Uncle Sam — err, the AISL Board — wants you!

If your school is anything like mine, one of the values we strive to instill in our students is community service, or volunteerism. Not just to pad a college or university resume, but a genuine investment of time in an activity that benefits others. My term as AISL president is drawing to a close, and it occurs to me that as independent school librarians, AISL offers us a unique opportunity to serve our North American library community. This service can take many forms—being active on the listserv, sharing resources, acting as a mentor, etc.—but it can also be through serving on the AISL Board …

… and as luck would have it, there are three vacancies for Member-at-Large positions on the AISL Board this spring!

The current AISL Board will be changing in March as people complete their terms of office and either transition off the Board, or move into new positions, freeing up these three Member-at-Large positions.

Here’s the scoop as of March 2017 – put faces to names: https://aisl.wildapricot.org/board

Katie Archambault will become President for a two-year term (2017-2019)

Renee Chevallier is assuming the Treasurer position for a three-year term (2017-2020), following in the footsteps of Jean Bruce, who has done an excellent job of keeping AISL legally compliant, vibrant, and in the black

Phoebe Warmack is moving into the Secretary role vacated by Katie

Christina Pommer remains Technology Director for a three-year term (2016-2019)

Sandy Gray will become Past-President for one year, assisting Katie until spring 2018, when a President-Elect will be determined by the Board to assist Katie in her second year as president

Allison Peters Jensen is completing her three-year term as a Member-at-Large.  Allison was the mastermind behind the “welcome Bingo” initiative at recent annual conferences, and took the lead to implement the Board’s new Mentorship Program.

And many of you know Jean Bruce, last year’s Marky Award winner and outgoing Board Treasurer, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the long-term success of this association. Not only is Jean an inspiring colleague, she’s done a great deal on the Board well beyond her scope as Treasurer, and we are all the beneficiaries of her vision. A “yuge” thanks, Jean – what will you do with all your free time?!?

So, what exactly does a Member-at-Large do on the AISL Board? This person assumes responsibility for an initiative (liaison with the planners of the Summer Institute or the Annual Conference, coordinator of the Board’s new Mentorship Program, or manager of the annual Affordability Scholarship for first-time conference attendees) and maintains contact with the constituents and the Board via email. S/he also contributes to the success of all Board initiatives as needed.

Most of our work is conducted via email, occasionally by phone, although we hope to leverage technology common to our schools (and not blocked on campus!) to meet virtually as needed in future. The entire AISL Board meets only once a year, at the annual conference, where attendance is mandatory: to serve on the Board, you are expected to attend the annual conference and Board meeting each year during your term of office.

A Member-at-Large serves a three-year term, with the option of assuming the role of President, Treasurer, Secretary or Technology Director. (No pressure!)

Those of us who have served on the AISL Board over the years recognize that our work is largely invisible to the membership, but it is critical nevertheless. Without dedicated Board members and volunteers, our association would have no website, no wiki, no blog, no social media, no membership renewals, no platform for conference and Summer Institute registration, no Affordability Scholarships, no Mentorship program – you get the picture.

So please consider applying for one of the three vacant Member-at-Large positions on the AISL Board. It’s a great way to give back to our larger library community, contribute to the ongoing success of our association, make new friends, and have some fun. Really. FUN!

If you are interested in joining the AISL Board, please send an email to gray@smcsmail.com and provide the following details:

1. Name
2. Title & School / Location
3. AISL experience / conference attendance
4. Activities you lead/participate in at your school
5. Highlights of accomplishments
6. Why you would like to join the AISL Board.

If you are attending the annual conference in New Orleans next month, please seek out any one of us if you have questions about serving on the Board. We’re happy to share our experiences.

Deadline to apply is Friday, April 15th. The Board will reach a decision by the end of April so we can welcome new members before the summer break.

And hold onto this thought … we stand on the shoulders of giants.

The success of AISL today is a direct result of the vision and hard work of founding members, a series of dedicated Board members over the years, and our general membership.

