Thanks to the WNYLRC Professional Development grant, I was able to attend the National Conference of the American Association of School Librarians in Hartford, CT in November. This conference is an amazing four days of keynotes, workshops, networking events, exhibits, and author panels.
A main thread running through the conference was how school libraries curriculums should be evolving, not just to meet the Common Core Standards, but to ensure that we are growing and developing life-long independent learners who will be successful in all areas of their lives. The Opening General Session featured a keynote address by Tony Wagner showed how, increasingly, America’s greatest export is ideas. In order for our students to be successful in their future jobs, we need to focus, not on the memorization of facts, but on how to create innovative solutions to problems. School libraries are in the position to become the centers for innovation in our schools.
A new addition to the conference was the Friday night Unconference. An Unconference, also known as an EdCamp in education circles, is a participant-driven workshop. This Unconference served as both a forum for conference attendees to discuss topics of their choosing and to learn from each other and as a model for the attendees to create their own Unconference events. During the first round of the Unconference I led a miniature workshop and discussion of using songs to teach library skills, and during the second round I joined a circle sharing strategies for teaching research skills to pre-readers in Kindergarten. In between the two rounds there was a lively body-voting debate on contentious library issues such as genre-shelving, the use of Facebook for libraries, and whether or not to ditch the Dewey Decimal System – I voiced my dissension on the latter. The Unconference ended with the real-time creation of a slide show presentation as participants stood and briefly shared tech tools and resources.
While an Unconference could be planned anywhere and by anyone, once one knows how to do it, one thing that cannot be replicated regionally is the Exhibit Hall. With almost two hundred exhibitors, the hall is a treasure trove of resources for librarians. I had the opportunity to connect with vendors, view demonstrations of new products and resources, and learn about upcoming new resources. An added bonus is the plethora of authors present to sign books and discuss their work.
I’m very grateful that I had the chance to attend this amazing conference, and I’m looking forward to attending again. If you are a school librarian, mark your calendar now for Columbus in 2015.
Mary Zdrojewski, School Librarian, Scio Central School District, Scio, NY