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October 23, 2014

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Youth Librarians Inspired in Chicago | ALA 2013

There was a spirit of optimism among attendees at the 2013 annual American Library Association (ALA) conference held recently in Chicago, especially among school media specialists and youth services librarians. Members of ALA’s three youth divisions—the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)—were particularly energized and motivated by the dynamic programming and renewed advocacy efforts, they tell School Library Journal.

IMG 1353 Youth Librarians Inspired in Chicago | ALA 2013

Youth services division presidents Gail Dickinson (AASL), Shannon Peterson (YALSA), and Starr LaTronica (ALSC) pose with the ALA’s new Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

Right out of the gate, Barbara Stripling, ALA’s incoming president, drew upon the theme “Libraries Change Lives” in kicking off the organization’s “America’s Right to Libraries” campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the variety of services that libraries provide throughout the country. As part of her presentation, Stripling unveiled the Declaration for the Right to Libraries and reminded attendees that ALA is hoping librarians from all types of libraries will gather hundreds of thousands of patron signatures in the coming months. ALA plans to structure a one- or two-week window later this year when school libraries in particular across the country can host signing ceremonies, creating opportunities for ALA to leverage strong national media coverage and public support for the cause.

In the meantime, the initial promotion of the declaration is proceeding as planned. “At Board III, I signed [the declaration] flanked by immediate past-president Susan Ballard and President-elect Terri Grief,” AASL President Gail Dickinson tells School LibraryJournal.  “It was also  presented at Affiliate Assembly, so that our state affiliates are also aware. I am sure that both the legislation and the advocacy committees are working to publicize it.”

As promised by ALA last month, a new implementation task force has already been formed to continue the work of the School Library Task Force. The new committee will be co-chaired by Gina J. Millsap, CEO of Topeka Shawnee County Public Library (KS) and Terry Kirk Grief, AASL president-elect.

“The increased emphasis on preparing all students to be college and career ready and the widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards and integration of technology have opened an unprecedented door to school library leadership,” the ALA leadership says.

Adds Margaux DelGuidice, a 2013 Movers & Shaker, “Meeting with fellow members of the AASL/YALSA/ALSC Joint Task Force on the Common Core in person and making out the work we will do together,” was one of the key moments in her conference experience this year.

Technology was also front-and-center, with recommended lists for apps and websites creating lots of buzz, attendees say. For the first time ever, AASL announced its list of Best Apps for Teaching and Learning; the committee’s selections were made using the AASL’s Standard’s for 21st Century Learning as a guide. And for the fifth year, the organization announced its Best Websites for Teaching and Learning in six categories, including media sharing, curriculum collaboration, and social networking.

Additional AASL business included updates from Dickerson on the search for a new AASL executive director. “Conducting a search for this position, which is so important to school libraries, is a thoughtful and reflective process, with a lot of discussion to ensure that the person selected is our best candidate from a pool of highly qualified applicants,” she tells SLJ.

In addition, ALSC announced three Summer Reading Lists for kindergarten through eighth grade. Each of the lists has 25 titles selected by the organization’s Quicklists Consulting Committee and its School-Age Programs and Services Committee.

Generating a stir during the conference was Chris Harris, coordinator of the school library system for the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership, who introduced the new “Here Be Fiction” program during the “Maintaining Teen E-Collections” presentation. The program makes fiction available in ebook format to school librarians. August House, Bancroft Press, Picture Window Books, Lerner, and Stone Arch Books are the first publishers to be involved. With the program, librarians will be able to download such titles as Kate McMullan’s Nice Shot Cupid (Stone Arch, 2011) to a mobile device or reader. The program will go live on July 15, when selected school librarians around the country will have free access during their summer vacations to read and review ebook fiction.

ALA also spotlighted a number of authors are helping libraries have access to digital media through its new “Authors for Library Ebooks” campaign, which aims to assist ALA in its negotiations with publishers on reaching a sustainable solution for library ebook lending. Cory Doctorow, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Jodi Picoult are just some of the participating authors who have sign on in support of great access to ebooks through libraries.

Says Le Guin, “So, dear reader, if your library doesn’t have the e-book you’d like to read, please don’t complain to your librarian. Complain to your publisher. Tell him to wake up and get real.”

Adds Picoult, “Whether it’s a digital file or a paper copy, I want readers to find my books—and all books—in their libraries. I stand with libraries—and I invite other authors to join me in the campaign for library e-books for all.”

IMG 1357 Youth Librarians Inspired in Chicago | ALA 2013

Inaugural brunch attendees build with blocks to illustrate Stripling’s collaboration theme.

A highlight of the conference, youth librarians tell SLJ, was the programming centered around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, which was presented by the ALA Public Programming Office in conjunction with NASA and the Space Science Institute. Two sessions introduced new resources now available to libraries to introduce students and patrons to STEM topics: a traveling exhibit, Discover Tech: Engineering Make a World of Difference, and a new STEM online community, STARnetLibraries. The exhibit will be traveling around the country for the next year, while the site’s goal is connect libraries with STEM professionals.

Some conference attendees also enjoyed last Tuesday’s inaugural brunch to welcome Stripling and the new division presidents, with tables were decorated with Legos and building blocks to illustrate Stripling’s call for collaboration and building connections.

The close of the conference also marked the retirement of Julie Walker, AASL executive director.  The association is in the process of selecting her successor.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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