In the lead-up to its 18th National Conference and Exhibition in Phoenix, which has as its theme “Beyond the Horizon,” AASL has been encouraging school librarians to “be at the forefront of the journey” as the organization launches its buzzed-about new standards. Though the unveiling of the standards will be a centerpiece of the conference, the more than 4,000 expected attendees can also look forward to speeches and signings from more than 100 authors, 120 concurrent sessions addressing issues most relevant to today’s school librarians, and several informative and entertaining exhibits. We’ve zeroed in on some of the highlights.

Unless otherwise noted, all room locations are in the Phoenix Convention Center.


AASL is supporting its rollout of the National School Library Standards with a full roster of programming.

Wednesday, November 8

1–4:30 p.m.

Investigate Your National School Library Standards for School Libraries (North 224 A)

Judy Deichman, AASL treasurer and a member of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force, teams up with presenters including Kathy Mansfield from the Kentucky Department of Education to lead a workshop on planning implementation of the new standards into school library programs. (Two additional sections of this session featuring additional presenters will take place at 9 a.m. on Thursday, November 9, in North 131 A-B and North 132 A-B.)

Thursday, November 9

9 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

ESLS Research Symposium (North 129 A)

This year is the fifth time that the Educators of School Librarians Section (ESLS) of AASL has presented a research symposium at the national conference. This time around, the focus is the new National School Library Standards.

9 p.m.–12 a.m.

Unconference (South Ballroom, Renaissance Phoenix Downtown)

Attendees can familiarize themselves with the new National School Library Standards at this participatory networking event following a world café format centered on questions, discovery, and small-group discussion.

Friday, November 10

8–9 a.m.

Standards General Session(North 120 B-D)

The wait is over! After a two-year research and development process, the new National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries will be unveiled during this special session. Members of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Editorial Board and AASL Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force will present the revitalized standards, explain how they were developed with input from AASL membership and others in the profession, and discuss plans for implementing them.

10:10–11:10 a.m.

Inquire and Include with the New National School Library Standards (North 131 A)

Kathryn Roots Lewis, president-elect of AASL and a member of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Editorial Board, is among the speakers leading this interactive session exploring strategies and resources for implementing the Inquire and Include principles from the standards into library practice. (This session repeats at 11:20 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Friday, and at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.)

10:10–11:10 a.m.

Collaborate and Curate with the New National School Library Standards (North 131 B)

At this session, attendees will tackle the Collaborate and Curate principles from the standards; explore the different ways that collaboration and curation have been evolving for libraries, librarians, and students over time; and create a crowdsourced HyperDoc as a takeaway. (This session repeats at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Friday and at 10:40 a.m. on Saturday.)

10:40–11:40 a.m.

Explore and Engage with the New National School Library Standards (North 131 B)

School librarians can join educator Susan Ballard, a past president of AASL and member of the Standards and Guidelines Editorial Board, and three colleagues for a discussion on how the Explore and Engage principles of the new standards relate to librarians’ current practice and how the new standards can be effectively implemented in a library program. (This session repeats at 11:20 a.m. and at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, and at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.)

Saturday, November 11

3:10–4:10 p.m.

Reflect, Recharge, Return:

Planning for Beyond the Conference: AASL Standards Wrap-Up Session (North 131 A and North 131 B)

Members of the AASL standards Editorial Board and Implementation Task Force will make themselves available to answer questions, address concerns, discuss ideas, and help attendees devise action plans for implementing the new standards back at their home libraries.


Several sessions offer strategies to help school librarians find their voice and emphasize their value to administrators and to the community.

Friday, November 10

10:10–11:10 a.m.

Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians (North 129 A)

A panel of librarian advocates will discuss how leadership in the school library profession can be seen in such areas as literacy, professional development, advocacy, and technology integration.

11:20 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

You’re Worth It, But How Do You Show It? Demonstrating Your Unique Value to Your School Administrators (North 128 A-B)

This session will provide attendees with a model and examples to use in making the case that they play a crucial role in helping teachers teach and students learn.

2:30–3:30 p.m.

Advocacy Begins with Each of Us: Resources and Strategies to Foster Administrator and School Librarian Partnerships (North 131 C)

AASL past president Audrey Church and members of her presidential initiative task force share resources, strategies, and action plans to help school librarians effectively communicate the value of their profession to administrators.

