March 2020 seems like ages ago. It’s September, school has started for everyone–either virtually, in a hybrid model, or fully face to face. The coronavirus is still running rampant across the country and is increasing in some areas, while decreasing in others. We’re running into the stores wearing masks, hand sanitizing like crazy, and washing our hands until our nails split and the skin is dry. If you are anything like me, you’ve had very little contact with people outside of your immediate family in the past six months, and you’re starting to wonder if the time will ever come that it’s safe to head to a conference, a concert, a movie, or a large gathering. Hang in there, you are not alone!
What I have realized during my six months isolated with my family is that as a library community, we can still come together and be stronger together–even if it is done virtually. There are so many opportunities for learning and connecting online that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic or if they existed, generally travel was expected! In 2020, the year of not hopping on trains, planes, and in automobiles, we can still come together and learn from each other.
This fall, the Maryland Association of School Librarians conference is going to be virtual, and I could not be more excited. Living in what is pretty much one of the most southern counties in our state, on past conference days, I’d rise before the sun and drive one and a half to two hours to the conference venue. While I always got lots from the conference, by the time I’d arrive home in the evening, I’d be wiped out! This year, not only is the conference virtual, but we can access the content for an entire year, so cramming all the learning into one day doesn’t have to happen.
AASL and ALA have been offering town hall events and tons of free webinars that even if you can’t attend live because you are working with students, you can catch the recording on the flip side. It’s another great chance to learn without leaving the comfort and safety of your home or school library.
Midwinter will be virtual in 2021! Registration opens in November–and no travel is required. I already took a peek at some of the speakers, and I’m excited.
Building Your PLN While Not Getting off the Couch
I’ve been spending far more time on Twitter than normal during the pandemic. I’ve discovered that library Twitter is an absolutely fabulous community. (I knew that before, but didn’t spend a ton of time on Twitter.) If you wanted to, you could find a Twitter chat happening just about every day of the week in the library world. I’ve also been spending some time in Facebook groups for school librarians. Not only am I learning, but I am also learning that it is a small world! I’m meeting people on Facebook that I only knew by reputation who are library leaders and just all around amazing folks!
The Maryland Association of School Librarians is pulling together a book study for the fall around Jason Reynolds’s book Stamped. We are also offering Talk about It Tuesday, a facilitated conversation where all librarians are welcome in the state to join and share what is happening in their schools and districts. These sessions have been a bright spot in my week–a chance to connect with other librarians across our state and realize that we are not alone and that we are stronger together. Perhaps your state association is doing something similar? Why not join and spend some time learning together?
One of the greatest things about being a librarian is that we love to share. We come up with creative ideas for our spaces and our lessons and we share them with others. What other profession loves to share as much as school librarians? Honestly, I can’t think of one. We post our lessons and images on social media and share them for free on our blogs and web pages. All of this sharing makes us stronger together! A few weeks ago, I came across a survival toolkit for librarians that was put together by school librarians from all around the United States, and my first thought was: “Wow! Look how strong they are because they are working together!” One person making that publication on their own would have had months of work ahead of them, but by being stronger together, a beautiful work of instructional technology directions were created for all to use!
For whatever reason, I really struggled to think of a topic for my blog post this month. I tried on a few different topics: voting and elections, virtual learning, and advocacy. I would write a few sentences and get stuck. And lo and behold, as I was in a Teams meeting with my elementary school librarians inspiration struck. As I was listening to them work through ideas, class structure, and ask questions of each other I realized that any one of them could rely on the other to bounce ideas, to share, to make work somewhat lighter–and that they truly were stronger together!
Here is what I want you to remember: when you are feeling stuck, not sure where to go next, mired down in whatever is happening, remember there is a whole world of school librarians out there who when we work together, we are stronger together.
Stay strong, my school librarian friends. The work you are doing is harder than usual this year. Lean on each other (from a safe distance, of course)!
Author: Jennifer Sturge
Jennifer Sturge is a Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning for Calvert County Public Schools. She has been an educator and librarian for 26 years and is always looking forward. She is a member of ALA and AASL and is President for the Maryland Association of School Librarians for 2020-2021. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow. Most recently she is the chair elect for the Supervisor’s Section of AASL. She is diligently working on her doctoral studies in leadership at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.