Erin Durrett, Youth/Teen Information Services Librarian at Novi Public Library in Michigan, is preparing to pitch an ambitious idea at the YALSA President’s Program Monday, June 29 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. She will advocate for a 3D virtual world created by teens in front of a panel of librarians and business leaders for the chance to win cash and technology prizes provided by YALSA,, Makey Makey, and 3D Systems.

We wanted to catch up with Erin before she heads to San Francisco for ALA’s Annual Conference.

YALSA Shark Bowl: Meet the Finalist Erin Durrett

RK: What was your inspiration for this project?

ED: Novi is a community that very much strives for achievement, be that excellence in academia, or other interests. When developing programs and services for our community, we often think about what skills our patrons would like to learn and what would help them feel more involved in our library and ultimately our community. I wanted to create a project that joined those ideas together. My pitch involves STEM ideas, especially engineering and technology skills and having teens learn those skills and then utilize them in the creation of an interactive display in which they curate and of which they feel ownership.

RK: In what ways are teens involved in this project?

ED: When I developed the idea, I wanted to know not only if our teens would be interested in participating, but any feedback I could receive from them, to help mold and shape the project. I went to the next TAB (Teen Advisory Board) meeting and asked the teens directly what they thought of the idea. They thought it was “cool” and brought up the idea of legacy and ownership. Specifically one teen asked “Can we put our names on the pieces we create?” As a lot of TAB members are juniors and seniors at the high school next door, they want to be able to come back and visit the display and point out the pieces they have created. (They also smartly mentioned making sure no one abuses the 3D printer!) My favorite aspect of this pitch is the inclusivity for teens, if you are a teen 12-18 in Novi or the surrounding community, you can participate in the creation of a piece for the display.
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“What?  I need to do what?  But what does that mean?”  These are exactly the words that flashed through my mind when I attended my first annual conference and heard a keynote speaker say,  “It is our responsibility to advocate for our students, our programs and our profession.”  After what I consider a compulsory moment of internal panic, [inside voice:  I have a new responsibility.  No one told me about it.  I don’t even know how!  This did not happen in library school. What?]  I began to calm myself.  [It is a brand new day and I can do this, I think.  Ok, but first, I will read the new Neal Shusterman book.]

Now, several years later, as I stare at the four stools behind my circulation desk and feel their lonely state, I now understand that is is my responsibility to advocate for my students, my program, and my profession.

AASL provides the best definition:

Advocacy is the ongoing process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program.


When we advocate, we are building partnerships and educating others to act on behalf of our students and programs.  I don’t know about you, but I can always use the extra help. Part of being effective is seeking the resources needed for your program.  If you want help, you must ask.  (It is not WWII, the volunteer generation has left the building.)  Trust me, relying on the collective memories of library experiences from your stakeholders to drive them to act is a bad idea.  You must share your vision in order to offer opportunities for investment.  Get some great advocacy resources from YALSA at


  1. STAY POSITIVE.  No one likes to hear about the downfall of the library or your fear about losing your job or your program.  This is negative branding and you let them know you are expendable.  Worse, no one is comfortable, so they avoid the media center.  Post your positive message where you can see it every day, the message you will share when others ask how are things are going.

Exa.  “Hey, did you know the new Florida Teens Read List was just announced.  So many of the books look so good!  I can’t wait to read them.”

Exa.  “I am just arranging the new college and career section!  Isn’t it great!”

Exa.  “Oh, these kids are keeping me busy, busy, busy!” Read More →

This is a guest post from Susy Moorhead, a member of the Local Arrangements Committee for Annual 2015 in San Francisco.

You’ve decided to attend the annual conference this year! If you haven’t been before, and even if you have, you must be excited. Attending conference is a lot of fun but it is tiring and it can be overwhelming as well. Here are some tips to help you share what you learned once you get back to your home library. Read More →

In the Buckeye State, teen services librarians are enjoying grassroots professional get-togethers as a way to get out, meet our peers, share great ideas, and recharge. At least four recently-formed networks of teen librarians have led to buzz-worthy events–and all four were so popular that they are now recurring. In Ohio, we’re “round on both ends and high in the middle”, and we have a lot going on from east (Teen Library Services League) to west (Teen Think Tank), from the heart of Ohio (COAL) to all around the state (Take Five)!OH Read More →

