How do I summarize the past four days! Surreal comes to mind. I am sitting in the airport missing the closing keynote of AASL, and from the tweets I can tell it is quite good. Just do a twitter or google search for #aasl11 and you will find mega sharing of content that came from the conference I am leaving.
Late decision…GREAT decision
I didn’t learn until very late that I would get to attend. So I didn’t sign up for anything special. But I knew going I would be surrounded by the school librarians who whether they know it or not serve a my mentors. I truly read and follow their lead, hoping that someday perhaps I will be able to lead others. It’s a humbling experience to know that I sat at the same tables over the last few days with true movers and shakers in our field of librarianship. The friendships that have been cultivated as I interact with these rockstars is extremely rewarding and underscores the rationale for getting into so many networking tools. I have some solid friendships with many librarians and leaders that I just don’t see going away. I will attempt to summarize my days here, though I’m still very much trying to process the last few days. So here are some highlights!
When I did finally commit to tracking to Minneapolis, there wasn’t a room to be had anywhere near the convention center. I did have a peep attending (Heather Loy, SCASL President-elect) but she was rooming with SCASL President Kathy Sutusky. I tried to find out what other SC Librarians were attending, but only heard from USC professors. I did connect with Dr. Donna Shannon at conference. So anyhow I needed a room. Dawn had told me last September at MEMO in St. Paul that I could stay with her if I wanted too. The room situation looked so bleak, I just asked her via Facebook if that roommate offer was still on the table. I was pleasantly surprised by not only the gracious invitation still on the table, but also the offer to pick me up at the airport upon arrival, despite my late arrival way after 11PM.
Volunteeeriing at AASL
Dawn Nelson, my Minnesotan friend and roommate, was this year’s local arrangements chair. So I was so very delightfully surprised at her warm welcome and offer to pick me up, especially considering how in demand she was. The local arrangements chair has a mega job at a national conference. She stayed up way late every night working on making everything run smoothly, and she got up extremely early every day—well before the crack of dawn so she could be in place and ready to take care of any issues that arose to make conference run smoothly. Since I knew I could plug in and help, I offered to fill in wherever I could help out. She asked me to be the volunteer liaison for an F. Scott Fitzgeraldl walking tour for AASL, as well as monitor/facilitate several sessions. I was only TOO GLAD to help out, especially considering her generosity. Helping out in this way really made me feel like I was earning my keep and giving back. Thanks Dawn for sharing your room.
Heather Loy and Kathy Sutusky, my SC friends
I hooked up with my friends and fellow South Carolinians, Heather and Kathy, and after lunch, we went exploring the convention center. The Exploratorium offered a chance to connect with many of my virtual friends face to face once again, as well as see, hear, and interact as those manning booths summarized their displays. I spent time introducing Heather and Kathy to these folks though I had forgotten that Heather had already made their acquaintance when AASL was in Charlotte two years ago and even as recently as the School Library Journal Summit just a few weeks ago. We did see Dr. Donna Shannon from USC and fellow SCASL librarian from Charleston school librarian, Camille Harris. Heather, Kathy and I went to a restaurant called Zelo our first night in, which was terrific and highly recommended from the locals.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Tour
Acting as volunteer AASL liaison for the F. Scott Fitzgerald walking tour, I was handed a check to pay for the attendees and sent on my way early my first morning. Our bus driver had to help us figure out where to go, as we had very few other instructions. We managed to wind up in the right place and even had a guide for the walking tour. We had all been under the impression it would be a self-guided tour. SCORE! It was cool, around 45 degrees, but really not bad at all when standing in the warm sunlight. Our tour ended right in front of a small coffee shop (Nina’s Coffee Cafe), and I was able to eat a hot cup of soup for lunch! Many of us gathered in this quaint little shop, enjoying many unique fares. The menu was much more than specialty coffees. The back wall even had a mural of bookshelves filled with books! How appropriate for the end of a tour for school librarians provided by AASL!
Ebooks-Getting the best bang for your school bucks
Thursday brought all regular concurrent sessions on, and I went to Chris Harris’ session first, a session about ebooks in the school library environment. It was one I was monitoring for Dawn, so I had to take care of my responsibilities first. One responsibility included doing a head count, and I texted Dawn who was in the master control room for volunteers to let her know I stopped counting at 100. I believe the paid staff for AASL placed a full sign outside the door, but so many stood just outside to listen too, and I couldn’t count that far out into the hall. it was an excellent session, and I really would like to see SCASL invite him to keynote a conference. He is brassy and brutally honest, but so super smart. Best he is doing some leg work for us librarians by questioning vendors about e-books and making them viable for the school library environment. I will continue to push his name at SCASL. Mayeb someday we’ll have him visit.
There are still school librarians unaware of my favorite sites!
I attended my AASL committee’s session next, as they reviewed this past year’s winners of the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning. I was disappointed that I would not get to meet Floyd Penlin, one of the current committee members who was slated to present with the panel, but I did get to meet the others. In my networking spaces, I have always used a real photo of myself, and so these new friends easily identified my from my networking pics. I must look very much in person like my pictures though I personaly always question that. Here is another example of enjoying meeting virtual friends face to face for the first time. These conferences are the only time I get to see them in person! In this session, the most surprising issue was the number of participants once again spilling out into the hallway, and the number of school librarians who had no clue about some of the websites showcased. I am still shocked that so many were unaware of sites I have known and shared for what seemed like years!!
My Minnesota BFF’s
I spent some time in the Learning Commons too, seeing Buffy Hamilton, Diane Cordell, and many other friends. I hooked up here with several Minnesotans that took care of me last year at MEMO, and we made plans to have dinner together. I brought Heather Loy and Kathy Sutusky with me, and Sally Mays, my former roomie from ALA last summer, managed to snag us a small, private dining room at the restaurant, The Locals. Yes, “the locals” took me to a restaurant called “The Local.“. It was an Irish pub, and Sally gave me the grand tour. There are lots of nooks and crannies in the pub, all lining the bar and further around. There is even a cozy darkly lit room called the “kissing room” LOL. The food was fantastic, but the fun and laughter shared during our meal was indescribable. I will never think of MN, the state fair, and Michelle Bachman quite the same again, but that is a story I cannot even begin to do justice to. If you want the story, ask Sally Mays (or Doug Johnson.) We stayed and watched much of the seventh game of the world series.
I did attend Doug Johnson’s session too, though it was a virtual session recorded. It was fun, entertaining, and although I feel I know cloud computing pretty well, I did walk away with one new tool to try with Google forms. Flubaroo! It’s an app to download that will make Google Forms type quizzes self grading! EXCITED! I shared this right away on Facebook as I sat through this session.
Saturday Lunch with Friends
Tiffany Whitehead orchestrated a power lunch for many of us Saturday. She truly is a Mighty Lil’ Librarian. We had around fifteen join us when all was said and done. Our original plan was to eat at Hell’s Kitchen, but the more than ninety minute wait caused us to run right across the street to one of the hotels where we had a wonderful, quaint lunch with absolutely NO WAIT! Way to go Tiffany! At lunch we designed a “gang librarian symbol” (–coming soon to a video I hear) so get ready to go “ghetto!” We talked of planning/orchestrating/choreographing a Glee style keynote! Joyce Valenza, who led that discussion joined us as well, but is not in the photo because she IS the photographer! What a blast we had.
Where to go from here?
As I said, I am still processing my time at AASL 2011, but these were definitely highlights of my trip. My next professional goal is to present at an AASL conference. Wonder who I can get to go in it with me?
Photo Attribution Statement: All of them are mine except the last one, which is Joyce Valenza’s property.