So far I’ve used my Personal Service Priority Plan to identify a new partnership to pursue. However, just as important as knowing when to say “yes” is clearly identifying when to say “no”. This month I discuss how I used the plan to evaluate an offered one-off program and to politely decline.No

There’s lots of great advice out there about why we should say no if an existing or potential program doesn’t seem to be meeting the needs of our community (I love the suggestion to “stop doing things” in Maureen Hartman’s post Level Up Your Leadership: Stop Doing Things). So what does this look like in practice?

Last fall I was approached by an author interested in giving a reading from her new book during some evening or weekend at my library. Deciding whether to accept or decline offers from local writers can be tricky for me, because on the surface it seems an obvious choice: the public library promotes literacy and writing, and here’s someone who wants to talk to youth about writing for free – great! However, I still needed to run this through the Priority Plan “rubric”. Read More →

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Earlier this month, I was in a pinch preparing a sample craft for an upcoming children’s program and turned to my teen volunteer group for help. The goal was to make a sand bowl, a mixture of sand and white glue poured over bowl covered in plastic wrap. Once it dries, the bowl and plastic wrap are removed and — voilà! — a sand bowl. Despite following the directions I found online, my initial creation looked like the perfect example for one of those Pinterest expectation vs. reality memes. With the program coming up in a few days, I needed to make more bowls to determine the best glue to sand ratio for making a successful, pourable mixture. My teen volunteers were more than happy to take a break from our usual course of action and get their hands dirty with this craft. Much giggling ensued, food coloring was requested (which took the bowls to another level!), “This actually counts as volunteering time?” was asked several times, and together we figured out the best bowl recipe. Both our meeting and the bowls were a success, but more important is what happened in our following meetings.

At the following volunteer meeting we were brainstorming ways to decorate for Valentine’s Day. One of the students who assisted with the sand bowls offered to show us how to make tissue paper tassels that we could string together and hang. She picked out what she needed from the craft closet and taught us all (myself included) how to make them. The following week, she walked into our session and proclaimed, “I just learned how to make these hanging paper hearts I found online. They’d be perfect for us to make today and add to the [Valentine’s Day] display!” In preparation for our meeting, she had looked online for something else we could make, learned how to make them, and then offered that knowledge to the group to teach all of us. Needless to say, I have adjusted my approach with the teen volunteer group! I now allot time during our sessions for anyone with an impromptu activity for the group and within reason, supply necessary materials. It’s as if the floodgates have opened and, perhaps because a newfound feeling of staff support or camaraderie, ideas for future programs are pouring out of the group.

The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report discusses the importance of connected learning and how libraries can act as a connected learning center for teens. Connected learning is the learning that occurs when passions and interests are combined in a social atmosphere with peers and adults to gain knowledge that extends to academic, civic, or career related endeavors. In order to support this type of learning, library staff must form connections with teens, discuss their interests, and collaborate to develop programs and collections. The Futures report also provides that library staff should not shy away from taking risks to determine what works, and changes will be made based on the current needs of teens. Outcomes of adjustments made to programs and collections as a means to foster connected learning are measured by new skills and knowledge gained. As with my example of the sand bowls and subsequent craft ideas, with a few spur of the moment changes, you never know who you might empower to step out of their shell, share with the group, and lead!

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Last month I introduced a yearly Personal Service Priority Plan” for making decisions around Outreach, Programming, Strategic Audiences, and Collection. Already, I have had several opportunities to implement this strategy in specific situations. Here is what the flow of this decision-making process looked like regarding a potential community partner:

The “Mission and Core Values” section of The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action suggests, regarding Collaboration, that “Libraries leverage the resources/talents of all Partnerlibrary departments as well as non-library institutions and establish community partnerships around teens’ needs and interests.” As I decide which potential organizations with which to form partnerships, I can use that Core value as a basis for action, then use my own Personal Service Priority Plan to cull down the possibilities and choose an action plan based on the needs of my community.

In this case, a literacy nonprofit that works with my local school has asked me to partner with them to support students in their program. Awesome! Great! Now: should I pursue this, and how should I approach it?

