Building Relationships Matters Now More Than Ever

I am sitting writing this post from a hotel room in Kentucky where I attended the Kentucky Association of School Librarians Summer Refresher on behalf of the AASL Board of Directors where I was able to meet with, learn from, and connect with school librarians from across the state.(It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many school librarians from Kentucky!)

One of the important responsibilities of the past, current, and future AASL presidents is to visit AASL Chapters on a rotating basis so that we can hear directly from folks in that state about what is most pressing in their school library lives. Even as budgets have tightened in recent years, the AASL Board has prioritized this essential connection with AASL chapters as our national association exists to serve school librarians across the country, and one of the best ways to learn from them is in their home states.

Just a few weeks ago, I also reconnected with school library friends from all over at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago and met so many more more for the first time in person. While there, our outgoing board finished up several important tasks from the year & thanked Lori Donovan, Jennifer Sharp, and Jennison Lucas for their service and dedication to AASL. Our 2023-24 Board met to discuss some of our focuses for this year & we welcomed Barbara Johnson, April Dawkins, and Becky Calzada to the AASL Board of Directors.

(The 2022-23 AASL Board of Directors at ALA Annual 2023 wishing we could waive our magic wands to put a certified school librarian in every school and with a well-funded library budget.)

In just a few short months we will be together again in Tampa for the AASL National Conference — the only one of its size that focuses solely on school librarians and school libraries. I cannot wait to once again be surrounded by people who GET me. As I told a few folks here in Kentucky, the two problems most people encounter is choosing which sessions to attend because they are all school library focused and deciding exactly how to get all of the swag back home as all of the vendors are there solely in support of school libraries and librarians. While there I hope to connect and meet with as many school librarians from near and far as possible and hear their stories of celebration as well as challenges, so if you are joining us in Tampa, please stop and say hi at some point if we cross paths.

For it is the personal connections that make all the difference in life, which is why the focus of my presidential year is on one of the core values of school librarianship — building relationships. 

Without the connections I have made over the years, I wouldn’t be writing to you today as a member leader of our professional association. I probably would not even be a school librarian, let alone president of our national association, without what turned out to be life-changing relationships. Instead of seeing me as the annoying fly always buzzing with questions, two treasured mentors saw potential for leadership that has led to over a decade of service as an adjunct instructor for our local school library graduate program and an active participant in our state school library association. Just as I am eternally grateful to them for their guidance and support over the years, I am so thankful to the AASL members who also saw a potential for leadership in me and allowed me to serve our wonderful profession in such a meaningful way.

(A few of the faces of school librarians I was lucky enough to see in Chicago at ALA Annual!)

As school librarians, we are relationship builders by nature. We strive everyday to serve our communities in the most effective ways possible so that all learners receive the best support, access to resources, and instruction. We do so by building relationships with students, teaching staff, support staff, administrators, parents, community members, fellow librarians, and the wider world. We advocate and inform. We listen and adapt to changing needs. We seek out diverse perspectives and new ideas. 

In the strange new world we have found ourselves in over the last few years, it has become clear that our relationship building needs to expand beyond our typical stakeholders as we seek to combat well-funded efforts to spread misinformation about school libraries and school librarians that could prove harmful to our learners and possibly ourselves and our livelihoods.

(A few more faces of school librarians I was lucky enough to see in Chicago at ALA Annual!)

As the AASL vision statement declares: “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian.” In order for that vision to become a reality, we need to grow our advocates and allies and empower them with the capabilities to speak and act not only on our behalf but on behalf of learners everywhere.

This year, we plan to offer a variety of opportunities for school librarians to connect with, learn from, and grow with each other as we seek ways to ensure true school library stories are shared in our communities with decision makers and our fellow citizens. If you have any suggestions for content that would be of benefit, please feel free to reach out to me at

Author: Courtney Pentland, AASL President 2023-2024

Categories: AASL National Conference, Community

Tags: ,

1 reply

  1. We were so pleased to have you in Kentucky!

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