “Reading Towards a Broader World.” In addition to the international speakers, all of whom presented in English, several Korean librarians presented sessions. Simultaneous translation was provided in both English and Korean. Topics included:

  • A program to train grandmothers to read to children
  • An historical overview of picture books
  • A program for providing books to “alienated” teens
  • An early literacy program in England
  • A program to provide literacy and literature apps on iPads for children in an underserved neighborhood
  • An online community of children and young adults in Singapore
  • Cooperative programs for reading development in Germany

2014-07-10 09.46.57 About 250 librarians attended the Symposium. For my keynote speech, I talked about YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth, but I focused on the first competency area, Leadership and Professionalism. In particular, I described’ the ways in which young adult librarians need to’ understand the needs of their managers in order to effect real change. Those of you who follow this blog will recognize that I took a similar approach last year in the series of posts I wrote on What Your Manager Wishes You Knew. In addition to the keynote, I was asked to prepare a session speech on one of the areas covered by the symposium’s theme. I chose the topic “Engaging Young Adults in Reading” and took the opportunity to highlight some successful reading programs for teens. For this presentation, I drew heavily from my YALSA colleagues. Among others, I shared the details of:

I was pleased to be able to share these examples of engaging teens in reading, especially since most of the other speakers focused more on topics related to children. Going to Korea was a wonderful experience. 2014-06-20 12.00.57The NLCY were outstanding hosts and meeting the other international presenters broadened my library network. It was fascinating to talk with library folk from around the world and discover the similarities and differences in our experiences. The Korean librarians were eager to learn from the best that the rest of the world has to offer. In 2015, the NLCY will host the 9th Annual Symposium. The call for papers will go out in late 2014 or early 2015, and I would encourage YALSA members to consider submitting proposals. IFLA usually posts the call for papers, and I will link to the information on the YALSA blog as well.

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.

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