The American Association of School Librarian Conference
Tampa, FL

October 2023

I attended many sessions at AASL Tampa 2023. They were all excellent featuring everything from how to create an excellent library space to artificial intelligence to collaboration, gamification and even starting a romance book club!

My favorite part of AASL was networking with many librarians. I met many of the famous librarians who have podcasts or major social media presences, like Amanda Hunt (@thenextgenlibrarian) and Karina Quintanilla (@cuethelibrarian). My first session was their Gamification workshop that talked about how they used Class Craft as a way to gamify their library ambassadors’ program and how Karina creates professional development tutorials for her staff, then uses Badgelist to give them badges when they successfully complete their tutorials. I am eager to try using this PD gamification with the staff in my district.

The second workshop I attended was on collaboration with Science, Social Studies and Math using makerspace projects and breakout exercises (like breakout rooms that are popular nationwide) by Tamara Ingalls and Tanya Parrott. One of my favorite ideas was to read the book Crossings by Katy Duffield and create animal crossings as a makerspace project in environmental science or living environment. I also enjoyed the social studies project where you identify historical figures and events from text messages – this was a part of a breakout activity where you get clues to unlock a locked box and break out the final answer. At least 100 games were listed that we could purchase for our library media center in support of math, science and social studies. I could also collaborate with the many ideas and activities demonstrated in this workshop.

I attended two workshops on artificial intelligence, using ChatGPT and other apps to enhance classroom learning. These workshops discussed the ethical use of AI to improve teaching and learning. I was happy to see one of my colleagues, Lindsay Cesari from Durgee MS, listed as someone to follow as an idea spark for how to use AI in the classroom.

On Saturday, I focused on attending workshops on reimagining my library space – I attended a super workshop by Tampa librarian Diana Rendina on how to transform my library space with a shoestring budget. She also discussed how we can organize our libraries using zones: deemphasizing Dewey (also mentioned in dynamic shelving) and using signage to show students where certain nonfiction books will be, a quiet zone, a collaborative zone and a social zone. I liked this idea and feel like my library does have the ability to have theses separate areas.
I also attended a workshop on dynamic shelving by Kelsey Bogan. Dynamic shelving involves a ton of weeding to clear space so that students can see the covers of the books and you can create engaging displays to enhance accessibility and circulation of the collection.

My main goal from the workshops on library space is to genrefy my fiction and nonfiction shelves and have my library organized more like a bookstore where students access titles by genre or topic rather than author name or Dewey. Kelsey Bogan says her circulation has increased by 800% and I would like to improve our overall circulation.

I also attended a super workshop on creating a library ambassadorship program where students will do tasks in the library and either receive credit as part of an elective class or are opting to do tasks as volunteers – both programs involve branding through t-shirts to identify them as staff members and having a comprehensive training program.

Finally our keynote speakers highlighted how books are mirrors and how we should seek to improve the diversity of our collections. Our first keynote was Nikkolas Smith, the Artivist and I am already following him as he uses art as activism promoting the beauty of our diverse world and how we can use art to be activists as well – follow him at @nikkolas_smith on Instagram. He has had an amazing career including being a Disney Imagineer and his first book The Artivist just came out in September. I was able to get an autographed poster as well as a photo with Nikkolas. We were also engaged in conversation on book banning and how it is important for our students to have representation and to be seen. My favorite quote from the other two keynotes including the diversity in books panel that we concluded with was from Cameron Samuels on inclusion and representation in our schools. He said, “I want to grow up in a school district that affirms me.” The focus of school librarians at large continues to be to fight censorship and book banning so that all of our students know that they belong in our libraries.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent Mexico High School at AASL 2023. I will continue to improve access to our students, and to affirm that they do belong in our libraries.

Nicole Nicosia

School Library Media Specialist, Mexico High School

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