Youth Services Section - Growth and Change is Good!
By: Joyce Laiosa, YSS Past-President
I’ve been planning the Past Presidents dinner this year, and thrilled to hear from many of our section’s Past Presidents as they respond to the invitation. They have emailed back and forth to each other, keeping us all in the conversation. It is a conversation rich in history, service, and dedication to New York State’s youth.
Our newsletter editor, Tracy Geiser, asked me to investigate memories of Past Presidents and a few shared some of the issues they faced during their presidency. I’ve also looked at a timeline of historical events, and Newbery and Caldecott award winners to help place those memories in context with YSS.
Let’s go back to the year Julie Cummins was our President, 1978-79. Julie is a recipient of the 2003 ALSC Distinguished Service Award. Her accomplishments in the field of librarianship include her leadership as the head of the Central Children’s Room at Rochester Public Library and coordinator of children’s services at New York Public Library. She has served in numerous ALSC and ALA leadership positions; served as an editor, teacher, and consultant; and continues to write children’s books.
“The year I was president, MANY years ago, I was very proud that for the first time YSS won the Professional Booth Award in the exhibits. It was a magic theme with children's librarians performing magic tricks. And on another note, I was very pleased to be the first children's librarian to become NYLA President. Since then there have been several others. Hooray for us!”
The year Julie was president, the Newbery Medal went to The Westing Game; the Caldecott Medal went to The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. As for history, Jimmy Carter was President; the Camp David accords were signed by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat; and Three-Mile Island nuclear plant malfunctioned.
Rhonna Goodman followed Julie from 1979-80. She came to the position from the New York Public Library. “It has been a long time since I was YSS president, but during my era it was CYASS - an extremely unfortunate name. We worked hard to get it changed. Most importantly, I agree with Julie and Mary, YSS was a group that had the best and most innovative programs, and the greatest loyalty among its members.”
Rhonna was president during the hostage crisis in Iran; the election campaign of Ronald Reagan; and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The Newbery Medal went to A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832; the Caldecott Medal went to Ox-Cart Man.
Mary A. Brown came to be YSS President from the Rye Free Reading Room, 1984-85. “There are two things I'd mention from the work done by all the leadership before, during, and after my tenure. One is that I think YSS gained some recognition as the "git 'er done" section and also we managed to drag youth services out of the cellar of discrimination and get the recognition the section deserves. The other is that we have been leaders in the public library professions generally, in the welcoming and use of technology in libraries and with our age groups.”
Lisa Wemett remembers “when I was elected as YSS Secretary, Mary Brown was YSS President. The NYLA Annual conference was in NYC at the brand new Marriott Marquis and we donned “top hats and tails” for the YSS booth to sell our section publications and other merchandise. (The “tails” were cobbler-style bib aprons with black and white felt pieces glued on to look like a tuxedo jacket. The plastic top hats said “YSS” in glitter glue. As YSS archivist, I still have them!)
I learned the art of the sell and the art of “the ask” from MAB (a.k.a. Mary A. Brown) and watched her proudly, years later, in her role as NYLA Treasurer making sure everyone on NYLA Council pitched in a personal contribution in our goal to buy NYLA’s headquarters. She didn’t need a tux to leverage donations. She always led by example…and with great good humor!”
Mary’s term coincided with Ronald Reagan’s re-election and Nintendo was released! The Newbery Award went to The Hero and the Crown; the Caldecott Medal went to Saint George and the Dragon.
Lisa Wemett, our current Archivist, served as President from 1990-91. “As President-Elect, I coordinated the Section’s programs at the Fall conference in Rochester in 1990. Maurice Sendak became the first recipient of the Empire State Award. I arranged the first Past Presidents’ dinner for former YSS Presidents. In the following year, my Board established the Ann Gibson Scholarship and the YSS Continuing Education Grants (now discontinued). All of this through face-to-face meetings and with no e-mail.
Because YSS had no gavel to pass, outgoing president Randy Enos handed me a buggy whip to “help keep the Board on task.” Now there’s a first! I never added a talisman to “The Whip”—who takes responsibility for starting that tradition?—but I do recall carrying it on a plane to NYC to pass it to Mary Rinato Berman in the years before TSA rules would have banned me from boarding with it in my hand!
Scholarship, support of continuing education, recognition of outstanding children’s literature, the power of a cadre of youth specialists willing to volunteer to make a difference beyond the walls of their own library, and the humor and camaraderie of a whip passed hand-to-hand for nearly a quarter of a century now (23 years and counting!)—those things have never changed in YSS. And I hope they never will.”
