Magazine article American Libraries

"Like Fingers Entwined": Connecting at AASL in Baltimore

Magazine article American Libraries

"Like Fingers Entwined": Connecting at AASL in Baltimore

Article excerpt

School librarians face challenges, choices, and change while maintaining their firm connection to the magic of reading.

School librarians and authors are to each other "like hands holding, fingers entwined," said author Virginia Hamilton at the American Association of School Librarians sixth national conference, Oct. 21-25, in Baltimore, Md. "We are together, in community, in our mutual experience."

AASL President Ruth Toor agreed. "I think librarians and authors have a mutual love affair," she told AL. "I certainly respect what authors do to help us turn young people on to reading."

Asked about the love affair, Hamilton replied, "I think they really love my books; I don't know that they love me. But," she added, "I can't do anything without librarians. They're 'user-friendly,' always open and interested. And they buy books!"

Keynote speakers Edward B. Fiske and Paul Evans, as well as many leaders of 136 breakout sessions, took on the conference theme of "Challenges, Choices, Connections, Change" by tackling the staggering technological and ideological reformations facing American education. But the presence of Hamilton, Paula Fox, Annette Curtis Klause, Joanna Cole, Bruce Degen, and dozens of other authors and storytellers left no doubt that the 4,028 conference attendees--an AASL record--have no intention of losing touch with the magic of reading a good book. Most seem to have reached new comfort levels with the role of "learning facilitator" on a restructured, technology-oriented teaching team.

Authors and librarians shared their reverence for one another at several banquets and luncheons, in many of over 350 exhibits, and at a reception hosted by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, where some 25 authors and illustrators were available for conversation and autographs.

Arnold Adoff (Hamilton's husband) told AL, "Librarians were the first ones who welcomed us as authors in the '60s," and "when they love your work, they love you forever." Adoff called libraries "the last stable change agent in a chaotic society" in which government has made "a conscious effort to destroy education, anything that raises questions."

A restructuring, reform context

The reaffirmation and celebration of the joys of reading did not overshadow a head-long look at the latest that technology offers to school library media centers, and at the crisis in American education. Fiske, author of Smart Schools, Smart Kids, posited that nothing short of "changing the values of the culture of education" would suffice for the twenty-first century. The good news, he said, is that it's happening. In his book, Fiske cites systems in Florida, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and elsewhere across the country where new approaches are taking hold.

Unfortunately, he added, America 2000, President Bush's strategy for American education, "does not understand the systemic nature of the problem--but at least it has said there is a problem."

Some 120 conference-goers got a taste of what it's like to be part of the dramatically different educational environment at Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Model High, where a project funded by private business is "Restructuring for the 21st Century." A radical departure from traditional structure, the curriculum operates without class periods, without grade distinctions, and, said titleless Roger Ashley, seminar leader, "without any administrators."

"Media specialists can be the motivators for change," said Ashley, adding that he never imagined in his early days as a reference book reviewer that he would one day be using a "group management model based on a Chrysler Corporation system" to operate in a high-tech environment.

The point of the electronic environment, said Paul Evans, is "to augment and amplify text using other media." His presentation at the second general session consisted of a demonstration of IBM's multimedia products--Columbus: Encounter, Discovery and Beyond; and Illuminated Books and Manuscripts (AL, Feb. …

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