Shay Walton

womanWhen I applied for the UELMA grant to attend the AASL National Conference, I first thought, “This sounds awesome, I’d love to go to that!” Immediately after I sent in my application to UELMA, I thought, “What have I done?! What if they actually choose me?!” This response will be understandable to any other introverted librarian who might be reading this, and those who know us. Really though, I was so pleased and extremely excited to be awarded the grant. I have enjoyed the state conferences I’ve attended and to have the opportunity to travel to a national conference felt like an exceptional stroke of luck.

I was able to push that introverted part of myself outside of my comfort zone to meet some gifted librarians at AASL who are creating intelligent and progressive activities in their libraries. It was refreshing to be able to hear the ways in which they were succeeding that were similar to my own successes, the ways they were struggling that gave me perspective on my own situation, and the ways in which I could do more to aspire to do the things that I admired about them.

I made goals to attend specific sessions about information research, self-advocacy, and misinformation. There were many different variations on those topics offered (which was awesome!), so I was able gain some serious professional knowledge, but also have some fun by attending an illustrator panel session.

What I didn’t realize before attending the conference was how many authors and illustrators would be there to speak and sign books, and how many vender booths gave books away. I packed very light and ended up shipping a fairly small box of books home, but there were other librarians in the UPS line that had gigantic boxes of books to send back to themselves for when they returned. The energy that came with all of the librarians getting to listen to and meet their very own “rock stars” made the whole event very special. And who doesn’t love a few (or a ton) of free books?

I had a wonderful experience while at AASL and I learned so much from the sessions I attended. I’m glad that I quieted that nervous voice within myself, to first apply for the grant and then approach the whole conference process with a strong focus, but a relaxed attitude.


Shay Walton, Logan High School, Logan, UT

Tina Johnson

ladyI was excited to receive the grant from UELMA so I could go to the AASL conference in Phoenix. Personal development has always been important to me.  I am a relatively new teacher librarian. I knew that going to the conference could help me be even better at my job. My goal has always been to be the best librarian that I can be.  My husband says I get a little too enthused. He is probably right, but I was also right to believe that the AASL conference would help me to be a better teacher librarian.  The conference was important for personal development, but it was also great for meeting and networking with other librarians.  

Before the conference, I decided to focus on building a reading community, which is something I am passionate about.  My second focus was Makerspaces.  I have a Makerspace in my library and I wanted to learn more about making this area of the library more engaging for my students.  Most of the breakout sessions that I went to dealt with my two areas of focus. I felt inspired after my concurrent sessions to go back to my school and put into practice the ideas I gathered from these sessions.

The general sessions were inspiring. I was especially inspired by the last general session with the author Jason Reynolds.  He spoke about connecting with kids, being grateful for who they are, and expressing that gratitude to them. He forever changed the way I see my students. He made me really think about my interaction with them, especially those that may be more difficult.  I have made a habit of telling my students, “Thank you for coming to the library.”

One of the most beneficial parts of my conference experience, that I didn’t expect, was networking with other librarians. One of the best ideas I got about building a reading community came from a librarian I just met.

I am already making plans for 2019 in Louisville, Ky.  

Who wants to come with me?

Tina Johnson

Kay’s Creek Elementary