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American Library Association: Badges for Librarians

I.  Introduction

Founded in 1957 and headquartered in Chicago, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a division of the American Library Association, which is a financially stable 501(c)3 charitable organization. With a current membership of over 5,400, YALSA’s mission is to expand and strengthen library services for teens and young adults. Through its member-driven advocacy, research, and professional development initiatives, YALSA builds the capacity of libraries and librarians to engage, serve, and empower teens and young adults.  
A core function of YALSA is to provide continuing education to librarians and library workers serving teens. Badges for Learning will increase YALSA’s capacity to deliver professional development and extend its reach so that more librarians and library workers have not only the skills and knowledge they need but gain recognition for the new competencies, capacities and skills they are developing in a nontraditional setting.  
The Badges for Learning effort will increase the number of librarians and library workers who can effectively serve teens, which will improve the overall level of library services to teens throughout the country and ultimately help increase the number of teens who are prepared to enter the workforce and lead productive lives.
II.  Learning Content

a.     Content (including materials and resources): In 2010 the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) published a revised set of national guidelines, which articulate competencies for librarians serving young adults ( These competencies outline the skills and knowledge teen services librarians need to have in order to provide excellent service to this unique age group.  YALSA’s Badges for Learning will be directly connected to these competencies.

The competencies are organized into seven areas - Leadership and Professionalism; Communication, Outreach and Marketing; Knowledge of Client Group; Administration; Knowledge of Materials; Access to Information; and Services. In this initial badge pilot project, curriculum will be developed to help learners gain skills in three competency areas: Communication, Outreach and Marketing; Knowledge of Materials; and Services. 

These three areas were selected because they lend themselves especially well to the need to demonstrate, through a badge program, scaffolded learning, community building, and understanding of technology use in libraries. Through building a set of skills in each of these three areas, librarians and library support staff workers will gain knowledge and skills relating to best practices in library services to young adults.

YALSA’s Continuing Education Advisory Board will identify experts who are appropriate to develop the curriculum content.

In each of the three content areas, learners will complete four sets of “minor” badge activities, after which the learner will earn a gold badge for that content area. The following outlines the focus of the learning components in the YALSA Badges for Learning program for the three targeted competency areas.

a. Communication, Outreach and Marketing: This area of YALSA’s Competencies focuses on advocating for teens within the library community as well as promotion of programs and services offered to the age group. Learners will complete activities in order to demonstrate understanding of use of social media and mobile technologies for these purposes, and upon completion of four sets of “minor” badge activities, the learner will earn the gold Communications, Outreach, and Marketing badge. 


  • effectively use social media and mobile technologies in order to advocate for the age group
  • effectively use social media and mobile technologies to inform teens about what a library has to offer
  • understand how to select the best technology tool in order to successfully get a message out to a specific audience and for a specific purpose.
  • use a variety of tools to identify the needs and interests of underserved teens


  • develop crowdsourced and interactive content, such as polls, location-based activities, and contests using sites  and tools such as Facebook, FourSquare, YouTube, Storify, Pinterest, and Twitter for marketing purposes
  • create videos using Animoto, or other similar tools, that highlight the value of teen services to a library community.
  • conduct online research via, the Pew Internet and American Life Project,  and other sites to learn about the demographics of the teens, especially underserved teens, in the community
  • use social media and mobile technologies to reach out to and engage partners in the community

b. Knowledge of Materials: In this area of focus, librarians and library support staff will build their knowledge of young adult fiction and non-fiction and will investigate print-based and e-based collection development of young adult materials that is in keeping with the library’s mission and policies. The materials developed by learners in the area of Knowledge of Materials will be posted on a variety of YALSA web presences including the association’s wiki, Facebook, page, and YA literature blog, The Hub ( 


  • librarians and library support staff will have demonstrated an understanding of the depth and breadth of traditional, new and emerging formats of materials for young adults
  • librarians and library support staff will be able to use social media and mobile technologies to promote recommended reading to teens
  • librarians and library support staff will understand the need for and the essential elements of a flexible and up-to-date collection development policy


  • creating and disseminating a themed crowdsourced list of recommended reading via a resource such as Good Reads at
  • developing an e-bookshelf
  • publishing five material reviews (produced in a variety of formats including book trailers on YouTube, blog posts, or a social media based review on Twitter or Facebook)
  • conduct online research regarding best practices in collection development policies by investigating sites such as and update or enhance the library’s policy as appropriate

c. Services involving teens in the development of services for them is an integral part of YALSA’s competencies.  In order to achieve this, library staff need to understand the various aspects of young adult development and integrate that understanding into work with teenagers. 


