SLANZA conference and professional development

Over the past few weeks, library staff and educators around New Zealand have had the opportunity to attend some wonderful conferences that have brought together inspiring and respected colleagues and leaders to share their expertise with us. This post takes a close look at the recent SLANZA Otago Regional Conference in Dunedin.

SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) offers great learning opportunities through their conferences. Read about what to expect at a conference, and find information and resources shared at conference to help you grow professionally and network with other school librarians in NZ.

Person sitting with notebook in a conference venue
Image by The Climate Reality Project. License to use.

SLANZA Regional Conference, Dunedin

The SLANZA Otago Regional Conference was shorter than last year's 3-day SLANZA national conference, with fewer concurrent workshop sessions, but many wonderful keynote speakers, lots of local flavour, and a fantastic friendly vibe — all thanks to the hard work of SLANZA's Otago regional committee.

If you're new to school libraries, a small conference like this is a perfect first-time event, and not as overwhelming as a bigger conference can be. Much of the time was spent together with all the participants during the plenary sessions. During the breaks, there was also lots of opportunity for networking. The conference offered plenty of choice, with really useful, hands-on workshops led by respected school library practitioners.

The conference kicked off with two informal events on Friday night:

  • Kyle Mewburn spoke to all those gathered for drinks and nibbles, about her life and her literary career. She was so open and generous in sharing with us, I think everyone was moved by it.
  • The 'un-conference' session posed a provocative question about gendered reading. This was followed by a 'smack-down' presentation where participants could share useful tools and ideas. There was also a group discussion on some big topics such as collection development, school reading and library culture, and collaborating with teachers.

Inspiring people

Moata Tamaira (Christchurch City Libraries) opened the conference with a look at preparations for the opening of the city's new central library, Tūranga. We were all wowed by the video Moata shared of this state-of-the-art library and all that it offers the community.

Adele Walsh (State Library of Victoria, Melbourne) shared her insights into teens' reading and online lives, things to know about who and what influences them, and how to be involved without interfering.

As well as Kyle Mewburn, speakers included Bill Manhire, Donovan Bixley, David Elliot, and Joan Mackenzie (look for 'Joan's Picks'). Their combined wisdom and experience in the worlds of poetry, writing, illustration, storytelling, publishing, and bookselling are phenomenal. Their presentations were, at times, informative, moving, and sometimes downright hilarious! When you see and hear speakers of this calibre at conferences, you can't help but feel as though you've got to know them and their work more personally. That connection leaves you wanting to share what you've learned, and the buzz of the experience, with your colleagues and students.

Julie Woods (That Blind Woman) was the speaker at Saturday's conference dinner. Legally blind for over twenty years, Julie hasn't let that hold her back. We were all impressed by Julie's 'why not?' attitude to challenges, and became part of her mission to print one million names in Braille.

Practical workshops

SLANZA conference workshops are practical sessions where school library people share their experience and ideas that work. This year, there were workshops about:

  • libraries and social media
  • managing student librarians
  • collection development
  • school library development
  • what to do when you're new to school libraries
  • how to engage with readers and their families
  • the many ways to incorporate books and tools for learning into your library services and programmes.

Conference slides and presentations

Slides and presentations — you can find links to the conference proceedings on the conference website as they are made available by presenters.

Building a network of support

Conferences bring together a wealth of inspiration and support. From the vendors who sponsor events and spend long days in the exhibition space sharing how they can help you, Services to Schools staff sharing resources, tools and expertise, to other SLANZA members from throughout the country — colleagues working hard in libraries like yours, sharing what they do — taking part in the conference can be a catalyst for some great things to happen in your school library.

Finally, something very special from this conference shows we have support in high places! A letter to attendees from the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has this to say:

'Every day, librarians help expand our children's horizons. You help transport readers to places distant in time and space and help our children immerse themselves in our cultural heritage. You provide our young people with opportunities to read about themselves taking responsibility, being empowered, and making the world a better place.'

By Miriam Tuohy

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

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