The Past is Past

I’m done.  At the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, in a city bursting with pride and joy, I finished my term as immediate past president of AASL.  I am finding it a uniquely profound experience.  For decades, stretching back as far as I can remember, I have been an active and engaged member.  I have been member and chair of committees, headed sections, helped to spearhead task forces, and sat on panels and presentations.  It’s been endless cycles of bustling activity.  And now, for the first time that I can remember, I have no assigned task.  I have no reason to call the AASL office.  I speak to the wonderful AASL staff as friends, rather than as collaborators with a joint agenda.

I’ve finished other tasks before, but I think this one feels so different because it was such a race.  For the last three years as president-elect, president, and past-president, conferences have been an endless cycle of continuous meetings.  Even between conferences, the conference calls and email ensured that AASL was always on my mind.  It was the epitome of being involved, of being integrated so deep into the working life of the association that it became part of the thread of my life on a daily, if not hourly basis.

Rather than fade away, or slowly withdraw, the race maintained its intensity right up until the last minute of the last agenda item of the last meeting.  And then it stopped.  And then there are no more meetings.  No more calls.  No more requests for my time and energy.  I pass the torch of past president to another worthy person, and I’m done.

People have asked me how it feels, and I am having difficulty articulating it.  There is no sense of loss or abandonment.  I don’t feel tossed aside or lonely.  I think the closest I can come is to describe it as selling a house that was full of good times and laughter, but moving to a better house.  As you lock that door for the last time, there is a sense of satisfaction and fond memories for the job finished, and expectation and excitement for the new house ahead, whatever that will be.

For the last several decades starting well into the last century, through five jobs, four states, and most of my working life, the tasks in the job for which I was paid have changed, but the constant has been the work that I did for AASL.  It has given me much more than I gave to it.  More than anything, I gained the sense of both the national scope that is AASL, and the local scenes of building level school librarians teaching students how to interact with their present and their future.  I have seen great school librarians doing amazing things.  I have regretted the impossibility of creating immediate widespread change and celebrated the many one small steps that will bring us to a fantastic future.

I started this journey, like many others, because someone told me to.  That someone, for me, was Marilyn Miller, who expected national service from me as she did for all of her students.  To you, reading this, I expect it of you.  As Marilyn said, it doesn’t matter if your first job task is moving chairs, you are still making the profession of school librarianship stronger by your actions.  So to those starting on my journey, or to those standing looking at the path, I can only say that for me, this road less travelled by has been the right choice.  It’s been expensive, it’s taken a lot of my time, and at times it’s been frustrating beyond measure.   But George Bernard Shaw, if in fact he ever said this, was right.  “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one”.  AASL has been my mighty purpose, and it has brought me true joy and great satisfaction.  It will do the same for you.  And if you need someone to tell you to start down that path, this is me, telling you to.

Author: Gail Dickinson



Categories: Community

2 replies

  1. Thank you for your excellent service to our profession!

  2. Best wishes for your days of lighter responsibilities in our profession. I probably never would have sought National Board Certification if it had not been for your book on candidacy for library media specialists. From that experience I have moved on to other tasks, including chairing my state school libraries division. I did these because in part you told me I could.

    Now, I think I will take you up on your challenge, one small step at time. When I register for the conference in a few weeks, I will indicate that I will volunteer. Who knows where that will lead?

    It is my hope to retire in the next few years. My retirement goal is to work full-time on school library advocacy. I suspect that as you step down from the whirlwind of national office, you will find even more ideas to engage and envelope your time.

    Thank you for all you have done.

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