As the rest of the GSB Community was gearing up for spring break, Head Librarian Kristen Armstrong and Lower and Middle School Library Teacher Courtney Renna were preparing for a much different opportunity: attendance at the annual Association of Independent School Librarians (AISL) Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Different from many of its peer educational conferences, the AISL Conference is hosted by the independent schools located in its geographical region for that year, rather than a central organization. Each conference is individually designed to showcase the distinctive strengths of those host schools and to revolve around a theme that suits the region. In this way, each conference takes on a unique character, and participants get an intimate peek into the different pedagogical perspectives on the role of libraries in independent schools.
This year’s theme was “Celebrate and Elevate,” and as part of their experience, Ms. Armstrong and Mrs. Renna visited Santa Fe Prep, Albuquerque Academy, Manzano Day School, and Sandia Prep and toured their libraries. They also attended sessions led by independent school librarians from around the country ranging from “Rethinking the Research Process” and “Utilizing Visual Note Taking” to “Lower School Chat” and “Flipping It: Information Literacy.”
"Information literacy is more important now than ever,” said Mrs. Renna. “I really enjoyed learning how other librarians are teaching the subject in their libraries, especially in taking a more student led approach."
As an added bonus, Ms. Armstrong and Mrs. Renna heard from three featured speakers, authors Nina LaCour, Arthur Sze, and E. Lockhart.
“We heard from a #1 New York Times Bestseller, a Michael L. Printz award winner, and a Shelley Memorial award winner and Guggenheim Fellow,” said Mrs. Armstrong. “I’m an avid reader, obviously, and being able to learn about each writer’s personal journey was a highlight.”
Messages from the speakers included the importance of making a wide variety of books available to students, the importance of slowing down—for both educators and students, the value in rereading to fully appreciate the meaning of language, and the need for students to have space and time to determine the credibility of their sources, rather than rushing to find the first five that would meet a project’s requirements.
“It was a beautiful location for a conference,” Ms. Armstrong shared, “which fit perfectly with the underlying message of taking time. The beauty of the landscape and art installations throughout the city required you to be present and enjoy the moment. It was impossible to do otherwise!”
"Independent schools are unique, and I enjoyed the opportunity to hear from other librarians that work in similar settings,” Mrs. Renna added. “I came back from the conference with a long list of ideas to implement in our libraries and have already put some of them into action."
AISL was formed in 1987 to address the specific needs of librarians in independent schools. Its mission is to facilitate the professional development of independent school librarians and to empower its members to become collaborative and innovative leaders able to advance their school’s mission.