Saturday, December 5, 2015

Google for Education Certified Innovator Applications Open

Attending the Google Teacher Academy in July 2014 was one of the most transformative experiences in my career as a teacher librarian. I am an admitted conference "junkie," and come away from every conference and workshop I attend energized with new ideas. The Google Teacher Academy, though, allowed me to mingle with and be inspired by 64 other attendees, plus a couple of dozen Googlers and lead learners/organizers, every single one of whom was determined to think outside the box, take risks, stretch themselves, and lead positive change in their home turf. The group energy was truly electrifying! And, it hasn't stopped; we still communicate via social media to exchange ideas.

After over a year's hiatus while the Google team was reconceptualizing the Google Teacher Academies and transforming the title of attendees from "Google Certified Teacher" to "Google for Education Certified Innovator," applications are now open for the next academy. Here's the description on the Google for Education Certified Innovator page of the kind of candidates they are looking for:

"... people who:

  • Are ambassadors for change and empower other educators and students
  • Want to change the world of education by tackling complex opportunities to develop new-to-the-world solutions
  • Already foster a thriving innovation culture within their classrooms, schools and organizations"

That sure sounds to me exactly like what any good teacher librarian does. While I loved mingling with all the other teachers at my academy, I was disappointed that there weren't more librarians there. In fact, there was only one other person working as a school librarian and in the process of earning his credential, and one English teacher working towards a teacher librarian credential. We need more teacher librarians at the next and future academies bringing their unique skills and perspectives to the mix. So .... please apply!

Here are just a few of what could be many reasons why you'll find attending a Google Teacher Academy valuable:
  • You will see great examples of new and better ways to engage students, and help them explore their passions, learn to solve problems, and prepare for their futures
  • You will become part of a cohort of enthusiastic people you can network with and share ideas with, and, yes, be intimidated, but in a good way, by all their talents
  • You will be infected with Google's "can do" attitudes and teamwork models 
  • You will be inspired to share your new ideas and expertise with your colleagues, PLN, and the world
  • You'll be pushed to be a Moonshot thinker!
And, here's why we should have lots of teacher librarians in this next and every cohort:
  • Like I said, don't the characteristics Google is looking for sound like what we know all good teacher librarians should be? Teacher librarians are naturals for this!
  • We need Googlers, the other cohort members, and all our fellow educators to see what we TLs do and how much our expertise contributes to positive change.
  • A big theme of the academy was the value of team work. We teacher librarians are not just leaders, we are also excellent collaborators and team players. 
  • We are experts at spreading the word, both right at home and far and wide, about any new ideas and tools we find valuable. If you love Google like I do, you will learn more about what you love and then share that with the rest of of your TL and educator PLN.
  • You'll love the experience! 
The deadline for applications is January 11, 2016, and this academy will be held at Google World Headquarters in Mountain View, February 24 - 26, 2016. I was fortunate to have my academy at Google World Headquarters, and the experience of visiting there and observing Google culture alone was an amazing experience.

Check this link for all the information. And, please contact me if I can help you in any way with your application.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

December 3D Printing Challenge-Holiday Cookie Cutters!

During this Thanksgiving week, I am so incredibly grateful to my Personal Learning Network of teacher librarians and other educators. I've also been so grateful to have some time with my family, AND to catch up a bit on planning for my school library! Here is a plan I just drafted for a "December Challenge" to encourage my students and teachers alike to get going with designing for our 3D printers. I'll be sharing it with my staff and students on Tuesday. In the meantime, please share any thoughts or suggestions to help me tweak it. And, as I borrowed it from the great blog, feel free to borrow this December challenge idea from me.

Once I get my "sample" cookie cutters printed, I'm planning to try putting out some play dough to let students see the cookie cutters in action. I don't have an oven in the library, but perhaps I can also bake some real cookies to bring in before the break.

If this embed of my Google Doc doesn't display well, you can view it at this link.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My #AASL15 Adventures (#myaasl)

For a couple of years now, my "main" method of note-taking from conferences and other events has been tweeting and favoriting tweets by others attending the same event. Here's my summary of my experiences and take-aways at last week's amazing American Association of School Librarians' conference, told through Twitter compiled with Storify, one of my favorite storytelling tools:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

EdTechTeam San Diego Summit

I recently had the pleasure of attending the EdTechTeam's San Diego Summit featuring Google for Education in Coronado, CA. I blogged in August about the sessions I presented at the Orange County Summit. While I repeated the same two sessions, "Google Forms: You Can't Live Without Them" and "Become a Google Images Ninja," I made some updates to both of them. So, here are the slides from this Summit:

I learn so much from these professional development events, both as I prepare my sessions and interact with the attendees, and, of course, from all the great sessions presented by others. Two of the items on my "to do" list after this summit are piloting Imagine Easy's new Google Scholar, which will be replacing soon, and sharing Soundtrap with students and teachers at my school.

It was also fun meeting up with some of the members of my 2014 Mountain View Google Teacher Academy, Adina Sullivan, Dan Bennett, Mark Rounds, and Ryan Archer:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Creating Vibrant, Customized QR Codes

As part of my annual library orientation for 9th graders, the students do a scavenger hunt, finding various items in the library. Some of the activities require them to scan QR codes. In one case the QR code takes them to a clue of what they need to search in the library catalog. In another, I ask them to scan codes to reach and follow one of the library's social media options - our blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Instagram feed. I'll be writing more about the the scavenger hunt in the Mira Costa High School Library Blog. For this posting, I am focusing on creating QR codes.

There are plenty of QR code generators out there. Most create a simple black QR code. For my scavenger hunt and library walls, though, I wanted something prettier and more dynamic. So, I went with my current favorite custom QR code generator: Snipp QR ( This site allows you to choose custom colors, a whole variety of styles, and to add logos and other images to the center of your code to easily identify what the code is for.

Here are some of the QR codes I made:

As you can see, each of them:
  • identifies where it goes to with either a logo or text in the middle
  • is in Mira Costa's "green and gold" colors
Here's a quick rundown of how I made them, in case you would like to make your own vibrant, customized QR codes:
  1. Go to Snipp QR.
  2. Paste in the URL of the site where you want the QR code to take the scanner.
Note: If the URL for your site is long, use a URL shortener, like, to shorten it first. The shorter the URL the less busy and more attractive the QR code will be.
  1. Choose the body style and eye style you want. The body is the main design. The eye style is the three eye-like elements you see in three of the four corners of the design. To give you an idea of how these work, here's a design with "normal" body and "normal" eyes. 

          And, here, as a comparison, is one with a fuzzy body design and warped eyes:

  1. Next, choose the colors. You can have different colors for the foreground, background, and the eyes if you like. I went with Mira Costa's green for the foreground, and gold for the eyes, and left the background the default white. When you click on one of these three options, a Select Color box appears. You can either move your cursor around in this box to select a color, or you can type or paste in the html color code for an exact color. 
  1. If you want to match an exact color, one of the tools to use is the Chrome Eye Dropper extension. You can add it to your Browser by selecting Chrome Settings, then search for the extension. I clicked on the extension in the toolbar, and then selected the colors I wanted from the school website. As you can see here, it then displays the code for your selected color, and you can copy that into your clipboard and paste it into the Snipp QR Select Color box:

  1. Next, click on Image to display options for inserting an image in the middle of the code. You can choose from a number of icons, like the Twitter icon I added in the example below, or you can upload your own image:
  1. To create your own image to upload for the QR code center, you can use, Google Drawings, or any other graphics application. 
  2. As you will see when you visit Snipp QR, there are a number of other options available that you can explore, but you don't need to use them all! 
  3. Do make sure to test the code by clicking the Test Code option:
           It will confirm if the test worked.
  1. Also actually test the code yourself with your own QR code reader. If you don't yet have a QR code reader, a great free choice to go with is i-nigma. I learned about it several years ago from Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian. Just search for it in the Apps Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Oddly, Snipp QR doesn't have a Save button, but it lets you email the code to yourself. When you do, you can choose the format, with options including .png, .bmp, .jpeg, .pdf, and .pdf. I usually to select .png, a good graphics file option. Another easy way to save, if you have a Mac, is to simply do a screen capture by holding down Cmd+Shift+4 all at once, then dragging from one corner of the image to the opposite diagonal corner while holding down your mouse or trackpad. This creates a .png of the image on your desktop.  
  3. You can now import the graphics file into a Word processing document or display it with the Preview app on your Mac to print. 
Snipp QR offers so many lively options for QR codes. Have fun exploring them and making cool codes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nurturing a Love of Reading

Yeah .. that's me1
I've been playing catchup today on reading the latest postings from my blog subscriptions and discovered a new discussion thread. Several days ago, Jennifer LaGarde, "Library Girl," wrote a compelling post which eloquently shares how she became a book lover and how that wasn't based on any reading instruction or incentive programs, but on librarians and teachers who nurtured her reading and gave her choice. She urged all of us to be those champions for students. (I know I'm way oversimplifying her moving story. Please, please read the original for yourself.) Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian, and others commented on the post. Gwyneth wrote her own amazing post about her history as a passionate reader and challenged us all to do the same. If you haven't read that, please, please go do that now. Gwyneth's posts are always not only insightful and entertaining, but the graphics she creates to tell her stories are a second-to-none experience all on their own. Next, Tamara Cox, the Eliterate Librarian, shared her story, and urged us to read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, a book I also found truly transformative in its suggestions for how to build a culture of reading for students.

So, taking up Gwyneth's challenge, here's my story, with three important memories of what made me love reading:

I was blessed as a child because both of my parents read aloud to me from a very early age. I wish I could remember all those books. Several, though, are clearly cemented in my head: A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six, Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse,  Bemelmans' Madeline books, and Barrie's Peter Pan. To this day, I can still recite parts of each of these - not because I ever tried to memorize them, but because I heard them so often that I couldn't help but remember them. I always loved books and wanted to be a reader myself because my parents brought books alive for me and made me want to read before I could myself.

I was also blessed from early elementary school through my young preteen years to have a children's librarian (I wish I could remember her name) at my local public library - just one block from our house, so I was able to go all by myself from a pretty early age - who was willing to spend endless time walking around with me during every visit suggesting books. Each time I went, I left with a huge stack of books. I usually discarded one or two of them, but read all the rest, and she made it clear that it was okay not to continue with books that didn't speak to me. One of my favorite discoveries during those visits was the Dr. Doolittle series. While, other than the Landmark biography series, I have always been much more of a fiction person than nonfiction reader, she also shared a book with me that lead to a lifelong hobby - Dolls to Make for Fun and Profit by Edith Flack Ackley. I was so taken with the book that my mother agreed to buy me my own copy, which I still own. After I made a number of dolls from the patterns in the book, the librarian even talked me into to lending them to the library to display in the entry hall exhibit case for a few weeks. I was so proud to have my creations on exhibit in the library! While I didn't think about becoming a librarian until years later, those days at my local public library definitely made me a lover of not just books but of libraries.

And, finally, I was blessed with a third grade teacher, Mrs. Schwartzman, who made a ritual of reading aloud to us. I couldn't wait each day to hear Mr. Popper's Penguins and several of the Mary Poppins books read with incredible expression. To this day, I love being read to. I guess that's why I'm an audiobook fan. I think we stop reading aloud to children way too early. Sadly, I don't get to read aloud to high school students, but I know when I was a middle school librarian that the students really enjoyed lunchtime read alouds.

As Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Tamara all shared, my love of reading never had anything to do with reading instruction or incentives. It did have a lot to do with being read aloud to, never ever being told that there was any book I shouldn't/couldn't read, and a lot of indulgence by my parents and librarians in helping me find the right books for me.

As I write, a lot more memories are coming back, and I could probably go on forever with one after another, but I'll share just one more: I was a true goody-two-shoes in school and almost never got in trouble. One day, though, I remember my teacher getting surprisingly angry with me that I had not heard or responded to some direction she gave me. I really hadn't heard her, because I was completely absorbed in the book I was reading. I was living in the world of the book, not the classroom. I also recall, over and over again, "surfacing" from a book and grieving for losing that world I had just inhabited. I even grieved at having to "give up" some really depressing or scary experiences of characters in those book worlds to return to my much more comfortable and safe real world. All those worlds I lived in while I was reading played a huge role enabling me to understand the world outside my own and develop empathy for people different from me.

My wish for all the other teachers, librarians, and parents out there is that you to do everything you can to help your students lose themselves in books. It can happen if you guide them to find books that speak to them. It was one of the greatest gifts of my youth and one every child deserves. Let's all do all we can to give our students that gift.

So ... what's your story?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Google for Education Orange County Summit Rocked!

I spent the last weekend (August 1 and 2) at the EdTechTeam Google for Education Summit in Orange County. What an empowering weekend it was! The EdtechTeam has done an amazing job of bringing together presenters and attendees who are passionate about students and education and want to learn from each other.

My experience started some weeks before the summit when I was invited to submit proposals to present and then received the go ahead to do the two sessions I proposed, one on "Google Forms: You Can't Live Without Them!" and the other on "Become a Google Images Ninja." I don't know why I thought putting these two sessions together would be easy, since preparing for a presentation never is for me. Instead - and I really should know this by now - preparing a session for me means taking a topic or skill I feel savvy about, throwing me back to feeling like a complete beginner, and then, after a considerable amount of hard work and pretty big dose of stress, finally getting ready. Here's a Google Drawing I just made of how the timelines works for me:

Here's a link to a larger version you can more easily read, since I can see that fitting it in here makes the type too small. By the way, Google Drawings is one of the cool tools I shared during the Images session.

I am not sure whether my experience as a presenter is typical or not; I do know that it's the norm for me. The good news is that I always learn so much from the process, and I feel like it was all worthwhile once I'm done.

My Sessions

Here's a short summary of my own two sessions:

The Google Forms session was intended to bring people brand new up to speed on Forms and to inspire everyone - new or not so new - with new ideas of how to take advantage of them. By me, Forms, along with Google Docs, are the cornerstone of a paperless classroom. I shared examples of how they can capture and share any type of information, crowd-source ideas, and be used for voting, flipped instruction, differentiated instruction with the "go to page based on answer" option, quizzes and assessments, validating answers, grading rubrics, exporting data to Google maps, and more.

And, did you know that you can send notifications, not just to yourself, but to the form submitters when they submit a form, using the Form Notifications add-on? Did you know you can automatically create a document that uses the input data and is shared with the form submitter? (Use the Form Publisher add-on.) And, you can even use the Flubaroo spreadsheet add-on to automatically grade quizzes. I really love Forms! The slides weren't intended to be self-explanatory, so please contact me with any questions about my slides or Forms in general.

My Forms slides:

For my "Become a Google Images Ninja!" session, I pulled together all the different ways you can find, enhance, and create images using Google tools. I also included a short "101" on copyright, fair use, public domain, and Creative Commons. I am a huge fan and supporter of Creative Commons to build a more creative world, and I welcomed the opportunity to share this message and the importance both of sharing and respecting intellectual property with my colleagues attending the session. Here I am in the Creative Commons T-shirt:

Here are the slides from that session. Be sure to contact me for more information about these as well:

I also did a quick Slam session on why I love for creating URL shortcuts to share:


There were way too many great takeaways to list here, and they include the wonderful people I met and new and renewed connections I made as much as any of the session content. I still have a lot of processing to do, and will also be going through the materials from some of the sessions I wasn't able to attend.

Here are just a handful of the ideas and new knowledge from sessions I can now share with my colleagues at my school:

Google Classroom

I attended two sessions that focused on Google Classroom. One was by Laura White, (@thinkteachtech) all the way from Bramley, England who shared wonderful templates she uses for student project based learning at her school. The templates take students through the entire cycle from establishing their mission, timelines, research, presentations, to end-of-cycle self-reflections. Thanks to this virtual environment, her students, who frequently travel during school breaks, can work on their group projects and get feedback from anywhere without having to meet live. She also suggested setting up small sub-Classrooms for each group to give them a more comfortable environment for sharing with each other. I can definitely take these templates and ideas back to my own teachers.

The second Classroom session I attended was with Katie Stephens. Katie brought us up to speed on all the new enhancements to Classroom since its launch last year. I got lots of practical tips on adding additional teachers to classes, drafting assignments for later publishing, archiving classes, and more. Like Laura, Katie suggested creating small Classroom subgroups for group work and differentiated instruction. I really liked her idea of creating a Classroom for the teachers at the school to use for collaboration.

Group Challenges 

James Sanders was the opening keynote speaker and his topic was "Resume of Failure." He challenged us to try new ideas, not be afraid of failure, and persevere from failure to ultimate success. This is a message we need to remember both for ourselves and our students. I was inspired by his stories and enthusiasm.

It is always difficult to decide between concurrent sessions to attend at a summit or conference like this, but I kept being drawn to James' sessions. The first one introduced me to BreakoutEdu, a learning game tool he has developed that is now in beta testing. It is designed for about 12 participants. Our group was presented with a story, a box with four locks on it, and a classroom in which clues were hidden around the room. Our mission was to work together and find and use the clues to open the box. The game could be adapted to both student groups and professional development to hone problem-solving and team-building skills. Our group worked well together, and we accomplished our mission in the allotted time! We were very proud. :-)
A video posted by Natalie Priester (@npriester) on
Thanks for the video, Natalie!

I would like to get one of the kits for my school and try it out with clubs, small class groups, and teachers, then challenge them to become the creators of adventures for others.

Leveling up Chrome

Dan Bennett is an amazing guru on all things Google tools. I was able to attend one of his sessions on "Google Toolbox: Level up Your Chrome" and was sorry that I couldn't get to more. I came away with all sorts of tips to help me be more efficient using Chrome, both for myself and for what I share with students and teachers. Thank you, Dan!

More Inspiration

The keynotes on Saturday were also inspirational. Molly Schroeder started the day with the upbeat message to "live in beta," try something new and then iterate, and to go for the moonshot. And Tracy Purdy sent us away with a challenge to take advantage of the tools available today to go beyond the four walls of our classrooms, giving our students access to instant knowledge, global connectivity, and experiential adventures that will help them better understand the world and make a difference in it.

I think it's safe to say that we all left motivated to take up those challenges. We also left wanting to return for another summit of inspiration. I know I'll be back to another one soon! And, yes, I will fret and stress while I prepare my own presentations, but afterwards I'll be so glad I did. :-)

Meeting up with some teacher librarian friends at the summit:

(Those of you who know me know that I am a big Twitter fan. I included Twitter links for the people I mentioned above. They are all great people to follow if you aren't already.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

ALA Part 3 - AASL Sessions, Storify Summary, & More

This is Part 3 of my ALA Conference reflections. See Part 1 and Part 2.

Besides the YALSA-sponsored young adult author sessions I attended at the American Library Association Conference in San Francisco in June, many of my activities centered around AASL (American Association of School Librarians) events. Here are some of the highlights:

I just completed my second year as a member of the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee, and I participated on the panel session in which we announced and described our 25 site selections for 2015. Here's our slideshow:
And, you can see descriptions of each of the sites here.

I also attended AASL's Best Apps presentation and learned about some great apps I want to experiment with and share with colleagues and students. Here's the link to their presentation and a link to the list and descriptions.

If you have websites or apps you want to recommend for the 2016 list, be sure to submit them on the AASL website. You can submit a website recommendation here and an app recommendation here.

Another session I particularly enjoyed was Nancy Jo Lambert (one of my Twitter PLN buddies) and Stacy Cameron's "Resource Re-Defined: Libraries as Learning Spaces." Both of them are from Frisco USD in Texas. The session gave me a lot of ideas and food for thought on modifications I can make in my library to better attract and serve my students. Both Nancy Jo and Stacy stressed that it's best to start small; even small changes, such as  rearranging furniture and getting a few maker space supplies, can make a difference. Nancy Jo has set up maker spaces in two different elementary school libraries and shared a lot of ideas of what - both tech and non-tech - can be included. She is moving to a brand new high school in the fall, and we got to learn about the design of that state-of-the art facility and how she is planning to run it. I'm looking forward to hearing about her new adventures. Here are is a link to their slides. I so want the Kwikboot charging stations displayed on Slide 14!

While I love attending sessions and make a habit of sharing my observations on Twitter as I do, I could have gone away from the conference happy with just the networking. I met new people, some brand new, some I already know via social media; I renewed old friendships; and I exchanged ideas. I especially enjoyed getting to meet some of the folks who enrolled in the one-month online "Learn to Tweet" class I taught as an offering for AASL leadership the month before the conference. While I missed getting photos of many more people than I took, you can see in my Twitter stream that I enjoyed mingling with lots of old and new friends!

I am embedding myTwitter story of the conference captured through Storify below.

As I went through this Storify, I realized that I didn't mention some key highlights in this and my two earlier blog postings about the conference. So, here are a few more:

One was getting to hear Googler Dan Russell share his vision for the future of libraries, and advice on how we can better serve our students and patrons educating them in being more savvy searchers. As he mentioned, the "the best internet connection is a librarian. We need to be the teachers." He also reminded us that "research skills is not something you learn once and then know forever - keep up!" I couldn't agree more. I have actually hear him speak several times and participated in Google's online searching and power searching classes. I want to take the power searching class again next time it is offered since there is always more to learn, and lots to remember, process, and refresh! Here are the slides from his session.

I was also grateful to get to attend the wonderful breakfast hosted by Alexander Street Press featuring Cynthia Sandburg, an attorney turned biodynamic farmer, sharing the benefits of biodynamics.

And, finally, while I tend to live in a YA world in terms of most of my reading, I was delighted to attend 3M's event at the Terra Gallery where we heard two best selling authors of adult books, Paula McLain and Vanessa Diffenbaugh, share their stories. McLain is the author of The Paris Wife and Diffenbaugh's first book is The Language of Flowers. We were treated to ARCs of their upcoming books. McLain's is Circling the Sun, set in 1920's British Kenya, and based on the life of Beryl Markham. Diffenbaugh's is We Never Asked for Wings, about a struggling mother trying to keep her family together. I can't wait to read them and I am so appreciative of 3M for hosting the event and including me.

Here's my Storify Twitter account of the conference week:

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ALA Conference Part 2 - YALSA Author Events

Each year, the American Library Association announces the Youth Media Awards during its Midwinter conference in late January. I have never been able to attend this event live, although I do watch the live stream if I can. As a high school librarian, I am always especially keen to learn the awards presented by YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association ALA Division, including the Alex, Edwards, Morris, Nonfiction, Odyssey, and Printz Awards. As I am hearing the winners announced, I always wish I could be there to enjoy the group anticipation and excitement as the announcements are made. Really, though, I consider myself very fortunate that I have been able to attend ALA's Annual conference in June, since that's actually when many of the award-winning authors attend, receive their awards, and share about their books. At this year's conference, I had the delightful experience of attending the awards sessions for the Alex, Odyssey, and Printz Awards, as well as a YA Author Coffee Klatch, all sponsored by YALSA. (The Odyssey Awards are also jointly sponsored by ALSC, the ALA's children's library division,)

