Reflection on #ALAAC19

I think it’s important to reflect on any learning or teaching experience. The American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference (AC) is one of those professional development opportunities that compels us to do so. I appreciate ALA and conference participants who post to social media #alaac19 for making that easy. ALA provides a “Looking Back” page on the conference website and will be adding session recordings in four to six weeks. Presentation handouts are available via the conference mobile app.

Of course, meetings, obligations, and choices make it difficult to take full advantage of all ALA AC has to offer. Focusing on the glass half full, I want to share my stand-out experiences.

On Friday morning, my roommate Connie Champlin and I snagged same-day tickets to the must-visit National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian Museum. We spent most of our visit in the history section of the museum and only had a brief time to take in the culture section. The primary source documents, commentary, and interactive displays are moving and pull no punches. There were many African American children, teens, families, and groups touring the museum. There were numerous times when I wish I could have known how other visitors were responding to the exhibits. I wondered, especially, as I watched a young boy counting bodies in a drawing of a slave ship hold. By contrast in the culture section, Chuck Berry’s cherry red Caddy really shines! (I can’t help it; I grew up in the Motor City.)

Later that day, we met long-time friends and colleagues at the Holiday House reception. This year it was held at the National Press Club. Just being in the room was a reminder of the critical importance of the freedom of the press in sustaining our right to factual information about our government, including the activities of our representatives in Washington, our nation, and global society.

Friday night and Sunday morning, I represented the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association at the American Association of School Librarians’ Affiliate Assembly. These tweets sum up my understanding of the importance of the Affiliate Assembly.

Steven Yates @HeyLibraraman Jun 23
I remain in awe of @aasl’s Affiliate Assembly. A grassroots group coming together to make sure the @AASL board is informed on what’s happening at the state & local levels for school libraries & school librarians. Most of these amazing members are here on their own dime! #alaac19

And my retweet with comment: Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24
#aasl #schoollibrarians take a step up in your #schoollibrarianleadership and become active in your state and national organizations. Learn, network, and contribute to the betterment of our profession. #is445

I have been an active member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) since I started my Master’s work in 1990. (Let’s not do the math…) I have served on or chaired numerous committees and task forces as well as served two tenures on the AASL Affiliate Assembly (AA). The AA shares concerns from the field, recommends other organizations for commendations, and serves as a regional networking channel for state-level school librarian associations/divisions. I also am a member of the Educators of School Librarians Section and the Supervisors Section; I attended their meetings as well.

I highly encourage librarians to get involved in ALA and your chosen ALA division (s). You will learn more than you can imagine and meet and befriend countless lifelong colleagues.

Side note: The AASL President’s Program with author/speaker Matt de la Peña was inspiring. He told a bit of his life story, the male role models who influenced him, and his “secretive poet” beginnings that led him to his career as an author. Matt said this, “Books became my place to feel.” In a world where empathy is in short supply, Matt is paying in forward; his books help readers feel…

Attending the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) Celebration on Saturday evening was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I’m looking forward to reading my copy of Reading Dangerously: The Freedom to Read Foundation Marks 50 Years, with a powerful introduction by Neil Gaiman. Protecting First Amendment rights is the focus of the FTRF; these rights are core values of librarianship. As librarians serving in any location/position, we must stand with other organizations and lend our support for legal action that protects these rights. If you are not familiar with the FTRF, please learn more at: https://www.ftrf.org/page/About

Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24:
Wise and timely quotes from @halseanderson. In dark times, “we are all called to bring our light to the table” “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” @ALALibrary Freedom to Read 50th Anniversary Event. #is445 #YAlit #alaac19

Both speakers, Laurie Halse Anderson and Colson Whitehead, were inspired and hard-hitting. I admit I was unfamiliar with Colson Whitehead’s work. I am in queue at our pubic library for the audio CD of The Underground Railroad. (His latest, The Nickel Boys, is still on order.)

