Last week I had the privilege of traveling to San Antonio to learn and share with nearly 8,000 Texas librarians at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference. They say everything is bigger in Texas and TXLA was no exception: the enthusiasm and energy of every single librarian I met was positively GINORMOUS! I left each day feeling both exhausted and inspired. And that, my friends, is a good, good feeling.
Both the keynote I gave at the Tech Camp kickoff, on Leading From The Library, and the sessions I led on Using Video Games to Ramp Up Instruction and Redefining School Libraries were so much fun thanks to the rooms full of eager librarians who gratefully shared their energy, support and wisdom with me. I'm so grateful to everyone who attended my sessions and for those who either waited to chat with me afterwards or who stopped me in the hall or on the streets or, yes, even at the Alamo, to share their stories. I feel like I live a charmed life and the Texas sized love I felt at TXLA is certainly a shining example of how fortunate I am. If you're from Texas (or even if you're not, but you were there!) and you are reading this: Thank You!
A quick aside (and some links), I've been unhappy with how my archive of current and past presentations looks for awhile now, (and in my book, style as just as important as substance), so I used TXLA as an opportunity to create a new home for this work. Currently, only my presentations from TXLA are housed here, but over time I'll move them all over until this becomes a full fledged Professional Development Toolkit. Until then, I'll keep the "My Presentations" page above live, but I look forward to transforming the new page into something that is a little more user friendly. Stay tuned.
As is always the case, however, my favorite moment from TXLA had nothing to do with me or my sessions. And let me just say, every session I attended was AMAZING. I learned so much from every presenter - I thought my brain would explode! And yet, even among some very stiff competition, the #nerdybookclub session led by an all star panel (John Schumacher, Tom Angleberger, Colby Sharp, Jenni Holm, Kirby Larson, Cynthia Alaniz and Linda Urban) was not only the standout of the Texas conference, but it was also, without question, the most joyous and affirming conference session I have ever attended.
Since that session, I've been trying to figure out a way to describe it. A way to share what I learned or a strategy for summarizing the session itself. But it's impossible. Because the session wasn't about information. There wasn't a list of facts, slides full of bullet points or a brochure full of strategies to be imparted. Rather, this session was about the importance of story and, as such, was a story itself. As each panel member got up to share, a story was woven. A story about how the love of reading connects, inspires and in so many cases saves people. The session was in equal measure, funny, ruckus, joyous, gentle, sweet and solemn... and from the story told through all its faces, I took away the following truths:
Loving to read is legitimate. It's not something extra or nice, but not necessary. It's crucial and the work we do to help kids unlock that love is essential.
Reading helps us feel less alone AND helps us recognize loneliness in others.
Curricula, politics and the crisis of the day will come and go, but stories endure.
The only thing more powerful than darkness is light. We have an obligation to share the light inside us. Stories help us do that.
Every last one of us can change the world.
I'm the kind of person who needs my work to matter. Like everyone else, I get caught up in the minutia of schedules and deadlines, of checkboxes and (all too often) flaming hoops. But in the end, I need to feel the weight of my purpose. I need to know that I'm fighting for something bigger than me. This session helped remind me of that. As John Schu said (during his part of the presentation) it "shredded my heart" and in the most beautiful way possible. I'm so grateful these people exist in the world and choose to give their lives to children.
If you're interested in knowing more about Nerdy Book Club and how you can be part of this rag tag group of dreamers whose sole mission is to spread their love of books, click here. And then be brave and share some of your love too.
Thank you again, Texas! Until we meet again...xoxo