Thursday, November 14, 2019

Day #1 at AASL19

We arrived in Louisville last night at 10:20pm after a full day of work.  The drive wasn't too bad and we did not run into any bad weather. I have to say that arriving at the convention center for registration and things starting afternoon, was a really nice, slow start to the day.  Day 2 and 3 will be way more intense - no doubt.



We walked through the IdeaLab which was totally packed (great for the presenters), wandered by the universities offering Library Science Degrees (woohoo Wayne State) and then got ready for the Opening General Session.
I got to participate in the parade of affiliates, which was/is a really fun idea.  That was something new for me.  I love that all the states get recognized and I feel that this is something special that AASL can offer because of how state school library organizations are able to participate at affiliate assemblies.
Finally, I have to say that Ellen Oh was a great choice to kick off the conference.  Her story was really moving and a good reminder for us to keep providing those books to students.  You never really know when you might match the perfect book for a reader at the right time in their life.  It might make all the difference in the world.
It is also quite the experience to be in the same room with 2000+ other school librarians.  A roomful of people who "get" what we all do.  I also love the idea of a social media squad.  I think we need to bring this idea to our state school library conference.  It would be really fun.  All in all, it was a great first day.  I'm sure tomorrow will be filled with learning.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

ALA Annual Conference 2019

Wow! Going to the American Library Association Conference is informative, exciting, overwhelming and exhausting; all in good ways. One of the main reasons I wanted to go this year is because it’s amazing to be surrounded by so many librarians and because it’s one of the best places to learn about what is going on in our field and in other types of libraries. There are many times that I only do school library professional development and it feels really good to branch out and learn about librarianship in general and how our jobs are both similar and different. Another reason I wanted to go this year is because I was the chairperson for an AASL award committee and part of the commitment was to be there to present the award. It was my first time on a national level committee and it was something I look forward to doing again.

Upon arriving in Washington DC, I found some of my Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME) friends and we went to get our registration taken care of before the mad rush the next morning. There were already a lot of people there, but it went fast and it was really nice to be walking distance to the convention center. ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo kicked off the conference with an update of what she accomplished during her term. Garcia-Febo worked toward advocacy for all libraries, had a wellness campaign for library workers, emphasized international libraries, worked to support diversity and took time to do a lot of library tours. Her slogan was “Libraries = Strong Communities” and she mentioned that PLA was turning 75 years old. As part of the advocacy for libraries, everyone in the audience was encouraged to text LIBRARY to 52886 so that a message supporting libraries would go to our representatives in Washington.

Jason Reynolds was the keynote speaker at the Opening General Session. He mentioned that last year Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker and he had some pretty large shoes to fill. As expected, Reynolds delivered an empowering speech in a story told in 4 parts. It was really amazing to sit there and listen to a great storyteller weave his magic live and in front of thousands of people. He told the audience to keep putting books in the hands of readers and that we could change their lives with the right story. His website has a perfect summary of his message:

 “I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don't actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you're reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I'm a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”
https://www.jasonwritesbooks.com/about

I tried to go to as many sessions as possible because I really value those 5 days of learning. However, one does not miss the opening of exhibits Friday night! Exhibits open for those attendees who are there for the full conference. There are some authors who come only for this time. Many of the book giveaways are exclusive for the opening event. There is food, cake, beer, and wine. You just have to pace yourself on the giveaways because it’s no fun lugging around an 80-pound bag for 2 hours. I did manage to get a lot of great books and some fun advance reader copies. I really try to post on my library Instagram, twitter and write a review for my blog about the books I pick up. If publishers give us free books to review, I feel that they should be given a fair evaluation and praised when appropriate. It also helps me to learn what is coming out for potential collection development. The exhibit floor has the Book Buzz Theater and PopTop Stage which has sessions running throughout the day. These tend to be individual authors, publishers and author panels which I think are a lot of fun. I enjoy hearing authors talk about the books they wrote and the passion they have for their readers. I wish more students got to experience events like this.

One of my favorite publisher sessions - the HarperCollins Adult Book Buzz. It usually comes with breakfast and a bag of books. It’s run by the library marketing team, aptly named LibraryLoveFest. Their blog is here: https://www.librarylovefest.com/ While I work with mostly YA, I like to know what’s popular in the adult world and just keep up to date with all the great new books coming out all the time. Plus, they do some really great book talks. I also attended the Penguin Random House “Fresh Picks” Book Buzz, which is hosted by their library marketing team. I’ve utilized their summer reading kits for my high school students because a lot of their suggestions are adult books that are good for teens looking to explore outside of YA. Their library portal and handouts are here: http://penguinrandomhouselibrary.com/ .

I spent a lot of time in exhibits this year because I did not have to be at any mandatory meetings. I took the time to talk to the vendors that I work with. I stopped by the Follett booth and just about every publisher you can think of that was there.

I branched out this year and did some new things. I attended ALA Play which is hosted by the Games & Gaming Round Table (GameRT). They had a lot of games set up, giveaways and it was a great way to meet new people. We were there for a couple of hours before we decide to get a really late dinner (like 10pm late…). This was the 50th year of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and they had a big event planned to commemorate this milestone. It was a very early 7:00 am breakfast before they got to the awards. The entire program was a lovely celebration of some very talented illustrators and writers. The hashtag of #CSK50 was used to document the event by the participants there.

The Auditorium Speaker Series that stood out to me the most was George Takei. He has an upcoming graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, which is coming out very soon. When George Takei was 5 years old, he and his family were rounded up by the US Government and put in a American concentration camp. He could not understand why he was there because he knew he was American. He was one of the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were rounded up and locked up by our government. As he grappled with the idea of forgiveness, he has become one of our most outspoken people in the fight for social justice, LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. He uses his fame from Star Trek and now as an author to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. During a Q & A session, George was asked how he feels about the prison camps we have set up right now for refugees and what they have done to children. He said that he cannot compare the experience to his own because he was at least with his family. They were never separated. Takei shared the message that the horror of separating children from their families will cause irreparable damage to those suffering through it.

