AISL Conference First-Timer – A Few Thoughts and a Thank You!

This spring I attended my very first AISL conference in Boston. This amazing experience was made possible by the AISL Conference Affordability Scholarship I received. I definitely cannot overstate my surprise upon receiving an email informing me that I would be receiving one of the scholarships and therefore would be able to attend the conference in Boston! I spent the months in the interim excited to learn more about the sessions and activities that would be happening. I had read comments about previous conferences and understood that this would be a smaller conference and that I would get an opportunity to visit various schools, too. As the only librarian at my school and the only librarian in my region with a school like ours, I rarely have opportunities to get to be a “colleague” in that way except through the AISL listserv.

And how easily we librarians fell right into chatting in the same language and sharing ideas! From the time I arrived in Boston and got to the hotel, we all began chatting in the elevator even before our opening breakfast on Wednesday morning.

One of the hardest things of all was reading through all of the sessions offered and deciding on the ones I would attend. How to choose?? Since we are building a new library, I knew that the session at Philips Academy on building and moving your library would be an important one for me. Emily and Ella presented so much great information about the new library at Nobles, and then there were questions and comments from a number of the librarians in attendance at the session about their own experiences. Later in the week, we got to visit Nobles and actually see the new library after a wonderful lunch and Endless Thread podcast presentation there. This kind of experience is so invaluable as we absorbed ideas everywhere we went.

Even riding on the bus from place to place became a time to meet new people and chat about our experiences in our own libraries. I sat with different people on most of my bus rides and really enjoyed those conversations. We had such interesting, information-packed sessions….but then also had time for things like a tour of the Boston Public Library and a tea-infused literary cocktail (Tequila Mockingbird, anyone??) So often conferences involve packing in as many sessions and as much information as possible, leaving little time to actually interact in a meaningful way with other attendees. Having dinner with other librarians was also a lot of fun and it was so interesting to hear about things they are working on or want to do in their libraries and to directly relate so much of what I saw to things I could come back and implement in my own library.

The sessions I attended were also fantastic. Being able to visit other schools and to have a session I selected also include seeing a library space or makerspace or to see the kinds of art or projects being created in each school really added to the information being presented. I attended sessions on Breakout Boxes and Visible Research, both of which gave me ideas that I could use immediately. My session at Inly School on Empowering Students as Junior Librarians shared some great ideas being implemented by Sara Spencer, a librarian from Canada who I am now following on Twitter. it was so interesting to see how different each library was, what kinds of things were being implemented in each one, and to have an opportunity to look around and absorb and take some photos to remind myself of the feel of each space.

The Skip Anthony dinner on Friday evening was the perfect bookend (see what I did there?) to the conference, as we all gathered together for a lovely dinner, fabulous desserts, more conversation with new librarian friends, and a wonderful talk given by Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked. He spoke about radical generosity and about how life itself is the most wonderful of fairy tales.

I am so grateful for the opportunities the AISL Conference Affordability Scholarship provided for me. I rarely have the opportunity to attend conferences, so this was a particular treat – an opportunity to meet other independent school librarians and to recharge professionally and to absorb lots of new ideas along the way. This AISL conference in Boston was the best conference I have ever attended, and now I have the information to make a case at my school for funding for future AISL conferences, too, as I have begun using and sharing some of the ideas I gathered while there! Thank you!