Having a Moment Here

Today we had a wonderfully blase group of 4th and 5th grade summer school students in for a tour and look-see of the library, some stories and some check-out. My part of the action was to share a story after the walkabout. I saw their eyes spark up a bit while we watched a newly hatched butterfly stretching it's wings and talked about metamorphosis on a very informal basis. Then we swept into the program area for the stories.

As a new staffer, I wanted to find out what they were doing in their summer school classes. They talked about math, science and reading - and some talked not at all. One particularly world-weary 10 year old announced that she had just finished a 709 page book. Without thinking, I popped back, "Wow, I could never do that! That's impressive." And I had an "aha" moment and shared something I had never told kids before.

I told the kids that it isn't that I wouldn't like to read long books...just that I am a slow reader. I told them I have a mild dyslexia which makes reading and working with numbers a challenge. It takes me a little longer with my reading...but that hasn't stopped me from loving books and making a very fun career in libraries. I wanted them to know that they could achieve lots even if something was a little harder for them. We went on from there to some fall-down funny storytelling. It felt as if many of the kids and I had made a special connection.

So many times we work with avid readers on staff and bright readers who are our customers. I felt today that I could offer something more to those kids who struggle with reading and think it isn't for them. It's funny how those moments happen - like a little light bulb suddenly illuminating a part of our life we hadn't looked at before in quite this way - and pieces fall into place for the first time. And it is truly wonderful when those moments help us make a true connection to kids.


Heading to ALA

It's almost time for one of my favorite professional activities of the year - attending the American Library Association annual conference, held this year in Chicago. I am a long time ALA member and a very active ALSC (Assocation for library Service to Children) division memebr.

I wasn't always active. As a young librarian, it seemed hard to break into committee work...how could I ever get appointed? The libraries I worked at (for almost my entire 33 year career) couldn't/wouldn't support my attendance financially but graciously gave me two days paid time to attend. It was discouraging but I felt I had something to offer. Mentors like Kathleen Weibel and Jane Botham encouraged me to keep connected nationally with colleagues.

So I started my ALA savings account to cover transportation room and board, attended committee meetings as an observere and made connections with children's library colleagues. We shared our experiences, successes and frustrations over lunch, in hallways, while browsing exhibits and walking around the conference cities. Those conversations and friendships became the bread and butter of my conference experience - even better than the programs offered. I came home with great ideas, buoyed by support from friends around the country and inspired by book creators that were honored at award ceremonies.

After ten years, I received my first ALSC committee appointment. That opened the door to lots more committee work - Intellectual Freedom; Legislation; Grolier Award; Sagebrush Award; Organization and Bylaws (multiple times); Liaison with National organizations Serving Children; and eventually three dream appointments: Caldecott; Newbery; and Priority Group Consultant for Child Advocacy committees(a kind of "auntie" for 8 or 9 committees to help them navigate through their work with ALSC and ALA). In each committee, I worked hard to make a difference in some small way; to bring ALSC farther along the path to being THE place for great children's librarianship and best practices for the nation's children's librarians.

And now I serve on the ALSC board and we wrestle with how to involve younger members and memebers who can't afford to attend. I am glad we as an organization are "owning" this vital issue and looking to be leaner, faster, more connected and aggressive in giving our young turks (ALA actually has a "Young Turks" advisory group to the ALA presiden!) more paths to involvement and power. I hope to see and hear lots from our new and younger members and they dive in feet first. It is a glorious world at ALA if you are a process junkie and want to change the library world. Hope you can join me!