Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 15 through April 22, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2016 YALSA Governance and 2018 Selection Committee candidates.
Today we’ll hear from a candidate for Board Director-at-large. YALSA Board members serve three-year terms, during which they jointly determine YALSA’s policies, programs, and strategic direction, in accordance with YALSA’s bylaws. They attend both virtual and in-person meetings and serve as liaisons to YALSA’s committee chairs and members. A full description of Board duties and responsibilities can be found here.
Today we have an interview with Dr. Mega Subramaniam.
Name and current position
Dr. Mega Subramaniam, Associate Professor, College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland.
What best qualifies you for being a YALSA Board Member?
As a researcher in youth librarianship, I am “on the ground” with the communities I collaborate with, including other researchers, librarians, parents, and young adults. I have extensive leadership experience working with all these above-mentioned populations (including empowering the voice of young adults that are underserved) through various research and teaching initiatives I’ve led in recent years. I believe I’m well positioned to nurture YALSA into embracing the realities of 21st century youth librarianship as indicated in the Future of Libraries Services for and with Teens report. For more information about my qualifications and experiences, please visit my website.
Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the position with leadership, advocacy, and impact on teen services in the library?
Leadership – I’ve led multiple research projects and educational innovations that directly impact underserved youth nationwide. I’m able to bring together collaborators in technology, learning, and STEM identity development from our sister fields, such as learning science and human computer interaction, and apply their research into advancing youth librarianship. For example, the Sci-Dentity and HackHealth research projects that I’ve co-directed both leverage the strengths of library programs (including resources, technology, and the librarian themselves) to develop digital literacy skills and encourage young adults to “see” themselves as scientists and engineers. I have also led the development of a new specialization in the Master’s in Library Science (MLS) degree at the University of Maryland, called the Youth Experience (YX), which builds youth-services librarians’ capacity to better adapt to the changing landscape of youth learning and technology by equipping them with core skills such as participatory design approaches to work with non-dominant youth. This specialization is unique in the nation, realizing the vision of the YALSA’s Futures report of youth-driven learning environments.
Advocacy – I’ve been a passionate advocate for teen services in the library. Last year, invited by the current ALA President, Sari Feldman, and co-hosted by the ALA Office of Information Technology and Policy (OITP) and Honorary Co-Host Representative Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), I made a presentation at a panel on Capitol Hill called Kids, Learning, and Technology: Libraries as 21st Century Creative Spaces, where I talked about the power librarians have to transform learning and creativity among teens. I plan to continue advocating for better policy and funding to allow libraries to fulfill the needs of underserved teens nationwide.
Impact on teen services – I have experience in assisting libraries to measure learning that happens in libraries. This is an increasingly complex issue, given that libraries are places of informal spaces, whereby teens experience one-off, unregulated, and sporadic learning. I would encourage YALSA to explore this more, and to provide librarians the tools to document the impact of learning that happens in teen services and the library as a whole.
How can being a YALSA Board Member help make a difference with issues teens may be struggling with?
Everyone who has worked with teens knows that building relationships is the most important step in encouraging teens to share issues that they struggle with. They aren’t going to just walk over to you and tell you what is bothering them or what they need. As a YALSA Board member, I’d like to explore ways for librarians to learn the skills needed to be adult mentors to the teens they work with and to encourage teens to take more of a leadership role in creating youth-driven environments. Being an adult mentor requires librarians to be skillful in teen psychology, in new approaches to working with teens, in cultural competency, and in design-based approaches of promoting and sustaining learning innovations.
What are some ways that being a member of a YALSA governance committee can help serve as an even better connector to helping libraries become thriving learning environments for teens?
In my capacity as a YALSA board member, I would like to inspire interdisciplinary collaborations that transform the nature of services that librarians provide to teens. Working with YALSA leadership, I would like to encourage research and continuing education that will inspire teen/youth librarians to understand their roles as change agents in youth development, by paying attention to technical and societal changes that impact the everyday lives of youth.
To do the above, I would like to lead YALSA into developing partnerships with research and practice experts from other fields such as learning sciences, communication, human computer interaction, etc. Given my experience in obtaining federal funding to explore the role that libraries play in developing digital literacy and STEM learning for young adults, I would encourage and promote YALSA’s presence and collaboration with other informal learning stakeholders (youth clubs, non-profits, foundations, etc.) to apply for large-scale grants that document the impact libraries have on teens, especially teens from non-dominant groups.
Additionally, I believe continuing education for practicing teen/youth librarians is a way that a YALSA governance committee can assist current librarians. I will encourage YALSA to develop continuing education opportunities that help librarians to create, sustain, and promote successful learning environments for teens.
Share a recent example(s) where you made a shift to better focus on the current needs of teens.
My colleague, Katie Davis from the University of Washington, and I are embarking on a Continuing Education project (ConnectedLib) funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop a suite of professional development resources aimed at building youth-services librarians’ capacity to leverage digital media and connected learning principles to promote 21st century skills among the youth they serve. Our approach has been ground-up—we are in the process of soliciting input (consider helping us if you can) from a broad range of youth-services librarians across the country to develop, implement, and evaluate these customizable professional development resources. New media supports connected learning by increasing young people’s access to knowledge, provides timely feedback and individualized learning experiences, and connects youth to a network of individuals who have expertise in an area of shared interest. Unfortunately, for too many young people, this vision of connected learning is far from their reality. Through the ConnectedLib resources that will be built with the current needs of teens in mind, Katie and I hope to transform the abilities of youth-services librarians so that they can provide these experiences to teens of all backgrounds.
Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of the governance committee?
I am a researcher who firmly believes that research should inform practice, and similarly, that practice in libraries should inform research. Having a researcher on the YALSA governance committee will instill new approaches of demonstrating the power of youth-services in libraries, approaches that are informed by data-driven decisions and learning analytics. In this era of economy, infused with the uncertainty of continuous funding for libraries, it is vital that we tell stories of the learning happening every day in libraries interlaced with the support of data. As a member of the governance committee, I am ready to guide YALSA on this path to making and conveying the impact of teen services in the everyday lives of teens.