Lacking “press credentials” was summarily blocked from attending programs at the American Association of School Librarians meeting this weekend at the Convention Center in Minneapolis. The program, which I did manage to filch, did look excellent – a robust agenda of authors and storytellers, the predictable abundance of sessions on technology, particularly social media and e-books, speakers and panels addressing ethics, standards, reading promotion initiatives, information literacy and much more. Some little nuggets caught my eye – e.g. “One Book, One Conference, a comprehensive virtual conference with mobile app and tips for attendees on creating a Green Conference.
As a rejected non-attendee I had a great opportunity to observe the hundreds of school librarians and media professionals who filled the meeting rooms, the exhibits and the hallways. What I observed was an energetic swarm of committed, inquisitive, learning professionals who are meeting the needs of young people in a desperately challenging time.
For example, in most cases, the librarian/media professional is the sole educator in a learning environment that serves an entire school with a rapidly changing mix of traditional and 21st Century tools – if the librarian is cut, there is no library program. And library media are vulnerable not because they are inessential but because focus is on student/teacher ratio and desktop learning as opposed to development of independent skills such as information literacy and reading for enrichment.
At the same time, these professionals who are responsible for selecting appropriately materials face a proliferation of format options and, much more important, the imperative to select materials that are culturally appropriate to young learners who come to school from very different environments.
It was clear to me that the educators gathered in Minneapolis are ready to learn and, perhaps more, to share their experiences with colleagues who share the daily challenges each one is facing solo on the front lines. As a left the conference, clutching my purloined program and my camera I snapped a few more photos that tell the story of the attendees if not so much about the scores of fine presentations I missed – and I was very pleased how my aborted visit to AASL had turned out in the end.