AASL Conference

I had the pleasure October 27 – 30 of attending the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Conference in Minneapolis. This event is held every other year and draws an incredibly talented group of school librarians from all around the country. I am still processing all the information and great ideas I received there and pondering how I can implement them in my practice. Here, though, is a summary of a few of the highlights:

Digital Collection Curation

During the “Treasure Mountain” pre-conference and one of the conference concurrent sessions, I heard Joyce Valenza, the Teacher Librarian at Springfield Township HS Library in Pennsylvania, speak about the importance of digital collection curation in school library practice. So what is curation? Joyce described it as not just finding the pearls, but actually stringing the necklace. I would call it the next step after pathfinders. When classes come to the library to do research, I usually create a pathfinder, or guide to quality resources on a topic, to assist them with their work. Curation goes beyond pathfinders because it aggregates and actually embeds content on a topic into a guide. And, a good curation guide generally focuses on a specific topic, not just a broad subject area, and includes both automatically-generated hits based on well-crafted keyword searches and human additions and edits. For more details, click on the thumbnail for slides from Valenza’s talk:

Fortunately, we don’t all need to reinvent the wheel for every topic, since there are a lot of good curated guides out there already. But I think that creating your own guide on a topic you are passionate about can be an empowering experience for a learner, both student and adult. This year, I plan to begin transitioning as much as possible from pathfinders to curated guides for class projects and to helping students locate and create their own guides on topics they are researching or interested in. As Joyce commented in her talk, “students need new types of containers. They need to create reflective portfolios with their own curation.”


One of my goals this year is to begin a collection of ebooks that students can access online and possibly also download to handheld devices. I don’t see us ever abandoning print, but I want to help students take advantage of the digital options available for reading and researching. There is a large, growing selection of ebooks out there, both reference materials for research, and fiction and non-fiction for independent reading. Some titles in the public domain are free and others are for purchase. Some ebooks are licensed for unlimited simultaneous readers; others allow for a single user at a time, just like print books. I focused on attending several sessions about ebooks and spoke to several vendors during the conference. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as to what is the “best’ platform in this rapidly-evolving market. I wish that I could find a way to add all the titles to our library catalog and have them accessible in the same way through that one portal, regardless where they came from. That isn’t possible, at least not yet. Everyone I heard from at the conference acknowledged that we have a ways to go before the options and market settle down. We can’t, though, wait until that happens to start offering ebooks to our students. I do plan to begin our Mira Costa ebook collection very soon. Stand by for details!


The conference was also a wonderful opportunity to hear and meet authors and get some great free books. Here is the pile of free books I brought home 🙂 :

aasl books
Mrs. Lofton's books from the AASL Conference

At the Authors’ Banquet on Friday night, I had the treat of sitting at the table with Author Andrea Davis Pinkney and hearing her share that “we all know that librarians will go to the end of the earth to help you with research.” I was also very impressed by how passionately Joan Bauer described her interest in creating heroes who are survivors of adversity and Pata Mora share that “we cannot have a democracy without literacy.” I enjoyed meeting Maggie Stiefvator, author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series (ShiverLingerForever), and hearing her present at the Sunday Author Brunch about the story behind her new book, The Scorpio Games, her most deliberately autobiographical work. Stiefvater explained how she is fascinated by “world” novels, and wanted to create her own world. Being a food lover, I was amused to learn that she wanted to “torture readers with imaginary foods.” Here’s a photo of me meeting her in the Exhibit Hall and relishing the opportunity to receive a free, autographed copy of Forever:

Maggie Stiefvater

I will share more in coming postings.

2 thoughts on “AASL Conference

  1. Jane,

    It sounds wonderful. I would love to hear more about curation. I have many hot lists that I use a lot.

    I am planning to talk to everyone I can at CSLA about ebooks and see if I can’t clear up some of the confusion in my own mind. I’m ready to purchase some, too.


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