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

If you could not attend National Library Legislative Day in person, ALA provided ample opportunity to participate virtually.

The ALA Washington Office Twitter feed (@ala_wo) is an informative resource year-round, but their tweet-by-tweet coverage of the day was an excellent way to track the action. Many advocating librarians took the time to Tweet their activities in between meetings using the #NLLD hashtag. It was truly heartening to see so many librarians on the frontlines.

‘ Those who could not meet their legislators in person still had (and have)’ the opportunity to communicate their concerns. YALSA’s Tweet Your Senator Map is a quick and easy way for those with a Twitter account to connect with their senators regarding library issues. The Map saw a lot of use over the days. The Legislative Action Center‘ is an excellent clearinghouse for understanding legislation impacting libraries and how to communicate with legislators. Though the official day has passed, advocating for libraries is a year-round endeavor.

‘ If you are considering attending next year’s Library Legislative Day from May 6-7, check out‘ this informative piece on NLLD in American Libraries Magazine to get a clearer picture of the experience. ‘ And take a minute to browse the ALA Washington Office flickr account to see the action for yourself and hopefully get pumped to advocate.

Monthly President’s Report – April 2012

April was a very interesting month for me on the YALSA front. I’m just back from a week in Washington, D.C. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week, YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke and I, along with several hundred other library supporters, attended National Library Legislative Day. Beth and I had eight separate meetings over two days, with legislators’ staff members, and with representatives from other organizations that have similar interests to YALSA, such as the Afterschool Alliance, the Center for Excellent Education, and the International Reading Association. We talked about how we could support one another’s missions.

Then on Friday and Saturday of the same week, I staffed the YALSA booth at the USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Washington Convention Center. Along with DC-area YALSA members, I handed out bookmarks and flyers, showed the demo of the YALSA Teen Book Finder App (available in May—we hope—from Apple’s App Store), chatted with teens, parents, teachers, and librarians, and did some on-the-fly readers’ advisory. We encouraged teens to participate in this year’s Teens’ Top Ten, and there was a lot of interest and enthusiasm.

Below is a summary of activities that I have completed or am working on. Read More →

It’s National Library Legislative Day! Today, library supporters across the United States are participating virtually by contacting their representatives to encourage them to support libraries. YALSA has created the Tweet Your U.S. Senator Map to simplify the process for you. Two clicks, and you’re a library advocate. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Visit the Google Map (below or at this link). Make sure you’re logged into Twitter through your web browser.
  2. Click the Tweet Me button on your senators.
  3. A message automatically generates, encouraging your senator to fund LSTA and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Act with the #nlld hashtag. All you have to do is click “Tweet.”

It’s that simple. Share the map and advocate for libraries today!

View YALSA Tweet Your US Senator Map in a larger map

I’m sure all of you have heard again and again “talk to your legislators” but that is much easier said than done! It can be quite intimidating talking to an elected official.

To help prepare to talk to an elected official, a tip that I recently heard in PLA’s Turning the Page 2.0 Advocacy class is to “create a parking lot speech.” It’s called a “parking lot” speech because sometimes the places you run into elected officials are parking lots, elevators and other unexpected places.

A parking lot speech is brief, ready-to-go speech that is and focused on stories not statistics. The speech is framed in a way that shows the official that THEY can benefit by helping the library, not about how the library can benefit from the official.

National Library Legislative Day is coming up on April 24th. A great way to do something for that day is to prepare your own “parking lot” speech. It can include a personal story, why the library is important to you, and a call for action from the elected official.

On behalf of the YALSA Legislative Committee, we thank you for your work.

May 10 is National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) and it only takes a minute of your time to make a difference! All you need is Internet access and a Twitter account.

To learn more about other ways can advocate for library services to teens specifically, visit’  Thank you for all that you do to ensure teens have access to great library services and resources and thank you to YALSA’s Legislation Committee for creating this advocacy tool!

  1. Make sure you’re logged into your Twitter account
  2. Visit YALSA’s Google map of U.S. Senators
  3. Click on the push pin in your state
  4. Click on the “Tweet Me” link
  5. Click on the “Tweet” button (the text of the message has already been created & appears in the text box)
  6. Encourage others to do this by forwarding the link of the map to them, adding the link to your Facebook page, blog or web site, etc.

Yesterday I was in Washington, D.C. with hundreds of other librarians for National Library Legislative Day.’  It was inspiring to see so many people come out for this event (I saw some familiar YALSA faces there with their state delegations.)’  As it was my first time at this event I was a bit unsure what to expect.’  Since we talk a lot about a barrier to advocacy being lack of confidence, I thought you might like to know a bit about what it was like. Read More →

On May 13th and 14th I was fortunate enough to attend ALA’s Legislative Days in Washington DC. It was a truly great event – many thanks to ALA, especially the Washington Office, who worked so hard to make this important advocacy event possible again this year. Having never been to National Leg Day it was quite an experience for me as I watched librarians rush from one legislative office building to the next, working to speak up on behalf of libraries and librarians. I spent a lot of my time with the Executive Directors and Presidents of AASL and ALSC as we spoke to legislative staffers about vital topics like the SKILLS act and social networking. Two highlights for me were the offices of Congressperson Judy Biggert and Senator Edward Kennedy. We stopped by these offices and had the opportunity to speak at length with staff for what I felt were very productive and meaningful conversations. Meanwhile, every state delegation of librarians, with the help of a state coordinator, spent much of their time talking to their individual state representatives about various local and national issues of importance to libraries.

I have to admit that after this experience I am feeling a little addicted to advocacy! And so next year, I will find a way to participate in National Library Leg Days again. This participation will likely be virtual and I look forward to that entirely new experience too. I urge everyone to strongly consider being involved in this important annual event. After all, if librarians don’t make the case for libraries with our legislators in a loud and clear voice, who will?

Paula Brehm-Heeger, YALSA President