The AISL Board is looking to add three new members – we hope you will consider joining us! Grow professionally, have some fun, and model the volunteering commitment for your students – it takes a village to build a thriving library community!

New Year’s resolutions?

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but I’m always excited by the dawn of a new year – the prospect of all the possibilities that lie ahead when I’m fresh off New Year’s celebrations and still in my jammies.  So I admit to a great sense of optimism, and although I don’t usually set resolutions for myself (experience is a good teacher), I have for the past few months been puzzling over how to revitalize one aspect of my work life:  research lessons.  Like Katie Archambault and others who have blogged and posted to the listserv about their quest for engaging students in the research process, I’ve seen glazed faces in class and have been seeking inspiration.

And I stumbled onto something in one of the two AISL Board Books that we’ve selected for 2017.  Dive into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie (2016) offers a refreshing way to shift mindsets around teaching and learning from the old ‘sage on the stage’ paradigm where the power resides with the teacher, to a ‘student-driven’ learning model.  I am only halfway through reading this book, but I am inspired by the possibilities it offers to help transform students from passive to active learners.

Obviously, if you are a classroom teacher like the author, you have the freedom to be the change agent in your class(es).  As a school librarian, to realize this transformation will require a new level of collaboration with teachers at my school (grades 7-12), and it will begin with me selling this idea to a couple of forward-thinking colleagues who just may share my enthusiasm for this new approach.

MacKenzie’s book is readable, not too long (120 pages) and is designed to share the formula for transitioning from a traditional teaching model to a culture of inquiry.  Over the years, we’ve talked about Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), but I haven’t seen many great examples in practice. When MacKenzie defined the Inquiry Teacher as a “teacher, coach, facilitator, networker, shoulder-to-lean-on”, I began to see my role in this process.  By chapter five, where the Types of Student Inquiry are outlined (structured, controlled, guided, free inquiry), the scope and sequence and logical progression from typical assignments to the ultimate goal of free inquiry were clear: eureka!

Best of all, in sharing this book with my teaching colleagues, the role of school librarians and the library learning commons are considered integral to the inquiry process: no fanfare, just acknowledgement. The new normal.  So by promoting this book, I can also demonstrate the legitimacy of collaboration for the benefit of students.  While this will be a no-brainer to some of our colleagues, it will be a revelation to others!

When discussing the Pillars of Inquiry in chapter 7, the fourth—Take on a New Challenge—resonated with me.  So I guess my New Year’s resolutions are: first, to finish reading Dive Into Inquiry, and second, to figure out how to inspire a few teachers to tackle this exciting new challenge with me to begin changing the landscape of learning at our school.

But wait, there’s more!  The second AISL Board Book also promises to be an interesting read (honesty compels me to admit I’ve only cracked the cover at this point) Born Digital: How children grow up in a digital age by John G. Palfrey and Urs Gasser.  There’s been some buzz about this revised and expanded edition of the book on the listserv over the past year, and the AISL Board thought it would offer an alternative to a hands-on approach to tackling an issue.


Instead, this book offers an insightful, sociological portrait of the first generation of children who were born into and raised in the digital world.  They are coming of age and reshaping the world in their image, they’ve been in our classrooms and libraries, and it would be great to understand them, the digital present, and the way the digital future may unfold based on their experiences.  The issues explored in this book—privacy concerns, the psychological effects of information overload, and larger ethical issues arising from the fact that young people’s social interactions, friendships and civic activities are now mediated by digital technologies—promise to make fascinating reading.

So today, while still enjoying some R&R, before we return to our busy schools and libraries, I resolve to read both of these books, and invite you to join me and embrace professional development as part of our resolutions for the New Year.  If you are attending the annual conference in New Orleans this March, we hope you will join us to discuss one or both of these books; we will blog responses so that all AISL members can join the conversation.

Health and happiness to you as we “dive into” a New Year!

