Reba Tierney is the Library Teacher at Waltham High School
Love is in the air! If you're reading this, Happy Valentine's Day! (Or Singles Awareness Day, if you prefer!) Scrolling through the archives, I have found the most timely piece of Forum history to share. From the January 2013 Forum, I'd like to take a moment and enjoy a throwback to Author Speed Dating. Much of the January 2013 Forum featured highlights from the upcoming 2013 MSLA Conference to be held that March. One highlight of the conference was the chance to participate in Author Speed Dating.
Barb Fecteau is the Library Media Specialist at Beverly High School in Beverly, MA.
It all started with a not-altogether-undeserved reputation as a fan of liquor. Hey, bourbon is delicious, prove me wrong. At an early conference committee meeting, I believe it was our esteemed president Laura Luker who decided, “We need a signature cocktail for this conference!” But who had the extensive knowledge to craft such a thing? Several people zoomed me a side-eye as my name was mentioned. It was going to take a lot of research and a lot of drinking, but I felt up to the task.
As it became a weekly inquiry - “How’s the cocktail coming, Barb?” it occurred to us that [a] it might be time for an intervention and [b] we all had a hunger (or thirst, if you will) for the more social aspect of the conference.
Reba Tierney is the Library Teacher at Waltham High School in Waltham, MA.
Full disclosure: I was a member of the 2021 Conference Planning Committee, and I also joined the Fun Committee subgroup, so this article may be biased!
One of the highlights of my MSLA membership has always been the annual conference. And although the keynote speakers, presenters, and sessions are clutch, it’s also the chance to network and connect with my colleagues that really elevates the conference experience to the next level. I also work in a district that does not pay for me to attend the conference, so it has to be worth my while, especially since I am paying out of pocket. With all this in mind, I was a little apprehensive about an online conference, but I had attended some great online PD, so I was willing to give it a chance. And, I am so glad that I did.
MSLA President Laura Luker is the library teacher at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, MA.
Every year as we near the time of our annual conference, I feel myself getting more and more excited. I look forward each year to our time together - a time to learn, connect, and grow as educators - and I hope you all gain as much from it as I do.
This year’s conference theme, We Can Do It: School Libraries Build Strong Communities!, is especially near and dear to my heart given the troubled waters many communities are facing. As we all know, libraries of all kinds serve as a safe haven for people and for free and reliable information, and now more than ever that’s needed. School libraries, however, have an especially sacred charge. We are tasked with helping the children in our communities make sense of the world around them and to become informed and participatory citizens. Youth-led strikes to call attention to climate change and school gun violence come to mind as perfect examples of teenagers working to bring about change and to impact their communities in a positive way. They also highlight the power of an informed citizenry. Greta Thunberg’s message would be nowhere near as powerful without the facts she cites. The March for Our Lives movement depends upon research and knowledge. Somewhere along the line, someone has armed these kids with the skills to do this work.
Please join me at this year’s conference. As we immerse ourselves in learning from one another and refreshing our skills, we not only strengthen our own professional community, but we also reaffirm our commitment to lead the students in our charge to become vital members of their communities. Is there anything more important?
Laura Beals D’Elia is the Library Teacher at the Armstrong Elementary School in Westborough.
Each year, ALA partners with the Sharjah International Book Fair and Sharjah International Library Conference in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates to send two American school librarians to present at the conference as a way to bridge cultures and share best practices. This past November, Andrea Trudeau @Andrea_Trudeau and I were honored to represent the United States as the two school librarians. We could feel the weight of this honor as we followed in the footsteps of school librarians such as Sherry Gick @sherryngick, Andy Plemmons @plemmonsa, Todd Burleson @todd_burleson, and MSLA’s very own Wendy Garland @dancelibrarian.
There is so much to say. Summarizing or condensing this experience feels impossible, yet I will try. In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote about the idea that books can be “Mirrors, Windows, or Sliding Glass Doors.” Once I stepped foot off the plane in Dubai, it was obvious to me that this concept could also apply to experiences and I wondered where I would find mirrors and where would I find windows?
Alida Hanson is the Librarian at Weston High School
and the Professional Learning Chair for MSLA.
Our theme, “School Libraries are for Everyone” placed diversity and inclusion at the center of our learning this year: an apt theme for an organization whose membership is comprised mainly of white women. We are all at different points in our journey in recognizing bias, privilege and race consciousness. Some of us were challenged with these ideas for the first time at this conference. Others started this journey long ago. We believe this is important, central to our work as librarians, and that we have only begun exploring this as a professional association.
