The International Association of School Librarianship Conference was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from October 21 – 25. Two hundred forty librarians from forty-five countries gathered, for five days of learning, sharing, and networking. I met so many fine members of our profession who are serving children and teens through vibrant school library programs and educating preservice school librarians from all around the globe. This was a profession-affirming experience for me.
Rather than hanging out exclusively with U.S. colleagues, I made an extra effort to meet and talk with school librarians and school librarian educators from non-U.S. countries. I met and talked with many Croatian school librarians, including Tatiana and her colleagues. Heather, a school librarian educator from Norway, shared aspects of her program that intrigued me. My path crossed frequently with three school librarian colleagues from an international school in Switzerland; Corinne earned my giveaway copy of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership and will share it with her library services partners. It was also a deep pleasure to re-meet Kathleen who serves an international school in Jordan. Nine years ago, Kathleen was a Texas Woman’s University graduate student in “Librarians as Instructional Partners.” She is doing well… leading and collaborating.
I based this reflection on a review of my notes and tweets. This post could never be comprehensive in all that I heard and learned, but these are some of the highlights. You can access all of the conference tweets; I collected them in a #IASL2019 Wakelet.
Highlights from Keynotes
Dr. Ivanka Stričević, University of Zadar, Department of Information, Croatia, and Vanja Jurilj, President of the Croatian Association of School Librarians kicked off the conference: “School Libraries and Librarians: Wild Waters and an Anchor.” Ivanka, the “wild waters” portion of the talk, shared three necessary conditions for the school library to serve as a learning agent in transforming information into knowledge. The third condition, situating the library in the curriculum, she attests is the most challenging and yet a whole-school concept of information literacy and inquiry are essential. Vanja, “the anchor,” asked us to think deeply about our source, the our values that give us the power to enact change.
Darryl Toerien, Head of the Library and Archives at Oakham School in the UK retold his journey to influence his colleagues toward an inquiry model of learning. In his quest to focus on research-based pedagogy, he discovered Dr. Carol Kuhlthau’s information-seeking process and the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum heavily influenced by Barbara Stripling. His example of leadership with a focus on changing the educational paradigm in his school was empowered. I wished current students in “School Library Media Center” could have heard and been inspired by his talk.
Dr. Ross Todd, School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, provided the final thought-provoking keynote: “Young People Living Safe Lives: Convergence, Challenges, and Chances.” Ross challenged us to think about how adults view children’s safety in online environments. Do we acknowledge and honor what kids already know about interacting online? Do we underplay the benefits of online learning when we focus on safety? Do we exaggerate risks and instill fear, or even bully youth and rob them of agency? Students in “Information Books and Resources” in spring 2020 will have the opportunity to test and comment on Dr. Todd’s thinking and research findings when we analyze lessons from Common Sense Education.
In his thoughtful workshop, “The Vital Role School Libraries Play in Developing Empathy,” Doug Johnson, Media and Technology (Retired), Burnsville, Minnesota, USA, included 7 myths about empathy and research that supports the idea that people who read fiction have more developed “people skills” than other readers. Doug’s workshop made a strong connection for me with a thread that runs through the UI-UC course I teach called “Information Books and Resources.” We focus on global books and resources in the course and discuss and experience the ways various genres of books touch our hearts and minds. Thanks to Doug, I will have an additional way to approach literature to build empathy in our classroom.
Janine M. Asmus, school librarian at Leyden High School District 212, Illinois, USA, shared a fast-paced, multimodal presentation to spotlight engaging, creative library programming. She noted unique partnerships within the school building and with school alumni that helped make these programs successful. The result? Library stakeholders’ value for the library (and the librarian, too – my inference) has skyrocketed. Participants left the room with many adaptable ideas and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Jonathan Cain, a Leyden alum, running through our heads!
And I would be remiss if I did not share my own workshop: “Empowered Leadership: Building Connections for Transforming Teaching and Learning” (Judi Moreillon). About fifty participants engaged in hands-on activities to uncover the forces that propel or restrain their leadership. They created a diffusion of innovations map to support their efforts to be strategic in spreading their influence in their school communities. The librarians pictured here hung around after the workshop to continue the conversation. I was honored by their interactivity and their willingness to explore strategies for leading.
There were so many excellent presentations, I only have space to share a few standout paraphrases or quotes here.
When students consider whether or not to apply a new technology tool, they consider the ROI (return on investment) before investing time in learning a new tool. When introducing, suggesting, or requiring a new tool, educators are wise to consider the student perspective. Dr. Lyn Hay, Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia
“STEM is community based and responds to community needs,” Dr. Melissa P. Johnston, University of West Georgia, USA (Melissa is conducting research to learn how to support school librarians with humanities backgrounds in becoming STEM literate.)
“We need to emphasize not only the skills, but the heart of this profession,” Dr. Karen N. Reed, Middle Tennessee State University, USA (Karen is studying how librarians’ emotional connectedness to their school communities guides their work.)
“The school library is the most powerful classroom,” Dr. Mary Moen, University of Rhode Island, USA. In her research, Mary found that many effective school librarians are described as “exceptional teachers,” “champions of change,” and “digital divas.” Mary also shared an in-progress advocacy video focused on school librarians telling their stories. She asked the audience for feedback.
Madeleine Jane Viner’s eyes sparkled when she shared how fourteen-year-old boys clambered to get to her read-aloud events at St. James College, Bentleigh East, Victoria, Australia, every face in the room lit up with bright smiles. Madeleine shared how she increases student ownership in the library at their all-boys school.
International Association of School Librarianship
Although I have attended two IASL conferences in the past, both were held in the U.S. A conference held in another country ensures that our U.S.-centric perspectives and experiences do not dominate the conference. I feel as though I have been given a gift to truly see school librarianship from a global perspective
If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend an IASL conference, I highly recommend it. The next one will be in Denton, Texas, in June, 2020. If you are a library science student, consider becoming a student member at a reduced rate. To learn more, visit the IASL website and check out the GiggleIT Project, too!
A huge thank you to our Croatian hosts and conference committee. We all appreciate your generosity, hard work. and attention to details. This was a stellar learning, sharing, and networking conference experience.
And if you ever have the opportunity to visit Dubrovnik, take it! The Old City is rich in history and culture, the people are friendly, the food is delicious, and if you are as lucky as we were, the sun will shine on the salty Adriatic Sea and invite you in for a refreshing swim!