by Jenna Nemec-Loise

When I applied back in March for YALSA’s 2013 Advocacy Travel Stipend, I listed 19 reasons for wanting to attend my very first National Library Legislative Day (NLLD)— my rock-star teen volunteers.

NLLD 13 (I Love Libraries!)

But get this:

Just one short year ago, my 19 reasons freaked me out. And I don’t mean in a gee-I’m-a-little-bit-nervous-around-teens kind of way. I’m talking white-knuckle-deer-in-headlights terror here.

I mean, come on. I’m an early childhood specialist. My days are filled with Mother Goose on the Loose, phonological awareness, and three-dozen two-year-old “boyfriends,” all searching for that elusive Thomas the Tank Engine book. I love the little kids. I’m awesome with them. What was I going to do with teens?
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As part of YALSA President Shannon Peterson’s presidential theme (Amplified: Speaking Up for Teens and Libraries), YALSA is working on a number of projects to help YALSA members speak up for teens and for teen library services. As part of this effort, I recently worked with other YALSA members to update YALSA’s Advocacy Toolkit. The new, updated, streamlined version can be found here, in PDF format, for easy downloading and sharing.

The toolkit it just that: a collection of easy-to-use tools for doing everyday advocacy in your library. The topics covered include:

  • What is advocacy? The differences between advocacy, marketing, and lobbying.
  • Everyday advocacy: what you can do in five minutes, fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, or more.
  • Developing and delivering your message: how to develop a persuasive message and deliver it with conviction.
  • Using web tools for advocacy: getting maximum impact from social media. Read More →

ALA offers myriad tools and opportunities to help librarians advocate for ourselves, our patrons, and our libraries. Advocacy can impact our funding. It can get teen rooms in public libraries. It can keep librarians in schools. It can ensure our teen patrons will have materials that reflect their needs. And that’s just the start! As summer starts and Annual is approaching, consider taking advantage of these ALA advocacy opportunities.

  • Register for a free webinar on practical tips, techniques, and case studies to help librarians advocate sponsored by the ALA Washington Office: “Advocacy Recycling”: Leverage Existing Events and Resources For Lasting Advocacy Impact on Tuesday, June 18 from 4:00-5:00pm EST.
  • Visit the Advocacy Corner at Annual featuring back-to-back speakers and experts on Sunday, June 30 talking about various advocacy issues and approaches.
  • Check out the advocacy presentations at Annual including targeting 20s-30s to advocate and helping patrons tell their library story.
  • If cannot attend Annual, get started at the How to Get Involved tool kit.

Whatever advocacy approach you decide to take, know that ALA offers opportunities and tools to help you advocate effectively.

Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! This is a six-part series that shares some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In the first five weeks, I talked about’ presenting yourself as a professional,’ speaking the language,’ collecting data, sharing information up the ladder, and taking a big-picture look.’ I’ll conclude this series by talking a bit about:

Getting Everyone On Board

One way to get managers to take notice of teen services and programs is to get everyone talking about those services and programs. “Everyone” means:

  • library staff
  • teens
  • parents
  • community members
  • trustees
  • elected officials
  • everyone!

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Teen VolunteerMarketing for advocacy doesn’t just need to come out of storage annually, like holiday decorations, when it’s time to defend this year’s youth services budget. Instead, advocacy needs to happen all year-round. If we’ve done our work during the year, it should be easy to have a range of examples of real impact from which to draw when next year’s budget is being decided. Read More →

Connect, Create and Collaborate pt 3

In thinking this week about collaboration, connection and creation– in all its forms, this article in Forbes — about how most groups don’t truly collaborate got me thinking about times that I thought I was collaborating – even partnering – with other staff or community partners – but what I was actually doing looked more often just like listening patiently, tolerating, or convincing.

To enter a room of possible collaborators and acknowledge you might not have the best idea yourself – or that you need their help to do work differently and better can be a scary and risky endeavor. Scary because you might not be able to do it “your way” and risky because you have to give up more control than you might be comfortable with—and that this could change your outcome. Living in this place is a hard balance and I work on it almost every day because if it’s an idea with mutual investment – something a group came up with — you have that many more people invested in its success and sustainability over the long term.

In my library right now we have three new strategic change focus areas – students, seniors and readers. These are groups that we’ve always served and will continue to do so – but we’re identifying them as “change priorities,” meaning that we want to look for new, different ways of thinking about how to serve these groups throughout our library– ways that engage all our staff about things that they can each do in their work. In order to enter into this work in partnership with my colleagues, I had to back up and acknowledge I wasn’t the only expert in the room – that everyone around me had new and different ideas that I hadn’t heard before.

Like many of us, I’ve been following the news of elimination of telecommuting at major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy . In both cases the desire for increased collaboration, among others, were cited as reasons for these changes – it made me wonder what other strategies these companies – and others – were using to embed or reinforce a culture of collaboration – which is way harder than just sharing a cubicle.

What can libraries learn from other organizations about what a real culture of collaboration could look like? If we could figure it out among staff, it would probably be easier to teach it to young people.

Most of us are actively creating and supporting ways for young people to connect, create and collaborate with each other but are we doing it in our own work? This post focuses on creating with our colleagues.

