YALSA: History From 1992 to 2000

By Miriam E. Gottschalk

The Young Adult Services Division (YASD), formed in 1957, changed its name in 1992 and became known as the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). YALSA gained greater recognition with its new name, image, identity, and logo. Mission and vision statements were developed, and serve as a guide for YALSA's activities as well as providing direction for programs and services. The vision statement served as a model for other ALA divisions. (See the vision statement online.)

YALSA continued to be proactive and an agent of change, preserving and promoting a dynamic young adult services presence in ALA. Presidential leadership focused the division's strategic plan with emphasis in three areas: advocacy, coalition building, and equity of access (ACE). From 1994, presidents identified themes for their terms of service which reflected their commitments to the ACE triad. The Board of Directors (BOD) provided impetus and leadership to produce an astounding array of accomplishments as a single entity and in concert with other ALA units such as ALSC, and AASL, to name a few. Publications were prolific in this eight-year period. Book lists were introduced and continued. A speaker/consultant resource directory was created and continually updated. Committees were formed, renamed, and disbanded.

Major Initiatives and Highlights:

  • Serving the Underserved: Customer Services for Young Adults in Public Libraries project, begun in 1992, earned YALSA the ALA - World Book Goal award. The seminar was repeated with funds from YALSA's Activity Fund in 1994. Since that time over 10,000 generalists and other staff members in public libraries have been trained to provide exemplary library service to young adults. This important issue of service to young people has remained among the forefront of YALSA's concerns and the division was awarded a second World Book ALA Goal Award in 2000 for a third seminar.
  • Published revised guidelines for library service to young adults: Directions for Library Service to Young Adults (ALA, 1993).
  • YALSA's Board Of Directors, in cooperation with the Public Library Association, a project that resulted in the publication, Output Measures and More: Public Library Service to Young Adults
  • Several new annual events were developed including the Great Book Giveaway contest and Teen Read Week.
  • New book awards honoring two outstanding YA librarians, Margaret Alexander Edwards --the Alex Awards and Michael L. Printz (the Michael Printz Award), were instituted and awarded.
  • The Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults Project, begun in 1993, evolved into an triennial event with grants and publications on excellent YA programs that acknowledged and described the nation's top YA programs in both public and school libraries. Monetary awards are now presented to selected libraries.
  • "Teen Hoopla" is a web site developed for teens, and provides them with a forum for book reviews and discussions about relevant issues as well as numerous links to other pertinent Internet sites of interest to teens.
  • Toward the end of the decade, YALSA's strategic plan and ALA's Goal 2000 formed the basis for YALSA's future planning, promoting issues of equal access to information, continuing education and intellectual freedom.
  • Membership increased to the current 2,799. Dues increased from $35 to $40.
  • Members contributed funds to support ALA's challenge to the Communications Decency Act.
  • Developed national guidelines for youth participation.
  • Revised and updated Young Adults Deserve the Best: Competencies for Librarians Serving Young Adults. This was the first revision since 1981 and in Past President Michael Cart's opinion, aided in "redefining the profession for the 21st century.
  • Participated in ALA conference on Professional Education.
  • Worked with PIO and other ALA units after an onslaught of criticism against Teen Hoopla's link with the Columbia University web site Go Ask Alice

Committees:
Several committees were sunsetted, including the Public Relations Committee, eight Genre Committees, Econo-Clad Award Committee, Baker & Taylor Conference Grant Committee, and Book Wholesalers Award Committee; the grant evaluations were placed in appropriate committees. Some committees were renamed: the Computer Applications Committee became the Technology for Young Adults Committee; the Long-Range Planning Committee became the Strategic Planning Committee; the Membership Recruitment Committee became the Membership Committee and then was combined with Division Promotion to become Division and Membership Promotion; and the Recommended Books for Reluctant Young Adult Readers became the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Committee. Selected Films and Videos for Young Adults became Selected Videos for Young Adults and later Selected Videos and DVD's for Young Adults.

Among the new committees formed were the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee (which replaced the eight Genre Committees), Adult Books for Young Adults Task Force, and the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. Others that were formed and later sunsetted were the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee, Best Young Adult Book Award Feasibility Task Force and the Genrecon Institute Committee.

Joint Efforts:
YALSA supported ALSC's relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. In furthering its goal of increasing youth involvement in the organization, YALSA and the Chapter Relations Committee and PLA explored the possibility of a national teenage library association that would be an ALA affiliate. Instead of an affiliation for state teenage library associations, the Board of Directors recommended collaboration with FOLUSA and development of a database of teen library groups.

YALSA is a leader in advocating youth participation at all levels from local libraries to our national organization. With other national entities, YALSA cosponsored events at Midwinter and Annual meetings, served as consultants to organizations studying youth issues, created a National Youth Participation Database in cooperation with the Friends of Libraries USA, and connected with other young adult advocacy groups through The National Organizations Serving Young Adults Liaison Committee.

