YALSA YA Lit Symposium: The Value of Making Connections


It’s November, and YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium is right around the corner! We hope you’ll be joining 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.

Today we have an interview with Dorcas Wong, an active YALSA member from California who recently served as chair of the 2014 Morris Award Committee. 

Dorcas, why do you think someone should attend the Symposium?

The symposium is a professional development and networking opportunity. This is a chance to learn and update yourself on the current reading trends, focus on a genre or area of reading, and get to know your peers and what innovative things they’re doing. What you learn here may inform your future purchases and program development. And it’s just fun to talk about what you’re reading.

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

Talk to people! Introduce yourself to authors, other library staff, YALSA staff, presenters, teens who come in for the panels. Seems like a no-brainer, but do you actively go out and do it, or do you wait for someone to come up and talk to you? Yeah, don’t wait. Get to know new people in your field and don’t just stick with the group you came with.

Plus one side tip, for attending major events in general: If possible, try to schedule a day off before the event and/or after. ‘Before’ you have time to settle in, look around, and ‘After’ you can decompress and relax. You’ll be less stressed about rushing back to work and writing up those reports and what not.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve had happen at or that you’ve taken away from the Symposium?

At my first symposium, which was focused on graphic novels, I was mainly interested in just hearing what more people were doing with graphic novels, managing the collection, researching and seeking out new titles, and different viewpoints on the spectrum of GNs in general. I was fresh out of graduate school and working part-time/temporary as a librarian. I not only came back from the event with new knowledge, but new connections to different people working throughout the U.S. dedicated to young adult literature. Years later, I ended up working with some of these colleagues that I met through this event in YALSA committees and resource sharing.

If your trip to the YA Symposium was covered by work, how did you convince them to pay for it?

Depending on your system’s budget, you’ll want to think about framing a convincing argument to attend these types of events. Much like what I’ve mentioned in the previous question, this is a continued education or professional development opportunity and many systems allow for this in the budget. You may ask at human resources, or your supervisor, about monetary support. Another talking point, is that you’ll be representing your library system at an important professional level. This shows other people in the library world that your system is interested in keeping active and up to date in your work with young people.

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

Of course! This year’s theme is Keeping It Real: Finding the True Teen Experience in YA Literature. I’ve seen more titles published in realistic fiction or ones that explore diverse experiences recently, and my teens, who still love all the fantasy, mystery, and adventure, are looking for more stories that they can relate to. I’ve been checking out the preliminary program agenda on the website and have marked several panels I want to attend. Some are at the same time, so I’ll be working out some creative time management. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s theme.

I’ve met many colleagues through past library conferences and events who are presenting this year. I’m thinking of putting in a proposal of my own one of these days, but for now, I look forward to reconnecting with my peers and learning something new.

Thanks so much, Dorcas! 

Published by

Allison Tran

Past Member Manager for YALSA's The Hub. Passionate about information literacy, social media, and connecting readers with books they'll love.