What does AISL mean to you? Please share widely!

Happy New Year from the AISL board! After mapping our membership last year, we wanted to share our new year’s resolution with you and ask for your assistance in helping us meet it. If you’re reading this as a subscriber or as a link from AISL media channels, you’re already a member of the Association of Independent School Librarians. You know our value; we thank you for your membership.

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NAIS currently has 1541 member schools. We have 641 members from 390 schools. There are many professional organizations for librarians, but we are the only one that’s entirely focused on k12 independent school education. We would like to spread the word and grow our membership; we are stronger as a profession if we learn from and advocate for each other. As you can see from the map, we have strong representation across the East Coast, with membership extending as far west as Hawaii.

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While this blog and our social media channels are available to all, there are many member benefits. The primary benefit is the listserv, with virtual help available 24 hours a day. We have a burgeoning webinar series with presentations from experts and vendors.  There is an Annual Conference hosted by a team of school librarians each spring, and a Summer Institute, with in-depth study of a topic each June. We are constantly responding to members and offering services members request. In fact, our KARLS (kick ass retired librarians) formed 3 years ago because some retired librarians still wanted to be involved on a personal level even after retiring from the profession. How often do you hear that from other librarians? One founding KARL said:

“AISL is an organization that has members who are extraordinary librarians, dedicated to their students, creative, innovative, and passionate about sharing the joy of learning.  If I could recommend one professional development opportunity to independent school librarians, it would be to join AISL and take advantage of the opportunity to network with these extraordinary librarians. I was delighted when I retired and the opportunity came to help plan a retirement track for those of us who wanted to remain connected to AISL.  I am so happy that I am able to keep looking forward to the annual spring AISL conference to keep learning and see dear friends.”

AISL is run entirely run by a volunteer board. Membership fees are kept low so cost is not a factor inhibiting people from joining. The yearly membership fee is $30, and all memberships renew at the start of the school year in September.  Other common questions:

What if I am currently a library student?

We offer a discounted $15 membership for students earning library degrees. Many jobs are advertised on the site in the spring.

Why should I join this if I’m already part of a regional library group?

Library trends and challenges transcend local geographic boundaries. With AISL, your reach is all across North America, and AISL members are quick to respond to requests for information and advice.

Are your conferences popular?

The conferences are very popular and sell out quickly. Librarians love the tours of independent school libraries and the distinctive character of each conference based on the hosting city. We are working to increase registration slots at future conferences so more members can attend.

Is there a digest option for the listserv?

           There is. You can either receive emails throughout the day or one daily digest.


Please share this post widely, personalizing with your own AISL experiences. The board is happy to answer questions about membership. We’re looking forward to broadening our community. Let’s do more together!  

With warm wishes for a healthy, happy 2018.

Your AISL Board

The 2017 Recipient of the Annual Marky Award Is … Dave Wee.

The Marky Award was inspired by founding member Mark Hillsamer, the librarian at St. Albans School, Washington DC for 36 years. Mark helped to establish AISL in 1987 and fostered its growth for 14 years. It very well may have been “Mark’s smiling face, soothing voice, and wry sense of humor”  that kept the organization going during those years.  Walter DeMelle formally announced Mark’s retirement at the Skip Anthony Lecture Banquet in 2001 and presented Mark with a special gift: a mask from Thailand of a lovely lady who holds her index finger gently to her lips in a familiar shushing gesture.

The Marky Award has been given annually since 2002, honoring AISL members who have made a significant contribution to the organization over a long period of time.  A mounted replica of Mark’s gift is given to the winner to be displayed in his or her library until the next conference, together with a small unpainted replica of the mask for the honoree to keep.  The honoree is chosen by the past Marky winners, and is presented with the award at the annual Skip Anthony banquet.

What follows is the speech from the evening of the Skip Anthony Dinner in New Orleans aboard the Creole Queen on Friday, March 24th, 2017.  

Good evening. I am Milly Rawlings, and I am presenting the Marky Award tonight. Jean Bruce would be this year’s presenter if she were here, but she left on Tuesday because of a death in the family.

Karen Gray received the award before Jean and Diane Neary before Karen, and I received it before Diane. We’ve dug deep here for me to present this year’s award, but, as the most recent recipient here, I am delighted to step in for Jean.