Best of 2016 … from your AISL Board


With Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Thanksgiving all behind us, now is a good time to pause and reflect – to celebrate our 2016 successes, both individual and collective.  Last week, someone asked me, “What is the best thing that has happened to you this year?” and I admit, I was caught off guard.  We so often focus on the things that are wrong in the world (or our lives), that we don’t take the time to focus on all the good things for which we are grateful.

I am grateful for this wonderful group of AISL colleagues with whom we share our journeys as independent school librarians.  Our vibrant listserv, blog, and social media presence keep us connected, allowing us to share our challenges as well as our successes.  In that frame of mind, let’s pause and celebrate the best of 2016 for our association.


First up, the amazing PD opportunity many of us enjoyed at the annual conference in Los Angeles in April 2016, thanks to the hard work of the awesome organizing committee.  Next, the timely Summer Institute on “design thinking” held in Troy, NY in June.  Hundreds of listserv posts, thought-provoking blog posts, emails and conversations between AISL colleagues across North America.  Cost of membership: $30.  Value: priceless.

AISL’s fledgling mentorship program was launched this fall.  It is early days yet, but we hope it will prove a valuable experience to both mentors and mentees.  Recent feedback reflects this hopefulness that the program will grow organically.  One mentee comments, “I am exceptionally grateful to AISL for thinking up and then providing this opportunity for mentorship.  Figuring out how this is going to work between myself and my mentor is a great lesson in sort of the self-care of professional development.  I’m still relatively new to independent schools and school librarianship generally, so just having to practice creating this relationship is tremendous.”  Another mentor offers, “I have been able to offer some insights, and reassurances as to some programs/issues that she has been dealing with at her school.  We have talked a couple of times on the phone, for a few hours, and our plan is to keep the conversation ongoing.”

Looking forward as well as reflecting on past successes (don’t want to rest on our laurels!), the good news is:  AISL participation is the gift that keeps on giving.  Plans are finalized for the annual conference in New Orleans in March 2017, which is fully booked.  Two librarians will attend their first AISL conference there thanks to the Board’s Affordability Scholarship; they will share their experiences with us via blog posts next spring.  Spearheaded by Milly Rawlings, four of our “retired” members—Kick Ass Retired Librarians, or KARLs—have planned a complementary, concurrent program in New Orleans that involves sightseeing as well as connecting with active members through activities, meals, and the hospitality suite.  We expect more KARLs will attend the 2018 Atlanta conference, which will benefit from the review of ways to improve integration after the inaugural experience in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, colleagues in two cities are already planning their future annual conference offerings: Atlanta will host in 2018, and Boston in 2019.  And hosts are lined up for future Summer Institutes as well:  Caroline Bartels at Horace Mann in New York City is hosting an “all-school read” seminar in June 2017, details will be available via the listserv in January 2017.  Several of our generous Los Angeles hosts are stepping up to offer the 2018 Summer Institute, topic to be announced a little closer to the date.  They want to ensure it is timely!

Members of the AISL Board have created “planning guides” to help organizers of annual conferences and Summer Institutes.  Updates and revisions are underway, and will be distributed this spring – they are a never-ending “work in progress” J.

Last month, Ian Singer, Credo’s Chief Content Officer, reached out to AISL after a referral from our BAISL colleagues.  As the former editor of School Library Journal, Ian is sensitive to the delicate balance between librarians and vendor “opportunists”.  He is working to build credibility in the K-12 market, and believes that there is a good fit between Credo’s products and independent schools because of our college/university prep focus, training, smarts (and possibly budgets J).

Ian is interested in exploring ways to partner with our AISL community, and has offered to discuss sponsorships (a meal, a speaker, a hospitality suite?) at conference or summer institute events, as well as creating webcasts around themes like information literacy or faculty engagement.  This information sharing and collaboration can be win/win both for Credo and for our libraries and students.  Please reach out to Ian directly if you’d like to explore a collaboration of some kind:  ian.singer@credoreference.com.

