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ALA Midwinter 2019 Highlights

2019 February 26
by Kyla Hunt

In January, staff from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission had the opportunity to attend ALA Midwinter 2019 in Seattle. We wanted to share a few highlights. Enjoy!

Jennifer Peters, Director of Library Development & Networking

This is my second visit to ALA Midwinter. Midwinter is less overwhelming than ALA Annual, and offers good opportunities to connect with other state library staff. This enables us to share information, ask for guidance, and find out what other Library Development programs are up to. Interestingly, every state library does things a little differently. Not every state library is an independent agency; some are part of a larger state organization like a Department of Education. Some states offer online databases; others do not, or offer only a handful. Similarly, some states offer competitive grants, while others choose to direct all of their funding into statewide programs. It’s interesting to see the variety. Because of our size, Texas is able to offer more programs than some other states; on the flip side, Library Development teams in smaller states are able to develop much closer relationships with the smaller number of librarians they serve. 

There aren’t as many professional development opportunities at Midwinter as there are at ALA Annual, or even at TLA! I sat through a few sessions, but mainly attended meetings of state library staff. I was fortunate to hear two keynote speakers and they were the highlights of my Midwinter experience. The first was Eric Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. The second was Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Both were extremely thought-provoking, a little unsettling at times, but ultimately had strong implications for libraries and the people we serve.

Katherine Adelberg, Manager, Continuing Education and Consulting

Spending time with other State Library staff, and meeting Texas librarians were the highlights of Midwinter. No matter which session or meeting I attended, there was almost always another Texan in the room. I had some fantastic conversations, and came away more impressed than ever at how active Texas librarians are at the national level.

I attended some great sessions, too. The most inspiring session featured advice from a panel of library leaders, including the Washington State Librarian and the directors of the Chicago, Seattle, Sonoma County, and King County Library Systems. One particularly memorable exchange involved a discussion of how libraries are about experiences, and those experiences include waiting for the elevator, paying a fine, etc. There was also a great discussion of risk-taking in leadership, and knowing whether you prefer leading from the front, or from the middle.

The most practical session I attended was an open forum on legal issues in public libraries, with a lawyer in attendance. Among the issues discussed were first amendment audits (these have happened in several cities and libraries in Texas), recording video in the library, service animals, participation waivers related to virtual reality, and access to libraries before and after staff hours. This guide to recording laws from the Texas State Law Library may be helpful.

Liz Philippi, School Program Coordinator

What a great conference and luckily, we were there a couple of weeks before Seattle’s record snowfall! Most of my highlights from this conference were attending sessions on Computational Thinking (this a critical thinking skill, not just coding!) and OER (Open Educational Resources).

The session on computational thinking centered around the “Libraries Ready to Code” initiative which involved both public and school libraries. The most interesting thing about this session was when the presenter asked the audience whether computational thinking should be part of a state’s curriculum standards. The responses generally agreed with me – a resounding YES! Teaching computational thinking from an early age through curriculum integration (not using computers) is foundational for our students today. So be on the lookout for more programs, information, and buzz about computational thinking.

The session on OER started by defining what OER is and the variations it can take. Then they talked about why we need OER and finally where do we go to develop good OER practices. The website OER Commons is a great place to start and if you do go there make sure you check out the “Groups” and “Hubs” sections there is a lot of great stuff there. Finally attending the AASL meetings was a highlight as always. Talking to librarians all over the US always reminds me of how great you all are!

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