I was fortunate to have the opportunity to both attend and present at the YALSA Symposium that was held in Portland, Oregon November 6-8. The theme of this year’s conference was “Bringing it All Together: Connecting Libraries, Teens, and Communities.” I served as the school representative on a panel to share about Limitless Libraries in a session titled “Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork: Connecting School and Public Libraries to Enhance Teen Services.” My big takeaway from this conference is how proud I am of the work our school librarians and public librarians have done to ensure that we are truly connecting our libraries with the students and communities we serve.
One thing that was apparent to me in attending various sessions is how eager librarians are to put our children/students/teens first, and how open we are to forging the partnerships that can help make it happen. I attended one session that was about removing barriers and how the school librarian worked with the public librarian and local bookstore to bring various programs to the teens in the schools and community. Much of their presentation consisted of explaining how they met and connected with one another to serve the teens in their community. Nothing formal was put in place, but librarians saw a need, and librarians stepped up to put their students first.
Another session I attended was about moving middle grade readers up to the YA collection. Several school and public librarians had great programming ideas for how to engage this unique group of readers, including book bingo, Harry Potter and Hunger Games Camp, flash booktalks, multimedia teasers using fan art, six-word book reviews, and more. Author Carrie Ryan, who has written for both YA and middle grades, had some interesting perspectives on the differences in literature for the two age groups. She pointed out that in middle grade literature, the reader is living in someone else’s world, within someone else’s parameters and rules, while YA lit deals with many “firsts,” forging your own world and making your own rules. I thought this was an interesting distinction. I do believe those of us who are middle school librarians face a unique challenge in meeting the literary needs for our students, some of which fall into the middle grade (and even elementary) category, and some of which are ready to step into the world of YA. But again, we find a way to step up and meet the needs for our students, both in what we select for our own collections, and in how we promote Limitless Libraries.
One of my favorite sessions was presented by members of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. I have only learned about this campaign in the last year, but am eager to find ways to get involved. The panel discussed the importance of not only having “mirror” books, but “window” books as well. This could not be truer for the students that we serve here in Nashville. The schools in our great city are so beautifully diverse. A school on one side of town is completely different from another school that is not even 10-15 miles away. Our students must not only be able to see themselves in our collection, but they must also be able to see those that are different from them. I believe the librarians in Metro are committed to this practice, and once again, where we see a need, we find a way to put our students first to meet that need.
While all of the sessions I attended were quite different, it was again apparent that librarianship is more than just a profession to me. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other professionals who are just as passionate about serving the diverse little beings that walk through our doors each and every day.
Oh, by the way, did I mention the conference was in PORTLAND?! There was not nearly enough time to explore, but I will leave you with three of my favorite places I visited in Portland. 1) The Lan Su Chinese Garden was a serene beauty contained within one city block. It was exquisite and delightful. 2) Petunia’s Pies & Pastry. I cannot describe to you the deliciousness. Also, I didn’t even realize it at first (that’s how GOOD the food is!), but this bakery is both vegan and gluten free! 3) Last but not least: Powell’s City of Books, which, given my audience, needs no explanation. :)