Programs & Special Events

Participating AuthorsPrograms and Special Events | Registration | Virtual Event Registration |  Sponsors  | FAQ | Virtual Event FAQ

YALSA's Young Adult Services Symposium will take place Nov. 5-7, 2021 in Reno, Nevada. YALSA will host special events requiring additional registration on Friday, with concurrent sessions taking place all day on Saturday and for a half-day on Sunday morning.

All attendees are eligible to receive a continuing education certificate showing the number of contact hours. Certificates will be emailed.

 Preconference Sessions | Live SessionsVirtual Sessions

Preconference Sessions 

These are an extra fee, optional, not included in general registration.

AM Preconference - Friday, 9:00-12:00pm:

A Place to Belong: Supporting Neurodiversity and Mental Health in Your Library
Mental health, especially in the time of a global pandemic, is incredibly important. Teens face major life changes and a tremendous amount of pressure during this time of their lives. Autistic teens face challenges in everyday life and even more so during a pandemic. Libraries can be incredible resources for all teens, and can serve as critically important safe spaces, too. The pandemic got a lot of people talking about teen mental health, but how can we keep this important conversation going? How can we update our collections to better represent the experiences of these teens? And how can our programming promote empathy and compassion among all library patrons? During this session an autistic librarian will share personal stories, insights from her own practice, and a variety of resources that you can use to make your library a better place for everyone. Another librarian will share how she created a mental health club at her library.  

Presenters: Adriana White, Writer and Ashleigh Torres, Youth Services Librarian, El Dorado County Library

PM Preconference - Friday, 1:00pm-4pm:

Be a Beacon of Light: Serving Teens in Poverty with Empathy.
In the US in 2019, approximately 14% of adolescents lived below the poverty level, a high figure that has only increased during the pandemic. During the pandemic, library staff had to be nimble and offer services to teens from afar as many libraries were closed for safety. The library is an escape from the stresses of everyday life and provides meaningful connections for teens while striving to provide excellent collections, programming, digital access, and other services to all teens. With some effort and planning, library staff can fly higher to serve teens in poverty through exceptional customer service, outreach services, a safe space, referrals, access to essential everyday items, digital services, assistance addressing difficult topics, and more. Join this interactive session about why and how to invoke your librarian superpowers to reach and serve teens in poverty and build skills to support the social-emotional wellbeing of all teens.

Presenter: Beth Crist, Youth & Family Services Consultant, Colorado State Library and Dr. Jessica Dennison, Library Media Teacher, Kettering Fairmont High School

If not attending Pre-conferences, the schedule of events will be during the following times:

  • Friday, Opening session begins at 5:00 pm 
  • Saturday, begins at 8:30am 
  • Sunday, begins at 9:00am 

LIVE SESSIONS (live & virtual sessions included with registration)

There are up to three live sessions to choose from in each of the time slots.  Some programs will be recorded and available for 3 months post event.

Friday, Nov. 5th

5:00-6:30pm: Opening Session - Author Panel 

Spaces Past and Present: Adversity Now and Then  

The authors included are: Kimberly Jones, Gretchen McNeil, Gilly Segal and Steve Sheinkin 

6:30-7:30 pm: Opening Reception 

Hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar

Saturday, Nov. 6th

8:30 - 9:30am

Safe Haven: Creating Safe Educations Spaces that Destigmatize the Teen Mental Health Experience**

YA authors and mental health advocates, Rocky Callen and Nora Shalaway Carpenter, and youth librarians will draw from their own experiences and research surveying teens, educators, and librarians to show how to create safe spaces that destigmatize mental health issues for young people. By discussing language, barriers, programmings, and the importance of inclusivity, participants will get ideas to invigorate their own practices for mental health education and advocacy (for their teens and themselves). They will also walk away with a comprehensive resource guide with vetted recommended books for their collections, examples of activities for programming, and scripts to open up conversations.

