I had the privilege to earn a grant from Bound to Stay Bound to attend my first ever AASL national library conference. It was held November 5-8, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. If you are not familiar with AASL and their mission, the “American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library program services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning.” Macey Morales, ALA Deputy Director, Public Awareness Office.
image courtesy of AASL
New to the conference this year-inviting school administrators to attend along with their registered school librarian for free. 10% of attendees were administrators. This year through preconference workshops, author events, concurrent sessions and exhibits, we took a critical look at the value of school librarians and our perceptions in the educational world. “The value of certified school librarians continues to grow, as administrators and teachers look for education resources to better serve tech-savvy students,” said AASL President Leslie Preddy. “The 2015 conference has provided an opportunity for school librarians to explore their unique role as education leaders that shape students’ digital literacy and critical thinking skills. We have learned from attending administrators that the perception of school librarians and strong school library programs has changed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘critical,’ as such resources foster digital learning and research skills.”
Not only do we have to show administrators, educators and politicians that we are vital to the overall education of the whole student, we are quickly moving to a more digital environment where digital literacy and web-based technology is critical to meet the developing educational needs of our students. Some of the sessions were:
- Building a School Community Using Web Tools and Digital Communication,
- Innovative Research Process with Interactive Technology,
- Prove it! Library Media Instruction Does Impact Student Achievement,
- A Road Map to Making Strategic Decisions Based on Your Library Data,
- The Digital (Literacy) Divide: Intersecting the School Library and Digital Literacy,
- The Digital Revolution: The Call for School Librarians to Lead the Transition to Digital Learning
One of the most insightful sessions I attended was A Road Map to Making Strategic Decisions Based on Your Library Data. In this session, Stacy Lickteig and Jo O’Garro from Omaha Public Schools discussed how school, student, and library data could be used as an advocate for funding as well as prove our value as a school librarian. Stacy and Jo both gathered data from several sources such as free and reduced student data, literacy scores, collection data, etc. to provide evidence of the value of school librarians on student achievement as well as provide background data that can be used to make important decisions in your library.
I was slightly overwhelmed at the many offerings that were provided by AASL at this conference. I was also transformed by powerful sessions and librarians from across the country that I met there. Before this conference, I was not fully aware of the benefits of AASL. But now that I have taken the time to log into the website, they offer everything from webcasts, podcasts, lesson plans sorted by topic, archived PD, etc. This is one of the greatest resources that we have as school librarians. I encourage all of you to become AASL members as we are experiencing a critical time with our profession. Each of us should become advocates not only for our career, but for the sake of our students who need us. If you have any questions regarding AASL or NCSLMA (our local state library organization) membership and benefits, please let me know.
The AASL 18th National Conference & Exhibition will take place in Phoenix, Arizona in 2017. I hope you will join me there in 2 years (start saving now). There are many grants available for first time attendees. If interested in becoming an AASL member, fill out this application AASL Membership Application and fill in my name as the person who referred you and mail it in. It’s that simple! This is an investment in you as a school librarian. Also, your state library association, North Carolina School Library Media Association is a great organization to start local. And if you still aren’t sure, join us at FSMA (Forsyth School Media Association). But the overall message is…..Just Start! I look forward to talking and sharing with you.