This was my first ALA Annual--and my first time in Chicago--and connecting with colleagues from all over the country was an intensely powerful experience (actually it was international, there was a delegation of German librarians that presented about how they support their refugee community, this is a video they produced to introduce refugees to the library, it has no speech but communicates perfectly). I commiserated with with a group of librarians about the difficulty of finding a good vendor for non-English books while touring the new children's section at the Harold Washington library. I spoke with a public librarian named Aurora from New Orleans who told me about a new initiative where they were providing breakfast and lunch to all comers in the library; she said it was a struggle getting everyone on board but it has been just hugely satisfying feeding hungry children. I had a hundred little conversations that affirmed my struggles and inspired me to do more. I got to fly a drone! I saw a book check-in machine that will replace my assistant as soon as they make a version that has deep empathy for children, an uncanny intuition about teenage misbehavior, an ability to talk me through those days, and maybe also can laminate posters. I did not get to meet Linda Sue Park (I was at Hamilton!), but I did send a surrogate to get a book signed (thank you Cheryl!) And I got to ask Andy Wier a question!
Q: How did you ensure scientific accuracy in Artemis?
A: Google. JK! Research and math. Sometimes wrote code to figure it out.
My favorite session was Diversity Officers Discussion Group, which I attended because of a misunderstanding. I did not realize that Diversity Officer is a job title, I thought it was just a general discussion about diversity. As soon as we went around the room introducing ourselves, I realized my error, I was sitting next to Jo Anderson Cavinta who runs the diversity program for the King County Library System (which contains Seattle and serves over 2 million patrons). The room was full of HR directors for massive public library systems, and here I am the lone school librarian from a 1.2 mi² town in Vermont. But it was amazing! I told them that we are a school with fifty percent students of color but an all white faculty and they proceeded to give me practical advice about how I can slowly affect the process of changing that. Things like widening where we advertise positions (not just School Spring!), increasing the travel budget for applicants, and finding ways to connect applicants with minority communities when they visit.
It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful that VSLA helped make it happen! If you would like to apply for a VSLA Professional Development Scholarship fill out this form.