On Sunday, I received the Scholastic Library Publishing Award and attended the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet. I have a tradition of reserving a table and inviting friends to join me for an elegant evening to celebrate the award winners. Friends that they are, they made me pose with the award. In addition to being among friends and fellow/sister children’s literature lovers, this year’s program was delightfully diverse:

WeNeedDiverseBooks @diversebooks Jun 22
If you haven’t stopped by our #ALAAC19 booth yet, come visit us in Booth 813E for swag! We have signed advanced reading copies of THE HERO NEXT DOOR and more. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Public and school librarians should be aware of the activism of @diversebooks (https://diversebooks.org/) This organization is taking a public stand for diversity in children’s and young adult publishing. The Hero Next Door is a collection of middle grade short stories edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. (To learn more about the contributors to this collection, search Amazon.) Following @diversebooks and searching Twitter for #weneeddiversebooks are excellent ways to stay informed of this group’s activities.

Yes! We — children, teens, and those who care for and serve them — need diverse books. “Authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, and book review sources share in this responsibility. Working together, book publishing and book promotion stakeholders can ensure that the literature available to children and young adults is of the highest quality and worthy of all readers” (Moreillon 2019, 7).

The 2020 ALA Conference will be in Chicago. See you there?

Best,
Judi

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Does Cultural Competence Matter? Book Reviewers as Mediators of Children’s Literature.” Children and Libraries 17 (1): 3-8.

#ALAAC18 Reflection

I believe in reflecting after every learning experience. In fact, research shows that reflection/metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking) is the way prior knowledge is modified or changed and new ideas are added to our understandings. At a conference, it is often difficult to make time to stop after every meeting, session, keynote speaker, or event to talk with colleagues or engage in the necessary individual reflection that makes learning happen…

Twitter to the rescue! Now that the conference is over, I have the tweets I posted (plus likes and retweets) to use as reflection prompts. Since I began tweeting at conferences (nearly ten years ago), I have appreciated this social media platform as a tool for reflecting on whirlwinds of information and knowledge, especially for intense multiple-day conferences like the American Library Association Annual Conference, aka #alaac18. These are some of the highlights of my conference experience that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

The Lilead Project
My visit to New Orleans began with a day and a half of learning and strategizing with the Lilead Project. For the past year, this group of 20 changemaker school librarian supervisors, five mentors, and three project administrators has been growing a community of practice. The work of the Lilead Project with school librarian supervisors is a vital component of leadership development and moving the school librarian profession forward. The Lilead Fellows put their knowledge into action in districts across the United States. I am proud to have served as a mentor for the West Coast Lilead group. We will continue to meet and support one another in the coming year.

Left to right: Me, Jenny Takeda, Trish Henry, and Claudia Mason. Since our colleague Janet Wile was unable to remain in New Orleans, the poster she created that illustrates her Lilead action plan/learning is standing in (inadequately) for her behind us.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama
Hearing Mrs. Obama speak was a singular experience. Her strength, determination, poise, and most of all, her authenticity make her a leader and role model for many, including yours truly. I did not tweet or snap a photo during her interview with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. I was too star-struck so I especially appreciate those who did!

While standing in line to enter the auditorium, I was proud to see my hot-off-the-presses book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, displayed in the ALA Store. I especially appreciated and learned from school librarian leadership conversations with Misti Werle, Carolyn Foote, and Pam Harland at various points during the conference. Thank you, ALA Editions for your support and thank you to those who purchased the books before they sold out at the ALA Store.

American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) President’s Program
Part 1: More AASL members should attend this event! The award winners, many of whom brought family members and colleagues from their schools to share their achievement, gave inspirational speeches that captured the depth of their professional practice. I would like to spotlight the work the 2018 National School Library Media Program of the Year (SLMPY) Award recipients Mimi Marquet and Lisa Koch from Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. They even shared their speech in tandem! Such a powerful partnership! Thank you to Follett for sponsoring the SLMPY award.

Part 2: Thank you AASL President Steven Yates for inviting Dr. Jervette Ward as the speaker for his AASL President’s Program. I agree with Dr. Ward that silence on issues related to social justice is not a neutral stance. Silence is a decision and in cases of social justice, it is a decision in favor of oppression.  I have requested that my public library order her book Real Sister: Stereotypes, Respectability, and Black Women in Reality TV I look forward to reading it.

