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TLA: It’s Not Just for Texans

TLA Membership, TLA News

Stacey B. Rattner is a School Librarian at Castleton Elementary School in Castleton, New York. Stacey has been an active member of TLA since 2017. In this short interview, she describes why she enjoys her TLA membership and why it’s beneficial for out-of-state librarians to join TLA.

Being that you are currently in New York, how did you get involved in TLA?
I have Twitter to thank for that. Several years ago (four maybe?) I posted a book on display in my library and Kirsten Murphy from Fort Worth commented on how she loved the stand. Turns out I bought it when Borders went out of business. She requested I take a few pictures of it from different angles so her husband could possibly replicate it (I don’t think he ever did). And that began our friendship via social media. She told me all about TLA and conference and made it sound so great. I started following more and more folks from Texas and realizing how cool they were. All of a sudden I was a huge fan of anything Texas library related. When I heard that thousands of librarians, and many of them school librarians, attend the TLA conference, I knew I had to go. My colleague and I made plans to attend in 2017 as a “research trip.” We were hooked! We went back in 2018 as workshop presenters and I trying my hardest to figure out a way to return in 2019 (fingers crossed)!

What motivated you to join TLA?
I initially joined as part of our conference registration but what a bargain! $35 for an out-of-state membership?! Although I do say I am from North North Texas so maybe I need to pay the in-state fee moving forward 😉

What do you get out of your TLA membership?
I read the TLA journal as soon as it arrives and I read the emails from the listservs that I am on. I know I am at least on the TASL listserv and maybe one other. Even though a lot of the legislative emails don’t affect me personally since I am technically in New York State, any national news from AASL or the Center for the Book or someplace else can be helpful in my work. And I do like seeing the job announcements. My principal is worried that he’s going to lose me to a job at some school in Texas.

Why should out-of-state library professionals join TLA?
I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but the TLA Conference is amazing and one of the best conferences in the country. The librarians are so wonderful, knowledgeable and willing to share. So, just for that, figure out a way to attend the conference. Sometimes we get so caught up in our job, our district and our state that we forget that we are part of a whole community of librarians. Yes we have ALA and AASL but I think those are almost too big. Being a part of TLA gives you an opportunity to connect with others on a smaller scale.

How many times have you attended the TLA Annual Conference?
I attended in 2017 and 2018 and really hope to return. Both those years I have been lucky enough for the conference to fall during our Spring Break. My husband couldn’t believe it. “You’re going to spend your whole vacation at a conference?” You betcha and I will love every minute of it.

If you were explain the TLA Annual Conference to someone who has never been, what would you tell them about it?
I have been to AASL and ALA conferences and they are wonderful. The people, the connections, the energy. The TLA Annual Conference has the same energy but in a slightly smaller scale. The exhibit hall is as big. The speakers are nationally known. But it’s just more manageable and personable. You are able to attend workshops easily and pop into the exhibit hall if you want to meet an author or illustrator. And just the PEOPLE. I haven’t met a Texas librarian I didn’t like.

And that book cart competition was impressive! I missed it last year but hope you bring it back. I have never seen that anywhere else!

The connections you make will last a lifetime. I made a friend my first year, we hung out all last year and this year we got our students together once a week for the Global Read Aloud. Now my students know kids from Texas, too!

What final thoughts do you want to say about TLA?
Thank you. Thank you for welcoming us into your community of awesome librarians. Thank you for never thinking that we didn’t belong at your conference. At first I worried that when we told folks we were from New York they would not be happy that we were at their conference. The exact opposite occurred. You were thrilled we were there. When we met Walter Betts that first year, he immediately invited us to the Council party. And I think it was either Jennifer LaBoon or Nancy Jo Lambert who coined the term “North North Texas.” I tell people that’s where I’m from all the time now. I thank you for being kind and inviting. I emailed Kate Dipronio before our first conference to see if we could meet and we had dinner together our first night. She invited us to come to the TASL Council meeting and there we met Becky Calzada and now she is a friend. It’s like your big Texas library arms are open so wide the whole country can fit in. I just hope there is room for me for a long time. Thank you.