ALA Conference Report, Part 3

ALA Conference in San Francisco – Reports from Our Members:

Helen Bloch:

TabletI attended the ALSC Leadership meeting focused on the recent white paper on Media Mentorship ( Lisa Guernsey, a researcher from the New America Think Tank, was the keynote speaker.  She summarized some of the findings from her upcoming book, Tap, Click, Read.  First, she outlined the crisis in children’s literacy. Two-thirds of 4th graders in the US are not reading proficiently.  When children of color are examined, the number increases to 80%.  Guernsey believes that rather than universally condemning or approving of the use of electronic media by children, we have to look at a child’s actual media experiences.  The most useful thing she spoke about is the  “3C’s” framework she and coauthor Michael Levine have developed for looking at a child’s media use and evaluating apps.

Content – Does the site invite storytelling? Invite participation? Is there labeling? Is it engaging? Is there repetition?  Is it nonviolent?

Context – is the media purposeful or in the background?  What time of day is it? Is it interactive? Does the adult participate in it with the child?

Child – age (over or under 2-there is controversy). Does the child have special needs?   Each child is different.

I also attended the program presented by WeNeedDiverseBooks.  The speakers answered We Need Diversespecific questions about writing they were given ahead of time.  The speakers referred the audience to lots of tools they can use (summer reading lists; book talk kits) on their website (  They emphasized that when hand selling a book, look for commonalities of character or narrative rather than on the race/ethnic background, gender, etc. of the characters. There are examples of how to do this on the website in the resources section.

Helen Bloch – Oakland Public Library Children’s Room

Cassy Lee:

RoboticsRobot Invasion: How Librarians in School, Public and Academic Libraries are Educating with Robots –

Programs in robotics are becoming more commonplace and this wonderfully helpful panel of school, public and academic librarians helped break down the process of getting a program started in all different types of libraries. If you are interested in getting tips on how to start your own program, you might contact one of the presenters in the type of library you work and ask for tips because they were all very approachable and made robotics seem feasible, even for the least tech-savvy librarian to pull off. The panel was hosted by Sara Kepple, who has a book called Library Robotics coming out this September (get it for 20% off with the code q21520 at

Resource Re-Defined: School Libraries as Learning Spaces –

School librarians Nancy Jo Lambert and Stacy Cameron from Texas shared how they have transformed their traditional library space into a true 21st century learning commons. They discussed the importance of fighting for flexible schedules, seeing makerspaces as an idea not a place, highlighted the useful technology and configuration of the space, and went over some of the successful programming that ensured they were integrating their services into the schoolwide curriculum, including in math. They offered an excellent example of the shift from the library being a quiet study space to becoming the learning community hub, and with their tremendous ideas and energy you could see why their space is now often “two glowsticks short of a rave”.

GraphiCon Discussion Forum: On Diversity in Comics –

This panel of exceptional comics creators who are working to turn the tides in terms of diversity in comics was outstanding. Comics are for everyone, and creators like these are ensuring a diverse audience sees themselves on the pages. Check out the link to see slides with the list of all the panelists and an array of titles featuring characters that defy stereotypes, then get them on your shelves!

Best/Worst Comics and Manga for Kids –

What an excellent list of recommendations these experts put together! Check the link for the handout to get a great list of graphic novels that will disappear from your shelves as soon as you put them on. Note: They were not calling out the “worst” comics as in, “these are terribly done”; instead, they offered much-appreciated suggestions about titles which were not suitable for children due to their graphic and violent content. Beware if a 10-year-old comes in asking for a copy of The Walking Dead, for example.

Marie Lu Chats with 8 Young Adult Debuts –

Marie Lu of Legend fame (and now The Young Elites) moderated a panel of eight debut Yuauthors offering a delectable smorgasbord of new diverse YA novels. Check out the link to get the list of authors, stock up on their books, and invite them to come to your library to speak. All eight women were excellent speakers who have written stories that dismantle any YA tendencies toward a cookie-cutter cast of characters.

Author Highlights:

Of course, I was starstruck by all the authors signing their books in the exhibit hall (Mo Willems! Brian Selznick! Rita Garcia-Williams! Thanhha Lai! Oh my!) and was blown away by amazing speakers like Gloria Steinem and Edwidge Danticat, but the awards ceremonies I attended were truly inspirational. My heart hurt for Dan Santat accepting the Caldecott after years of hard work and self-doubt. My body was covered in head-to-toe goosebumps when Kwame Alexander recited his speech on how to win a Newbery like it was a poetry slam for his life.  I felt Jandy Nelson’s spiritual ecstasy as she described her process of writing her Printz-award winner, I’ll Give You the Sun. But best of all was the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast. Kwame Alexander said he felt like it was church, and I think everyone in attendance would agree that they felt elevated to a higher place that morning. From Jason Reynolds’ absolutely electric opener to Christian Robinson and Patricia Hruby Powell’s joyful Josephine-inspired dance to another amazing Kwame performance to Chris Myers’ hopeful assertion that we are rewriting the world – wow! Shivers. Tears. Joy.

Diversity was the overarching theme at the conference for me this year, perhaps only because of the sessions I chose to attend or the incredible news of SCOTUS’ decision kicking off the conference on a high note, but it seemed again and again that the need for diverse books was affirmed and is being heard and acted upon. Gloria Steinem said in her speech, “You have to see it to be it,” and over and over I heard that sentiment repeated in some shape or form, asserting that all readers need to see themselves in the pages of books, to know they matter, to know they have voices, to know they could become whatever they want to be. The beloved group at the CSK breakfast are toiling for it, writing windows and painting mirrors, keeping all children dreaming. The creators at the diverse comics panel are pushing for change and succeeding – Ethan Young even offered himself as an example, only allowing himself to dream of creating comics because he saw Gene Luen Yang’s success.

Change is here. Diverse books seem to be increasing and their amazing authors are being given a platform. And do you know what they say?

They thank librarians. 

Because we are the ones who get the right books in the right hands at the right time. Jandy Nelson called us “the light keepers, the ones who hand out the light”.

This is what it’s all about, people. We are rewriting the world together. Keep on handing out the light.

The Newbery and Caldecott speeches are available at:

Cassy Lee is the Middle School Learning Commons Coordinator at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco. She is a book reviewing member of ACLNC, blogs at, and will have a monthly post this year on AASL’s Knowledge Quest blog, She will be featuring school librarians and their move to a learning commons model. Please contact her if you would like your learning commons to be featured.

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