Teen Librarian Toolbox
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(Not so) Middle School Monday: In Which I Attend a State Library Conference

MSM1Dearest Readers,

In case you missed it, almost a year ago I moved from the School Library Media Specialist arena to that of Public Library Children’s Services. (I also moved two states up the east coast.) And I can honestly say I have never felt so valued in my professional life.

Several months ago I received an email congratulating me on being chosen to attend this year’s state library conference; I thought this was a little odd since I had not applied to attend, but I was assured that it was normal, and that the library system tries to send its new people. Cool, cool. Someone was going to pay for me to attend a library conference. After I picked myself up off the floor, I started to look through the schedule of events. Man, they had some neat preconferences – wish I could go to those! It turned out that I could. For the whole day, if I chose to. You can see where this is going, right? The library system paid for my registration for the conference and the preconferences, paid for my hotel room, organized carpools (I didn’t even have to drive), paid for my meals, and paid me for the time I was at the conference – including my travel time.

I know some of you are thinking, “this is not exactly groundbreaking.” Let me back up and explain the world in which I spent the previous 21 years of my professional librarian career. If I wanted to attend a library conference, I either had to present a session (to have my registration covered) or find a grant or pay for it myself. Ditto for the travel and hotel room (without the present a session option.) I did get a grant once to attend ALA which paid for my travel and food…but they chose me because I didn’t need housing. Unless the conference fell during a school break I often had to take some kind of leave to attend (the legality of this still eludes me.) If I didn’t take leave, the library would be closed for the days I was gone, because the school certainly wasn’t going to pay a substitute on its own dime.

So this was different. Really different.

Anyhow – on to the conference highlights!

If you ever have a chance to hear author Jason Reynolds speak in person, run, DO NOT WALK, to the event. He was lyrically eloquent and a truly beautiful human being. He spoke of his childhood and youth, and made me cry. He spoke of the chip on his shoulder that didn’t allow him to believe the people who said he couldn’t write (thank goodness.) He spoke of all of the other authors and publishing professionals who have mentored and guided him along the way, and made me cry again. It was stunning. And then I went to a smaller venue and heard him talk again, where he gave us highlights of his upcoming works – be excited, be very excited.

I attended two preconferences. One, Sensory Storytime and Beyond, provided a wealth of resources and ideas for serving your patron population who are on the spectrum. My favorite ideas had to do with holding a Teen Sensory Hangout. They set it up in centers where the teens can choose to interact or not with their peers. One of the centers is Wii gaming, but with the sound turned down low. Basicall everything was set up in such a way as to not be too stimulating, but to encourage the teens to make friends.

The second preconference I attended was Ukuleles in Storytime. The presenter was super engaging and funny. She said it should only take a month for me to build up calluses so I can actually play during storytime – we’ll see. Luckily, one of the handouts was a songbook with the chords for most of the common storytime songs.

I attended a variety of sessions, including my first Guerrilla Storytime, one on starting a robotics club, and one on starting a homework help center. Overall, it was the best conference experience I’ve ever had – including ALA. Have you had a similar conference experience? Hit me up in the comments.



  1. Diana Blyton says

    Our State Library holds a biennial conference called Reading Matters. I work in a school library and we can’t always afford the full conference but there are excellent public sessions that are free or low cost. I always get a lot out of them.

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