Building Relationships While On Tour

One of the most important responsibilities of the presidential trio for AASL is to connect with and listen to school librarians across the country so that we can learn about your strengths and your areas of need. We do this during online events like Town Halls and webinars and at in person events like the AASL National Conference.

We also have the wonderful opportunity to travel to states to visit during state association school library conferences. Every six years, an affiliated state chapter will receive a visit from one of the presidential trio

So far, this year, as part of my leadership travel, I have had the pleasure of visiting Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon, and Tennessee with Rhode Island coming up in spring 2024.


During these visits I have been able to have individual conversations with not only the state leaders but many of the attendees as well.

What I’ve learned during my travels will not be surprising to anyone:

  • Censorship and intellectual freedom are at the forefront of many conversations
  • Lack of certified school librarians being employed in schools; certified school librarians serving too many schools; or certified school librarians being employed but not engaging in school library work during much of the day are all situations happening in most locations.
  • Not only is there inequity in staffing but there is also inequity in funding

These issues have concerned school librarians for decades, but they feel more pressing today.

But, I also want to highlight the phenomenal things happening in schools across the nation. Again, none of this is a surprise to any of us but probably is to the public at large.

  • Minnesota

    School librarians are providing exceptional learning opportunities for their students, enhancing their reading, information literacy, and inquiry skills to help prepare them for whatever their future may hold.

  • School librarians are fostering community through engaging programs and chances to connect with others in ways not necessarily connected to academics.
  • School librarians show leadership through sharing their ideas and expertise with others within their school communities and within the school librarian community
  • School librarians are incredibly generous. Not only are they willing to share their words with each other, but they will give you all the templates and details with not only the expectation but the hope that you will use them and that they will make your life easier and enrich your learners’ lives.
  • School librarians are constantly learning. They don’t stop once their coursework for the degree/certification is finished. And, they are excited to not only learn something new but to figure out how to bring that learning back to their schools to serve their community even better.
  • Oregon

    School librarians are the most wonderful audience to present a session for. If you have technical difficulties, they are patient or jump up to help you figure it out. If you forgot your dongle, chances are there are at least four in the audience you could borrow.

  • School library conferences are the BEST. There is an energy and camaraderie that I’ve never felt anywhere else.

I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend time with school librarians in their home states so that I am able to connect with people on a deeper level than I am able to do even at AASL national. There is something about being in the place where their magic happens, where they are from, where they teach, that allows for relationship building that couldn’t happen anywhere else.


Thank you to everyone who stopped me while I visited your state conference to share with me your story and the story of your learners, schools, and districts. You inspire me in so many ways both as your association president but also as a school librarian. I have already taken much of what I have learned back to the AASL board and to my own practice in my high school library.

And, finally, when you have to pack for multiple events in a few short months, one of the ways to make the travel experience easier is to have a go-to outfit for at least one of the days of the conference. You can get a Free People Read Freely shirt like mine and much more in the ALA Graphics shop.


Author: Courtney Pentland, AASL President 2023-2024

Categories: Community

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