AASL’s Best Websites and Best Apps
The release of the 2018 Best Websites and 2018 Best Apps is a highlight of the annual conference. I appreciate the committee members who vet, annotate, and use these resources and tools in order to share the most effective ones with our colleagues. I was pleased to see the Stanford History Education Group on the Best Websites list. Civic learning is a hot topic in education, and this curriculum makes an outstanding contribution to this effort. I am not as familiar with apps, but I was excited to see Signed Stories among those listed. School librarians are charged with using and integrating tools that support literacy for all students. Thank you, AASL committees, for pointing the way.

A Bright Spot From Home (Arizona)
How wonderful to hear Lisa Morris-Wilkey’s news regarding her work with the Casa Grande (AZ) superintendent. Together, they are restoring elementary librarians positions. Brava, @LMWArizona!

Fake News or Free Speech: Is there a right to be misinformed?
Mary Minow, Damaso Reyes, and Drs. Nicole Cooke and Joyce Valenza each had ten minutes to share a perspective on this timely topic. I wrote about this session in my  6/18/18 “News Based in Facts” post before I left for New Orleans. The panel provided a great deal of food for thought. I appreciated the legal information Mary Minow provided and learned more about the extremely high bar for successfully prosecuting libel, slander, and disinformation cases in court. Here are just few of my tweets related to the other panelists’ comments.

My take-away from the panel is that information literacy and critical thinking are needed now more than ever. I completely agree with Joyce that stepping up our leadership in this area is essential for school librarians. And with support toward that goal, thank you especially, Damaso Reyes, for sharing your work with Checkology.org.

EveryLibrary
The EveryLibrary.org event was a reminder that networking and advocacy are not only essential “work” for librarians, but they can also be fun! Thank you at EveryLibrary for a smashing evening. I especially enjoyed talking with Dorcas Hand (Texas) and Kathy Lester (Michigan) about their advocacy efforts (and the shrimp and corn were real good, too).

The Public
Our profession is indebted to Emilio Estevez for telling this story and shining a light on a little-known role of librarians and libraries in today’s society in his film The Public.

If you did not have the opportunity to see the film at #alaac18, check out the trailer (no spoilers!) and know that the film is exceptional and the ending is perfect! I do hope Emilio Estevez succeeds with his mini-series. If so, I hope he will include the role school librarians and school librarians play in addressing literacy and technology-access gaps and meeting the needs of students, especially those living in poverty.

Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet
For me, sharing the authors’ and illustrators’ inspiring speeches with friends is always a highlight of ALA Annual. It was so fitting that Jacqueline Woodson is the first recipient of the renamed and reconceived ALSC Children’s Literature Legacy Award. Ms. Woodson’s empowered speech was the perfect way to launch this award. View a short view of Ms. Woodson’s response to earning the award. Read information about the name change on the ALA/ALSC website.

Our tablemate Audrey Cornelius snapped this photo at Table #51. Deb Levitov must have been visiting another table at the time the photo was taken. Front row: Connie Champlin, Becky Calzada, me, Pam Berger. Back row: Sheila MacDowell, Dorcas Hand, Karen Perry, and Barbara Stripling. And how fun that by an unexpected turn of events, Audrey, who was in my storytelling course at Texas Woman’s University in 2012, joined us at the table. Such a wonderful surprise!

The Extraordinarily Talented Brian Selznick
Scholastic Publishing invited Brian Selznick to draw the new covers for a Harry Potter 20th-anniversary paperback set book release. Thankfully, he said, “YES!” after creating a sketch that shows all seven book covers as a single poster. In this work, Brian explored the relationships between the characters and battle between good and evil. He used a snake to connect all seven covers. Brilliant! Preorder yours today!

ALSC Charlemae Rollins Presidents Program
Thank you to ALSC President Nina Lindsay for bringing together this esteemed panel to share their research, experience, and perspectives. This is just a quick snippet from the many thought-provoking ideas and questions they raised.

Dr. Emily Thomas started the conversation by pointing out the National Council of Teachers of English Resolution on the Need for Diverse Children’s and Young Adult Books (2015). She also talked about how stories matter and used the image of the cover of Stories Matter: The Complexity of Culture Authenticity in Children’s Literature, edited by Dana Fox and Kathy G. Short. (I have a chapter in that book that shares my journey as a cultural-outsider author of a children’s book.)

