My purpose of writing this blog post is to demonstrate that meeting with your member of Congress is easy and even a little fun!  Why do this?  Because this year is unlike any other in recent history: the White House is proposing to eliminate IMLS and with it all federal funds for libraries.  We must convince our members of Congress now that this will have devastating effects, or libraries will lose the support and funding they need to help their communities.  This is a do or die type of situation, and it calls for extraordinary measures.  The Congressional Management Foundation says that in-person meetings with elected officials are the single most effective way to educate them about your cause and persuade them to support it. If all YALSA members met with their members of Congress, that would send a compelling message that they could not ignore!

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The White House budget released last week called for the elimination of the only federal agency that supports the nation’s libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  Doing away with IMLS would negatively impact every library in the U.S. by eliminating over $200 million in library funding that is distributed to every library in the U.S. through state library agencies.  In order to prevent this from happening, there must be a sustained grassroots effort to advocate for restoring IMLS to the federal budget between now and when the budget is finalized in October.  Because without those funds, teens will lose access to resources, services and experts they need to help them succeed in school and prepare for college, careers and life.

By now, we hope you’ve already contacted your members of Congress to tell them to oppose the elimination of IMLS.  If you haven’t, read the details in my March 16 blog post and take action.  Here’s what you can do next: invite one of your Representatives or Senators to visit your library, or bring some of your teen patrons and library advocates to the Congressperson’s local office to meet with them, so your elected official can see up close and in person the many ways that libraries, with support from IMLS, help teens.  Congress will be on break from April 8th through April 23rd.  This is the perfect time to extend the invitation to visit or schedule a meeting.  If you’ve never done this before, don’t sweat it.  YALSA’s District Days wiki page has everything you need to extend an invitation and plan a great visit or meeting.  Read More →

Hello YALSA Friends!

Let’s face it, advocacy can be an intimidating charge. The thought of “taking legislative action” can conjure thoughts of putting on an interview-style suit, marching to the state capitol’s doors, and spouting as much legal jargon as possible. In reality, I’ve found that while library advocacy can involve sharp suits and capitol visits, it can also involve a tweet. Or a simple invitation to a library program. Or just introducing yourself to your local, state, or federal lawmaker. I promise this process is not as scary as it sounds.

That said, we’re library people, and our problem-solving skills typically involve some kind of book… right? So here are a couple of short, accessible reads to get an idea of why advocacy matters in our profession and how to get started with doing more of it!

Citizens in Action: A Guide to Lobbying and Influencing Government by Stephanie Vance

Stephanie Vance is pretty fantastic! She spoke at this year’s ALA Legislative Day in DC, and I was blown away by how concise, intelligent, and useful her message was. I used to work in the state capitol building, but even with some experience under my belt, I’ve found this book to be immensely useful. Like her public speaking, Vance’s book is practical and direct. Great stuff for librarians (and all citizens, really) to know about approaching legislators in a poised and prepared fashion.

Grassroots Library Advocacy by Lauren Comito, Aliqae Geraci, and Christian Zabriskie

Co-author Christian Zabriskie from the Queens Library is the Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite. He has contributed to the Hub on the very topic of library/teen advocacy. I highly recommend this book for a number of reasons: firstly, I read it on a 2-hour plane flight; secondly, it leaves you with a number of practical ideas/takeaways; thirdly, it’s a fantastic introduction, especially if you have little-to-no legislative advocacy experience.

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Libraries and schools have a longstanding partnership, working together to support kids and teens in a variety of ways.  The most obvious way libraries have assisted schools is through simply loaning books, but many take this further by providing tutors, carrying special collections aligned with school reading lists, and conducting school visits and research assistance in the library.  And as the title of this post hints, lots of libraries offer afterschool programs specifically aimed at taking over where the school day ends.

Before getting into the wealth of assistance libraries provide, let’s look at the existing need.  A 2014 study found that more than 15 million students are on their own without supervision from 3 to 6 p.m., the window with the highest levels of youth crime and high-risk behavior, and largest percentage of crimes committed against children and teens.[1]  On the flip side, participation in afterschool programs is correlated with lower crime levels, safer overall behavior, greater school attendance and engagement, higher test scores, better self-esteem, and much more.[2]  These outcomes are found across all sectors, and are strongest for at-risk students – a fact that may seem counterintuitive to some.

In 2015 over one third of public libraries reported offering regular afterschool programs,[3] which doesn’t include standalone or ad hoc programs.  With the increasing surge of STEM programming in libraries and establishment of maker spaces and learning labs for patrons of all ages, this number has certainly grown.  Take a look at your local library’s program calendar and you are sure to find an array of afterschool offerings.  Yay, libraries are awesome, and they change lives in very real and important ways!

