Over the course of the past year, library workers and supporters engaged in a massive effort to save funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides every state with funds for their library, and was threatened with elimination in the president’s proposed budget. This effort saw progress last month when the House of Representatives approved a funding measure that would actually increase IMLS funding. There is little doubt that the organized work of library advocates influenced this decision. However, IMLS funding will not be totally secure until Congress approves the FY18 budget, hopefully later this fall

For many library workers, however, there remains a fundamental dilemma regarding  contact with elected officials. It’s definitely a powerful strategy in advocacy work. But where does advocacy cross the line and become lobbying, an activity that is restricted – but not prohibited – for nonprofit organizations? The YALSA Advocacy Toolkit offers a handy way to think about the distinction, stating that, “…advocacy is about providing information, especially information that emphasizes value; lobbying is about trying to influence a vote.”

Thus, contacting an elected official to inform them of the good work done in your library is not considered lobbying. In an excellent blog post on the topic, Linda Braun elucidates further:

You can advocate by speaking up and out to educate legislative officials about the value of teen services in the community. You can speak up and out to educate about the need for teen space in libraries. You can speak up and out to educate about the role that technology plays in teen lives. You can speak up and out to educate. You just can’t exert influence in order to have a legislator vote a particular way on a particular piece of legislation.

Of course, there are times when library workers do want their legislators to vote in a particular way, as evidenced by the drive to save IMLS funding. This is why we are urged to contact our legislators rather than elected officials serving on the most influential committees. As private citizens and constituents, we have the right to inform those persons elected to represent us of our opinions and desires.

Those of us who work with teens have a particularly compelling  message for elected officials. After all, these teens may be casting their own votes the next time that official is up for re-election. When you communicate with your representatives in office, you are educating them about the mindset of the next generation of voters. For additional advocacy resources, visit www.ala.org/yalsa/advocacy and to help YALSA advance its advocacy work, please consider volunteering for the District Days Taskforce!

One of the recommendations from the YALSA Futures Report was that library workers seek to serve all of the teens in the communities, not just those who come through the library doors. The results of the 2017 YALSA Member Survey showed that over half of respondents embrace this challenge by “reaching out to teens out in the community who are not regular library users.”

Roughly the same number of respondents said that they have been “discovering community needs and seeking out community partners to engage with to support those needs.” These two assertions are likely related, since partnerships are essential to reaching teens who do not walk into the library building. Clearly, many teen library workers understand that a successful young adult program is integrated into the other factions of teen life, be it educational or recreational.

Members who are looking for inspiration in infiltrating their own communities can look at YALSA’s Partnering to Increase Your Impact, a toolkit developed by the Community Connections Taskforce. Another great resource is the free map-my-community tool at https://youth.gov/map-my-community.

At the 2016 Annual Conference last summer, the YALSA Board passed a motion to revitalize our Interest Groups. The timing could hardly be better. The reorganization project has members thinking about YALSA in a fresh light, realizing that an organization must continually translate its mission into the language of the times. And while YALSA’s structural innovations may come from the vision of the Board, individual members may also seize the opportunity to envision new directions for young adult library service. Interest Groups offer members the agency to create small communities that foster professional networking while granting the legitimacy of the YALSA organization.

Participating in Interest Groups is easy. It’s an opt-in virtual opportunity that can be short-term, medium-term, or long-term. The level of participation is completely up to members.

One year ago, YALSA had just one active Interest Group: Teen Mental Health. Now there are two Interest Groups that focus on geographical proximity (Washington DC Metro Area and Los Angeles County Area) and two more that are up for approval at this year’s Midwinter Conference (Picture Books for Teens and Teens Are Not Alone.) We expect the number to increase as the final steps of the revitalization plan are implemented. These steps include revamping the content on the YALSA Interest Group FAQ page, creating a list-serv for Interest Group conveners, and organizing opportunities for an All-Interest Group meeting at conferences.

The YALSA Board will be discussing the implementation of these ideas (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/InterestGroups_MW17.pdf) at the Board I meeting, held on Saturday, January 21, at the Georgia World Congress Center, Room A406.

As YALSA moves closer to completing the association’s organizational plan, the Board of Directors has discussed a variety of topics related to YALSA initiatives. To this purpose, the Board is considering the areas needed to support teen library staff successfully. In this series of blog posts, we look at some of these areas.

There is so much to discover.

For library workers who interact daily with teen patrons, there is always something new. It comes from the teens themselves, raving about a new video game or Netflix original. It comes from changes within the library – new technology, new staff roles, new uses for the meeting rooms, etc. For library workers who serve teens, the need to know can be urgent.

