They Had Me at Hello: Sharing Transformation and Innovation @ AASL Conference

I’m not sure who had the marvelous idea for this participatory display at the AASL Experience Education Evolution conference in Columbus, Ohio…

IMG_0446I saw it as soon as I entered the convention center door. Helllllo! Immediately, I had this sense that I was going to experience another great conference. Conferences are often a time for us to hear from those who (1) attempted it (whatever the innovative “it” was); (2) succeeded at it and (3) then actually had time to write up a conference proposal. However, this participatory display gave ALL SCHOOL LIBRARIAN ATTENDEES an opportunity to share.

I loved standing in front of the display and reading all of the ideas… Then, I confess: my inner-librarian started to surface. I wanted to organize and sort the magnets. I started thinking of the different ways I could sort them:

(1) by font color; (2) by types of handwriting; (3) by state (some of the librarians shared their hometown); (4) by those who left a social media trail; (5) by various levels of cutting edge ideas for school libraries in the 21st century.

My current organization/employer encourages innovation and has informal and formal ways to share transformative ideas. In fact, there is even a Director of Innovation. So, I started wondering how he would sort the piles… and then how the head of my organization would sort the piles. What, from the ideas below, would outsiders to librarianship find innovative and transformative (if any at all)?

IMG_0415 IMG_0413 IMG_0412 IMG_0419 IMG_0403 IMG_0405 IMG_0418 IMG_0417 IMG_0416 IMG_0414 IMG_0406 IMG_0407 IMG_0408 IMG_0421 IMG_0410 IMG_0424 IMG_0423 IMG_0422IMG_0425 IMG_0426 IMG_0427 IMG_0428 IMG_0429 IMG_0430IMG_0434 IMG_0436 IMG_0437 IMG_0438  IMG_0440 IMG_0441 IMG_0442 IMG_0439

As a profession, how do we (re)package and (re)sell our ideas and philosophies for/to administrators? What ways are effective and what are ineffective… and how do we know? In environments where leaders are wondering (and deciding!) if the library is a viable space to keep in 21st Century schools, how do we customize our conversations for an audience who defines the words innovation and transformation in alternative ways?

On the other hand, how do we embrace innovation and transformation while not isolating the and offending teachers and parents who have been our strong advocates and partners…because of our traditional work in our libraries? How do we encourage them to join the conversations while also creating a safe space for thinking about school libraries in a new way? As we work to create an environment safe for innovation, let’s encourage our colleagues (and our inner-librarian) to do as Dianne Rees advises (almost word-for-word):

  • Defer judgment (this includes both criticism and praise);
  • Encourage the numbers—collect every possible idea;
  • Support the strange—strive for the unusual and encourage different perspectives; and
  • Look for combinations of ideas that might work together; (i.e., build off the ideas of others)

We hope you found the AASL Experience Education Evolution conference a place to grow your own ideas of innovation and transformation. The conference planners obviously had me at hello.


Rees, D. (2010). Strategies and tools for divergent thinking. Retrieved from

Strategies and tools for divergent thinking

Author: Julie Marie Frye

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

Tags: , , , , ,

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