Brief History of the Young Adult Services Division

by Carol Starr

The Young Adult Services Division was formally established June 24, 1957, after a massive reorganization effort within ALA made substantive organizational changes, including the splitting of the Association of Young People's Librarians (established in 1941) into the Children's Library Association and the Young Adult Services Division. Mildred Batchelder was the first Executive Secretary (1957--1965), serving both the Children's and Young Adult divisions from her ALA Office. Ruth Tarbox took over the Executive Secretaryship in 1966 and retired in October 1973; she was followed by Mary Jane Anderson (December 1973 -- September 1975). The new dues structure of ALA in 1975 eliminated the two free divisions previously given with a basic ALA membership and instead put each division on a pay-your-own-way basis.

After a trial year, YASD had enough membership support to hire an Executive Secretary of its own (4/5-time), and Evelyn Shaevel, September 1975-1989, became the first YASD Executive Secretary to devote all her time to YASD. In 1980 the position title was changed to YASD Executive Director.

YASD is many things to many people. To some it is the national organization which turns out booklists and TOP OF THE NEWS; to others, a place to turn for help with specific work problems; and to others, an opportunity to meet and work with other librarians who share their interests. Over the years, YASD has done all these things, and more -- produced booklists, guidelines, displays and exhibits, sponsored conference programs and preconference workshops, worked with other associations and ALA divisions, plus continuing to co-sponsor a Line journal with (ALSC) in TOP OF THE NEWS. And YASD has not been without its own internal tensions, as some committees have been appointed and floundered, with a major self-study at the instigation of ALA's Committee on Organization (1971) and the resignation of several YASD presidents in mid-term.

The first major organizational problem facing both the Young Adult Services Division and the Children's Services Division was a move by the ALA Executive Board to absorb TOP OF THE NEWS into the ALA BULLETIN in 1958. A special committee was set up to study the matter and suggested to the YASD Board that the advantages (larger audience, reacting administrators, separation from Children's Services) were greatly outweighed by the disadvantages (no guarantee of pages, loss of identification with membership, lack of insurance of regular articles and lists for YASD members). TOP OF THE NEWS remained on its own. The second major organizational hassle the Young Adult Services Division faced was a confrontation with the American Association of School Librarians, who successfully argued with the ALA Executive Board, and won, the right to evaluate and select material and interpret the use of such material solely for school use in 1961. This resulted in the following function statement: The Young Adult Services Division is interested in the improvement and extension of services to young people in all types of libraries.

YASD has specific responsibility for the evaluation and selection of books and nonbook materials and the interpretation and use of materials for young adults, except when such materials are designated for only one type of library. Some committees of AYPL's were transferred, in 1957, to other divisions, -- YA Standards to the Public Library Association; YA membership to a subcommittee of the ALA Membership Committee; the Audio-Visual Committee became a subcommittee of the ALA Audio-Visual Committee; the Publicity Committee was assigned to the ALA Public Relations unit in the Library Administration Division; and work of the Activities Committee was transferred to the Library Education Division, although a new charge was made for a different YASD Activities Committee.

Other committees continued under the new YASD -- the most active was the Book Selection Committee. This committee started preparing annual lists of _Best Books for Young Adults_ (although the name was not the same, having evolved over the years from _Significant Adult Books for Teens_ and _Interesting Books_) in 1952. In 1954, the list was first reprinted, from TOP OF THE NEWS and BOOKLIST, for membership distribution and promotion. The next year it was decided that reprinting the list was a good thing, and it has been reprinted, sold and distributed ever since then. In 1956, the list was formally and orally presented to the ALA Council, but after that, the Council cut it from the agenda. In addition, the early Book Selection Committee prepared lists of new adult books for young adults which appeared regularly in TON and other lists upon request. In 1959, the NEA Journal requested a booklist of outstanding fiction for the college-bound high school student. OUTSTANDING FICTION was the first such list; the next year, NEA asked for a similar list on biography. After preparing the biography list, YASD went on to produce two more -- theater and nonfiction. A similar list on poetry was never completed. These four outstanding lists, along with a "Now Scene" list done in 1971, have been revised individually several times.

In 1975-1975, a single YASD committee took on the task of revising all five at once. In 1982 the lists were revised again, this time by four separate committees; Fiction, Non-Fiction, Biography and Performing Arts (replacing Theatre). The "Now Scene" list was discontinued. Two other highly successful booklists prepared by YASD were RICHER BY ASIA, prepared and distributed with funds from the Asia Foundation; and AFRICAN ENCOUNTER. A similar booklist on LATIN AMERICA was never completed or published. ADULT PAPERBACKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS was compiled as a guide for school Book Fairs, sponsored by the Jaycees in 1962. This list was later updated and called "Mod Mod." The Magazine Committee (moved over to YASD from AASL in 1957) continued to evaluate new magazines for young adults, and reviews were published in TON. BOOK BAIT by Elinor Walker was done by AYPL before 1957 -- a 1960 effort by YASD to update it failed, but it has been published under the auspices of ALA Publishing.

The Peace Corps Subcommittee of the ALA International Relations Committee worked hard for several years in the early 60's -- with paperback locker library lists, programs and exhibit booths. One of the most popular committee projects was the Dial-A-Book project at the New York World's Fair in 1964. These were tapes of minute book reviews selected and prepared for young people that fair attendees could dial and listen to at the ALA Booth. It proved very popular and led to a project to compile one-minute booktalks which never got off the ground.

