Monday, March 14, 2016

Reflections on AASL 2015

The longer I spend as a school librarian, the more overwhelmed I am with what I have yet to learn.  The success of library programs hinges on our commitment to professional growth, reflection, and a willingness to embrace change.  There is no better way to grow as a professional than to attend conferences and other professional development opportunities.

A somewhat underutilized perk of membership in professional organizations is the ability to apply for grants and scholarships.  Bound to Stay Bound Books offers thirty travel grants of up to $750 for first time attendees to go to the AASL National Conference.  Last year, I decided to submit an application.  Someone was going to win – why not me?  I was pleased to learn that I was selected to receive a travel grant.  This financial assistance made attendance at a national conference within reach for me.

In November 2015, I was headed to Columbus, Ohio to attend the conference.  It is a little out of my comfort zone to travel alone, but once in Columbus I was reunited with library friends from across New York.  It is difficult to encapsulate all that goes on at a national conference.  Looking back, the whole experience is still a whirlwind!  I’ll do my best to hit the high points from the experience.

Authors, Authors, Authors
Authors are the celebrities of the library world, so I couldn’t wait to rub elbows with some of my favorites.  AASL hosted dozens of authors.  There were so many authors in attendance that it was impossible to meet everyone I was interested in seeing.  Some of the highlights for me included Brian Selznick, Tim Federle, Sonia Manzano, Rita Williams-Garcia, Loren Long, and Jonathan Auxier.  Sessions throughout the conference also featured authors of engaging nonfiction books.  This gave me some insight into new authors whose works I could bring back to the students at Pioneer Middle.  Two past SLAWNY Fall Sharing authors, Gennifer Choldenko and Matt de le Peña, also attended AASL!

Gennifer Choldenko - one of my favorite authors!

Meeting Celebrity Librarians
Speaking of celebrities, there were phenomenal librarians in attendance at AASL 2015.  It was extremely valuable to attend sessions featuring Diana Rendina (maker librarian extraordinaire), Kristina Holzweiss (School Library Journal’s 2015 School Librarian of the Year), and Leslie Preddy (AASL President).  As an avid Twitter user, it was amazing to see many of the people that I have been following live and in person.  Of course, the NYLA/SSL leadership descended upon AASL in full force!  It was valuable to spend time with New York’s librarians.  We were able to discuss plans and dreams for the SSL 2017 Conference, which will be held in Buffalo and hosted by all of us here at SLAWNY.

So Many Sessions
The days of AASL are jam-packed with sessions.  It is really difficult to choose!  I went to many of the author sessions, but was also able to attend sessions about makerspaces, the future of higher education library programs, and designing library programs on a shoestring budget.  A great perk to attending this conference was that many of the sessions were recorded.  With your AASL membership, you can log into the eCOLLAB service to access videos of sessions you may have missed.

Quality Time with Vendors
Although sometimes we aren’t in the best position when it comes to purchasing, it is important to recognize the importance of vendors when it comes to conferences.  These vendors pay large amounts of money to attend conferences.  This is what makes conference registration fees affordable rather than exorbitant.  At AASL 2015, the vendors were eager to get the word out about their products.  Vendors hosted many special events for participants, including lunches, snack breaks, and giveaways.  During one evening at AASL 2015, the folks at Britannica treated some of us New York librarians to dinner!  It was great to meet the people behind the product and hear more about how to best use their services.

Out to dinner with Britannica and NYS librarians.

Ideas to Use Immediately
The most important takeaway from AASL 2015 was a wide variety of ideas that I will be able to use at Pioneer Middle School.  New authors to introduce, new makerspace ideas, and interesting lesson ideas – the list goes on and on.  Some ideas I have put to work right away, while other ideas remain on the backburner for a better time.

When attending conferences, I am always humbled by the amazing work being done by the great people in our profession.  Conferences provide a valuable forum for idea exchange, learning, and camaraderie.  Please consider applying for the grant and scholarship opportunities available through our professional organizations.  Someone has to win – why not you?

No comments:

Post a Comment