Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference

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ALA’s annual conference offers an opportunity for librarians to hear about the latest initiatives, ideas, award-winning books, authors, illustrators, websites, apps, tech tools…and so much more. But perhaps most importantly of all, it presents a chance to simply meet with fellow librarians, to reminisce with old friends, meet new ones, to share ideas and concerns. And, at the end of the day — after attending panels and checking out the exhibitors including, of course, stopping by to hobnob with our own Becky Snyder  (and Keith Chasse, Sharon Coatney, Jessica Gribble, Kevin Hillstrom, Barbara Ittner, David Paige, Cleta Walker, and Blanche Woolls) — it’s your time to let your hair down, enjoy the company of your colleagues, and to eat, drink, dance, and be merry. Oh, yes, and to advocate, always with the advocating!

We’re sure you learned many things that furthered your professional development and that you can use in your own library, and had lots of experiences that will make for some warm and fuzzy memories. In that spirit of learning and sharing, we asked some of our editors to share a few of their takeaways on the conference. And please, if you’d like to share any of your thoughts, leave a comment or give us a tweet; we’d love to hear from you!

Liz Deskins, our curriculum editor for reVIEWS+, jumped in with what might be everyone’s first thought as they gather at the conference:

“There are so many librarians! All different kinds, with a variety of interests and specialties; but all are happy to talk with you. We are family!”

Liz also felt it worthwhile to point out that “AASL is a democratic microcosm; it is wonderful to watch it in action.” And let’s not forget the books: “Books, in many formats, are still exciting and worth standing in line for.”

Here’s Liz taking advantage of the chance to meet with fellow librarians Jeffrey DiScala, Deb Logan, and Susan Yutzey. And who’s that sitting beside her, can that be David Paige?

Carl Harvey, our organization and management topic center editor, broke down his thoughts as follows:

Conversation – my favorite part of any conference are the conversations.  ALA was no different—from the late night conversations over drinks, to the rides on the shuttles, to the conversations with exhibitors, attendees, and friends.  I also learned so much about what is happening in their worlds and their libraries… far the best part of any conference.

Connection – There was such a strong feeling of momentum, and the power of libraries. We know that road ahead for libraries (of all kinds) is going to be a battle for funding, for relevance, and for our patrons. I felt a strong sense of us all being connected and being ready to demonstrate the power and the importance of libraries now more than ever. I think there is a stronger sense that all types of libraries have to work together even more as we navigate that long road ahead, and that’s a good thing.

Future – AASL Past President Audrey Church talks about moving it forward. We can’t wave a magic wand and improve the world of libraries all at once, but we can work each day to move it forward. The year ahead will be big for school libraries with the new standards and the conference in Phoenix. Audrey’s Presidential Initiative ( provides amazing resources for talking and sharing with principals. There were great conversations about how to put these resources to use.

I think there was definitely evidence that despite all of the challenges, AASL continues to move our field forward each and every day.

Here’s Carl enjoying the conference with his fellow topic center editors, Leslie Preddy and Rebecca Morris.

Finally, our reVIEWS+ collections editor, Sylvia Vardell, shared these thoughts about her experiences:

I always have a wonderful time at the annual ALA conference — connecting with colleagues, making new friends, hearing authors and illustrators speak, and getting the scoop on the latest books and trends. This year was no different! On top of that, I have the honor of serving on the Caldecott committee this year, so meeting with them was such a treat. It’s a great group of people from all over (even Alaska and Hawaii) and we’re gearing up for our big decision-making meeting next February.

I also love attending the annual Poetry Blast and hearing poets read from their work. There’s nothing like hearing poems read aloud by the poets who wrote them! This year featured Marilyn Singer, Leslie Bulion, Bob Raczka, Patricia Hruby Powell, Lesa Cline-Ransome and Billy Merrell (publishing his first book, VANILLA).

And of course attending the “Oscars” of children’s literature, the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet, is always a conference highlight. It’s so moving to hear the acceptance speeches of the winners in a room full of “book nerds” (as Newbery winner Kelly Barnhill quipped) all dressed up and ready to celebrate!

Here are some of those poets Sylvia so enjoyed hearing

From all of us at School Library Connection, we hope you enjoyed the conference and we look forward to seeing you all there again next year!

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