Outside of Tall Texans,* which is unique in that it is a one-time, invited experience, I find TASLA the most important professional development I can do for myself annually ...and consider myself very fortunate that my job description and my forward-thinking boss allow me the privilege of attending this group meeting.
This was my 4th year to attend. My first year, I think I was shell-shocked by the event. The 2nd year, I was clued into the procedure, and last year, I finally knew enough people, I felt like a qualified observer. This year, it was especially rewarding to renew the professional friendships I have with several people who regularly attend, and to make new relationships with new attendees. And I think I even shared enough information in the many conversations, that some even went hummmm at my points!
I, however, continue to be totally awed at the level of knowledge and professionalism of the group as a whole. The speakers are all so good and leave many points to ponder, but it is the informal networking over danish and coffee, a good sandwich at lunch, or a fun dinner downtown where the "real learning" for me takes place. This year, because I got to share the hospitality suite with this year's chair, I also attended two great late evening "bull sessions" where people's passions for kids and librarianship were clearly evident.
It is quite an intimate group made up of about 80 people from across the state who affect the library experiences of about 90% of the students in the state! It ranges from large districts, small districts, directors of large programs with lots of support, campus librarians who handle the high school along with district duties, multi-campus librarians who also must divide their time with technical duties, retired leaders who continue to make contributions, to brand new library leaders with new ideas.
For every scenario you can imagine, there are multiple approaches supplied by these outstanding folks...all in the name of student success. For every problem you think is almost to the breaking point, someone else can explain a situation that makes you grateful for what you have to deal with. Every one wants what is best for their kids...whether it is a database, plenty of books, enough hands on deck, or simple respect for what we can do...and do well!
Although there is value in staying the same place for almost 3 decades, it is always good to talk, and better, to listen to folks who come from a variety of places and a variety of situations. In many ways, it makes you appreciate what you have, but it also causes you to want more when you hear the experiences of others who do the same job as you in a completely different way and under completely different sets of circumstances.
I know lots of educators, both in and outside of the library world, who would not look upon 2 and a half days of intense conversation a way to progress in their profession. I do hope that they have some type of outlet that does bring them an opportunity for renewal of their passion. That's the important thing...being reminded why we do what we do. I just know this method, and this event in particular, does it for me.
Now where is my 2008 calendar?...I gotta get this conference marked for next year! Can't wait!
*Note: From my 2003 Tall Texan class, including me, there were 6 school librarians and 1 mentor there last week. Pretty impressive number for the class!