1. Librarians are amazing!
I already knew this to be true, but once you spend a few days surrounded completely by librarians, discussing their work and sharing their achievements, you can't help but realize how much wonderful and inspiring work is happening out there. I was able to attend the AASL Awards ceremony on Saturday evening, which allowed me to hear about some incredible projects happening in school libraries around the country. I left inspired and full of new ideas of activities and projects to try.
2. Never pass up on an opportunity to hear Jason Reynolds speak.
I heard Jason Reynolds speak twice at ALA. First was his keynote address, which moved me to tears. He spoke to that huge group of librarians about the idea that libraries are religious institutions, placed where people feel safe and sacred and aware, and challenge the group to be architects creating human libraries in each child or patron that we see. It was a truly inspirational speech. You can find it on YouTube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM3qyoilP24. I'm also very glad that I made my way over to a session in which Jason Reynolds and fellow amazing YA author, Ibi Zoboi, had a conversation with a moderator about the works of James Baldwin. The session was packed and my seat was so far back that I could see a single one of the speakers the entire hour, but it was an absolutely incredible session nonetheless. I am fully inspired to return to James Baldwin, read some of his lesser known works and re-read some that I have read previously. His messages 50 years ago are still so powerful and meaningful today.
3. AASL Best Websites and Apps sessions are worth the conference registration fee.
I attended the 2 sessions (which will be combined into one next year) that detailed the AASL committee selections for Best Websites and Best Apps for Education. Though I consider myself pretty aware and savvy, there are always websites and apps that I've never heard of before. Amazing! The committee also does an excellent job of providing examples of the websites and apps in use to give attendees a fully realized visual of how the various apps and websites can work in schools with students. Definitely worth getting there early to get a good seat. It was a packed house!
4. Free books!
I knew I would love walking through the exhibit areas, but it really felt like some kind of strange librarian holiday each time I walked through. It's so exciting to have the opportunity to speak to publishers directly about their latest books and why they might appeal to my and my library. And there are authors everywhere! I stood in line to meet Ruta Sepetys, who I really admire, and while I was waiting there, Ibi Zoboi and Meg Medina walked by. I got to meet Laurie Halse Anderson as well, and I finished her latest book, Shout, last week. It is a MUST READ. I am very excited to spend the summer reading through the remaining books that I picked up so that I can start recommending the latest and greatest new volumes to students as soon as school starts.
Overall, my first ALA was an incredible experience. I'm hooked! I hope to be able to attend many times in the future.