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2018 School Library System Conference
New Tech Tools that Enliven Learning at 8th Annual Librarian Conference
Evelyn Johnson, School Library Media Specialist/teacher at the Tuckahoe Middle School, watched a volcano explode with Google Cardboard and considered the value of virtual field trips.
As Gina Bella, Director of the Yonkers City School Library System, played with ThingLink, she thought about how some students would be captivated by creating their own interactive content.
Lenore Rotanelli, librarian at the Richard J. Bailey Elementary School at the Greenburgh School District, played her first round of Breakout EDU, prompting ideas on how she could use it with her students.
These experiences all took place at the School Library Conference cosponsored bySouthern Westchester BOCES and Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES on April 10, 2018. It was attended by approximately 100 school librarians from 33 public school districts and one private school in Westchester County.
Some librarians came to learn from the workshops, others from their colleagues.
Mary DeBellis and Paul George are both librarians in the Brewster School District. “We work in different buildings and it’s hard to collaborate,” said DeBellis. “This is an opportunity for us to talk about STEM and our maker space.”
Joe Mannozzi, Conference Coordinator from Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES School Library System, concurred.
“The SLS Annual Conference is a great opportunity for Library Media Specialists to get together to network, share best practices in school librarianship, as well as learn the latest and greatest to best meet the needs of their students,” said Mannozzi.
All left rejuvenated by the two keynote speakers and achievements of those who received awards.
Sue Kowalski, the morning speaker, described the shifting landscape of the “learning commons.”
Her stories as librarian at the Pine Grove Middle School in the East Syracuse Minoa School District acknowledged how easy it was to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of leading mindfulness, media literacy, and digital citizenship initiatives as well as running the school’s maker space while staying up-to-date on the new tech tools appearing daily.
“We have maker spaces and art labs that looks like Rachel Ray designed them, and wonderful teachers leading those initiatives,” said Kowalski. “What’s the gap? I don’t want to replace what’s already there.”
She knew the school’s reading scores had been declining but when a student told her she opted out of state testing in order to read for three days, Kowalski knew she found her gap.
“Let’s just read,” Kowalski said. She collaborated with teachers and reintroduced book talks, reading workshops, and book clubs.
John McCarthy, Assistant Superintendent for Administration at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES, inducted Kelly Maloney, Principal of Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School, in Croton-on-Hudson School District, into the SLS Administrator Hall of Honor.
“Kelly is our library’s biggest cheerleader,” said Renior McManus, the teacher/librarian at Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School in Croton-Harmon who nominated Maloney. “She is why we are the forefront of coding and robotics in Westchester County.”
Jackie O’Donnell, Deputy Superintendent, Chief Operating Officer at Southern Westchester BOCES, presented Lynne Shain, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Scarsdale Public Schools, with the Administrator of the Year Award.
“Growing up in Philadelphia many decades ago, my dad decided that I needed to go to the library every Saturday,” reflected Shain in her acceptance speech. “Now my daughter, my granddaughter, who is fourteen, and I read the same books, continuing the habit ingrained in me many years ago.”
The closing keynote address was from Annie Ward, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Mamaroneck Public Schools. She united the room in their shared love of books and passion for nurturing confident, capable readers.
Weaving in references ranging from Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series, to Will Schwalbe’s “Books for Living,” Ward spoke from personal and professional experience about the transformative effect of abundant daily access to wonderful reading.
“This is my tribute to librarians and what they mean,” said Ward.