Annual Teen Summit Focuses on Professional Development for Librarians Working with Teens

This fall, Massachusetts librarians working with teens will be celebrating their 6th Annual Teen Summit. The Summit is a professional conference, focused on the needs of librarians working with teens. Originally developed as a concluding program for a LSTA Serving Teens and Tweens grant, the summit has grown to an annual event that includes national speakers, peer-led breakout sessions and much needed networking opportunities for our librarians.Mass

The summit was developed to address the need for professional development needs of our librarians working with teens. While our regional systems did an excellent job covering collection development, technology, and programming trainings, the state youth consultants saw a need for training on bigger themes as well as a great need for networking opportunities for those who work with teens.

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At the beginning of every school year, some school librarians inevitably grouse about sitting through whole-faculty professional development because they have to get the library — both patron records and the collection — ready to circulate. They often say their needs differ from those of classroom teachers, and their professional learning should reflect that.

I would argue that school librarians need that learning and more. School librarians actually need more ongoing professional development than anyone else in the building. Why? It’s not because we’re bad at our jobs. It’s because, in this critical, school-spanning role, we have to stay ahead of the curve to support the needs of students and teachers. This means we need to know the school things and also the library things, and maybe the technology things as well… Read More →

It’s not a new premise that you can take part in professional development on your own time and at a computer. But, have you thought about the ways you can take part in professional development not just to learn new things but to expand your professional learning network (PLN) and learn from colleagues about how to provide exceptional service to teens? That’s the real new world of professional development. It’s not just about taking content in by listening to some expert tell you how it’s done. It’s also about connecting with others who have experience you can learn from and learning from a wide-range of community members how to do your job even more successfully. For example:

  • YALSA's communications badgeBadges: You’ve probably read posts on this blog about the YALSA badging project which will help library staff working with teens gain skills in the areas covered by the association’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. A key aspect of the badges is that participants will get the chance to show what they’ve learned by creating artifacts. They’ll share those artifacts with other library staff serving teens. And, they’ll get feedback from those staff who will be members of the YALSA badging community. That’s a great way to learn and a great way to improve what you do. Not only that, when a learner completes an activity in the badge program, he or she will actually get a virtual badge. Read More →


by Jane Gov (on behalf of the Publications Advisory Board)

Have you been told that you have great ideas and you should share it with the world? How about just a general urge to inspire other Teen Librarians? ‘ Help improve the future of teen services by sharing your expertise. ‘ Share your niche. Share your knowledge. ‘ Become a YALSA author!

Why should you publish? ‘ Besides just the satisfaction of seeing your name in print and sharing your knowledge with the library community, publishing with YALSA will increase your professional prominence and your access to YALSA’s vast communication network. ‘ Authors gain unique opportunities such as participating in book signings or presenting a program at ALA’s Annual Conference, the Young Adult Literature Symposium, and other Division conferences.

What’s great about publishing through YALSA is the built in community and recognition. ‘ YALSA publications have been well reviewed in the library community, and YALSA is the widely recognized authority on all matters relating to young adult library services. ‘ When authors publish with YALSA, they have the support of YALSA staff, who are friendly, knowledgeable and reliable. ‘ They can answer your questions, provide research assistance and more.

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cc licensed photo by David Spender via Flickr

cc licensed photo by David Spender via Flickr

Youth Librarians are wearers of many hats. For a lot of us, I think that is part of the appeal. It certainly is for me. I hate being bored. I recently had a long crazy day. This is not unusual, you’ve probably had one recently, too. But what struck me at the end of this day was the variety of things I did – the hats I wore, if you will. It reminded me of various blogs’  and initiatives I’ve seen around the Internet detailing our days in order to show a wider audience what it is that youth librarians do.

I’m saying Youth Librarian as opposed to Teen Librarian because I was promoted earlier this year to Youth Services Coordinator, supervising the whole youth department- services to children and teens- at my library. It has increased the levels of’  metaphorical, and occasionally literal hat wearing in my work life. I have also found, as you’ll see later in this post, it has provided some different opportunities to get teens involved.

I’m going to tell you about my day, and perhaps it will inspire you, YALSA bloggers, to share your own long crazy day. Read More →