YALSA YA Lit Symposium – Why Should You Attend?


Are you going to YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium this November? Early Bird registration is open until September 15, so register now and join us in Austin! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ll be featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Our first interview is with Gretchen Kolderup, Manager for Young Adult Education & Engagement at the New York Public Library, member of YALSA’s Board of Directors, and previous Hub Manager. She attended YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium in 2010 and 2012.

Share your #1 tip for getting the most out of the Symposium for a first-time attendee.

Make friends! This is true of every conference, but it’s extra-easy and extra-rewarding here since everyone at the Symposium cares about the same thing (teens and their literature) and all of the scheduled events are at the hotel where everyone is staying — it’s like sleepaway camp for YA librarians! Meeting new people at the conference gives you someone to sit with, chat with, and go out to dinner with that weekend — but it also builds a professional connection that you’ll use to keep learning and growing long after you leave Austin! Most of my “best friends” in the YA library world are people I met at the Symposium.

Why do you think someone should attend the Symposium?

Because it’s both useful and fun. Where else do you get to really dig in to teen literature in meaningful ways with hundreds of other fans and the authors themselves over a weekend? You’ll learn a lot; have a great time; and go home with new ideas, more developed expertise, and lots of connections to authors, resources, and other librarians to help you keep learning, growing, and reveling in the best that YA lit has to offer!

What was your favorite author experience/presentation at the Symposium?

When I was in library school, I worked at a synagogue library and had discovered a lot of really wonderful Jewish picture books. One of my favorites was New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland. She was at the Symposium in 2010 signing copies of Girl Coming in for a Landing, and while she was signing my copy, I mentioned how much I loved New Year at the Pier. She was so surprised and delighted that she gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek!

More recently, the 2012 Symposium featured a panel discussion called “Guys Talkin’ to Guys: What Will Guys Read Next?” in which male authors (Andrew Smith, Antony John, Torrey Maldonado, and Greg Neri) and a number of local teen boys talked about their favorite books, the male reading experience, and what motivates them to write and read. I was so grateful to hear from actual teen boys and male authors (many of whom were readers or writers of color) about their experiences — and then to take that with me in the readers’ advisory I did with my own teens at my library.

How has the YA Lit Symposium changed your work experience or reading habits?

It’s definitely turned me on to books, series, and authors that might not have come across my radar otherwise, and getting to meet different authors or see them speak in person has increased my appreciation for them and for their work. It’s also connected me with other librarians who work with teens that I now follow on Twitter and via blogs, and they’re a great source of book recommendations and discussions.

Are you going back or would you in the future? If so, why?

Of course I am! If I could only go to one national conference in any given year, it’d be the Symposium. So many of us who work with teens in libraries are the only ones at our organizations to do so, and it’s invigorating to spend time with others who have the same professional interests and aspirations. And I know I keep saying this, but so much of the value of the Symposium is in the people you meet; when you get back to work and are once again the only one in the building who delivers library services to teens, you’ll have a bigger professional network online of people like you!

Thanks, Gretchen!