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

When I read Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds for the first time last year, I was completely overwhelmed–this story was about my students! So many of them have lost family and friends due to gun violence, and many of them have been faced with similar emotional tragedies in their lives. So I wanted them to see that their feelings and experiences are valid by reading a book written by a man who looks like them and understands them and IS them. But being a Title 1 school means funds are tight, and purchasing class sets of books (especially enough for all classes to read at the same time) is just not in our budget without help. YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grant is that help, and I am incredibly grateful.     

When I saw that the Teen Read Week Grant was open for applications in May, I immediately texted my reading teacher and asked her what she thought about the potential of doing a school-wide read next year with a Jason Reynolds book. She responded with a resounding “YES” and I filled out the application. And then we were selected, and the brainstorming began.  

But how do you plan a reading program for students who are reluctant readers? You make it relevant!

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We had a very successful Teen Summer Internship program last summer at the Laurel Public Library and when we received a grant through the generosity of the Dollar General literacy Foundation and YALSA we knew we would do a similar program again for our teens. We have a very strong teen volunteer program already in place so we knew this would be a great opportunity for our teens.

The process to be considered for an internship for the summer of 2018 started by requiring the teens to attend a mentoring program offered by a local community leader. The course was designed to run for eight weeks and during this time the teens learned many skills such as life skills, leadership skills, personal presentation, and public speaking. We initially started with eight teens, but regular attendance was an issue with the majority of the teens and we ended up with only three who completed the mentoring program and of those three, only two were selected for the internship. We also brought back one of last year’s interns, for a total of three for the summer.

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In the summer of 2017 the Russell Library in Middletown Connecticut, was accepted to participate in the national non-profit Girls Who Code©. Girls Who Code (GWC) partners with other groups, such as libraries, to prepare students for careers in technology fields by introducing computer programming. Starting in September 2017 the Russell Library offered its first GWC course for 20 weeks to a full class of 12 students and a waiting list! The popularity and the community’s positive response suggested that the library should offer the course again.

As a Teen Librarian with a MLS and no official Computer Science background, after the first session I realized I needed reinforcements. The YALSA/ Dollar General Grant fit the perfect spot to be able to offer the program again.  (*Side Note- GWC suggests a CS Degree or CS experience is not necessary; that anyone can run a GWC program with the tools and resources they provide.)

The initial impetus in searching for a grant was our robust teen volunteer program, which offers important job preparation skills to the teens of Middletown. Teens volunteer at the library all year long, with the majority of the hours in the summer. During the brainstorming process, the concept transformed from volunteers assisting in all Youth and Family Learning Summer Learning Programs to two interns for a specific program, GWC.

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The Octavia Fellin Public Library (OFPL) in Gallup, NM used the funds from the Summer Learning Resource Grant to purchase equipment to begin a Youth Media Lab where tweens and teens would have access to film and audio equipment as well as editing software. At the end of May OFPL was approached by the Miss Navajo Council, Inc. seeking help for creating a multimedia project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868, which allowed the Navajo Tribe to return to their ancestral homelands after being deported to the Bosque Redondo Reservation. We partnered with the organization utilizing our new equipment and community members to create an intergenerational reading of the Treaty accessible to a modern audience.

The resulting project involved 14 community participants (youth and adult) from the community, and historical photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives. It was shown at 3 commemoration events in Flagstaff, Arizona; Farmington, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico. OFPL also hosted an exhibit detailing the importance of the treaty and its lasting impacts.

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This summer Wake County Public Libraries (WCPL), located in Raleigh, North Carolina, started a new teen internship program for older teens (grades 11-12) to assist in providing fun engaging learning opportunities for participants at selective USDA funded Summer Food Sites in partnership with Wake County Parks and Recreation . The funding from the YALSA Summer Learning Grant that is funded by Dollar General helped offset the costs of this program.

In our grant application, our initial goal was to hire two interns. However, once we started to review the program and interview candidates we decided to increase this number to five interns. All five interns were selected from WCPL’s Teen Leadership Corps that served the areas of some of our most vulnerable communities.

The teens were interviewed and hired in May. In early June, they received training, participated in leadership building skills and worked with four of our librarians to design the program they would deliver to the food site participants from mid-June to early August. The interns provided programs Monday through Thursday with oversight from our librarians and staff from the parks serving as food sites. On Fridays, members of the local Boys and Girls Club worked at the sites while our teens participated in debriefing meetings with the librarians, as well as skills building and enrichment opportunities to enhance their experience.

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Marion County, South Carolina is rural and fairly spread out. The Marion County Library System relies heavily on bookmobile services to reach patrons in some of the farthest corners of the county and those who live in underserved areas. However, in recent years, bookmobile usage has begun to decline, especially among young adults and children, and the disparity between branch and bookmobile services has widened.  This inequality of access is most apparent during summer reading.

Patrons who only receive bookmobile service are encouraged to track their reading and receive prizes during the summer months, but they do not receive any programming and our time with them is very limited. During Summer Reading 2018, however, the library system was given an incredible opportunity—turning the bookmobile into a programming-mobile.

With a Summer Learning Grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA, we were able to turn our bookmobile into a programming machine for the summer months and give some of the bookmobile children the full library experience!

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The $50 for 20 Program made possible by the Dollar General/YALSA Summer Learning Grant had a broader reach than we had ever imagined. The idea was born from a conversation I overheard between a student and the counselor as I was passing in the hallway. The counselor asked, “What do you like to do during the summer?” The student replied, “I just read my mom’s books over and over.” She didn’t have her own books.

Our original was to have high school teachers select twenty of the most at-risk students who needed books at home. We then gave each student $50 each to spend on books and took them on a field trip to the closest bookstore, Books-A-Million, which is 70 miles away.

We started by planning with the 9-12th grade English teachers to help identify the twenty students who would benefit most from having books to read over the summer. Once they were identified, I met with each student individually and explained what we had planned for them and checked to see if they could go with us on the scheduled trip. I met with the principal and received pre approval for our school district to provide the bus driver’s salary, the fuel expense, and the cost of a meal for each student.

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Barrio Writers is a free, week long, college level writing workshop that is specifically geared towards youth in underserved communities. The program came to my attention through the direction of my colleague, Patricia Valdovinos, our former Outreach Services Librarian. She mentioned that she knew of a cool program an author friend of hers had started down in Santa Ana; I looked into it (you can too, https://www.barriowriters.org/), and knew almost immediately that we needed to bring the program to our youth.

2017 Barrio Writers and writing mentors at the Mary L. Stephens Branch in Davis, CA

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cover of the teen services competencies for library staffEach month, through December, YALSA is sponsoring free webinars (for members and non-members) on topics related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

The September webinar (the full video recording is available after the break) on the topic of Cultural Competence and Responsiveness. The focus of the session was on creating inclusive computer science opportunities for youth and was by Lecia Barker from the National Center for Women and Informational Technology (NCWIT) and Cheryl Eberly from the Santa Ana Public Library.
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