In her opening keynote address on Sunday, author Andrea Davis Pinkney shared her “Letter to Diversity.” She acknowledged that diversity is a hot topic this year, and implored us to keep it front and center in our work for years to come and not just treat it like this year’s fashion. The Sunday Dinner speaker, librarian Rebecca McCorkindale (aka Hafuboti), talked about diversity in our profession, recognizing paraprofessionals as important partners and incorporating social/emotional learning in our work. In Monday’s keynote, educator Debbie Irving shared her journey as a white woman recognizing her privilege and the awakening of her consciousness of race and society. In Monday’s closing session, author Jack Gantos thoughtfully shared his learning about representation in literature.
Laura Luker is the Library Teacher at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley
and is the MSLA Executive Board Member responsible for Professional Learning.
Every year, I look forward the the MSLA conference as a time to network with colleagues, hear speakers and attend workshops, see the newest and best items that vendors have to offer, and head back to school with batteries recharged and new ideas in mind. This year was no exception. If you weren’t able to attend the conference, you can read about the highlights below and see photos from the event here! (Also, remember if you took photos at the conference, you can feel free to add them to the album above. We love crowdsourced photos!)
We kicked off the conference Sunday morning by continuing last year’s tradition of Ignite Talks. These short, pithy, talks are meant to ignite a spark in the mind of the audience, and this year’s presenters did just that. All three talks shared a common theme: the ways that librarians can lead the culture shift in their schools. Kate Powers talked about the power of apps used as tools and not just toys. Linda St. Laurent talked about leading the shift toward using technology in powerful ways. Finally, Emily Bredburg shared her knowledge of the Constructivist educational philosophy and student-centered learning.
Laura Gardner is the Teacher Librarian at Dartmouth Middle School
One of the rules of an Ignite talk is to NOT talk about one tool and from my title it looks like I’m breaking that rule. We librarians are such rebels, aren’t we?
Over the last three years, the teachers and students in my school have created over 500 videos with our green screens and the free iPad app, Touchcast. We have four green screens in our library, three others around the school in classrooms and countless green tablecloths that go up in hallways and classrooms when we’re doing a big project. Several teachers now have their own channels. Some students even create their own videos at home, for extracurricular projects and of course, just for fun. This has fundamentally changed our school. The specific app isn’t what matters; it probably could have been any app. However, I do think Touchcast is the very best choice; not only for student projects, but also for flipping your classroom, school news shows and MakerSpace-style video creation. It is easy and fun to create videos that promote future ready libraries for every school. You can include video apps including polls, quotes, and pop-up images as evidence, all the while using green screens to create backgrounds such as news shows and of course, school libraries.
Wendy Garland is the Librarian at Avery Elementary School, in Dedham, MA,
and received a 2017 Super Librarian Award
My 7 year old son stands at the bottom of the driveway. He is prepared for his new car wash business. He holds a sign. It is written in large, wobbly 7 year old letters, in pencil on scrap paper. I could not read it from the other side of the kitchen, let alone from a moving car. Yet there he stands, awaiting the customers that he is sure are just around the corner. 45 minutes later he is still there. In the same spot. This is the same boy that bounces from one activity to another. How is it possible that he is standing, alone, at the end of the driveway for three quarters of an hour?
“How’s business?” I ask. “No one yet” he responds. Did I mention that we live on a dead end? Did I mention that he is charging $20 a car?
My entrepreneurial son is feeling a bit defeated after several afternoons of standing at the bottom of the driveway. I talk to him about the price of his car wash. I explain that while I know he has his heart set on a twenty dollar bill, people are looking for the bargain car wash and only want to spend about $6 or so. He begrudgingly makes a new sign to reflect the NEW rate - $6. And while he’s at it, I suggest using a marker so drivers could see it better. He goes back to the end of the driveway.
Laura Beals D’Elia is the Library Teacher at the Armstrong Elementary School in Westborough.
Laura Luker is the Library Teacher at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley.
Together they are MSLA Co-Directors for Professional Learning.
From Saturday evening, May 6 to Monday evening, May 8, we could not tell you what the weather was like outside the Resort and Conference Center in Hyannis. We never once stepped foot outside for there was too much goodness going on at the 2017 MSLA Conference: Beyond the Binding. It felt like the whole world stopped while 300+ members of MSLA joined together to learn, share, and connect.