You can read about Dr. Debbie Reese’s reaction to name and description changes to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award on her website.

Margarita Engle shared her personal journey as a child who was unable to travel to Cuba to visit her grandmother and family. She had many quotable moments in her talk, including this one:

Jason Reynolds asked this question: “Is it that Black boys don’t read, or is it that Black boys don’t have books to read—mirror books that they can see themselves in?” For many young Black men his Newbery honor book Long Way Down may be just that book.

The continuing need for publishers to publish books from authors and illustrators from underrepresented groups was one take-away from this panel. This is not new, but all librarians can make a difference in how they develop library collections and serve ALL kids in their community. The need for increasing cultural competence among those who review, purchase, and share books is a critical aspect of today’s librarianship. The hashtag #alscallkids sums up a very complex and critical conversation.

Final Day in NOLA
I started the morning of my last day in New Orleans with a walk to Café du Monde, Jackson Square, and the cathedral. After checkout, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a dear long-time friend who lives in the Big Easy. Darlene and I became friends in Tucson during our daughters’ challenging adolescent years. Catching up, eating at Morrow’s (we highly recommend the BBQ shrimp!), shopping for grandchild gifts, and being silly together was the perfect way to wrap up this visit.

Only in New Orleans!

ALA Annual is truly about community for me. When I attend the Midwinter Meeting or the Annual Conference, I feel the camaraderie and excitement of learning with and from our nation-wide professional network. I especially appreciate the social justice and equity actions of our colleagues. I highly encourage you to get involved with our national association and its divisions. They are nothing without YOU!

Graphic courtesy of ALA

News Based in Facts

As I pack my suitcase and organize my schedule for the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans (#alaac18), I am once again reminded of how important our national associations have been and continue to be essential components of my professional learning. In addition to seeing long-time friends and colleagues, participating in the Lilead Project meetings, attending AASL meetings, keynotes, events, and enjoying the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet tradition with select tablemates, I am especially looking forward to this session:

Fake News or Free Speech: Is there a right to be misinformed?
Saturday, June 23rd from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
With James LaRue, Nicole Cooke, Damaso Reyes, Joyce Valenza, and Mary Minow
Morial Convention Center, Room 288

This is the session description:
“‛Fake news’ has always been part of the communication landscape. The difference now is that we are inundated with social media that makes it possible to disseminate “fake news” quickly and easily. In the past ‛fake news’ was used as propaganda to isolate individuals or groups of people, destabilize governments, and foment anarchy. ‛Fake news’ may be inaccurate, dishonest, misleading, intentionally untrue, and even intended to damage the paradigm of factual information. But is it illegal? Is it protected by the First Amendment? Can ‛fake news’ — or suppressing it — undermine our democratic way of life?”

A few days ago, Loretta Gaffney posted a compelling reflection in her Knowledge Quest Blog post: “School Librarians and Truth in an Era of ‘Fake News.” Loretta shared how students had come to her in the library on 9/11 when they were unsure about what was happening in the world. They trusted Loretta and they trusted the information they could access in the library (with her support).
This was the comment I posted to Loretta’s article:

Loretta, Your experience in creating and promoting the library as an information source learners can trust is a model for all of us.

I, for one, would like to see the term “fake news” abandoned by school librarians and the library profession as a whole. Yes, all information/news is a social construct and reflects the perspective of the author/reporter.

However, using the term “fake news” legitimizes it in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Nearly every day, the Arizona Daily Star publishes a “Fact Check” article that has taken up to two pages in our small Tucson newspaper. The constant need for fact-checking our country’s leaders and political candidates is alarming to me.

I believe we can acknowledge that news always has a point of view and still agree that there should be “facts” to back up any information source. I also believe we should expect our leaders to get their facts straight, and we must start holding them accountable at the voting booth.

Let’s give no more credence to “fake news.” Let’s encourage students and classroom teachers to abandon the term in favor of “news” and call the fake stuff what it is: half-truths, distortions, propaganda, outright lies…

To my way of thinking, that would be a start at maintaining the librarian’s and the library’s reputation as a person and place of trust (end quote).

