On November 12, YALSA held a free webinar for members on the topic of Teen Services Amplified with Everyday Advocacy.’ I facilitated this webinar, which drew over 40 engaged YALSA members in real time, and many more who have listened to the archived version. Because the topic of advocacy is such a big one, I wanted to focus on the ways any of us can use easily available resources, like YALSA’s Advocacy Toolkit, to amplify our message that library services are important to teens and to communities.

After some quick definitions–talking about how marketing, advocacy, and lobbying differ, for example–we got into the heart of the matter by sharing examples of ways we can advocate on a daily basis. We started by talking about WHO we advocate with: administrators, co-workers, parents, community members. Attendees gave examples of times they had been able to show their bosses or co-workers how library programs and services were valuable to the teens in their communities.

We also talked about the HOW of advocacy:

  • focus on the value of programs and services
  • keep it simple
  • talk about needs, not just desires
  • stay positive
  • tell stories
  • listen, and find out what your audience cares about

Finally, I shared some of YALSA’s great resources for advocacy, and encouraged members to take advantage of the advice, talking points, hints, and tools that YALSA has developed over the years. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to advocacy!

The archived version of the webinar is free to YALSA members, available on the YeLL (YALSA e-Learning Library) page.

Sarah Flowers

In talking about advocating for teen services, we often emphasize advocating with your library’s administration, or with elected officials, or the public. But there’s a great–and often untapped–pool of people that can really help you spread the word about teen services: your library colleagues, from fellow librarians and library assistants to clerks and pages.’ If you get these people on board with your message, they will carry a lot of the load of getting the message out to others.

Think about it: who are the people in the library that the public has the most contact with? Yes, it’s the front-line staff, the folks who spend hours a day at the service points or in the stacks. These are the staffers that members of the public are most likely to know by name, or at least by face. In many public libraries, in fact, it is the clerks and pages who are most likely to be truly local–people who live and work in the community that the library serves.

So how can they help you advocate for teens? Well, they can’t, unless they understand why they should and how they can go about it. Your first step is to inform and energize them. Keep in mind that many adults don’t really understand teenagers and sometimes they’re even a little afraid of them. Your job may be simply to demystify teens and help others understand why they do what they do.

  • Offer to do a short session at a library staff meeting and/or new employee orientation on teen developmental needs.
  • When you are chatting with co-workers in the break room, share interesting stories about teens and the value of teen services.
  • Come up with a joint project in which you can work with children’s or adult services librarians to serve both teens and children or adults.
  • Make a note when you see a positive interaction between another staff member and a teen, and follow up by complimenting your colleague, either verbally or with a quick note.
  • Find out which of your colleagues have teenagers at home, or work with teens in some other part of the community–at church, at a volunteer organization, as a coach, etc.
  • Find opportunities to remind your colleagues that helping teens grow into strong and capable adults is good for the whole community.
  • Share your own enthusiasm for teen services at every opportunity–others will be swept up in your wake.
  • Find out if you can take another staff member along with you when you speak at schools or at community events.

When teen services and teens are seen in a more positive light, advocacy becomes the next step. To help your colleagues advocate, you will need to continue to provide them with the necessary information. Read More →

Photo of index card size calendar in a mans's hand by Creative Commons Flickr user Joe LanmanChances are that during your most recent 9 to 5 work day you took part in some teen advocacy without even knowing it. Did you:

  • Talk to teens about the great things that the library has to offer
  • Talk to colleagues about why service to teens is so important to the library and the community
  • Mention to parents how developmental assets and related theories have an impact on teen’s growing up and how the library helps teens to succeed in their development
  • Collaborate with a community group on a teen-related project and talk about how libraries support teen needs

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Photo of a benchmark from NOAA's National Ocean ServiceIt’s true, speaking up for teens and for teen services isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it can be pretty darn hard. It’s hard to know where to start, what your message should be, who to talk with, and even what success looks like. That’s why YALSA is putting together a set of Advocacy Benchmarks that will help you to get started and move forward.

The Task Force working on the benchmarks (Sarah Kepple, Staci Terrell, Rachel McDonald, Heather Gruenthal, and me) got started by making sure to answer two basic questions. First, how did we as a group define advocacy? That wasn’t so difficult as everyone agreed that when advocating it’s important to explain to various groups – from teens, to colleagues, to administrators, to stakeholders, to government officials – why we do what we do and what the benefits are for teens and the community in providing great library services to adolescents. We agreed that it’s not just standing up and saying “we are here and here are some programs and services we provide.” Instead it’s explaining what we do and it’s value.

The second question was actually a little harder to answer – “what is a benchmark?” Read More →

June 2014 seems a long long long way away. But, it’s really not so far off. And you know as well as I do that what seems far away has a habit of sneaking up on one. That’s why the YALSA 2014 President’s Program Task Force is hard at work planning for the event at Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

The President’s Program Task Force has gladly taken on YALSA President Shannon Peterson’s charge for a President’s Program on connected learning. The team – made up of myself; Maureen Hartman from the Hennepin County Library (MN); Kate McNair, from the Johnson County Library (KS), Candice Mack, from the Los Angeles Public Library (CA); and Carrie Kausch, from the Fairfax County School System (VA) – read the connected learning report, discussed it, and last week sponsored a Hangout with colleagues to consider what connected learning means to librarians and educators. The video of that conversation is below.

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amplification image by Flickr Creative Commons user mikecoghLast week I read the short article What do I Amplify and I said to myself, “I’ve never thought about the idea of advocacy this way, I should have.” When I talk with teen library staff working with teens we tend to focus on the need to advocate and how to do that successfully. We talk about how to advocate for different types of initiatives and to different stakeholder groups. But, we don’t really talk about how to decide what to advocate for – that’s a mistake.

The article, written by a Johnny Bevacqua, a school level administrator, includes the following quote that I think is really helpful:

“I need to find that sweet spot in communicating some important management details of the job, while consistently and “loudly” finding time to amplify the instructional leadership part of the job.”

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YALSA President Shannon Peterson and I have been talking about her presidential theme of Amplified: Speaking Up for Teens and Libraries, and we were discussing the effort to build strong ties between YALSA and our members and library administrators. In May and June, I wrote a six-part series for this blog on how to work with library managers and administrators. Those posts were based partly on a survey that YALSA conducted of members who identified as supervisors and managers. One of the things we asked was what were some of the buzz words, lingo, and hot topics that made managers prick up their ears and listen. So here are some of those terms and ways you might incorporate them into your conversations with your managers:

ROI. This is manager-speak for “return on investment.” It’s really pretty straightforward. Managers want to know that if the library invests time, money, personnel, and equipment on a service, program, or collection, there will be some return on that investment. What kind of return? Maybe you can demonstrate that the effort you invested in putting on a dynamite program resulted in increased circulation in a particular area or from a particular demographic. Maybe adding a service, like homework help, resulted in reaching a previously under-served segment of the community. The more you can collect data (track circulation before and after the program; keep count of the number of new cards that were issued to participants in a new program or service, etc.), the easier it will be for you to show your managers how much return you got from your investment. Read More →

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 →