Are you a member of YALSA?  If you are not, you should be.  YALSA’s newly adopted organizational plan is creating an organization that is “more nimble, more modern and more reflective of the needs of teens and
our members”, according to Past-President, Candace Mack.  The changes in YALSA are daring to imagine a new vision of teen services in any library that serves teens.

On Saturday, at ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, YALSA’s leadership held an informational and focus finding meeting, “What’s New with YALSA” for membership.  Those who attended the session served as a focus group of members who had the opportunity to hear the organizational plan, and then provide feedback about what that plan looks like to them.

The first question posed to the group:  “What opportunities for member engagement do you find most useful?

  • Members were quick to point out that YALSA’s trainings provided wonderful opportunities for meaningful and timely learning.
  • YALSA offered so much to members in terms of grants and awards. Several people in the room indicated that they had applied and received a YALSA grant or award in the past.
  • YALSA’s blogs are all content meaningful, never fluff. Whether a quick glance or an in depth read, a visit to the blogs always provided useful information.
  • Serving on a committee, taskforce, jury, or in an office, afforded them an opportunity to demonstrate and develop leadership opportunities that may not have been available in their workplace.
  • YALSA’s programming at conferences and the YALSA Symposium continue to provide the best quality to dollars spent among all of the affiliates under the ALA umbrella.

The next question for the group: What have you found specifically meaningful about these opportunities?

Webinars and Trainings:  Experienced members pointed out that YALSA’s webinars, trainings, and blogs seem to always provide the timeliest information to address what is going on in their libraries now. Serving the Underserved trainings were timely when services to teens were in question in many libraries in the country.  These trainings provided an advocacy and programming approach for librarians on the front lines to use to demand more for teens.  When those trainings had met their purpose and teen services began to gain a foothold in libraries across the country YALSA was not afraid to say that they had served their purpose and move on. When studies showed that boys reading was lagging behind their female counterparts, YALSA began offering programming ideas and training to draw the young male reader.  In addition, YALSA has never been afraid to embrace our teens and promote equality, diversity, visibility, and inclusion no matter how teens identified themselves or what they may be facing in life.

YALSA Grants and Awards:  In a time when funding may be difficult to obtain or simply scarce, YALSA is finding ways to offer grants and awards that support programming for teens and the librarians that serve them.  Several members spoke about how these opportunities once received dramatically changed their experience.

Blog, The Hub, Wiki, YA Forum, JRLYA:  Quality content, collection development, programming, organizational information.  “How to”, “when to”, “what to”, and “for who” can be found on a YALSA information sharing sources.  So many members indicated that these information outlets were primary reads for their professional practice.

Committee, Taskforce, Jury, or in An Office: Everyone spoke of the many positive experiences serving with YALSA. These groups all provide members with the opportunity to serve their community of practice, to make connections, to form lasting relationships with other people of the same experiences or challenges.  In addition, they also provide members with the opportunity to grow professionally and help shape the organization for the future.

YALSA’s programming at conferences and the YALSA Symposium:  To put it simply, where will you have the most meaningful, content rich, and budget friendly experiences while having fun?  That will be anywhere YALSA is providing a program or learning experience, but nowhere is this more magnified than at a conference or symposium.  This is where you will find the enigma that is your “Wookie Clan” You will connect over a book or author with every tattooed, brightly-dyed, prim, gothic, spritely, bun-wearing, book bag toting, 741.5 t-shirt wearing, swag loving librarian.   I go to conference because I am engaged in a professional practice; I stay because my Wookie Clan is there.

The Last question:  What do members value about YALSA membership?

YALSA is an organization that provides meaningful and fun, content rich, experiences that serve as opportunities to develop new knowledge and personal growth that is accessible to all members.

Moving Forward: A Strategic Plan
The big question now is, “How will the new strategic plan keep all that is wonderful about YALSA and add the force to create momentum as we move forward?”

With Leverage, Advocacy, and Development.

Leverage programs, activities, and communications to promote transformation in teen services. Have you submitted that great program to Programming HQ? Have you used an idea from Programming HQ or the Wiki, or the YA forum?

Leverage relationships so that YALSA’s programming will have a presence at state and regional conferences. Do you know someone who would like to have a YALSA program at your state or regional conference?

Leverage ongoing curriculum to knowledge & skills. Have you signed up for YALSA Symposium or attended a YALSA webinar?

Leverage leadership opportunities to model diversity and provide cultural competency training so that every region has 100 members who are qualified to provide cultural competency training. Are you interested?

Advocacy begins with training that will empower members to act so that we will see all members participating in some form of advocacy for the profession including serving on governor’s advisory boards and councils, and influencing lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Do you have a confident voice?

Development begins by embracing the entrepreneurial strategies that are developing in our business sectors and find the potential audience with means to fund transformative programs in libraries.  Funding is more than lemonade stands and partnering is more than donations.  Do you have ideas?

This meeting provided an opportunity for members to be a part of the conversation in developing our organization.  I left the session feeling that I had learned a great deal about YALSA and my part in the organization.  YALSA always has opportunities for members to become involved.  Come be a part of everything that YALSA has to offer.  Your Wookie Clan is waiting.

Vandy Pacetti-Donelson is an instructional technologist/school librarian from Auburndale, Florida.   She is currently a doctoral candidate at Nova Southeastern University and the Online Librarian at Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa, Florida. Find her online at or follow her on Twitter @VandyPD

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