As Brian Bess, Library Assistant, Huntsville Madison County Public Library, recently posted in ALA Connect: “…our mission is to disseminate reliable, reputable, and helpful information to the public…” I agree with Brian and am very much looking forward to learning what others in our profession are thinking at next Saturday’s session at ALA. Could suppressing “fake news” undermine our democratic way of life? Really?

I welcome your comments here. I will post a follow up after the session. Thank you.

Image Created at The Ransomizer.com

National Library Legislative Day and More

A photograph on the Arizona Daily Star opinion page on May 3, 2018, struck a chord with me. If you have been following the national news, you know that Arizona’s teacher walkout and #RedForEd movement has been called a “Norma Rae moment.” Long underpaid and undervalued educators working with large class sizes and antiquated technology in crumbling buildings, Arizona educators and advocates have held Governor Ducey and his majority-Republican legislature’s feet to the fire. Activists are vowing to keep the momentum for improving education for Arizona’s students going through the November election.

The photo on the May 3rd opinion page was of a #RedForEd group in which one of the protesters was a woman holding this sign: “Even LIBRARIANS can’t keep QUIET anymore!”

To my way of thinking, NO ONE who is passionate about youth, learning, and teaching should ever keep quiet about what kind of education today’s young people need to succeed—especially not school librarians.

In that context, I am delighted that hundreds of librarians, library trustees, library patrons, and advocates are in Washington, D.C. for the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day (#NLLD18).

I have never had the opportunity to meet face to face with lawmakers during #NLLD, but I am signed up to participate virtually today, May 7th and tomorrow, May 8th.

I will be emailing, phoning, and Tweeting Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and  Representative Martha McSally during this two-day event to remind them that Arizona’s students, educators, and families need the expertise of school librarians and the services of school libraries.

U.S. school and public libraries have a vital role to play in the health and prosperity of our country. Literacy learning and programming are critical services. From cradle to grave, libraries help patrons and communities meet their life goals. Access to technology tools is one essential service libraries provide. Since one in four households in the U.S. are without Internet connection, school and public libraries help level the playing field by providing students, families, and adults equitable access to the tools of our times and the digital resources that impact daily lives.

Other Library National Advocacy Efforts
ALA members and supporters advocate for their patrons all year long. The ALA Advocacy page provides a rich resource of support. This year, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Advocacy Committee launched AASL Connection (#AASLcxn), a quarterly advocacy and information sharing effort that includes webinars, Twitter chats, and more. The Association for Library Service to Children Everyday Advocacy page provides resources as well.

In addition to these, I highly recommend the work of EveryLibrary.org. Every Library helps school and public libraries organize and sustain advocacy efforts. Signing petitions or tweeting out information for these efforts is a way for librarians to support advocacy initiative across the country. Every Library has also started a peer-reviewed journal called The Political Librarian. As an Every Library monthly subscriber, I am proud to support the activism of my colleagues.

Advocating Closer to Home
I have made a long-time commitment to write as often as possible for Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star newspaper. I believe it is important to speak up locally as well as nationally about school librarianship, particularly in a state like Arizona where so few preK-12 students and educators are receiving the support of state-endorsed school librarians.

Although my letters do not always get published, my passion for our profession and what access to literacy learning means for students keeps me submitting. These are a few of my published letters to the editor and an opinion piece published within the last year.

One Million Arizona Students at Risk.” Arizona Daily Star (Apr. 4, 2017)

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning.” Arizona Daily Star (Nov. 3, 2017).

Early Childhood Education: A First Step that Requires Follow-Up.” Arizona Daily Star Online (Apr. 11, 2018)

I Know Who Goldwater Can Sue.” Arizona Daily Star Online (May 2, 2018).

If school librarianship is to survive, each of us must find our way to speak up and out for our profession. Yes, it is ideal and rewarding when our administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, families, and students raise their voices in support of our work. Yet, there are many who do not have first-hand experience of what school librarians contribute to students’ learning and to other educators’ teaching. It is only by educating the larger community and speaking up for our work that we can expect to change the outdated stereotypes and under valuing of our school librarians and libraries that persist today.

Please join our librarian colleagues, library advocates, and me today and tomorrow for National Library Legislative Day. Think nationally for #NLLD18 and act locally every day. Together—we can make a difference.

Image Courtesy of the American Library Association