In 2006, when I received my NYS certification as a school librarian, I didn’t realize I was embarking on an adventure that would change me both personally and professionally. The change was not overnight. I embarked on my new adventure quite slowly. I went to work, attended a few local professional development opportunities, and went home, after all I was a new librarian with a relatively young family at home to take care of. I was fortunate to live and work in NYC, where our office of school library services hosted a one-day conference each year. I always left those events excited about the new things I learned and the new possibilities for my school’s library. It was there that I heard whisperings about larger conferences, and I admit my curiosity peaked but time and money were always an issue.
In 2018, twelve years after my journey into librarianship started, I attended my first national conference, ALA annual, in New Orleans. Full disclosure, the fact that the conference was in New Orleans was a huge factor in it, being my first, as well as having financial support from my school. It was at this conference where my journey took off. The overwhelming amounts of resources, learning, and networking were addictive. I started attending both ALA and AASL conferences as often as possible, soaking up knowledge, networking with others, and gaining inspiration from the speakers. Each conference I attended left a permanent mark on me, fueling my desire to contribute to the community in a more meaningful way.
I went from conference attendee to conference presenter. In the last five years I have had the opportunity and privilege to present at ALA and AASL. I have shared my experiences with advocacy, reading promotion, and social emotional learning. Going from attendee to presenter was not only a scary experience, but an exciting one as well. Knowing that I had information and insight that would be of use to my colleagues was humbling. Being a part of a professional conference is more than just attending sessions and networking; it’s about contributing to a collective effort to advance knowledge, share insights, and foster collaboration.
This year I have had the opportunity to co-chair the programming committee with two wonderful librarians: Carolyn Vibbert and Karen Scott. Being asked to co-chair this committee was both an honor and a privilege. It has allowed me to witness firsthand the incredible impact that conferences can have on professionals within our field.
As Program Co-Chairs, our responsibilities extended beyond attending the conference. We were entrusted with curating an engaging and insightful program that would cater to the diverse interests and expertise of our audience. Collaborating with fellow organizers, we meticulously selected speakers, workshops, and panelists to ensure that the content will be both informative and inspiring.
Carolyn, Karen, and I read over amazing submissions, often wondering how we would be able to attend dozens of presentations as they were happening simultaneously across the conference hall (thank goodness for recorded sessions) The agony we struggled with having to eliminate sessions due to time and room constraints was palpable. We wanted to ensure that this conference had something to offer for everyone attending.
Transitioning from a conference attendee to presenter to planner has been a remarkable journey, offering me a newfound appreciation for the meticulous efforts that go into organizing such events. The ability to create a platform for professionals to connect, learn, and grow has been incredibly fulfilling.
If you’ve ever found yourself deeply impacted by a conference and have the desire to contribute to the collective growth of your industry, consider taking that leap into conference planning. It’s a rewarding endeavor that allows you to shape experiences and make a lasting impression on the professional community.
Here’s to the journey of transformation, from being inspired at conferences to inspiring others through presenting and meticulous planning and execution. May we all continue to embrace opportunities to create meaningful experiences for our fellow professionals, fostering growth and collaboration within our fields.
Arlene Laverde is a Program Co-Chair for the 2023 AASL National Conference
Author: National Conference Committee Chairs
Categories: AASL National Conference