SLJ Summit 2014 Learning

Photo taken and shared on Flickr by SLJ
I just had a very intense but wonderful weekend in St. Paul, MN with 200 other school librarians. Every year, for the last ten years, School Library Journal has sponsored a weekend where librarian leaders from across the US can convene and learn and talk and network and figure out how school librarians will save the world. We will you know, even if it is only one book or one kid at a time. It is called the SLJ Summit.

The conference is free, and the many vendors help to provide meals and receptions where the librarians can spend time talking with their colleagues. It is very cool to be in a room with the many people that I follow on Twitter or through their blogs. It is impossible for me to process everything that I learned and talked about last weekend, but I thought that I would list some of the highlights here so that I can remember what the weekend meant to me.

Slide from Dr. Mark Edwards' presentation

The Summit opened with Mark Edwards, who is superintendent of schools in Mooresville, NC. He is an active advocate for school libraries and school librarians. When he had to make cuts two years ago, he said that he never thought about cutting the library programs in his schools because they are too important for the kids in his district. He knows that not all superintendents agree with him, and he has served as an advocate for all librarians when he talks to district administrators throughout the US. He brought a cadre of librarians from his district with him. They spoke on a panel talking about how they infuse the four Cs of 21st century skills including collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity into their library programs. They had some great ideas. Here is a link to the presentation that Dr. Edwards made along with the librarians from his district. Rather than list my take aways from this panel, I am going to suggest that you open the link to the presentation and see what each of the media specialists shared. There are ideas and links with lots of examples from their libraries. 

Patricia Polacco shows the keeping quilt that her children had made for her
One of the author speakers for the event was Patricia Polacco. I love her work because she creates picture books for older students. When I was an elementary librarian, I used her work with 3rd and 4th graders. She spoke from the heart and let us know that teachers and librarians don't know the power they have to save the students under their care. She had multiple learning problems herself that made school very difficult, but she had several teachers along the way who helped her foster her gifts. She made for a very inspiring speaker. I was thrilled to have a chance to tell her how I would read Pink and Say every year to the 4th graders and how I would finish with asking them to shake my hand because I shook the hand of Patricia Polacco who shook the hand of the man who shook the hand and so on until her many greats grandfather shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. All the kids would anxiously put out their hands until I shook every single one of them. I use to love reading that book even though it always made me cry. 

Rock star librarian, Joyce Valenza, led a panel of librarians who all spoke on how they viewed their role as leaders in their schools. They used the metaphor of an animal to describe their style of leadership. Here is the padlet that Joyce created for all the attendees to get a chance to voice what kind of leader they are. Some of the characteristics of a leader that were listed include: evolutionary, brave, have grit, adaptable, able to take care of others, able to endure and empowering of others. Before I attended the Summit, I went to a local library conference where the keynote speaker said that every library leader has one thing in common. All know how to advocate for themselves and for all libraries by sharing what they do with those who make the decisions be it in the school, the district or at the legislative level. I think that the leaders at the Summit would agree. 

My lego duck
The keynote for the second day was given by Stephan Turnipseed from Lego. He gave us five legos and told us to build a duck. He said every time that he does this with a large group, no two ducks are alike. He talked about creativity and how as librarians we can inspire our students. Then he explained that transformation, combination and exploration are the three types of creativity that can be done alone or in collaboration. All students can be creative we just have to figure out how to tap it. Love that idea.

One of the best panels of the whole weekend was near the end, when six librarians and one teacher gave five fifteen minute learning sessions. Each of them spoke about a successful program that they have instituted in their school. I especially liked hearing how Andy Plemmons gives the students in his school voice by deciding what books should be purchased for their library's collection. Each year he gives the group a chunk of money to spend. Very cool idea. I also liked the inspiration behind Pernille Ripp's global read aloud. I have been following her on her blog and was delighted to get to hear her speak. 

It was a wonderful weekend, and I was thrilled that I could be a part of it. Now I have to see how I can continue to transform my library into a place that serves all the students in the school.

Read some blog posts from other school librarians who attended this marvelous event:
Jane Lofton in California
Cathy Potter in Maine
Jennifer Reed in Massachusetts 
Highlights of the Summit from School Library Journal


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