There is much that can be done virtually in this day and age, but there is something quite magical about the moments when we can meet face-to-face. The dynamics, conversations, energy, relationships, and serendipitous moments can be most prevalent at conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities. This is definitely a powerful strand at national conferences like American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition 2018 in New Orleans. Your SLC Topic Center Editors—Carl Harvey, Leslie Preddy, and Rebecca Morris—spent most of our Conference Friday together, walking, waiting, learning, tweeting (#alaac18), listening, and eating—in the Big Easy.
Our first day of the conference started together in the early morning humidity on a walking tour of the French Quarter hosted by Staff Organizations Round Table (SORT). If you stepped out in the Jackson Square Friday morning, June 22, you might have witnessed a gaggle of librarians excitedly snapping selfies and pics of locations of literary significance, including the writing homes of William Faulkner, John James Audubon, and Tennessee Williams. Kick-starting the conference this way helped us to bond as an editorial team and talk informally about our thoughts, plans, and dreams for the coming year at SLC.
Later in the afternoon, the energy throughout the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was palpable as people waited patiently and excitedly in the long line to enter the Opening General Session featuring former First Lady Michelle Obama, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, and author and musician Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (inaugurated just recently as the first woman to hold the office in New Orleans) opened with an inspiring welcome to the city and shared her belief that, “Libraries are not just about books—they’re about community.” Mrs. Obama reminisced about reading with her girls, balancing motherhood and career, and a pace of life so hectic in the White House that she would forget things, like a visit to Prague that she swore she never made. (She did, in fact, go to Prague.)
After the Opening Session, we were swept up by the crowd to the grand opening of the Exhibit Hall where we began the immersive experience of a great hall full of books, technology, furnishings, resources, and people who impact libraries. Finding familiar faces, or even familiar names on the name tags of those we never met in person, is always a highlight.
The day was complete after the SLC editorial team, along with Managing Editor David Paige, spent the evening together planning for the future, brainstorming, sharing, developing a cohesive vision, bonding, and helping each, as a great PLN and work family does, become a better version of ourselves and our team.
Attending a conference in person is powerful. We form ideas and thoughts about where the profession is going. Perhaps as valuable as the sessions and speakers is the opportunity to have a quick (or not so quick) conversation with a colleague or friend in the Exhibits, in the hallway of the Convention Center, or even during a late night drink. There is immediacy and care in in-person conversations that brings urgency and import to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and maybe a new perspective on an old topic or idea.
Due to our schedules, each of us were at the conference for a different length of time, and once our day together was over, we diverged in all directions. We’ll find time in the days ahead to come back together and regroup. We’ll share what we found, ponder the future of the field, and consider what the readers of SLC are going to need in the issues ahead.
About the Authors
Carl A. Harvey II, MLS, MS, is assistant professor of school librarianship at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Harvey received his master’s degree from Indiana University and is the author of six books, most recently The 21st-Century Elementary School Library Program: Managing For Results, 2nd Edition. He is a past-president of the American Association of School Librarians, and his school has been the recipient of the National School Library Program of the Year.
Leslie B. Preddy, MS, has been the school librarian at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis, IN, since 1992 and has served as an adjunct professor for Indiana University, Indiana State University, and IUPUI. She has presented webinars and is a frequent speaker and consultant at local, state, national, and international education conferences and events. She has published many articles in professional journals, co-created online resources for educators, and is the author of SSR with Intervention, Social Readers, and School Library Makerspaces.
Rebecca J. Morris, MLIS, PhD, earned her master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh and her undergraduate degree in elementary education at Pennsylvania State University. Rebecca teaches graduate courses in school librarianship and youth library services. Rebecca has published in journals including School Library Research, Knowledge Quest, School Libraries Worldwide, Teacher Librarian and the Journal of Research on Young Adults in Libraries.