Presenter(s): Nora Shalaway Carpenter, Editor of Rural Voices; Rocky Callen, former behavioral coach

Pleasure Reading for English Language Learners

Pleasure reading is essential for many teens and provides a much-needed space for comfort and escape during these formative years. For ELL students and the comfort and ease of reading for pleasure in their own language can be a challenge. This session seeks to help those students by facilitating access to popular YA fiction titles in various languages in a visually based, user-friendly format. Attendees could pick a digital platform of their choice, and search their library network's collection of popular YA titles in various languages to build a simplified tool for ELL students. 

Presenter: Katy Gallagher, Librarian

10:00 - 11:30am

Serving on a YALSA Selection List Committee**

What goes into choosing titles for the Best Fiction for Young Adults, Amazing Audiobooks, Quick Picks, and Great Graphic Novels Selection Lists? Learn more about these lists, and just what it takes to serve on a Selection List Committee. Past committee members and chairs will share advice on how to volunteer for and successfully serve on one of these committees and offer a Q&A session for participants.

Presenters: Rebecca Baldwin, Erin Durrett, Tina Lerno, and Jessica Hilbun Schwartz, 2021 Selection List Oversight Committee

Journey to Justice: Teaching Civil Rights to Teens through Library of Congress Primary Sources and Graphic Novels**

Civil rights education is often criticized for being limited to biographies of a few leaders and the "I Have a Dream" speech. In this session, participants will learn how civil rights resources can transform library collections and the way the civil rights movement is taught. Primary sources from the Library of Congress will be paired with graphic novels to help teens learn about this decades-long movement. Lesson plans and other resources will be shared, and participants will join in a discussion about how to make the era relevant to teens.

Presenter: Dr. Karen Gavigan, co-editor of Connecting Comics to Curriculum

11:30am - 1:00pmEdwards Award Luncheon

Author, Kekla Magoon is the recipient of YALSA's 2021 Margaret A. Edwards Award. Her acceptance of the award will be pre-recorded and streamed to the luncheon audience.  Copies of her 4 books will be distributed to those who attend the luncheon. 

Kekla Magoon's young adult novel The Rock and the River, which won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, was the first mainstream novel for young people to feature the Black Panther Party. She is the Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Fire in the Streets and How It Went Down. She is also the coauthor, with Ilyasah Shabazz, of X: A Novel, which was long-listed for the National Book Award and received an NAACP Image Award and a Coretta Scott King Honor. Kekla Magoon grew up in Indiana and now lives in Vermont, where she serves on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts.


1:00 - 2:30pm

Morris Program
The Morris Panel gives debut YA authors the opportunity to share and discuss their first publications and has been traditionally moderated by an author whose debut work received recognition from the Morris Jury. This panel celebrates new voices in YA literature and allows YALSA members to hear the stories behind the authors' first books. This author panel will be moderated by Jeff Zentner.  The authors will include: Cory Anderson, Angeline Boulley, Rachel Griffin, and Chloe Gong.

The Path to the Ivy League Leads Straight Through the Public Library**

This session will help library staff identify the core needs of teens applying to college and outline best practices for programming, collection development and more. Based on the presenter's own background of using public library resources to get into Yale, the program will help inspire teen librarians to step up their role in helping make college admissions a more accessible space in small and large libraries. 

Presenter: Aryssa Damron, Library Associate, D.C. Public Library

Safe Spaces for Aros and Aces

Learn effective outreach approaches to connect with asexual- and aromantic - spectrum teens and how to support a safer, more inclusive environment at your library. Approaches include making regular book displaces with ace/aro characters or by ace/aro authors and labeling them accordingly; creating a resource and informational page on the library's website, holding events or creating safe spaces for aspec teens

Presenter: Sam Helmick, Community and Access Services Coordinator

2:30 - 3:00pm: Break

3:00pm - 4:30pm

The Power of Empathy**
This session will focus on the development of the three-week empathy and de-escalation training that the youth services staff underwent at the Smith Public Library. Focus will be on meaningfully engaging with teen patrons to help avoid heated confrontations and calling law enforcement, as well as working to provide teens with a safe space to be themselves without forcing them to meet behavioral expectations. Special attention will be paid to active listening and empathy mapping.