A few years ago I learned some techniques that, quite literally, saved me from myself. I hadn’t been managing staff very long and wasn’t very experienced in supervision. I tended to think that if staff had a problem, it was my job as a supervisor to fix it for them rather than helping them address – and find a solution for – the problem itself. Many of the supervisory classes I had taken focused more on a “the boss is in charge/don’t question it” style of management – and that just didn’t feel right to me. I was moving into a new position as a co-manager of a large library in our system and knew I needed some new techniques in my toolkit.

Our library is a county department and the county had just started a facilitation network – to train internal staff to facilitate on behalf of other departments in the county – believing, rightly, that this was a cost saving measure – and also believing that there was great value for everyone in making meetings run better. Read More →

Karen JensenHow did you become involved with libraries?

As an undergraudate student, I was referred to the local public library – The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio – for a job listing. The rest is, as they say, history. I became their Young Adult Services Assistant, and I had no idea what I was doing. But I loved it and worked hard to learn, eventually getting my MLS from Kent State University in 2002.

How long have you worked or supported libraries?’ ‘ 

I have worked in public libraries for 19 years now, always working as a young adult librarian and either youth services or adult services. I have worked in 4 different libraries, each having a different structure, size, and level of funding. Leaving my last library and my teens at Marion Public Library was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but the economy hit Ohio hard and my husband found employment in Texas so we moved. I now work part-time at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie. And the only thing I can say that I have loved about the move is how it lead me to start my advocacy project, Teen Librarian Toolbox, and how it has resulted in my growing so much as’ both a librarian and an advocate.
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Interview with Heather Gruenthal, recipient of the Friends of YALSA (FOY) scholarship to attend National Library Advocacy Day in Washington, DC.

By Gregory Lum

I had the pleasure to visit with Heather at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim.’  Both Heather and I served on YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selection committee in 2011.
GL: Tell me a little bit about where you work and what your focus is?
HG: I have been a Teacher Librarian in the Anaheim Union High School District in Anaheim, California for twelve years.’  We are a high school district, so I have been exclusively serving teens in grades 7-12. My main focus in working with teens is to get them to read, particularly the teens who are considered “at risk” and are placed in intervention classes.’  Many teens do not read because they can’t find anything interesting, and when they don’t practice reading for enjoyment they find it much more difficult to tackle their academic reading.’  Using YALSA’s selection lists, particularly Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers has helped me find books for teens with a wide variety of interests.’  My co-teachers have remarked on how much their students’ reading habits and abilities improved because they were actually reading something that was interesting to them.’  Students who couldn’t be forced to read more than 5 minutes at the beginning of the semester were suddenly begging for more time to read.’  Some students even confessed that they had never read a book all the way through to the end until that year.’  These kinds of interactions are what make my job worthwhile.
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If you have a passion for serving teens, advocate for them! District Days is an excellent opportunity to speak directly to legislators and maybe even include your teens in the conversation.

There are many reasons to serve teens at your library, including that you may thoroughly enjoy reading young adult literature and helping teens find a book they might like as well.’  Did you know that the impact of libraries on teenagers reaches farther than we could ever imagine?’  Take into account some of the following statistics:

  • 25% of all public high school students fail to graduate on time
  • 34 million American between ages 6 and 17 are not receiving sufficient developmental resources
  • 74% of U.S.eighth-graders read below the proficient level

Libraries are vital but challenged sources of support for the growing youth population in the United States. Census data shows that in 2010 there were over 42 million young people aged 10 -19 (comprising 13.6% of the population) in the US.’ ‘  In 2010, half of the nation’s 14 – 18 year olds reported visiting a library to use a computer.’  The Opportunity for All study‘  reported that youth ages 14-24 make up 25% of all library users, which makes them the largest group in the study, and that youth were drawn to libraries to use computers, receive help with homework, socialize, and participate in programming.’ ‘  Similarly, school libraries are available to about 62% of youth enrolled in public schools’  and youth turn to their school libraries for recreational reading, learning support, and technology access.’  However, critical library resources are endangered by widespread economic impacts on public and school libraries, as noted in the State of America’s Libraries Report 2012 .’  The 2012 PLA PLDS Statistical Report indicates that just 33% of public libraries have at least one full time staff person dedicated to teen services (down a startling 18% from five years ago).

Teens are likely to suffer most in the absence of library services, yet libraries are key to supporting teens’ learning and development.’  The impact of library services and programming is astounding: students that are involved in library programs and have a library available to them with extended hours score higher on ACT English andReadingtests than those who don’t.

We also have the opportunity to give teens not only positive reinforcement, but a visible role model who enjoys the pursuit of leisure reading. ‘ Other than the educational setting, many teens may not have a person in his or her life who noticeably appreciates the written word.’  You could be having an impact on a teenager without even realizing it.’  Isn’t that worth just a little extra effort now and then?

What can you do?’  At the local level, you could become a Friend of your Library or start a Friends group, volunteer at your local library, sponsor or support legislation that helps libraries, or serve on your library’s board of Trustees.’ ‘  You can participate in National Library Legislative Day, District Days and other advocacy activities sponsored by ALA and YALSA.’  Check out the advocacy resources on YALSA’s web site for more information.

Do teens need libraries?’  Of course they do.’  Keep these statistics in mind when talking to friends, colleagues, and administrators.’  This is why YOU need to participate in District Days!

Information used in this post was gathered from the YALSA Brochure “Teens Need Libraries.”

Megan Garrett
Legislative Committee