This wasn’t my first Midwinter conference, but it was the first conference I’ve attended since I was hired as a librarian. Previously I went to as many different meetings as I could trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could about the teen librarianship field. This time I felt more focused. I went to vendors, sessions, and other attendees with real challenges I had at my branch instead of hypothetical ones, and I was amazed at all of the information I gleaned from conversations I had with other librarians when I asked how they handle the problems.

On Friday night I ran into someone I went to library school with, who was only at ALA for Friday. She was looking for a job, and wanted to check out the gaming extravaganza. I’m so glad I met her there, because I was able to introduce her to many other attendees just like others had done for me when I first began. See for me at least the greatest part of YALSA is all of the people. We are a community focused on teen librarianship, but we are also very supportive of each other. I’ve heard many stories of one librarian being the only one involved in ALA at their library, and YALSA being the only resource for them when they feel like they are all alone on the edge of the library world.

If you aren’t a member of YALSA I do encourage you to at least sign up for the listservs we have. It is just one of many resources YALSA offers to help librarians connect to each other. Many people say there is no reason to recreate the wheel, and they are correct. Even if you are the only teen librarian in your system, (or the only one serving teens for that matter) You can build off the great things others have done, by just asking your peers questions you don’t have the answer too. Its alright not to know everything, and to be unsure. As librarians we are trained on how to find information, instead of knowing all information, which is an important distinction.

This conference I’ve learned many new ways to approach teen services that I never would have thought of if I hadn’t talked with others over lunches, dinners, or drinks. I encourage you, if you get a chance to go to a conference to attend more that just the sessions and the exhibit halls. Talk to strangers who attend too. You never know what you might learn, because you know Librarians rock 😀

Librarian's Rock
This photo was taken at Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia. Its me and three committee members from Popular Paperbacks.

So, I’ve never been to an ALA conference before. The only conference I’ve attended previously was the Massachusetts School Library Association conference in Sturbridge, where I felt pretty out-of-place because I always went by myself and never really knew anybody. I was afraid that since midwinter is all about association meetings, I wouldn’t have much to do…but I was wrong. It turned out to be a very productive weekend. I also have to say that day one of my trip to midwinter was a heck of a lot easier to navigate than attending MSLA. I was awed by the scale of the conference, but not intimidated.

On Friday, I spent the afternoon in meetings with my future employers, but the morning was taken up by the YALSA advocacy institute and lunch, where I was able to catch up with Simmons friends and meet some great librarians. The morning session was useful for me, since I’ll be starting from scratch as a teen librarian in a new library. I loved our table’s discussion of how to get teens involved in a TAG–the best suggestion, I think, was asking them to take over the library’s MySpace page. It seemed like there were a few other new teen librarians (or teen librarians new to their libraries) there. For a nice overview of what was covered throughout the whole institute, check out TRMite’s earlier post.

At lunch, Linda Braun and Elaine Meyers gave us some dynamic, concrete ideas about how to advocate for teens. Linda focused on web 2.0 outreach, covering Twitter, Facebook, and Google Calendar, which I’m not using and totally want to play with now. Elaine blew me away with her presentation, talking about the wonderful teens that visit the Phoenix Library and the ways they’re expressing themselves and contributing to the community. I hope that someday I can feel like I’m making a difference as much as Elaine must. I’ll blog separately about this presentation later.

After lunch, I went into meetings, and wasn’t really a part of the conference anymore. I was supposed to attend the YALSA happy hour, but I crashed and didn’t make it; I didn’t make the gaming extravaganza either (bad Sarah!).

Saturday was totally given over to YALSA. I got to the all-committee meeting after sitting in the convention center for a minute, checking my email and watching people play Guitar Hero 3 in the demonstration booth. The best people to watch were a father and son—the father groaned at one point about his son making them play along to Kiss.

The all-committee meeting was one of those events that I am not good at being a part of. It felt a little like walking into the high school cafeteria and not knowing anyone. I’d imagined it as an auditorium full of people where we were all listening to speakers; instead, it’s a room full of tables for all the different committees. So, if you’re not on a committee, you’re supposed to sit off to the side and observe. The point is for non-committee members to meet people and learn more about committees. I’m glad I was able to attend this meeting and hear about the internal workings of YALSA and their fundraising efforts, but it was difficult for me, as someone who hasn’t been involved in YALSA before, to sit alone at a side table.

