Guest Blogger

#alsc22 My First ALSC Institute

Connecting with colleagues, presentations from favorite authors, and listening to librarians share insights through education programs on library service to children and families. There is a lot I am looking forward to in these three short days. 

When the schedule for the 2022 Institute was published, I poured over it like it was the holiday shopping guides from my childhood. All I lacked was a bright red marker. I needed to make the most of my time here. I am the only one from my library attending. I needed to bring back all the information I could.

But, with all my planning, I left out something essential, and all it took was the short drive from the airport to remind me . . .

I forgot to leave space for the unplanned. 

Those unplanned moments are how we connect, how we learn, and how we become better librarians. They change our perspective and a checklist often doesn’t do that for us.

For example:

  • My shuttle driver, in 20 minutes, gave me an incredible history, architecture, and foodie tour of Kansas City. I now had to add at least one non-planned stop on my whirlwind tour of the city.
  • Talking about favorite childhood books while waiting for a book signing. Now I want to reread Ella Enchanted and Caps for Sale. (my childhood favorites are Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak and Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery) Add yours in the comments, we all need more books on our TBR piles.
  • Knowing the value of clothing that has adequate pockets and now I can adequately explain to my teenagers why cardigans are so critical to our profession.

As these moments happened over and over on my first day, I realized those serendipitous moments are what I should look forward to the most on this trip.

So, I took a deep breath and let go of the checklist, and instead focused on intentions.

I came here to learn, network, and connect, all the typical goals of a conference. I am grateful, though, for my delightful driver, who reminded me that I also need to leave space for the unexpected. Moments that don’t really work as a checklist item. That will make this an experience to remember, not simply an educational one.

Even if you aren’t able at #alsc22, you can still practice being open to the moment; otherwise, you might miss something important.

Jessica Zimmerman Smith (she/her/hers) is the Children’s Services manager at Morley Library in Painesville, Ohio. Jessica grew up in a rural Ohio county with half its population identifying as Amish. Although not Amish herself, the robust Outreach and Bookmobile services ensured she was never without access to reading material. At Institute 2022, she is most looking forward to absorbing new ideas and making new connections to support her professional growth and to provide new services to her Northeast Ohio community.

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

One comment

  1. Claudia Zimmerman

    I wonder who provided that robust collection of materials for you?

    Your driver is right, conferences are about more than sessions. They are an opportunity to expand our circle and world view. It makes us better librarians and better humans.

    I grew up in a different time when beautifully illustrated and written Children’s books were just coming of age. Make Way for Ducklings and Little Women we’re among my favorites.

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