Networking outside of YALSA laid the groundwork for Teen Read Week resulting in sponsorship from youth-serving organizations. YALSA and SmartGirl.com conducted an online teen reading survey during Teen Read Week and learned that teens enjoy reading for fun but lack the time. For detailed information and survey results, visit the website.

Conference Programs:
YALSA continued YASD's tradition of presenting outstanding preconference, mid-winter, and annual conference programs with a wide range of themes, including but not limited to youth advocacy, literacy, technology, legislative activities, funding, multicultural issues, teen programming, output measures, homework centers, and teen issues.

Annual Preconference Titles:
1992 San Francisco - none
1993 New Orleans - Libraries 2000: Planning for Tomorrow's Young Adults Today
1994 Miami - Here We Go Again-25 Years of Best Books
1995 Chicago - Implementing Output Measures for Library Service to Young Adults
1996 New York - none
1997 San Francisco - Popular Reading-What Young Adults Really Read and Why (dedicated to Michael Printz)
1998 Washington, D.C. - none
1999 New Orleans - none
2000 Chicago - Best of the Best Revisited: BoJo Jones and Beyond

Publications and Products:
The Journal of Youth Services in Libraries (JOYS) changed editors and redesigned its format. The Winter '93 issue reflected changes aimed at a better-informed membership by including speeches from ALSC and YALSA programs. The pool of referees was increased from 33 to 50.

Voices, the Division's first newsletter, was published 1995-1997 and then discontinued for financial reasons..

YALSA's annual lists of Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks were joined by several other annual lists: Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, Top Ten Quick Picks, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Alex Awards, Selected Audio Books, and Outstanding Books for the College Bound. These lists were disseminated in ALA's Guide to Best Reading, on the YALSA web site, and by fax-on-demand.

ALA and YALSA jointly published Bare Bones: Young Adult Services Tips for Library Generalists and its updated version, Bare Bones for Young Adult Services. Reading lists were prepared by HBO and ALA corresponding with a six-program series "Lifestories: Families in Crisis". Other publications included the revised edition of Directions for Library Service to Young Adults; a revision of Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts; Best Books for Young Adults: The Selections, the History, the Romance by Betty Carter and Best Books for Young Adults, 2nd edition ; Youth Participation in School and Public Libraries and Youth Participation: A Training Manual; Output Measures and More: Public Library Service to Young Adults Publishing Manual; Hit List: Frequently Challenged Books for Young Adults; Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Choices for a Generation ; and the third edition of the book Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults.

A variety of teen-oriented products were developed in collaboration with ALA Graphics for Teen Read Week. They included temporary tattoos, posters, bookmarks, and water bottles. In each succeeding year other products were developed. In addition, seals were designed winner and honor books of the Michael L. Printz Award. The Board Of Directors continually places emphasis on the marketing of these products as well as YALSA's services, especially via the Internet since YALSA's presence on the ALA website, in order to generate revenue

Electronic Presence:
The biggest technological change in the past decade was the proliferation of the use of the Internet. Beginning with information becoming available on the ALA gopher in 1992, electronic resources have expanded to include a YALSA electronic list (YALSA-L@ala.org) and other lists (Open Lists: YA-YAAC, YALSA-BK, YALSA-L, and YA-URBAN; Closed Lists: PRINTZL, YAGALLEY, YALSA-BD, YALSACOM, and YA-TRAIN); the creation of a YALSA web site (http://www.ala.org/yalsa) with the assistance of Webmasters Linda Braun and Jennifer Fleming and their organization, Librarians and Educators Online (LEO); the creation of a teen website, Teen Hoopla; and the experimentation with conducting committee business by appointing "virtual" members who participate online rather than in person. JOYS' presence is now on the Web .

Presidents:
Lack of operating revenue to support the creative and valuable work of YALSA continues to be a problem. However, in spite of this, we (YALSA) "run and have always run a very shoestring operation. Perhaps we should give ourselves credit for all that we do accomplish in these circumstances." (Patricia Muller, '95-'96)

Michael Cart observes "that the whole period from 1994 to date has been a flowering of young adult literature and, in large part, YALSA is responsible for that, starting with the 1994 'Best of the Best' preconference in Miami Beach. YALSA's continuing focus on the importance - and viability - of young adult literature has helped create the present golden age."

Past efforts to create viable and sustained partnerships among youth-serving organizations at a national level have not been as successful as Past President Cart envisioned, but he hopes that if YALSA pursues this worthy objective in the future, we may see a more successful outcome.

1992-1993: Elizabeth M. O'Donnell
1993-1994: Judith Druse
1994-1995: Jennifer Jung Gallant: "Youth Participation Revisited"
1995-1996: Patricia Muller: "Developing a National Leadership Agenda for Library Service to Young Adults"
1996-1997: Deborah Taylor: "Consider the Possibilities: A Holistic Approach to Work with Young Adults"
1997-1998: Michael Cart: "Risky Business"
1998-1999: Joel Shoemaker: "Come Together at the Library"
1999-2000: Jana R. Fine: "Sound Bytes, Billboards, Neon Lights: Marketing to Teens"