  • Librarians and library workers will be knowledgeable of the 40 Developmental Assets of Teens (from the Search Institute)
  • Librarians and library workers will be able to articulate the value of the services they provide
  • Librarians and library workers will understand the necessary steps to program planning
  • Librarians and library workers will evaluate the success and impact of programs
  • Librarians and library workers will be knowledgeable of the educational and recreational needs of teens


  • Librarians and library staff develop an overview of library services for the age group and connect those services with specific assets. 
  • Plan a program that meets the needs of teens, supports the assets and integrates opportunities for teenagers to be involved in the planning and implementation of the program using tools such as YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Program Planning Form at (MS Word doc)
  • Develop polls, surveys, and other tools via sites like SurveyMonkey, Google Docs, Twiigs, Acepolls, Limesurvey, etc. to identify teen needs and conduct evaluations
  • Create an interactive online space for a Teen Advisory Group with online tools like Google+ or Ning


b.  How and where the development of the above skills, competencies and/or capacities will occur

                                                    i. An interactive portion of YALSA’s web site (currently in a

redesign phase) will focus on professional development.  This will be the primary access point for learners who want to participate in the Badges for Learning Program.

                                                   ii. Depending on the competency, capacity or skill addressed

by a particular badge, the learner may develop the needed skills in the work place, at a local workshop or gathering or by engaging with specific resources on YALSA’s web site via a mobile or traditional computer environment.  YALSA will provide support materials and resources for all learners, no matter where their learning takes place, including FAQ sheets and how-to guides.


c.  Potential contributions to the larger badge ecosystem

                                                    i. YALSA represents a unique audience that is not being

reached by other organizations through a badging effort at this time.  One of YALSA’s contributions to the larger badging initiative is that it fills a unique need.

                                                   ii. It is envisioned that YALSA’s Badges for Learning project

will serve as a model for other education and/or youth focused organizations and institutions that develop badges in the future.  The YALSA Badges for Learning project will specifically demonstrate to these audiences how learning takes place in new ways and supports 21st century learning techniques and skills.

                                                  iii. Some of the skills, capacities and competencies addressed

in YALSA’s badges, such as those focused on digital literacy, will also be relevant to other sectors of the workforce so that those beyond the original intended audience of librarians and library workers can also pursue and acquire YALSA badges.

                                                 iv. A later phase of YALSA’s Badges for Learning project can

focus on developing badges for teens.  This effort would help create a continuum in the badge ecosystem.  Not only would there be badges aimed at those already in the workforce, but there would also be badges geared toward helping young people prepare for entering the workforce.


d. Partners

                                                    i.YALSA is a subspecialty of the American Library Association

(ALA).  ALA is a natural partner is this effort, especially those parts of the organization that focus on youth and/or providing professional development.

                                                   ii.YALSA will work with state library agency youth services

consultants. These consultants work in state libraries across the country and provide training, support, and information to those serving youth in libraries in their state. They have extensive reach to the librarians and library workers in their state.

                                                  iii.Other partners could emerge as work on YALSA’s Badges

for Learning Project progresses, such as graduate schools of library and information science, state library associations and other nonprofits with similar missions or audiences.


e. Challenges and opportunities


a. Meeting a Need: In today’s world learning happens everywhere.  Badges for Learning can help YALSA provide a way for librarians and library workers to get recognition for the skills they are acquiring outside of a traditional setting.

b. Extending reach: The badge system proposed by

YALSA provides the association with a significant opportunity to help a wide-range of library workers develop or further their understanding of and ability to provide excellent services to young adults.  YALSA’s competencies set a national standard for library staff working with teenagers. Badges are an excellent way not only to reach those who might not otherwise have access to continuing education but also to help them gain the recognition that comes with acquiring the skills. 

c. Upgrading skills: This is also an opportunity for

YALSA to help library staff move into the 21st century in their services to young adults. The badges help the association to achieve that through the integration of technology into the learning that will take place as well as through the collaboration, communication, and innovation that will occur as students gain specific skills and knowledge.

d. Replication & Expansion: YALSA’s initial Badges

for Learning effort will be evaluated and then expanded in YALSA and could also be replicated by others in the library and education communities.



e. Technological capacity: A challenge in the badge

project is in YALSA’s capacity to technologically develop the backend for the badge system. Also, because of requirements of the larger association (the American Library Association) of which YALSA is a part, supporting outside technology systems  sometimes presents a challenge that requires an expert to address.

f. Marketing: with a small staff the association needs to

find ways to inform the library community about the badges, garner interest and momentum, and keep the system vibrant and vital. 

g. Design: YALSA requires support in development of

marketing materials and the visual design of the badges and related marketing materials.

h. Assessment: In order for YALSA’s badges to hold

real value and carry the weight of more traditional degrees, YALSA recognizes that assessment and quality is critical.  YALSA seeks assistance in developing an effective and efficient method for assessing learning in order to determine if a learner has achieved the necessary skill, capacity or competency so that a badge can be issued.  One key need is to match the appropriate type of assessment, whether it is stealth, portfolio or something else, with the type of learning that is taking place.  Some badges will likely contain multiple levels of assessment, depending on the use case or audience.  Determining the logistics to support these processes is needed.

f. Resources

g.     Audience

                                           i.         The primary audience for YALSA’s Badges for Learning is teen services librarians in public libraries and secondary school librarians.