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We’re in the middle of District Days, which means our elected officials are taking a break from Washington to visit constituents in their home districts. Many of us who work in public and school libraries are also in the transition space between epic summer reading and prepping our fall program and class schedule. Maybe we’re even trying to squeeze in a little summer for ourselves. This puts us in a tricky position to find ways to #act4teens.

What about a self-directed postcard station? Teens can write a short note to their elected officials and the library will deliver or mail them to the district’s elected officials. This program not only amplifies the youth voice, it also creates a nice opportunity to highlight what libraries do for teens inside the building. Members of the Teen Advisory Group at Lewis & Clark Library built a display and designed the postcard. I photocopied the design onto cardstock and supplied pens and a collection box. I’ll mail the first batch this week, along with a letter and copies of What Public Libraries Do for Teens and the Why Teens Need Libraries brochure.

Please consider participating in District Days and contacting your Senators and Representatives. Strong library services for teens are crucial in every community. Be an advocate!

Heather Dickerson is chair of the YALSA Legislation Committee and Teen Services Librarian at Lewis & Clark Library in Helena, Montana.


My name is Nell German, and I have been a high school media specialist for three years, one in Illinois, and two in Georgia.  I have had the blessing to work in two public libraries and a law school library, so I have sort of covered the gambit.

We have a unique opportunity during the month of August, to really advocate for our libraries, at all levels.  How, you may ask?  By taking advantage of the Congressional break and inviting our legislators into our libraries.

Illinois has not had a state budget for two years.  School districts are having to cut certified media specialist in most, if not all of their schools.  I interviewed for a position where I would have been a district media specialist for a district with one high school (1600 students), two middle schools, and six elementary schools.  The two middles schools would have had an aide, and the elementary schools relied on parent volunteers.  There was no budget for additional collection development.

In Georgia, the public libraries are severely underfunded.  Despite the herculean efforts of the staff, many public libraries are not able to add even the most popular new titles to their collections.

We all know how crucial our school and public libraries are, let’s get our legislators into our libraries and let them know the struggles we are all dealing with.  YALSA and the legislative committee have some great resources available to you.  The one to start with is the brief webinar of how to approach your legislator and how to open these very necessary conversations.

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Now that District Days are in full swing and you have hopefully reached out to your representative, we wanted to provide some resources for you that will help you in your planning! And if you haven’t reached out yet, there’s still time. We hope that these resources will provide some inspiration.

These handouts from YALSA are a great starting point when talk to your representative about libraries and teen services for libraries are not only important but necessary.

What public libraries do for teens..

Why teens need libraries

YALSA’s Legislative Advocacy Guide

LSTA fact sheets from ALA

Then take a look at YALSA’s wiki page on advocating for more links and resources.

Don’t forget to use one of your best resources that you have, your teens! If you have a Teen Advisory Board then talk to them and see if they have ideas.  

And just remember, you don’t have to do something big for District Days. The most important thing is that you reach out to your representative and #act4teens!

Staci Terrell is the Children’s Services Manager at Anderson Public Library in Anderson, Indiana and is the current chair of the YALSA Legislation Committee.

It’s time for District Days once again, which are when congressional representatives return home to their districts on recess. The recess this year is from August 1-September 6. This is the time representatives will have office hours at their local offices, attend town hall meetings, and meet with constituents to speak with and listen to them.

As an advocate for libraries and teens, this is an opportunity to show your representatives why libraries are a valuable asset to their constituents and districts. District Days provide you the ability to let your voice as a librarian or library worker be heard before the representatives head back to Washington, D.C.

Need help getting started? Check out the great resources on the District Days wiki and look for posts on the YALSAblog throughout August for information on how to participate by the Legislation Committee. One simple way is to make sure you use this  #act4teens hashtag when you promote your District Days activities.

Need to find out who your congressional representative is for your district? Or their local district offices? There’s a website and an app for that!

Some things to keep in mind, as you start to prepare for District Days.

  1. Keep it simple. You don’t have to create an event just for your congressional representative to attend. Invite them to a teen program, such as a summer learning wrap up party or Back to School night.
  2. Include the event details. Date, time, location, whether or not press will be invited, a description of the event, plus estimated attendance and who will be attending the event.
  3. Provide information about your library. Key statistics, demographics, etc. but keep it concise.
  4. Make sure to publicize the event! Send information to local news outlets along with using social media.
  5. Follow up after the invitation is sent. Call them a week after it’s sent, if you haven’t heard back from them.
  6. If they can’t make it, then try going to them. Contact their local office to schedule an appointment, while they are at home in their district.
  7. Send a thank you note. Once the event is over, don’t forget to thank your representative for taking the time to visit your library!

For additional advocacy resources, visit

Staci Terrell is the Children’s Services Manager at Anderson Public Library in Anderson, Indiana and is the current chair of the YALSA Legislation Committee.

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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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