AASL highly respects and values its relationship with the AASL Chapter organizations. In order to stay connected with the chapters, AASL is committed to its policy of leadership travel to the AASL Chapter organizations’ conferences. AASL Chapters are visited in a six year cycle. Information about the specific state rotation of AASL leadership travel can be found at: https://www.ala.org/aasl/about/chapters/travel. During the leadership trips, AASL leadership provides information to the Chapters and connects with Chapter leaders and members to get an understanding of current successes and issues in their states.
In 2022, I have had the honor to travel as President-Elect to:
- New Hampshire – New Hampshire School Library Media Association (NHSLMA) Annual Conference with the theme “Welcome, Include, and Represent”
- Georgia – Georgia Library Media Association (GLMA) Summer Institute
and as President to:
- Wyoming – Wyoming Library Association (WLA) Annual Conference with the theme “Stronger Together”
- Idaho – Idaho Library Association (ILA) Annual Conference with the theme “Growing Libraries, Connecting Communities”
- Arizona – Arizona Library Association (AzLA) Annual Conference with the theme “It’s a New Day”
- Florida – Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) Annual Conference with the theme “Educate. Advocate. Celebrate!”
I also attended the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME) Annual Conference with the theme “Transforming to our Future” alongside AASL Executive Director Sylvia Knight Norton.
In addition to presenting the session “There is Only One AASL” which highlights the work of AASL and the resources and services that AASL provides all members, I also presented about leadership and advocacy in New Hampshire (bit.ly/lesterNHSLMA), presented an advocacy workshop in Wyoming (bit.ly/wla-sla), and participated in panels on advocacy and legislation in both Georgia and Florida.
I really want to thank the AASL Chapter members for their hospitality. I felt so welcome in all of my travels and have confirmed what I already knew – that school librarians are amazing people! I have enjoyed learning with school librarians across the country and have listened carefully to comments and suggestions from state chapter members to bring back to AASL. In spite of the different themes of each conference, there are some commonalities across all of the conferences:
- School librarians are excited to network with colleagues in person.
- School librarians are collaborators. They openly share great ideas and information.
- School librarians are ready to learn and improve their practice.
- School librarians are focused on learner-centered teaching and learning.
- School librarians are nervous about adverse legislation and book-banning efforts, but are committed to supporting their learners and working toward mitigating the impact on their students as much as possible.
The FAME Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida was the most recent and I have many takeaways. Florida school librarians are getting hit hard with book challenges (some counties more than others) and they need all the support that can be mustered. FAME Leadership is working very hard to support its members. FAME worked to have language added to Florida House Bill 1467 requiring that books must be selected by a certified media specialist. This bill is also requiring the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to provide training to all Media Specialists by January 1, 2023. Members of FAME are part of the FDOE committee to create the training along with four parents and they are working to try to make sure that best practices will be included in the training. The FAME Legislative Committee has put together a list of 2023 legislative priorities (https://www.floridamediaed.org/2023-legislative-priorities.html) and will continue to work toward strengthening students’ access to school libraries staffed by certified school librarians.
The Florida Right to Read Project (website: https://www.fftrp.org/ and Twitter: @FLFreedomRead) is led by two amazing moms who are doing great work supporting the right to read in Florida. Community members are our best asset in helping to support intellectual freedom and our student’s right to read. All school librarians should be building relationships with parents and local community members to find supportive individuals and/or groups who are willing to stand up and speak out. The document “Resources For School Library Professionals During Challenging Times” (bit.ly/slib-challenge) has links to toolkits for community action to provide supportive community members with resources.
In speaking with FAME members, I discovered that they are very excited about AASL coming to Tampa for the AASL 2023 Conference! Florida school librarians are looking forward to AASL members coming to Florida to stand with them. Michelle Jarrett (FAME President) tweeted “We need our people to support and ‘love’ us, not abandon us and refuse to travel here. @aasl will be in Tampa in ‘23 and we need ALL of our colleagues to descend on Florida and raise voices for book access for all.”