Last week I went to my first ever American Association of School Librarians conference in Columbus, OH (thanks to ABC-CLIO and the France Henne award). It was an amazing and wonderful whirlwind of hanging out with friends, listening to fantastic speakers, meeting my favorite authors and getting to share with so many people about my maker journey.
Treasure Mountain #22 Retreat
I was honored to be invited by David Loertscher to attend and present at the Treasure Mountain Research Retreat which was held during the two days before AASL. The theme of the retreat revolved around the Learning Commons model. Even though I don’t call my library a learning commons, a lot of the principles and ideals of the Learning Commons model are in place in my library (flexible furniture, multiple learning zones, etc). I got to share through a table talk, which is where multiple speakers offer three-minute pitches on what they’ll talk about, then participants can choose who they want to hear more from. See my notes on the various talks here.
Hanging out with friends & meeting authors
I’m used to the ginormous, overwhelmingness of ISTE (there were 21,000! people there this summer). By comparison, AASL having under 3,000 attendees felt small and intimate. I felt like there was a lot more time to connect with other educators I’ve come to know through Twitter or through other conferences. I had enough time to stop and chat in the hallway, grab a bite to eat together, and enjoy late nite antics. Plus, everyone was very centrally located – almost all of the hotels connected to the convention center, and my Airbnb was only two blocks away.
There were so many fantastic authors at AASL. I was expecting them to be somewhat inaccessible and rockstarish, but they were all super friendly, wonderful people. One thing that I had heard about AASL was all the free books you get – wow, I was not prepared. I had to start turning down books because I knew that there was no way I could fit them all in my suitcase, and I was too cheap to ship them back (note to self: next time just ship the books). I was especially excited to meet Maggie Stiefvater, author of one of my favorite series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls.
Sharing about our Makerspace
I was honored to have the opportunity to present at AASL and share about our Makerspace journey. It was a packed house – I think there might have been 200-250 people in the room, including some sitting on the floor and standing. Interestingly, this is the first time speaking where I wasn’t nervous at all – everything flowed perfectly. I gave the audience opportunities to turn and talk and share the ideas they were getting from the presentation, and I challenged them to find one things they could do to start Monday, whether it was putting out those LEGOs that had been sitting in the backroom, researching that grant, or making some arts and crafts supplies available to their students. You can find my slides and resources over on my presentations page.
My main takeaways
Data, evidence, advocacy, student voice. Creativity, hands-on learning, flexible spaces, connecting our students with the world. Mission, vision, strategic planning. Emerging voices in AASL. These were the themes that I kept hearing over and over again throughout the conference. I didn’t actually make it to very many sessions – there was so much going on and sometimes my brain just need to break. Yet I kept hearing these themes over and over again.
Data, evidence, advocacy, student voice
Joyce Valenza offered up lots of great advice and resources in her Treasure Mountain talk on evidence. One of my favorite suggestions of hers was to use your camera as a tool for gathering evidence. Images of your students at work and their stories can be one of your most powerful advocacy tools.
Creativity, hands-on learning, flexible spaces, connecting our students with the world
Many of the articles written about AASL 15 focused on how Makerspaces are peaking. I was seeing librarians find the value of creativity and hands-on learning in our makerspace setup in the vendor hall. There were authors and illustrators talking about their creative process and how to support that creativity in our students. I saw examples of schools libraries transformed into flexible, collaborative learning environments. I learned about schools that have connected their students globally through video conferencing. I’m not sure if 2015 is the year of the school library makerspace. I think the culture shift happening in our schools may be bigger than that.
Mission, vision, strategic planning
Susan Ballard had a fantastic session centered around preparing for applying to the AASL National School Library Program of the Year award. She and the other presenters focused on the importance of developing a mission, vision and strategic plan for your library and focusing your program around them. See my notes here.
Emerging voices in AASL
This was my very first AASL conference – I’ve only been a teacher librarian for five years. It can be very daunting to get involved with such a large organization. I was very encouraged by how AASL is actively encouraging new members to share their voice. At the Hack the Association event, we brainstormed ideas and shared our stories. There were so many great suggestions coming up from all the groups, and the current and several past presidents of AASL were in attendance.
More articles on AASL
- AASL 2015: Spirit and Surprises, School Library Journal
- Making Connections, Makerspaces at AASL15, American Libraries