The American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) closed the curtain on a landmark National Conference & Exhibition Nov. 9-11 in Phoenix, Arizona, after introducing new standards school librarians will use for years to come.

Attended by more than 2,500 school librarians, administrators and exhibitors, the conference affirmed and strengthened the common beliefs of school librarians as they carry on their mission to make the school library the hub of a learning community that prepares learners for college, career and life.

Themed “Beyond the Horizon,” the event brought together school librarians, educators, authors and exhibitors at the only national conference dedicated solely to the needs of school librarians. Attendees participated in preconference workshops, author events, more than 100 concurrent sessions and access to an exhibition featuring companies relevant to school libraries and their users.

The major event was the launch of the “National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries.” The Standards, the result of a research-based approach with feedback from more than 1,300 school librarians and stakeholders, proclaim the role of school librarians in modeling, promoting and fostering inquiry. It also points to the school library’s value in bridging digital and socioeconomic divides.

“The National Standards demonstrate a long-term commitment to our profession that provides guidance for school libraries, school librarians, and the communities and learners we serve,” said AASL President Steven Yates. “The standards editorial board, led by Marcia Mardis, and the implementation task force, led by Mary Keeling, deserve fist bumps and high-fives for their monumental efforts.”

Local school libraries opened their doors to conference attendees for tours. They included a stop at Casa Grande Union High School. This school had plans to eliminate the school library program, but students successfully advocated for the program to be kept open. The tour also stopped at Vista Grande High School library, a joint-use library with a brand new maker space and a gaming space.

Attendees took advantage of such networking events as IdeaLab, a best-practice showcase featuring tabletop video displays several topics, among them blended learning, flipped classrooms and STEM/STEAM. In addition, an Unconference offered an opportunity to examine the National School Library Standards in a structured World Café format.

Concurrent sessions focused on pertinent topics for combating fake news, going beyond makerspaces and meeting the needs of autism spectrum disorder students in the school library. Several concurrent sessions were dedicated to the new AASL Standards, broken down into related foundations: inquire and include, collaborate and curate, and explore and engage.

Jaime Casap. served as Opening Keynote speaker. Google Inc.’s chief education evangelist preached the power and potential of technology and Web as enabling and supporting tools in the pursuit of inquiry-driven project-based learning models.

Jason Reynolds, award-winning author of “Ghost,” a National Book Award-finalist and the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor, the Walter Dean Myers Award and the Kirkus Award, regaled those who attended the Saturday General Session, with his love of stories and his concern about reluctant young readers.

Special events included Authors in the afternoon, featuring Christian Robinson, author of such award-winning books as “Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker,” Jordan Sonnenblick, who wrote the acclaimed “Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie” and Sarah Dessen, author of “Once and for All,” who was awarded the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

The conference celebration on Friday night was held on Corona Ranch, an authentic Phoenix treasure, with a mariachi band and rodeo entertainment,,

Reporters from Publishers Weekly, American Libraries and School Library Journal were onsite and provided conference coverage.  AASL President Steven Yates published an opinion in the Arizona Republic on the dire need for school librarians in the state. Yates was also interviewed on the same topic by Phoenix’s KTAR-FM for a recurring news segment that aired Thursday and Friday.

For more information regarding the AASL  National Conference & Exhibition, please visit national.aasl.org .

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library program services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning.