If you have ever been to an AASL National Conference, you know it can be a remarkable event. It is difficult to put into words just how impressive this conference can be for our professional growth. There are author visits, opportunities to network, new products and technologies to learn about in the exhibit hall, and so many powerful sessions it can make your head spin. Oh, and let’s not forget the free swag! My very first AASL event was Louisville in 2019, so I knew what to expect, but AASL21 in Salt Lake City was beyond my wildest dreams.
Immediately upon arriving on Wednesday, I reached out to several Twitter friends from Georgia, Texas, New York, California, Vermont, and Louisiana to connect for dinner. We were already “talking shop” before the conference had even officially started. An AASL National Conference is the best way to meet your professional learning network (PLN) in person and thank them for all of the ways in which they help you learn and grow. Those of you who know me, know I am an avid fan of Twitter for building connections, so I took full advantage of the fact that many members of my PLN were in one place at the same time and asked them to sightsee together. On Thursday, school librarians from 9 different states ventured around town to visit the Mormon Temple Square and then ride electric scooters to Salt Lake City Public Library. Of course, you all know we stayed at that impressive library the longest, but did you know school librarians are speed racers on public scooters? Watch out for Melissa Thom and Katie Lafever!
After sightseeing, I attended Thursday’s Welcome Home session, which was a wonderful way to network and meet new school librarians across the globe. I stopped by the IdeaLab/Conversation Corner to learn about getting Nationally Board Certified with Amanda Hurley, meet Bentley the Reading Dog, pick up copyright posters, and more. At the Opening General Session and Keynote, we were welcomed to Utah by many local educators, recognized the 2020 and 2021 AASL awards winners, and the state AASL Chapter Assembly delegates paraded across the stage to celebrate that librarians from all 50 states were in attendance. Dr. Omékongo Dibinga told us that AASL also stands for activists, advocates, and school leaders and reminded us that school librarians must check their preconceived notions about their students.
There were so many amazing sessions that I don’t even know how to talk about all of them in a small blog post, so I’d like to invite you to visit the LiveBinder, created by Jane Lofton, that features many of the presentation links, social media posts, resources, and more. I’d also encourage you to read Nancy Jo Lambert’s reflection on Twitter, as she says it all better than I ever could. Whether you attended an author panel, a general session, a concurrent session, or all of the above, you saw learning taking place for the betterment of our profession and our school libraries. Author Kekla Magoon encouraged us to not run away from discomfort or keep it from our children. You can read more about her inspirational author session, written by Shannon DeSantis Gile in Kekla Magoon Inspires School Librarians to Be Revolutionary at #AASL21. Dr. Joe Sanchez led a powerful closing session where we reflected on our conference takeaways and planned implementation of the knowledge gained for the return to our school libraries.
A noticeable difference since my last AASL National conference in Louisville were the number of people I knew from spending the last two years building up my PLN on Twitter. It was a joyful experience getting to see my Twitter friends in real life and meet them for the first time in person. It had been two years since I had seen my friend, School Librarians United podcaster, Amy Hermon, and I was finally able to see my #AASL Social Media Co-Chair, Shannon DeSantis Gile, in person for the first time! So my advice would be to build your PLN in the next two years before #AASL23 in Tampa, Florida. Reach out to other school librarians and make those connections because your conference time will be so much more meaningful. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on the AASL Board of Directors, the AASL National Conference Committee, and the AASL Social Media Squad for a fabulous conference. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2023 in Tampa! Until then, check out the recordings from AASL21. AASL members will receive full access to the recordings until January 31, 2022, so take advantage!
Author: Amanda Jones
Amanda is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, and a 21 year educator from Watson, LA. She’s a teacher-librarian and certified reading specialist at a 5-6 grade middle school. She is Vice President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and is the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer. Amanda is an active member of several committees for AASL and is on the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards Committee. Visit her library website at lomlibrary.org and/or find out more about her at http://librarianjones.com/.