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 13 through April 5, 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 LibLearnX 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: Katrina Ortega, Manager, College and Career Pathways, The New York Public Library, New York, NY
What best qualifies you for being on the Board of Directors?
My experiences as a Young Adult Librarian and program manager have allowed me to acquire a breadth of knowledge, skills, and capabilities that would make me an excellent addition to the YALSA Board. I have learned how to cooperate and compromise with others in order to effectively move forward with a task. I have learned how to be an efficient arbitrator among colleagues and patrons who are having difficulty with others. In the past, I actively mentored other YA staff members around the Library system, and I regularly act as a sounding board for others to discuss ideas or hurdles in their work. I have assisted many of my colleagues in developing new, system-wide initiatives and best practices, and I regularly encourage collaboration among my colleagues when putting together conference presentations and papers. Finally, I have had the opportunity to implement strategic plans for an annually growing program. I’ve learned to budget a branch budget, as well as a multi-million dollar program budget. I have learned how to measure the effectiveness of programs and events across multiple branches to establish best practices and strategies. All in all, I feel that I am an incredibly well-rounded candidate for this board and that I can effectively address the YALSA community’s comprehensive needs.
How do you envision furthering YALSA’s mission if elected to this position?
I have been fortunate enough to work in two different aspects of librarianship – on the front lines, assisting teens in what was, at the time, the largest teen space in the New York Public Library system, and also on the administrative side, offering support and assistance in the forms of budget, materials, and curricula to those who are serving teens in the branches. I plan on bringing the expertise gained through my experience to this organization, with the intention of looking to the professionals who belong to YALSA to determine ways in which we can best support them in their everyday professions. I intend to implement methods of communication and feedback between YALSA and its constituents that will help us gain a better understanding of where the organization can improve its support systems.
What would be the most exciting aspect of this position? The most challenging?
I am most looking forward to helping form the strategic plan to accomplish YALSA’s mission. I hope that the organization can re-focus its efforts as an organization to supporting the professionals who provide equitable, diverse, and inclusive team services to all of the young adult communities (and adults that support them) that we serve. I also believe that this might be the most challenging aspect of this position. The constituents that YALSA serves come from vastly different areas, and the needs of their patrons can vary immensely. My goal in serving on this board is to strive to establish an open and accessible method of communicating with professionals from around the country to hear what their concerns are and where they feel they could best use the support, and then to work with other members of the organization to determine how we can best offer that support.
Please share a recent example(s) where you made a shift to better focus on the current needs of teens in the wake of the pandemic.
As the manager of NYPL’s College and Career Pathways program, I have focused a lot of my efforts over the past few years trying to best support teens who are preparing to exit high school and enter whatever pathway they’ve decided fits them best. This has been especially challenging with all of the complexities that the pandemic introduced to the postsecondary landscape. Supporting teens who had suddenly lost access to their school guidance or college counselor, who could no longer take the in-person test prep course, who could not do the internship or the volunteering that they’d planned to do because of the pandemic was an enormous set of hurdles (particularly because we were also navigating our own unforeseen challenges). My goal was to try and meet teens in any way that we could to get their college and career readiness needs met, and this inevitably meant turning to virtual programs and services. I put together a plan where teens from all over NYC could request a 1-on-1 session with one of our trained librarians to discuss their college/career readiness needs (a service that is still being used today!). Under my direction, branch staff recorded dozens of different workshops that live on the College and Career Pathways webpage, so that teens can access these program-style workshops at any time it is convenient for them. Lastly, I’ve advocated for the continuation of virtual or hybrid programs even as we’ve returned to nearly entirely in-person programs, because it has been made clear by both YA patrons and the staff who serve them that virtual programs are often the most accessible to teens, and allow them the freedom to access support from the Library that they simply wouldn’t have if the programs were no longer held virtually.
What is the most pressing issue facing YALSA today?
Staff burnout – not only are patron-facing staff still faced with the possibility of getting sick at work; but they must also contend with the never-ending staff shortages, and the toll that providing social services can take. Add to that the recent wars being waged on library collections and programs that many communities across the country have taken up, and it’s a perfect storm. Library staff deserves as much appreciation and support as we can give them, and right now we simply cannot give them enough. I am aware that my inclusion on this board will not be a solution to all of the ills that plague YA-serving staff at our libraries, but I certainly intend to try my best to do all that I can!