From first-year attendee in Atlanta to Boston Conference Host Committee: Takeaways from an AISL Conference Rookie

“What do you all think of hosting an AISL conference in two years?” When Steph and Dave proposed this at our local Boston Consortium meeting I was all about it. Why not? It would be a great experience, I would learn a lot, I would meet more people working in local schools–at that point, I’d only been in the Boston area for 3 years and opportunities for networking had been limited to conferences that catered to public school libraries. At that point, two years seemed like eons away– we had plenty of time! First, though, I would have to join AISL, also it would help if I knew what these AISL conferences were all about. I was very thankful to receive the 2018 Conference Scholarship which allowed me to attend the Atlanta conference in 2018, an experience for which I am immensely grateful, not only because it enabled me to see how the conference worked logistically, but in sessions I attended, schools visited and in particular the other librarians I spoke with, I truly saw the value of AISL as an institution and the importance of this conference as a professional.

Two years, as it turns out, is not that much time. Or, rather, it is plenty of time but everything seems to condense into one chaotic mass of logistical confusion the closer the conference date looms. Sponsorships add, then drop, locations move due to construction and communication gets fuzzy at points while I tried to balance running my own library, my own personal life, and trying to make good on the commitment I made to the conference committee. So what did I learn from all of this?

The Bus Crisis Negotiation Dream Team: Steph and Erika.
  • Shonda Rhimes had the “Year of Yes”, but this was my “Year of No”. Saying yes to planning this conference meant I had to graciously say “no” more at work, which goes against my usual impulse to take on way too much and say yes to everything. Ultimately, rather than offending my colleagues and my administrators, I found  that by saying “no” to a few big asks, they now have more respect for my time and my professional opinion. It was a risk and a tricky balance to strike but had a worthwhile outcome.
  • How much I appreciate my colleagues. My two colleagues, Marie and Lu, were hugely supportive of my participation on the host committee and did all of the work in hosting the conference at our library at The Fessenden School. I feel very lucky to work on a “team” that has different interests and goals but can come together to make something like that happen.
  • The importance of making connections. By far the most valuable element of these conferences is the networking that happens in those in between times, the bus rides, the Dinner With a Librarian, (the waiting endlessly for busses). It is so refreshing to speak candidly with other independent school librarians who are willing to talk shop, not just about what they’re doing well, but what they are struggling with in their work. Working with the Boston 2019 committee also allowed allowed me to forge friendships and connections with local librarians that I may not have connected with otherwise.
  • Nurture your inner introvert. A few of you AISL veterans mentioned this at different points, but it was crucial for me during the “go,go,go” of the conference to set aside a few minutes to myself to “woosahhh” a little bit. In a bus full of INFJ personality types we need to remember that most of us are just pretending we’re extroverts.
  • Never trust your bus company. Enough said about that.

Overall, what an amazing experience and opportunity. A big thank you to the AISL board for the opportunity to attend Atlanta in 2018 and a huge thank you to Steph, Dave, and the rest of the Boston planning committee. I’m looking forward to next year in Houston!