According to the Core values set forth in the “Futures” report, I should establish community partnerships around teens’ needs and interests. This organization works directly with youth up to age 14 who are reading below grade level. OK, so yes, I should consider this partnership.

nonprofitNow, what will our partnership look like? Here are the 2016 “Outreach” priorities I have set for myself:

  • Potential partner is clearly defined
  • We are aiming to serve/reach a similar or overlapping audience
  • Collaboration has measurable outcomes
  • Whenever I (or library staff) attend an event there are dedicated times to interact directly with youth/parents/families
  • Appropriate staff attends events based on needs of anticipated audience (determined through discussion with supervisors and regional resource sharing)

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What skills, qualities and competencies do library staff need in order to provide the best services and support to the teens and tweens in our communities?

Volunteer to help YALSA update its “Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth” document, with particular emphasis on aligning the document to the principles in the Futures Report, since the document was last updated in 2010!

More information about the document, taskforce charge and more may be found below:

YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best (2010)

Competencies Update Task Force (Charge)

Review the current document called “Young Adults Deserve the Best: Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth” and update the language and content, as needed, to ensure it reflects the mission and core values of teens services as described in The Future of Library Service for and With Teens: A Call to Action. Provide a draft for the Spring Executive meeting, and submit a final report with recommended changes for Board consideration by Annual 2016. Task force size: 5 – 7 virtual members, including the Chair.

Previous Competencies Update drafts:

Click to access CompetenciesDraft_AN15.pdf

Click to access CompetenciesDraft_MW16.pdf

Please email me at candice.yalsa [at] if you are interested in serving on this important taskforce!

Happy Winter!

Can you believe it’s already February?!

It’s been a whirlwind since ALA Annual, and here’s what I’ve worked on in November & December 2015:


  • Attended YALSA’s inaugural YA Services Symposium in Portland, OR, and welcomed participants at Opening Reception, Author Luncheon for Jack Gantos (who I like to call the “Johnny Cash of YA Lit”) and Closing Ceremony Poetry Slam
  • Solicited feedback and topics for the Fall Executive Meeting from Board members.
  • Recruit board members to take the lead on various proposals, discussions, and more
  • Participated in, coordinated and led discussions at YALSA Fall Executive Meeting, which was held in Portland, OR, after the YA Services Symposium
  • Assigned Executive Committee members to blog about different topics from the YALSA Fall Executive Committee Meeting and Strategic Planning sessions
  • Called for discussion and vote on adoption of YALSA’s revised Board Meeting Guidelines
    • Motion passed, the guidelines have been adopted and will be added to the YALSA Handbook
  • Called for discussion and vote on
  • Hosted first YALSA Member Townhall Tweet-up of the year on November 30th, 2015
  • Hosted second YALSA Member Townhall Tweet-up on December 18th, 2015
  • Filled chair and member vacancies on YALSA’s Financial Advancement Committee (Thanks so much, Jane Gov, Alida Hanson and Tiffany Williams!!!)
  • Filled vacancy on 2017 Alex award committee (Thank you Diana Tixier Herald!)

Works in Progress

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I love mission statements. I really do! I get excited when I’m researching a new organization and I can find clearly stated strategic priorities or service areas. It allows me to immediately identify which organizations have similar or overlapping goals with my library and which organizations have a very different focus or scope.

So I’m not sure why it took me so long to think of creating a personal statement of service priorities for my own job.

To clarify: I’m not talking about a career objective document or a performance evaluation, and I don’t intend to re-invent the wheel. Rather, I’ve discovered that creating an intentional document highlighting my areas of focus during a set time frame makes it easier to quickly identify where I should be spending my time and energy.

As library staff we have an abundance of resources from which to draw when deciding where to aim our focus. Just a few examples include the The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, the mission statement and stated service priorities of our own libraries, and community information like reports from the Housing Authority, local organizations who work with insecurely housed youth, and community demographic statistics. It can be overwhelming to take all of these sources into account for every decision we make.

This year I decided to try an experiment. I spent a week in December pouring over the resources I listed above as well as looking back over notes from staff meetings and notable information from local neighborhood blogs, and I developed a plan. I created a one page checklist which I titled my “Personal Service Priority Plan”. This document will be the foundation for every decision I make in 2016. It is tailored to the needs I see in the community surrounding my specific library. It will serve as a rubric to quickly evaluate what I will pursue in terms of Outreach, Programming, Strategic Audiences, and Collection.

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