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Mary Thompson's picture

Your YALSA Adventure

Hello YALSA! 

The Emerging Leaders Team T will be hosting weekly discussions during the month of May regarding “getting more involved” in YALSA.  We want to hear from you, those that know best about what “getting involved” looks like.

 Question #1:

Your YALSA Adventure…

We all have to start somewhere, so where did your YALSA adventure start?  Who or what turned you on to YALSA and how?  What did you first do to get involved besides pay your membership fee, where did you start?  How did it grow from there?  If you were assigned to mentor a brand new YALSA member where would you start when getting them plugged in?

 ***If you see this please do not click “reply” but instead leave a comment on the site.  Thank you for your help.***

Dina Schuldner's picture


Mary Wendt's picture

I joined YALSA (then YASD) in 1974 when I first joined ALA and began going to conferences.  My friend Penny Jeffries--also a YALSA Past President-- gave me very good advice.  She told me to apply for a committee assignment and to accept whichever assignment I was offered.  I think my first committee was one to revise the Young Adult Services booklet.  Some of my early committees were Media Selection and Usage--now Selected Films  and Budget and Finance.

I think Penny's advice is still the best for new members.  Don't worry about getting on a particular committee,  you will meet people and learn excellent skills no matter which committee you're invited to join and the more committees you participate in the more you learn and grow your skills.

Ma'lis Wendt


Natalie Struecker's picture

I joined YALSA when I became a Teen Librarian a few years ago.  I have gotten involved on a couple of the listservs and participated in some webinars.  I also register for Teen Tech Week and Teen Read Week for the great artwork and ideas that come across from the members.  I've been wanting to get involved in some of the committees, but haven't had the time or means to travel to any of the conferences.  I've enjoyed talking with other librarians in the organization and participating in many of the things YALSA has to offer.

I'd invite anyone to sign up for the listservs, check out the YALSA Wiki, and register for many of the events YALSA organizes--including Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week. 



Crystal Faris's picture

My YALSA adventure started several years ago when I went from being a Children's Services Manager to being a Youth Services Manager.  Adding teen services was a leap for me as I had not directly served teenagers before.  Joining YALSA, participating on the e-mail lists, and taking advantage of all the wonderful ideas from other members gave me a terrific knowledge base quickly.  Then I became even more involved serving on a couple of committees and task forces.  This has been an attempt on my part to give of my knowledge and experience to others - hopefully repeating the cycle of receive and give that makes YALSA membership amazing. 

Sarah Maddaford's picture

I decided when I started my library courses that I loved YA literature and working with teens. They can be a bit more difficult, but they are endlessly fascinating. So, I joined several listservs including YALSA-BK so that I could keep up with what professionals were doing. When I joined ALA, I had to join YALSA too. I really hope to attend ALA someday soon and meet some of the people on the listservs. I've gotten some really great ideas from them.

I would definitely direct a mentee to the listservs to get them started. You can't follow all of them, but the ones you can are invaluable.

Sherry Rampey (non-member)'s picture

My YALSA adventure began 3 years ago, and it has been quite a ride.  My professor at the time encouraged me to go into Youth Services.  I absolutely fell in love with the YA book and whole-heartedly began believing in bibliotherapy.  I talk to teens when I am in a bookstore, learned a lot from my sister, who is coming out of her teens, and listened to the various teen stories in the library.  I had the exciting opportunity of meeting Michele Gorman (Connecting Young Adults and Libraries), who was quite fascinating.  I found YALSA through on my journey and joined the group.  I received my MLIS last year, and it has been difficult finding a full-time job; but, I managed to save enough to attend my first ALA Annual this year and be a part of YALSA committee, which I am totally excited about.


Naomi Bates's picture

My start was when I was getting my masters at Sam Houston.  Teri Lesesne, my YA prof, told us about this listserv.  It wasn't until four years later after coming off a YA book committee for Texas that I decided to jump in and join Yalsa-bk.  I've been involved for over a year in the listserv, and just recently became a member of ALA.  So I got involved before I became a member, a little switcheroo...

From there it has grown into contacts with others who share my passion of YA, including authors, peers and others.  It has grown into a deeper understanding of YA writing and an appreciation for programming, ideas, and think-tanking.

Naomi Bates,

Northwest High School, Justin TX

Texas Association of School Librarians chair, 2011-2012




Penny Johnson (non-member)'s picture

When I was hired as the teen specialist at my public library 3 1/2 years ago, the first thing I did was join YALSA!  Since this is a second career for me, I already knew the value of professional organizations.  I knew by joining YALSA I would have an instant network of colleagues to provide me with ideas, inspiration and motivation.

