This year’s ALA Annual Conference left my head spinning from what can accurately be described as a love fest for library workers. From an ALA exclusive open house at the Library of Congress to intimate conversations with new friends, my heart and mind were overflowing. Collaborations and contributions from library advocates across the country – many of whom are students, part-time library workers, or those working in fields complementary to librarianship – enriched the conference with a depth of knowledge and expertise. Read on for a few highlights and insights from fellow conference attendees.
Arin Reese (Media Specialist at Chabot Elementary in Oakland, California) joined ALA and ALSC as a library school student. “Participating in ALA, ALSC, and local organization Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California (ACLNC) has affected my direction in librarianship in that I have met a diverse range of colleagues who have provided introductions, mentorship, and inspiration. As a career changer into librarianship, the networking opportunities have been vital to my extended learning, my thinking around the shape I have wanted my career to take, and the professional opportunities I have had access to.”
Reese recharged her energy for school librarianship at ALA Annual with relevant sessions for members of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), author and publisher events, and networking with library workers nationwide. “My ALA Annual highlights: The Library of Congress open house, the Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast, the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Awards Banquet, meeting Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, the ALSC gathering at Planet Word, a session on professional storytelling as a means of advocacy in school libraries, and just spending time catching up and connecting with colleagues. Being with so many like-minded librarians who share deeply held values such as community service, literacy, access to resources, and the freedom to read is so uplifting and inspiring.”
Aryssa Damron, a children’s librarian with the District of Columbia Public Library and current co-chair of the ALSC Membership Committee, describes how her participation has helped her think big. “Being in ALSC, and especially the Membership Committee, has really turbo-charged my librarianship! I work in a very inward-focused system – and have only worked in this system. Being around other librarians who are clearly passionate enough about the profession to be in a professional organization has given me a hundred different people to talk to about programs, about updating my resume, and to talk to about our favorite story time rhymes, tips for diversifying interview questions, and more! Being in ALSC has made me realize that I don’t have to just do story time and shelve my books and call it a day – I can be a changemaker and a teacher and an influencer and sharer within the library ecosystem!”
Damron used her local connections to help arrange an ALSC interest meet-up at ALA Annual. On Friday afternoon, she led 30 enthusiastic youth-centric library workers on a tour to the Planet Word museum, where current and future ALSC members networked and played amongst interactive linguistic exhibits.
Damron relayed, “My ALA annual highlight was hearing from some great authors at the Saturday Scholastic Literary Luncheon! Gale Galligan in particular was just a ball of energy I wanted to put in my pocket and share with everyone I met! I cannot wait to read their new graphic novel, and I’m even more inspired hearing their cool presentation about the MAKING of a graphic novel.”
For me, having recently been promoted to my first full-time librarian position, I found inspiration and professional direction in sessions like “Beyond Booklists: Family Engagement through Race and Culture Education at the Library.” Led by Sally Battle (Early Learning and Literacy Assistant) and her dedicated team from the Evanston Public Library (Illinois), the presentation delivered impactful information and resources based on their racial awareness program, Dedicated to the Dream.
Battle described some of her favorite events at the conference: “I was lucky to receive a surprise invitation to attend the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Awards Banquet. It was so inspiring to hear directly from these hardworking, insightful, and thoughtful changemakers.”
Battle was at home among hardworking, insightful changemakers at ALA Annual. If you are interested in sharing and growing your own skills and knowledge, as well as your professional network, consider serving on an ALSC committee or attending future meetings and events. We’re here to help you find your fit.
If you attended ALA Annual, we’d love it if you’d share your highlights in the comments.
Sarah Jo Zaharako is a youth services librarian at Wilmette Public Library in Illinois. She is passionate about community engagement around social justice and accessibility. Sarah Jo has been a member of ALSC since library school and just attended her first ALA Annual conference.
This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.