Printz Awards

The Printz Awards Ceremony and Reception took place on Friday night, the first evening of the conference. This is the second year that program included a panel discussion with the winner and the three honor book winners: Jandy Nelson, winner for I'll Give You the Sun, and honor book authors Jenny Hubbard, Andrew Smith, and the Mariko Tamaki/Jillian Tamaki author/illustrator team. I love that format, since we got to hear from all the authors. I had read all the books, so was excited to hear all of them. One of the interesting topics was how they work and revise. Jandy Nelson shared that it took her two and a half years to write her book, and tons of revisions. She also mentioned that she kept the documents with the two different character's story lines completely separate while she was writing and only merged them at the end. Most of the other authors also talked about a long revision and rewriting process. In contract, Andrew Smith says he writes only one draft! I'm always fascinated to hear about such different techniques.

If you haven't read all of these books yet, put them on your list! Here's a Thinglink image I created for my school with links to book trailers, audio clips, and author commentary I could find:

After the formal part of the session, we got to mingle at a reception for the authors. I was lucky to get to meet three of them. I am always amazed how friendly and open these rock stars are!

The Alex Awards

The Alex Awards recognize 10 adult books with particular cross-over appeal for young adults. Here's a Thinglink image of the 10 that I prepared for my school:

Five of the authors - Anthony Doerr, Kate Racculia, John Scalzi, Zak Ebrahim, and Michael Kortya - were able to attend and speak at the event. I have been working my way through reading these books and was very excited that Doerr, Racculia, and Ebrahim, whose books I loved, were speaking. And, after hearing Scalzi and Kortya, I couldn't wait to read their books also, and made them my first reads after the conference. Each of the books is incredibly different, from Doerr's moving historical fiction based during World War II, Racculia's mystery / ghost story, Scalzi's futuristic science fiction murder mystery, Ebrahim's memoir of living with a terrorist father, to Koryta's contemporary murder mystery set in the Montana mountains. Several of the speeches moved both the authors and their audience to tears, as do the authors' books. These are all also not-to-be missed titles! The last three of the ten are on my "next reads" list.

Odyssey Awards
My third awards event was the Odyssey Awards for the best audiobooks of the year. At this session, the narrators of the winning audiobook and the honor audiobooks speak and read a passage from their books. I had only read one of them, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry, narrated by Jayne Entwistle. It is such an amazing experience seeing and hearing someone in person who I had previously known only as a narrator on a recording. Entwistle was captivating both in her recording and in person, and she warmed us all sharing her personal love of books.

Cassandra Morris, narrator of A Snicker of Magic couldn't be there, but we were treated to both the authors and narrator for Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, since Tim Federle served as narrator for his own book. I loved hearing him share how he learned to turn weaknesses, into a strength, even narrating his book despite growing up with a lisp.  Last, we heard from the author of the winning book, H.O.R.S.E. A Game of Basketball and Imagination, Christopher Myers, who also narrated  along with Dion Graham. They brought the event to a wonderful conclusion, sharing their belief in the important skill of listening, and that bringing the narrators to a live event also enriches the experience with conversation.

