OYAN Review: 2016 YALSA Symposium In a Former Hometown

This post is an article from the Winter 2017 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Violeta Garza of the Multnomah County Library.

OYAN does not simply support teen services in Oregon, but at times, it reunites members with their Ghosts of Library Past. I finished library school while working at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in 2008, and thanks to an OYAN scholarship, I was able to attend this year’s YALSA Symposium in Pittsburgh, PA. So basically I met author Jesse Andrews (highlight #3) while learning about teen trends (highlight #2) and also learning from my super talented former library colleagues (highlight #1).

Highlight #1
San Antonio Public Library Teen Services Coordinator Jennifer Velasquez — my boss of yore — blew my mind when she reminded me that children’s services in libraries run 12 years, adult services for decades, but teen services is really only 6 years.No wonder our numbers for teen programs are small! It’s our smallest window. Hang in there, and talk about your success stories within those numbers.

An image of librarian Violeta Garza (shown from the shoulders up) is superimposed on a scene from a Star Wars movie in which Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are visibleCarnegie Library of Pittsburgh Digital Librarian Corey Wittig spoke of building equity and reaching those teens who are not yet in the library. He did a teen series project where teens built a “Humans of New York”-style blog about Pittsburgh trolley workers. Upon completion after 5 days, teens got a $100 gift certificate. This ensured that teens not only walked away feeling good about the experience, but they also made the connection between learning and making money. Also, teens get badges when learning to use their Makerspace-type equipment in the Labs, such as the music recording booth, the green screen and iPad, and the like. CLP staff get to know the teens first, and then comes the learning and the badge.

Highlight #2
Here’s a list of other goodies that I’m still thinking about from the conference. Author Dhonielle Clayton mentioned that instead of doing diversity panels, that all panels should be diverse. “It’s okay to read my book outside of Black History Month.” Also, when working with youth, you may want to introduce yourself with your name and your pronouns.

I also loved the session I attended on teen programming and civic duty. As librarians, we focus a lot on increasing our numbers during our events, but failure can actually be a success and vice versa. Which of these is the real success story? For one, a teen pas- sionately advocated for doing a program where firefighters and cops talk to teens about #blacklivesmatter. Then the librarian never heard from that teen again. Ha! But the success was that the librarian succeeded in letting the teen know that the library is available and willing to walk the walk. Alternatively, fifty teens showed up to a for- eign exchange program event but most attendees only cared about the extra credit the teacher was going to give them. It would have been better to have fewer but dedicated attendees.

Librarian Violeta Garza standing next to author Jesse AndrewsHighlight #3
Finally, yes, I met Jesse Andrews — author of The Haters and Me and Earl and The Dying Girl. He was endearingly funny, listened to me, and even laughed at my jokes. I KNOW. He also charmed our cable-knit sweaters off during the closing session, where he made fun of himself relentlessly. At one point, the moderator asked the authors what kind of advice they’d tell their teen selves. Jesse’s advice? “Be more chill. It’s gonna be fine. You WILL have sex one day.” Oh, who am I kidding? Highlight #3? Puh-leeze. Meeting the uproarious Jesse Andrews was the absolute best moment of the trip and it’s a good thing I’m an adult and happily married. Otherwise I may have resorted to youthful shenanigans, such as not washing the sweater I was wearing when he put his arm on me.

For more on this conference, feel free to read the #yalsa16 tweets and/or email me at violetag@multcolib.org for a more complete list of notes. Again, thank you so much, OYAN!

We welcome all your comments, articles, photos, book reviews, ideas, and suggestions for future OYAN Review newsletters! Please submit to oyanpublications@gmail.com.