CLELCON21 Reflections: So Hard to Choose!

Each year CLEL is able to provide scholarship opportunities to Colorado library staff and we ask our recipients to blog about their experience. Remember, if you attended CLELCON21 but missed one of the sessions mentioned here, not to worry! All sessions were recorded and are available on Whova for the next 6 months.

Our first conference reflection comes from Tess Riley. Tess first joined Grand County Library District in 2003 as the Children’s Librarian at the Granby Branch Library. Since then, she worked at several of our other branches in several different positions and is now back at the Granby Branch working as a Library Associate.

CLEL is my favorite library conference of the year! CLEL sessions and speakers are always interesting, informative, and relevant. I come away inspired and excited to implement what I’ve learned. This year’s conference was packed with great options. Sometimes the hardest part was selecting which sessions to attend . . . I wanted to go to all of them!

Introducing the Colorado Department of Early Childhood: This session was extremely informative, and I’ll be delighted to share information about this newly created entity with our families. Parents of young children face so many challenges, so having a centralized resource center will enrich and simplify the lives of these families and provide access to resources that they need to succeed. I’m honored and proud to live in a state that understands that access to early childhood resources is not a luxury, but a necessity. Our children are our future.

Here are some of the highlights from the sessions I attended:

Dispatches from a Reluctant Leader: What a fun session! Erin was open, honest, and hilarious about her struggles as a reluctant leader. I think everyone listening could likely relate to her frustrations in trying to share her vision, only to be met with resistance. She learned the hard way that in order to best accomplish your goals, you need to be able to work as a team. She highlighted the value of listening, of being open to others’ ideas and opinions, and the importance of compassion and developing relationships in effective leadership.

The Work of Early Childhood: Promoting Play in the Library: Another great session! This session was a great reminder of the importance of allowing and encouraging children to PLAY! Play is how children learn, develop skills, and explore their worlds…it is their work! One example is dress-up play. Dress-up play encourages imaginative storytelling, cooperation, and even teaches the motor skills of getting dressed. Ann emphasized that all kinds of play are important, including messy play and risky play. Although not all play is appropriate or possible within the walls of the library, we can share these ideas with parents as they seek to help their children learn.

If You Have Emotions and You Know it, Shout Hooray: The thing I loved most about this session was how very willing Melanie was to share her own emotions. Her passion for her job, for families, and for children was evident in every word she spoke. I loved her emphasis on helping children understand feelings and empathy by leading them to identify with the characters in stories. “How do you think he feels?” “How would you feel if this happened to you?” Reading is a fully immersive experience. Stories aren’t only about sharing information, but also sharing emotions and developing compassion.

Storywalks and Other Hybrid Programming: I’m the person in charge of putting together my library’s storywalks, so I was very excited to attend this session. There were so many great ideas in this collaborative meeting. It was fascinating to learn all the different way that libraries have developed to showcase their storywalks…posting them in parks, in window displays, on sidewalks, and even scattered throughout the library, leading patrons on a story adventure through the stacks. There were also lots of great suggestions about various types of stands and weather-proofing ideas, and even fun examples of great storywalk titles.

Fake It Until You Make It: Fabulous session for those of us who are naturally more introverted and may not feel like polished performers. The main takeaway for me is to remember that “it’s not about me.” Children honestly don’t care if you can sing or dance, they’re just happy to be at storytime, playing, interacting, and learning. Once you stop worrying about yourself, you’ll be more relaxed, and so will your audience. One of the suggestions I really liked is to incorporate instruments into storytime. The speaker talked about learning a few simple chords on the ukulele, but if even that sounds too difficult, children love drums, bells, and other simple noisemakers. The main thing is to just focus on having fun!

Thanks, CLEL, for another great year!

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position or opinion of the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy organization or the individual committee members.