The first time I attended an American Library Association (ALA) Annual conference I was completely overwhelmed. Which sessions should I attend? How was I going to fit everything into one weekend? How would I make any sense of this enormous association? I was attending graduate school at the time, didn't know anyone, and didn't know where to start.
I applied to the New Member Round Table (NMRT) conference mentor program and was matched with a librarian named Kris Springer. Kris met me on the first day of ALA Annual, at an incredibly early hour of the day, and explained to me how to navigate both the conference and the association. She told me about her experience on the Newbery Medal committee, and told me that I could one day be on a committee at that level. I got goosebumps and thought she was crazy. She helped me when I needed it and stayed in touch through the years.
It's now ten years after that first conference. I've been a conference mentor and a career mentor as much I've can. Sometimes officially through NMRT and sometimes unofficially when someone is at the start of their career and has questions. I've met with people I'm mentoring at conferences when I've had a loose schedule, and conferences where I've barely had a minute of free time. It's a priority to me and one of the most rewarding things I've done in my profession.
At the ALA Midwinter convention last month, I was so proud of all these wonderful librarians and so honored to have the privilege to watch how far they've come.
For me, the most emotional moment was watching Amy Forrester. I met Amy several years ago when she was in library school and attending her first ALA Annual conference. I told her the things one usually tells a first time attendee; how to take the shuttle bus and to listen to all those people who tell you to wear comfortable shoes. Over the years, I watched her become a confident and skilled children's librarian. I was overjoyed when she was appointed to the 2016 Geisel Committee. It was really overwhelming for me watching the Geisel committee, which she was a part of, announce their choices to the world at the press conference. I am so proud that she and her committee recognized outstanding books for beginning readers and may have changed the lives of some of the creators and readers of those books. I wish you could have heard me cheering.
Thank you, Kris, for getting up so early a decade ago; for your advice and for the advice of all the other mentors who have helped me out. Thank you to all the people I've mentored- for being such wonderful professionals who I'm so proud of, for all I have learned from you, and for some inexplicable reason, listening to my advice.
I never realized that anything I was saying was helpful until I read this incredibly touching post from Amy Steinbauer. Thank you, Amy, for letting me know that I'm making a tiny difference. I'm looking forward to great things from you!
I hope this post inspires you to mentor someone in your profession. Whether officially and through an association, or by simply having lunch with someone new to the field, listening to their experiences and trying to answer their questions.
To all those children's and young adult librarians I have mentored, I look forward to the day when I get to watch your Newbery, Caldecott or Printz committees reveal their choices. I'll be cheering loudest!
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