We like face to faceThis is the place that YALSA hopes to fill with a variety of learning opportunities. Part of re-thinking YALSA involves discovering the best ways to bring training to the people who need it when they need it. Right now there are a number of ways that library workers can access training through YALSA. Let’s start with an overview.

Some libraries offer in-service training that pulls everyone in the system together for a day of learning. YALSA offers full day institutes on a range of topics that could be a good fit for our library.  YALSA provides the trainer and materials, and your library provides the participants and space.  If your library is looking for qualified speakers on a variety of topics, check out YALSA’s Speaker’s Bureau. There may be someone nearby who is has expertise on evaluating summer learning programs, for example. This allows face-to-face learners to feed off the enthusiasm of the group and to generate lively discussion. Feel free to add your own name and your particular expertise to the list!

Live webinars can also have the dynamic feel of face-to-face learning, since it shares that spontaneous quality. YALSA’s live webinars are ideal for discussing important topics that get lost in the daily business of serving patrons. For example, YALSA’s  Connecting with Immigrant and Refugee Youth in Your Community will be held on April 21 at 2:00pm EST, and all live webinars are free to YALSA members. If you are able watch the webinar with colleagues, this can be a great way to generate discussion on local library issues.

But what if that is exactly the time your teens show up at the library? The same webinar is available within 24 hours after they’re recorded, accessed through the Members Only page. After 30 days, anyone can view the webinar for $19.  All of YALSA’s institutes and e-courses can also be offered for a specific library or group at a special rate.

I'd rather schedule online training at a time that's convenient to me.There are also plenty of free, on-demand webinars as well. There are webinars on the future of teens services, on connected learning, summer programs, and gaming, to name a few. Recorded webinars don’t have the immediate interaction of face-to-face training, but they still stimulate new thinking and can shed fresh light on everyday activities.

On a larger scale, YALSA offers sessions at ALA’s Midwinter and Annual Conferences, as well as the YA Symposium. These are perfect for those learners who thrive on the energy of others. The presenters are at the top of their field, and the room is filled with people who share that passion.

British Library Conference

British Library Conference

But there’s a downside to this, of course. It means travel. It means expense, which necessitates planning ahead and figuring out strategies for minimizing costs, like sharing a hotel room. If you’ve never attended an ALA conference or YALSA’s symposium before, you can apply for travel grants.  Travel grant applications for the symposium are being accepted through June 1st. There are the kinds of crowds that send introverts back to the hotel room. These big events are increasingly available through live webcasts, which, true confession, is how I watched the Youth Media Awards last winter.

YALSA’s newest continuing education offering is free and can be accessed 24/7 from where ever you are.  This micro-credentialing effort is a great way to brush up on or build new skills.  The digital badges you earn help you demonstrate to current or potential employers the skills and expertise you have mastered.  And for customized, one-on-one professional development, check out YALSA’s virtual mentoring program.

Since we’re talking about library folks here, it makes sense to add that there are plenty of great resources available in print. How about Megan Fink’s Teen Services 101: A Practical Guide for Busy Library Staff? Or Monique Delatte Starkey’s compilation of Practical Programming: The Best of YA-YAAC? And check  your mailbox for the Spring 2016 issue of YALS, which features an array of timely articles, including Kate McNair’s “Creating a Culture of Learning at Your Library.”

What works best for you? Are you inclined to travel and be part of YALSA at conferences? Do you like attending webinars or e-courses with a few like-minded colleagues?  Do you prefer to work independently online and earn digital badges?  Let us know what you think!

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enhanced-buzz-24540-1374618713-43In the afterglow of the Youth Media Awards comes the distribution of YALSA’s latest selection lists. These lists have long been resources for both readers’ advisory and collection development, keeping library staff abreast with the new and wonderful. There was a time when the Best Books for Young Adults list (now re-envisioned as the more narrowly focused Best Fiction for Young Adults) delivered many new book choices for library staff to add to the young adult collection.

That was then. Now it’s not unusual for library staff working for and with teens to discover books before they are even published, via web sites like NetGalley, Edelweiss, or by direct publisher contact. There are many networking opportunities, including the yalsa-bk listserv, that crackle with vitality, producing on-the-spot book recommendations and compiled lists.  The YALSA Hub has hundreds of lists on current topics. In addition, there are fabulous blogs about young adult literature, some by library workers, and some by teens. Surely YALSA’s carefully chosen book selections should be somewhere in this swell of activity. Unfortunately, they don’t generate the buzz of online exploration and discovery.

We can do better. It’s time for transformation!

8792688521_2f7538d895_mrHere’s an example. In 1988, YALSA (then YASD) compiled five annual genre lists, covering  Horror, Mystery, Romance, Sports, and Science Fiction. Eventually, Fantasy, Humor, and Historical Fiction were also included. In 1996, these lists were replaced by the Popular Paperbacks selection committee.