Explore this article if you were not able to attend the conference, or to just catch some highlights of events that you were not able to fit into your schedule.
Editor's Note: This year's MSLA conference included an exciting new feature, four brief "Ignite Talks" by MSLA members each morning after the President's address and before the keynote speaker. Though brief, these talks were an exciting addition to the conference format and worth highlighting. We thought the Ignite Talk from Sam Musher, Library Technology Specialist at the Rindge Avenue Upper School in Cambridge, was a perfect example to share here in the Forum in order to highlight this new addition to our conference.
Sam Musher is the Library Technology Specialist at the Rindge Avenue Upper School in Cambridge
What is a school librarian? Why do we even need librarians; we have Google?
We’ve all had to answer some version of this question over and over, right?
When I went to library school 14 years ago, I was excited to be a buyer and recommender of books. I still love books, you guys -- giving kids their next favorite book is one of the best parts of my job. But a lot of people we meet, when asked “What is a school librarian?”, still think the answer is, “A school librarian is the keeper of the books.” We all know the problems with that mindset. For one thing, paying a person whose entire job is books is too limited for the 21st century school. “Keeper of the books” sounds low-tech and not sexy at all.
MSLA President Anita Cellucci is the Library Teacher at Westborough High School
The past few months have offered much to keep up with in the world and libraries are responding in amazing solidarity. One of the reasons that I’ve spent a good chunk of my working life in libraries is the overwhelming energy of inclusiveness. Libraries are for everyone as this artwork from Hafuboti indicates.
MSLA has spent the past several years working toward providing the research and advocacy to support this belief. In the last couple of years that work has been taken on by the Legislative Commission. Over the past year, it has included work on the new Federal Legislation for ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). You can read about what our committee has been up to here and here. There is more work to be done and it is imperative to answer the call when the call comes for school librarian involvement. Successful Legislative Breakfasts were held this year as in past years at school libraries - getting legislators and community members into your building and libraries is an effective way to demonstrate the difference a library makes in our students lives. There are so many resources at our fingertips and when we join forces we are indeed a force.
It’s always a treat when an ALA Annual Conference is in a great city - and what city is greater than San Francisco?
The annual ALA conference is always an opportunity to develop librarian pride. The keynote speaker opening our conference this year was attorney Roberta Kaplan, who was instrumental in arguing the Supreme Court case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. Kaplan spoke to librarians on the day that the Supreme Court nationally legalized same-sex marriage, which also happened to be the start of Gay Pride weekend in San Francisco. To say there was some excitement in the city would be an understatement.
However, an even greater source of library pride might have come from listening to Representative Nancy Pelosi present an award to the librarians in Baltimore, Maryland who kept their branch library open as a safe haven for residents during rioting this spring. As seen in Ferguson, Missouri last year, Baltimore librarians provided a gathering place for children, food, diapers, and computer access throughout this tumultuous period. Librarian Carla Hayden received a standing ovation when she told us, “the library was doing what libraries do.”
Another highlight of the conference was Saturday’s opening speaker Gloria Steinem, inspiring leader of the feminist movement in the 60s and 70s. Sporting her iconic hairstyle and seemingly ageless, she urged the standing-room-only audience to commit to some form of activism throughout life and cited the accomplishments of many early American female activists who inspired her to become a catalyst for change. Her new memoir, My Life on the Road, is due to come out in October.
And as always, we spent a fair amount of time in the vendor halls getting swag to ship home to our friends in Massachusetts. ALA swag will be part of the fun at our EdCamp event in late September.
A highlight of the conference was the AASL Leadership Summit, a day-long workshop organized by AASL leadership to both help this organization work more closely with its state affiliate organizations, and to help AASL develop national leaders for the school library community. Anita Cellucci and Judi Paradis attended this event as MSLA representatives.
After a welcome by outgoing AASL President Terri Grief and Executive Director Sylvia Norton, we spent the morning digging into the work AASL is doing to support school librarians and their state organizations. Members of the AASL Board explained how the organization is structured, and described how concerns from each region could be heard and addressed at the national level. There has been a significant restructuring of AASL representation and committee work over the past few years, and the Leadership Summit provided a good opportunity for school library leaders from around the country to see how they could most effectively work with AASL.
