Friday, June 3, 2011

Highlights From the Alberta Association of Library Technician’s Conference

I had the pleasure this year of serving as the Alberta Association of Library Technicians (AALT) Conference Co-Chair for 2011, along with Erin Storey. The conference ran last week from May 26th – 29th in Edmonton and I would like to share some highlights for those who missed out.

The theme for this year’s conference was Get Connected. Erin and I tried to craft a conference experience that reflected our theme by not just connecting people – which conferences should do by default – but also by connecting our delegates to new experiences, technologies and insights.

We were lucky to have two fantastic keynotes kick off each day of the conference. On Friday we heard from representatives of GELA’s Women's Prison Library & Reintegration Project. Kim Bewick, Tanya Driechel, Liz Fulton and Moyra Lang each shared some their experiences and insights from supporting reading with female inmates. They were also able to share with us the inmate’s own perspectives on reading and the impact of the Project on their lives, via video clips. It was really moving to see how important reading was to the incarcerated women, especially in the sense of community and connection they seemed to derive through programs like book club and recorded story times they could share with their children.

The Saturday keynote was from author Darcie Friesen Hossack (@mennogurl). Darcie was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize in the First Books Category and first runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for Menonnites Don’t Dance, so we were really honoured she was able to join us. Darcie spoke warmly and with a light humour of her path to completing her first book and how her Mennonite background has influenced her writing. She also read selections from her work and based on the long line at the signing table after her keynote, I was not the only one impressed by what I heard.

There were over twenty sessions at this year’s conference covering a wide range of topics. All the sessions had great feedback from delegates, but I’ll draw particular attention to a few of them:

~ Our own FLA President Jerremie Clyde talked about building a video game collection.

~ Jennifer Young had great success with her first ever conference presentation.

~ Delegates toured the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, Alberta Law Society Library and Woodcroft Branch of EPL.

~ Jay Bardyla from Happy Harbour Comics ran an open discussion session on selecting comics for school and public library collections.

~ Three fantastic authors were also able to join us as session speakers: Bob Stallworthy, Betty Jane Hegerat and Judith Graves.

~ Deb Cryderman and Sharon Thompson drew the largest single-session attendance of the conference with their session Naughty, Nice or Nixed.

One really special session by Diana Balbar of Strathcona County Library included an opportunity to see inside a book mobile. Diana kindly drove through Edmonton to the conference site and invited attendees to have a look inside after her session. I have very fond memories of the book mobile coming into my community of Ranchlands when I was a child and was surprised – and gratified - to find that some districts still utilize them.

The AALT Conference culminates on Saturday night with a banquet, including an awards ceremony and entertainment. Amongst others, honoured this year were Lynda Shurko for over 25 years of volunteer service with AALT and Deb Cryderman, Head Librarian for Stettler Public Library, for her distinguished career and contributions to libraries in Alberta.

In consideration of our theme, Erin and I wanted the banquet entertain to be something that neither of us had seen at a library conference before. We finally settled on the obvious choice: belly dancing. Four fantastic dancers from Edmonton’s Raq-a-Belly performed and even got the crowd on their feet to learn a few moves.

Tania of Raq-A-Belly Dance, Lynda Shurko, Deb Cryderman, Janis Rapchuk, Erin Storey and Kristian McInnis
If you are interested in joining the 2012 AALT Conference in Canmore as a delegate or speaker you can follow @AALTLibraryTech on Twitter or visit for information and updates as the conference approaches.