Eventually, Cara Kinsey, a teen librarian from the NYPL, took pity on me and introduced me to both Paula Brehm-Heeger and Sarah Cornish Debraski, who gave me her card so that I could email her regarding committee assignments. And then Linda came along to ask Paula if I could attend the YALSA strategic planning meeting later on that afternoon. So ultimately, the all-committee meeting was a success, even though I’m a giant wimp.

I had a great lunch with friends at a vegetarian Indian restaurant, which is exactly the kind of place I’m missing living in the suburbs. And then it was off to the strategic planning meeting, which was run by a consultant and attended by members of the executive board and other important people in YALSA. I honestly felt pretty honored to be there, as cheesy as that may sound, because I got to meet some pretty cool people. I was nervous about taking part in the breakout sessions where we talked about YALSA’s goals and objectives over the coming years, but I was lucky to be in a group run by Amy Alessio and she really made me feel like a viable contributor to the discussion.

It was really neat to see the leaders of YALSA at work, and to get some insight into their vision for the organization. I was in the group discussing continual learning opportunities, and I’d like to spend some time later on blogging about some of the great opportunities that are out there for teen librarians to keep on top of what’s new in young adult services.

My attendance at this meeting was unexpected, so after all of my nervous anticipation, I never got the time to visit the exhibition hall. It’s probably just as well, since I find the experience terrifying (and so does everyone else I talk to!) and my budget is nearly gone anyway. But I’ll have to force myself into this sometime—maybe with a friend (read: buffer).

Unfortunately, the threat of looming snow forced me to skip out on Sunday’s activities and head home to Massachusetts. But despite that, I left the conference feeling like I’d accomplished a lot. I got to meet some wonderful people and get my name out there, so that I can become more involved in the organization as time goes by. Up til now, my participation has been limited to reading the listservs…very infrequently. And now I feel prepared to join a committee. It’s a very exciting first step towards becoming a more active member of YALSA. I’m thrilled to have gone to midwinter.

This morning at the ALA Midwinter Meeting there were several things I wanted to keep track of all at the same time. I, like many others, was curious about the youth media award winners. But, I also wanted to attend an OCLC program about the recently released report on social networking. A year ago it wouldn’t have been possible for me to participate in both sessions at the same time. This year I could. How? Through the wonders of text messaging and blogging.

For the first time ALA provided an award text messaging service. It was very easy to sign-up for the service and while I sat in the OCLC program I could read on my cell phone who won each youth award. At the same time other librarians that I follow on Twitter posted the winners along with the honors. And, YALSA blogger Teri Lesesne live blogged the awards so I could visit this very blog and read the complete list. My informational needs were met very quickly and nicely.

The multitasking that technology breeds and supports is often questioned and worried about in the mainstream press and library literature. However, this is a perfect example of the positive impact multitasking can have on information gathering. It’s still not possible to be physically in two places at once, however with text messaging and other new technologies, it is possible to be virtually in more than one place at a time. Very exciting indeed.

Midwinter Is Here (almost)
Plenty of YALSA members are en route to Philly as I type (if they’re not there already, as Ms. Lesesne just posted). Check back here for blog updates and podcasts throughout the week and beyond (and keep up to date using Twitter!). We’ve got great stuff planned: the Happy Hour at McGillin’s and Gaming Night on Friday, All Committee and the Holly Black booth signing on Saturday, the @ your library kickoff event and the BBYA Teens session on Sunday, and (of course!) the Youth Media Awards bright and early Monday morning.

For the locations, times, and the latest updates, visit the YALSA Midwinter Wiki!

Youth Media Awards Text Messages!

Can’t make it to Philly? Get the award winners texted to your phone right after the announcement. You can have five or thirteen winners sent directly to your cell phone—just check out the instructions, details, and disclaimers at the YALSA Midwinter Wiki.

WrestleMania Reading Challenge Nearing Conclusion
All reading for the WrestleMania Reading Challenge should be completed by Monday, January 14. Everyone who registered for the WrestleMania Reading Challenge received a packet of posters last fall—the small posters make perfect prizes for teens who turn in reading logs (Out of small posters? Download a PDF version and print more!). Librarians should send the winning essays from each grade category (7-8 and 9-12) to by January 31, 2008. From all the local winners YALSA will choose ten finalists, two each from 5 regions of the country (one from each grade category).

For complete details, visit the WrestleMania Reading Challenge page or the WrestleMania Reading Challenge Ideas & Resources wiki.

Teen Tech Week Registration Continues!
Teen Tech Week is less than a month away! Register today and visit the Teen Tech Week wiki for ideas and resources or to share your own.

