In her opening remarks at ALA Annual 2020, Tracie D. Hall (ALA Executive Director) stated that, “If our institutions and profession is to be sustainable, all of us must devote ourselves to the diversification of the next generation workforce.” (Hall, 2020)

The Spectrum Scholarship Program was developed to do just that. The program actively recruits and provides scholarships to American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern and North African, and/or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students to assist them with obtaining a graduate degree and leadership positions within the profession and ALA.

Each year, YALSA sponsors two Spectrum Scholars who have an interest in serving youth aged 12-18 in a library setting. See the list of past scholars. Those interested in applying for the program should visit The application process runs from October to March each year.

To be eligible for a Spectrum Scholarship, you should:

  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. or Canada
  • Identify as American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern/North African, and/or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
  • Attend an ALA-accredited graduate program in library and information studies or an AASL-recognized School Library Media Program
  • Be enrolled in an accredited program and begin no later than September 1st or Fall semester
  • Have full or part-time status
  • Plan to maintain a minimum course load of two classes per semester while receiving your scholarship funds

If you are interested in donating to the program, please visit YALSA’s Give to YALSA page. Donating to YALSA’s Leadership Endowment directly sponsors our Spectrum Scholars. Your donation will help YALSA and ALA reach the goal of building a more diverse workforce, ensuring that kids and teens of color see themselves represented at the library.

Hall, Tracie D., (2020, June 24-26). Let Our Legacy Be Justice [Conference Opening Session]. ALA Annual Conference 2020.

–Celeste Swanson
Financial Advancement Committee

YALSA invites diverse individuals to apply by August 1 for a chance to present a literacies focused program at its 2019 YA Services Symposium in Memphis, TN. The program will take place on Sunday, November 3rd of the symposium.

If selected, the recipient must become a YALSA/ALA member and will be provided $1,500 to offset that cost, as well as registration, travel, lodging, and meal expenses at the symposium. Funds for the stipend are generously provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

With this opportunity, YALSA hopes to create a more just and equitable symposium by providing more professional opportunities for diverse individuals from underrepresented populations, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, age, disability status, ideology, religion, power differentiated groups and professional skills.

Only one session proposal per person will be accepted. Literacies, as defined by YALSA, extends beyond traditional literacy and includes, but is not limited to visual, digital, textual and technology literacy or serving underserved teens. Before accepting the award, the recipient must become a member of YALSA/ALA. Learn more and apply by August 1.

YALSA’s 2019 YA Services Symposium will take place Nov. 1-3 with the theme: Show Up and Advocate: Supporting Teens in the Face of Adversity. Now through early bird registration (September 15), those who join YALSA and register for the symposium will be automatically entered for a chance to win free registration for the 2020 YALSA symposium, which will take place in Reno, NV. More information about the symposium can be found at

Given the predominant whiteness and femaleness of the library profession and the increasing diversity of the populations served by libraries, it is crucial that Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are at the forefront of our member’s minds and that we as an organization work to make YALSA a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. Last Fall, as part of our EDI efforts, the YALSA Board assembled a taskforce, chaired by Nicole Cooke, to explore the challenges and opportunities library staff of diverse backgrounds face when connecting with YALSA by seeking feedback from both members and potential members and by researching industry best practices in EDI. Cooke and taskforce members Julie Winkelstein, Veronica Koven-Matasy, and Alice Son submitted their findings and recommendations to the Board in the Spring. The report was adopted by the Board and included as an attachment to Board document #4 which was approved prior to ALA Annual 2018. To make the report more visible to our members and to publicly recognize the work of the taskforce, we have included a link to the full report on the YALSA webpage. The Board thanks the Advancing Diversity Taskforce for their work and for laying the groundwork for YALSA to affirm our commitment to EDI.

Since receiving the report, the YALSA Board has taken a number of actions that were a direct result of the Advancing Diversity Taskforce’s recommendations. These include: adopting Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Next Steps, a Value of EDI Statement, and appointing a board member to serve as YALSA’s official liaison to the ALA Affiliates and Round Tables that focus on serving one or more traditionally underrepresented groups. We are currently in the process of updating the YALSA vision statement and intended impact statement for EDI inclusivity.  As soon as the revised statements have been approved by the Board, both will be posted to the YALSA website. The Board is also in the final stages of completing an EDI Plan.

