Librarians, Let’s Confer about Who We Are

This short volume of a post stands between bookends:  #AASL21, which just occurred last week, and the upcoming #VAASL conference, which takes place next week.

The word “confer” has been around for over five hundred years; its first known use was in 1500. According to Merriam-Webster, “confer” originates from the Latin conferō, conferre “to bring or take, convey, bestow, bring together, unite,” from con- CON- + ferō, ferre “to carry, bear.”

Of course, “conference” has “confer” at its root. Its meaning has different nuances, depending on context. In Shakespeare’s time, and in his plays, for instance, it often appears to denote a more private conversation. Today, however, we tend to understand that a conference is public and generally involves a gathering of many individuals. In a way, this interpretation is more closely aligned with part of the original root, as it indicates the bringing together of people and ideas.

I was #NotatAASL this year (alas!) and therefore lived vicariously through the tweets of others. I will be at #VAASL, though (hurrah!), and will even be presenting (first time ever…eek!).

Something I noticed while perusing people’s conference-related posts over the past several days was the overwhelming sense of inspiration and invigoration that was expressed. What folks shared was pervaded by joy. I experienced this myself, at the very first big event I attended as a brand new librarian; I felt as if both my brain and my heart were full to bursting.

I think that there are a number of good reasons for this. For instance, some more current ones likely involve the opportunity to actually speak to colleagues in person (how odd that it seems novel now); and I could enumerate many, many more. That said, one in particular has recently held command of my thoughts.

It deals with what we bring to these conferences and take away from them. It centers on what we convey. It concerns what we bear–both on our shoulders and in our minds.  

Most of all, it is about identity. It is about who and what we are. It is about who and what we are, each of us alone, and together.

First, a really quick word on what we’re NOT: perfect. This is something that has to be acknowledged up front, so I will.  s individuals and as an organization, we make mistakes, and have some learning and growing to do. For the most part, though–thank goodness!–the librarians I see and hear, far and near, are open to reflection and change.

So who and what are we, then?

One need only look at  AASL’s Core Values, Mission, and Vision–along with some actual words of wisdom from experienced school librarians–for ideas.

  • We are leaders. We clear the way so others can follow, and we show others how to locate and travel on their own paths.
  • We are teachers. We share knowledge and empower others to find it.
  • We are learners. We actively seek out new information and bravely try new things.
  • We are innovators. We think outside of the proverbial box.
  • We are collaborators. We work with others and value their experiences, viewpoints, and ideas.
  • We are freedom fighters. We meet challenges and stand up for the basic rights to read, think, and express without restriction.
  • We are subversive. (Tip of the hat to Dr. Audrey Church, advisor, professor, mentor, and all-around cool lady, for this, which she stated some years ago in front of a group of prospective school librarianship students; I was in that group.) While this word can have a negative connotation, that gets turned on its ear when the established order is corrupt and in need of transformation.  (For example, Germany’s White Rose Resistance Group was subversive.)
  • We are inclusive. All are welcome in our spaces. Everyone can find a safe haven in our libraries.  There are windows and mirrors aplenty.


When we gather, in conference, we reaffirm and validate who and what we are. Everyone, and all of it.

This is why the joy pervades. This is what inspires us. This is what invigorates us. This is what motivates us.   

It is also what drives us to be better, and to find out what and who else we can be; for we may “know what we are, but [we] know not what we may be.”

I can’t wait to find out, and I can’t wait to see you, sooner or later, whenever we confer!



Author: Lia Fisher Janosz

I am Regina Libris.

I’m…a Bibliothecaria Rebellatrix (“librarian…because Book Wizard isn’t an official job title,” at Sharon Elementary School in Alleghany County, VA) wending a way through the seven ages whilst geeking out over Shakespeare & sundry other stuff. I am rather like Hermione Granger and have “conjured” floating candles in our school library. I’m an admirer of Eowyn and would place myself somewhere in the middle of the shieldmaiden-healer spectrum. I am inimitable, I am an original, and yet I am totally #TeamHamilton (see what I did there?). I’m a graduate of the Longwood University School Librarianship program and an avid reader and lifelong learner (and, apparently, Mistress of the Obvious as well). Any rumors regarding me having a crush on either Stephen Colbert or Chris Martin (or Benedict Cumberbatch or Andrew Scott) are completely…irrefutable. That being acknowledged, I am the loyal consort of an unsung prince of Poland and very proud mother of a tornadic, talented, and talkative wunderkind girl and a happyhopper jollyjumper bouncyboy who has a memory like an elephant.

Categories: AASL National Conference, Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Intellectual Freedom

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