Tampa Speech – AASL President Courtney Pentland

Hello My School Library Friends!

First, you are invited to two upcoming events:

AASL Town Hall: Conference Connections – Takeaways from AASL 2023 

Wednesday November 1st 6:00-7:00 PM CST

Town Hall: https://ala-events.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_k1CY_tszTnWPNO0sdGyaEA

AASL Webinar | Building Relationships Locally

Wednesday November 15th  6:00-7:00 PM CST

Webinar: https://ala-events.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_C3y6JefpSuubEjdJhwQpPg


I gave this speech at the Opening Session for the AASL National Conference 2023.  I wanted to share these words with all of you, because they are for all school librarians, not just those that were able to join us in Tampa. We truly are better when we are #StandingTogether, and I hope you continue to build relationships and strengthen connections.

I cannot begin to describe how absolutely thrilled I am to see this room filled with all of you and how pumped I am to spend the next few days in your company learning, sharing, connecting, and growing.

The AASL National Conference is the only one of its size that is geared solely to school librarians. If this is your first AASL, oh my gosh, I am so excited for you to have this experience. If you have attended an AASL Conference in the past, you know what you are in for, and I am just as excited for all of you.  This is one of my happy places. Really and truly. I am looking forward to being exhausted at night because I have spent the day listening to, learning from, and seeing all you wonderful people.

For me, conference is all about connection. My presidential focus for this year is on building relationships, and this is the perfect opportunity to do just that. I hope you are able to meet new people and possibly reconnect with old friends while you attend sessions, visit the vendors, get your steps in as you wander the hallways, or possibly try to spy a manatee. (While I didn’t hear of any sightings during conference as it was the wrong season, I do hope you get to see one someday. They are wonderful creatures.)

There are many serious issues facing school librarians today, and I don’t want to minimize their importance, but I am hopeful that while you are at this conference with all these wonderful folks that you will be surrounded by moments of joy. For I truly believe that our profession is still a joy-filled one and the work we do is vital for our learners and communities. And, much of that joy is through the work that is built upon our connection to the people and places that we serve as well as to each other.

Just a few days ago, I was in Oregon visiting their state conference. While there, I had the opportunity to stand on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. As someone who has lived their whole life in the plains of Nebraska, that experience was awe inspiring to say the least. As I stood there early one morning, I felt the same way about the vastness of the ocean as I did when I stood in a valley between mountains in the Canadian Rockies last December.

I felt small in comparison, but, instead of feeling insignificant, I felt grounded in connection. Despite living thousands of miles away, I was connected to Oregon through my work in AASL and school libraries. I was connected to the Rockies through family. It is connection and the relationships we build that have the greatest impact in our own personal lives but also in our professional lives.

As I stand here before you, literally on the other side of the country from where I stood just a few days ago, I feel connected to all of you through our shared profession. I may never get the chance to get to know you personally, but we are still connected. The speakers we will hear from over the next few days, the vendors we will meet in the exhibits hall, and the people we will meet randomly in the conference spaces will all affect what we do in our school libraries in the future. And that has a ripple effect that will impact the learners in our schools who will grow up to be adults who continue to live in our communities or who will instead take the lessons they learned and experiences they had in our school libraries to other communities across the country or possibly to other places in the world. Just like the ocean, the impact we have is vast and powerful which is why fully funded school libraries staffed by certified school librarians is so incredibly important.

Before I finish my welcome, I want to pause here just a moment and ask you to humor me in an activity. In a few minutes, I am going to ask you to take out your phone. If you have it out already, great. Just pause what you’re doing while you hear the instructions.

I would not be standing on this stage speaking to all of you as your AASL president without relationships and connections with key people in my life. I am incredibly grateful to those who saw something in me that I wasn’t aware of and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I’m sure there are people in your lives that have done the same for you. Trust me, if I can stand here as your AASL president, so could one of you someday.

Some of your supporters might be here with you at this conference. I know some of mine are. And for some of you, they are here with you in your heart and your mind.

Either way, I would love for you to take out your phone and send a quick message to one or more of those people right now letting them know how much their support has meant to you. (You can still do this now!! – even if you didn’t at conference or were not at #AASL23.)

Right before I walked out on this stage, I sent messages to two of my most treasured mentors. Dr. Becky Pasco was the head of the school library program at UNO where I received my school librarian certification and then hired me 13 years ago as adjunct faculty for the program. And, Laura Pietsch, who was the supervisor of the school library program in my former district and president of NSLA a few years before me. They both gently pushed me to take on leadership roles, and I am so grateful for their continued friendship.

And, I definitely wouldn’t be here today without the support of my husband, my kid, and my mom who have been so incredibly understanding of the fact that I do indeed seem to library all the time.

Not only do I thank you for your incredible service to your school communities and our profession, but I thank all those who have been supports in your professional and personal lives. Without them, you would not be (where you are) today, and I am so grateful we are here (in this work) together.

Over the next few days (weeks, months, and years ahead), I wish you all a sense of joy and connection. May you not only grow as a professional, but I hope your network of colleagues grows exponentially through the relationships you build. Once again, WELCOME and THANK YOU for (doing this incredibly vital work)!

Author: Courtney Pentland, AASL President 2023-2024

Categories: AASL National Conference, Advocacy/Leadership

Tags: , ,

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