While YALSA has made progress on EDI, our work is far from over. Crystle Martin has chosen Supporting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion through Outcomes and Assessment as her presidential theme for 2018-2019. Specifically, she will focus on how assessment and outcomes can support EDI through the questions asked and approaches taken. It builds off the recommendations made by the Advancing Diversity Taskforce and expands YALSA’s commitment to EDI. Additionally, the YALSA Board is in the beginning stages of strategic planning. EDI will be a core component of the planning process and of our new strategic plan.

We will continue to provide updates on the YALSA blog and through other YALSA communication channels. We welcome your thoughts and ideas as we continue to work with you to ensure that all teens feel included and empowered in library and information spaces.

Thanks for all you do for teens and for YALSA.

Sandra Hughes-Hassell
YALSA Immediate Past President

In New Orleans at the 2018 Annual Conference, the YALSA Board discussed several documents related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. YALSA is committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and to make this commitment a reality the Board took several steps.

First, the Board approved the prioritization of the recommendations made by the Advancing Diversity Taskforce, which completed its work earlier this Spring. The recommendations of the committee were ranked by the board as High, Medium, and Low. The items ranked High Priority are currently being implemented. Those ranked Medium Priority will be tackled during the 2018-2019 board. Those that are ranked Low Priority will be re-evaluated at the beginning of the 2019-2020 board to determine what still needs to be done.

One of the High Priority recommendations was to evaluate YALSA’s current Mission, Vision, Intended Impact Statement, and Statement on Diversity. Jane Gov and Kate Denier offered a board document that recommends changes:
Read More →

Last month at the YALSA Symposium in Pittsburgh, I caught myself in a disturbing thought. The conference featured discussion and idea sharing about all kinds of diversity, especially racial diversity. There was advice about building inclusive collections, providing vital services to underserved populations, and making the library a safe space for people of all races to express themselves and feel valued. On the last day of the Symposium, sitting in one of many sessions that touched on this topic, I thought, “This is so great. I wish I worked in a community where I could do this stuff.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that this thought was very, very wrong.

I work in an upper-middle class, mostly white, mostly Christian suburban community. Being near a large city, we have access to a lot of diversity around us, but our community itself is commonly referred to as a “bubble.”

Libraries are here to pop those bubbles. Read More →

YALSA’s commitment to serving the needs of our ever changing teen population informs everything we do. Our Vision Statement says in part:

“In every library in the nation, quality library service to young adults is provided by a staff that understands and respects the unique informational, educational and recreational needs of teenagers. Equal access to information, services and materials is recognized as a right not a privilege.  

To fulfill this vision YALSA realized the need to be more intentional about efforts to make our leadership reflect the population we serve. In other words, to provide the best possible leadership for our organization and the best possible service to teens, voices that represent the teens we serve must be at the table.

Overall the US population is getting more and more diverse, but the population of those under 18 is already close to “majority minority.” As of 2014, 48% of the US population aged 18 and under belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. The percentage is expected to rise to 64.4% by 2060. Staying mindful of our vision, YALSA’s leadership created the Board Diversity Task Force, charged with studying the question, examining our practices, and making recommendations for addressing this issue. The Task Force is chaired by former YALSA Board Fellow Nicola MacDonald, currently a Library Manager at New York Public Library. Task Force members include Trixie Dantis, a Teen Librarian at Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois and an incoming YALSA Board Fellow; Alexandra Annen, Adult Services manager at Homer Township Library in Illinois; and Carla Riemer, a librarian at Claremont Middle School in Oakland, CA.

The first step was to agree on a working definition of diversity. It was critical to  formalize our understanding that diversity goes far beyond culture. We proposed the following:

YALSA strives to be inclusive of a range of libraries and youth-serving organizations within a variety of geographic locations. YALSA further commits to being inclusive of representation from diverse cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds, professional skill and experience levels, economic statuses, ages, ideologies, gender, sexual orientations, and abilities.

The next step was to examine our process for nominating board members. It became clear early on that the task force also needed to examine the committee appointment process. Given that board members serve on committees before reaching this level of leadership, it was important to put diversity aware practices in place here too, in order to fill the pipeline.

The board has approved the following updates to the Board Governance Nominating Committee and Awards Nominating Committee charges, as recommended by the task force:

  • the process of selecting candidates will incorporate attention to YALSA’s working definition of diversity
  • education about committee and board service will include outreach via multiple social outlets as well as partnership with round tables and interest groups to enable reaching a broader range of potential candidates
  • a commitment to diversity and inclusion will be added to the list of candidate qualifications
  • experience working with diverse populations will be incorporated into candidate evaluations
  • the process will be examined after each election cycle with an eye to making any changes needed to improve effectiveness

The Board Diversity Task Force will continue working through June and will submit further recommendations to the board regarding ways to help reach our goal of improving leadership diversity. The end result should be opening the door wider and giving voice to more points of view. We firmly believe that this is not a zero sum game. Adding voices to our leadership enhances our ability to grow and change along with our teen population, keeping us relevant and able to provide the support teen librarians need in order to “understand and respect the unique informational, educational and recreational needs of teenagers.”


