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Highlights from the American Library Association Annual Conference 2017

2017 July 11
by Kyla Hunt

ALA ChicagoIn July, three staff members from Library Development and Networking here at the Texas State Library had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago. To spread the knowledge we gained by attending, we wanted to take a moment and highlight the sessions that we found the most enlightening and valuable.

Henry Stokes, Library Technology Consultant

Library Information Technology Association (LITA)’s Top Technology Trends

I enjoyed a roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology by a panel of LITA technology experts and thought leaders. Here are six of the trends that were discussed (Want more info about these? Contact Henry Stokes, TSLAC Library Technology Consultant, 512-463-6624,

1) Distance charging – this is a way to charge patrons’ laptops, mobile devices, and wearables wirelessly. The libraries are sorely in need of this as it will alleviate the demand for electrical outlets inside the library’s physical space. Having this technology will change the way patrons use the library!
2) Cloud computing – examples include Google chromebooks and chrome boxes. This is a great example of economy of scale (only $150 per unit)!
3) Maker spaces support entrepreneurship – public libraries in particular can create a network of entrepreneurs within the community that they can become a part of themselves!
4) Popup Picks – these are curated eBook collections with unlimited access –
5) Symmetrical broadband (equal download and upload speeds) – very much needed in libraries because of all the content creation!  Libraries are not places solely for consumption any more. Patrons want to share their content online, and that means faster upload speeds.
6) https should be used for library websites more.  When http is used, many browsers give messages to patrons that the library website is not secure and this is embarrassing.

Telling Their Stories through Graphic Novels – Views from Behind the Fence

A school librarian and school library professor were awarded a 2016 Will Eisner Innovation Grant Award for a new project. At the Birchwood School at the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, they facilitated the creation of a graphic novel by incarcerated students, who wrote and story-boarded the text based on their gang experiences. The grant gave them free graphic novels for the library’s collection, and paid for graphic novel illustrators who worked with the students to illustrate the story they created and taught them graphic design skills. The final product was then marketed to publishers as an anti-gang tool.  I also learned that the 2017 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant was awarded to the Colorado State Library. Their project “Where There is Art, There Is Hope: Graphic Novels and Literacy at the Sterling Correctional Facilities Libraries,” will send a new teacher to enrich Sterling Colorado’s LEAD (Literacy Education in Adult Detention) with comics curriculum at the Sterling Correctional Facility (SCF) Libraries, encouraging literacy and reducing recidivism.  This is a 6-week course created by the State Library that is for incarcerated adults to improve literacy and art skills using comics and graphic novels.

Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator

Lots of great things happen at the American Library Association Annual Conference for school librarians! Among the best events is the Affiliate Assembly meetings that take place with school librarians from all over the US come together to discuss issues that affect all of us! During the AASL Affiliate Assembly meeting from 8 am to 12 noon, the commendations and concerns from the various regions were discussed and voted on. AASL’s president Audrey Church introduced the “School Librarians as Learning Leaders” initiative. The initiative includes an infographic and a toolkit for school librarians to use in their advocacy efforts and work with their administration.

The second best session I attended was “Inquiry-Rich Learning Experiences in Collaborative Blended Learning Environment”. This session offered the following advice/information: be the “architects” of learning not the “keepers” of it, teach beyond the textbook, the future is now, blended/personalized learning involves TPPP (Time, Place, Path, and Pace), and finally ask students “what do you wonder about” vs. “what do you have questions about.”

Kyla Hunt, Library Management Consultant

The New Normal: Libraries Navigate Uncertain Times

Presenters: Emily Drabinski (Long Island University), Kay Schwartz (Flint Public Library), Tamara Townsend (Long Island University-Brooklyn)

Kay Schwartz’s presentation about their library responding to the Flint water crisis was particularly moving. This is a community that continues to respond to increasing health concerns and plummeting home values with determination and fortitude. It was incredibly inspiring to hear the support a library gives to a community in uncertain times, especially in working with small libraries throughout Texas.

I am not a lawyer: providing copyright services in libraries

Presenters: Collette Mak (University of Notre Dame), Cindy Kristof (Kent State)

In my every day work and when presenting on topics such as Creative Commons, it often strikes me how often librarians are put in the awkward position of being asked questions relating to law without being able to actually practice law or give legal advice. One of the questions that was asked to the panel perfectly encapsulates this: “What makes you the most nervous about providing copyright assistance?” There is clearly a good amount of anxiety surrounding this topic, and the best advice that I took away from the session was to take a copyright question and make it into a reference question. As with any question, it was made clear that the librarian’s role is to teach patrons how to access resources, not to tell them what to do or offer advice. It was a comforting reminder, and it was wonderful being in a room of librarians interested in this topic.

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