I want to make this presentation a bit differently than we have in the past.  The presenter usually gives information about the recipient and then announces the person’s name at the end.  I would like to announce the recipient first and then read what this person’s colleagues sent to me, because I could not find a way to paraphrase the lovely things they wrote.  What they wrote explains perfectly why the Committee selected this person as the recipient of this year’s Marky Award.

It gives me tremendous pleasure to present the Marky Award to Dave Wee.

CD McLean holds the Marky Award on Dave Wee's right as Dave waits to hear the end of Milly's speech.

CD McLean holds the Marky Award on Dave Wee’s right as Dave waits to hear the end of Milly’s speech.

Susan Kallock at Harvard-Westlake School says this about Dave:

Dave Wee came to Harvard-Westlake fresh out of library school (Sept 2001) leaving his home state of Hawaii to settle into LA and the independent school system.  He used to joke that I had taken such a risk when choosing him for the position – he was new to the field and he couldn’t catalog to save his life.  Coming to us with a background in education, he was able to apply this knowledge in many areas inside and outside of the library.  I had the honor of watching him grow into a confident and very skilled school librarian.

Dave became my go to curriculum guy.  He was the one approaching departments and talking to them about possible research projects or suggesting sources that the library had to offer.  He was the one to take on mapping out all of the research projects to see if we were covering all of the information-seeking skills our students needed.  He played a major role in developing lessons for our ever changing Library and Technology 7 course, helping to keep the course current with the changes in technology and the needs of our students.  He worked closely with the communication and debate teachers to introduce them to and encourage them to use the resources of the library.  At one point he designed a lesson that was so well received that they wanted to tape him teaching it so that it could be used over and over again.

Dave’s passion for helping his students make connections lead him to become a faculty leader of the debate team. He not only guided his students in the art of presenting a well-supported argument but also helped them discover new resources and guided them in the evaluation and organization of the information gathered.   Dave is a passionate teacher and is eager to help his students learn and grow.  He celebrates their successes and supports them in overcoming their defeats.

Dave is not someone who likes to sit still.  He may not always be physically moving but his mind is always working.  He is constantly consuming information.  Whether he is reading or watching TV he is taking it all in.  The amount of information that he is able to track and organize is amazing.  I used Dave as my filter.  I figured if he was telling me about an article he read or emailing the latest tech in education trend I should pay attention.  It also didn’t hurt to have a recommendation or two for something entertaining.  All of AISL can attest to his knowledge, his problem solving abilities and his eagerness to share what he has learned or discovered along the way.  He wants to share so much that when he first started at HW he had to take a timer to class to make sure that he stopped talking in order to give the students enough time to actually search for resources.

There is also the fun side of Dave.  He loves to travel and has ventured to many places around the world.  He loves to eat – I saw his tweet of the alligator po’boy that he had the other night in NO.  I’ve had a lot of meals with him and I don’t think there is anything that he doesn’t like.  He has a good sense of humor and can be a bit mischievous.  He often cracks himself up.  His laughter is genuine and comes from deep down inside.  He and one of our other librarians were crowned the Waldorf and Statler (hecklers from the Muppet Show) of the library.  Together they would sit at the circ desk and “heckle” students as they came in.

Dave Wee was well respected at Harvard-Westlake as a colleague and as a friend.  His departure saddened us all.  I am glad that the opportunity presented itself for him to step into a position of leadership and make the desired move home to be with family.  I am glad that he has found a school that has allowed him to spread his wings, a school that supports his educational philosophy, a school that is allowing him to grow even more as a librarian, as a teacher and as a valued colleague.

From Nicole Geoff at Mid-Pacific Institute:

The man is ALWAYS connected. He blogs, he tweets, he … does whatever other verbs are out there related to social media. I’ve never met anyone as media-savvy as Dave.

Besides the virtual world, Dave is pretty savvy in the real one, too. 🙂 He’s made quite a few of my wishlist dreams come true, from making a board game and coloring station in the library to brainstorming ideas for expo-marker walls and chalkboard paint desks throughout the library.

It’s pretty cool having him around: while I am a “let’s-make-do-with-what-we-have” sort of person, Dave is very much a “what-can-we-do-to-get-more” kind of guy. He’s definitely rocked our world, and we are the better for it.