There has been some good discussion recently via the listserv and blog about PD books worth reading; thanks to everyone who has shared good PD reads.  As the AISL Board prepares to host the annual “Board book social” at the NOLA conference, we’re soliciting suggestions for additional titles to consider.  We like to offer a choice of two titles – are there are books you’ve read recently that would make for a lively discussion at our annual conference?  If so, now’s the time to share!  Please add your book recommendations in the “Comments” section below.  We will blog about the selected titles so everyone can weigh in.  Here are the books we are considering so far:

BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google – John Palfrey (2015)

Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age – John Palfrey (2016)

Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice – Trevor MacKenzie (2016)

Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding – Jay McTighe (2013)

And last but not least, if you are interested in serving on the AISL Board, stay tuned.  There will be an opportunity to apply for Member at Large positions in the spring as people currently on the Board move into new roles.  It’s a wonderful way to give back to an association that gives us so much.

On behalf of the AISL Board (Jean Bruce, Renee Chevallier, Katie Archambault, Allison Peters Jensen, Phoebe Warmack, Christina Pommer and moi), Happy Holidays and all the best in the New Year!







Advocacy & AISL: what can you do?

Tooting your own horn is tough. Many think it is bragging, but in our library world, it’s required!

On an individual level, it’s more about sharing information, and making folks aware of what your library program is accomplishing within your school community. On a regional, national, or international level—yea, AISL!—it is sharing success stories with colleagues and best practices within our larger communities.

Please take a moment … and join the AISL Board on reflecting how we can better advocate for ourselves in our individual schools, as well as collectively promote our profession, grow our competencies, and raise awareness with educators and administrators on the value of our work.


If we are to heed the call to advocacy at our individual schools, perhaps writing a year-end report or a welcome back report that outlines our accomplishments for the past year would fit the bill. Arranging a meeting with school administrators to establish goals for the coming year is one way to raise awareness; another is to present to faculty on a new product or service, tech tidbit, collaboration project, etc. You know the drill, but you may not have made this a priority before. Why not consider it this year?


As an association, AISL is committed to better serve its members. In our membership survey earlier this year, many of you indicated that there would be value in having AISL advocate for solo colleagues who feel isolated at their schools, and raise consciousness with administrators and heads of independent schools in general. If only AISL could advocate for our profession, establish guidelines for realistic staffing in libraries, budget recommendations, etc….

Well, here’s our chance. But first, you have to recognize that AISL is not a well-staffed entity in the cloud: we are all AISL. Our association is managed by teams of volunteers (for example, the Board, the conference planning team, the Summer Institute organizers), but we ALL play important parts in the success of our profession. Any one of us can grab an idea and run with it, sharing for the benefit of all. But we will have to toot our horns along the way, collaborating and sharing—something we know that librarians are good at 🙂

Lily Tomlin quote, via Tumblr and Buzzfeed

Lily Tomlin quote, via Tumblr and Buzzfeed

So, the first two questions we are posing are:

1. How can AISL advocate for our libraries and librarians?

2. How are you willing to help advance these initiatives?


At our AISL annual Board meeting in Los Angeles, we agreed that the creation of a Communications Committee would be a good way to launch this advocacy initiative.  CD Mclean has agreed to chair this committee (thanks for your boundless energy and enthusiasm, CD!). When originally proposed, the thought was that this committee would encourage AISL members to get involved in presenting at local and national conferences (like AASL, ALA, Internet Librarian, etc.) and share this info on our AISL website. This committee would also handle the public relations and marketing of published articles written by our membership, as well as encourage AISL members to get involved in action research, writing and presenting results at future conferences as well as for publication.

Does the Communications Committee interest you? CD will need a person to take charge of the publications calendar (much like Barbara Share does with the AISL blog), periodically touching base with writers to see if they are on track to meet deadlines, etc.

The Communications Committee may also need an editor/facilitator to review writers’ submissions and manage the submissions process – does this interest you?

