Library Takes Full Advantage of National Youth Librarians Conference

The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, held its 2022 national conference Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 in Kansas City. And Johnson County Library youth specialists made the most of the opportunity. 

Fifteen youth information specialists and youth librarians attended the ALSC National Institute workshops, panel discussions and other sessions in downtown Kansas City. It was a rare chance for staffers to attend the ALSC Institute’s national meeting in their own backyard. Participants said it was hugely worthwhile. 

“To be in the same room with librarians who all share a passion for serving children was something truly special,” said Early Literacy Coordinating Librarian Shannon Goebel. “It was such a joy to learn shoulder to shoulder with my fellow colleagues at the ALSC Institute.” 

The Institute holds its national conference every two years. The 2020 conference was virtual because of COVID-19, but this year it drew several hundred attendees in person from across the country. 

“It’s designed for front-line staff that are serving youth,” Goebel explained. “It’s really the world’s largest organization that is dedicated to the support and advancement of library services for children.”  

Staffers heard from wonderful authors and illustrators and got great book recommendations for children and teens. They heard a fascinating presentation about the importance of open-ended play as a literacy skill and how to create enriching playtime activities in the Library. 

They took a tour of The Rabbit hOle, a phenomenal project under construction in North Kansas City. It will be a children’s literature museum, with an immersive experience of walking into a picture book. 

While Library staffers got great ideas from other librarians, they also had a featured exhibition table and shared information about Johnson County Library’s innovations, including the 6 by 6 Ready to Read program and Race Project KC’s Dividing Lines Tour. The Library also had a full-page spread in every attendee’s conference booklet. 

Lisa Nason, who concentrates on early literacy for the Library, said the chance to network with librarians from other cities was wonderful, and the visitors loved Kansas City and Johnson County. 

“One of the first people that came up to us in Vendor Hall was from Boise,” Nason recalled. “She said, ‘I use materials from your online Kids’ page all the time to write blogs and get ideas.’ It’s exciting to think that people all over the country are seeing our work.” 

Youth Services Information Specialist Mary Shortino said the author presentations were particularly thought-provoking. Authors of diverse backgrounds poignantly described how they never saw themselves in literature growing up, but they now write characters like themselves as protagonists in stories. 

“I adore hearing authors talk about their work,” Shortino said. “That’s stuff I can share with kids and families when I’m doing Readers’ Advisory.” 

Youth Information Specialist Tami Thomas said attendees were encouraged to seek out the youngest potential library patrons which they might be missing or forgetting. 

Thomas enjoyed a presentation on rethinking summer reading programs to appeal to reluctant readers. One library system held a nighttime hike that involved the whole community. Another put early literacy activities in laundromats where parents and kids congregate. 

Goebel was grateful that such a large Johnson County Library contingent could benefit from this learning experience. Those participants will share insights with the rest of the youth services staff. 

She also thanked everyone who pitched in to cover those staff slots in the branches. 

“It’s not an opportunity that comes up every day,” she said, “so we are really grateful for everyone who supported the people attending.”