4:30–5:30 p.m.

Small Steps Toward Big Advocacy: Partnerships That Highlight Library Awesomeness (North 130)

Attendees will hear about successful partnerships and learn how to cultivate their own to build support for their libraries and their professional positions.

4:30–5:30 p.m.

Library Crusaders: Converting Nonbelievers by Campaigning for Your Library Program (North 131 C)

Presenters provide examples of best practices for school librarians to demonstrate the value that a well-funded school library and certified librarian add to the entire school community.


Attendees looking to learn more about, or perhaps meet, favorite authors will not be disappointed at this year’s conference. A stellar lineup is in place for several showcase events and, according to AASL, there will be one concurrent session featuring an author panel during each time slot at the conference.

Thursday–Saturday, November 9–11


(Exhibit Hall North D-E)

A full roster of authors and illustrators grace the reading stage and meet attendees at the signing stations during scheduled sessions on the exhibit floor.

Thursday, November 9

12:30–2:30 p.m.

Authors in the Afternoon (North Ballroom, Renaissance Phoenix Downtown; ticketed event)

Award-winning authors Jordan Sonnenblick (The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade), Christian Robinson (When’s My Birthday?), and Sarah Dessen (Once and for All) will each speak about their work while attendees enjoy a complimentary box lunch included with their purchased event ticket. Each attendee will also receive a free book from the authors, who will be signing after the presentation.

2:30–3:30 p.m.

Picture Books:

The Power of Story (North 125 A-B)

Three accomplished authors, two of whom also illustrate—Judy Schachner (Skippyjon Jones), Drew Daywalt (The Day the Crayons Quit), and Adam Rex (Nothing Rhymes with Orange)—reflect on how they create memorable and effective picture-book texts.

4:30–5:30 p.m.

Elementary Graphic Novels:

Not Just for Non-readers

(North 125 A-B)

Author and illustrator Dan Santat, recipient of the 2015 Caldecott Medal, moderates a discussion about why graphic novels are important not just for reluctant or nonreaders, but for everyone. The panelists are Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse), Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl; Pets on the Loose), Kevin McCloskey (We Dig Worms), and Judd Winick (Hilo).

Saturday, November 11

8–9:30 a.m.

Author General Session and Signing (North 120 B-D)

National Book Award Finalist Jason Reynolds has three new book releases this fall, including his latest YA novel, Long Way Down, which is his first novel in verse.

3:10–4:10 p.m.

Keep ’Em Reading in Middle School: Books for Those Elusive 11–13-Year-Old Readers(North 125 A-B)

Authors John David Anderson (Posted), Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (The War That Saved My Life), Jack Gantos (Joey Pigza; Writing Radar), and Stuart Gibbs (Spy School: Secret Service), reveal the key to success in hooking hard-to-reach tween readers.

4:30–5:15 p.m.

Author Meet Greets (North 224 A-B)

Organized as a speed-dating–style event, attendees can join in a session with authors of elementary school, junior, or high school level books.


Librarians looking for ways to make their lessons, their collections, and their libraries more inclusive of all students and community members are in luck with a robust collection of sessions and presentations on various aspects of diverse books and diversity in general.

Friday, November 10

10:10–11:10 a.m.

From De-silencing to Empowering Discussions about Race and Culture with Diverse Books (North 124 A)

Once students have diverse books in hand, what’s the best way to have a meaningful discussion about what they’ve read? Participants in this session will learn strategies for generating rich and relevant book discussion on race and culture and gain confidence in addressing difficult questions. Nick Glass, who runs, and Heather Jankowski, librarian at two Texas elementary schools, are presenting.

11:20 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

Diversity in Collection Development—Surely We Don’t Need This Training. Don’t Call Me Shirley! (North 123)

Educator librarian Nichole Bratsouleas-Urias offers insight into creating a collection that is more representative of an increasingly global world, and how that collection can be used to support students, staff, curriculum, and standards.

10:10–11:10 a.m.

Promoting Civil Discourse and Competent Media Consumers in Grade 8 through the Lens of Race and Identity (North 128 A-B)

Head librarian Deeth Ellis and eighth-grade history teacher Cate Arnold, both of Boston Latin School, share the unit on identity, race, and civil discourse that they created together in the wake of a civil rights investigation of their school.

