Thursday, July 4, 2013

ALA 2013 Highlights

Summer vacation started with a bang for me last Thursday with my trip to Chicago and the American Library Association Annual Conference. I am definitely a conference junkie: I am addicted to the boost of new energy and ideas I gather at each conference I attend. Not only are there always lots of great sessions, but the networking with old and new friends alone makes attendance worthwhile. And, then, there’s always a lot of just plain fun. ALA 2013 was no exception. My only complaint was too much of everything – too many sessions to choose from, too many people in lines to get books signed, too much walking from one end of the convention center to the other, too big a great city with so little time to see it, and … too many highlights to share. Here are just a few of the highlights for me:

On Friday, I attended the "Breaking Out: Veronica Roth and Debut Authors from The Class of 2k13 Discuss Their Upcoming Books." Like many in the audience, I really went because of Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, one of the hottest current YA series. In fact, Veronica Roth was the moderator of a panel of 16 middle grade and YA authors who are having their first novel published this year, and I was in for a super session learning about all their books! These authors have formed the group The Class of 2k13: Books Without Boundaries to support each other and publicize their books.  They treated us to lightning speed summaries of each of their books, followed by a fun game of book trivia, and ended the session with great book and swag give aways! As a result of attending, I learned about 16 books I might not have discovered otherwise and made it a goal to get and read as many of them as I can. During the session, I had the pleasure of sitting with Geoffrey Girard and got the ARC of his Project Cain, due out this September.

On Friday night and Sunday morning, I attended the AASL Affiliate Assembly. Janice Gilmore-See and I are currently CSLA's representatives to this group, which is made up of reps from each of the participating state school library associations. Jessica Gillis, CSLA's VP of Communications, also attended with us as Region 7's Director Elect. As of the end of the conference, Jessica became Director for Region 7. Hooray, Jessica! While we conducted business during the assembly - mostly endorsing concerns we want AASL to address and commendations to other organizations supporting school library work - the best part of participating in this group is learning news from AASL and getting to establish new relationships and hear good ideas from other state organizations. I came away with lots of  new friends to network with and ideas I can share with CSLA.

On Saturday, AASL hosted its President's Program. The keynote speaker was Mark Edwards, Superintendent of the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District (MGSD), the 2013 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Superintendent of the Year, and recent host to President Obama during the announcement of the White House’s ConnectED initiative. He left everyone in the room wanting to clone him in our own districts as he spoke about how he has reshaped education in his schools. He shared how his district implemented a digital conversion to 1:1 laptops, keeping the teachers at the heart, and "preparing students for their futures, not our past." He emphasized the importance of an "all in!" approach, remembering that every single child counts, that community involvement is essential, as well as good planning, professional development, and reflection time for teachers. Students, who monitor their own progress, see the connection in their project-based work to their futures. He also emphasized the important role of librarians as leaders who must touch every teacher and administrator in this process. For another account of the session, check out "Loving kids, having fun, using digital resources," Judi Paradis's posting for the Massachusetts School Library Association blog. 

Plates from an early Encyclopedia Britannica edition
Another special highlight of the conference for me was my visit to Britannica's Headquarters. Britannica staff hosted a lovely reception on Sunday night and treated us to a tour of their facility. We learned that the Encyclopedia Britannica has been published continuously since 1768, and has been an American company since the early 20th century. With its long history, the contents of each edition have become primary sources reflecting thinking of the time. Since the company's decision in 2012 to become strictly digital, Britannica has made an arrangement with the Library of Congress to create and deposit a digital copy each year so that this tradition of providing a snapshot of the time can continue. 

Please see my posting on the AASL Blog for my account of the AASL Awards Luncheon and, if you are a teacher librarian, make plans to apply for one of AASL's awards next year. 

The last event of the conference for me was a concert with singer Janis Ian. Her beautiful voice and lovely songs made for a perfect conference wrap up for me. In between songs, she shared how she believes that artists keep hope and vision alive during difficult times. She asked us to remember, when we are worn down by fighting for funding and positions, that we are helping students in our libraries to become the artists of the future, just as she was nurtured by librarians when she was young. 

I know as soon as I post this that I will regret leaving out so many other conference highlights! But, I have reading to go do ... 
My "haul" of new books & ARCs from the conference
not to mention checking out all the 2013 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning and brand new this year, Best Apps for Teaching & Learning.