Next Questions: Is there a topic, product or service you’d like to explore? Would you like to collaborate with other AISL members as part of your research, and share your findings? Or publish to our AISL blog, “Independent Ideas”? Or create a video to upload to the AISL YouTube channel?

As one example, Katie Archambault at Emma Willard and CD Mclean at Berkeley Prep are currently implementing “personal librarian” programs at their schools. (Remember one of the PD books we read for our AISL Board Book social in L.A., The Personal Librarian by Richard Moniz?) They will share their experiences at the AISL New Orleans conference next March, allowing us to replicate their success.


We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, initiate a listserv post, contact an AISL Board member or CD Mclean, or share advocacy initiatives you’ve recently undertaken. Here are a few ideas to start the conversation:

* The annual AASL Conference is held in June, but their RFP comes out in October: http://www.ala.org/aasl/conferences/rfp. What are you doing in your independent school library that meets their criteria? You don’t have to do it alone. Ask a friend or two to join you for a panel discussion of the topic and ensure that you look at AASL’s rubric so that you can meet their requirements.

* What other conferences do you attend: local conferences, or Internet Librarian — can you present there and then post your presentations on the website?

* NAIS: For several years we have debated the value in AISL raising its profile with the NAIS community (heads and administrators). Would this be helpful to you? Would you like to collaborate with others to submit a session for presentation at their conference? Or would you like to work on submitting an article for an upcoming issue of “Independent School”?

The sky is the limit! Well, honestly, the time and energy we all have to commit to these advocacy initiatives are what will limit us. The AISL Board is committed to advocacy, and will support our new Communications Committee or other initiatives—but only if you want us to, and are willing to contribute to their success.

So tell us! Share your thoughts and ideas, let’s get inspired, and let’s get tooting!

Cheers!  Sandy Gray & CD Mclean

What your AISL Board is up to …

With reference to Christina Pommer’s great blog post on Podcasts earlier this week, maybe we should approach Slate to arrange an interview with some independent school librarians … you know, in the spirit of full disclosure and stereotype busting 🙂

At this point in the summer, we’re all in various stages of unwinding or gearing up for the next school year, so what better time to offer the first of many updates from your AISL Board?

IMG_2364.JPG pic for blog post

As a result of all the great feedback you provided in our membership survey earlier this year (192 respondents), we have a clearer idea of how the Board can support you in your independent school librarian career.  Here is an overview of some of our initiatives:

Enhanced orientation package for new members.  Several of you commented that you were not aware of the range of resources and PD opportunities AISL provides.  The volume of listserv posts can be overwhelming at times (resist that temptation to delete!), so we’d like to ensure that members understand the many benefits of AISL right from the moment they join.  Priceless … well, actually it’s USD $30, but what a bargain!  We will outline the value of the listserv, blog, wiki, annual conference, Summer Institute, etc., so you are aware of and can access information as you need it throughout the year.  I will work with Jean Bruce on this initiative, but you should be aware also of the many behind-the-scenes contributions Jean–this year’s deserving Marky Award winner–makes to AISL as treasurer.  She and Claire Hazzard (former AISL Board technology director) were instrumental in the launch and maintenance of our new WildApricot website, the annual membership renewals, the registrations and funding for the annual conference and the Summer Institute, and much more.  Just so you know!

A mentorship program.  50% of survey respondents are enthusiastic about participating in this program, either as mentor or mentee.  The logistics and time commitment of a program like this can be challenging, so we are working to create a simple, flexible offering that is entirely voluntary.  Watch for an email from Allison Peters Jensen with details of a pilot project this fall, and please speak up if you have insight or experiences to share – we are working together to share our expertise as both our libraries and we continue to adapt to new circumstances and newer technologies.  Please use the “Comments” section below if you have up-front advice!

