Blogger Amy Koester

A Season for Learning

It doesn’t matter how far from my own schooling I get–every year as students head back to school, I feel an excitement at the prospect of learning something new myself. This autumn, there are plenty of opportunities to explore something new within the realm of library service to children, or libraries more generally.

ALSC National Institute

The ALSC National Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, is taking place in a few weeks, from September 29-October 1. Institute is one of my all-time favorite learning conferences–its schedule includes terrific general sessions with amazing speakers, as well as educational programs led by practitioners across the country. Some of the things I’m looking forward to:

Big Ideas session with Dr. Nicole A. Cooke – Dr. Cooke’s work has touched on so many topics, all intersecting in some way with information literacy and social justice. I’m excited to hear what Dr. Cooke has to share at the Institute, especially given the context of massive increases in calls for censorship in communities across the United States.

Overwhelmed by Underserved Communities – This educational session speaks to where I am at this moment–seeing increased needs, many of them urgent, from people in my community who have been underserved by the social safety network, such as it is. I’m headed to this session looking a bit for validation of what I’m seeing and feeling, but also for ideas I can implement and share with my team members after the conference.

Networking! – One of my absolute favorite things about ALSC National Institute is that it’s a smaller, youth-focused conference–which means oodles of opportunities to meet new people and make new connections. I may be biased–one of my first really transformative experiences with ALSC was my first National Institute in Indianapolis back in 2012. Ten years later, and as your current ALSC President, I want to do everything I can to help make the connections that happen at Institute just as transformative for all of this year’s attendees.

Other Upcoming Conferences

I know that ALSC members often have a range of conference opportunities to choose from. In addition to many state conferences that happen in the autumn, two of our sibling organizations are hosting national conferences within a few weeks of ALSC National Institute: The Joint Conference of Librarians of Color will be in Florida in early October, and the Young Adult Services Symposium will be in Baltimore in early November. Whatever learning opportunities are on your upcoming calendar, know that ALSC supports you in attending the events that are the best fit for you and your learning goals! And if you’d like to share what you’ve learned, we’d love to hear from you.

Independent Study

I also know that not every person is in a position to head to an in-person conference right now–and maybe the firm time commitments of online learning aren’t realistic right now either. If a season of independent study is a better fit for your work now, you can tailor your learning to what fits your needs and schedule best. Here’s just one sample plan for setting yourself up to learn this autumn, if you’re looking for a nudge to get started:

  1. Pick a topic – What topic has intrigued you lately? What have you been meaning to learn? You may want to give this some thought for a week and see what rises to the top of your mind. You may also look back at your to-do lists or messages you’ve flagged as interesting in your inbox–oftentimes we’ve laid the breadcrumbs for what we want to learn without knowing it!
  2. Decide how you want to explore – If your topic of interest is pretty defined, you may want to build a reading list for your learning–whether that’s something you create entirely, or something pieced together from recommendations from folks in the know. You can also take a more organic approach and be open to the articles, etc., that you find, seeing how one points you to the next, and so forth. Regardless, keep a log of everything you read!
  3. Use your calendar – Block off a piece of time in your calendar for you to focus on your topic. It needn’t be much–just 30 minutes to an hour every week or two can be great for sparking your learning. You may also want to set some personal check-ins in your calendar, say for once a month. Use those check-ins to take stock of your exploration thus far, themes emerging in your learning, and your takeaways. (It may seem tedious to add all this time to your calendar up front, but we’re much more likely to stick to a plan if it’s scheduled, than to try to fit it in during increasingly elusive “down time”!)
  4. Find an accountability buddy – This one is ultimately optional for your independent learning, but many folks find it motivating to have a peer or friend with whom they check in–maybe it’s just to help keep you on track, but even better if it’s to bounce around some of the ideas you’re reading about.

Happy learning this autumn, friends!

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