Last week was the Texas Library Association Annual (TLA) Conference in Houston, Texas. This conference is an annual highlight of many librarians across the state! Since so many vendors, publishers, author and illustrators attend, librarians can’t help but get excited.
This year, TLA was a bit different for me. During 2015-2016 year leading up to this conference, I was the chair of the Children’s Round Table. This is a large sub group of librarians within TLA who work in service to children. Part of my duties of this volunteer position were to be a conference planner and then to also preside over and help put on the annual Texas Bluebonnet Award Luncheon (pictured below). Almost immediately following last year’s conference, I began gathering program ideas, authors, and presenters for #TXLA16. Putting a conference together of this size and caliber takes so many people volunteering and a lot of time and energy!
I was so pleased to see the CRT programs come together at conference! Seeing all the presenters, authors and illustrators and presiders actually presenting to all the librarians in attendance was the highlight of this experience for me! I had 15 programs in all (pictured below), including the CRT Business Meeting featuring Dan Santat, the 16th Annual Texas 2×2 Showcase, The 12th Annual Poetry Round Up, and the first ever Kidlit vs. YALit Lip Sync Battle. I loved seeing all the tweets about these programs and engaging in conversations with other librarians about their their takeaways from the sessions they attended. As librarians, we can never diminish the value in learning directly from authors and illustrators about their books and their process. This is crucial information to have as we engage on a daily basis with our readers about the books in our libraries.
The greatest joy for me from this conference was celebrating the inaugural Little Mavericks Graphic Novel List! Suzan Nyfeler, Tuan Nguyen, and I championed this list being added to the CRT Reading Lists because we see the value of this format for young readers. It brought me to tears to see the Little Mavs Committee Members and their amazing chair, Bethni King, present a session on programming for graphic novels and present a session on the list of titles with four kidlit graphic novel authors and illustrators! My hope is that this list will stand for years to come and provide a collection development tool for children’s librarians across our state.
One of the things I always enjoy are the General Sessions and the ticketed Meal Events. This year I had the pleasure of being very involved in the Bluebonnet Luncheon, but I also got to attend the Youth Breakfast featuring Jeff Kinney. What a treat that was! The Opening General Session is always so memorable, and this year was the best yet! I loved the Carver High School Dance group that performed the opening. I also enjoyed getting to see and recognize all our vendor partners who play a huge role in making this conference possible. The highlight though was hearing Levar Burton speak and getting to do a group sing along of the Reading Rainbow song!
I always love going down to the Exhibit Floor and visiting with all of our vendor partners and publisher colleagues. Seeing new products and furniture and learning about new platforms is always educational. Then connecting with publishers and the authors and illustrators is fun too! I am a huge fan of Mackin Educational Resources where I also serve on the board of advocates for the Transform Your School Library movement. I had the privilege of presenting in the Mackin booth (pictured below) and share with other librarians all the reasons I love the products and services offered by Mackin. In my high school library, we use MackinVia daily and I recently used Mackin’s new Genrefying service to help genrefy my fiction collection.
This year I also co-presented a session with my Library Coordinator and friend Stacy Cameron. We presented Resource Re-Defined: Libraries as Learning Spaces for the Texas Association of School Librarians. I am also a member of the Tejas Star Reading List Committee, and so I was able to join Nicole Cruz, Chair of the Tejas Star Committee, for the beginning of this panel to speak about my experience on this important committee. It was super fun co-hosting the Lip Sync Battle with the infamous John Trischitti, otherwise known as Mr. T. This was a very well attended session highlighting the books of 3 Kidlit authors and 3 YALit authors who also did some lip sync performances. I hope this might become a tradition at TLA!
Last but not least is my favorite part of any conference, but certainly of TLA, is connecting with friends old and new, and being part of professional conversations about libraries. There are so many different types of librarians and libraries, and then this is also an opportunity for me to gather with many school librarians and talk about school libraries in particular. I love the ideas that are shared and the transformations that are inspired! It is truly a week that affords me the best of my profession!