Last week, I attended the annual conference for the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL). This is the only professional development opportunity in the state designed solely with librarians in mind. I’ve attended every year since I started library school, and I’ll probably keep going as long as I’m an SC school librarian.
The 2014 conference was once again in Columbia at the Metropolitan Convention Center. This is a great venue, but I will say that the WiFi access was less than desirable. It’s difficult to have a technology-infused conference when you can’t guarantee Internet access for presenters and attendees.
My conference experience started off with a bang. I attended a preconference session Toni Buzzeo titled “Meeting Common Core Reading Literature Standards: A Picture Book Author/Librarian Shows You How to Lead the Way.” While the title of the session was less than exciting, I was thrilled with what I got out of it. Toni Buzzeo went into detail on how librarians can help teachers meet literature, informational text, and speaking and listening Common Core standards using picture books. Each person at the session brought a picture book and designed discussions and activities that would work with one or more grade levels in their own schools. (This was something we worked on in the session and could implement as soon as we returned to school.) The book I chose to work with was John, Paul, George, & Ben by Lane Smith, and I was able to devise activities that I could use with my 3rd and 4th grade students. I also took away many other activities shared by my colleagues and Toni Buzzeo. This was probably the best SCASL preconference session I’ve ever attended, and I’ll be using what I learned for a long time to come.
After my morning preconference, I took a little time for myself. I enjoyed a quick lunch, did a little shopping, and checked into my hotel. Following just a bit of downtime, I returned to the convention center for the first concurrent session. I chose to attend a session on ereaders presented by Julieanne Kaye and Keri Reaney (both librarians I’ve worked with before). I chose this session because many teachers at my school recently purchased Kindles, and I was apprehensive about managing them through the library. I’m so glad I attended this session because it alleviated some of my concerns and provided information that I was able to share with my principal and teachers when I returned to school on Monday.
Following this session, the exhibit hall opened, and I was able to visit several vendors. I will say that I was kind of disappointed with the number of vendors in the exhibit hall. Only two that I saw (Scholastic and Barnes & Noble) were selling books, and a couple had not even arrived in time for the opening. SC EdTech definitely has the SCASL Conference beat when it comes to exhibits. (Also, at this point in the year, I don’t have enough money to commit to large purchases with vendors. Another plus for EdTech. That conference is in October.)
Thursday morning came way too soon for me. I was presenting first thing. My presentation, “Making the Most of Your Library Blog,” was on a familiar topic, but I was still nervous. About twenty people were in attendance, and I think most of them came away with at least one thing to add to new or potential library blogs. I could tell that I overwhelmed some people, but I tried to remind everyone that I had been blogging for six years. Their sites probably wouldn’t look like mine overnight.
*My session was at the same time as something else I was supposed to attend–the Regional Network meeting. Next year, it may be a good idea for conference planners to check the list of Regional Network Coordinators with presenters to make sure no one misses this meeting!*
After my session was over (and I could breathe easily again), it was time for the first general session and business meeting. The keynote speakers were Gail Dickinson and Ann Martin, and they spoke about paths to leadership. The basic gist of their address was to say “Yes” a lot and to leave fear at the door. Not easy feats for me. I do have something to think about there. Speaking of leadership, though, at the business meeting, next year’s slate of officers was presented. I was on the slate as a Member-at-Large, which essentially means that I’m on the Elections Committee. So I guess I am doing something to show that I am a leader in my organization.
During the lunch hour(s), I used my time to visit the vendors. I bought several of the Picture and Children’s Book Award nominees for the next school year, and I relaxed a bit. A bit too much, in fact. There weren’t really enough vendors to fill a two-hour lunch break. :-/
Two more concurrent sessions were scheduled after the lunch break, and I attended an extremely intimidating session from Greenwood 50 librarians on integrating technology in the library and a session on using QR codes in the library. (I also found time to get a book autographed during the too-long break between these two sessions.)
*Side note: I thought it was kind of crazy that Thursday, the only full day of conference, only offered four sessions to attend. There was too much down time, and the conference day could have started at least 30 minutes earlier.*
On Friday, we had one more general session first thing. The keynote address during this session was given by Toni Buzzeo, who reiterated a lot of what I’d heard in her preconference session.
The final two concurrent sessions I attended were on MakerSpaces (which are great in theory–if you’ve got the actual space for them!) and “Don’t Worry, Be ‘Appy!” This last session featured some rock star librarians (Cathy Jo Nelson, Valerie Byrd Fort, Heather Loy, Jennifer Tazerouti, and others) talking about their favorite apps or websites to use with students. I took a lot away from this session–some things to use with my students and some to use with my nieces!
After that last session, my conference came to a close. I was sad to miss the Authors’ Luncheon, but I did receive word on the SC Book Award winners as soon as I got home. Yesterday, I created the graphic below to advertise the winners to my students. (Many of my 5th graders read both The Running Dream and Divergent, so they were interested in seeing the winners at every level.)
Overall, I was moderately pleased with this year’s conference experience, but there is definitely some room for improvement. I’m sure that next year’s conference planners will address the few problem areas and will work to make the 2015 SCASL Conference–and the 40th anniversary of the organization–one of the best we’ve ever seen!