SLJ Summit 2023

2023 SLJ Leadership Summit: A Vision for the Future

Loudermilk Conference Center
40 Courtland Street NE
Atlanta, GA 

December 1 - 3, 2023 




Our annual flagship event, the SLJ Summit will be held over three days on December 1-3, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia at the Loudermilk Conference Center. This year's theme: "A Vision for the Future."


The SLJ Summit brings together leaders in the K-12 school library community, with content and programming developed for school and district level librarians, library leaders and K-12 administrators. While others interested in attending may submit a request for registration, priority will be given to these professionals. We will notify you within five (5) business days as to whether your registration has been confirmed or if you have been placed on a wait list.




More details will be released as our program develops, so keep an eye on your inbox. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta this December!


Who should attend: school and district level librarians, library leaders and K-12 administrators.


Hotel information: Hotel reservation information will appear on your confirmation after registering.


Interested In Sponsoring? Please contact Advertising Director Roy Futterman:

Friday, December 1, 2023 - Pre Conference Events 

Tours - Atlanta sites

3:00 - 5:00 PM | Focus groups

6:00 - 7:00 PM | Welcome Reception

Saturday, December 2, 2023

8:00 - 9:30 AM | Focus groups

8:15 - 9:45 AM | Breakfast

8:30 - 9:45 AM | Registration

9:45 AM | Welcome 

10:00 - 10:30 AM | TBD

10:30 - 11:15 AM | Empowered in the Fight for Intellectual Freedom

This session will offer practical takeaways in coalition building, as well as how to refine the narrative for your specific community to get people on board, showing up, and speaking out for the freedom to read and the importance of school and public libraries.

Michelle Jarrett, School Library Supervisor, Osceola County School District, FL
John Chrastka, Executive Director, EveryLibrary
Kasey Meehan, Director, PEN America's Freedom to Read Project
Latresha Jackson, Forsythe Coalition for Education


11:15 - 11:30 PM | Break - Visit sponsors

11:30 PM - 12:00 PM | Recentering reading 

With the resurfacing of the reading wars and concern about basic literacy in the wake of the pandemic, how do we restore the love of reading? Our panel will consider a renewed focus, exploring connections between reading and social emotional learning and wellbeing. What are you doing in this effort? A brief discussion will be followed by a pass-the-mic session, where we can share ideas.

Cicely Lewis, School Librarian of the Year; school librarian, Meadowcreek High School. Norcross, GA
Donna Gray, Library Coordinator, New York City School Library System

12:00 - 12:30 PM | Making the Case for What You Do: How to Talk to Stakeholders 

It’s never been more important to be able to represent the profession to superintendents, school boards, and increasingly, legislators. Glean tips from our expert panel on how to break down assumptions about the traditional role of the librarian, and what it means to be a librarian of the future.

Kevin Washburn, Director of Library Programs, DC Public Schools 
Becky Calzada, District Library Coordinator, Leander ISD, TX

12:30 - 1:15 PM | Lunch 

1:15 - 2:15 PM  |  Making the Case for What You Do - small group discussion
Time to workshop ideas with your peers and share best practices in making the case for the profession and talking to key influencers. What messaging has worked best for you? Glean advice on how to address legislators before there’s a crisis. Everyone in the room is welcome to participate in these discussions. SLJ editors and the SLJ Summit Advisory Board will circulate.

2:15 - 2:45 PM | BREAK

2:45 - 3:20 PM | Are You Ready for the AI Revolution? 
Speakers: t/c

3:20 - 4:15 PM | Digging Deep: Research’s Role in Getting to the Heart of a Story
Hear from acclaimed book creators who unearthed hidden gems while doing research on recent projects.

