by Sarah Kresberg

Every day of the week preceding this year’s NEIT conference (April 4-6), Peter, my colleague in the tech department here at A-S, checked in with me to exchange thoughts about the upcoming experience and just generally share how excited we both were. More than a chance to have our thinking pushed and gather ideas in a gorgeous setting, I realized that our excitement was anchored in our need to connect with others beyond the four walls of our school. More than two years had passed since we had engaged in sustained conversations with our counterparts elsewhere and we had missed it! To further stoke our anticipation, NEIT was postponed this year from the usual January date, but this very much worked in our favor since the weather, for the most part, was just lovely.

As always, the conversation at NEIT, was on exactly the topics that we wanted and needed it to be. Such is the value of the unconference model. This year, the committee member who facilitated the set up of the first unconference session encouraged librarians and technologists to cross over to the other department for at least one of our sessions. I loved this idea and chose to attend a session called ‘Toward a New Tech Integration’. The premise was that with teachers ‘leveling up’ their tech skills during the pandemic, what should the value proposition be for tech integrators? In fact, is ‘technology integrator’ even the correct title for the role anymore? In that session I mostly listened, and what I heard were many parallels with my own situation as a librarian. For example, we both share challenges in creating or sustaining collaborative partnerships, and wanting to be valued for what we can teach as much or more than what we can provide or fix. The technologists in the room were educators, wanting to be seen as instructional partners and planners. It struck me as I listened that here was the reason for librarians and technologists to hold a conference together. We share so many challenges, but our approach to solving them are sometimes different, and we have much to learn from each other.

There was much to learn from the keynote speakers as well. The person who really struck a chord for me was Ken Shelton. Here was a man who broke the rules as a student, broke the rules as a teacher, and now gets paid to encourage others to break the rules; all in the service of making sure that students thrive through being seen, heard and valued. Afterwards, attendees flocked to talk with Shelton over cocktails and dinner, one of the perks of attending such an intimate conference.

It’s always fun to go to a session thinking you know everything and then being enlightened. Such was the case with Sora for me. I have been a Sora subscriber for years. I thought I had it down, but then I gained some wonderful tips about Sora read aloud Zoom projects, how to manage the badge program, and the easiest ways to connect students to various public libraries.

One thing I love about NEIT is that the conference doesn’t end when you leave Mohonk. For one, we have the Padlet full of notes from every single session convened. We also have our action items. Following up on a session called ‘Dear Follett’, HVLA librarians are going to be working on the Follett censorship issue under the leadership of B Mann, Karen Grenke and Rebecca Duvall. As a follow up to our session on anime and manga clubs, I will be starting a spreadsheet of popular age-appropriate manga with the help of my seventh grade students, and I hope others will contribute after I share it.

Of course, it’s cringe (as my students would say) to share this, but the best takeaway of all is the new and strengthened relationships I developed at NEIT! I’m so grateful to my school for the opportunity to attend, and even more so to my librarian colleagues on the organizing committee: Maria Falgoust, Karen Grenke, Stacy Dillon, Gwen Kaplan and Dacel Casey. Thanks so much for the opportunity to come back to my school refreshed and inspired!

Fall Meeting Tackles the New Abnormal

Today is Election Day, which seems a fitting time to look back at HVLA’s Fall Meeting, held on October 20, 2020. Editor-at-Large for The Daily Beast, Molly Jong-Fast spoke about the media and teaching news literacy in the current political climate. As Molly pointed out, we are actually living in a Golden Age of Journalism. Investigations into Harvey Weinstein, President Trump’s tax returns, and other stories that have had real impact in our world have all been researched and reported by journalists. Yet, at the same time we find ourselves “at the mercy of the algorithm”, existing in filter bubbles, using platforms designed to prioritize engagement with a particular site over quality information.

As librarians, we are well-versed in this problem from the position of educators. Molly brought the perspective of a journalist to the table and offered the following key points: teach kids that the way things are reported shows bias, equip them to identify legitimate vs. illegitimate news sources and where those sources fall on the political spectrum, to check other sources, and read critically. She also offered up some of her favorite more conservative outlets with good journalism for those looking to balance out a more liberal media diet- The Bullwark, The Dispatch, and The Economist.

After Molly’s talk, and some on-the-spot reader’s advisory by the group for Molly’s daughter, we split into breakout rooms to share what’s worked for us when teaching news literacy. Natasha Goldberg has generously shared her breakout session notes; access them here.

The board is hard at work planning our next gathering- a (hopefully) festive and cathartic informal gathering in early December. Stay tuned for details!

Welcome to 2020-2021!

Happy Fall, HVLA-ers! As we get further in to this unusual school year, HVLA has a few resources and upcoming events to planned to connect with colleagues, reflect on practice, and share ideas! We hope you’ll join us on Discord to share ideas and touch base in an informal setting. We’re also really looking forward to our Fall Meeting on October 20 from 5-6 PM. Editor-at-large for The Daily BeastMolly Jong-Fast will be speaking to us on the topic of Teaching Media Literacy in the New Abnormal

We also want to officially introduce you to our new board members. Please read below to get to know them a bit better.

Gwen Kaplan- Treasurer

Which book protagonist would make the worst roommate? Joe Hardy. Not only does his “impetuous” nature lead to the frequent ransacking of his domicile, but I also fear that he might eat all of the leftover pizza I save for breakfasts.

Best book you read this summer? Most fun? “Shadowshaper” by Daniel Jose Older. Most interesting? “The Real David Espinoza,” by Fred Acevedo. But there were so many others!

What do you wish you knew more about? Neuroscience

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a chance of medaling in? I prefer to rack up participation trophies in trying new activities I might not win, while savoring the inspiration I get from watching the true medalists. Unless “daydreaming” could be measured – I dream with persistence and enthusiasm.

Favorite ice cream flavor? Cinnamon

Megan Westman- Secretary

Which book protagonist would make the worst roommate? I would never want to live with Bitty from Check, Please. Our baking and cleaning tendencies are too alike; I think we would clash over trying to fill the same role! 🙂

What’s your favorite bit of useless trivia? All pandas born at the National Zoo are technically Chinese property and return to China once they reach a certain age, despite being born in the US! I’m a former DC resident and I know way too much about “panda diplomacy.” Deep dive, it’s fascinating.

If you weren’t a librarian, what would you be doing? Pastry chef, environmental activist, dramaturg, who knows!

What do you wish you knew more about? Musical improvisation! 

What do you love about being a school librarian? So so many things, all wrapped up in the fact that I get to help students know that they are seen and valued every day.

Favorite ice cream flavor?Oatmeal Lace from Ample Hills in BK! 

Natasha Goldberg- Vice President

Which book protagonist would make the worst roommate? The murderer in Tana French’s roommate drama, The Likeness

Best book you read this summer? Prairie Lotus (I’m a Little House buff)

If you weren’t a librarian, what would you be doing? Cocktail pianist or filmmaker

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a chance of medaling in? Eating copious amounts of breakfast cereal

What do you love about being a school librarian? Every day feels like Christmas. (I’m actually Jewish, but you get what I mean, right? All that giving. All that getting. And twinkle lights. I always have twinkle lights.)

Favorite ice cream flavor? Haagen Dazs Mint Chip