My Experience at the 2008 ALSC National Institute

by Allison G. Kaplan

Although I have been active in ALA for many years, this is my first time attending the ALSC National Institute. What a great first experience! There were about 250 participants from across the country (and even one from Bermuda!). The participants were mostly in the trenches children’s librarians but there were also a few library educators (like myself) and library students. We were greeted with a welcome gift that included a large tin of salt water taffy and a conference passport. Inside this passport was a page that served as an ice breaker, asking us to find someone who: had a toddler book club, had been a member of ALSC for more than five years, had traveled West to come to the institute, who was a member of the ALSC board, and so on. It made for a great way to segue into the meeting for first time attendees. I’m not going to provide a play-by-play account of the activities but I will say that from Thursday afternoon through Saturday morning, there was more information being disseminated, more networking being done, and more expertise being shared than I have seen in a long time!

I attended the technology and literature themed sessions. There was also a programming session that I was unable to attend (one can only do so much in two days). The technology session was run by Beth Gallaway, library consultant, “information goddess,” and one of Library Journal‘s named movers and shakers of 2006 for her use of technology in youth services (see her web site at: In this session we talked about why we should have gaming in our libraries. (The short answer is that it develops the new literacy: ability to expose knowledge, apply information, express ideas, and use information in an ethical manner (sound familiar?) in a multimedia environment.) I got to pair the gaming session with a short hands-on session in creating a blog, but I don’t think mine is quite ready for prime time yet!

Peppered throughout the Institute were opportunities to hear from authors and get their autographs. Most touching with the first annual “Breakfast for Bill” in honor of the late William (Bill) C. Morris, Vice President and Director of Library Promotion and Marketing for HarperCollins. Bill (no one addressed him as Mr. Morris) won the first ALSC Distinguished Service Award in 1992. In his honor, this breakfast featured editors Laura Geringer and Joanna Cotler, and authors William Joyce and Sharon Creech, all of whom had worked with Bill over the years. Between humorous and touching stories about Bill Morris, the speakers addressed the relationship between author and editor providing us with an insight into the publishing world that most of us will never know first-hand.

The Institute also featured a reception at the Salt Lake City Public Library which won the ALA Library Architecture of the Year Award in 2005. It is truly a sight to behold and the weather was perfect for standing outside on the fifth floor terrace that provides a panoramic view of the city and surrounding mountains. The web site: ( can only provide a small glimpse into this amazing building. If you ever have an opportunity to see this library; take it!

But with all of the workshops, author talks, and sightseeing; the best part of the Institute, as with most conferences, was the time to chat with other librarians. All in all, the organizers are to be congratulated for a perfect three days!

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