                                          ii.         A secondary, but key, audience are librarian generalists and library support staff who work with teens in a school or public library setting.  Many times these staff members don’t have a clear understanding of how to interact with and serve teens in the library. This badge program will help YALSA make in-roads in this area.

                                         iii.         Other audiences  include educators, afterschool program providers and others who serve adolescents in some capacity.

                                        iv.         An affordable, easily accessible online continuing education effort helps YALSA achieve one of its fundamental goals of providing professional development to librarians and library workers serving teens.  Badges for Learning is a particularly good approach for YALSA to deliver continuing education because our members have demonstrated a need for an alternative from traditional learning.  Professional development options at the local or regional level are limited and the ongoing recession has drastically shrunk library budgets, including funds for continuing education, such as attending conferences and workshops.


h.     Goals

                                           i.         A critical goal of this project is to ensure that librarians and library workers are equipped with the skills they need to effectively serve 21st century teens.  Because of the rapidly changing nature of how information is created and delivered, librarians must constantly learn new skills in order to be effective in their daily work.  Badges for Learning offers librarians and library workers an affordable, efficient and effective way to learn and demonstrate new skills and build capacities or competencies.


A recent survey of public libraries shows that only 51% of public libraries have at least one full time teen services librarian on staff.  In nearly half of America’s libraries, then, teens are being served by individuals who are not specially trained to meet their needs.  The Badges for Learning Project enables YALSA to create and provide an easy way for these individuals to gain important skills, competencies and/or capacities.

                                          ii.         A significant portion of YALSA’s members are individuals who work in a secondary school library setting.  For a variety of reasons, many schools have not embraced social media and do not incorporate digital literacy in a formalized way into their curriculums.  As a result, curriculums in education preparation programs at institutions of higher learning often do not focus on social media or digital literacy.  In many cases this is also the same with continuing education efforts provided at the more local levels to practicing teachers.  YALSA’s Badges for Learning will provide a venue for our school librarian members to gain much needed skills and/or build competencies and capacities.

                                         iii.         Due to the nature of the kinds of work that librarians do, much of their learning happens on the job and through various experiences and interactions. This on the job learning has also become more interactive, informal and creative.  Learning for librarians must also be a lifelong pursuit, as the nature of the work requires them to constantly gain new skills.  At this time, however, there is not widespread recognition of these competencies and skills among library directors and administrators. Therefore YALSA’s Badges for Learning can help librarians get recognition for these new forms of learning.



II.    Technology Considerations

Because YALSA does not currently have contractual relationships with technologists or technologists on staff to build and support a badge system, the association requires assistance in all aspects of the technical infrastructure for the competency-based badge project. This includes:

●      Development of the technology that runs the interactive system for the learners. This includes learner interaction with curriculum content, being able to create and input information and data, creating materials in a variety of formats, and posting materials to YALSA’s various presences on the web.

●      Back-end configuration that will interact with Mozilla's Open Badge Infrastructure and enable YALSA to issue badges.  The technical pieces of the interaction between the YALSA badge system and Mozilla’s badge system will need to be put in place by a technical specialist.

●      Development of assessment tools that will help guarantee that prior to a badge being awarded, the learning demonstrated is high-quality. YALSA seeks assistance in designing the technological infrastructure for the assessments as well as the rubrics to be used in assessing student work.

●      Design of the web presence for the curriculum and learning components. Web developers skilled in information architecture, online learning, web standards, and design will be needed to create a high-quality online presence for the association’s badge project.  It is also anticipated that a mobile version - either a mobile YALSA badge site or an app - will need to be developed in order to support the needs of learners and the association.

●      Technical support to handle any necessary system developments and the initial development and launch of the badging system.


III.   Branding Considerations

YALSA’s logo and colors will need to be included in all aspects of the badge project from the marketing materials to the web presence to the badges.  Many of YALSA’s initiatives subtly integrate the logo and color scheme and this approach is acceptable for the badge project. Examples of the integration of YALSA’s logo into various projects can be seen:

●      In the art work for Teen Read Week 2012 –

●      In the art work for Teen Tech Week 2011 –

●      In the materials provided as a part of YALSA’s Best of the Best –




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