Matt de la Pena headlined the AASL President’s Program. His message was that of providing inclusiveness and equity is a must for all learners. He shared stories from his own life and how important it is for kids to have goals. His father helped him to understand the importance of literacy and when he was in college books were his “secret place to feel.” He talked about his latest book, Love, and how he wrote that book to be as inclusive as possible. He stated that “when you give someone a book, you’re not just giving them a book, but a new way to navigate the world.”

On Saturday, AASL honored their award and grant recipients. A lot of AASL people from the ALA office were there, along with the elected officers. I presented the Frances Henne Award to Holly Schwartzmann from Largo Middle School in Florida. She received $1250 from ABC-CLIO to attend AASL National Conference for the first time. This award is for a school librarian with five years or less experience who demonstrates leadership qualities with students, teachers and administrators. It was exciting and promising to present this award to a new librarian who has made such an impact in a short amount of time. There were quite a few MAME members in attendance as well as school librarians from all over the US.

On the evening of June 23, I got to attend the Newbery Caldecott Legacy Awards Banquet. Meg Medina received the Newbery Medal for Marci Suárez Changes Gears, Sophie Blackall won the Caldecott Medal for Hello Lighthouse and Christopher Myers accepted the Children’s Literature Legacy Award on behalf of Walter Dean Myers. Their speeches will be posted here: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/NCWBanquetRecordings .

Overall it was a wonderful experience to join these authors and illustrators talk about their path to winning some of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature. I think everyone should experience it at least once to be a part of the excitement surrounding children’s literature and the impact it can have. It would be exciting to be a part of the award selection committees and I am in awe of how they set so much time aside to read all those books! That is a major commitment to their profession and to our organization and I thank them for all their hard work. Five days seems like a long time for a conference, but it goes by so quickly.

On our last day in Washington DC, we took our pilgrimage to the Library of Congress. That was also an amazing experience and we got some behind the scenes peeks of being a librarian at the LOC. It was one of our ALA attendee perks, in addition to a nice discount at the Library of Congress gift shop. This conference did take up the first 5 days of my summer break, but I enjoy the learning and the networking that happens at these large national conferences. I’m thankful to the Library of Michigan and to Karren Reish for accepting my application for the Continuing Education (CE) stipend. Finding stipends/grants/scholarships from your state or ALA provide great opportunity for all school librarians and I encourage you to apply for a stipend for professional learning that YOU may be interested in.

Friday, January 11, 2019

What this story needs is a munch and a crunch by Emma J. Virján book review

As a high school librarian, my life is dominated by YA books. While I love them, they are just as long as adult books and take and an hours long commitment. And sometimes you just need to delve into something different for a change or a break. I have found myself choosing to review more picture books and middle grade books, just because it’s fun. I also have a built in audience at home that give immediate feedback.

So, I just discovered A Pig in a Wig books. They are super cute and a quick read. I was a little slowed down by having to read it 5 times by request. I would say that can be interpreted as a high recommendation from a 3 year old.

A Pig in a Wig elicited giggles (probably because of the rhyme) but I had to explain what a wig was. Pig was preparing for a picnic and a picnic is a 3-4 year olds favorite activity. I think some of the new vocabulary will include wig, punch, and breeze. The major attention grabber was the 2 page spread with the impending storm and the words whoosh, boom, plop, splash accompanied by looks of panic on the character’s faces. They rush to pack up their picnic, but instead of being disappointed by the rain, they just set up a picnic in the living room and continue their fun.

My little reader was especially enthralled by the bees found on several of the pages. She was concerned when they followed the characters into the living room, but then decided it was ok. The illustrations are bright and fun. There are lots of details on the pages, but they are not cluttered so I think it’s great for emerging readers. The rhymes really grab the listeners attention and it’s something that the little ones can identify with. You might need to be prepared for an immediate picnic after reading this book. I think any preK-2 grade will enjoy this book. It’s a great fit for a school library, is an engaging read aloud and I see potential for a lot of literacy based activities at different stations in the library. If you happen to be an IB PYP school, Pig illustrates what it means to be a thinker and a risk-taker.




Wandmaker by Ed Masessa book review

This is a middle-grade urban fantasy book that is a follow up to the authors 2006 release of The Wandmaker’s Guidebook, which was an interactive book and wand-assembly kit. This is also the 1st book in a 2 book series (according to Novelist). Henry Leach is 11 years old and is the 7th son of a 7th son. He is originally from Arizona. He was born into wandmaking, but does not know much about the magic. He accidentally turns his younger sister, Brianna, into a hedgehog and has to reach out to a more powerful wandmaker to help him. He is thrown into a fight between good and evil. The villain is named Dai She and the destruction of our world is imminent. It is up to Henry and his new friends to try to save the world.

The story is told in the third person from multiple points of view. There was a lot of detail about what goes into wandmaking. I do think it would appeal to fans of Harry Potter, but they need to go into it knowing that this book is a different approach. Coralis becomes Henry’s mentor. He is a grouchy old man, who is a little behind the times. He does decide to come out of seclusion in order to help defeat evil. His language will make readers laugh out loud. There is humor, magic, and adventure. It does end with a lead into the next book but can stand on its own.

I would recommend this book for a school library and have it available for a free choice book. Or for a genre based assignment for fantasy picks. I think this book will go a long way in developing new vocabulary words in younger readers. There are lots of twists and enough action to entice the reader to get to the end. It will appeal to readers who love fantasy, magic, and family.