In addition to helping delegates understand new AASL governing structures, the Leadership Summit provided helpful information about building state organizations with tips for growing and maintaining membership, using AASL’s advocacy tools, and using AASL online discussion groups and professional development materials to strengthen statewide support for school librarians. We concluded the event by rotating through a series of “best practices” discussions that focused on everything from communication strategies, conference and professional development ideas, and legislation.
Much of the work AASL takes on at national meetings is done through the Affiliate Assembly, a group comprised of representatives from each state that meets in regional groups at the Midwinter and Annual ALA meetings. Regional groups elect directors, representatives, and coordinating teams to organize their delegations and work on specific initiatives. Affiliate Assembly delegates are expected to share information about library concerns from their region through a formal process that culminates with an annual vote where affiliate assembly members ask the AASL national board to take specific actions on member concerns. For example, this year Region 1, which is comprised of the New England states, put forward a concern regarding the time and space required for online mandated tests. After coordinated discussion over two meetings, Affiliate Assembly members voted to ask the AASL Board to examine the impact mandated online testing is having on access to library materials and services. Please see the related Forum article for details about all of the concerns and commendations that were forwarded to the AASL national board.
Kathy Lowe and Judi Paradis participated in the meeting of the AASL National Conference Committee. Kathy is Conference Co-Chair, with Debra Kay Logan of Ohio. The conference will be held November 5-8 in Columbus, OH. Judi is co-chair of the Program Sub-Committee, which reviewed, selected and scheduled the conference sessions. The conference committee is made up of school librarians from around the country. It has been meeting for the past two years at ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences and holds monthly conference calls to plan all aspects of the program. You can find all the details on the conference website. We hope Massachusetts will be well-represented at this bi-annual conference exclusively for school librarians.
Amy Short attended the AASL Supervisor’s Section (SPVS) meeting. SPVS focuses on issues of and collaboration between school district library supervisors and directors. In addition to discussion about many AASL organizational initiatives, SPVS also agreed to begin contributing monthly posts for a Supervisor’s Corner blog as part of the Knowledge Quest online community. These posts will be written from the perspective of supervisors advising building-level librarians on best practices. Upcoming topics will include supporting literacy, diversity in collections, organizing author visits, and crafting annual reports.
President Takeaway - Anita Cellucci:
The AASL Affiliate Leadership Summit was a valuable experience, as the new president of the association, in that it allowed me to look at MSLA conceptually - through the lens of myself as a leader and also through the lens of development of leadership from within MSLA membership.
In order to do this effectively, in my opinion, it is necessary to understand the psychology of leadership development. The Summit was helpful in understanding the key components of leadership development, membership development, and how AASL can support through these efforts.
Here are my big takeaways from the Summit:
My hope is, throughout my term as president, that members will reach out with ideas and innovative thoughts about how we can continue to make MSLA relevant, productive, and important, to the role of school librarians in education.
Anita Cellucci is the Teacher Librarian at Westorough High School, Judi Paradis is the Librarian at the Plympton Elementary School in Waltham, Amy Short is the Assistant Director of Library Media for the Cambridge Public Schools, and Kathy Lowe is Executive Director of MSLA
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. MacLachlan last winter at the MSLA Annual Conference in Amherst, MA. I heard her and other local writers discuss their writing in a fascinating panel discussion right before I talked to her personally.
I had two general questions for her:
MacLachlan began by explaining that her writing has changed since she became legally blind; yet, she believes that all children yearn for reassurance and hope in their world, no matter when they were born. The important themes don’t change just because the world changes. MacLachlan continued to explain that through her writing, she wants to give children the warmth of family life and the hope of continued happiness in their lives, despite the ups and downs that all of them experience.
I mentioned that her novel White Fur Flying was a 2015 Nutmeg nominee, and that many of my students asked me to find out if the family in her book is modeled after her own family. She replied that she had a loving family and happy childhood, and that dogs continue to be a part of her life and her family’s lives.
We talked about her novel The Iridescence of Birds, the story of Henri Matisse’s childhood; she mentioned how important his mother was in shaping him into the artist of his adult life. I found her warm, intelligent, witty, and congenial; she shared her email address with me and told me that she would like to Skype with some of my students. It was a memorable time for me!
Mary Ellen Minichiello is the librarian at the Calf Pen Meadow Elementary School in Milford.