Officially Speaking | November 2021

President's Column | Vice President's Column | Thank You to Our Friends

ALSC Work Never Stops

Lucia GonzalezThe fall season has arrived, and with it the excitement of the holidays to come. Scary stories and scarecrows, haunted houses, and Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos treats give way to the sparkling lights of the winter holidays and the much-appreciated Winter break! We are in a better place, I believe, than we were this same time last year. Resuming in-person/hybrid services and programs is now the topic of discussion as the second year of the great pandemic comes to an end, leaving us, children’s library workers and practitioners, a little wiser, and perhaps a lot more resilient. In person or virtual, or both, ALSC ‘s work never stops. As we move forward, we reflect, evaluate, and evolve. We continue to explore new ways of fulfilling our mission.  
 
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools remained closed and libraries stopped all in-person programs and services, the inequities and socioeconomic disparities that were prevalent in the communities we serve gushed out like water from a broken pipe. Somehow, during pre-pandemic times, many managed to ignore this great gap that existed in communities as it related to technology and information literacy. Yet, awareness of this gap is visceral to the work we do. As library workers, we know first-hand about social, racial, and economic inequities and disparities of access in the communities we serve. Children’s library workers are passionate about defining the role of the library as “the great equalizer.” Yet, it is necessary for this passion to have a strong research base and backing. I am proud of ALSC’s commitment to the continuing education (CE) and professional development needs of children’s library workers and also of its firm support of the work of researchers in the field.  
 
This year’s ALSC Research Agenda Pilot Grant went to Dr. Gregory Leazer, associate professor in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Leazer’s project will aim to understand the relationship between the lack of library services and how that contributes to the lack of literacy and to social and civil isolation. This relationship also joins other systems of exclusion that result in poor schools and library services. The ALSC Research Agenda Pilot Grant offers seed funds to help develop, conduct, and disseminate emerging research that aligns with the priority areas outlined in the ALSC Research Agenda.
 
This month, the ALSC Summer/Out-of-School-Time Learning task force will present the Summer Learning Toolkit at the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) Conference in Washington, DC. Part of the charge of the task force was to create pillars of best practice and a toolkit that supports the research and can assist in the training of library staff for deepening their engagement with youth in the summer and out-of-school time. This toolkit can assist library staff in developing more equitable approaches to summer reading and learning as well as out-of-school time programming that is based on research from youth development specialists, equity and diversity leaders, and STEM educators.  
 
The 2022 Bill Morris Seminar, traditionally hosted during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting prior to its sunsetting, is going virtual! ALSC is now hosting a Virtual Bill Morris Seminar that will be radically different. Morris Seminar participants will gather virtually every Friday in February 2022 to learn together about children's media evaluation techniques.  
 
In response to recommendations by Nominating & Leadership Development committee members, the Board is submitting to membership, on the spring 2022 ballot, proposed revisions to the Nominations & Elections bylaws. More information about these bylaws changes, including the exact language that will appear on the ballot and the rationale for the revisions for member consideration, are available on the ALSC website.

LibLearnX will be our next virtual point of encounter. I look forward to cheering with excitement at the Youth Media Award announcements. And I hope you are already packing your bags to attend ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC and the 2022 ALSC National Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, September 29-October 1, 2022.  
 
In the meantime, don’t forget to attend the ALSC Board meetings that are held monthly () where we engage in open discussion and take action as we conduct the business of the organization. Stay safe! Stay engaged!—Lucia M. Gonzalez, 2021-22 ALSC President 

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Building Connections and Confidence

Photo of Amy KoesterAs I’ve taken on the role of ALSC Vice President/President-Elect since the summer, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the connections we have with our professional colleagues and the ways in which those connections can help us build confidence in ourselves and the work we do. 