Please join all of AISL in our warm congratulations to our well deserving colleague Dave Wee! Please put your virtual hands together!!

Making the case for PD

Add me to the list of those fortunate to have attended #AISLNOLA. But what about those of you who weren’t there? Not because of choice, but because of difficulty convincing your supervisor to invest in this PD opportunity? Here are some tips on making your case for future PD:

Start small  – there can be amazing inspiration in your local or neighbouring communities. Visit some local school libraries, set up a meeting with an academic librarian at a university within a day’s drive, ask public library staff if you could sit in on related PD, host an informal workshop (book talks, display ideas, discussion about a current issue) and invite any or all librarians in your area. Look for online webinars, and if possible, participate with a buddy so that you can discuss and plan afterwards. Laying this foundation could show your supervisor how much you’re invested in PD.

Plan ahead – review notes from previous conference sessions  to create a ‘big-picture’ of how relevant and valuable it has proven to be for many in the past. This prep work will also help you pull together a proposal in advance so that you’re prepared for registration (as some with limited numbers, eg. AISL, fill up very quickly!). Plant the seed well in advance (share details of the opportunity, note upcoming date, give heads-up you’ll be making a proposal).

Be budget conscious – be creative in coming up with a plan that shows you are keeping an eye on costs (share a room – post on listserv if you aren’t aware of anyone needing a roommate, choose less expensive flights, stick within school-set expenses for meals or offer to cover some yourself if you can).

Make your dedication evident – visiting libraries when travelling for pleasure, or scheduling PD during breaks to eliminate the need for coverage (if that’s an issue) shows your passion and commitment.

Ask for help – many of us have shared our reports/photos/experiences with colleagues & administrators at other schools, in the hope that their librarians will be giving a chance to take part.

Always follow up – tying all PD experiences to action items, demonstrating the direct impact on your library program and services, shows the return on the investment.

Hoping to see you at a future conference,


My To-Do List

I am so thrilled to be writing this from beautiful New Orleans, where I’m attending the AISL annual conference for the first time! As I bask, I want to share what I’m sure are just the very beginnings of my to-do list for when I head back home.

Doug Johnson Keynote: “Changed but Still Critical: Brick and Mortar School Libraries in the Digital Age”
To summarize, how does the physical space of the school library best serve students when they don’t necessarily have to walk through the doors to access information, or even to get help from a librarian? How can we create a library that students can feel is their “third space?” My to-do list takeaways:

  • Think about time rather than space as a way to “zone” the learning spaces of the library, especially in a small or one-room operation (like mine).
  • Have a positively phrased list (written and posted) of things that are always allowed in the library (e.g., reading, learning about a personal interest, writing a journal or blog post, getting help with a research need, etc.)
  • Promote as much in-library tech support as I am able to offer

2016 Summer Institute Design Dream Team Take 2! Mary Buxton, Marsha Hawkins, Claudette Hovasse, Melinda Holmes, Laura Pearle, and I shared some of the ways (all very different) that we have used what we learned from the 2016 Summer Institute on Design Thinking in Libraries hosted by Katie Archambault. My design thinking project to-do list:

  • Redesign of our resource guides to be easier for students to use
  • Revisit my version of a “Rx for Research” infographic, evaluate it with students and teachers, and share it more widely
  • Offer lessons, tutorials, and other support to our Entrepreneurial Capstone students in organizing information and developing their PLNs

Solid Research or Stuck in a Rut?: One Librarian’s Research on Modern College Readiness
Courtney Lewis presented some results from her absolutely fascinating research on what college librarians have reported as the research skills and tools that incoming first-year students should be familiar with today. My to-do list:

  • Consider introducing other citation tools more frequently used in colleges for some upper-level courses and/or make sure our students are prepared to use the citation tools available in the colleges and universities they attend
  • Choose and use a discovery service
  • During students’ research processes, deliberately emphasize the importance of research as participation in a “global community of scholars”

Thank you so much to all the presenters, conference committee, and hosts!

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list for the next two days. These are just some of my takeaway items so far – I’m curious to hear what others would put on their to-do lists from these and other sessions. Please share – what’s going on your post-conference action list?

Hello LA!