The Popular Paperbacks list continues the process of compiling  topical lists. The committee chooses topics that might be of ongoing interest to teens, such as the genres above. The books must be available in paperback, to keep them within easy purchasing range. It allowed libraries to stay on top of teen reading fads without breaking the budget.

It was a fabulous idea – twenty years ago.

But the appeal of paperbacks has changed over the past two decades. They used to look cool stuffed in the back pocket of blue jeans. Tucked inside a textbook, they allowed teens to read Judy Blume instead of history. Those paperback spinners that once housed countless volumes of Babysitter’s Club and Fear Street serials now are storage headaches. Current paperbacks are often too large to fit in the spinners. Add in the growing popularity of e-books, and Popular Paperbacks just doesn’t sound very hip.

girl readingBut dynamic lists on fascinating topics? Always in demand.

I certainly don’t mean to pick on the Popular Paperbacks committee. It’s dear to my heart because I served on that committee for three years; I met a lot of great library folk and learned much from them. And the 2016 chair, Katie Salo, led her committee in developing some awesome lists. Thank you, and all of those who worked so hard on this year’s impressive selection lists.

The YALSA Board is currently involved in organizational planning, driven by the call to action in YALSA’s Futures Report. In taking a step back, we can really focus on how best to build YALSA so that it is aligned with the vision of teen services as outlined in the report. With that momentum, we are well-positioned to support members as we all strive to build a futures-focused teen program at our libraries.  The Board is working with an expert on organizational planning who has encouraged us to embrace an “everything is on the table” approach that allows us to think about  the kinds of support members need most, including collection development and content curation, and how we best provide that.

This topic and its relation to selected lists like PPYA is actually just one example of what the board will be considering once a new plan is in place and the work of aligning existing programs, services, initiatives and resources begins.  The goal is to have a draft plan put together by early Feb., work throughout the month to refine it and have a final, new plan in place by March 1.  The aligning work will take place after that and lead to the development of proposals for the board’s consideration, most likely at their meeting in June.

To keep up to date on the organizational planning process, check the YALSAblog for regular updates. And join YALSA president Candice Mack for her Member Town Halls on Twitter via the #yalsachat hashtag. The next one will be Friday, Feb. 5, noon to 1:00 pm (Eastern).

It’s a good time to look ahead.

senior prom fakeMarcy Rhodes has three possible sweet squeezes: Steve, who drops out of the running when he goes off to college; Rick, a nice, dependable kind of guy, and Bruce, a looker with a yellow convertible. When Senior Prom approaches, Marcy has to go with someone, so like many heroines in chick lit, she picks the guy with the convertible. During prom, however, Marcy realizes that Bruce intends to stay out all night. Marcy panics, since this was not her plan at all. Fortunately, nice guy Rick gives Marcy a ride home. The next day she learns that Bruce totaled that yellow convertible in after-prom hijinks.

It sounds like the plot of a Meg Cabot novel, but Senior Prom, written by Rosamond Du Jardin, was published in 1957. Du Jardin was the author of seventeen young adult books, including four books in the Marcy Rhodes senior promseries. Young Adult Literature, although far from the market giant it is today, was robust in the years following World War II. Such was the cultural backdrop when the American Library Association created the Young Adult Services Division (YASD) in June, 1957. Mildred Batchelder served as the first Executive Secretary. The early years included scuffles with other ALA divisions and a fight to keep the TOP OF THE NEWS journal focused on Youth Services.

Want to know what happens next? You can find more about the history of YALSA in the YALSA Handbook in the History section.’  The YALSA Handbook is a nifty document that not only chronicles the backstory of our vibrant ALA Division, but contains all kinds of information about today’s YALSA as well.

Librarians working with young adults need no proof that their services have an impact on teens and the community that surrounds them. As soon as you make that vital connection with a teen who trusts you to find a good book for them, or to show them resources for an important paper, you have influenced a life. The greater community, however, may not see the value of this intangible work. It’s taken many years to convince library boards and administrators of the importance of a librarian dedicated to the service of young adults. Now, as budgets are slashed and libraries forced to close, the need to champion the work of young adult librarians is even greater than before.’ What we really need are some Great Ideas that emphasis the urgency of young adult advocacy.

In the new Strategic Plan, Advocacy and Activism play a vital role in YALSA’s ‘ future goals. Since’ YALSA’ is an organization with members working in a variety of settings, we need a variety of Great Ideas. What does your institution do to increase awareness of teen services? What do you wish it would do? What would you do as an individual, given the time and resources?
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