Thursday, November 21, 2013

AASL: Sessions Day One

Friday began the break-out sessions.  I had a very mixed experience with the sessions.  Some of them were awesome, some of them were interested but applied to specifically to the library the presenter was from, and some of them were not great.

Because I was going to be going to so many sessions on research and inquiry and making yourself essential, I started out the day with a fun one.  I went to a session called Celebrating Diversity: The Brown Bookshelf Salutes Great Books for Kids.  The speakers were authors Gwendolyn Hooks and Kelly Starling-Lyons who also write for The Brown Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to "push[ing] awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers."  Both Hooks and Starling-Lyons spoke about how they had come to writing.  Starling-Lyons talked about the first time she saw a face that looked like hers on a book.  It was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  It had an incredible impact on her.  Her "mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery."  Hooks and Starling-Lyons went through a list of recommended titles from picture books to YA that they feel well represents African American authors.  They had some of the books and had a little contest at the end to give some of them away.

The next session I attended was The Vision of Outstanding School Library Programs, being presented by Nancy Everhart.  The room it was being held in wasn't all that big, and it was completely packed, which people sitting on every spare piece of floor and huddled around the door.  You'd think they'd expect something called "The Vision of Outstanding School Library Programs" to be popular!  Everhart, who in 2010-2011 was AASL president conducted a tour of 38 school libraries across the country to find out what made an outstanding school library program.  It was interesting to hear the story of her travels, and the experiences she had, but I wanted something more concrete.  Even after reading her full article (in the most recent issue of Teacher Librarian), I still don't feel like I really know what makes and outstanding school library program.  Everhart used the AASL school library program rubric to asses each library, and the top libraries did have many things in common, like leadership, flexible learning spaces, support inquiry, a comprehensive emission.  But I wanted even MORE than that!  How do the libraries with little funding support reading when they don't have money to buy new materials?  How did they go about making connections with other teachers and administrators?  I wanted the nitty gritty, but it wasn't there.

In the afternoon, I went to A Guided-Inquiry Approach to High School Research (which was also packed).  I had high hopes, but again, nothing concrete to take away.  The librarians talked very specifically about their students and the research they had done.  They showed lots of videos of their students talking about how great the process was and how much they enjoyed the process.  That's nice, and I'm glad they did, but what did you do to accomplish this?  How did you set it up?  What questions did you ask them?  What was your process?  Really, it felt more like they were patting themselves on the back then sharing information.

Luckily, the final session of the day I attend, Sink or Swim: Will Your Students Rise to the Challenge of College-Level Research? was great.  It was presented by a high school librarian and a college librarian together, Elaine Allard and Pam Harland.  They gave us five things students should know when they go to college.  They talked about how students, even in college, have the expectation that they're going to do a couple searches and be done with their research.  They need to have the understanding that research is a process, and one that takes time.  Students need to know how to brainstorm.  They need to think more flexibly and know how to broaden and narrow their general topic.  They need to know how to search, using AND, OR, and NOT, and need to know how to use Google to conduct focus searches.  Students need to know how to evaluate sources and know how to use and find primary sources (and what they are).  Finally, students need to know how to stay organized.  Not just which their physical materials, but also how to organize their thoughts into a paper.  So the five things students need in college are: research is a process; brainstorming; know how to search; evaluate sources; stay organized.  They had lots of resources which you can find at

A friend of mine noted that she felt that for a profession that was mainly women she sure did feel like she'd spent the day having middle aged men talking at her.  I hadn't noticed this, since all my presenters were women, but the opening and closing speaker and both men.  It's not like there aren't good women speakers out there.  I don't know what the split is for men/women presenting.  The majority or people here are certainly women.  White, middle-aged women.

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