YALSA v. AASL: A Clear Winner

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I do not want to sound cranky, but every ALA convention, I come out of the YALSA Leadership breakfast and All Committee Meeting saying to myself, "If AASL could just to half of what YALSA does, it would be a vibrant, compelling organization that truly encourages and responds to change, grows new leaders, and clearly vocalizes it's mission to the world." But it doesn't, and as an AASL member, this makes me frustrated and really, really sad.

Because AASL could fulfill and incredibly important role. The Independent School Section of AASL (which very frequently feels ignored by AASL) is the division hearth I gather around and, if I were being honest with myself, the only reason I stay a member. The other independent school librarians are vibrant, incredible people who swim upstream in the divisional current to plan relevant programming, tours and social gatherings so other independent school librarians don't feel isolated and alone. I would guess based on the ISS-sponsored Preconference School Tour, that this section's efforts keeps many librarians from giving up the expensive AASL division fees altogether. We had people from as far away as Sudan, Qatar, and Cairo who said that our tour was the most helpful thing they could imagine and worth coming to the conference. (And so ISS brings tourism dollars to Chicago - you're welcome, Windy City!!)

But back to YALSA and why it's so terrific. Here's why I love it:

1. You get breakfast. Food is good!
2. During breakfast, the board has arranged for you to meet your board liaison and ask lots of questions, to meet with the previous chair if you're taking over, to meet all the YALSA staff people you're going to need as you do your work, so you know who to ask for AV stuff, website help, etc. I know who Beth Yoke and Nichole Gilbert are - they are the YALSA Goddesses who help us all do what we need to get done.
3. Informative handouts that are PRETTY. Okay the pretty thing isn't that important obviously, but the rainbow of handouts you get at the Leadership breakfast are great. They have troubleshooting pointers, all the resources you can imagine and they push lots of services that YALSA will do for your committee that you either didn't know about because it's new or you've totally forgotten about it in the heat of worrying about other things.
4. They THANK me. Multiple times, actually. In the breakouts with board members, the President does it, the President-elect does it, and I get YALSA ribbons, tote bags, badge holders, pens, and mission statement magnets (my fave) that further reinforce that what I do is important to the organization.
5. They want me to be a Leader. Note the capital "L" there. In the course of the breakfast and sessions, it's transmitted to me that YALSA has clear expectations of it's leaders and the characteristics they want to see - honesty and integrity, embracing change, taking risks, inspiration, being dedicated and committed, and taking initiative (as well as knowledgeable, intelligent, tactful, loyal and courageous). Tall order? You bet! But an incredible list for me to aspire to and I know the YALSA leadership tries to live up to the same expectations because they model these qualities to me every time I see them in action.

I know that the members of AASL want a vibrant, growing organization that can respond to their needs and change as the environment in which we work changes. I also know that the leadership of AASL are caring, intelligent people who want to help other school librarians. But when the first answer is always, "We can't do that" and when we have no way of growing leaders in our committees, we end up with a group of cautious librarians who are chosen for their ability to plug away and not rock the boat rather than their visionary potential. In this economy, can we afford to lose members who end up finding that other organizations serve their needs better?


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Wendy S.
July 11, 2009 4:18 PM delete

I couldn't agree more with your comments about the positives of YALSA. I think it is neck-and-neck with ALSC for best youth services division.