YA Author Coffee Klatch

One other YALSA Author event I attended for the first time was the YA Author Coffee Klatch. At this event, we all sat at round tables, and, every five minutes a new author came to visit the table and tell us about his/her book. Our table got Jandy Nelson as our first guest! I already knew about I'll Give You the Sun, of course, but it was such fun seeing her again. I also got a second chance to hear Printz Honor book This One Summer author and illustrator Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki and to hear about their new books. And, all the other authors' books were new to me. We had visits from:

  • Nova Ren Suma, author of The Walls Around Us, the story about a girls' detention center
  • Allan Stratton, author of The Dogs, an intriguing psychological thriller
  • Bill Konigsberg, author of A Porcupine of Truth about two teens on an epic road of discovery
  • Rae Carson, author of Walk on Earth a Stranger set in the Gold Rush era with a fantasy twist
  • Jack Gantos, author of The Trouble in Me, an autobiographical account of some incidents in his troubled teen years
  • Martha Burkenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death, a fantasy and historical fiction set in 1937 Seattle
  • Ginny Rorby, author of Hurt Go Happy & forthcoming How to Speak Dolphin, both exploring issues of teens with disabilities. 
So many wonderful new options to read and share with my students! Here's my take home piles of all the books to add to my library collection and ARCs (advanced reader copies) to share with students and teachers:

You can tell how I'll be spending a lot of my summer vacation ....

Many thanks to YALSA and all the wonderful authors and publishers for these great opportunities to learn more about books and authors that will enrich my library and reach my students.

For more about my ALA Conference experience, see my last posting, "The ALA Conference: A Perfect Time and Location." I'll also be writing one more posting focusing on the AASL events I attended.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The ALA Conference - a Perfect Time & Location

I'm back from a short vacation trip after the American Library Association Conference and starting to process my takeaways. ALA couldn't have picked a better location, time, and opening keynoter for its 2015 Annual Conference.

The location ... San Francisco is one of the most beautiful and forward-thinking cities in the world. I never get tired of opportunities to visit and enjoy its unique Victorian architecture straddling its hills; striking views of the bay, ocean, and bridges; and lively atmosphere and people-watching. As I tweeted Friday morning during a visit to the Ferry Building before heading over to the conference:

Doesn't get prettier than this!! San Francisco for

The time ... The timing for the conference was perfect. Friday morning, June 26, the Supreme Court announced its ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, making same-sex marriage legal in every state of the United States. It seemed that all of San Francisco was abuzz with excitement about this landmark decision.

The keynoter ... Then that afternoon, the ALA conference opened with keynote speaker Roberta A. Kaplan, the attorney who argued before the Supreme Court in 2013 on behalf of the previous landmark case for gay rights which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Getting to hear Kaplan's personal story and her perspective on how positive legal changes can and do come about and the progress that has been made in protecting gay rights was inspiring and especially moving on such an historic day. It's so easy to get discouraged about all the inequities, injustices, and prejudices our nation can't seem to address or eliminate. Kaplan reminded us that positive change can happen, both in our legal system and peoples' attitudes. Here was one of my tweets during the session:

Heartening 2 hear Roberta Kaplan share her experiences, peoples' ability 2 grow, change, today's decision

The time, the location ... And, two days later on Sunday, San Francisco's annual Gay Pride Parade passed just blocks away from the Moscone Center, giving conference goers an easy opportunity to view the parade and witness the amazing positive energy of the crowd. Everyone was in a great mood; everyone was courteous. Although my view of the parade itself was poor, being about four rows back from the curb, so my photos were also poor, the experience was no less exciting.

Here were my tweets from the parade:
Hanging out with my librarian friends watching the gay pride parade

(That's me with Rosemarie Bernier and Marcy Drexler, both teacher librarians from Los Angeles USD.)

I'll be working on more posts with other personal highlights of the conference, but I wanted to start off with this short one sharing why being at this conference in this time and place felt so special. As I posted on Twitter Saturday morning:

Couldn't have had better day yesterday than being in SF, at #alaac15, learning Supreme Court decision, hearing @kaplanrobbie, #Printz awards
I was also super jazzed to have Roberta Kaplan favorite and retweet this!

Thanks to the American Library Association and all its leadership and conference planners, San Francisco, Roberta Kaplan, and the Supreme Court for making this a very special time for me!