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.

Community Connections

I believe a school librarian’s first order of business is serving as a leader within the school building itself and then within the school district. The focus of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy is librarian leadership that benefits students, other educators, administrators, and families within the school building and district.

That said, instructional leadership and advocacy are two areas in which school librarians’ leadership activities can extend into the community outside the school building. When the greater community is aware of the school library program, advocacy appeals for more resources, staffing, and other types of support will be supported by local businesses, non-profit and civic organizations, and by voters.

Instructional Community Connections
School librarians can be the connectors who bring the resources of the community into the school building. Human resources are often overlooked by busy educators. Bringing in guest speakers and experts in their fields builds bridges for learning and perhaps future career choices for students. School librarians can coordinate or work with a school community liaison to facilitate volunteer tutors and other services offered by individuals and non-profit groups.

Taking students and learning out into the community is another area for school librarian leadership. Field trips to public and academic libraries, museums, universities and colleges connect students to community resources that can support learning. Getting outside the school building and visiting parks and nature preserves or attending fine arts performances enriches students’ lives.

Off-campus student jobs and internships are other ways school librarians can support student learning. As a high school librarian, I wrote a number of reference letters for library aides and other students who were seeking employment or apprenticeships. Based on my experience of students’ work ethic and willingness to learn, I could confidently recommend them to business owners and community organizers.

Community Advocacy Connections
There is no question that the community outside the school building can provide powerful support in advocating for the school librarian’s position and the library program. The more students and educators are out in the community the greater the community’s knowledge of their talents and their needs. When students share their learning, musical or other talents at a school board meeting, parents, voters, and the press are there. In a small school district where I served in a combined junior high/high school library, I co-sponsored and sponsored two sets of student presentations. One was a classroom-library online literacy circles collaboration; the other was the library geek squad who researched and presented the need for computer upgrades.

Making sure the school district and local town/city press cover the contributions of the library program to student learning helps educate the community about the vital learning and teaching facilitated by the school librarian. This will take a strategic and concerted effort on the part of the school librarian and school/district administrators who understand the literacy and learning value added. If and when the school board decides to address a budget shortfall by eliminating school librarians, there should be a hue and cry.

Community and Sustainability
When the school and school library are positioned in the community as sites for literacy and learning opportunities, school library programs have a greater opportunity to survive in the ever-changing, ever-evolving education landscape. It is up to each and every school librarian to make the commitment to sustaining a program that is worthy of stakeholders. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are the benefits of maximizing community connections?
  2. What connections are you making with resources, including human resources, to bridge school and community?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories. School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.