Welcome to Los Angeles, and a huge thank you to the Committee for planning an organized conference with diverse programming! Even though I’ve only been involved in AISL for 4 years, every time I enter the hospitality suite at the start of a conference, I feel like I’m finally with my “tribe.” Here’s my takeaways from day one.


Willows – maker space signage

After an hour exploring first-hand the highway system of LA, we all got the LA native experience to start the day. The Willows School has model STEAM and library programs, and everything they shared showed that theirs is a culture that fosters collaboration. You know you are in the right place when the headmaster starts the day by saying, “The library is the heart and soul of the school.”

Part One: The Willows School

Maker Spaces and STEAM Curriculum

The three maker teachers shared their own backgrounds and their belief that you can come to the maker world through literacy, science, or the arts and all learn from each other. One of the presenters, Mr Wittenburg, talked about the transformations and “aha moments” that come with agency and ownership in a makerspace. At Willows, they teach maker classes in co-units with teachers as well as doing projects before and after classroom subject lessons. I liked the analogy that the easiest way to do start collaboration is to take two courses and basically build a Venn diagram about what overlaps. The presenters advocated that maker spaces provide opportunities for authentic interdisciplinary learning. Students are motivated to solve problems that they have identified in their work, and they don’t think in terms of specific classes. The librarian is in a unique position to oversee collaboration and resource and to make sure that there is a scope and sequence followed between grades.


Willows – bracing with newspaper

To consider: Specific recommendations include Google Drive, Scratch, iMovie, GarageBand, and Makey Makey.


Willows – STEAM project

Creating Ever-Evolving, School-Specific Learning Commons

The second session discussed the idea of a learning commons and how libraries are evolving in today’s educational landscape. A team of architects led the session. As learning becomes more project-based and interdisciplinary, and as digital resources become more vital to library collections, libraries don’t have to be limited by physical location. Learning commons are adaptable and may be satellites for the “library” or may replace the traditional library model entirely.


Willows – Fun color-changing lights (loved them!)

If your school is considering making structural changes and brings in an architect, here’s what to expect. Designers need to be asking school personnel and students a lot of questions. They should also survey the space to see what works and what doesn’t. Then they will talk with the librarian! So, you should visit places (not just schools but also companies and other areas of interest-explore) to figure out what inspires you. The architects will work with you to translate your inspirations and the school’s educational philosophy in the library-learning commons transition. Though it’s obvious, the architects also need to know the budget considerations and work within the school’s budget. This may involve a multi-stage plan.


Willow – ideas on whiteboard wall

To consider: How will acoustics work, especially if you have combined group and silent workspaces? Do you have enough electrical outlets? Is the furniture comfortable, and do you want some of the furniture to be mobile so that the space can easily transition uses? Who will be responsible for the management of common spaces?

Part Two: Marlborough School

The Marlborough School is a 7-12 girls’ school located in the beautiful Hancock Park neighborhood. As we lunched underneath the enormous skylight and watched the palms wave outside the window, we learned about their transition from library to Academic Resource Center (ARC). There is a large open central space, stacks, 2 computer labs, and 3 group study rooms. Future plans call for more collaboration space, better sightlines, and a makerspace. The space is already lovely, and I hope I’m able to return one day to see what they’re able to do.


Marlborough – first tech defense

Integrating a Library Program with Information Technology Department

The librarians and technology staff have been one department at Marlborough since 2009. They all attend all team meetings, and thus are crosstrained across departments and have many opportunities for conversation. It keeps the librarian from being limited as the “book person” and helps teachers realize the librarian’s role in teaching both teachers and students. Noise and acoustics were mentioned as a concern, and that’s something to always consider when you have increased collaborative use of the library.

I loved that this presentation included both the student and teacher perspective on the 7th grade Digital Citizenship Project and Tech Tools classes. I highly recommend this conference to anyone, and if you attended, you know that seeing the class lessons and projects on the school’s Haiku site provided plenty of ideas. They are models for providing interactive, student-centered 21st century information literacy lessons!


Marlborough – graduation dress display


Marlborough – a great idea for students and alums

1:1 Transition

If I could only say one thing about this panel discussion, it’s that there’s no one path to successful 1:1, but there are a lot of questions you should ask along the way. The panel was both positive and honest, sharing the experiences of their schools with 1:1, which ranged from 3 to 20 years.


