The University of South Carolina School of Information Science hosted the 2022 International Association of School Librarianship Conference and Research Forum, in conjunction with the school’s 50th anniversary, the week of July 11-15. Chaired by professor Lucy Santos Green, the hybrid conference brought together 200 scholars and practitioners representing more than 40 countries.
A number of iSchool faculty, staff and doctoral students participated in the conference.
Faculty and Staff
- Jenna Spiering, Valerie Byrd-Fort, Liz Hartnett and Christine Shelek presented “Collaborate with Graphic Novels and Primary Resources” funded by the Library of Congress. Spiering also co-presented with doctoral student Jesselyn Dreeszen Bowman and Lucy Santos Green on “A Systematic Review of K-12 LGBTQIA+ School and Public Library Research” funded by the 2021 IASL Takeshi Murofushi Research Award.
- Karen Gavigan presented “Never Forget: Using Graphic Novels to Teach the Holocaust” funded by her tenure as a Fulbright scholar.
- Lucy Santos Green presented: “Alphabet Soup: Developing Resources to Support SEL, DEI/IDEA and LGBTQ+” with April Dawkins (UNCG and UofSC alumna) and Meghan Harper (Kent State); “Applying Action Research to Benefit Your School Library Program” with Melissa P. Johnston (UWG), Jennifer Moore (UNT), Sherry Crow (FHSU) and Judy Henning (UNatK); and, “Publishing Teacher Librarian Scholarship and Best Practices” with Melissa P. Johnston (UWG) and Rebecca Morris (UofP).
- Jesselyn Dreeszen Bowman was awarded the prestigious L. Anne Clyde Memorial Research Award for their paper “Good Intentions & Poor Collections: The Attitudes of Southern School Librarians on Transgender Materials and Library Holdings.”
- Cynthia Johnson presented “Perspectives of Black School Librarians on Recruitment and Retention in South Carolina” and “Powerful Partnerships to Meet Our Patrons’ Needs” with fellow student Cearra Harris.
- Katie Klein presented “Teaching Middle Schoolers to Review Books.”
Ecuador, India and Portugal were just a few of the countries represented at the event. The attendees discovered that while they share many of the same challenges, their approaches to solving those challenges vary greatly from country to country.
“I think now more than ever it is important to learn from others and share our experiences and ideas. Having the opportunity to showcase some of our talented South Carolina school librarians was an added bonus, and I hope our visitors were able to take advantage of the school tour which highlighted a variety of public schools in Columbia," said Katherine Malmquist, past president of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. "I think the opportunity to converse with librarians from around the world was inspiring, and we are able to learn a lot through those communications."
This was the first year that the conference was delivered in a hybrid format. The intention was to make the event more inclusive for people who might not have the ability to travel from their home country.
“The importance of the conference being international cannot be understated. What an amazing experience to hear from both scholars and practitioners from other areas of the globe," said Cocky’s Reading Express coordinator Valerie Byrd-Fort. "I think hearing how things are different from place to place is very eye opening, but then realizing that some things (problems and celebrations) are similar — brings us all together."
Keynotes and Speakers
The conference also included a plethora of prominent keynote speakers and authors, including:
- Tutaleni I. Asino, associate professor of education technology and director of the Emerging Technology and Creativity Research Lab at Oklahoma State University.
- Mega Subramaniam, professor and associate dean for faculty at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland.
- Nicole A. Cooke, Augusta Baker Chair and associate professor at the UofSC School of Information Science.
- Kristin Fontichiaro, well known author and clinical professor at the University of Michigan School of Information.
- Neal Shusterman, New York Times best-selling author of over thirty novels for children, teens, and adults.
- Carmen Agra Deedy, author of thirteen books for children, including The Library Dragon, The Cheshire Cheese Cat, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! and 14 Cows for America, a New York Times Best Seller.
- Frank W. Baker, an internationally recognized media literacy educator. His lifelong work in media literacy, including his maintenance of both the Media Literacy Clearinghouse and the Close Reading the Media websites, was recently recognized by UNESCO's Global Alliance Partnership for Media & Information Literacy, in 2019.
Adapting to Change
One of the major themes that emerged over the course of the conference is that the role of the school library is changing, and practitioners must adapt. The library must be an active agent in the community, both challenging ideas and being challenged in turn.
August Baker Chair Nicole Cooke said, "Participating in IASL was a great experience. It was wonderful to see the passion for libraries and enthusiasm for working with students. I had so many people come up to me and thank me for talking to them about radical empathy. That’s always the best, when you can see that you've made a difference and fired people up to work towards equity at their libraries."
Showcasing Southern Culture
Given the international nature of the conference, the hosting institution typically showcases the culture of the host country. In this case, that meant having performances from the Boom Town Trio, the Davidson Chorale from John DFA School, Augusta, Georgia, The Marching Band of Thunder of the James Benson Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Cecilia Ensemble.
“It’s been such a hard couple of years for everybody, discouraging and exhausting for students and staff,” Green said. “Watching kids be joyful and share their energy, it brought so much healing.”
The conference changes continents each year, and it will be some time before it returns to North America. The University of South Carolina has set a high bar for the next hosting institution, wherever it is in the world.