IASL 2017 CONFERENCE FINAL REPORT
Submitted by Dr. Lesley S. J. Farmer
A successful IASL conference was held at California State University Long Beach August 4-8, 2017. To that end, the planning began more than two years ahead. California School Library Association (CSLA), California School Library Foundation (CSLF) and CUE co-sponsored the conference with each association providing a unique contribution. The core planning committee involved over twenty volunteers. From speakers and entertainers, from catering to parking, from exhibitors to volunteers, the challenges of conference details were daunting. However, folks were game, and the result was an informative and social success, for the almost 200 attendees from 28 countries.
Publicity about the conference included a content-rich website (http://iaslconf207.org), newsletter articles, announcements at several conferences (mainly in the US), social media announcements, flyers, and even beverage coasters. The majority of the attendees were speakers and US residents. Travel restrictions and cost were the main barriers, which was the reason for offering webinars for the first time.
The conference theme was “Learning Without Borders.” The event started with two half-day workshops, held in the campus’ International House, where the majority of non-U.S. attendees stayed. Three plenary sessions featured association awardees and keynoters Stephen Krashen, Hall Davidson, and Amber Rose Gonzales. Nine session slots provided strands of speakers: on research, professional practice, spotlight features, and webinars. In most sessions, two to three presenters talked about related research or practices. Additionally, eighteen exhibitors showcased their products. Trader Joes donated water bottles, which were very popular because of the surprisingly hot weather. Because all programs were held in one building, and everyone ate in the dining court, the conference was abuzz with networking.
Topics ranged from STEM to MOOCs, from sketchnoting to research methodologies, from children’s TV to reading community signs, from pop-up libraries to maker spaces, from podcasting to digital citizenship. Librarians from all continents (except Antarctica) shared current status and best practices. A children’s author/illustrator was featured each day, and a YA authors panel further enlightened attendees. SIG meeting and regional meetings gave folks a chance to share common interests. Attendees also had the opportunity to visit local school, community college, and public libraries; this free tour was hosted by the Long Beach Unified School District, which also provided teacher librarian drivers.
Socializing was also part of the scene, culminating in a gala dinner, which featured a live auction to support librarians and their libraries. Entertainment included a DJ, women’s chorus of Broadway hits, and a local Native American performing group. The evening’s end featured a room-sized circle of IASL attendees performing a traditional Native American dance.
An online conference folder included several documents, accessible to all attendees: program, 300+ page proceedings, certificate of participation, presenter PPTs, webinar hyperlink, social media.
The conference offered several new features:
- 9 webinars (one per concurrent session) to enable individuals to present and to participate in real time remotely; the cost was $50. The webinars were recorded and archived so that the conference physical attendees could also see the webinars at their convenience. I suggest that IASL continue to provide the 9 webinar series.
- Spotlight speakers: 9 individuals who were usually NOT teacher librarians but had expertise that informed the membership (e.g., Center for Media Literacy, reading specialist, artificial intelligence)
- Pecha Kucha (“speed dating”) session to showcase several research studies.
- YA author panel, who also lunched with attendees and signed books
- A featured author or illustrator per day
- Storytelling evening in the resident hall (by the Saturday featured author/storyteller)
- Bookseller (Barnes & Noble): sold YA author AND conference speaker titles
- Auction baskets
- California School Library Association workshop offered as an alternative to IASL pre-conference workshops: some CSLA members stayed for the IASL conference
- Online scheduler
- Little free library book exchange Student artwork: San Diego high school students lent their surfboard art
- Local information binder and several handouts, including bus schedules
- Provisions for disabilities: campus map and electric cart
- First aider.
In sum, teacher librarians certainly did share and learn without borders. Both attendees and speakers were grateful for – and pleased with — this special opportunity. The hard work in putting the conference together was worth the effort.