Early Registration & Housing for Annual

It’s never too early to think about Anaheim! Registration and housing for ALA Annual Conference 2008 is now open.

Hello YALSA members:

The recent Dec. 29th post about the upcoming Midwinter meeting is a great example of how many people are gearing up for the upcoming meeting in Philadelphia. I hope to see many of you at the meeting and know that those not able to attend will find plenty of excellent information about the meeting right here on YALSA’s blog!

The latest edition of American Libraries also features Midwinter-related information, including a Midwinter Preview section. Page 62 of this preview discusses the Youth Media Awards Press Conference (Monday, Jan 14th from 8-9 a.m.) While it is always great to see the Youth Awards receive the attention they deserve, this preview mentions several awards by name (including the new ALSC/YALSA Odyssey Award) but does not specifically mention YALSA’s prestigious Michael L Printz, Margaret A. Edwards or Alex Awards.

I encourage all YALSA members to continue to advocate for the importance of the Printz Award, Young Adult literature — the fastest growing segment in publishing – and YALSA’s awards in general. There are more than 30 million teens in the country–the second largest generation after the Boomers. Drawing attention to YALSA’s excellent award-winning books for this large teen audience is an important task for those of us working to serve teens in libraries every day.

I also encourage all YALSA members to read through the list of candidates for ALA’s Executive Board (also on page 62 of the American Libraries Midwinter Preview) and begin thinking about which candidates fit your priorities for our Association. ALA Council will consider this slate of Executive Board Candidates at the Midwinter meeting. The candidates are Frances R Roscello, Diane R. Chen, Thomas L. Wilding, Dora T Ho, Pamela C. Sieving, Em Claire Knowles. There will be a Candidates Forum featuring these candidates at the Midwinter meeting on Jan. 14th from 11:30 to 12:30 in Ballroom B of the convention center.

General information about ALA’s Executive Board

Roster of current Executive Board members

Paula Brehm-Heeger
YALSA President, 2007-2008

Every year when I write a blog post about what I’m looking forward to as I prepare for ALA Midwinter Meeting (or Annual Conference) I mention the same thing – getting to see people with whom my main mode of connection is virtual. These are people I talk with all the time on Twitter, via email, via text. But, when conference time comes around I actually get to see them face-to-face. That’s always great.

In this post I’m going to go beyond extolling the joys of connecting with others at this year’s Midwinter Meeting and mention some specific events. In date/time order:

  • The YALSA Happy Hour – at the 2007 Annual Conference YALSA hosted their first Happy Hour. They are hosting another at Midwinter in Philadelphia. Since the Happy Hour is on the Friday evening of the Meeting weekend, it feels very much like the school hallways the first day of school after a vacation. You get to see people for the first time after a bit of time away from each other and catch-up in a casual environment. The Happy Hour takes place at McGillins Olde Ale House from 5 to 7 PM
  • YALSA Student Interest Group Meeting – well, this isn’t really a formal meeting, but during Happy Hour students are invited to get together and talk about needs, interests, and simply have a chance to get to know each other. If you would like more info. about the SIG and the Happy Hour Meet-up you can contact me (I’m the fairly new Convener) at
  • Gaming Extravaganza – for the third year in a row YALSA is sponsoring a gaming night. This year’s new and improved version includes game playing – games are made available through the generosity of Game Crazy – voting on entries in the avatar contest, game contests hosted by Eli Neiburger, machinima demonstrations, and prizes and giveaways. Wizards of the Coast is sponsoring the event. Registration for the Gaming Extravaganza, which takes place from 8 to 10 PM on Friday night, is required.
  • YALSA Saturday Morning Meetings – Leadership Development and All-Committee meetings take place on Saturday AM. Over the past few years YALSA Board members and staff have made quite a few changes to how these meetings work and are run. At Leadership Development – which is geared specifically for Committee Chairs – there will be a roundtable round robin so that attendees get to learn about various YALSA projects in small groups. The All Committee meeting is a noisy experience but it’s also the place where the work of the various committees gets accomplished. If you are interested in joining a YALSA committee, but aren’t sure what to volunteer for, All Committee is the place to be to get a sense of what the various groups are working on and where your talents might best be used.
  • Strategic Planning – this year YALSA Is beginning their strategic planning process. Committee chairs are invited to a special strategic planning session on Saturday afternoon. This is a good way to be a part of the future of the Division.
  • Board Meetings – yes I know this might sound really crazy, but if you want to get a sense of how YALSA works and what projects are in the works, attending a part of a Board meeting is a good thing to do. You can find out what’s on the Board agenda and plan to attend when a topic you are interested in learning more about is scheduled for discussion. Board meetings are scheduled for Sunday, 1/13, 4 to 6 PM and Monday, 1/14, from 10 AM to 1:30 PM.
  • Youth Media Awards – If you are going to be in Philadelphia and have never been to one of the youth media awards announcements, which takes place on Monday AM January 14, be prepared to be part of a very large crowd. Don’t forget if you aren’t in Philadelphia and are interested in the announcement you can join via the webcast – that’s crowded too and with limited space so you’ll want to show-up online early.
  • Joint Youth Division Reception – this annual gathering takes place on Monday evening of every Midwinter Meeting. It’s usually a crowded event and as the Friday night Happy Hour is similar to a school hallway after a vacation, the reception is like the end of the school year when you are excited about getting to the end of another year and want to celebrate a job well done.

