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Texas Library Association Launches First-Ever TLA Virtual Conference

TLA Annual Conference, TLA News

TLA 2020 Virtual combines speakers, live chat and exhibitor info for successful online event

TLA launched its inaugural virtual conference on April 21, 2020 with a stunning and heartfelt live presentation by renowned young adult (YA) author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds.

More than 1,500 people from across Texas and the United States participated in the kickoff of the TLA 2020 Virtual Conference. In addition to the speakers on the first two days, there are also many on-demand education sessions still available for participants, as well as a great variety of presentations on the Exhibitor Showcase and a 19-page interactive PDF of Exhibitor Information and Resources. All the launch speaker sessions were recorded and will be available for viewing on the platform.

All the content of TLA 2020 Virtual will be available online, on-demand, until August 31, 2020. Participants can earn CE credit for viewing the speakers and sessions (see end of story for details on getting CE certificates from 4/21 and 4/22 sessions.)

In his presentation, Reynolds compared racism with COVID-19 and talked about how racism is like a virus.

“The biggest issue of racism is that it’s adaptive, that it self-propagates. Racism does not look the same today as in the 1400s or the 1700s. Now it looks like certain schools don’t have books. It looks like certain households that can’t quarantine because there are 12 people living in the same place,” he said.

Reynolds likened his new book, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You, written with Ibram X. Kendi, as a “vaccine” we can use to treat racism. “Anti-racism is ‘I love you for being who you are’, not who I would like you to be,” he explained. “It’s ‘I love you for being like you.’”

He praised “the ethics of librarianship” and librarians’ open-mindedness:
“Librarians are the rebels of the school. They realize that everything belongs on the shelf, even if they don’t agree with it. That everyone deserves a voice; deserves a platform. I would argue that librarians are working as anti-racists. It’s embedded into who you are as librarians.”

Also on April 21, Lois Lowry, the author of The Giver series and the winner of two Newbery Awards, gave a very personal presentation that included photos of her father, childhood photos of herself and her sister, and many recollections of growing up in Hawaii and then in Japan when her father was stationed there for the U.S. military.

Her latest book is On the Horizon, her debut book written in verse. Drawn from her own memories as well as historical research, the book tells the stories of people whose lives were lost or permanently altered by Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.

Another highlight of the first day was the live, interactive discussion about how libraries have been impacted by COVID-19. More than 400 attendees participated in this live chat, sharing stories of how they are coping with anxiety or lack of morale among staff, talking about successes they have had since going fully virtual, and how to demonstrate their value when their physical library spaces are closed due to the pandemic.

“My librarians and I have a group chat where the only rule is no work talk – we share funny or useful things throughout the week, and I am trying to encourage them to put health (mental and physical) first,” one librarian typed in.

Another shared, “Our library Dungeons and Dragons game moved online and the kids are having a great time with the new tools. It’s been a blast.”

Educator John Spencer closed the day with his session on The Eight Stages of the Teacher Librarian Technology Journey. He described both the value of technology and the value of traditional materials including paper, printed books and art materials, and warned of the dangers of going “100 percent tech-based.” An integration of modern and traditional techniques is the best approach, he explained to an enthusiastic audience of school librarians.

Highlights of Day Two (Wednesday, April 22) included authors Skip Hollandsworth and Lisa See.

Hollandsworth discussed his latest book, The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer. In 1880s Austin, several African-American women who worked as servants in white households were brutally murdered and their bodies mutilated. The (incompetent) police force at the time arrested a series of African-American men, refusing to believe that the murders could be the work of one person. Then, two white women from prominent families were killed, and the theories became even wilder: that there was a Frankenstein-type person who was killing these women, or someone had gone insane from too much moonlight (that theory, popular at the time, gave rise to the word “lunatic” – from luna, or moon.) Eventually, many people believed that the Jack the Ripper killer in England might have been the same serial killer from Austin.

Lisa See, whose ancestors came from China to the United States, discussed many of her historical novels, including Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, set in 19th-century China. She described the horrific tradition of binding women’s feet, beginning at a young age, breaking the foot bones and wrapping the feet tightly. See discussed why so many of her novels focus on women: “What I’ve been trying to do is to tell the stories that are just one step back from the front lines of history. Stories of women, of children and families.”

Her newest novel, The Island of Sea Women, is about the free-diving women of South Korea’s Jeju Island, and a strong friendship between two young women who undergo tragedy in their lives.

Other speakers on Day Two were Carole Boston Weatherford, Carlos Hernandez and Katherine Center. Weatherford discussed her most recent book, Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, as well as her upcoming new book, Beauty Mark, which will be released in the fall. She talked about how students deserve a fuller history than textbooks provide.

Hernandez spoke about his book Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and its upcoming sequel, Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe; a special treat was discovering that his interviewer was renowned Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan.

Katherine Center closed out the conference with a moving talk about how well-told stories develop our sense of empathy: “You experience life in someone else’s shoes. It raises your emotional intelligence. It makes you better at life and dealing with your own human relationships.”

Librarians praised the TLA 2020 Virtual event in comments on social media or shared through the virtual platform.

“You guys are outstanding! How wonderful this is! It is amazing how you put this together in such a short time!” wrote Mary Lynn Saxton, Librarian at Rowlett Public Library and the Chair of District 5. “So professional, so well done.”

Summer of Learning

Recognizing that there are still so many wonderful sessions which were planned for TLA 2020 in Houston, TLA plans to continue the virtual learning opportunity into the summer months with TLA 2020 Virtual Summer of Learning. Additional live events will be offered in May, June and July, and more education sessions for all library types will be recorded and available for on-demand viewing.

If you are registered for Virtual, you will have access to Summer of Learning programming at no extra charge.

If you have not registered for TLA 2020 Virtual, register now to access the 65+ programs currently available, plus additional programming coming as part of the Summer of Learning.

Registration is $305. Register here.

CE Credit for Sessions on Day 1 and Day 2:
Here are the links for TLA 2020 Virtual attendees to claim CE credits for the two live session days. You will see each session listed and will be asked to complete a quick survey for each before you can access the certificates.

Tuesday, April 21 certificates

Wednesday, April 22 certificates