While I know many of you who have submitted applications to volunteer have been waiting with bated breath. As part of my duties as YALSA President-Elect is to make those appointments. Before I ran for President I had talked to several Past-Presidents about the process, which seemed very overwhelming and very difficult. Having to sort through lots of volunteer applications finding the right fit for each committee. However, the opposite has happened and after talking to the current president Kelly Czarnecki and past-president Amanda Barnhart over the past several years we’ve had fewer and fewer members volunteering.
We the three Presidents of YALSA have seen that the pandemic has affected membership and staffing in all our libraries making it very difficult. Since the beginning of the pandemic YALSA membership and ALA membership has declined. Many libraries suffered budget cuts and we all have friends who lost their jobs or who have left the field all together. Many of us who remained have had more duties assigned to them to cover the staffing shortages. I myself found myself taking on another department besides the library when my City began cutting the budget. Both Amanda and Kelly have had to seek out members to fill in unexpected vacancies on committees, taskforces, and juries due to members having to withdraw from serving because of the pandemic and job stress.
This has also delayed appointments since I’ve been trying to track down volunteers, with the help of the YALSA Office. The other obstacles have been around for a while, but I feel that they often get forgotten or unless it’s affected you as a member you might know what those are.
These are three obstacles that have been a challenge for making appointments or for volunteers able to commit:
ALA’s 3 Committee Rule: This rule is in place to ensure that ALA members who are in other Divisions or Roundtables are not over committing themselves. A lot of times members like myself will volunteer with a roundtable or another division, and with YALSA. Whichever group gets you first, once you are on three committees you won’t be able to serve on something else until that appointment ends. While you might be rolling off the committee before the term begins, this sometimes blocks us from appointing someone.
YALSA’s 3 Year Cooling Off Period for Award Committees: This rule was instituted back in 2014 with the hopes of making the Award committees accessible to more of the membership. This also brought us into line with the other divisions who also have a cooling off period from serving award committees. However, with the lack of volunteers highly qualified members have been turned away from serving when we could use their expertise. I’m currently working on a proposal to shrink this down to two years.
Conference Attendance: This has been one of the biggest barriers for many members who want to volunteer. The cost of attending a conference is large, especially for librarians who have to foot the bill. A lot of libraries are also still restricting travel for members. This past summer the YALSA Board voted to make the summer attendance virtual for the award committees. Which I had also thought covered the winter conference. There is currently a proposal under discussion by the board to make the winter attendance optional. This would allow members who want to attend the YMAs can go, but other committee members who cannot attend will not be obligated to attend. We’re hoping this will open volunteer opportunities for members who cannot attend the conference but want to lend their expertise.
This last one is currently holding up the invitation to members who have volunteered for the Award Committees. We’re hoping to change the language of the invitation to reflect the change if passed. ALA considers the invitation a binding contract and we cannot change the language after the appointment has been accepted.
I’m also still looking for volunteers to serve on the Quick Picks and Amazing Audio blogging teams. For those of you who have volunteered invitations should be going out soon.
If you’re interested in serving on the blogging teams, please fill out the volunteer form: https://www.ala.org/yalsa/getinvolved/getinvolved .
If you have questions just send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again for volunteering.
YALSA President-Elect 2021-2022