Wednesday, October 2, 2013

There's Plenty of Room at the Top

summit: the highest level or degree that can be attained; a conference or meeting of high-level leaders, usually called to shape a program of action. -TheFreeDictionary

Last week, I again had the pleasure of attending the SLJ (School Library Journal) Leadership Summit, held this year in Austin, Texas.

This gathering is purposely kept small, but it is by no means "exclusive." Teacher Librarians and their education partners need only apply before the list is filled. While attendees must cover their own travel and lodging expenses, there is no registration fee.

The Summit theme was "Transformation Through Effective Collaboration." Keynote speakers Annie Murphy Paul and Antero Garcia addressed this topic from their unique perspectives. Ms. Paul, talking about "The Science of Interest," explored how learning works, linking the nurturing of interest to the growing of knowledge. Mr. Garcia's presentation on "Participation and Collaboration as Critical Transformation" may be viewed on the SLJ website.

The Keynote Panel,  an administrative team from Vancouver, WA Public Schools, discussed "Pivot Points and Opportunities for Teacher Librarians." A follow-up Leadership Exchange offered attendees the chance to pose questions about collaboration strategies in small breakout groups.

Two additional panels viewed collaboration from other perspectives. During "Storytelling in Transition," authors and other creators examined how the art of sharing stories continues to evolve, with readers/viewers increasingly becoming part of the experience rather than passive consumers.

"Smart Stakeholders" featured representatives of the publishing companies that helped sponsor the Summit. Their message was that a business-librarian partnership is essential, as publishers seek to create resources that complement the needs of the students for whom they are purchased.

American Library Association President, Barbara Stripling, eloquently spoke about how "School Libraries Change Lives," and offered those present an opportunity to sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

Also valuable were the Fast Learning short presentations by Beth Yoke, Carolyn Foote, Stephanie Ham, Deborah Jones, Jennifer D. LaBoon & Cindy Buchanan, and Joel Castro.

I'd like to take a moment to recognize the approach taken by the Summit's corporate sponsors, Capstone, Brain Hive, Gale, Junior Library Guild, Lerner, Mackin, Rosen, and Rourke. They gave us gifts,  hosted dinners, and went out of their way to generate positive interactions. While representatives were available to answer questions about products and services, there were no hard sell tactics. They were there to thank us, and, by extension, all their library customers. It was a class act all the way.

There were a number of people present whom I already knew, either through social networking sites or past conference interactions; others I met for the first time. As wonderful as virtual connections can be, nothing compares to a face-to-face conversation, which might veer off into unexpected, enlightening, or delightful directions.

Summit Sites
Editorial Director, Rebecca T. Miller, told me that SLJ wants the Summit to fulfill many needs: to be informative, empowering, and enjoyable. Host cities are chosen as destinations that will offer opportunities for attendees to relax and explore a bit when formal events are over. Austin certainly met and exceeded that requirement. I'm sure the SLJ Summit 2014 location, St. Paul, MN, will be just as much fun to visit.

I understand how difficult it can be for Teacher Librarians to get administrative approval for professional conferences. If you can only attend one program next year, you might want to consider SLJ's a mighty "little" conference, where EVERYONE is a leader.

"Glorious and sublime Librarians." -Annie Murphy Paul

See these and other photos at SLJ Summit, Austin, Texas