Find out more about YALSA’s events and meetings on the Division’s Midwinter Meeting wiki page. And, don’t forget, if you can’t be at the meeting you can still keep up via this blog, podcasts that will be posted here, and Twitter messages. (On Twitter track YALSA and you’ll see what those in Philadelphia are saying about Meeting events.)

Teen Tech Week Updates
Stephanie gave details about the Promotional Song contest earlier this week, but did you know there’s still time to win a Teen Tech Week Mini Grant for your library? Applications for the $450 mini grants (plus $50 in Teen Tech Week products) will be accepted at until January 7—visit the Teen Tech Week contests page to download the guidelines and your application form. (And, of course, don’t forget to register while you’re there!)

We’ve also launched two new Tech Guides: one on using online surveys and another on teens and virtual worlds. Download all three tech guides today!

Midwinter: Three Weeks ’til Philly!
Midwinter will be here before you know it. We’ve still got spots open in our Midwinter Institute, Taking Teen Services to the Next Level, and tickets available for the third annual Gaming Extravaganza. Plus, we’ve got giveaways planned at the YALSA Happy Hour and our booth in the exhibits hall, #435. And, of course, we’ll be giving out our annual Youth Media Awards bright and early Monday morning! To learn more about all of YALSA’s amazing Midwinter plans (and download a schedule), visit YALSA’s Midwinter Meeting Wiki!

Can’t make it to Midwinter? We’ll be blogging, Twittering and podcasting Midwinter straight to you from Philly and you can log in to the Webcast of our awards. To find out how to attend Midwinter virtually, check out Linda’s post from earlier this week.

Online Course Registration Continues
Online course registration for our Winter session, beginning Feb. 4, is going strong. Check out our classes —Boys and Books: Encouraging Early Teen and Tween Boys to Read; Pain in the Brain: Adolescent Development and Library Behavior; Power Programming for Teens; and Tech Tools for Teen Leadership&mdash and sign up today!

Finally, Thank You
As 2007 draws to a close, I’d like to thank our members for all of their hard work this year. You made our 50th anniversary the best it could be, and all of us at the YALSA Office appreciate everything you do to make this such a dynamic organization. Have a happy and safe holiday season, and I’m looking forward to all of the great things we’ll accomplish in 2008.

Check back to the YALSA Blog every Thursday for a rundown of news and updates from the YALSA Office. Send your questions and comments to Stevie Kuenn, YALSA Communications Specialist, at

In my early years as a librarian I didn’t have the chance to attend ALA’s Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference. During those years I wished that there was a way that I could attend without actually going to the city where the event took place. In those days that wasn’t possible. But now there are opportunities to participate in ALA meetings without leaving your house or office. Some of the ways you can participate this year, even if you can’t travel to Philadelphia for the Midwinter Meeting, include:

  • The YALSA blog – YALSA bloggers will post regularly during the meeting in Philadelphia. Check the blog out to learn what people said and what people learned during various programs and events.
  • YALSA podcasts – once again YALSA will produce a series of podcasts as a way to inform listeners of doings in Philadelphia.
  • The webcast of the Joint Youth Media Awards. Login early for one of the spots to watch the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 14. There’s only a limited number of virtual seats for the webcast. You can login starting at 7:45 AM EST.
  • Visiting the YALSA web site. Award information, for those who miss the webcast, will be available on the site by 9:15 AM EST on January 14. Also, YALSA will post selected lists, completed during the Midwinter Meeting, by Tuesday, January 15.
  • Track YALSA on Twitter. Twitter users can track YALSA and automatically receive any posts from the Midwinter Meeting that are about YALSA programs and events. To track YALSA, when logged into your Twitter account post a message with the text “track YALSA” and you will automatically receive any postings that include that acronym.