The Publishers' Relations Committee sponsored a special luncheon at the 1964 annual conference in St. Louis to bring together librarians and publishers to discuss mutual concerns and young adult books. This committee (now called Publishers' Liaison) continues to function. Another highly successful committee was the Disadvantaged Committee which sponsored the _Two Blocks Apart_ Preconference in New York in 1966 -- YASD's first preconference. It focused on ways to reach and understand young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds. The committee also produced the publication _Non-Book Materials for Have-Not Youth._ This was revised in 1970 into _Making the Most of Media._ In 1966, YASD produced GUIDELINES FOR YOUNG ADULT SERVICES IN PUBLIC LIBRARIES. A revision of this in 1970 was abandoned.

The Television Committee was established in the mid-1960's and started producing booklists on request (often within 24 hours notice) for NBC's TEACHERS" GUIDE, first, and then for TEACHERS' GUIDE TO TELEVISION. YASD reprinted in 1967/68 a booklist originally published by the Free Library of Philadelphia called _Happenings_ and distributed and sold some 400,000 copies in conjunction with National Library Week. Again, in 1967, at San Francisco, YASD sponsored the preconference _Intellectual Freedom and the Teenager_ along with the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee. The exhibit booth that year had 140 slides with commentary on new approaches to YA services; the slides were later loaned out to state libraries for further display.

YASD sent delegates to both the 1960 and 1971 White House Conference on Youth. For the 1960 conference, a publication was prepared for distribution called _Youth In A Changing World._ The division sponsored its third preconference in Dallas in 1971. Called _The Young Adult in the Media World,_ this preconference focused on AV equipment and materials and ways to integrate these things into more tradition-bound YA services. A pamphlet, _Mixed-Means Programming with Young Adults,_ was produced from the YASD Office in conjunction with this preconference. Meanwhile, there was another intense, introspective study on the part of ALA in 1969 and each division was instructed by COO (Committee on Organization) to do a re-examination of their goals, overall efforts, activities and possible conflicting responsibilities within the existing organizational structure. YASD set up a special committee to organize the self-study and an elaborate and wide-reaching study was proposed; a membership survey, response from committee chairpersons and the Board, and a summary by the past president. Unfortunately, the results were poor. There were only 32 responses from the membership; the forms for the committee chairpersons received brief yes and no replies with little evidence of critical thinking; many chairpersons failed to respond, and the Board members too often had nothing to go on. Nevertheless, the study resulted in dismissing at least three committees and recommended establishing of an Organization Committee.

While the YASD function statement remained the same, a list of priorities was passed by the YASD Board in January 1971. At the request of the ALA Planning Committee, the president in 1972/73 submitted a three-year review and report on present and future YASD projects, fitting them by category into the overall ALA goals and priorities.

A new AV Committee was established in the early 1970's and produced two highly useful film lists: _Film Profiles for Youth_ (1972) and a Supplement (1973). The AV Committee was then combined with the Book Selection Committee (split off years ago from the Best Books Committee). This committee's name was changed, several times, and is now called Media Selection and Usage Committee. It has been preparing special subject lists and the _Added Entries_ section for TON. Under the new and enlarged committee membership, the committee compiled two mediagraphic essays -- one on _Loving Choices_ and one of _Science Fiction and Fantasy._ In 1975 the committee proposed, drew up guidelines, and selected the first annual _Selected Films for Young Adults_ list to compliment the annual Best Books list. Also, the committee gathered together flyers, brochures and descriptions of successful on-going YA services programs around the country into a collection called Living Library Patterns. The collection grew into two boxes and traveled around the country by requests.

In 1970, the Magazine Committee changed from reviewing individual magazines reviewing a subject field. In 1974, the committee was disbanded by direction of the YASD Board. A joint exploratory committee with RASD (Reference and Adult Services Division) was set up in 1972 to see if there was a need for more formal associations or projects between the two divisions. A joint board Meeting was held at Midwinter 1974 and thereafter the two Boards have exchanged liaison members. Standards have long been in interest of YASD, and at the urging of this division, the PLA's Standards Committee set up three Task Forces in 1973 to study and present to the PLA Standards Committee the goals, guidelines and priorities for each service's future needs. This resulted in a Task Force paper on YA services but went no further. YASD went on to form a committee, Services Statement Development Committee, which wrote Directions for Library Services to Young Adults, in 1977.

In 1974 the Outreach Committee prepared Look, Listen, Explain; Developing Community Library Services for Young Adults which was published in 1975. 1974 also saw the first teenage-drawn cover for the Best Books list and publication in the library press of a pre-selected list of titles nominated for Best Books. The Publishers' Relations Committee compiled a list of YA Review Sources and sent speakers to several regional library association conventions to talk about young adult books and publishing. An official observer from YASD was appointed to the Freedom to Read Foundation in 1974. TOP OF THE NEWS went on a subscription basis in late 1974 for the first time. Also in 1974 an Awards Committee was appointed and recommended that two awards be developed -- one for fiction and one for nonfiction. This is an old idea and, in fact, the current committee is the fourth such committee to work on developing a YA award -- the other three failed. No action resulted from the 1974 Committee. The Survival Kit Committee drew up a list of helpful resources for establishing, promoting and maintaining YA services at the local level. This was produced as the YASD Survival hit.

In 1975, YASD sponsored its fourth preconference at San Francisco called _Book You._ The participants analyzed and discussed the past 15 years of _Best Books for Young Adults_ lists to come up with a new retrospective list of old and new titles called _Best of the Best: Still Alive in 1975._ Overall, YASD has been a growing organization. In addition to the committee work described, the organization has consistently provided good conference programs and author luncheons, plus sponsored a quality professional journal in TOP OF THE NEWS.