Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., for the first time. This was made possible by receiving a professional development stipend from the Library of Michigan. As I reflected on my experience I was thinking about Jason Reynolds’s keynote speech presented in five parts. I was inspired by this structure and started thinking about the conference in the same way. Here is my ALA Annual Conference experience in five parts.
Part 1: Design Thinking
My experience began by attending a pre-conference session called “Using Design Thinking to Create Transformative Learning Experiences” presented by Greg Diaz and Brenda Hough. I have my students use the design thinking process but cannot say I have ever used the process for my own school library goals. This session gave me the student view. We worked in groups to solve a hypothetical challenge for stakeholders in the community. We had to determine ways the library could support that demographic.
As I went through the process I just wanted to fix the problem by throwing a bunch of solutions at it. I had to actively make myself stop and listen. Listening allowed me to collect all the information and then begin to think about possible options. I hope to use this model when working to complete my professional goals this fall.
Part 2: Jason Reynolds
If you have read any of Jason Reynolds’s books you know that he is a master storyteller who brings truth to what he writes. He shared his keynote in the style and structure of his newest book Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, which will be available in October. His speech drew from his personal life, but also made connections between churches and libraries and how both can be considered sacred. He shared that they have the same principles,“Come as you are, all are accepted, no one is turned away, here you can build community.” Click here to see a bit of his speech. He went on to challenge attendees to empower young people to become their own human library so they can think for themselves and tell their own stories.
His presentation was inspiring. One of the things that stayed with me was not part of his speech but something he shared during the questions at the end. “Young people don’t hate reading, they just hate boredom.” As I work with students in my school community this is what I want to remember.
Part 3: #ReadytoCode
For the past year, I have served as a member of the ALA Libraries Ready to Code Task Force. The goal of this committee was to share information about the Library Ready to Code Collection as well as infuse the concepts into ALA’s youth divisions. At the conference, the task force had two open forums where people could come and learn about the collection and participate in hands-on activities. Additionally, the Libraries Ready to Code website was voted one of AASL’s best websites for 2019!
In order to further promote Libraries Ready to Code, the task force teamed up with YALSA and the other youth divisions to host an evening event called “Laying the Smackdown on Computational Thinking in Libraries.” During the event, people received information and resources about Libraries Ready to Code. They had the opportunity to share their own experiences adding computational thinking and computer science into their libraries. Participants could even build a paper robot to practice computational thinking on their own.
Authors were everywhere! There were opportunities to have copies of their books signed, take pictures with them, or listen to them share their thoughts on a panel or podcast. What I was truly struck by was that they were just a part of it all. You would see them walking around the exhibit hall talking with attendees. I mean I rode the escalator behind Kate DiCamillo! She was just casually talking with a group of librarians next to her. I know that authors are real people, honestly I do, but they were just so accessible that it was amazing to be a part of!
Part 5: Inspiring Engagement
Inspiring engagement was a common theme of the conference. You could see it in the makerspace at the exhibit hall or the ALA Play session highlighting gaming in libraries. I attended a session presented by Mona Kerby and Maureen Schlosser. During this presentation, they shared the importance of developing a well-rounded collection as well as using that collection to engage learners. I cannot wait to analyze my collection to see where I can improve resources for the school community. They also highlighted how a carefully chosen picture book can meet many AASL and curriculum standards.
In the End
So I am not able to connect all of these parts as beautifully as Jason Reynolds did in his keynote speech. I am not even going to try, but what I can say is that each of these things allowed me to step outside of my bubble of the world. It allowed me to push myself to try something new and take the lead. It also had me asking questions about my practice and what I can do to make it better. By attending this conference I was able to see the bigger picture of what it means to be a librarian. Even though we might be in different types of libraries we are all interconnected and working toward a common goal: to give people access to the information and resources they need to learn and grow.
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a librarian for the past nine years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I was most recently a member of ALA’s Ready to Code (RtC) Task Force.