I am fortunate enough to be able to attend ALA’s Midwinter Meeting. But, if I weren’t, I’d be glad to know that I could keep up virtually.

YALSA Is Giving It All Away. Well, maybe not everything. But YALSA is giving out cash, materials and more to its members this winter—all you have to do enter a couple contests.

  • Cash! Got a great idea for Teen Tech Week? We’ll give you $450 in cold, hard cash (thanks to 2008 Teen Tech Week Corporate Sponsor Dungeons & Dragons)plus $50 worth of Teen Tech Week products (courtesy Teen Tech Week Promotional Partner ALA Graphics) to put on your program or offer special resources and services @ your library. Just download the info on the Teen Tech Week Mini Grants from our Teen Tech Week Contests page.
  • Books and a Prize Pack from Simon & Schuster! Not a YALSA member? (You know who you are.) Here’s a good incentive to join up: if you join through our Teen Read Week website, you could win free books or a prize pack from Friend of Teen Read Week Simon & Schuster. Check out the Teen Read Week website to learn more.

Midwinter Update!

While advanced registration has ended, YALSA still has slots open for its Pre-Midwinter Institute (Taking Teen Services to the Next Level) and its third annual Gaming Extravaganza! Find details at the YALSA Midwinter Page. (Already registered? Add these ticketed events at this secure ordering page.)

YALSA is hosting a booth on the Exhibits floor at ALA Midwinter Meeting! Stop by Booth #435 anytime exhibits are open to learn more about Teen Tech Week, and you can enter to win a goodie basket of Teen Tech Week products from ALA Graphics. In addition, Dungeons & Dragons will be meeting and greeting interested librarians from 1-2 p.m. on Saturday, January 12. Make sure to check out a demo of their new Gleemax community for gamers and enjoy some snacks.

Check back to the YALSA Blog every Thursday for a rundown of news and updates from the YALSA Office. Send your questions and comments to Stevie Kuenn, YALSA Communications Specialist, at

Five Weeks ’til Philly!
Midwinter is a mere five weeks away! YALSA has big plans for Midwinter, and you should make sure not to miss out on them.

YALSA in the Exhibits! YALSA will host a booth in the exhibits area. Stop by to pick up cool Teen Tech Week swag, learn more about Teen Tech Week resources, and win a gift basket of TTW products from ALA Graphics and YALSA. We’ll be in Booth #435!

And as you make your schedule, remember to save time for the following YALSA events:

  • Pre-Midwinter Institute: Taking Teen Services to the Next Level. To kick off YALSA’s 3-year advocacy campaign, YALSA is offering this full day institute on January 11 at a special price! This institute will give you the tools you need to advocate for the teens in your community. Registration is open and just $100 for YALSA members, students and retirees—and it includes lunch! Come on! Learn more at YALSA’s Midwinter Meeting page.
  • YALSA Happy Hour. Join YALSA from 5-7 pm on Friday at McGillin’s Olde Ale House to catch up and network with your fellow members. Find out more about Happy Hour at the YALSA Wiki’s Midwinter Meeting page. (The YALSA Student Interest Group will hold its meeting at McGillin’s concurrently.)
  • The Gaming Extravaganza! You don’t want to miss the third annual Gaming Night! This event kicks off our Teen Tech Week celebration and gives you a chance to sample the latest and greatest in tabletop, role-playing and video games. Make sure to sign up; space is limited (and it costs just $40). We’ll also be picking our avatar contest winner—you could win $100 worth of books and materials for your library. Learn more at YALSA’s Midwinter web page.

Teen Tech Week Mini Grants!
YALSA is giving out twenty mini grants for unique, fun Teen Tech Week services, resources, and programming, courtesy TTW 2008 Corporate Sponsor Dungeons & Dragons. Tell us why you deserve a mini grant for your Teen Tech Week celebration, and you could win $450 in cash plus $50 worth of TTW products from ALA Graphics. See the official rules and download the application at the Teen Tech Week Web site! (And don’t forget to register while you’re there.)

Check back to the YALSA Blog every Thursday for a rundown of news and updates from the YALSA Office. Send your questions and comments to Stevie Kuenn, YALSA Communications Specialist, at