Toto, I don’t think we are in Nebraska anymore: my experience at ALA Midwinter Conference.
By Sarah Castillo - Media Specialist - Logan View Public Schools
First, I would like to thank the NSLA for awarding me the National Conference First Time Attendee Scholarship this year. I attended ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle, Washington this past January.
The opportunity to attend a national library conference is something I have been wanting to do these first years as a school librarian. I never thought I would be a school librarian so early in my teaching career, but the opportunity came in a good district so I took a chance. Being a school librarian has been such a rewarding experience in a K-12 building. I have been lucky to meet other school librarians and mentors who encouraged me to apply for conferences and grants to further my knowledge & experience as a librarian.
After I was accepted for this scholarship, I twisted my husband’s arm (not very hard) to take work off and join me on my journey to the Emerald City. I remember flying into Seattle (in January) and all I could say was, “Everything is so GREEN”! The Wizard of Oz kept popping into my mind with all the eclectic people we would see on the streets, in the restaurants, and of course the diverse librarians at the conference that had traveled from all over the United States.
The one thing I did not realize when I was researching this conference was that the Midwinter conference is more of a meetings & exhibits conference than filled with sessions that I typically am used to experiencing. I still very much enjoyed this conference.
There were three major things that I took from this conference. First, the exhibit hall was like nothing I have ever seen before. Two large ballrooms filled with vendors. I saw companies selling book vending machines! What I enjoyed most about this area was all the free books and the chance to look at different vendors. I have been in my position for two years and have been doing what the previous librarian did before me when it came to the media center budget. I was excited to talk with and see what was really out there in the world of library sales. I feel I have a better idea, this second year, of what we really need and how to get the best bang for my buck.
Secondly, although it was more of a meetings conference, I did find some useful sessions. DEMCO had a great session on sprucing up your library on a very small budget. I thought they might really push you to buy from them, but they encouraged you to brighten up your space with little to no money. My favorite session I attended was more of a round table discussion of how libraries are getting more girls in for the coding camps. It was great to share ideas with librarians from New York and Florida. I talked about Code Crush that is sponsored through UNO and ASWIT grants that one of my students received to host an all girls coding camp at our school. I learned some new unplugged activities that I could utilize with my media classes in the elementary and my coding class in the high school.
Finally, the best experience I had at the conference was listening to the Auditorium Speakers of Melinda Gates, Sylvia Acevedo, and Rick Steves. Each were promoting a recent book that they had published. Melinda Gates opened the conference and with her popularity I was stuck on the back wall. She was promoting her book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World (Flatiron Books, 2019). What I took most from her was when she stated that librarians are the guardians of our stories. They protect, cherish and pass along our stories to others. Our stories are what bind us together, help us reach out and connect with others, and how we learn and grow. She stated that everyone’s dream is to have the very best for our children regardless of our race or culture. She promoted advocacy for women and people of color calling out the social injustices. One of my personal favorites was Sylvia Acevedo. She is the current CEO of Girl Scouts of American and has worked for NASA. Sylvia said that it was head start, Girl Scouts, and a love of the library that helped her get to where she is today. I stood in line to have her sign her book, Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) for our Elementary Library. We have a lot of Girl Scouts at Logan View and the book flew off the shelf once I introduced it to my media classes. She stated that Girl Scouts created opportunity for her through cookie sales; she was taught never to leave the site of a sell until you have heard “No” three times. It is a very inspiring book about perseverance despite family loss and setbacks. Rick Steves was also a great presented and promoted his book, Travel as a Political Act (Hachette Book Group, 2018). He is overseas at least 4 months out of the year and has been doing this since his late teens. He stated, that as librarians we are travelers with each book we read. My husband and I do a lot of traveling and try to do it fairly cheaply and in ways that allow us to experience the culture. Rick stated that Americans are fearful of leaving the United States, but we should travel to gain a better understanding of the world around us and I couldn’t agree more.
As I returned home from the Emerald City it was a whirlwind of adventures. My husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, our elementary had planned another successful spring book fair, and then the flood waters came.
The flooding that came at the beginning of March was a natural disaster I had never experienced before. One of our towns, Winslow, is completely gone. We were barely in school the month of March and when everyone returned, we tried to help our kids out the best we could. Any books that were damaged in the flood we noted for reorder but did not charge anyone money. My junior and senior high students were waived of any fines and had a full week to return any overdue books. For my elementary students it was much harder. My elementary students were so upset that they lost their library books in the flood (since we hit them hard with book care at the beginning of the year). We comforted them and reminded them that this was a different situation and we were just happy that they were ok and that we had money to replace books in that type of situation.
As we end this school year, I feel like I have grown so much as a school librarian and can’t wait to continue my career at Logan View Public Schools promoting reading and literacy. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this without the help of the NSLA. Again, thank you for this opportunity and I would encourage other NSLA members to apply for scholarships during the next school year.
You can find all NSLA scholarships in our "Awards and Scholarships" tab above or click here. Scholarship applications are due on July 1, 2019.
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.