Get ready to vote in this year’s YALSA election! To help you make informed decisions, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2022 YALSA Governance candidates. Voting will take place from March 14 through April 6, 2022.

Serving three-year terms, YALSA Board members are responsible for jointly determining YALSA’s current and future programs, policies, and serving as liaisons to YALSA’s committees, juries, taskforces and advisory boards. Members work year-round, and attend in-person meetings at ALA’s Midwinter and Annual Conferences. A full description of Board duties and responsibilities can be found here. You can learn more about ALA elections here.

Name and Current Position: Yvette Garcia, Branch Manager, Chicago Public Library

How has your experience prepared you to address issues within YALSA related to equity, diversity and inclusion
When I was a new librarian, I participated in a recruitment video produced by the Ohio Library Council (Looking for Leaders) and assisted at a Spectrum leadership institute.  Additionally, I presented at the Midwest REFORMA chapter conferences, developed resources, and led as chapter President.

As a seasoned professional, I have taken several leadership roles within YALSA, chairing committees, including the DMP twice. Under my leadership, these committees implemented member surveys and focus groups on topics such as the volunteer experience, member recognition, and reached out to potential members. The combined feedback led to the insight that YALSA serves many audiences with different needs, such as school librarians. DEI is founded in communication; telling and more importantly showing that everyone is welcome, included, and necessary. I am eager to make these recommendations a reality with all membership concerns gathered over the years combined with my personal experience working in an urban library serving a diverse community.

I currently manage an urban library branch in a diverse community.  I know the struggles of professional staff that don’t speak the language and the challenges of utilizing clerks, pages, and other staff to better serve our patrons.  

What are your ideas on how YALSA can collaborate with our Affiliate organizations like AILA, APALA, BCALA, REFORMA?
There are a few different ways that YALSA and Affiliates can partner together to increase diverse voices.  In a perfect world, our committees can work together towards common goals, such as collaborating on resources and continuing education opportunities for teen-serving staff.  These projects can be as simple as translating library lingo into various languages on a bookmark, having cultural discussions regarding serving teens from diverse backgrounds, creating recommended reading lists, etc.  I believe that the best way forward is to keep things simple and utilize existing activities as opportunities to join forces. 

YALSA and affiliates can also work together to provide the networking and mentorship needed by members of both organizations; members sharing knowledge, experience, and supporting each other, such as hosting a joint Snack & Chat for an open discussion on the difficulties of being a librarian of color. 

Mentorship is important to me; I had one of the best mentors – Colleen Seisser.  She guided me through YALSA teaching me everything, encouraging me.  She has been there helping me navigate processes and I was lucky to serve under her and with her on a few committees. We have shared knowledge and insights.  I strive to live up to her example and pay it forward by encouraging and supporting my committee members so that they may become YALSA’s future leaders.

In your opinion, what do you feel is the biggest challenge ahead for YALSA?
YALSA’s greatest challenge is change.

During the past several years we, as an organization, have experienced the loss of institutional knowledge, change in leadership and internal reorganization.  Additionally, ALA is also undergoing changes that directly impact YALSA at all levels.   As we prepare to implement a new strategic plan with an updated mission and vision, we need to find ways to manage change so that we transition together as a whole with empathy and understanding of the impact on membership.  Change is hard; for some, it will happen too quickly, for others too slowly. This is in a period of transition, reflection, and adaptation.

Recently I have worked in a changing environment; a department that was undergoing staffing changes and an institution undergoing change management complicated by loss of institutional knowledge.  Change represents opportunity and loss at the same time.  In a leadership role, I assisted my staff with new policies as they were being implemented and had an open dialogue concerning changes in philosophy and/or priorities.  Now, in the time of COVID, I have guided my staff through different service structures with empathy, communication, and transparency.  We hold frequent staff Q&A sessions to discuss updates to policies, procedures, evaluate branch layout for social distancing, etc. It was important to have consistent communications for service expectations, but also give an opportunity for everyone to express concerns and to feel heard and safe.

How will you make YALSA’s mission, vision, and intended impact meaningful for current and potential members and supporters?
I’ve learned that one common factor within the membership is “local implementation.”  Teen-serving staff have a need and desire for resources that have a direct impact on services and programming[SN1]  in their community.  YALSA’s aspirational goals for contributing to librarianship need to be complemented with the tools and resources needed today on the frontlines.  This means that we, as an organization, must always ask, “How will our members use this information at the reference desk, in their programs, as part of their practice?”

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