George H.W. Bush was president; Iraq invaded Kuwait in the first Gulf War; the Newbery Medal went to Maniac Magee; and the Caldecott Medal went to Black and White.
Karen Hultz served as YSS President from 1999-2000. "I guess I could be called the millennium president. Taking office in the year 2000, we were all wondering what changes would befall youth services and libraries in general in the next century. YSS published the YSS cookbook entitled Stir Up Some Fun, which was probably the last real hardcopy book that YSS published before moving onto electronic publishing. In our meeting with the state librarian, we were still striving to hit the one million mark with the number of children and teens participating in the summer reading program."
2000 was the inauguration of George W. Bush; passage of No Child Left Behind Act; the Newbery Medal went to Bud, Not Buddy; and the Caldecott Medal went to Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.
Starr LaTronica remembers “the biggest thing with my term was that Marie Orlando came to me and suggested that we have a children's choice award...I appointed her to form a task force which ultimately became the 3 Apples Award--(though the process spanned several other presidencies, of course). That began a good collaboration with SLMS.”
Starr was president in 2001. The Newbery Medal went to A Year Down Yonder; the Caldecott Medal went to So You Want to be President?
Ann Brouse followed Starr and “in my 35-year career as a librarian I was appointed to an "official" youth services position for only one year. Having been in charge of various branch libraries, I learned the ins and outs of youth services and conducted the first ever toddler story times in our county. In those early days of making flyers and bookmarks, "cut and paste" meant using real scissors and real glue! My year as YSS President, 2001-2002, was very eventful for me, YSS and the entire world. The first YSS membership meeting at the fall 2001 NYLA conference was supposed to feature the wonderful author Brian Jacques. A summer heart attack postponed his appearance until a later conference and the publisher offered a last-minute substitute, Joan Bauer. Her 2000 book HOPE WAS HERE was on the 2001 list of ALA Newbery Award Honor Books. Coincidentally, the jacket of the book featured the Twin Towers and her touching memories of that terrible day in New York were just what the audience needed.”
Sue Rokos surprised herself by finding information from “from my 3 years time as incoming/pres/past president: (2001 to 2002/ 2002-03/2003- 04). The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) came into being! Discussions abounded about the impact on summer reading program funding, and other youth services funding programs; feasibility study of the NYS Children’s Choice Award was completed, and in 2004 the committee chaired by Peggy Hagen in collaboration with SLMS developed the 3 Apple Award; impact of state funding on library service to youth and families (catch that FAMILY word!); collection of YA stats on the state annual report; demise of Youth Services Consultant positions across the state and impact on youth services and state youth programs; shortage of youth services librarians in NYS; and inclusion of public libraries with “No Child Left Behind” legislation.” She added: “My gosh who could forget that!”
In Sue’s presidential year, 2002-03, the Newbery Medal went to Crispin: The Cross of Lead (the Newbery Committee was chaired by Starr LaTronica); and the Caldecott Medal went to My Friend Rabbit.
Mary Fellows, the Youth Services Consultant at Upper Hudson Library System, became the YSS President from 2007-2008. She remembers that “in YSS we were trying to get job descriptions and documents preserved so that new people coming into the positions did not have to reinvent the wheel. In NYLA, we were fending off NYLA administration’s efforts to get us to discontinue having vendors at Spring Conference.”
In 2008 the Newbery Medal went to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village; the Caldecott Medal went to The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Let’s end with Rosanne Cerny’s message about YSS and NYLA. She served as YSS President the year before me. “Let me go back further to why I joined NYLA and YSS in the first place. When I got my job at NYPL in January 1970, it was during a thaw in a hiring freeze and they were trying to recruit children's librarians, especially for neighborhoods like the South Bronx (I started at Morrisania). Within a couple of years came the crisis in New York City's finances and almost everyone hired after me got fired, though some were rehired soon after. I had already joined NYLA and YSS and although I was only a member, not yet on the Board, the fact that they were helping us fight for library aid in Albany was an important reason that I joined and am still a member even though I retired several years ago. It was also an important tool in my development as a librarian, the conferences were always fun, I met folks from all over the state, and got to see other parts of the state that I might not have gone to on vacation or whatever. I always came back to work with at least one or two practical ideas that I used in my branches, and when I was elected Secretary and later President I really appreciated the care and concern of the Board Members who freely gave their time and energy to keep the traditions alive and welcome and mentor new librarians coming along behind us.”
YSS has always been a welcoming section. I’ve made friends from around the state that I only meet once a year at a conference. I feel special, part of a club that understands my passion, my wonder, and my joy in my work. We have much in common, and we are willing to share our time, talents and expertise. Thank you to all past presidents that shared their memories!