Flamingos of a Feather: AISL Tampa 2015
By: Selene Athas
When I registered for my first AISL conference back in October, I had no idea what to expect. New to the school librarian’s world and new to the world of independent schools, I eagerly anticipated my conference experience with nervousness and excitement. Today, as I sit at my desk in the middle school library at Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School, I find myself daydreaming and reflecting upon my amazing 3 days and 4 nights at AISL Tampa 2015. Aside from the amazing learning and collaborating that took place, what stands out most are the stories I heard from my many conversations with librarians from all over North America.
The bingo card that was in my welcome packet forced me to introduce myself to complete strangers so that I could find out which librarian appeared on Jeopardy!® or which media specialist is the mother of two sets of twins. I don’t think I would have been so bold as to ask these questions on my own, but since it was for a prize and I am extremely competitive, I was on a mission!
While conversing with each person, it was comforting to know that most of the people I spoke with did not necessarily start out in life wanting to be a librarian. I think I had a latent desire to become one from an early age, but somehow, my path in life took many unexpected twists and turns. One commonality I discovered was that keynote speaker Laura Damon-Moore (with whom I fortuitously shared a shuttle to the hotel) also studied theatre in her undergraduate years, and went on to be a successful public librarian, author, and speaker! I spent way too many years looking back and regretting my intense focus on theatre (and not taking enough “real” classes, which I later had to do to become a teacher/librarian), but finally my choices have become more legitimized as I discover myriad interdisciplinary relationships and how librarianship is at the heart of virtually every other profession.
Listening to Chris Bashinelli’s world view and the advice he gave to the young people in attendance empowered me to go back to my school with my own mission to emphasize experiences and relationships rather than the acquisition of material goods. How fitting it was to hear from someone who gave up a life seemingly filled with glamour and celebrity to travel the world and create meaningful connections with people of other cultures. He emphasized the importance deep listening –without judgment – and a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zones. Hearing these words validated something within me as I contemplated my own journey towards librarianship.
Everyone I encountered displayed true passion for the acquisition of knowledge, and it was clear how all of us know how important it is to develop literate members of society. From conversations about books to board games, we are all birds of a feather (or, since we were in Florida…flamingos), flocking together to learn more so we can do more for our students. I felt deep connections with my new colleagues, as if I had known them for many years. I felt welcomed, valued, and a part of an interdependent group of top-notch professionals.
Refreshed, renewed, and filled with inspiration, I know I can gaze around my library and incorporate many ideas I acquired along my #AISLTampa2015 journey. The final message I took away was this: everyone needs a librarian, and it feels good to be needed. We build the future.
Ms. Selene Athas
Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School
Selene, I think you’ve said beautifully how I felt at my first AISL conference–like we’ve all known each other for years!
And about your theater background…well, maybe it is the lower school thing, but I feel like I do a lot of theater every day in the library! 🙂
Lucky you for having all that background in the field!
Thanks, Allison! And yes, I agree…we DO do a lot of theater in the library, especially when reading to pre-k/k students. 🙂
A wonderful summation of the AISL experience whether this is your first or 21st conference. I look forward to sharing experiences with you in the future.
Thanks, Allison! Same here. 🙂
I’m so glad I got to meet you at the conference. Thanks for your reflections!