Awards & Scholarships

The Perks of Being a Student Ambassador

The 2013 ambassadors. Left to right, Back row: Rebecca Tischler, Justin Banger, Danielle Forest. Front row: Callie Ann Starkey, Danilo Baylen, Amy Seto Musser.

Earlier this year I was honored to be chosen as an ambassador for the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival (often abbreviated to CBF). The purpose of the ambassador program is to increase national awareness and appreciation of the festival through involvement of graduate students in children’s literature and/or library services to children. I was unfamiliar with CBF until my grad school emailed me about the ambassador program, so I’d like to get the word out about this wonderful opportunity.

The Festival

CBF takes place every April on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, home of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. During the three day festival there are sessions on sharing children’s literature in schools, libraries, and universities,

The ambassadors pose with a framed piece by Ezra Jack Keats in the closed stacks of the de Grummond Collection.
The ambassadors pose with a framed piece by Ezra Jack Keats in the closed stacks of the de Grummond Collection.

and lectures by/about authors and illustrators. This year’s festival included sessions on transmedia, combining arts and literature, and using LGBTQ inclusive books in storytime, as well as lectures by K.T. Horning, Eric Rohman, Grace Lin, and Candace Fleming. Several awards are presented at the festival, including the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards for Children’s Books and The University of Southern Mississippi Medallion. The latter honors an individual for distinguished service in the field of Children’s Literature and this year’s recipient was Jon Scieszka.

Ambassador Duties

Callie Ann Starkey marveling at the wonders in the stacks of the de Grummond Collection.
Callie Ann Starkey marveling at the wonders in the stacks of the de Grummond Collection.

What exactly does an ambassador do and how are they helpful to the festival? Below are some of the ways ambassadors provide support. Also a shout out to the festival coordinators who were so thoughtful of ambassador preferences when assigning sessions.

  • Help presenters set up for their sessions.
  • Pass out handouts and session surveys.
  • Take tickets at luncheons.
  • Keep track of session attendance (love those clicker counters!).
  • Post updates on social media about the conference.


That’s all the work stuff, but it’s the fun stuff that makes the ambassador program such a worthwhile experience.

  • Free shared housing and registration for all three days of the festival (meals and transportation not included.
  • Meet authors and illustrators in a relaxed atmosphere. Mingling and chatting are encouraged.
  • Free time to attend other sessions, lectures, and book signings.
  • Attend the luncheons, galas, and dinners, to which all ambassadors are invited (at one luncheon we watched Grace Lin’s baby take her first steps!).
  • Network with the other ambassadors. I have kept in touch with all five and recently caught up with one at ALA Chicago.
  • Tour the spectacular de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, which is jam-packed with original manuscripts, artwork, sketches, and notes.

A Memorable Experience

I had such a memorable experience at CBF for two reasons. First, the sessions and lectures were excellent and I walked away with new information, insights, and ideas. CBF felt like attending ALSC sessions at an ALA Annual conference, but on a smaller, more intimate scale (approximately 500 attendees this year). Second, my fellow ambassadors were a great group of supportive and intelligent people. I have no doubt that all of them will do amazing things in their careers as librarians and educators and I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know them.

If you’re a student looking for a way to boost your resume, network, and find inspiration I highly encourage you to apply for the ambassador program.  Next year’s festival will take place April 9-11 and applications are usually due in December. Check the CBF website in the coming months for more information about the ambassador program. You can also see the 2014 keynote speaker lineup.


Amy Seto Musser Headshot

Today’s guest blogger is Amy Seto Musser. Amy recently finished her MLS at Texas Woman’s University and is currently a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library. She is always on the look out for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blog:

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

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