Marlborough – coloring station

Questions to ask:
Do you want to purchase devices or have students bring their own? If the school purchases, will the students be allowed to make their own in-device purchases? What is a succession plan for new devices in future years?
Have you considered a pilot program for one grade or faculty before a school-wide implementation?
Do you have a technology plan for device maintenance? This should include a schedule for replacing devices, funding for this, and staff for tech support.
What is the purpose of the devices? iPads and computers have different functions, particularly as they relate to research, paper writing, and citations.
Will the school offer charging stations, and will the librarian play a role in this? What happens if students forget their devices or if they are being repaired?

Suggestions, Ideas, and Thoughts:
The role of the library might change, but there are many opportunities for mobile integration.
The school may want to require cases. Students have been known to damage devices. 🙂
Keep searching for and trying new apps. New apps appear daily.
It’s fine to have downtime from tech. No one should feel compelled to use technology in every lesson.
Students will be on social media. Educate parents and teachers about appropriate use, and offer monitoring suggestions.
Train teachers so that they are comfortable with devices. If funds permit, the school might want to offer money for teachers to purchase technology programs, apps, or training.
The computer labs will likely see less use, so you may want to consider alternate uses for them.
Students may use their devices to contact teachers all hours of the day and night. Consider boundaries and expectations for these interactions.


Marlborough – I want glassed-in group study spaces so badly!

Specific recommended programs include Google Drive, Nearpod, TouchCast, Turnitin, Geometer’s Sketchpad, and Artsonia.


LA Central Library – Original Card Catalog

Part Three: Central Branch of the LA Public Library


LA Central Library – Zodiac Chandelier

We finished our day with 3 sessions at the downtown art deco masterpiece that is the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. They offer tours daily for visitors, and they offer reading programs, tutoring services, technology classes, STEAM projects, performances, and life skills courses for youth throughout the city. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, it’s worth a visit!


LA Central Library – Augmented Reality Display

In case you’re wondering what life is like in the day of an AISL conference attendee or what you’ll learn, this is my snapshot for day one. Next up are informal dinners with librarians throughout the city and time for exploring the city. In my case, that means an evening at a superfun used bookstore, The Last Bookstore.  Thanks for sharing my notes.


LA Central Library – Children’s Room(s)

Conference attendees, please feel free to add your own observations from the day in the comments below. And definitely follow #aisl16la on twitter and instagram!


LA Central Library – Puppet Premiere of The Tortoise and the Hare

From Jennifer Falvey – AISL Annual Conference Affordability Scholarship winner, Impressions on the Conference

Greetings to you all, I am posting Jennifer’s blog about her impressions from the conference today.  Enjoy and have a safe, restful and wonderful summer!  Barbara


The Difference

I have so enjoyed seeing the posts written by the other conference attendees—especially the Storify about the whole experience. Looking at those pictures and posts (some of them mine!), I have been able to relive and review the truly inspiring sessions (Libraries as Incubators! OMG makerspaces! Sofas covered in uniform fabric! ), the awesome venues (The Yacht Club! Sunken Gardens! The Ringling Estate!), and the new friendships I began (Mary! Kim! The Publix trip and the Bad Bananas!).

So it is perhaps surprising that I have been wrestling a bit with writing this blog post. Now it is the 11th hour, and I am using the deadline as my impetus to just go ahead and say what I’ve been thinking, and figure that if any of this truth is uncomfortable or “wrong,” then I can use that knowledge to grow.

Being an Independent School Librarian is different from being a public school librarian. And from what I can see so far, our conference is different, too.

A few years ago, my wonderful school had a campaign focused on sharing our appreciation for our teachers, our campus, our educational and extra-curricular programs. As a part of this effort, car magnets were distributed. They were large—I’d say about 6” x 8” at least—and they said “I Know the Difference.” (Did I mention that these magnets were Large?) Well, I had a really hard time putting that magnet on my car. In fact, I think I put it on my fridge instead. Even though I know we are different, in all the good ways, I couldn’t do it. It seemed too “Nanny Nanny Boo Boo,” if you know what I mean.

