Blogger ALSC Membership Committee

All About Volunteering: Become an ALSC Administrative Assistant

Colorful library of books

In 2021, I had been an ALSC member for 4 years, but I never joined a committee or filled out the volunteer form. I was a student member for three of those years. I wasn’t sure what I was allowed to do as a student member (Spoiler: anything and everything!). But then, I graduated from grad school, started working…and the pandemic happened. 

I was ready to spread my professional wings, but they were confined to my computer.

So I finally looked into what I could do as an ALSC member. I filled out my form, and I was offered a chance to be an administrative assistant to the ALSC Notable Children’s Books Committee. I had no idea what that meant at the time.

What is the Notable Children’s Books Committee?

The Notable Children’s Books committee reads all published works for ages 0-13. Picture books, graphic novels, board books, nonfiction, fiction, early readers, first chapter, biographies, everything. You meet 2-3 times a year to discuss nominations publicly and how they fit into the criteria.

After the Youth Media Awards are announced, the Notable Children’s Books committee compiles, annotates, and publishes the books members voted as most notable for children.

What does an ALSC Administrative Assistant do?

Each committee is different and that means that each administrative assistant would be assigned different tasks.

As an ALSC administrative assistant for Notable Children’s Books, I was the background data collector. I gathered their nominations, tallied their votes, and organized the committee members’ annotations. I was lucky enough to see behind the scenes of a committee before I fully committed to being on one. As a young professional, I was able to witness librarians and ALSC members discuss books in ways I had never seen before. I had been involved in mock awards, but there’s something about seeing a committee discuss the books and weigh them against the criteria that makes it much more high stakes. Notable Children’s Books is a particularly special committee because the discussions are public and anyone can see the – especially in 2021 when they were held on Zoom. 

On the night of the final vote, I stayed up late on Zoom with our chair and tallied the votes. I was not a voting member, but I was part of the team. And together, it felt like we were doing something important.

Why is it beneficial to be an ALSC Administrative Assistant?

At the time, I was just learning how ALSC committees work. By being an assistant, I was able to learn the intricacies of awards and processing committees by simply observing and doing the background data work.

After my time as an ALSC administrative assistant, I became a voting member of the same committee the following year. I attended the Bill Morris Seminar as well as one of KT Horning’s Newbery courses that same year, as well. As soon as I said yes, I spread those professional wings, and I’ve been flying ever since.

If I had known being an ALS administrative assistant was an option early on as a student member, I know I would have jumped at the chance to do it.

And did I get hundreds of boxes of books like the voting members did? Yes, I did.


Olivia McElwain is the Head of Children’s Services at the Reading Public Library in Reading, MA, and a member of the ALSC Membership Committee 2023-2024.

This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development

One comment

  1. Aryssa

    Great insight Olivia!

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