I joined the YA-YAAC and YALSA-BK email discussion lists right away.  I love the collaboration with teen librarians from around the country even though I live in the rural Midwest.  I now recognize the names of many teen specialists, and I love meeting my online "friends' at conferences.

My attendance at Annual in Chicago and Midwinter in Boston was worth every penny.  I have now created a special personal savings account so I can attend these events every year.  The networking, the education, the inspiration, the friendships I receive by meeting with colleagues enriches my professional and my personal life.

I made the plunge last year and filled out a YALSA volunteer form.  Since I was a newbie I didn't know if I would be selected to do anything.  But luckily I was eventually assigned to head the Midwinter 2010 social event task force.  I have new task forces to chair now, and I'm planning on even more YALSA involvement.  I find online communication tools make participation in a national organization very accessible.  I encourage "newbies" and "oldies" alike to get involved in YALSA! 

Penny Johnson Teen Librarian Baraboo WI Public Library

Linda Braun's picture

I'd say my YALSA Adventure started twice. First, I was a selected as a member of the first group of Serving of the Underserved (SUS) trainers. That was an adventure in itself as it was my very first "real" YALSA experience and it was the first time I got to meet many YALSA leaders and members, who just like me were trying to figure out how best to serve teens in libraries. It was an amazing opportunity to meet other like-minded people and then also learn from them and those who had even more experience in the field.

My second start on a YALSA Adventure was when I had the chance to help the Association build it's first ever web presence. It was a very different kind of opportunity than the Serving the Underserved work because I was able to give back to the Association from which I had learned so much in that first experience. And, while SUS was a great experience, working on the website was probably the opportunity that gave me the chance to get even more deeply involved in YALSA because through that project I truly learned about how the Association works, what happens with member groups, and how people get and stay involved. 

Both SUS and the web site work I learned about via information published in YALSA and ALA publications - at that point in time it was all print - and for that reason I'd say that new members should definitely read YALSA's Blog, YALS, and YAttitudes. But, I'd also say that a good way to get plugged in is to actually get involved in something - don't just read but be active. Join an interest or discussion group.  Take part in one of the monthly echats. Fill out a volunteer form. Volunteer to be a blogger.  I know it can be scary to do something like that, but YALSA members are good people and taking that first step can lead to unexpected long-term outcomes.

Anna Koval (non-member)'s picture

my yalsa adventure began with yalsa's first young adult lit symposium in nashville two years ago. i scrimped and saved and slept on a friend's couch to be able to afford to attend, but, man, was it worth it! hearing from experts like linda braun talk about about "how we read now" was completely inspiring. she made me want to roll my sleeves up and do more. so i submitted the committee volunteer form online and was soon after emailed and asked to get involved. there was a committee, they said, that had recently lost a member, the chair, in fact, and if i could hop onto a moving train, i could go along for the ride. i did. for most of it. but it was hard. at the time, ala connect was not a viable option yet. so, we were communicating by email. and there were *lots* of emails! tons, almost, and our conversations were flooding inboxes and committee members were starting to feel frustrated. part of that was because there was no user's manual for our committee, were were sort of making stuff up as we went along, and in some instances, it felt like, reinventing the wheel. nevertheless, everything worked out just fine in the end, but it was definitely a learning experience in working remotely with many awesome but all very busy people. our yalsa board liaison was incredibly kind and helpful.

right now, i'm an emerging leader, and i've gotten quite a bit less direct guidance and support as such than i did as a committee chair. maybe i don't need as much now? maybe there's not enough to go around? whatever the reason, i really appreciated, benefitted from, and looked forward to my interactions (emails, phone calls) from yalsa staff and leadership. i really felt part of something special. now it feels more businesslike but still special.

regarding mentors, i've been signed up with mentor connect for two years now and no one has contacted me about it ever. so that hasn't been a very helpful feature or worthwhile perk of my yalsa membership. ironically, at our emerging leaders workshop at annual last summer, we were told to seek out mentors ourselves. so, i did. i was a dues payer who took it upon myself to become more, and i'm better off for it and very glad i did. :)

Dina Schuldner's picture

My adventure started with a webinar hosted by Linda Braun about getting involved in YALSA.  So far, I've been a virtual member of a single task force, but I hope to return to service once my schooling is over.  Going to DC in June of 2010 was one of the most important experiences I had with regard to YALSA.  I got to meet the people with whom I'd been communicating virtually since the springtime of last year.  It was an invigorating experience to be around so many energized and committed people.  My favorite part was a pre-conference seminar that I attended.  I loved the topic, and got to see five young adult authors speak in person.  The cost of staying in a hotel room with two beds for three nights was worth it all.  I hope to go back to a conference once I'm an employed librarian.