I have been active in AASL and AISL since I began as a librarian 20 years ago. I won’t be at AASL in Tampa this year. I always learn so much at these gatherings, and I will miss the learning and the fellowship (not to mention the free books and swag 🙂). I served on this year’s AASL social media committee, and I will miss seeing my fellow committee members in person (our work was virtual), and will diligently read social media to follow along as best I can.
If you haven’t heard me talk about it before, both my kids are/were rowers. As my oldest is an English teacher and rowing coach (and Masters level competitor) at an Independent School in Princeton, NJ, I still follow the rowing scene closely (don’t get me started…). Today I saw this in a social media post.
True, that! Attending conferences, especially in person has confirmed this over and over. There is always something new to learn, even if it’s not something you can apply In toto to your personal practice. Meeting and talking with other Librarians brings us so much. These takeaways can come in bits and pieces. They will form connections to other snippets, many from your own experiences. You might make something no one has thought of before (and you can present it at your next conference)!
A few years ago, in Louisville, KY, I was fortunate enough to attend a session with a Battle Creek, MI high school librarian. Her students participated the National Holocaust Memorial Museum’s History Unfolded project. This crowdsourced collaboration allowed the students to learn just what America knew about Hitler and the atrocities in Germany, and when they knew it. These scholars-in-progress (aren’t we all?) searched and read newspapers on historical events from the 1930s and 1940s. Their project culminated in town-wide exhibits, visits from Holocaust survivors, and an award from Michigan’s governor, among other accolades and opportunities.
After the session (which was too short!), many of us gathered with the presenter, Gigi Lincoln, and chatted. We exchanged takeaways, business cards, and a promise from Ms. Lincoln to respond to any questions we had. For the next several months (until the pandemic), we exchanged ideas and resources and cherished the wisdom of Gigi Lincoln.
While I have not put the entire project into use, I have used many smaller aspects.
Crowdsourcing: The Library of Congress is crowd-sourcing its collection of musical theater sheet music. Our musical theater students have been pouring over the collection…adding lyrics, composers, titles, and publishers to the LOC archives, while adding to their knowledge of themes, techniques, and the history of American musical theater.
The Research Sprint: Gigi Lincoln spoke in detail about the “research sprint”. The state organization in Michigan provides a robust suite of databases to its school and public libraries. However, these would not be enough for her students to find the local newspapers needed for information on the project. Gigi’s idea? A “research sprint”! Students visited Michigan State University’s libraries. In collaboration with an MSU History professor, and the US History librarian, the students used America’s Historical Newspapers to search for information. The students enjoyed lunch in one of the cafeterias and also had a tour of the MSU campus. In our Advanced US History (offered through Indiana Univeristy) we didn’t travel far – we searched African American newspapers available at the LOC for an “in-school field trip”. With the assistance of the History Librarian from a nearby college we spent four hours (and a pizza lunch) pouring over the magnificent collection, looking for evidence on the social accomplishments of significant African Americans in the late 1800s. The kids loved it (and not just the pizza and Halloween candy)! I’m always preaching the “community of scholars” (thanks Courtney Lewis!), but on this occasion, they experienced it for themselves.
Attending conferences – whether local or far away – is one way to experience the “together” we need to continue to advance our practice and our profession. I encourage you to take advantage of as many as you can! And, registration is open for AISL 2024, in sunny Orlando. Together we’ll go far!