It’s the same with admitting that the AISL conference is different (okay, when I say different I mean better. There.). I said to many people while I was at conference, and afterwards, that this was the single most relevant and rewarding conference I have ever attended, and it truly was. Day after day I was presented with robust program ideas, solid research, and personal stories which directly related to my own professional situation and which were focused on creating high-quality, challenging and enriching programming for students. And although I know that all of us—private and public school alike—must be aware of the financial realities at our schools, connect with our constituents and advocate with our admins, that was not the primary focus of this conference, as it so often has been at the public-school level. It is a sad fact that when, year after year, public school librarians find it necessary to fight for their survival, the focus can easily become about survival at the expense of substance.

There, I said it. I have put the bumper sticker on my professional car: I Know the Difference. And it still makes me cringe a bit.

So where does that leave me? I am still a member of my local public school librarian’s organization, serving as the Special Public and Independent School liaison. Have I just betrayed all of those colleagues? I hope not. I have to believe that doesn’t have to be the end of it.

In this regard, the theme of our 2015 conference, Bridging Our Differences, was especially meaningful to me—particularly as a first-time attendee. I am so grateful to have found my professional organization, and I see the value it can add to my life both professionally and personally. My challenge now is to find ways to share that richness: with my students, my faculty, and my public library peers.


From Kari Delane, AISL Annual Conference Affordability Scholarship winner, Impressions on the Conference

Intro from Phoebe Warmack –

Last October the Board of Directors of AISL was pleased to announce the first offering of the AISL Annual Conference Affordability Scholarship.  It was double the pleasure, thanks to the funding of a generous donor and association member, to in this inaugural year be able to offer two affordability scholarships.  These scholarships each provided a stipend of up to US $1,000.00, designed to provide 100% conference registration with the remaining balance to be applied as reimbursement toward documented travel and lodging expenses to defray the cost of attending the recipient’s first AISL annual conference.  We received great response to this first affordability scholarship offering and, after reviewing all applications, selected two librarians for receipt of the available grants.

I was excited, proud, and appropriately nervous to be a part of this selection process.  We are a group of accomplished professionals and I can assure you no decision was made lightly or easily!  We were thrilled to offer scholarships to Jennifer Falvey, of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School and Kari Delane, of Hillside School.  The scholarship committee asked on the application form that the recipient submit a brief report of their conference experience to the AISL Board of Directors.  During our meeting in Tampa (thanks again, Tampa librarians!), we decided we would much prefer a write up as a post on the AISL Independent Ideas blog.  It is my honor this week to introduce the first of these reflections which I know you will enjoy reading.  I hope it will rekindle the “first time” memories of those of us who have frequented AISL conference venues and, as well, that it will provide those of you who have not yet attended an AISL conference that extra impetus to apply for the affordability scholarship next fall!  Looking forward to seeing you all in LA!



From Kari DeLane –

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

I’d like to thank AISL for offering the scholarship,

the scholarship committee, and the conference planning committee, who did an excellent job.

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 hope I am able to make it to L.A. next year!


Impressions of a Newbie; My First AISL Conference

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

Media Specialist

Middle School/Preschool/Kindergarten

Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School



Top 10 List of Conference Takeaways

The Tampa Crew did such a great job with this year’s AISL conference that I am overwhelmed by all that I have learned and have acquired “Option Anxiety”. The only way I can move forward is to break the dazzling array of new information into small digestible bits.

To that end, Blogger Shelagh Straughan and I have created a  Top Ten list of tips from the conference. I will start with 10 and work down to 6, and Shelagh will pick up where I left off.  Here we go!

 Top 10 Tip:  The Library as Incubator Project: Allow students to connect to assignments in different ways.  Art as part of the toolbox. Modeling this in library space is the best way to encourage creative thinking at your school. As Erinn Paige said, we can “Sneak rigor into your students’ lives through art”. Also check out the Book to Art Club.

