ALA 2016 Report

This is a guest post from Kathy Smith, a member of the Design for Learning program, who presented at and attended this year’s annual ALA conference as one of our scholarship recipients.

Michael Eric Dyson was named by Essence magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African Americans in the U.S. He is a best-selling author and professor of sociology at Georgetown University. We were fortunate to have him as Keynote speaker at ALA.

He felt fortunate to have a caring Librarian guiding him as a child. He was introduced to poetry at an early age. Mr. Dyson told us “we need diversity to live”. We were asked to question if the shootings at Pulse Nightclub were sexually oriented instead of organized by ISIS which we were quick to believe.

He ended by praising librarians, saying we were underappreciated but that he does appreciate us and thanked those that helped make him who he is today.

There were three sign language interpreters during his speech. One easily caught my attention. While he rapped, she moved and kept the beat with her fingers. I thought she made the words come alive for those watching her.


D4L Organizers spoke during a Conversation starter session: Teaching Online About How to Teach Online: the Design for Learning Program. We had real competition for this session, Margaret Atwood was speaking across the hall. Sixteen people had signed up to attend and more than double that were in attendance.

I was thrilled to win a D4L scholarship to attend ALA and honored to be asked to present during this session. My presentation focused on how I joined the class and what I’m learning. It is available on YouTube@

I enjoyed meeting people who are in my online class. Mary Carol, Arden, Loriene, Ray, Jennifer and Julie went from being online names to someone I was having a face-to-face conversation with. I’m learning that building a sense of community is so important and yet one of the trickier aspects of online learning.

image-4Jazz Jenning knew at an early age she was a girl living in a boy’s body. Today at 16 she is a well-known transgendered advocate, best-selling author and TV show personality. Jazz brought up an interesting point in that it can be awkward meeting people who know more about her then she knows about them. I never thought about that aspect of fame before.

I have watched her TV show, I Am Jazz, chronicling her daily life. She has a loving supportive family and yet she seems lonely. She doesn’t have many friends and her Mom mentioned she’s stays in her room most of the time when she’s home. Jazz encouraged librarians to help others not feel alone by creating book displays with diverse characters, programming and simply being there to offer support and respect.


The Orlando Convention Center is Huge and took time to learn to navigate. Some sections had more floors than others. I was going along the third floor only to have it end and only one section had a fourth floor. People were walking so much they had 10,000 steps before noon. I ended up changing what sessions I attended based on their proximity to each other.

image-1I always enjoy the exhibits areas. This year love it or hate it, badges had a QR Code that was linked to my e-mail address. As you walked through the events area, vendors were able to scan your code and access your e-mail. Since returning home, my e-mail has been full of advertisements from ALA vendors.

I didn’t really go through the exhibits until Sunday. My husband joined me and he got as far as the NASA exhibit. A NASA scientist was talking about solar winds. He stayed there while I finished the hall. I thought other vendors could learn something from NASA to try and command that kind of attention. Makerspaces, furniture with power or usb outlets, and multi-functional items were popular exhibits.

At the Ripley’s Believe It or Not booth books were given to people who landed on the red spot on a wheel. I stepped up, announced my intention to win a book, was told that it was hard, spun the wheel, landed on the red spot, the people waiting in line cheered and the book was mine.

I am currently looking for a job and took the opportunity to have my resume reviewed at ALA. Mike from USC told me I had a strong resume. He suggested that I talk to someone working in the field of Instructional Design.

My husband works at our local SUNY College and arranged for me to talk to the head instructional designer. SUNY still requires a degree in Instructional Design. She sees that changing in the future and knows they’ll start recognizing certifications in the future.

I mentioned that I’ve been working through GSA 508 Tutorials, Guidance, Checklists @

She told me about a class on Accessibility: Designing and Teaching Courses for All Learners it’s self-paced and free.

Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.

–R. David Lankes 

Building community in person or online has always been a priority for librarians. I welcomed the opportunity to attend ALA and start building my D4L community by meeting D4L participants for lunch and dinner, seeing them in the hall or attending sessions together. It was a fantastic experience for me and I hope for you the next time you attend a conference.

By: Kathy Smith

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