I remember writing my first guest post for the ALSC Blog in the spring of 2012. I was nervous--I was in my first job out of library school, had been there less than a year, and I wasn’t confident that I was saying much of anything. It was a guest blog post about school-age science programming, and I developed and led elementary science programs for kids on a monthly basis. But the fact of how much practice I had doing those programs didn’t necessarily lead to my feeling confident. I still remember how many times my (very patient and supportive!) colleague Cindy, who was a reference librarian, read over my draft and did her best to give comments on a topic she wasn’t personally super familiar with.

Over the next few years, I had more opportunities to share what I knew about STEAM programs for kids. I became a regular ALSC blogger, and I started sharing my knowledge and experiences in conference sessions, webinars, and other trainings. Now, it might seem like a logical progression that as I got more experience under my belt, I also had more opportunities to share. And while my growing pool of first-hand experience did help me to feel more confident in some ways, it wasn’t the main factor in my growing confidence. The biggest boosts of confidence that I got--the ones that truly have shaped my career and who I am as a library professional--are the ones that came from talking with my colleagues.

Yes, that’s it—talking—whether it was asking a colleague to grab lunch after a system-wide kids’ team meeting, or making new friends at local trainings, or striking up conversation with fellow attendees at conferences. ALSC committee work was definitely a setting for these really informal conversations. I’m talking about the sort of conversations you sometimes have with fellow librarians that touch on both our work and the things we’re excited about. It’s talking shop, yes, but it’s also talking about what we enjoy and think about the work we’re doing. Those are the conversations that grew my confidence.

Talking is practice. This isn’t particularly revelatory for children’s librarians--we know talking is foundational to learning to read and comprehending ideas, and so it scans that talking out concepts and ideas as an adult would similarly support our continued development. What I’ve found, however, is that “talking is practice” means when we talk with our colleagues about something we’re doing, we refine our ideas and mentally figure out ways to better understand why we’re doing the things we do, and to explain those details to others. When I see a really great presentation from a library practitioner—one that leaves me motivated and feeling empowered to try something in my own work—the presenter generally looks not only confident but comfortable sharing what they know. In my experience, that confidence and comfort comes from practice—not from practicing a written speech or running through a presentation, but from talking about a topic so much that even a formal presentation feels more like a cozy conversation with colleagues. The more we talk through our ideas with friends and colleagues in informal chats, the better equipped we are to talk through them in any setting.

Why am I thinking about talking and confidence now? In lots of ways, the ongoing pandemic has shifted our options for having those informal chats with our fellow library workers. The only folks I see on a regular basis are those I work with at my library. That means any other interaction is one I have to pursue on my own. And while I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes feeling like my to-do list does not need another item added to it—let alone an item like “give so-and-so a call and chat about what we’ve been working on for 30 minutes”—I really think that talking time is worth prioritizing. It’s good for our mental health in the immediate term, and it’s good for us in the long run to have conversations in which we practice and grow what we’re thinking about at work.

So in this, my first column for ALSC Matters as part of the executive leadership, I want to encourage everyone—myself included!—to pursue a conversation with a colleague at least once a month over these coming cooler months. Be it a phone call, a Zoom, or a safe meetup for a walk or a meal, the opportunity to share what we’re working on and hear about another person’s work is one that can build us all up. So email that friend, call that mentor, follow up with that colleague whose card you’ve had on your desk since the last time you attended an in-person training. Get talking.—Amy Koester, 2021-22 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect

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Thank You to Our Friends

Friends of ALSCMany thanks to the following generous contributors to Friends of ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit our website.

Gold Circle 

Anne Putnam Britton

Notables Circle

Rita Auerbach
Therese Bigelow
Christopher Brown
Bruce Farrar
Amy Koester
Marge Loch-Wouters
Karen MacPherson
Phyllis Mattill
Cecilia McGowan
Vicky Smith

Friends Circle

Armin Arethna
Tony Carmack
Karen Clickener-Ousey
Anne Dayanandan
Jean Gaffney
Carla Kozak
Renee Perron
Sharon Rawlins
Marilyn Taniguchi
Ruth Tobar
Joanna Ward

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