Hartford, Conn. — Three-thousand inspired school librarians, educators, exhibitors and guests left the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) 16th National Conference & Exhibition ready to "rise to the challenge" of the profession. The largest conference dedicated solely to the needs of school librarians, AASL13 featured preconference workshops, school and educational tours, more than 140 top-quality continuing education programs, author events and more than 160 exhibiting companies.
“This is a pivotal moment in education and within our profession,” said AASL President Gail Dickinson. “School libraries and librarians are valuable education resources and it is my hope that conference programs and events have empowered attendees to rise to the opportunity to lead.”
The conference began with a variety of preconferences that addressed digital literacy, Web-based technologies and classroom-library collaboration best practices. In addition, conference goers participated in tours showcasing such prominent local attractions as the Mark Twain House & Museum, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, Olde Mistick Village and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Schools libraries within Glastonbury (Conn.) High School, Sage Park Middle School, Windsor, Conn.; Hamden (Conn.) Hall Country Day School; Taft School, Watertown, Conn.; and Louise Duffy Elementary School, West Hartford, Conn. opened their doors to conference attendees and showcased resources and shared best practices.
A school librarian en route to the school tours stated, “I can’t wait to see what others are doing in their school libraries. This conference provides a rare opportunity to compare my school’s library programs and services to others. It’s nice to see how we’re doing.”
Thought leader Tony Wagner, education fellow at the technology and entrepreneurship center at Harvard, headlined the conference’s Opening General Session. Before a crowd of more than 2,400, Wagner said, “You have a vital role to play in the transformation of education.”
Wagner’s view on the value of school librarians were echoed by other program participants including AASL President Gail Dickinson; American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling; ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels; and AASL Executive Director Sylvia Knight Norton. AASL was also joined by local dignitaries, the mayor of the City of Hartford, Pedro Segarra, and the State of Connecticut Lieutenant Governor, Nancy Wyman. Wagner’s appearance was generously sponsored by Cable in the Classroom.
The conference received local media coverage from NBC Connecticut. Upon arrival, AASL President Gail Dickinson was greeted by two rare African penguins from the Mystic Aquarium. “What’s more endangered?” asked Dickinson while posing for a picture with the birds. “The African Penguin...or a school librarian?” During the interview with NBC Connecticut News Today Host Kerri-Lee Mayland, Dickinson discussed the vital role school librarians play in the age of Google. “In an era of filled with instant access to information, school librarians help students make sense of the world,” said Dickinson.
The need for libraries in Hartford schools was highlighted in a joint op ed that appeared in the Hartford Courant. Entitled “Hartford school libraries deserve our support,” Dickinson and Connecticut Association of School Librarians President Mary Ellen Minichiello asked that as administrators work to restructure Hartford schools they consider providing students with critical learning resources – school libraries and librarians. More than 80 school administrators from several states attended the national conference.
Val Edwards, IMC director at Monona Grove (Wis.) High School, won the AASL newspaper naming contest. The title of the onsite daily newspaper, the AASL Advocate, was changed to Edwards’ submission, Launch Pad. “I always come away from the AASL conferences with lots of ideas and projects that I hope to ‘launch’ as soon as I retune to my school, so ‘Launch Pad’ just seemed like a natural description for my conference experience,” said Edwards.
The conference provided several networking opportunities for peers and authors, including a Tweet-up giving attendees an opportunity to put faces to Twitter handles; a library mixer giving conference goers a chance to relax with friends while making new ones; and the Unconference which provided an informal opportunity for peers to share best practices.
Best practices fueled the displays found at the IDEAxCHANGE. School librarians from throughout the country shared exhibits that showcased the excellence of school library programs and the schools that supported them.
AASL President–Elect Terri Grief joined American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling, Hartford Public Library Executive Director Matt Poland and Connecticut Library Association President Richard Conroy for the signing of the “Declaration for the Right to Libraries.” The Declaration is the cornerstone document of the ALA’s Libraries Change Lives initiative, which builds public support for America’s right to libraries of all types – academic, special, school and public.
Author and leadership consultant Peter Bregman headlined the Closing General Session. Bregman is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm that advises organizations and their leadership teams. His current book “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done,” was the One Book, One Conference selection and named the best business book of the year.
The conference also featured such notable speakers as authors Libba Bray, “Beauty Queens”; Shane W. Evans, “Black Jack”; Faith Erin Hicks, “Zombies Calling”; Matthew Holm and Jennifer L. Holm, “Babymouse” and “Squish” graphic novels; Jarrett J. Krosoczka, “Punk Farm”; Raina Telgemeier, “Smile”; and storytellers Carol Birch, Bill Harley and Valerie Tutson.
The AASL 17th National Conference & Exhibition will take place in Columbus, Ohio in 2015. Conference dates to be announced.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.
Special thanks to Macey Morales from the American Library Association Public Information Office and Launch Pad Editor Jenn Waters for contributing content to this conference overview.
For more information regarding the AASL 16th National Conference & Exhibition, please visit national.aasl.org , or visit Launch Pad for additional conference highlights at national.aasl.org/launch-pad.