Illinois Youth Services Institute

Illinois Youth Services Institute: Find a New Narrative

Illinois Youth Services Institute 
February 27-28, 2025
Marriott Bloomington-Normal Hotel & Conference Center




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Featured Speakers

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed is the New York Times-bestselling and award winning author of young adult novels Love, Hate & Other Filters; Internment; Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know; and Hollow Fires, as well as the Amira & Hamza middle grade fantasy series. She is the first South Asian Muslim writer of the popular Marvel Comics superhero Ms. Marvel. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in publications and anthologies including The New York Times, Who Will Speak for America, Take the Mic, Color Outside the Lines, Vampires Never Get Old, and A Universe of Wishes.

Born in Bombay India and raised in Batavia, Illinois (Go Bulldogs!), Samira spent countless hours at the library in her small hometown nestled in an oversized armchair next to an old Victorian fireplace with her nose in an Agatha Christie novel or re-reading Little Women, hoping that Jo would somehow end up with Laurie this time. Samira always loved to write— especially poetry–but never actually dreamed of becoming a writer until she was an adult and an idea for a story captured her imagination and wouldn’t let go.

She received her BA and MAT from the University of Chicago and went on to teach high school English in both the suburbs of Chicago and the New York City Public Schools. After she left the classroom, she worked in education non-profits, helping to create more than seventy small high schools in New York City and fought to secure billions of dollars in public school funding throughout New York State.

Samira’s work is often informed by her own encounters with racism, the alarming rise in hate crimes throughout the United States, and her steadfast belief in the power of hope and human connection. These days, Samira lives in the Midwest. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found on her lifelong quest for the perfect pastry.


Kate Reynolds

Kate Reynolds

Kate Reynolds was diagnosed with autism in 2020 after years of physical and mental health struggles. Diagnosis was rebirth. In the years since, Kate - like many other neuroflavourful people - has begun a momentous shift from surviving to thriving. Join Kate as she shares her story and describes how folks of all neurotypes can better calibrate their lives and careers.

Kate Reynolds, best known to her over 40k followers as the Lavender Librarian, is a soprano, writer, speaker, patient advocate, content creator, and public librarian. In 2020, Kate began blogging as “Lavender Librarian,” to help share her silly mask songs with other library workers as the world worked to stay safe from COVID-19. In 2021, she expanded her influence and created the Storytime Solidarity Facebook group to support librarians, teachers and families in the mission to bring inclusive, affirming, and anti-racist books and music to children.

Today Kate leads a global team of volunteers helping to make storytime more inclusive with their 6k+ member Facebook group, active presence on social media, and website welcoming up to a thousand users each week. Kate’s leadership has also earned the Solidarity team the honor of presenting the 2023 AB kids series through the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, as part of their children, libraries and literacy initiative. The chair and series honors the legacy of Augusta Braxton Baker, the first African American, coordinator of the children’s services with NYPL and a role model for librarians. Kate is grateful for the opportunity to share her wisdom with so many helpers through her Storytime Solidarity and Lavender Librarian platforms.


Call for Proposals

The Illinois Youth Services Institute (IYSI) call for proposals will open on August 1, 2024. Proposals will be due October 25, 2024.

This institute is developed in partnership with the Illinois Library Association, LACONI Youth Services, Reaching across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and the Illinois HEartland Library System (IHLS).

This Institute is developed in partnership with Illinois Library AssociationLACONI Youth ServicesReaching Across Illinois Library System, and Illinois Heartland Library System.

IYSI 2025 Planning Committee

Tina Ruszala, Palos Heights Public Library 
Alissa Janchenko, New Lenox Public Library


Jess Alexander, Morton Grove Public Library
Ann Baillie, Alsip-Merrionette Park Public Library
Sara Bell, Dunlap School District
Lyndsey Carney, Normal Public Library
Leah Gregory, Illinois Heartland Library System
Stuart Griner, Chicago Public Library 
Lindsey Herron, Wood River Public Library
Andie Kelch, Brimfield Library
Kate Kite, Illinois Heartland Library System 
Melisa Martinez, West Chicago Public Library District
Margae Schmidt, Reaching Across Illinois Libraries System

Staff Liaison
Kristin Pekoll, ILA Conference and Continuing Education Manager
Becca Boland, ILA & iREAD Content and Development Manager


Join the Conversation! #IYSI2025 

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