Pandemic pivot does not dampen enthusiasm or participation
The Rhode Island Library Information Network for Kids (RILINK), the statewide consortium of K-12 school libraries, held its twelfth annual conference in July—this time with a virtual twist. The unusual circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic necessitated either cancelling the event entirely or switching to an exclusively online platform. The former option was out of the question, and RILINK staff felt ready to handle the challenges of the latter.
With great thanks to the RILA Conference Committee for lending training materials and providing advance support and guidance, RILINK presented “Standard Bearer: Library to Classroom” on July 14, 15, and 16. The event was free to all, featured keynote speakers and 20 sessions, and was broadcast using Zoom.
Professor Mary Moen of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS) joined librarian Marianne Mirando of Westerly High School to present a keynote address that introduced attendees to the new Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Guide.
Marianne Mirando co-presents the keynote session on July 14
According to Moen and Mirando, the development and implementation of the Guide was 4 years in the making and involved a committee of several School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) members. Taking its foundation (with permission) from similar work done in New York, the Rhode Island School Library Curriculum is “aligned with the 2018 AASL National School Library Standards and includes grade level benchmarks, lesson plan ideas and graphic organizer assessments.” Anchor Standards and Indicators establish a framework for guiding school librarians through the curriculum and scaffolding information literacy and research instruction across all grade levels.
The Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Guide is hosted on the RILINK Schools site and may be viewed at guides.rilinkschools.org/riproject.
Other conference presenters included school and public librarians and library staff, members of AskRI and the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS), professional consultants, and vendors. Topics included using social media for library advocacy, capturing library usage data, navigating Google Classroom, and connecting students with #OwnVoices fantasy novels. Members of the Rhode Island Children’s, Middle School, and Teen Book Award Committees (RICBA, RIMSBA, and RITBA, respectively) presented the latest nominees and award-winning titles. RILINK staff offered a variety of sessions on consortium member benefits and services.
From “Advocating for the Library with Social Media”
Initial conference feedback was very positive, and RILINK anticipates increased demand for future virtual sessions. Jackie Lamoureux, one of RILINK’s Member Services Librarians, stated that she “missed personally meeting and networking with colleagues [but that] the virtual conference format had a lot going for it. More people were able to attend, and presenters didn’t have any travel issues.” Donna Good, RILINK’s eResources specialist, was impressed that “through the monitoring of the invaluable 'Chat' [feature in Zoom], we were able to observe the participants' enthusiastic comments, questions, sharing, and the resulting flow of their creative juices.”
Attendees had similarly enthusiastic remarks about both conference topics and the virtual platform, with one who stated that “the Zoom conference was the next best thing to a live conference,” and another who “felt very comfortable with [the technology] and might even prefer this to an in-person conference in the future.”
Sharon Webster, who served as the primary conference project manager and is RILINK’s Professional Learning and Technology Support Specialist, was energized by the "positive feedback from participants” and pointed out that “the almost flawless execution of our first virtual conference is testament to the hard work of the entire RILINK team."
View complete RILINK Summer Conference 2020 details at guides.rilink.org/sc2020.