Highlights from the 2019 SLANZA Regional Conference

There was so much to learn and experience at SLANZA's 2019 Regional Conference:

  • New Zealand Wars — resources, fascinating accounts involving both Māori and Pākehā, and local tours
  • why libraries matter, being a library advocate, rethinking your library services
  • and more...

Over 2 evenings and a busy day and a half, about 100 school library people gathered to learn together. A few of us from National Library Services to Schools were able to attend. Here are our impressions of the 2019 conference.

Blue illustration of water curling around the words 'River of knowledge - Cambridge September 27-29' and SLANZA logo underneath

What you can expect at a SLANZA conference

While SLANZA's regional conferences are smaller and shorter than their biennial conferences, some things remain the same. Here's what you can expect:

Connect with old library friends and acquaintances — or make new ones, from far and wide.

Attend the AGM — this is an important chance to find out about the work of the organisation and provide input and feedback about support for members, and plans for the future.

Celebrate at the awards — SLANZA awards acknowledge the outstanding work of school library staff. The recipients each year are inspirational — they love school libraries, take pride in what they do, and give us something to aspire to.

Pre-conference conviviality — this year's entertainment included a quiz night.

Trade stalls — a great opportunity to talk face-to-face with the people who provide resources and systems supporting your work. You can ask for help with their services, give them your feedback, buy things, and even win things! For the vendors, it's a great opportunity to share their latest news and offers.

Guest speakers

Ross Todd

This year's keynote session was delivered by school library luminary Ross Todd. In fact, we were lucky enough to enjoy two presentations Ross prepared for the conference.

Past Tense // Future Tense. Why libraries matter.

In the opening keynote, Ross affirmed for us the important role of school libraries and the work that school librarians do.

Living safe and productive lives. Young people, learning, wellbeing, and safety in a global information world.

In this presentation relating to his current research, Ross spoke about the complexities of the online landscape for young people and the role that libraries play in supporting them to navigate it safely.

My overall impression of this presentation is about seeking balance:

  • acknowledging and understanding potential risks for young people, but not raising levels of fear and anxiety around them
  • empowering young people to protect themselves, rather than always trying to do it for them or punishing when things go awry
  • fostering creativity, innovation, and the ethical use of information and ideas, rather than mindlessly reproducing others’ work
  • being future-focused, without losing sight of where the library’s fundamental value lies
  • trying new things, but not being sucked in by the hype around them — using research, evidence, and a focus on your community's needs to drive change instead.

Think about how you can support students’ digital wellbeing. How can you provide a safe place and be a trusted adult in their lives? Your library services should help students:

  • manage their personal data and online profiles
  • develop healthy and safe relationships with others online
  • balance their online life with time away from the screen or keyboard
  • build coping strategies and resilience.

If you’d like to find out more about the topic of online safety for children and young people, Ross recommended the EU Kids Online research network. The Netsafe Schools website also has information tailored for educators, including advice, articles, and research about staying safe online.

Gareth Ward

We enjoyed hearing insights into the life and work of this popular author and bookseller.

Read more about Gareth Ward on the SLANZA 2019 conference and ReadNZ websites.

Vincent O’Malley

Wellington historian and author, Vincent O'Malley, spoke about the importance of acknowledging and sharing accounts from our history to better understand the consequences which are continuing to be felt today.

Drawing from his latest book The New Zealand Wars, as well as his involvement with Treaty claims, he highlighted many fascinating historical events involving both Māori and Pākehā. He stressed the importance of sharing these events and knowledge as, without these, many important historic sites are being lost, along with the important history around them.

Read or subscribe to Vincent O'Malley's blog.

New Zealand Wars – tour of Waipa sites

The bus tours on Saturday afternoon were a very special part of the conference. What an enlightening and moving experience, visiting sites of importance and learning more about our history in the places where it happened, from experts in the field — literally!

Thinking about the New Zealand history curriculum — and the growing focus on local curriculum development — how can you make connections with the history of your local area?

Take some time to learn about the places and people of significance, make contact with others in your community who can help you, gather resources together, and share!


With the bus tours taking up Saturday afternoon, this year participants could only attend three workshop sessions.

You can view many of the workshops presentations on the SLANZA conference website.

Here's all about the sessions I attended (or delivered).

Rethinking your library services

I delivered this workshop about some fresh ways to look at library services — combining what your library has with what you do to support reading and literacy, learning across the curriculum, and wellbeing.

We talked about how other people view the library, and what your library offers. We wrote value propositions to describe how library staff provide services to meet the needs of different groups within their school community — some quite broad, others closely focused on specific students or needs. Participants made a scan of their library services and examined one service in more detail to see where improvements could be made.

Be an effective advocate for your library

I chose Megan Davidson’s workshop about advocacy, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Megan is a powerhouse of knowledge, experience, and energy. She shared many examples of how she's advocated for the things her school library needs and encouraged participants to adapt them for their own use. What could be better than this approach to sharing best practice and strengthening the school library profession?

The New Zealand Wars: Resources for the classroom

My colleague Wendy Macaskill presented this workshop about why and how school library staff can be the resourcing expert in their school, with a focus on the teaching and learning of New Zealand's history.

School library staff will be a crucial support for teachers and students as this becomes compulsory within the New Zealand curriculum for years 1–10 by 2022. Wendy shared content from our website including:

Come to the next conference!

I highly recommend attending a SLANZA conference if you can. The next one will be held in Wellington in 2020. It will be SLANZA's 20th anniversary so this will no doubt be a special event.

See if you can get funding from your school's professional learning budget to attend. Find out about funding applications or processes now and start planning!

By Miriam Tuohy

Miriam is the Senior Specialist (School Library Development) for Services to Schools.

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