YALSA wants to know what you’re doing for and with the teens in your community around the topics of: 1) teaching tolerance, 2) building cultural competence, 3) facilitating dialogues about race, equity and inclusion; and 4) welcoming and serving immigrant teens. If you’ve developed services, programs, resources or partnerships to facilitate any of these activities, and are willing to share your information with the library community, please let us know by filling out this brief form by no later than Dec. 1st. We’ll compile and share out the examples we receive so that other libraries can benefit from your great work!

This past July, I received a mysterious phone call from a number I did not recognize. As a skeptical member of the 21st century, my initial instinct was to just let it ring. But something inside me prompted me to—just this once—answer this call. I’m glad I did, because it was a phone call I was secretly hoping for without getting my hopes up. The call was from the American Library Association (ALA) offices to let me know I was awarded a Spectrum Scholarship. I screamed internally (and then externally, successfully scaring my dog).

I had worked in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library’s teen department for two years and just finished my first year pursuing my MLIS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The combination of these two experiences had fully solidified my passion for librarianship. I wanted to be a participant and contributor to this community of educators, learners, and advocates for change. The Spectrum Scholarship offered me the priceless opportunity to work towards this dream, and amazingly, without tuition looming over me like a dark, despairing cloud of debt! But I didn’t truly realize the breadth of opportunities Spectrum would present me outside of monetary awards until I started interacting with my fellow scholars.

Quickly, emails from our cohort of scholars made their way into my inbox. As we made our virtual introductions, I realized that I would get to meet each of these talented, passionate, and diverse people at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando as part of our scholarship award. I was lucky enough to meet some of these scholars at the Illinois Library Association (ILA) Conference last month where we were awarded the Sylvia Murphy Williams Award in conjunction with our scholarships. After the initial awkward observation of niceties (that everyone must suffer through, I know), there was an instant kinship between us. As library school students from diverse backgrounds, we immediately had common experiences and points of view to fuel our conversations, both serious and guffaw-worthy. Naturally, the topic of diversity came up a lot in our talks—an area for discussion that we as a profession need to talk more about, even if it does not come about naturally!

Read More →

As the Maker Movement gains momentum across the country in schools and libraries, YALSA’s Cultural Competence Task Force is encouraging organizers to think about ways to expand the scope of maker programs to broaden their appeal to all kids. Making isn’t just about robots and Legos, and it’s not just for the “nerdy” boy. In fact there are many developments and initiatives that are changing the definition of makers and making that we want to highlight. From Black Girls Code, to Google’s Made with Code, and a number of other new projects (,, we are seeing a concerted effort to help girls and children of color envision a future for themselves in the tech world.

Another important direction for the maker movement is to step away from the robots and find opportunities to include maker activities that tap into a broader range of cultures and traditions. A research group at MIT called High Low Tech is a wonderful source of information about this topic and offers tutorials for some amazing and unique projects. We take particular inspiration from Leah Buechley, a designer, engineer, and educator who likes to create tools and programs that mix together cutting edge technology with traditional art forms (her inventions include the Lilypad Arduino).

If you’re brainstorming about how to incorporate the maker movement into your library programming, we ask that you take the time to explore some of these resources and find ways to appeal to kids who may not think technology is for them.


Submitted by Elizabeth Bast and Angelique Kopa, YALSA Cultural Competence Task Force

The ALA Midwinter Meeting has ended, but the time to focus on YALSA’s work has just begun. The YALSA Board of Directors voted at the Board II meeting to establish a YALSA Board Diversity Taskforce. This taskforce has a charge to analyze the current board recruitment and selection policies, procedures and resources, and recommend improvements in order to bring more ongoing diversity to the YALSA Board.


Chris Shoemaker, YALSA’s President, is seeking members who are willing to serve on this new group.  As a virtual group, there are no travel requirements to serve on this taskforce, and the group will conduct its work between March 2015 and June 2016. Find out more about the task force from the board document.  If you’re interested in serving, please fill out the volunteer form by no later than March 1st.


Have questions? Feel free to email me at or reach out to YALSA President, Christopher Shoemaker at