When I posted Kari’s blog, there were errors and I apologize to Kari and all of you as well. I am reposting the blog and this time, all should be well! Barbara
I was lucky enough to be chosen as a scholarship recipient to this year’s AISL conference in Tampa, Florida. This blog post is a reflection on my experience at the conference and what I took away from it.
I landed in Tampa late Tuesday night and took a cab to the hotel to meet my roommate for the conference, Cathy Leverkus, who is the Director of Library and Information Services at The Willows Community School in Los Angeles. The week prior to the conference she sent an email to the listserv looking for a roommate and I thought it would be a good way to keep costs down and meet someone new. This was a great choice. Cathy and I got along right away and it was nice to know someone before the conference started on Wednesday morning.
Wednesday was a whirlwind of new: new people, new ideas, and new places. I sat down at breakfast with a group of people I had never met, who quickly put me at ease, and was excited by “The Library as Incubator” keynote. I have since been frequenting their website and have taken inspiration for future projects. I can’t wait to make a poetree for National Poetry Month next year!
After the keynote, we all boarded the coach buses, which proved to be think tanks on wheels. I sat with a new person on almost every bus trip during the conference, learning and making friends simultaneously. This first bus trip was when I realized I was in for a different kind of conference — not a run from room to room in a hotel, overload on information, and hardly talk to anyone new kind of conference, like most of the conferences I have been to before. The small number of attendees and the willingness of everyone to open up and share was what made AISL such a unique and worthwhile experience.
Our first school visit at Shorecrest Preparatory School also tipped me off about how different this conference would be. I attended a session on makerspaces and then went to look around in the makerspace the presenters had just told me about! This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable. Creating a makerspace in my library is on my to-do list, and I had the chance to explore one and now I have Courtney Walker and Dottie Smay, in her fabulous high heels, to reach out to for advice if (or honestly, when) I need it.
I also was happy to learn that we were not overscheduled. During some conferences, I feel totally overwhelmed with the amount of information coming at me in session after session. It was nice to have time to do other things during AISL. After Shorecrest, we visited Sunken Gardens and had time to explore this beautiful local site and relax. This was followed by an afternoon of free time to explore Tampa, which I took full advantage of by thrifting with two new friends. The book board discussion and dinner with a librarian closed out the day beautifully. I was exhausted, and gratefully went to bed early.
Thursday opened with a lovely breakfast overlooking the water at Pier 22 followed by a visit to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, where I had the opportunity to discuss teaching research with three other librarians during “The Power of Student Discovery.” I came away with a better sense of how to structure my research curriculum next year.
It was nice to get a chance to see The Ringling Museum that afternoon and to have some time to spend on the beach (and grab a few frozen daiquiris with new friends!) at Saint Armand’s circle. Swimming in the hotel pool was a perfect end to the day.
The final day of the conference started off with breakfast and some excellent entertainment at Berkeley Prep. The lower division choir practically brought me to tears and reminded me why I am in this profession in the first place. Working with young people who are full of promise and hope, who are so innocent and vulnerable, who make you smile and sometimes drive you nuts — they are the reason our school libraries exist.
I attended the Capstone Project Poster Session and was blown away by what the kids had managed to do, especially considering the fact that this was the first group to complete the program. I am hoping to create a capstone project at my own school and now have some ideas of how to get going and C.D. McLean to reach out to for advice.
It was a treat to hear author William Durbin speak during our delicious lunch at Columbia Restaurant. I loved hearing about the key role research plays in his writing process and was inspired to give writing a go myself during summer vacation. The afternoon writing session led by author Adrian Fogelin at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Day School further emboldened me. I also teach English and took away a wealth of things to try with my students from her presentation.
The closing Skip Anthony Dinner provided the perfect end to the conference and highlighted the most enjoyable aspect of it for me, and I think the biggest reason people return year after year: meeting and spending time with some wonderful people who share your passion. Dedicated, energetic, inspiring, supportive… I could go on and on. I work with faculty and students in my school every day and they are also wonderful people, but sometimes I feel a bit isolated as the only librarian on campus. I made real connections with others in my profession at this conference. I have already been in touch with several people I met and feel more connected to the independent school librarian community.
The conference was a time to recharge professionally, to reassess, rethink, and renew. I came away revitalized and ready to implement many of the ideas I learned about through formal sessions and informal conversations. AISL Tampa 2015 was the best conference I have ever been to.
I’d like to thank AISL for offering the scholarship, the scholarship committee, and the conference planning committee, who did an excellent job. I hope I am able to make it to L.A. next year!