by Cassandra Barnett
I’m not saying that my state library conferences aren’t good. I’m just saying that if I want to know what is cutting edge in the world of school libraries, the AASL National Conference is the place to be. Ways to use social media, makerspaces, learning commons, and the need for assessment in the school library: these are among the many topics that have come to my attention while attending an AASL National Conference.
I freely admit it. I am addicted to the Conference and I can’t imagine missing one. Where else can I go to be so totally immersed in the school library world? I am surrounded by people who do the same kind of work that I do. These exceptional school librarians have great ideas about teaching and learning that they share willingly through the concurrent sessions and what is now called the IdeaLab. What is shared at the National Conference doesn’t stay at National Conference. You take these ideas home, play around with them and make them your own.
I always go to a pre-conference event. Visiting other school libraries and seeing best practices in action have often inspired me. Occasionally, I have taken advantage of the cultural/educational tours that have been offered. Even those little side trips have provided fodder for thought and action when I get home. The pre-conference workshops are very stimulating. How often do you get a chance to be immersed in a topic for a half-day or a whole day?
There are plenty of opportunities to connect with authors, illustrators, and publishers. The author banquet and Sunday’s author brunch have introduced me to so many fine authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult books. Not only can you build a pretty good collection of autographed books but, if you are lucky, sometimes you get to talk to them. We are librarians; what’s more thrilling than talking with someone who wrote one of the books that you absolutely adore? When authors and illustrators are around, selfies abound!
There are so many things going on you are overwhelmed with choices! The general sessions feature experts in the fields of education and school libraries. An Exhibit Hall with hundreds and hundreds of booths covering a wide range of books, multimedia, databases, hardware, software, furniture; you name it, it’s there. A storytelling festival where you are reminded why our kids love to sit on the floor and hear a great story.
Friendships begin at national conference. You meet people from all over the country, share ideas and find common ground. It is exciting, inspiring and mentally stimulating. I love catching up with friends who I only get to see at National Conference. I do not consider attending an AASL National Conference work; for me, it is a vacation. I come home refreshed, full of energy and ready to try new ideas.