The AASL National Conference and Exhibition is rapidly approaching! From November 14-16, thousands of school librarians will descend on Louisville, Kentuckym to network, learn, and be inspired. For many school librarians, the opportunity to attend an education conference in a new city can be a combination of exciting, dread-inducing, and stressful.
We get excited about conferences like AASL’s because they give us the chance to connect with other school librarians, and depending on where we find ourselves, a rare opportunity to share our rather unique experiences with others who are in the same boat. We get to meet our favorite authors, catch up with colleagues from all over, and learn about the many exciting things happening in school libraries around the country.
For me, concurrent sessions spark the most excitement. I love learning about how others are approaching the work we do, and getting ideas for new ways to tackle some of the problems I face in my day-to-day work. I am often blown away by presenters–their ideas and their strategies for presenting their ideas to their colleagues. The best concurrent sessions feel like a conversation among professionals, where we can ask questions, share our experiences, and gain a deeper understanding of not only the presenters, but also our colleagues in attendance at the session.
Here are the sessions I am hoping to attend:
Friday, November 15:
Culturally Responsive Programming for the School Library, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Open Educational Resources and the Role of School Librarians, 11:40 a.m.-12:40 p.m.
Book Talk – Shared Foundations: Explore, 12:45-1:15 p.m.
Book Talk – Shared Foundations: Engage, 3:00-3:30 p.m.
Ready, Set, Research!, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 16:
Evidence-Based Advocacy: Using Data to Demonstrate the Impact of Library Programs on Student Learning, 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Step up to the Plate–Are you hitting a home run in your support of campus library programs?, 10:10-11:10 a.m.
Book Talk – Shared Foundations: Include, 11:15 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
BookTalk – Shared Foundations: Curate (Presenting), 12:00-12:45 p.m.
Data Informed Library Advocacy (Presenting), 2:20-3:20 p.m.
Find all of the concurrent sessions here (current as of August 22 and subject to change).
For introverts such as me, the idea of attending a conference with thousands of people can create feelings of dread. We are conflicted, in that we love learning in sessions, seeing what new products and services library vendors have to offer, and hearing terrific authors and keynote speakers. I cannot count the times I have chosen to get away from the convention center for lunch, needing a few minutes alone to decompress and recharge my emotional batteries for the afternoon.
Many of us are not accustomed to the fast-paced environment that permeates national education conferences. Some of us cope with this by putting in earbuds and staring at our phones between sessions, at meals, or anytime we have a moment to ourselves.
Being away from our schools, families, and homes can create stress for conference attendees. We know there will be a TON of work to catch up on when we return, and that can make it very difficult for us to stay present and ensure we are getting the most from conference experiences. Our families, unless we are lucky enough to have them with us, will miss us terribly as they wonder what types of shenanigans school librarians get up to at these things. We wonder about how things are going at home–are the chores being done, is my dog/cat/hamster OK, and what will I need to do when I get back?
When I am away from home, I find myself texting, calling, and face-timing my wife and daughter on an annoyingly regular basis. I ask to see my dogs, and I find my psyche torn between where I am and what I should be doing and the home and family I miss terribly.
How #AASL19 Is Different
Louisville will be my third AASL National Conference, and because of that experience and in addition to attending numerous local, regional, state, and other national conferences during my career, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the similarities and differences between them, and why AASL is special.
First off, we will be surrounded by our fellow school librarians, people who are doing the exact same work we are doing, trying to solve some of the same problems, and who might also be introverts like us. Unlike other education conferences and events that cater to a wide array of educators, this one is 100% for us.
Because the AASL National Conference is by librarians, for librarians, we should feel more secure in reaching out to our colleagues. After all, we all speak the same language, and we all have similar work experiences. We have much more in common with each other than we do with our administrators, district-level colleagues, or even classroom teachers, so striking up conversations should be much easier. Of course, since so many of us are introverts, we may need a few tips or tricks to get us started:
Hi, I’m ___ from ____. Where are you from?
Right now, my biggest challenge is ___. What’s yours?
Have you seen (vendor, speaker, author)? What did you think?
Of course, there are hundreds of great ways to start conversations, especially in a setting like AASL where we all share obvious similarities and interests. If you find yourself retreating to a dark corner of the convention center to grab a quick snack, challenge yourself to sit at a table and introduce yourself. If you see someone sitting alone, politely ask if you can join them, then find a way to connect.
AASL is a big conference, and there are tons of activities and events planned to help us connect. Connect with others attending by following the conference hashtag: #aasl19.
If you are not attending the conference in person this year, you can also follow #notataasl, where there will be a ton of content and special challenges!