Tuesday, February 9, 2016

PLN Journal Week 2: My First CSLA Annual Conference

CSLA Conference name badge with First Time Attendee and Volunteer ribbonsThis week, my Professional Learning Network (PLN) journal topic was handed to me on a silver platter. From Friday through Sunday, I participated in my first ever California School Library Association (CSLA) Annual Conference - notice my first-time attendee badge ribbon! I have never been surrounded by so many other school library professionals, and the experience was inspiring and motivating. My biggest takeaway is the importance of being involved in the larger professional community, and below are five related recommendations that emerged from my experience this weekend.

(1) Join Professional Organizations

Joining professional organizations may seem like a financial burden due to the cost, particularly since most people end up paying for memberships out of their personal wallets. However, after hearing updates about the powerful state-level advocacy efforts organized and supported by CSLA, I think it is important to recognize how joining professional organizations is an investment and small token in offsetting efforts that others are selflessly promoting on our collective behalf.

For instance, without the California Model School Library Standards, what legitimacy would our programs receive in terms of our recognized curricular role? How much more success may school libraries have with getting written into Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) now that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes references to school libraries?

One thing I've been thinking about is the fact that there are more professional organizations out there than I have money and time to support. Still, while I am n the beginning phases of exploring the various organizations that exist, I intend to pick a few to invest deeply in over the long term and I hope to contribute in at least some small way to these organizations that benefit our profession so profoundly.

(2) Attend Conferences and Workshops

In "From Professional Development to Personalized Learning," Foote (2013) challenges librarians to reframe professional learning as constant, inquiry-based exploration that now - thanks to technology - can occur at any time or place. I agree with embedding learning into our everyday way of life. At the same time, this weekend reminded me how participating in rarer, dedicated professional development events such as in-person conferences provides for a rich and different type of learning experience that cannot be replicated online.

Attending conferences, much like joining professional organizations, may be difficult to afford for many individuals. It may also be a challenge to get time off campus approved. Still, the benefits include having time and space for deeper, sustained professional learning, as well as expanding the breadth of learning through organic, synchronous interactions with different people. By stepping outside of our physical spaces and daily routines, we may gain new perspectives and also become re-energized for returning to our schools and students with new ideas.

(3) Meet New People

I am by nature a pretty hardcore introvert, but this weekend I enjoyed re-connecting with some people I've met before, as well as meeting many others. My mom gave me advice when I was younger that I shouldn't stop by myself from going to gatherings simply because I do not know people. She explained that the only way I will ever get to know people is by showing up. By simply being there, each encounter becomes a shared experience that builds the basis for eventually knowing people.

My mom's advice rang true when I attended the conference this weekend. I had previously met several people when attending the CSLA Southern Region Meeting last fall, and so this time, it was more of a reunion with these individuals. Along these lines, I look forward to future reunions with the new people I've met this time. I also think it's important to note that just as Foote encourages constant and ongoing learning, my conversations with people I meet do not have to wait for our next in-person encounters. We can continue to connect via email, Twitter, and other virtual means; the difference will be that these connections will be enriched by the context of having met in person.

(4) Volunteer, Including Presenting

Building off meeting new people, I highly suggest volunteering! CSLA and other professional organizations depend upon the work of volunteers, and so I think it is important to contribute in a way and to a degree that is feasible for you. At this conference, my San Jose State University School of Information graduate professor Dr. David Loertscher invited a classmate and me to help with his presentation on Discovery Learning in the Library Learning Commons. This turned out to be a great way to meet many people since it served as an instant conversation starter with attendees throughout the rest of the conference.

Even if you do not present, there are smaller ways to volunteer. For instance, I signed up for two different registration desk shifts. During those times, I not only got to help, but also hang out with and talk with many active and influential CSLA members. I know that even in my regular school library work, the only reason others do not immediately perceive that I am an introvert is because I have a job to do that propels me outside of my comfort zone. If you also feel shy in these types of settings, give yourself a job and excuse to meet other people - volunteer!

(5) Share Your Experience

Throughout the conference, people were encouraged to Tweet out their experiences, and I did this in addition to posting to a district all library staff Facebook group and also sending emails with links and information to our district Library Council. Even though I was the only librarian out of the nine from my district to attend, I want to share the good resources with all of them. In return, I appreciate when they share their other experiences back with me. This is the best way to handle the conundrum of there being more options than time and money to pursue them all.

Since Tweeting allows for a reach beyond my immediate teacher librarian circle, though, it is also a great chance for advocacy. Tweets provide other classroom teachers and administrators a glimpse of some professional best practices so that they may expand their conceptions about what school library programs can offer. Even though I, as a new teacher librarian, have not yet developed as rich of programming as those with more experience, I want others at my school and in my district to realize what is possible as I grow and given adequate support.


Foote, C. (2013). From professional development to personalized learning. LMC, 31(4), 34-35,


  1. I am glad that you, too, enjoyed the #csla16 conference. I hope that will be able to attend many more in your career as a TL and learn and grow and contribute to our PD. @cablesclasses

    1. Thanks, @cableclasses! I heard you present at the CSLA Southern Region Meeting in the fall and then again at the conference. Thanks for sharing all of your helpful expertise!