by Christine Steinhauser
School Librarian, Coolidge Middle School in Reading
Every year in January I receive my ALA membership renewal notice. I am a procrastinator, so I usually wait until the last minute to renew it, but I always do. Some years I have been tempted to let it slide, but in the end, I do the right thing and send it out. This year I was surprised to discover that I have been a member for 10 years!
This fall I attended my first national conference, AASL in Charlotte, NC. Like most librarians, I am a fan of professional development and I love a good conference. We have heard enough from Jay, Dave and Conan lately, and I thought I would create my own ‘Top Five” list of reasons to attend a National conference. So, here it is:
Reason #5: Authors- I had a conversation with Richard Peck about why he seems to have an outhouse in most of his books; it was Most Memorable! There were so many authors to meet at AASL. I was able to collect lots of books for my signed collection, but even more important, was able to connect with Kathleen Brenner Duble, the author who will visit my school later this spring. We chatted and planned a little. Now when she comes, it will feel like we are already colleagues.
Reason #4: Building relationships with your vendors - Budgets are never big enough, so who couldn’t use a little help making sure that they are spent wisely. Having a good relationship with a vendor can help with that. They will be sure to give you the best service and products you need. At AASL I was able to chat with several vendors I use, and it has already made a difference! I also was able to give them feedback on their products. How many times have you used an online database and thought that you would like to change it? Well, I was able to sit down with a representative from Gale and preview changes that were being considered for their online databases. I gave them input, and may get a chance to be a test school for the new design
Reason #3: Professional Development – As the MSLA conference has proven, there is nothing quite like a Librarian conference for great professional development for librarians! Well, imagine the same thing on a national level, with speakers like James Patterson, Joyce Valenza, Marco Torres, and Dana Boyd. Authors like Richard Peck, Laurie Halse-Anderson, Charles R. Smith Jr. and Gloria Whelan. Then add in all of the great presentations done by librarians across the country, it was PD heaven.
Reason #2: Free stuff from the Vendor Hall- I brought one small suitcase to Charlotte, NC. I carried it onto the plane. On my way home, I carried my clothes in a canvas bag (which I received for free from a vendor) and checked my suitcase, which weighed just a fraction of an ounce less than the airline’s weight limit. The suitcase was filled with books, posters, more books, and other fun things, all received for free. My students now think they are the coolest kids ever, because they are walking around reading books that won’t even be published until spring. Can you think of a better way to get fourteen-year-old boys to come and ask you for another book, to read for fun?
Reason #1: Good friends and good fun, along with good ideas. Imagine this- it is 7:30 in the morning and one of your four hotel roommates has just come back into the room with four cups of coffee. You sit around sipping, chatting, and you have found people who get it; they really know what you are trying to do with your program, and they can help you by giving you suggestions that only other librarians can offer. They can help you think through a problem or idea.