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.
But in all honesty, by joining the Conference Planning Committee, I saw firsthand how much work went into planning this conference. And although I did have a great experience, I thought it might be valuable if you heard from some of the people who had a major role in making this event happen!
Alida Hanson, Conference Planning Committee co-chair
We were so happy to produce this conference and are especially pleased with Dr. Gholnecsar Muhammad as the keynote speaker. She got an amazing reception from attendees and gave all of us inspiration and practical tools to develop culturally responsive literacy practices.
Putting together this conference was a Herculean effort and we all did an incredible job under challenging circumstances. Thank you to all the members who stepped up and submitted conference proposals and provided high quality sessions.
The volunteer committee along with our wonderful office manager and planner Emily Kristofek worked really hard to make this conference a reality. It took many hours of planning and testing the tools we selected and integrated to make everything work for an online environment and on our individual computers: Zoom, Whova, and YouTube.
We figured out everything ourselves as we went along, and we did an amazing job anticipating problems to provide a relatively error-free conference. Thank you to everyone who gave hours of your free time and sweated and stressed to make the the 2021 MSLA conference not just a reality, but an affordable, high quality, timely, well run professional development opportunity for school librarians.
Alix Woznick, Conference Planning Committee co-chair
Because we were planning a virtual conference -- something we'd never done before -- the conference committee felt like we needed to touch base more often than once a month, and finally decided it was easiest to just meet weekly so if anyone missed a week or we had to skip one it wouldn't matter so much. We started about 6 months ahead, in the fall. Honestly though, it was great. It meant that we had some time to really discuss, mull over and figure things out. It also meant that in the middle of an extra stressful school year when we were often isolated from other co-workers, we got to know a lot of fantastic fellow school librarians from all over the state!
While we all missed being able to see people in person this March, the virtual conference allowed us to reach people who have not been able to come in the past, or who find it difficult to attend an in-person conference. No childcare issues. No driving. No extra hotel and meal expenses. We had a good turnout at every session and got overwhelmingly positive feedback. While in-person get togethers are definitely in our future, there is no doubt we'll be weaving in virtual ones as well, allowing a wider range of our members to interact and learn from one another.
Jen Varney, President Elect
Putting together MSLA's first-ever virtual conference was a little nerve-racking because none of us had ever done that before. It forced us to rethink some things and focus on what was really important in our conference. I have to admit that there were a few times, especially when I was struggling with figuring out how to get Zoom to interact with Whova, that I thought, "this will NEVER work." But then the time came and things ran pretty smoothly, overall. And at one point I leaned back in my chair and looked around and thought, "Whoa, I'm not actually at a conference. I'm sitting in a room by myself!" But it felt like I was at a conference and so I think we succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.
Did you attend the 2021 MSLA Conference? What were some of your favorite moments?