Busy November – NELA and YALSA

Now that Fall Conference Season has passed, and I’ve had some time to think about what I learned and saw, here’s a wrap up of the NELA Conference (about which I’ve blogged a little) and the YALSA Symposium.  After this, nothing until February’s ALA Midwinter (March brings MSLA, April has NEAISL, May will be ACRL/NE and I’ll end with June’s ALA Annual; I can’t attend AISL because it’s in the middle of Research Season when we have 15+ classes in every day).

NELA is the New England Library Association and thus brings together librarians from throughout New England.  It’s small, relatively targeted, and more like ALA’s mix of public, academic and school librarians than other conferences.  To be honest, fewer school librarians were there than I’d have thought; perhaps it was timing?  lack of publicity?  location?  We’ll see what next year’s looks like.  Many of the sessions didn’t apply, although there were good book buzz opportunities, which is always nice.  The overall conference theme was mindfulness, and contrary to my usual use of Facebook I actually joined a professional group, Mindfulness for Librarians, and we’ll see how that goes.

Some of the resources shared during the keynote – on mindfulness – were:

  • Fully Present by Smally and Wintson
  • Altered Traits by Goldman and Davidson
  • How to Live a Good Life by Fields
  • Self-Compassion by Neff
  • anything by John Cabot Zinn

There was a lot more, and I’ll share that later.  I’m still processing it and trying to work out how to bring more into my life.

The best session was the Project Management session, since we’ve got lots of projects we’re working on in the library.  The big takeaway was that it’s really about influence: how to get your team to work with and for you.  There are several keys to making this work, and the presenter recommended the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott.  Good project managers need to listen, clarify, debate, decide, persuade, execute, learn and evaluate/celebrate.  The critical element is that you get people on board, keeping everyone in the loop by constantly getting and giving feedback.  Recognizing that the experience isn’t the same for everyone is helpful, and being explicit about expectations necessary.  Best practice?  Align people’s skills with the project (especially if you want people to be successful!), making criticism about the outcome not the person.  Also recommended: Mel Robbin’s Five Second Rule as a way to move forward.

The other sessions were a mixed bag, with one that had great ideas but a confusing presentation and others that were less applicable to me and my work life than not.

A few weeks later, for the first time I attended the YALSA Symposium.  Again, small and targeted.  And less applicable to school librarians than would have been nice.  There was a time when YALSA courted us, but once again the pendulum seems to be more on the public YA librarian side than not.  Oh well.  What disappointed me more was the emphasis on starting programs like makerspaces or STEM ideas.  Granted, in my situation, they’re not needed (we have a good makerspace in another building, and stepping on the toes of those teachers isn’t something I particularly feel the need to do). But… the presumption at YALSA was more “so, you need to start” rather than “ok, you’ve started – what’s next?”  I get it: presenters want to draw a large audience and making things applicable to newbies is one way to do that.  But still – and this isn’t just a YALSA issue, it’s also a general complaint about AASL and ALA programs! – what about those people already in the midst of doing whatever the program is about?

The opening author panel was the best part, IMVHO (there were a few more, but those didn’t leave me with much as a takeaway).  The big takeaway?  There was a panel-esque conversation about the idea of books as mirrors and windows, and Kwami Alexander said that giving a black kid a book like The Hate U Give wasn’t necessary,  that blacks (and other readers of color) had for decades gotten more mirrors than windows, and that whites needed to catch up.  Yes.  Exactly.

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