Top 9 Tip: Here’s a quick low-tech survey as a pre-test before a presentation: at the start of a presentation, survey your attendees’ level of experience by using the ‘finger survey’. Ask your attendees to hold one finger up if they are a total novice at the topic to be discussed, two fingers if they’re somewhat experienced, and three if they are very familiar with the topic. Call for everyone to hold fingers up all at once. This will help you to gauge levels of experience and help you to shift content a bit if necessary. Thanks to Dotty Smay!
Top 8 Tip:  Makerspace startup: It’s not the machine, it’s the program.
Chaos is standard. Become comfortable with the role of “Guide on Side.” Go to art teachers and tech teachers for guidance. The tool that is most important is the questioning tool. The process is primary. In most of our schools there is no time for the thinking, trying, exploratory processes in classes. We can give a space for that in our libraries. Consider it a “Blended Model”.  In our more conventional library role we work to create independent readers, but we also work with teachers on set curriculum. Same thing with projects. Sometimes work with teachers, but sometimes work with students individually, as we do when helping them find just what they want to read.
 makerspace 1

Top 7 Tip:  Two apps (out of many) from App-Smashing workshop

Prompterous is a teleprompter app available from the App Store in iTunes. Has a timer, great for filming and speeches. For kids and faculty, good for any oral presentations.  Lindsay Brennan provided the link for the Padlet from the App Smashing Session.  For those who couldn’t attend, there are some cool resources here.

Notability is able to manipulate notes in all kinds of ways. You can sign docs (opens a PDF, allows to write with a stylus, and send back). Possible in iPad, available through the App Store.

Top 6 Tip:  Always carry talcum powder with you when you go to the beach. A powdering on your feet will absorb any water and the sand will brush right off. Of course, sand in Tampa Bay is extra super fine, so it’s a lot like baby powder itself, but the talcum tip is  a great one. Thanks to Diane Neary for that little treasure.DSCN5591 (2)
Here’s Shelagh Straughan continuing the countdown: 

Top 5 Tip: Impulsivity and the teenage brain (Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School) on how, with the prefrontal cortex developing throughout adolescence, teenagers can have difficulty assessing risk, setting priorities, thinking ahead and planning over time. I loved the suggestion that rather than just facing this fact, we embrace the opportunity for learning, and let this environment shape our teaching. Helpful too, to stretch from this place and consider how it impacts plagiarism – for instance, that a growth (rather than fixed) mindset recognizes that citation demonstrates credibility.

Top 4 Tip: What college freshmen need to know (Ringling College of Art & Design) was a timely and relevant presentation by a panel of 3 academic librarians. I wasn’t alone in feeling reassured about some of the items we’re already covering, and appreciated the recommendations about additional specific skills which will help our students succeed at the post-secondary level. These included but weren’t limited to using a variety of databases, recognizing the difference between popular magazines and scholarly journals, and perhaps the most important – encouraging them to ask for help!

Top 3 Tip: The power of student library proctors was more than evident at Berkeley Preparatory! Their group of 23 proctors (including co-heads) meet and work weekly to shelve books, develop book trailers & promotional videos, design displays and organize programs that celebrate reading. This year’s initiatives have included pumpkin-decorating contests, a St Patrick’s day book promotion and the current display of “Which is better – the book or the movie?’photo3photo2 

Top 2 Tip: The value of taking time to stop, rest and reflect. The beautiful library at Academy of the Holy Names has recently unveiled its new iLab, an innovative, multi-purpose space. Upper School librarians were fortunate to have 90 minutes of time to gather in this creative environment to “reflect, recap and record” what we’d learned over the past 3 days. This time was invaluable, allowing some to discuss current issues and others to plan action items.

Number One Conference Tip: Be inspired, not intimidated. I am fortunate to have attended 5 AISL conferences to date, and once again, I was amazed not only by the beautiful libraries we visited and impressive programs we saw in action, but by the wonderful work we heard about while chatting with colleagues. I’m learning to focus on being motivated rather than overwhelmed. It’s enough that we do our best with what we have, and focus on the potential within our own schools. Having the opportunity to see what’s happening out there helps me to expand my vision for my own library program.photo4 (2)

Thanks again to all the Tampa Bay librarians, and be sure to note your own top tips from the conference in the comments below!

It’s Conference Time! No Foolin’!

It’s April 1st. This means two things, my bibliophile friends:

1. Pranks, they are abounding. Awesome.

2. It’s T-Minus 2 weeks until AISL Annual Conference, “Bridging Our Differences“, kicks off in warm, sunny TAMPA!! HOORAY!!!

So for Barbara Share, the Blogging Goddess, who requested that I re-post this and for anyone else who might be interested,  I give you a geographically edited bit of conference advice, originally posted last year around this time as To Conference (verb).