Presenter: Kelsey Sidwell, Teen Services Librarian at Smith Public Library

Close the Book on the Diversity Gap 
Sandra Farag, Head of Youth Services at Kalamazoo Public Library in Michigan, will join two representatives of Baker & Taylor's Children's & Teen Services (CATS) department to discuss how to more confidently build and maintain a diverse YA collection that will contribute to the self esteem, empathy, and kindness in their communities. The presenters will share various tools, including software and selection lists, that will help audit and address diversity gaps in collections, and they will also book talk teen titles publishing in the winter/spring of 2022 that highlight different cultures, races, and life experiences (LGBTQIAP, Black, Indigenous peoples, and more). 

Presenters: Bobbie Bensur; Sandra Farag, Head of Youth Services at Kalamazoo Public Library; Rita King, Baker & Taylor's Children's

4:30 - 5:30pm: Meet and Greet

Hors d'oeuvres served. Cash bar.

Sunday, Nov. 7th

9:00am: Breakfast

9:30 - 10:30am

The Development of Bridges & Books**
This program will highlight Bridges & Books, one of the first and only teen literature podcasts created and hosted by teens, featuring teen-hosted interviews with New York Times Bestselling and award-winning authors of teen literature. The session will cover the process of putting teens in leadership positions for the creation of the podcast as well as the experience of developing the first season of the podcast releasing in late May 2021 featuring interviews with authors Elise Bryant, J. Elle, Kit Frick, Romina Garber, Joan He, Adiba Jaigirdar, Ryan La Sala, Rachael Lippincott , Rhiannon Richardson, and Ashley Woodfolk.

Presenter: Kelsey Ford, Adult Leader of Bridges & Books Podcast

Through the Plexi Glass
With the onslaught of social and civil unrest in our nation and the uncertain reality of COVID-19, our library rededicated our focus not only on diverse and inclusive services and programs, but also listened to the needs of our teens. Connection, belonging and inclusion were the driving forces that led us to many initiatives including virtual escape rooms, social justice books talks and diversity audits on our entire collection. This session will discuss the unique ways Worthington Libraries is interacting with our teens in virtual spaces to foster community by providing access to services to remain connected during these challenging times.

Presenters: Stephanie Brand, Lead Librarian, Worthington Libraries; Dierric Rogers, Youth Services Librarian, Worthington Libraries; Tara Shiman, Youth Services Librarian, Worthington Libraries

Reaching Marginalized Teens Through Novels in Verse  
Novels in verse are a terrific resource for teachers and librarians as a way of reaching all teens, especially marginalized teens and those who may be struggling or reluctant readers. They also provide a more modern, practical alternative to the classic canon, which may not appeal to many teens or may intimidate them by the sheer number of words per page. Participants will discover ways to pair verse novels with teens based upon their needs; interests and specific situations, discuss advocacy strategies for rethinking the canon and gather ideas for engaging poetry activities related to the novels in verse.

Presenter: Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, author of Novels in Verse for Teens and manager, Morley Library, Ohio.

10:30 - 11:00am - Break 

11:00 - 12:00pm

Poverty and Privilege
How do our shared or differing cultural backgrounds affect the relationships and influence we have with our students? Two white, award-winning authors and former educators discuss how unpacking the racial and class biases of our identities better enable us to foster more positive and authentic relationships with the young people in our lives. 

Presenters: Christina Dorr, Ph.D; Brendan Kiely, NYT best-selling and multiple award-winning author of teen books

Town Hall: A Live Ask a Manager Session
A panel of managers and administrators will be available for a Q&A session to share advice and insights on a variety of topics, including but not limited to talking to management about policy, programming and budget requests/changes; gaining insights into the priorities and concerns from the management/administrator perspective, career advice on becoming a manager, workplace conflicts, and more.

Presenter: Yvette Garcia; Billie Moffett, Becky Shanknovich, Lesley Mason, Kathy Atchley and Resa Mai

COVID-19 related library closures brought a new set of challenges to library professionals in 2020. During the summer of 2020, librarians from 16 Michigan libraries, with the help of the Library of Michigan, created a multi-library virtual scavenger hunt, and to encourage the exploration of participating libraries' websites and services, this project soon grew to encompass more than 92 Michigan libraries by the time the Quest began. MiLibraryQuest has continued to grow during 2020 and 2021 into a seasonal multi-library collaboration.

