ALA Midwinter 2016

#ALAMW16 – the British overview by @HelenSwinyard

img_0340Hi everyone. I am a school librarian from Britain who visited the #ALAMW16 as a first -timer this month. I found the conference enlightening and inspiring. Here is my overview of the weekend (without the tint of jetlag).

Why did I take part in ALA Midwinter?

In the first instance, because an American librarian suggested it. I thought it would be exciting to see what is happening in the US in libraries, and try to get lots of good ideas to bring back to the UK.

What were the highlights?

The Youth Media Awards! It was my 35th birthday and we got up so early, to get in the queue. It was worth it for a 5th row seat, and I met some lovely librarians in the queue too! It was wonderful to be part of something with such a buzz. I loved how all the committee members were honoured, and how everyone kept to time. Everyone in my row had their phones out eagerly announcing each award to the world as it came on the screen. I want to read all the winners and introduce such wonderful books to my students.

See all the winners here:

The friendly and open nature of librarians and bloggers who I met over the weekend – in coffee queues, on an escalator, just wandering around, or on the exhibition stands. It was so nice to chat and share ideas!

Which seminars did you take part in?

I’d like to mention 2 of the seminars which I attended, which were fantastic not only for the speakers and their material, but for the contribution of the attendees too.

Teens’ Social Media Attitudes and Behaviors: what the research means for library services.

Denise Agosto talking about social media. I made so many notes and have so many ideas thanks to her clear explanation & thorough understanding of her research, and her excellent facilitation of discussion between all of us who attended. There are tons of ideas I can implement in the short term – and some long-term thinking about social media and mobile device policy.

Foundations of Young Adult Success: A developmental framework

A fascinating insight into new research from the youth development world about cognitive development and how we should keep valuing the contribution of libraries to developing soft skills, values, mindsets and outlooks. The notes from this session are something which will be up on my wall to ponder over for a good while!

What did I take away to work on in the future?

A whole suitcase of ARCs to read and to give to my students!

Social media, digital citizenship, design thinking, participatory learning, reflection & fun are all my keywords for 2016! I also have some articles on autism and libraries which I need to read emailed by someone I met at the conference. It’s amazing what a lunch conversation can lead to.

What do you wish had been better?

Sadly, I thought my highlight would be Nancy Pearl interviewing author Andrew Dubus III. You don’t get many ‘famous’ librarians but Nancy Pearl is someone I was very excited to see in real life, having her action figure proudly displayed on my library desk. Pupils always ask ‘who is this’? I was sorry that she couldn’t be there – but when I left I went to a great seminar instead, so it all worked out.

One of my targets for the weekend was to find other librarians who are familiar with the Accelerated Reader software, which my school uses. I really wanted to discuss the use of this with other professionals (as it’s an American product) – but I didn’t find anyone. Do you use it or have previously used it? I would love to connect with you – please get in touch!

I am also setting up an international bookgroup with one of the lovely librarians who emailed me following our business card swap, & shared ideas about an international book award with another. But – I gave my card to a lot of people! It would be great if others could get in touch & we can discuss how our schools could work together in the future.

What did I feel were the similarities & differences between our countries?

I now have twitter and facebook connections with librarians, bloggers & even Lyft drivers who I met over the weekend – that would not quite happen on the same scale in the UK, although I admit my accent is a novelty.

The little things that annoy school & children’s librarians in both countries are the same, no matter where or for whom you work. We would all like more autonomy, recognition, budget & time.

America appreciates its school librarians more in terms of professionality than in the UK. I think it helps that in the US there are standard qualifications for positions, whereas in the UK it is very much down to an individual school as to they standard of ‘librarian’ they employ and what they expect their job role to be. For instance, I have a Masters in Library & Information Studies, and over 10 years working in libraries – but I could go for a job at a school in the UK and be up against someone in interview who ‘likes books’. Each school also varies in whether they expect you to have teaching experience or not. It is also not statutory for UK schools to have a library or a librarian.

What would I say is important about the ALA for British librarians?

I think that librarians of any sector should seriously think about attending the ALA at least once for their own CPD. It has been so important for me to connect with other professionals on a massive scale. I believe around 10,000 librarians attended the ALA and we just don’t have those numbers. I luckily work with another librarian at my school, but so many UK librarians work solo and it can be isolating. I have come away feeling invigorated and enthusiastic about my role and passionate to share the best practice that I’ve come across. I really hope that wherever I work in my career, that I can attend the ALA conferences every few years to keep me going!

I would love to see a British delegation visit the ALA, a cohort of authors and librarians, to share goodwill & good practice. Anyone want to join me?

@HelenSwinyard @LibraryHHS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *