Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of ALSC, I was able to attend the recent ALSC Mini Institute in Atlanta. Having not previously been able to attend a national professional conference or workshop, it was extremely exciting and rewarding to be in the company of so many of my fellow youth librarians in a place of learning and engagement. The timing felt especially significant, as the Mini-Institute happened to be held on the same day as our nation’s Inauguration Day. At a time when a presidential election and inauguration had caused so much division and unease, it was extremely comforting to be engaged with fellow passionate library professionals in dialog about library services for youth and families.
It is difficult to know what parts of the day to highlight, as the entire time was exciting and fascinating! Being able to hear authors such as Laura Dronzek, Kevin Henkes, Phil and Erin Stead, Carmen Agra Deedy, and Jacqueline Woodson speak about their works and their lives all in one day was a unique and amazing opportunity for a rural librarian such as myself. I have been recommending their books and talking about them almost regularly since I returned from Atlanta. Making book recommendations is taken to another level when you tell a child or family that you heard an author speak in person about writing or illustrating a certain book. A child looks at you as if you’re a movie star!
I was able to attend workshops throughout the day that appealed to the needs of my library and the services we provide. I appreciated the great variety of the programs and the topics they covered. I only wished I could have been in three different rooms at the same time! It was very interesting and enjoyable to hear fellow librarians discuss what they were doing in their communities and I was able to take quite a bit away with me to use personally and to pass along to my colleagues. The professional development aspect of the Mini-Institute was reinvigorating and left me feeling excited!
I was also very fortunate to be able to meet and interact with some extremely remarkable librarians and network with them. I was extremely excited to meet the other Friends of ALSC Scholarship winner, Julie Patterson, who had traveled all the way from India to attend the Institute! We sat together during the lunch and she told me fascinating details about her life and work as a school librarian in Mumbai. I hope life or ALSC brings us together on the same continent again someday!
Following the ALSC Mini Institute, I was able to stay in Atlanta and attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting, which was amazing! On Saturday, I proudly and happily marched with hundreds of other librarians and many thousands more people during the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women. I met another great librarian, Amy Holcomb, who is the Experiential Learning Supervisor at the Skokie Public Library in Illinois. My experience at ALA Midwinter was excellent and left me hoping to return to another ALA conference soon!
Overall, my experience at the ALSC Mini Institute was one I will not soon forget. It was educational, exciting, challenging, fun, and transformational. As a rural librarian, I try to make use of webinars and online learning opportunities as much as possible. But it is an entirely different experience to attend an in-person event such as the Mini Institute and be able to interact with other librarians and to actually feel the excitement and passion which drives us to do what we do for the benefit of the youth and families in our communities.
Keturah Cappadonia is Head of Children’s Services at the David Howe Public Library in Wellsville, N.Y. She was one of two recipients of the 2017 Friends of ALSC Mini Institute Scholarship. Learn more about joining the Friends of ALSC.