Presenter: Kristen Getzin

12:00-1:00 pm 

Closing Author Panel: Finding One’s Space : Fantasy Meets Realism

Authors for this panel include: Romina Garber, Ellen Hopkins and Jennifer Mathieu

**these sessions will be available on-demand at a later time


Advocate for Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Join us to learn how to advocate for children, youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, whether they're struggling to access housing, services, education, benefits or more. From leading national advocates, you'll hear firsthand how to identify a child or youth in need and connect them with resources that will help them thrive as well as engage in national advocacy campaigns to increase access to housing, education, and services for our young people.

Presenter: Darla Bardine, Executive Director of National Network for Youth; Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of School House Connection and Kelly Russo, Director of the American Bar Association Commission on Homeless Youth Legal Network

Teens' Perspective on Positive Youth Development
Positive Youth Development is an established philosophical and practical approach to teen services. Five key Positive Youth Development principles are Strengths Based, Inclusive, Engage Youth as Partners, Collaborative, and Sustainable. But what do real teens think of these principles? Participants will examine their own approaches to PYD and compare and contrast their interpretation of the principles of Positive Youth Development with those of actual teens.

Presenter: Thane Benson, Librarian, Denver Public Library

All are Welcome, Serving at Home Learners and Homeschoolers in the Library
COVID-19 has altered the way youth live and learn. It is imperative for libraries to alter services to meet the growing need of homeschoolers and at home learners, This session will share insight on how one librarian inherited a homeschooling program concept that has grown into a national advocacy platform. Historically education has taken root in progress, this program has roots in the mission and vision to support equity and inclusion through a lens of social justice as fundamental values of American Library Association: to the underserved and the most vulnerable populations. We can't remain stagnant. 

Presenter: Christina Caputo, Youth Services Librarian and author of "Library Services to Homeschoolers: A Guide"

Volunteering in a Digital World
Between school work, outside jobs, and extracurricular activities teens are over scheduled often struggling to find time to complete volunteer hours. Virtual volunteer opportunities assist in giving teens the opportunity to volunteer on their own time. The Ocean County Library turned their popular 8-week summer volunteer program into a highly successful virtual program. The session will provide information on the format used, technology needed, activities, and how hours were awarded. Librarians will also share insight received from the program, including survey responses, program ideas, and how they continue to offer digital volunteering in the future.

Presenter: Cecilia Pasqualicchio, Librarian, Ocean County Library

What Will We Do without our Buildings: The "Why" and "How" of Serving Communities during Crisis
The crises of 2020/21 required library staff to think differently about the how and the why of services. For many, when buildings closed, they quickly virtualized services and simply took the traditional "how" of serving youth and families to an online format. This happened without learning about the why of library services during emergencies. Participants will explore how to learn about that why and delve into how, by learning about community, co-creating with community, assessing and iterating , and designing flexible structures - all done by leveraging assets that are available in their community to serve non-dominant families during crisis times. 

Presenter: Linda Braun, Learning Consultant, Librarians & Educators Online (LEO)

Design Decisions for Online/Remote Learning Materials
This workshop engages participants with tools developed from an IMLS-funded grant that is investigating the accessibility and design of online learning resources developed by museums and public libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic. This session aims to support educators to recognize and reflect on the various ways that they provide opportunities to learn through their own online/remote learning resources. Participants will review examples of online or remote learning materials using a tool we have developed to consider ways to make the materials more accessible and to think about different design decisions such as modes of engagement, audience and products. 

Presenter: Dr. Rebekah Willett and Amy Mueller

Do You See Me?

Facilitated by Librarian Julia Torres, Co-founder of Disrupt Texts and member of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) Board of Directors, critically acclaimed authors Paula Chase, Tiffany D. Jackson and Kim Johnson will challenge participants to think about how increasing the breadth and depth of the experiences reflected in their collections can leverage teens' intrinsic motivation to learn. Using material from their work, the panelists will explore how novels can help teens find their voice and speak out about issues important to them.

Presenter: Julia Torres, teacher/librarian, Denver Public Schools