The TLA Experience: A First-Time Attendee's Review of TLA

This was reprinted with permission from Wenndy Pray, Librarian
B. L. Gray Junior High – Sharyland ISD, Mission, Texas
Library Science Graduate Student – Sam Houston State University  

Anticipation. Expectation. Authors. Books.

These ideas and many others gurgled inside me as I concluded my four-hour drive to San Antonio.  My mentor, Nicole Cruz, accompanied me; we had both signed up for Battledecks on Wednesday and were worried we would be late.  I was definitely excited – Impromptu Speaking and I go way back.  (I also looked forward to seeing Becky Calzada, Martha Rossi, Jan Hodge, and many other awesome library administrators I had met as an intern during the Texas Association of School Library Administrators, or TASLA, conference last June.)

We picked up our badges and headed toward room 221CD. My nerves kicked in when I saw the room filled with librarians.  Here I was, a first time TLA-er and already participating in Battledecks. I was nervous and excited. Rules were explained, and names were drawn.  I was sixth in line. As I walked toward the front of the room and took the microphone in hand, I could feel the lump in my throat. There was the first slide. “What does is cost to own your profession?” was the theme of my presentation.  I connected every single one of those random slides and rocked that performance! I had the room laughing slide after slide, and although I didn’t place, it was the most fun.  Laughter is a huge part of how I teach in the library, and I would gladly participate again.

After Battledecks, my mentor was invited to the TALL Texan Social.  I was incredibly honored to accompany her and be among the “Who’s Who” of the TALL Texan Leadership Institute.  My mentor was class of 2005 and will serve as a TALL Texan mentor this summer. It fueled me with aspirations to one day be among them. It was also a treat to see Susi Grissom, another 2005 alumnus, be awarded the 2017 Standing TALL Texan Award. As a first-year librarian, I will be pursuing this prestigious honor in the years to come (four to be exact).

We made our way to the enormous exhibit hall. As I got past registration, I had the privilege to meet and take a picture with TLA President Walter Betts. That was excellent!
General Session I kicked off my Thursday. Being received by the mariachi gave me a flavorful welcome.  I also found the urgency in Cory Doctorow’s message encouraging.  A quote that struck a chord in me said something like, “Libraries are the clubhouse of the resistance.” His presentation made me think about the future of my profession and filled me with ideas on how to become indispensable in my library.
Another personal highlight for me was visiting with my Sam Houston State University professors.  I will be graduating in August and had a fabulous time visiting with Dr. Karin Perry, Dr. Teresa Lesesne, Dr. Holly Weimar, Dr. Robin Moore, and Dr. Rose Brock. These ladies have been instrumental in my librarian journey, and I was grateful to see them there.

Friday was filled with sessions, authors, and books. The exhibit hall was one of the attractions I was looking forward to as well.  To be quite frank, I wanted to be everywhere at once.  I discovered the “galley” and was incredibly happy to meet authors DJ MacHale, Janet Taylor Lisle, Ruth Behar, Margarita Engle, and Isabel Quintero. I was looking forward to seeing these authors and wanted to meet more.

I also attended sessions about volunteer programs, middle grade authors, and middle school reading programs. A high school administrator from our district was able to attend as well.  This was incredibly exciting because she was able to tap into how other administrators are supporting libraries, librarians, and advocating for literacy alongside them.
I highly anticipated attending the TASL Business meeting, where I would listen to student winners of the Letters About Literature competition.  One winner is from a neighboring district.  I was also recognized as one of five state-wide recipients of the Texas Association of School Librarians Scholarship. Being selected was an honor and a privilege. It felt quite awesome to take a picture with TASL Chair Becky Calzada, TASLA President Nicole Cruz, and fellow librarian and recipient Denisse Ochoa.

I missed some great events due to becoming ill in the afternoon, but read about them on Twitter.  I read that Carmen Agra Deedy’s presentation during General Session II was amazing! I was also able to listen to tidbits of the TLA band and the Spazmatics concert.  Thank God for social media! Although I was recovering in my hotel room, I was constantly plugged in.

Saturday’s grand finale for me was attending the Texas Youth Media Award ceremony at the Grand Hyatt with fellow librarians from Sharyland ISD. Our students won state recognitions in 8 of 10 categories and placed 1st in 5 out of 10 categories for grades 9-12.  It was refreshing and encouraging to see that librarians from across the state, especially in the Rio Grande Valley, are guiding students to create in areas of coding, photography, animation, video recordings, and music. I plan to encourage students in my middle school by partnering with teachers and promoting and facilitating project-based learning.

Although it was a bit overwhelming for a newcomer, I will definitely return to TLA.  The networking, professional development, and personal growth that I experienced is of great value.  It is an excellent place to recharge, interact, and reconnect with librarians from all over the state. I thank everyone who took part in making TLA a success this year and look forward to the greatness to come.

What were some of your favorite #txla17 hightlights?  Please share in the comments below!

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