top of page

NYSAIS Reflections and Takeaways

I arrived in Albany, New York last week to begin 10 days of working with educators across The Empire State. The last time I was here, I was traveling with John Schu on a cross state learning journey we dubbed our #librarylovetour. I've had the privilege of working with educators in New York many times, and it's always a delight to come back to this part of the country. Now, because I live so far away, whenever one group asks me to make the trek back to the state where I was born, (shout out to Yonkers!) I always try to arrange (at least) a week where I can learn and share with multiple groups. With that in mind, this time around I'll be working with librarians and administrators from various BOCES between Rochester and Plattsburgh, but I kicked off this trip by giving a keynote and leading an unconference session at NYSAIS: The New York State Association of Independent Schools.

My keynote centered around "next generation" news and information literacy - a topic I care very deeply about. It will likely come as no surprise to anyone who has read or heard my work in this area that I began my keynote with a series of questions related to how our emotional responses to information drive our behavior on (and increasingly off) line. Here are the word clouds that began our conversation. I was fascinated (if not surprised) by these responses.

From there, we interrogated common information literacy practices and reimagined this work as being less about technology and more about human behavior. This is a heavy topic, and we (as a profession and as a species) have a lot to reckon with. Regardless of whether or not we agree on specific issues, most people recognize that our current relationship with the tools and platforms where we access information is unhealthy and growing increasingly more dangerous. Still, I always try to approach this work in a way that includes a little humor and a whole lot of hope. Ultimately, one thing I know for certain is that change doesn't just happen - we have to make it happen.

Later, after the book signing, I led an UNconference session focused on information literacy in action. I'll be honest, I've had mixed experiences with UNconference sessions in the past. At their best, this format provides space for educators to be curious, powerful and vulnerable all at the same time. At the other end of the spectrum, I've seen these sessions turn into unproductive gripe sessions. With that in mind, I was so impressed by how thoughtful and caring the group who joined me in conversation was. The discussion was focused, encouraging and deeply thoughtful. It was an honor to be a part of it and I left feeling very hopeful.


NYSAIS was held at The Mohonk Mountain House, a stunning Hudson Valley property with a deeply problematic history. I took this photo while on a walk along the Sky Tower Trail - a "steep but pleasant" hike on one of the property's many walking paths. It's no exaggeration to say that I'm not sure I've ever been to an event held in a more beautiful location. I heard many people comparing the luxury digs to "the hotel from The Shining," while I got more "the hotel from Dirty Dancing" vibes. Another friend repeatedly said the location looked like it was "otherworldly." All those descriptions are appropriate. It's truly a magical location.

That magic, however, is complicated by the history of the property, which not only informed conversations throughout the conference, but has also guided some of the on going work of NYSAIS. This article, from a local newspaper, unpacks Mohonk's uncomfortable history:

"On-site visitors can learn about Mohonk’s history as a family business that tries to make guests feel at home. But visitors will not find a history tour, or even an acknowledgment on Mohonk’s website, about the resort’s history as the site of the yearly Lake Mohonk Friends of the Indian Conference (LMC) between 1883 and 1916, which helped shape U.S. policy for Native peoples during a time of cultural genocide and dispossession."

Indeed the very room where I gave my keynote was the site where powerful men from around the region once met to find solutions to "the Indian problem."

Within this context, I wasn't surprised when the conference kicked off with a land acknowledgement, a practice which often feels performative to me. However, I soon understood that the NYSAIS land acknowledge is just a small part of how this organization has worked to use their conference as a way of repairing some of the harm that was conceived in the very location where members of NYSAIS now gather in the shadow of long ago meetings of the Lake Mohonk Friends of the Indian Conference. In addition to reading the land acknowledgment at every conference, NYSAIS also:

  • had the acknowledgement reviewed and ratified by Muhheaconneok, Mohican, and Munsee Lenape tribes - who were displaced from the land The Mohonk Mountain House now occupies.

  • traveled to Muhheaconneok, Mohican, and Munsee Lenape nations (in Wisconsin) to meet with tribal leaders and identify ways that NYSAIS could support their communities.

  • intentionally included sessions during the conference (like one titled "Solving The Problem of 'Solving the Indian Problem,'") to both update NYSAIS members on this work and to engage members in conversation to ensure these efforts continue.

While I'm certain this is not the only example, it is the first time I've been involved with a conference that has so transparently worked to transform their acknowledgment into real action. I'm grateful to have witnessed this work and will be thinking about NYSAIS for a long time. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to learn and share with these thoughtful practitioners.


Click image to access slide deck.


As an extremely introverted person, when I'm at a conference, I often wear headphones between sessions. Not only do they cancel out the surrounding noise, but they also afford me the opportunity to wrap myself in something familiar: music. If we're ever at a conference together and you see me wandering around with headphones on, this doesn't mean you can't say hello to me. It does mean, however, that I might not hear you when you call my name, so don't be afraid to give me a wave or tap me on the shoulder, too. While I typically share the playlist that I've currently listening to, these days, if you see me with headsphones on, chances are I'm listening to Cowboy Carter.


black banner.png
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • instagram logo
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • gmail square
  • TikTok

Let's Connect!

bottom of page