As I contemplate what to pack for Dallas Tampa and worry about blinding new and old friends with my pasty winter legs, I can barely contain my excitement.  You see, professionally AND personally, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year.

This post is for conference veterans and newbies alike. A bit of AISL conference advice. Please use the comments section to build on this.

How do you conference?

What to wear?

During the day, you’ll find a little bit of everything, from jeans to dresses and heels. I vote for business casual during the day with comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I also layer so I’m ready for heat and AC. Bring something fun for the Skip Anthony banquet. It’s your chance to exchange your Clark Kent façade for fun, stylin’ Superlibrarian.


The hospitality suite: when you arrive at the hotel you might find yourself feeling road weary. You probably have a fantastic new book in your carry-on and some comfy pants calling your name. Fight it. Go by your room to drop your bags, freshen up, then head to the hospitality suite. When you arrive there, grab a snack and a glass of wine and get ready to mingle. It might be uncomfortable at first, but putting faces with names and learning who you might have some things in common with (Single sex or co-ed? Elementary, middle, or upper?) can open up doors to meaningful conversation and perhaps even genuine friendships by the end of the conference.  Not your first time? Look for new faces and make them feel welcome. Revel in reconnecting with old friends and putting listserv names with faces, but look for conference newbies to draw into conversations. I really appreciated those that did this for me my first year.

Meals and bus rides are equally valuable. Even if you are an introvert, don’t miss this opportunity to connect. At times, these conversations can be as educational as the workshops that you will attend.

Talk to boys! Men tend to be in the minority at our conference. It’s uncomfortable to be in the minority. Ladies, let’s make sure we’re making them feel welcome and included as well.

 Practical Advice

Carry a notebook or device for note taking at all times. When you’re on the bus and someone starts talking about a fantastic book they’ve read that you or your students might also like to read, write. it. down. You probably think you’ll remember. You might. But if you’re like me and your “brain plate” gets full, these details might fall right off. I also take people’s cards and write on them what it is we discussed and anything that I want to follow up on when I get home. It will help, trust me. Try to sit with someone new on the bus each time. It’s quality time built into your day as you travel.

Bring a camera or device to take pictures. Take a picture of the name of the library before you start snapping away—you might want to email the librarian to discuss specifics later. You will see some awesome displays, new titles, furniture, spaces, quotes, technology, programming, etc.  Take pix of slides in a presentation if they are particularly good or relevant to something you’re interested in. Record all of this inspiration to recreate in your own space or to include in your conference report when you get home.

Take pix of student art to share with your art teachers. Do the same for other student work displayed in the library or on campus that might inspire a class project. Innovative recycling program in San Fran you say? Bring it to your school! I first saw Read posters done for middle and upper school teachers of the year at a school I visited during an AISL conference and that became an awesome tradition at my last school. Reading programs, book displays, ways to integrate book carts into 3D book displays, tech integration…pix are always good to show administrators great ideas in action when you get home.

Use social media to engage in conversation with our colleagues who are unable to attend this year (#) on both Twitter and Instagram).

Have FUN, but not too much fun. Be remembered for your fabulous ideas, not for your fabulous table dance moves. 😉

Take advantage of every opportunity offered to you. The planning committee has spent an incredible amount of time and energy thinking through what you should see and do in their town. Even if you’re really tired, push yourself to go on that tour, visit that museum, see that sight. Some of my favorite AISL memories include seeing Niagara falls for the first time, visiting wine country, touring the Country Music Hall of Fame, catching a Rockies game in Denver, dancing the night away with a 360 degree view of the San Francisco skyline, touring the Naval Academy, and last year’s tour of the private collection…if you missed it, you need to ask someone about it STAT.  Holy cow.

I absolutely love this conference. It is my professional ‘cup filler’ for the year. To avoid information overload, I come back and choose 3 action items to either begin on immediately or to plan for the next year. I keep my notes and refer back to them at least once a year. It’s amazing to see some of the same issues from my first conference in ’07 still relevant today.

These are just some of my suggestions for getting the most from your time in Tampa. What did I miss? Please share comments, questions, or suggestions of your own below. Until then, I’ll pack my boots sunglasses and flip flops and count the days until I see you in Margarittaville.