Saturday, November 11

9:30–10:30 a.m.

Mirror, Mirror: Reaching All Readers (North 125 A-B)

Authors talk about how they have put themselves into their work in an effort to reach all readers. Participants include: Bill Konigsberg (Openly Straight), Irene Latham (Leaving Gee’s Bend; Can I Touch Your Hair?), Charles Waters (Can I Touch Your Hair?), Icy Smith (Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide), Ellen Oh (Flying Lessons Other Stories, We Need Diverse Books), and session moderator Carole Boston Weatherford (Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library).

10:40–11:40 a.m.

Shining a Spotlight: The Brown Bookshelf Salutes Great Books for Kids (North 124 A)

Children’s book creators share their journeys to publication and celebrate titles that have appeared on the Brown Bookshelf blog, which features works by black authors and illustrators. Session speakers are: Don Tate (Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton), Gwendolyn Hooks (If You Were a Kid During the Civil Rights Movement), Kelly Starling Lyons (Jada Jones: Rock Star), Tameka Fryer Brown (My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood), and Crystal Allen (How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy).

2–3 p.m.

Welcoming the World: Growing Diversity in the School Library Media Program (North 129 B)

Ideas about how to increase diversity in your school library, including taking a close look at your collection and your policies, are presented by Michelle Easley, president of the Georgia Library Media Association.

3:10 p.m.–4:10 p.m.

Picture Books as Powerful Portals: Exploring Diversity and Building Empathy to Inspire Action(North 124 A)

Speakers Julie Esanu and Meghan Fatouros, both elementary school librarians from Alexandria, Va., will help attendees explore how diverse books—and the ways they often transport readers—can help build empathy.


Whether it’s discovering a new website or teaching tool, or learning how to use social media more effectively, opportunities for exploring a spectrum of technologies abound.

Thursday, November 9

1–3 p.m.

IdeaLab (North 120 A)

Billed as a “best-practice showcase,” and sometimes described as an electronic poster session, the IdeaLab features a room filled with learning stations where attendees can view short presentations and engage with the presenters at a series of individual tables. Presentations include: Makerspaces Unplugged! Low-Tech, No-Tech Makerspaces, Spark Imagination in the Library with STEM, Connecting the Dots in a 1:1 School, and Reinventing the Urban High School Library.

3:30–5 p.m.

Opening General Session (North 120 B-D)

Keynote speaker Jaime Casap, global educational evangelist at Google, works to help spread the word about the power and potential of technology, the internet, and various tools his company has created. Casap believes that new questions need to be asked in the field of education. He recently posted this quote on #EdChat: “Don’t ask a student what she wants to be when she grows up, ask her what problem she wants to solve… then give her the environment to build the knowledge, skills, and abilities she needs to solve that problem!”

Friday, November 10

10:10–11:10 a.m.

Build Your Own and Your Students’ Global Personal Learning Networks with Twitter (North 128 A-B)

This session offers tips on how to best take advantage of Twitter for learning, networking, and teaching. Jane Lofton, 2017 AASL Conference social media chair, and high school teacher librarian, and co-founder of #calibchat Katie McNamara will share their expertise and oversee a scavenger hunt in which attendees can earn a digital badge.

11:20 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

Broadening Your Library’s Horizons: Exploring the Physical and Virtual Spaces (North 131 C)

High school teacher librarians and former PW columnists Margaux DelGuidice-Calemmo and Rose Luna share ideas, budgeting tools, and tips for making over a library’s physical space and online presence to maximize the library’s potential. The presenters say attendees at their session can expect to learn about how “to effectively manage the numerous components of a modern-day school library program to ensure that it is inclusive for all students [and] to balance the management of a hands-on makerspace without sacrificing the foundations of library services.”

11:20 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

Exploration into the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning (North 121 A-B)

The 2017 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning were announced at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago last June. During this session, members of the AASL Best Websites committee will present a hands-on tech event showcasing some of the winning sites from the past nine years.

4:30–5:30 p.m.

Social Media for the Library(North 124 A)

Nancy Jo Lambert, a high school teacher librarian in Frisco, Tex., will show attendees how to use Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media platforms to tell the story of the various types of learning going on in their libraries.