R. Gregory Christie, illustrator, Coretta's Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King
Candace Fleming, author, The Enigma Girls: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets, and Helped Win World War
Joanna Ho, author, On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei's Art Is Changing the Tide
Steven Sheinkin, author, Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe
Lee Wind, author, No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves

4:15 - 5:00 PM | Autographing Session

5:30 - 6:30 PM | Cocktail Reception 


Sunday, December 3, 2023

8:00 - 8:45 AM | Breakfast 

8:30 AM | WELCOME 

8:40 - 9:10 AM | New York State of Mind: Lessons from the largest school district in the country
The Director of Library Services for the New York City school library system, Melissa Jacobs has seen a lot. Serving 1.1 million students on 1,800 campuses, NYC schools is not just the largest district in the U.S., it represents a diverse range of challenges. So we asked Jacobs: what wisdom could you share with your school library peers? Named a 2022 EdWeek Leader to Learn, Jacobs will cover tips gleaned from the rollout of a highly successful citywide digital library and the VITAL program (Vital Instructional Transformative Accessible Learning).
Speaker: Melissa Jacobs, Director of Library Services, New York City, Department of Education

9:15 - 9:45 AM | Breakout Conversations

  • Celebrating Joy of the Profession Discussion leaders: Donna Gray
  • Collaboration with Teachers
  • Censorship: Handling book challenges, strategies
  • Censorship: Protect yourself
  • Are You Ready for the AI Revolution? the Workshop
  • Idea share  

9:45 - 10:05 AM | Break

10:05 - 11:00 AM | Closing presentation

11:00 - 11:45 AM | Lightning Sessions 

Attendees take the mic in these crowd-sourced sessions—fast-paced, five-minute presentations on a topic submitted in advance by audience members. Stay tuned!








Becky Calzada is the District Library Coordinator in Leander, Texas. She is a co-founding member of #FReadom Fighters, recipient of the ALA’s Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, the American Association of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award, and the Texas Library Association’s Libraries Change Communities Award. Becky is a cadre member of the ALA Policy Corp Proactive Advocacy on Book Banning, a member of the ALA Intellectual Freedom committee, on the Legislative Committee for the Texas Library Association, and Past Chair for the Texas Association of School Librarians. She is the 24/25 AASL President-Elect and was honored by People Magazine in their 2023 Women Changing the World portfolio.

John Chrastka is co-founder and executive director of EveryLibrary, the national political action committee for libraries, and the EveryLibrary Institute, a public policy and tax policy think tan for libraries. Since 2012, EveryLibrary has supported public libraries in numerous funding negotiations, politicized challenges, and over 120 election days, winning over $1.8 billion dollars in stable tax money for libraries. Its campaigns help ensure the future of school library work. The EveryLibrary Institute supports funding-focused research and training for library leaders and outreach to the public about librarians. 

R. Gregory Christie is a recipient of the Caldecott Honor, a winner of the NAACP Image award, and a six-time Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award honoree. Some of his recent books include Coretta's Journey; Answering the Cry for Freedom, which won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award; and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received six starred reviews. He also designed the art on the US Postal Service’s 2013 Kwanzaa stamp. Visit  

Candace Fleming is the versatile and acclaimed author of more than twenty books for children and young adults, including Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell; The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb; The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, winner of the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award; the Sibert Award winner Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera; the Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner and Sibert Honor Book The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of the Russian Empire; and the critically acclaimed Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Donna Gray is a Library Coordinator for the New York City School Library System. She has over 20 years of experience in K-12 education, library services, and higher education. Donna has previously worked at the New York Public Library as a Senior Young Adult Librarian, Teacher’s College, and the New York City Department of Education. She received her Master’s in Library Science with a School Library Media concentration at Queens College, CUNY, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Bankstreet College. Donna has worked in K-12, public, and reference library settings. She is interested in developing strategies and programs that help students become engaged life-long learners who are informed, active citizens in their communities and beyond.

Joanna Ho is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of many children's books including Eyes that Kiss in the Corners; Eyes that Speak to the Stars; Eyes that Weave the World's Wonders; Say My Name; and Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma, recipient of an Ezra Jack Keats Honor. Her debut young adult novel, The Silence that Binds Us, received the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Young Adult Honor. She earned her Masters in Educational Leadership at the Principal's Leadership Institute at the University of California, Berkeley and has been a classroom teacher, program designer and high school administrator. Her passion for equity in books and education is matched only by her love of homemade chocolate chip cookies, outdoors adventures, and dance parties with her kids. Visit her at 

Melissa Jacobs is the Director of Library Services for NYC Public Schools and the New York City School Library System. Melissa started her career as an elementary school librarian and then spent 14 years as the Coordinator for Library Services. Melissa has been named a 2022 EdWeek Leader to Learn From, Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and has contributed to School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, Teacher Librarian, and School Library Connection. In her spare time, she enjoys relaxing with her husband, two daughters, stepson, two orange cats, and Chiweenie.  

Michelle Jarrett is the Library Supervisor for the School District of Osceola County in Kissimmee, Florida. She is the current president of the Florida Association for Supervisors of Media and a two-time Past President of the Florida Association for Media in Education. Michelle has served on legislative committees and lobbied extensively for school libraries in the state of Florida, including serving on the state of Florida workgroup for school library trainings. Michelle has enthusiastically led the charge for increasing digital offerings and services and has assisted with the planning of ongoing school library construction projects. Additionally, Michelle is successfully navigating the district role of maintaining student access to high quality literature while ensuring Florida's statutes and laws are followed. Michelle has been married for over 25 years and is the parent of 2 college age children, 2 Australian Shepherd puppies and one very old poodle. 

Cicely Lewis, 2020 SLJ School Librarian of the Year, is an author and the media specialist at Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, GA. She launched Read Woke in 2017 in response to the shootings of young unarmed black people, the repeal of DACA, and the lack of diversity in YA lit. When she is not reading, you can find Cicely writing for her bi-monthly column in the School Library Journal where she shares her book recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @cicelythegreat or check out her blog CicelytheGreat.

Kasey Meehan is the Program Director for Freedom to Read at PEN America, leading PEN’s initiatives to protect the rights of students, individuals, and communities to freely access literature in public preK-12 schools and public libraries. Kasey oversees and supports our research on school book bans, communicates widely on the state of book banning in the US, drives advocacy and mobilization actions, and supports parents, students, and authors in defending the freedom to read. 

Dr. Washburn has 22 years of experience working as a School Librarian and District Leader. He also currently serves as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Maryland, master’s in library and information science program and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville for the School of Information Science. In addition, he is the current president of the District of Columbia Library Association.

Lee Wind is the founding blogger and publisher of I'm Here. I'm Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?, an award-winning website about books, culture, and empowerment for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Questioning and Queer youth, and their Allies. He is the author of No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves, which won the ILA Children's and Young Adult's Book Award and was named a 2021 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book. Lee also works for IBPA and SCBWI. Visit him online at to see and share how #QueerHistoryIsEverywhere. 




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SLJ Summit Advisory Board

Becky Calzada, District Library Coordinator, Leander ISD, TX

David Wee, Director of Library & Media Services, Mid-Pacific Institute, Honolulu, HI

Donna Gray, Library Coordinator, NYC school system

Jennifer Sturge, Library Coordinator, Calvert County Public Schools, MD

Jonathan Hunt, Coordinator, Library Media Services, San Diego County Office of Ed, CA

Kara Thorstenson, Director of Digital Learning & Libraries, Chicago Public Schools

Kerry Townsend, Library Media Coordinator, Columbia Public Schools, MO

Kevin Washburn, Director of Library Programs, DC Public Schools

Lakisha Brinson, Dir. Of Instructional Tech & Library Services, Metro Nashville Public Schools, TN

Liz Phipps-Soeiro, Director of Library Services, Boston Public Schools

Margaret Adjoga-Otu, District Coordinator, Newark Public School District, NJ

Melissa Jacobs, Director of Library Services, NYC DOE

Michelle Jarrett, School Library Supervisor, Osceola County School District, FL


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