AASL closes Pittsburgh conference on high note

Contact: Larra Clark

AASL Media Relations


For Immediate Release

October 8, 2005

AASL closes Pittsburgh conference on high note

Attendance up 11% from last conference

PITTSBURGH - There was nothing quiet about the largest gathering of school librarians in the nation this past week in Pittsburgh. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) registered 3,883 librarians, exhibitors and guests for its12th National Conference, October 6-9.

"The energy and enthusiasm of program presenters and attendees were fantastic," said AASL President J. Linda Williams. "Sssh isn't really in our vocabulary.

Keynote speaker Coach Ken Carter, the subject of the recent movie "Coach Carter" starring Samuel L. Jackson, brought a standing-room only audience to their feet at the Opening General Session. The coach, who locked out his undefeated Richmond (Calif.) High School varsity basketball team to push them to improve their grades, brought his own school librarian to the stage and thanked her for believing in him before he believed in himself. The librarian, Ellie Goldstein-Erickson, now works for the California School Library Association.

Asked why he sent the team to the library, Carter said, "That's the house of learning. The library changed our entire school, and a year later we won the performance award from the governor because of the rise in our overall grade point average and attendance."

A revised "School Libraries Work!" research paper from Scholastic Library Publishing brings together 16 state studies demonstrating that school libraries staffed by qualified library media specialists make a measurable difference in student achievement. The 2000 study in Pennsylvania, for instance, found that Pennsylvania middle schools with the best reading scores spend twice as much on their school libraries as the lowest-scoring schools.

"It's not enough to have a large collection of materials," Williams said. "School libraries are about more than books, and school library media specialists are essential to the teaching and learning process."

Technology was a major focus of the more than 100 sessions presented at the conference. Several programs focused on Internet searching - with Google or in the "hidden Web" - and teaching how to navigate a growing information jungle. Two sessions highlighted the use of blogs in instruction, learning and connecting with teens. And Syracuse University launched its new S.O.S. for Information Literacy free Web-based resource for educators to access lesson plans and teaching materials to motivate students to improve their ability to find, evaluate and use information in all its forms. The Web site can be accessed at

One program that drew rave reviews was entitled "Tap into the LMC's Technology Experts." Led by librarians from Darien, Ill., the session focused on how librarians can organize and facilitate technology/research sessions in the library media center (LMC). "(This was an) excellent topic presented by three great professionals. I found it very inspirational and am excited to take this program back to my school," wrote one participant.

Young adult author Chris Crutcher drew more than 600 attendees to a sold-out author banquet Friday night. Crutcher's frequently banned book "Whale Talk" also was featured as an all-conference reading choice, with early-morning discussion groups on Friday and Saturday. And, in a room of more than 100 attendees, many librarians shared stories of book challenges and bans in school libraries around the country with authors Robie Harris, Nancy Garden and Christopher Collier on the panel "Censorship Happens." Pittsburgh native Sharon Flake, New York Times best-selling author Jerry Spinelli and nonfiction award-winner Susan Campbell Bartoletti also were among dozens of authors reading, talking and signing at the conference.

National leaders in research data on student achievement keynoted the Closing General Session. Speakers included: Steven Baule, principal of Zion-Benton Township High School; Mike Eisenberg, faculty of the Information School at the University of Washington; Keith Curry Lance, director of the Library Research Service; and Ross Todd, director of research for the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL). Ferdi Serim, founder of the Online Internet Institute, moderated.

The closing night gala brought more than 1,000 attendees to the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center on Saturday night.