Highlights from SLJ's Summit Saturday

There was a lot to take in on the first day at SLJ's Leadership Summit, which was full of moving speakers, inspiring panels, and breakout sessions with ideas for attendees to take back to school and implement.

The first day of the SLJ Leadership Summit in Brooklyn, NY, was full of ideas and inspiration, personal stories, and professional development. Here are some of the highlights:



Top: Rebecca T. Miller, editor in chief of School Library Journal and Library Journal. Above: George Takei

Rebecca T. Miller, editor in chief of School Library Journal and Library Journal, welcomed attendees with an explanation of the weekend’s theme, “Own it! Making Good Trouble.”

“Change and challenge from every angle—duck out or step up and own your role, your ability to help the next generation be their best, by showing them your best today. What do we need to own?

"We need to own the ways we can help kids turn trauma and rightful rage into responsible action. We need to own what we can do to help address the dire, universal, reality of climate change.

"We need to own the potential of new technologies, and own voices, and the responsibility and the opportunity to diversify what your kids see, read, and explore, and create a more inclusive society.”


George Takei, who gave the opening keynote address, spoke of his time in an American internment camp when he was a child during World War II, as well as his faith in the noble principles of this nation. 

"We have to struggle for the ideals of our democracy," Takei said. "It's always been a struggle, because we are fallible. What motivates us is the shining ideals of our democracy."


Eric Garner and Melissa Falkowski teach broadcasting and journalism, respectively, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The two educators have co-edited a new book, We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by Parkland Student Journalists, and discussed the day of the February 14, 2018 shooting, as well as being repeatedly asked if they were surprised by their students who reported the news while in lockdown and emerged as spokespeople and leaders of a new youth movement.  

Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner


"We've been working in this community a long time and they were empowered before," Falkowski said. "They were journalism kids, debate kids, student government kids, and theater kids. That core group of March for Our Lives, they came up through these amazing programs in our school that empower kids every day to debate and to read and to ask questions. They were there, and they were ready."


From left: Games for Change; New York Library Association Sustainability Initiative co-chair Rebekkah Smith Aldrich with Jill Leinung and Jen Peet Cannell.

Throughout the day, Games for Change allowed attendees to experience VR and AR experiences for education and social justice. New York Library Association Sustainability Initiative co-chair Rebekkah Smith Aldrich (above), along with director school library system and arts in education in Albany, NY, Jen Peet Cannell, and retired elementary school librarian Jill Leinung, spoke about sustainability in libraries and certification. The three asked the librarians in the room to share what they are already doing and challenged them to come up with new ways to lead sustainability effort and aligning that thinking with the library's core values. To be truly sustainable, practices must be: environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable.


Vocalist and music therapist Claudia Eliaza and musician Dan Zanes entertained the crowd, but also asked them to think about building community in ways, perhaps, they hadn't before. For the two, the research for a sensory-friendly folk opera and a new music book, Dan Zanes' House Party! A Family Roots Music Treasury, was part of a process that led them to a new way of thinking about sensory-friendly performances, music, and community.

Claudia Eliaza and Dan Zanes

"Not only could this be the future of family entertainment, this has to be the future of family entertainment," said Zanes. "Sensory-friendly is very much like a wheelchair ramp, it's a way of opening that door wider. It increases our possibilities for community. It means more people are invited to the party."

Before finishing with a sing-a-long, the two encouraged everyone in the room to find their voice and "make a beautiful noise." And, Zanes added, "If you don’t have one yet, get yourself a signature song."


The "Read Woke": A Movement Takes Hold panelists (from left to right) Cecily Lewis, Ibi Zoboi, Renée Watson, and Ellen Hagan, with moderator and SLJ senior editor Daryl Grabarek discussed representation in their work and YA literature as a whole.

Lewis sparked a movement after challenging her Georgia high school students to "Read Woke." Now when they can't find representation of their particularly identity, she tells them, "You write that book and you be that change."

The "Read Woke" panel

During a discussion, each of the three authors read from their worksZoboi's Pride and Watson and Hagan's Watch Us Riseand discussed giving young adult readers books that resonate with them and don't fall into YA storyline templates.

"Young people are asking questions. They want to talk," said Watson. "I don’t know that that’s new."

Adults, she said, just may be more willing to listen and have the discussion now.

"I'm hoping that our books are providing a space to see it's OK to talk about these things," she said.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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