My colleague, YALSA member, ALA Emerging Leader, and first time conference attendee agreed for me to post her observations of Midwinter. I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearing from her more often! A warm welcome to Catherine Haydon!

I’ll admit that I’m a bit jet-lagged, over-caffeinated, and used every ounce of remaining energy I had to be enthusiastic and on-point for an outreach visit to a local middle school once I returned from Dallas– but today’s slugglishness was definitely worth the amazing experience attending my first ALA Midwinter Conference. I’m participating in the 2012 ALA Emerging Leaders Program and had the opportunity to learn more about the organizational structure of both ALA and YALSA, as well as observe ALA and YALSA leaders in action throughout the conference. I sat in on a YALSA Board of Directors meeting and was pretty impressed with our leaders. Connecting with and providing support for librarians, whether in school or public libraries, in order to ultimately engage and empower teens was kept at the core of every topic they discussed; I observed a particularly engaging discussion on ways YALSA can partner with state library associations in order to have the greatest impact on teen-serving library staff.

While in Dallas, I also braved a chilly morning walk and attended “YALSA 201,” a short session that provided information on how members can get more involved in YALSA. I’ve been a YALSA member for five years and have relied on programming, technology and advocacy resources developed by various YALSA Committees and Taskforces to get me through my day-to-day work with teens. I’m sure it was the buzz and excitement that came with finally being at an ALA Conference, plus all the friendly encounters I had with YALSA folks, but I got the final push I needed and feel that it’s now my time to contribute to YALSA. I’m excited to work on YALSA’s project through the ALA Emerging Leaders Program and hope to serve on a committee or two in the next few years. Here is some background on this year’s YALSA Emerging Leaders Project. It’s called, “Amping Up Resources and Support” and focuses on evaluating existing resources for YALSA Student Members, as well as developing new ways to engage Student Members. Members of the team also include Kristen Bodine, Lori Easterwood, Nicola McDonald and Mandy Simon, as well as YALSA Member Guide Linda Braun and YALSA Staff Liaison Beth Yoke.

Now that I’m back at home, several colleagues have asked me about my favorite experience at Midwinter. I’ve shrugged some folks off or just replied that I enjoyed the entire experience, but when I thought a bit harder there’s one moment that really stood out. It was Monday morning during the ALA Youth Media Awards, and specifically when they were announcing the Morris Award finalists and winner. A group of librarians several rows in front of me jumped up and screamed loudly when YALSA President Sarah Flowers announced Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley as the winner; while my attention was initially focused on the group of excited librarians ahead, I was distracted by the librarian sitting directly in front of me who leaned over to her neighbor and whispered, “That’s it! That’s the book I was telling you I wanted to recommend to Drew. He comes by the library every afternoon and I know he’d love it.” Miles away from home and sitting in a theater with hundreds of fellow librarians so focused on the books, this librarian remained focused on the teens she served. As the next award was announced, I smiled and silently thanked the librarian for reminding me why I was there – to connect teens with books. I spent the remainder of the awards presentation thinking about these new award-winning titles and the ways in which they would engage, inspire and challenge the teens at my library.

Was this your first time attending an ALA Conference? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. I’m already looking forward to ALA Annual. See you in Anaheim!

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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