Conference Affordability Scholarships.  Beginning in 2016/2017, we will offer not one but TWO scholarships for first-time AISL conference attendees.  Often we are members of this association for years before we attend an annual conference – so here’s your chance to receive $1,000 to help cover your first conference registration, transportation and hotel accommodation costs.  Watch your email for details from Phoebe Warmack this fall; when the application form is circulated, there is a hard deadline for applications, as we need to review and select the recipients while the “early bird” registration fee is still in effect (so these dollars go further).  All you have to do in exchange for this cash donation is attend the conference and prepare a blog post to share your first-time annual conference experience here with other AISL members.

Interested in hosting an Annual Conference or Summer Institute?  We are thrilled that we have a great line-up of conference hosts for the next few years:  New Orleans (2017), Atlanta (2018) and Boston (2019).  We also have hosts for the Summer Institute: New York City (2017) and Los Angeles (2018).  But if you’re interested in organizing a committee to host either of these events in future, let us know!  The AISL Board has produced a step-by-step planning guide for hosting an annual conference (kudos to CD McLean and Jean Bruce for their hard work on this!), and a similar guide is underway for hosting a Summer Institute, thanks to Katie Archambault (host of this year’s SI) and Linda Mercer (founder of the SI).  These guides provide a framework for organizing an AISL event, and allow you to benefit from the expertise of past event organizers.  We also provide an opportunity at each annual conference for the current hosts to meet with the organizers of the following year’s conference, with an AISL Board member in attendance to provide additional support.  Renee Chevallier has been doing a great job liaising with conference planners to ensure everything is on track, providing support and advice as needed.

How about managing a social media channel for AISL?  Following in the footsteps of CD McLean, AISL innovator extraordinaire, for the past few years Claire Hazzard has done an unsung but awesome job of maintaining and innovating with the technologies to support AISL.  She has had assistance from other unsung contributors like Brian Collier (wiki) and Barbara Share (this Independent Ideas blog), and as Claire transitions out of this role, she is now joined by Christina Pommer to lead the Board’s technology forward.  Over the next few months, we anticipate opportunities for new volunteers to manage social media channels like Facebook or Twitter under Christina’s direction.  Christina will put out a call for interested applicants, so please consider volunteering your time and expertise to help grow our association.

Even retirement offers no escape!  Thanks to the advocacy of retired AISL member Milly Rawlings and the enthusiastic survey response from retiring AISL members, we are piloting a “retiree track” at next year’s annual conference. Retired AISL members (a new membership category introduced last year, with a lower annual fee that offers continued listserv access) will have the opportunity to join a concurrent but separate program in the host conference city, which offers some overlap with the annual conference and will provide continued networking to share expertise.  As the organizer and lead cheerleader for this KARL (Kick-ass retired librarians) initiative, Milly will provide details of the inaugural event this fall as she works out a program in conjunction with the New Orleans conference planning team.  Stay tuned for good times, as we welcome back many of our recently-retired colleagues who are keen to stay connected.

But wait, there’s more!  (Just like the K-Tel ad promises)  We understand that we need to better communicate the work of the volunteer AISL Board, not just for accountability purposes, but also to foster interest so new members can be attracted to the Board as people’s terms end.  To begin, we will enhance the info provided on our website to include the terms of office for Board members, with links to bios and position descriptions.  In spring 2017, there will be an opportunity for new members to join the AISL Board in an “at-large” capacity, as existing Board members will be moving into executive roles.  In case you haven’t heard, I’m delighted to introduce Katie Archambault as the president-elect of AISL — she will assume this new role after next year’s conference in New Orleans.  We will be in good hands with Katie at the helm, as she will combine continuity with innovation moving forward.  But no president can do this alone, as the ongoing success of AISL is truly the result of a consistent team effort.  We hope in the months and years ahead you will consider joining the Board as opportunities arise – we strive to attract representation from across North America and welcome librarians at all stages of career development.

On that happy note, I’ll head off to pack for my Newfoundland camping trip.  Enjoy the rest of your summer, and all the best for a smooth transition into the new school year.


Sandy Gray, AISL Board President, 2015-2017

Head Librarian, St. Michael’s College School, Toronto, Canada