The following post was written by Jessica Thompson, librarian at Tye River Elementary School in Arrington, Virginia, and Aimee Haslam, sixth grade English teacher at E.B. Stanley Middle School in Abingdon, Virginia. Both are Old Dominion University NextGen² scholarship recipients.
What an experience we had traveling to Chicago for the 2015 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting! We are recipients of the Old Dominion University NextGen2 scholarship, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Our cohort is made up of twelve teachers across the state of Virginia. School librarianship has been a dream for all of us, and we feel truly fortunate to pursue such a fulfilling career. As participants of the program, we had the opportunity to attend our first ALA conference, and we hope it won’t be our last. Chicago was greeted by a blizzard during our short time there but despite the cold and wind, we stayed comfy and cozy. We were too busy soaking in all of the excitement to let 18 inches of snow slow us down. We frequented the exhibits, sat in on meetings, listened to brilliant speakers, and learned lots about librarianship from leaders in the profession.
Our adventure began with the exhibit hall opening, reminiscent of Black Friday shopping madness! The air buzzed with excitement as attendees waited in long lines. Exhilaration filled us as we walked aisle upon aisle of books and gadgets. We snagged loads of advanced reader copies, and like kids in a candy store, we wanted one of everything! We met great authors and chatted with friendly publishers. Darlene Beck Jacobson greeted us with open arms after hearing how much we enjoyed reading her first novel, Wheels of Change. After a successful first evening we settled in, eager for a full day of meetings, sessions, and idea-exchanging.
We attended both the 2015 Notable Children’s Books Committee Meeting and the Young Adult Notable Books Committee Meeting. It was fascinating to watch committee members huddle together noting everything from the font, storyline, and illustrations of the books being considered for these distinct honors. Covers of the books were projected on a screen for the audience to see, bringing us into the decision-making process. It was captivating to hear the committee members’ thoughts on the various books, and we left the room hoping that one day we will have the honor of selecting award winners. The Power up Your Storytime session inspired and encouraged us to incorporate sensory activities into children’s storytime to boost their sensory development. The YASLA 201 session convinced us that even as newbies to the library profession, our ideas and input are encouraged and valued.
We felt like teenagers at a concert during the Auditorium Speaker Series. Jason Segel spoke openly about his recurring childhood nightmare of a witch eating his toes, the inspiration for his new book, Nightmares! Segel discussed the similarities and differences between writing screenplays and books. Segel noted that his co-author, Kirsten Miller, encouraged him to invent scenes and characters that are made richer by the reader’s imagination, beyond even what a movie could illustrate. LeVar Burton brought everyone to tears with touching tributes to his mother and Fred Rogers. He regaled us with a reading of his first book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and talked about how important libraries are to our children.
Monday morning found us caught up in the excitement of the Youth Media Awards announcements. The Newbery Award committee selected The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, a novel written in verse about basketball, and they waved small basketballs around when it was named winner. The committee for the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award wore Dr. Seuss t-shirts and stood up to show them off when You are (Not) Small by Anna Kang won. The crowd exploded with cheers, hoots, and hollers with the announcement of each award. It was like attending the Grammys or Oscars.
The feeling of elation after hobnobbing with famous authors carried us for days following our return from Chicago. Fellow teachers and librarians have expressed jealousy and the wish to attend a conference someday. We recommend future attendees wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of water, and be prepared to carry many bags of books! For small town ladies, everything about ALA Midwinter was an intoxicating and wonderful experience. We are very thankful for the opportunity offered to us by ODU’s NextGen2 scholarship and the IMLS.
Author: Aimee Haslam